Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – June 28, 2014

Seeming to respond to the Teapublican chicken hawks beating the drums of war, President Obama has announced that he will send $500 million of military aid to Syrian rebels. What could go wrong? Meanwhile, in Mississippi we had the opportunity to watch Teapublicans flip the script with Senator Thad Cochran trying to get black people to vote. And finally, House Speaker John Boehner has announced that he plans to sue President Obama for not upholding the laws of this country. Is this a flimsy and transparent prelude to impeachment?

The Bloody and Slippery Slope

President Obama now wants to inject a half billion dollars of weapons and military assistance into the churning and bloody swamp of sectarian violence known as Syria. He has stated that this aid will go to “moderate” rebels, whatever that is supposed to mean.

This is a movie that we have seen before. Then it was called assistance to the “freedom loving people” of Afghanistan who turned out to be the Taliban, al Qaeda and………..Osama bin Laden.

There are several outcomes and none of them good. The “moderate” rebels may turn out to be not so “moderate” and use their gift of weapons against Americans and American interests the next time some yahoo minister in America burns a Koran.

The “moderate” rebels may turn out to be stand-ins for al Qaeda and ISIS and the gift of arms will go directly to sworn enemies of the United States.

Or, the “moderate” rebels may turn out to be not such great fighters and will simply surrender their weapons or lose them in battle – weapons that will then be used against the United States.

Or, the targets of the “moderate” rebels will decide to attack the United States soldiers, personnel and interests wherever they can find them.

This move by the President seems to be a sign that the pressure from the Teapublican chicken hawks is finally getting to him, and that he feels it is necessary to “do something” in Syria. But this is wrong in conception, wrong in execution and fraught with fatal circumstances for this country. Senator Obama was elected to do better than this. President Obama was re-elected to do better than this.

Nothing good can possibly come from this move.

Mississippi Scam

Mississippi has always been the place where the dreams of black people go to die. During the horror of American racial slavery, Mississippi and Louisiana were the worst places for black people.

Since Emancipation, black people have been routinely and institutionally terrorized. The history of black people seeking to vote is written with the blood of martyrs.

This past week, the irony of Teapublican Senator Thad Cochran seeking the vote of black Mississippi citizens in order to eke out a primary win was ghastly and instructive. It is ghastly because Senator Cochran is a blatant hypocrite in seeking the vote of the black people of Mississippi. His record indicates absolutely nothing that the black people in Mississippi should support – except that he was slightly less racist than his opponent who accepted campaign donations from the Ku Klux Klan.

The instructive aspect of this horror show is that the black people of Mississippi have more power than they have exercised. With 37% of the registered voters in that misbegotten state being black, there is tremendous potential for change, reformation and progress.

Perhaps Thad Cochran’s chicanery can serve as a wakeup call for the black people of Mississippi.

Sneak Preview

House Speaker John Boehner has determined in his wisdom that he should further waste taxpayer dollars by suing President Obama for not faithfully carrying out the laws of the United States. His real, and thinly veiled, cause of action is that President Obama is not doing what Speaker Boehner and the Teapublicans want him to do.

Even though Barack Obama has won two national elections by significant margins, the Teapublicans will stop at nothing in their efforts to delegitimize this lawfully elected President of the United States.

Is this the prelude to an impeachment strategy in 2015? What do you think?

Stay strong and be great!

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Slip Sliding into Syria

One definition of insanity describes recurrent behavior that always has negative results but persisting in that behavior anyway. Modern history has shown that American military intervention rarely yields positive results but we still hear the calls to battle from armchair hawks resting safely in their ergonomically designed chairs. And now the call for war involves Syria.

The current situation in Syria is certainly dire and horrific. It is estimated that in the past two years over 90,000 Syrians have died in the constant clashes between insurgent forces and the Syrian government. Indeed the Syrian government has unleashed everything from chemical weapons to jet and missile attacks on its own people.

By any definition the Assad regime in Syria has lost all legitimacy and should not continue to maintain power. And that, of course, is what the civil war in that country is all about. And where the bad guys are so impossibly bad it is easy to see how the opposition can be seen as the good guys, the noble warriors for peace and liberty – freedom fighters if you will.

But, as Marvin Gaye once said, “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear”. It turns out that some of the Syrian “freedom fighters” have serious and credible links to al Qaeda. Certainly a significant number of the insurgents hold a vision of radical Islamic Syria, ruled by Sharia law and certainly not inclined to be friendly to the United States and very likely to be inclined to be friendly with stated enemies of this country.

Syria is very complicated and we now see the Obama Administration traveling down the same slippery road that resulted in bloody quagmires in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. The goal of regime change that removes the Assad regime seems like a good one but only if one has a clear picture of what the successor regime is going to be like.

The Bush-Cheney cabal told the American people that the regime of Saddam Hussein was evil and that regime change was the only answer. In point of the fact, the only answer that the American people received was soaked in the blood of thousands of killed and wounded American troops and hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis. The only answer the American people received came at a price of close to one trillion dollars and this answer has reduced a major country in the Middle East into a chaotic black hole.

A quarter of a century ago the Reagan Administration of Iran-Contra infamy told the American people that the opposition to the Russian occupation in Afghanistan were freedom fighters and deserved the military support of the United States. Yet one of those “freedom fighters” turned out to be none other than Osama bin Laden who personally orchestrated the murder of thousands of Americans.

Now we are seeing increasing pressure being put upon President Obama to “do something” even though “something” might end up being yet another disastrous misadventure for this country. Even a “no-fly” zone requires more than jet planes, it also requires pilots and at some point American military personnel will be in harm’s way resulting in a sadly familiar automatic escalation of violence and further military involvement.

And all along there is no clear vision as to what the desired outcome in Syria would be, only that there is some kind of humanitarian mandate that the United States must follow because innocent people are being killed. But innocent people are also being killed in Southern Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Chechnya to name just a few killing fields around the world.

The notion that the United States should take the leadership role in ridding this planet of the violent impulses that are as old as humanity itself can only lead to disastrous results. The supporters of armed intervention in Syria will not be making any personal sacrifices but the soldiers that will be killed, and their families will certainly pay the price.

And the American people will certainly pay the price for yet another war of choice with no exit strategy – yet another war without end.

 

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Weekend Edition – June 14, 2013

With over 90,000 people killed during the past two years, Syria is in the news for all the wrong reasons. And now, people who forget the Law of Unintended Consequences want to make things worse. Meanwhile, the Teapublican Klown Show just never takes a day off, especially when it comes to degrading women. And finally, the slow strangulation of this country continues courtesy of your friendly Teapublican terrorists.  

Serious About Syria

The Syrian government may have killed as many as 90,000 of its citizens during the past two years. The current regime is blood soaked and tyrannical and is clearly opposed by a significant portion of the Syrian population. And while there is no doubt that the current regime should be dumped in the trash bin of history, there is a lot of doubt as to what, or who, should replace it.

Given the multiple moving parts in this scenario it seems bizarre that there are calls from Congress for President Obama to “take action” and to support the “freedom fighters”. It is all the more bizarre when we realize that these armchair hawks clearly have no sense of history and indeed may have taken leave of their senses.

The disastrous Vietnam War began with a call for the United States to “take action”. The Korean War begun in the 1950’s has never officially ended and remains an ignition point for wider conflict. Any call for “action” can quickly lead this country to a slippery and bloody slope that resolves nothing and guarantees an unending American death toll.

And just because someone opposes a tyrannical regime does not make them “freedom fighters”. Just ask the 43 American relief workers in Egypt who have been sentenced to decades in prison by the “freedom fighters” who now occupy the seat of power in that country.

And let us not forget that when the United States supported the mujahedeen “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan two decades ago, one of those “freedom fighters” was Osama bin Laden.

Now would be as good a time as any to recall the lessons of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

EWS – Existing While Stupid

Incredibly but inevitably, the Teapublican Klown Kavalcade manages to combine stupidity with misogyny in ways that are both appalling to humanity and incredibly insulting to women. Much of the language employed by these Klowns is so completely crude and ignorant that it must take a certain talent to be that wrong.

The latest Klown Kontest winner is Congressman Trent Franks who just had to say that it is rare that rape results in a pregnancy (!!!!!). This was supposed to be a reason to remove the rape exception to abortion protocols – as in no abortions even in the instance of rape.

Arguing that if only one woman were to be impregnated by a rape it would be one person too many would be a first step into the Bizarro World where Congressman Franks resides. The real point, the only point, is that women should have absolute control over their bodies including decisions regarding pregnancy.

“Actual” rape, “rare” rape – these are all in the vocabulary of the ignorant and should not be part of any rational discourse on the subject.

But we know that Congressman Franks is not the last Klown in the Teapublican Klown Kar. Another one is coming soon.

Slow Dance

The stealth strangulation of the American government continues as the direct result of the sequestration catastrophe that exploded over three months ago. Because the catastrophe was not as immediate as a hurricane or an earthquake there has been a tendency on the part of the Teapublican terrorists and their media enablers to declare that the impact of sequestration has been minimal.

When the furloughing of air traffic controllers precipitated chaos at airports across the country Congress acted to plug that one particular hole in the dike. And again the Teapublican terrorists tried to act as if all was well once the planes were flying again.

But ask the disabled veterans who have to wait at longer and longer lines at VA hospitals if all is well. Or perhaps this new branch of American terrorism should ask the people who are dependent on public housing how they like sequestration now that fewer Section 8 vouchers are available – over 8,000 fewer in New York City alone – over 8000 families in just one city who will have to somehow secure safe and affordable housing with no safety net thanks to the Teapublican terrorists.

There are literally thousands of federal programs that are slowly bleeding to death, serving fewer Americans every day and creating the grotesque scenario of record highs on Wall Street while misery expands on Main Street.

This slow death has many victims and we have the Teapublican terrorists to blame, plain and simple.

Have a great weekend!

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Time to Handle the Truth

In the aftermath of the Oscar awards, now is as good a time as any to recall great movie classics. In “A Few Good Men”, the Jack Nicholson character, in a climactic moment, states “….you can’t handle the truth!” When it comes to the budget-sequestration calamity in the making, it is time for all of us to handle the truth about this impossibly abominable situation.

By now even minimally aware Americans have dragged themselves from their X-boxes and reality shows long enough to realize that something terribly wrong is going on in Washington. This country has been held hostage by terrorist Teapublicans who have wrapped themselves in a budget/deficit bomb vest. By reason of the strategic position that they hold in only one section of one branch of government, the House Teapublican terrorists believe that they have the ability to impose their will and vision on Congress, the President and the American people. And so far it seems that they are right.

Ever since the Teapublicans came to Washington in 2011 they have used their leverage in constitutionally mandated budget deliberations to threaten to collapse the American government and the American economy. Since many of these American jihadists claim to be avid readers of the Bible, one can only imagine that the story of Samson collapsing the temple in order to defeat his enemies is particularly appealing.

But the arena of public administration is not the appropriate forum for biblical metaphors. In 2011 Teapublican threats and intransigence on the issue of raising the budget ceiling for the federal government resulted in the downgrading of the American credit rating for the first time in history. The collateral damage from this unprecedented self-inflicted wound is incalculable but we can be sure that every man, woman and child in this country has paid a price.

Now, having sipped from the cup of power, the Teapublican terrorists are inebriated and should not be allowed behind the wheel. But there they are, back behind the wheel and driving this country straight into a wall with the funny name – “sequestration”.

For a group of politicians who act as they have personal and exclusive ownership of patriotism, it is amazing that the Teapublican terrorists are willing to risk the collapse of the American economy in order to adhere to their twin obsessions of shrinking government at every turn and never, ever, raising taxes. The damage done to the economy and this country in 2011 has already been recounted. The potential damage from sequestration can only be estimated.

For example, we know that 750,000 civilian defense workers will be furloughed almost immediately. But that does not tell about the employees in the barber shops, convenience stores and supermarkets in the communities where these 750,000 civilian defense workers live. The words “ripple effect” immediately come to mind.

The crippling of the American airline system because of air traffic controllers being furloughed is no small matter. American business depends on the airline system and delays will have a very real consequent effect. The statistics will bear that out as the Teapublican terrorists revel in their ability to destroy, impede and damage.

Osama bin Laden can rest in peace knowing that the Teapublican terrorists are doing more to damage this country than he could have ever imagined. In his most feverish nightmare visions bin Laden could not possibly have seen huge chunks of the American government shut down – by Americans! He certainly could not have imagined domestic terrorists running amok through the halls of Congress as they try to thwart and gut every programmatic initiative that is designed to make life better for the American people.

The truth is that this entire budget-deficit-sequestration turmoil has nothing to do with the budget, the deficit or sequestration. This turmoil is simply the battleground that a cadre of domestic terrorists has chosen in order to promote their vision of dismantling government leaving corporate, financial and industrial interests as the only true sources of power in this country.

The truth is that the greatest enemies of this country are not in Afghanistan, Yemen or Iran. The greatest enemies of this country are in Washington and they go by the name of Teapublican terrorists.

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Introducing President Obama

If all you had listened to is the Teapublican narrative for the past three years, you would not have a very high opinion of President Obama. After the first debate supporters of Barack Obama were wondering what happened to their leader. But President Obama has used the last two debates to introduce himself to the American people all over again. In the most recent and last debate the biggest question was who made Mr. Romney look worse – President Obama or Mitt Romney himself?

Here are just a few examples from the Boca Beat Down –

• President Obama noted that Mr. Romney didn’t know how to assess the strength of the American military, reminding him that it no longer uses “bayonets and horses” and does use aircraft carriers and submarines.

• Mr. Romney’s quote that he would not “move heaven and earth” to find Osama bin Laden was skillfully recalled by President Obama as he recounted the closure and comfort that the death of bin Laden provided for the victims of 9/11.

• After saying that he would not go into Pakistan to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, Mr. Romney clearly stated at the debate that it was “o.k.” to go into Pakistan and the he totally supported the use of drones.

• In contending that the foreign policy of the Obama Administration had not totally settled and solved the problems of the world, Mr. Romney seemed to think that foreign policy worked like a made-for-TV.-movie where the story concludes neatly in a sixty minute package. His seeming to yearn for simple solutions for a complex world was, in a word, pathetic.

• President Obama reminded Mr. Romney several times that he was trying to “airbrush history” by trying to claim positions that were new and different from the ones that he espoused while lurching rightward in his campaign for the Teapublican nomination – replaying Mr. Romney’s support for letting the auto industry go into bankruptcy and then watching him say that he favored government support during that process when he had not was almost painful to watch.

• It was interesting to note that Mr. Romney stated that promoting gender equality around the world should be a hallmark of American foreign policy. It is also interesting to note that Mr. Romney does not favor the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in the United States.
It is interesting to note that Mr. Romney plans to defund Planned Parenthood, an important source of healthcare services for women and girls in the United States. And, it is important to note that Mr. Romney does not support full access to contraception and reproductive choices for women and girls in the United States. Perhaps if American women moved overseas he would treat them better.

As the third and final presidential debate concluded, it would seem that one of Mr. Romney’s strategies had been to try to blur the very clear choice between the candidates.
Certainly if the policies offered by the Teapublican Party platform were presented to most Americans, they would be rejected along with the RomneyRyan ticket. Somehow, Mr. Romney has been trying to convince the American people that he was for the platform until he was against it.

And, for those of you keeping score at home, the Teapublican Tampa Platform included an absolute ban on abortion, an absolute prohibition of gun control and the endorsement of the Ryan budget that would eviscerate American’s social safety net. The Ryan budget, by the way, in addition to privatizing Social Security and turning Medicare into a voucher program, would virtually eliminate so-called discretionary spending in programs ranging from the National Endowment for the Arts to Head Start to the Environmental Protection Administration.

These policies and choices define the RomneyRyan ticket. And these policies and choices are what Mitt Romney only wishes to speak about in small rooms behind closed doors. It now remains to be seen whether Mr. Romney’s “air brush” strategy can work.

Certainly, during the past two debates President Obama has painted a very different picture in describing his own vision as well as the competing vision of Mr. Romney.

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Weekend Edition – September 9, 2011

Everyone over the age of 40 remembers where they were on November 22, 1963 when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Everyone over the age of 15 remembers where they were on September 11, 2001 when the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were attacked by Al Qaeda terrorists. Today’s Weekend Edition of Point of View provides a retrospective as to the meaning of that terrible day.

Where America Was. Where is America Now?

On the evening of September 10, 2001 Michael Jackson performed at Madison Square Garden in New York City, providing the 18,000 people in attendance with a brief and shining demonstration of true genius. At least one young woman attended that concert and partied afterwards. As a result she was too tired (and hung over) to go to work the next day.

She worked in an office near the top of one of the Twin Towers. Going to see Michael Jackson saved her life.

A young man had a job interview with a firm in an office near the top of one of the Twin Towers. His appointment was for 9 a.m. He wanted to make a good impression so he got to his appoint about 15 minutes early. He was killed trying to make a good impression on his prospective employer.

The stories of 9/11 are full of pain, grief, sorrow, anger and the realization of the random nature of life on this planet. The smallest change in routine could have resulted in life or death that day – as is the case every other day of our lives.

But it was the random nature of the unknown rage from an unknown land that troubled and tortured Americans in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. It was beyond belief that there were people in this world who hated the greatest country in the world so much. It was beyond belief that we were so vulnerable.

And after the cries of pain had been silenced and the tears of grief and sorrow had dried anger took center stage. We had been attacked by enemies. The enemies must be slain.

But these enemies wore no uniform, had no nationality and carried no flag. Al Qaeda doesn’t even have a motto. We learned that Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan, sheltered by the Taliban – so there was a target for the cold steel of anger that had been forged in the fires of 9/11. Except……

Except that, in going after bin Laden it became to kill many thousands of Afghan men, women and children. Some were enemies of this country. Many more fell into the awfully banal category of “collateral damage”. And then…..

The government of the United States decided that this was an opportune time to ramp up the Big Lie. A key plotter in the 9/11 tragedy was Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi despot. It wasn’t enough to pursue bin Laden, the downfall of Hussein was critical to the safety of the United States and was important in avenging 9/11.

And so 9/11 and the so-called War on Terror became the password that unlocked all of the horrors of war. “Collateral damage” claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and so too many other places. The War on Terror excused the suspension of constitutional rights for Americans and human rights for suspects who were subjected to torture in black holes around the world through a process called rendition.

In times of tragedy friends, families and communities come together. Differences were forgotten in the aftermath of 9/11 as we realized that the terrorists were didn’t care about our color, religion or national origin. We were targets and that was enough. And for a while, it seemed that silver lining on the cloud of 9/11 would be a different sense of a national community.

But the anger morphed into war and the war morphed into horror. And then there was revulsion and shame. And those who were expressed revulsion at water boarding and torture and rendition and mindless war found their patriotism questioned by those who felt shame in their heart of hearts.

For the first time since the American Revolution the United States pursued war(s) without raising funds for the war through taxes. Combined with the Bush tax cuts, the wars drained the national treasury and turned a multi-billion dollar surplus into a multi-trillion dollar deficit.

The wars created a schism in this country as it became clear that both wars were pathways into a bloody morass with no way out – the fact that the war in Iraq was based on pure fabrication made matters worse. The schism resulted in Americans questioning the patriotism of other Americans and this schism set the stage for the Tea Party radicalization of American politics who now want to “take America back”.

We know now that the goal of Osama bin Laden was not to simply destroy the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. His real goal was to destabilize the United States.

It remains to be seen if that goal will be achieved. We still have the ability to prevent that goal from being achieved – but it will require will as well as power.

Have a great weekend!

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Pirates on the Potomac

The 9/11 terrorist attacks will be recalled this weekend, along with the death and pain and sacrifice that will forever be associated with that day. It is, therefore, more than a little ironic that after a decade of battling against terror we find the terrorists are safely encamped on Capitol Hill.

Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda cohorts had declared war on the United States long before the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The 9/11 attacks were their most spectacular achievement, but the attacks were only part of a larger plan – to humble, cripple and ultimately destroy the United States. Their tools of destruction were exceedingly crude given their lofty goals – some hijacked planes, smuggled bombs and random assassinations.

In their most hate-infused dreams bin Laden and Al Qaeda could never have dreamed of wreaking the havoc that is now the calling card of the G.O.Tea Party. In early August Osama bin Laden must have been chortling from his watery grave at the bottom of the Indian Ocean as he watched the likes of Cantor, Bachmann, Palin, Paul and Boehner threaten to collapse the entire economy of the United States during the budget ceiling battle – endangering the global economy in the bargain.

Terrorists are known for taking hostages because they assume that their adversaries actually care for the hostages while they do not. The result of this lopsided equation is that terrorists refuse to negotiate while their adversaries work for a solution, all the time whittling away at their own position. Sound familiar?

During the entire debt ceiling “debate”, the G.O.Tea Party zealots refused to negotiate any aspect of their no-new-taxes mantra, arguing that the only budget balancing strategy that they would accept entailed cutting budgetary allocations that support the rapidly fraying social safety net in this country.

Although the debt ceiling has been raised 87 times since World War II, the Teapublicans used this fairly ordinary budget device as a dagger to be held to throat to the United States, threatening to sever the financial arteries that allow this economy to function.

That the ensuing damage to the American economy would be “on Obama’s watch” was all the justification that they needed for such irresponsible conduct. And President Obama, the reasonable adversary, did indeed negotiate with the terrorists that wore suits and ties and pearl necklaces, because he clearly cares for this country more than the G.O.Tea Party will ever do, their sanctimonious and self-serving pronouncements notwithstanding.

Having paraded a menagerie of madness before the world stage, it is no wonder that Standard & Poor’s lowered the credit rating of the United States for the first time in over 80 years. And it is no surprise that, having run through the financial china shop and created pure havoc, the G.O.Tea Party then trumpets the credit rating debacle as the fault of Obama for failing to show leadership. As noted before, the Teapublican story line is like that of the arsonist who blames the fire on the fireman.

Not satisfied with the heartless savaging of the economy and the brutalizing of the American budget, the G.O.Tea Party found new hostages at the end of the month of August. As a result of Hurricane Irene millions of Americans on the East Coast of the United States were seriously affected by storms, wind and floodwaters. Having worked in a community after a devastating flood I can attest to the misery, frustration and helplessness of the victims.

And these victims were perfect hostages for Congressman Eric Cantor who, sinking to a new low even for the G.O.Tea Party, announced that additional funding for the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) would only be approved by the House of Representatives if further budget cuts were instituted immediately.

Clearly Representative Cantor and his cohorts see misery as an opportunity and pain as a platform for their godforsaken agenda.

It is very clear that the spirit of heartlessness and selfishness which inspires the leadership of one of this country’s major parties is akin to the spirit of the pirates of another era and the terrorists of this era. Of course the pirates of long ago made no pretense of their mission – to get as much treasure as possible by being willing to kill or destroy anyone or anything that might be in their way.

Modern terrorists claim to be motivated by an ideal which can justify the most hideous of acts carried out in its name. The G.O.Tea Party terrorists lay claim to the high moral ground of reducing a governmental system that has produced a higher quality of life greater than that of any nation in the history of the planet. These same terrorists also have targeted the hope that sustains Americans who have not achieved that quality of life as yet.

As zealots, the Teapublicans have no hesitation or shame in targeting the weak, the sick, the poor, and the elderly — the defenseless in this society. In their immoral construct, the victims of a hurricane are perfect hostages to advance their goals. In their ultimate vision government will not take care of those who cannot take care of themselves and will not help those who want to help themselves.

These G.O.Terrorists are building a monument to pain and heartlessness, unless they are stopped.

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Weekend Edition – August 26, 2011

The dedication of the Martin Luther King Memorial has been postponed giving us an opportunity to think about the other men and women who should be remembered. The Tea Party stalwarts are whining about being called terrorists and we can reasonably ask, “Why?” And finally, Nick Ashford died this past week. Another artist-hero has died and once more we should be thankful for the musical gifts that he bestowed during his lifetime, gifts that will most certainly live on.

In Memoriam

The dedication of the Martin Luther King Memorial has been indefinitely postponed due to Hurricane Irene. When the dedication does take place it will be an important and historic event.

The honor to Dr. King is important. It is also important that in honoring Dr. King the thousands of unnamed men and women who sacrificed and supported the civil rights movement are also remembered. Most of us are familiar with names like Thurgood Marshall and W.E.B. Dubois and Rosa Parks. But the movement that changed a nation and changed the world was powered by men and women named Liuzzo and Green and Cheney and Schwerner and Goodman and Sherrod.

There is a tendency in this country to sanitize the less pleasant aspects of this country’s past. The Disney-like version goes like this: “There was racial discrimination in this country and then Martin Luther King came along and gave a great speech. After that the Civil Rights Bill was passed and justice prevailed.”

Aside from being wrong, this sanitized version doesn’t tell the truth – that millions of men and women and children, black and white, united against tremendous and brutal and cruel opposition to change this country. This change took place over a period of over 50 years and the struggle is not complete.

Change in this country does not come about easily or quickly. Change does not come without pain and dedication and sacrifice. Change is not brought about by the few. It is brought about the many.

Frederick Douglass once said, “Power concedes nothing without demand”. It is a lesson that needs to be relearned right now.

If the Shoe Fits….

The G.O.Tea Party zealots have been weeping crocodile tears over being labeled “terrorists” by Democrats. They have also been accused of using terrorist tactics in connection with their debt ceiling debate antics and hijinks.

One G.O.Tea Party Taliban wannabees even confronted President Obama in Iowa over the matter. Presumably he wanted an apology from the Commander in Chief for his hurt feelings. President Obama finessed a response that sounded like, “No one said you were terrorists, just that some of you were acting like terrorists”.

I wish that President Obama had channeled his inner Bob Marley and just said, “Who the cap fits, let dem wear it”. After all, the right wing of the right wing held this country and its economy and its people hostage during the budget ceiling debacle.

It is true that they didn’t use the threat of bombs. Instead they threatened to collapse the economy of the planet, a goal that would certainly coincide with that of Osama bin Laden or The Jackal. The right wing of the right wing made non-negotiable budget demands that required grievous cost cutting that will negatively impact upon the lives of millions of Americans.

Sounds like hostage taking and terrorist tactics to me. “If the shoe fits, let him wear it”. And stop whining.

In Memoriam – 2

Nick Ashford died earlier this week. With his wife, Valerie Simpson (who celebrates her birthday today); he wrote such songs as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “Solid as a Rock”, “I’m Every Woman” and so many others. The lyrics he wrote were poems that blended with the music using art of phrasing and symbolism in a unique fashion.

One has to wonder if the work of Ashford and Simpson, or Smokey Robinson or Holland-Dozier-Holland would be welcome if presented as original music today. Today it seems amazing that they could write tremendous music without ever mentioning niggers, bitches or guns.

With that said, we are thankful to have been the beneficiaries of the artistry of Nick Ashford.

Have a great weekend!

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Weekend Edition – August 5, 2011

The dogs days of July have morphed into the lupine days of August – the wolves are out and no one is safe. Sarah Palin cries crocodile tears about being labeled a terrorist, but she IS a terrorist. Critics claim that Obama “surrendered” to the Tea Party loons in the immortal budget/deficit battle that will rage for years, but who’s got his back? And meanwhile, in case no one noticed, the economy of the planet is plunging like Icarus who dared to come to close to the sun…….whither Daedalus?

Sarah…You ARE a Terrorist

At some point during the autopsy of the godawful debt ceiling battle it was reported that, during a meeting between Vice President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats someone referred to the Tea Party kamikazes as “terrorists”. This created an artificial hue and cry from the right wing of the right wing wailing and bellowing that their patriotic bona fides were being impugned.

In keeping with the strict rules of the theater of the absurd, Sarah Palin popped up and claimed that Tea Party advocates and their running hounds in the Congress were simply patriotic Americans who were advocating the benefits of fiscal probity. And then, just to be sure that we understood how ridiculous she is, the former governor of Alaska stated that if the Tea Party advocates were domestic terrorists President Obama would be “palling around with us like he palled around with Bill Ayres”.

As it turns out Sarah Palin and the Tea Party maniacs employed classic terrorist tactics in holding the entire economy of the planet hostage while making outrageous demands to reduce the size of government and cut vital social services, all the while refusing to even consider increasing revenues by any means. Osama bin Laden must be laughing from his watery grave.

In his most virulent dreams bin Laden could never have imagined collapsing the entire American economy. Knocking down a few buildings and blowing up a few airplanes is child’s play compared to the damage that Sarah and the Tea Partiers have in mind for this country. Al Qaeda killed thousands, the bullet heads in Congress and their supporters threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions, if not billions throughout the world.

Clearly Sarah Palin is counting on the collective amnesia of the American public. But we should remember that it was Sarah “Lock and Load” Palin’s website that put rifle cross-hairs on the congressional district represented by Gabrielle Giffords who was, in turn, shot in the head. The fact that yet another gun-toting loon committed the deed does not absolve Sarah Palin of responsibility for creating an atmosphere and fomenting violent emotions where something like this can happen.

And finally, her snide remark about Bill Ayres requires some kind of response. Sarah Palin is either too young or too dumb to realize that during the 1960’s progressive activists were being shot and killed by National Guard troops in places like Kent State and South Carolina State Universities as well as being beaten and jailed by Chicago police during the Democratic Party convention.

Radical philosophies were freely debated and espoused but rarely was there any violence that remotely resembled “terrorism”. What we do know is today Bill Ayres is Executive Director of World Hunger Year – http://www.whyhunger.org – dedicating his life to feeding the hungry while Sarah Palin continues to stir the boiling cauldron of hate and irresponsibility.

So you see Sarah Palin, it is YOU who is the terrorist.

Who’s Got Obama’s Back?

The retrospective regarding the role of President Obama in the recent debt ceiling fiasco has been immediate and not very kind to the president. While some commentators have correctly pointed out that negotiating with terrorists disguised as members of Congress and the Senate is an almost impossible task and he got the best deal possible under the circumstances.

Others have pointed out that Barack Obama seemed to allow himself to be bullied by the Eric Cantors and John Boehners of the moment never threatening retribution but always being amenable to compromise. Once he made it clear that he would do anything to avoid the nation’s credit default he became impossibly vulnerable.
By taking the 14th Amendment option off the table in negotiations with the Republicans President Obama gave up the one weapon that he might have used, at least as a threat. His reason for doing so is that White House lawyers did not think that it was a viable tactic.

The argument could go on but the question still arises – where was support for Barack Obama during the negotiations? Where were the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus and Nancy Pelosi? Where were Al Gore and Bill Clinton and the National Conference of Mayors? The NAACP and the National Urban League were having their annual conventions during this recent madness, where were the resolutions supporting the president and demands for him to use the 14th Amendment hammer?

As I wrote earlier this week, Barack Obama was like a guy in a chair fight where everybody had a chair but him. Not a great place to be.

Let’s hope that going forward we will see the same support that got Barack Obama into office resurface in order to keep him in office.

The Crash of ’11?

On August 4, 2011 the Dow Jones industrial average plummeted by over 500 points continuing a decline that has taken place over the past month. Analysts connect this indication of economic turmoil to market distress in Europe as well as the budget dysfunction in Washington. And this has happened without a default by the United States.

The G.O.Tea Party is masterful in denying reality. This would be the same party whose most vocal members claimed that a default would not adversely affect the American economy. I am guessing that they also believe in the Easter Bunny.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Time to Give Peace a Chance

This week President Obama is scheduled to present his timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. He is being consistent with statements made when he committed additional troops to that quagmire last year at which time a withdrawal schedule was promised.

As is the case when the military becomes involved with policy instead of being confined to strategic plans to achieve policy, there are voices within the Pentagon that are counseling against any significant reduction of troops in a country that has been called, for good reason, the Graveyard of Empires. Minimal troop withdrawal has been urged by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, among others, the argument being that a rapid withdrawal of troops would result in the evaporation of military “gains” that have been made during the past year.

Presumably these “gains” don’t include the continued pillaging of the Afghan treasury by the notoriously corrupt Karzai regime. These “gains” can’t possibly refer to the spectacular ineptitude of the Afghan military and security forces after almost a decade of American training and billions of dollars of aid. And these “gains” cannot refer to the continued reluctance of the Afghan government to bring its people into the 19th century, let alone the 21st century.

Of course I am referring to the thankless and endless task of nation building in a nation that clearly is resistant to the concept. The military reasons for invading Afghanistan are long gone. The Taliban, which was never a threat to American security, remains in Afghanistan and will continue to be a force in that country no matter how long American troops remain. Al Qaeda, to the extent it exists at all in Afghanistan is crippled, eviscerated and with the death of Osama bin Laden, decapitated.

If the reason for continuing to keep American troops in Afghanistan relates to nation building and the instilling of democratic values, American troops will remain for decades. If the reason to keep American troops in Afghanistan relates to American national security, then that mission is already accomplished and it is past time to withdraw from the bloody quicksand that has an endless appetite for American blood and treasure.

Of course the political ramifications of President Obama’s Afghanistan policy are never too far from center stage. The G.O.Tea Party clamors for smaller government and less involvement in foreign affairs, yet they also clamor for the continuation of the dance of death in Iraq and Afghanistan which has already gone on for a decade.

Meanwhile, the original supporters of the Obama candidacy were drawn to the incandescent flame of his quest for the presidency by his opposition to the war in Iraq and have been disheartened by his “doubling down” in Afghanistan. If there was ever a time for President Obama to demonstrate his continued kinship with Candidate Obama, it is now.

Billions of dollars are being spent in Afghanistan and Iraq every week. Every month American troops are killed, maimed and crippled by combat fatigue. While the advocates of war sit comfortably in their homes and Feng Shui designed offices, too many American troops as well as Afghan and Iraqi citizens are dying.

We watch the vitriol-laced charade of budget debates that are meant to disguise a drive to dismantle the entire federal apparatus that created modern society and all the while millions of dollars are lost daily like water poured onto the desert sand. And we have to wonder when common sense and logic will catch up to the madness and insanity that values war over peace and destruction over development.

When President Obama stands before the country this week he will have a unique opportunity to validate the change that his candidacy promised three impossibly long years ago. I am speaking not only about a change in the current American military policy in Afghanistan, and by extension Iraq. I believe that he has the opportunity to fundamentally change the nature of American policy when it comes to resolving international issues and concerns.

With the death of Osama bin Laden and the generally acknowledged demolition of the Al Qaeda apparatus in Afghanistan, there are no more military reasons for the United States to be there. There were never any military reasons for American troops to be in Iraq. And now would be the time to acknowledge the limits of military answers to international challenges by announcing the accelerated withdrawal of troops from these two theaters of death.

In the process of bringing peace and relief to hundreds of thousands of American families President Obama could establish the framework for introducing the war “savings” into the budget debate. This would, of course, require the G.O.Tea Party budget hawks to explain that the debate is not simply about dollars and cents but about fundamentally withdrawing the American government from protecting and developing the environment, educational resources, health care and the financial services industry.

There is a lot that President Obama can accomplish with this one speech. It is clearly time for him to seize the opportunity.

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