Point of View Columns

R.I.P. G.O.P.

There is now a great likelihood that historians will look upon May 3, 2016 as the date that the Republican Party seriously began to die. There have been disturbing signs of deterioration as the party has engaged in internecine battles with Democrats and other Americans as vaguely interested bystanders. But now, with the designation of Donald Trump as the “presumptive presidential nominee” of the Republican Party, it would seem that it is only a matter of time before this very ill patient dies.

Donald Trump may be a lot of things but an ideologue is not one of them. He believes what is convenient for him to believe in order to achieve his objective. And right now it is convenient for him to believe in the current brand of angry conservatism that, if fully implemented, would result in a miserable, misinformed and raging nation that would be a danger to itself and the entire world.

One might look at the Nixon “Southern Strategy” as the beginning of the end for the Republican Party, because even then the bet that whites angry over the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 could form a sustainable base was wrong because demographics and arithmetic were working against the likelihood of an eternal white majority in this country. But the “Southern Strategy” had a good run with the election and reelection of Richard Nixon, the election and reelection of Ronald Reagan and the election of George H.W. Bush.

But anger is, by definition, a difficult force to manage. By the 1990’s revolts led, first by Pat Buchanan, and then by Newt Gingrich started to fray and tear the party, first at the edges, and then at its very core by 2010. By labeling government as the “enemy” and fomenting constant rage against “the others” – nonwhites, nonAmericans, whatever – a new and more virulent strain of adversarial political thought began to spread across this nation.

This view of America is seen through a prism that highlights class distinctions, racial divides and the complicity of the government and a nameless ruling class in the entire process. The Tea Party and its more recent descendants executed a takeover of many local and state governments along with the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. This focus on the governmental jugular vein of this country has given this movement outsized power and influence. And because its goals are relatively vague this movement has been difficult to control.

Because Trump has admitted that he will say just about anything, many devotees of this right wing movement have supported him. Because Trump has been at varying times racist, sexist, mean, misogynistic, ignorant, xenophobic and a bully, he has attracted enough support to become the Republican presidential nominee. His new status has awakened the Republican leadership to the fact that a Trump presidency might well mean the end of Republican Party as we have known it for the past 162 years.

It might very well be too late for the #NoTrump fans to stop The Donald from being the Republican presidential nominee. The train wreck of a campaign that he will wage will by turns embarrass, enrage and disgust millions of American voters and many people who currently call themselves Republican. But there will be millions of Americans, who will embrace the Trump vision of the world, and these Americans literally have no interest in what Paul Ryan or Reince Priebus think.

There should be no question about whether Donald Trump can become President of the United States. He can.
The question is whether the Republican leadership that built the philosophical laboratory that yielded the monstrosity that is the Trump candidacy can now stop the monster that they helped to create.

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Point of View Columns

Drama in the Fourth Quarter

Recently, President Obama pointed out something that the fans of the National Football League Seattle Seahawks (and the fans of the Green Bay Packers) experienced firsthand last weekend – the fourth quarter can be an interesting time in sports. And, as President Obama’s most recent State of the Union address shows, the fourth quarter of the Obama Administration may prove to be just as interesting as the Seahawks-Packers game.

During this week’s State of the Union speech, another of facts of American political life became apparent. First, despite the tsunami of attacks, insults, falsehoods, conspiracy theories, faux scandals (think birther or Benghazi, to name a few), President Obama still contends, he still competes, he still adheres to a vision in which the people of this country have a better life.

Second, it is also clear that the Teapublican majority in the House and Senate is not prepared to cede even the slightest credit for anything to this president. While applause meters should not be seen as a definitive indicia of much of anything, the protocols of SOTU speeches do call for applause and the Teapublicans would not, seemingly could not, applaud such mayonnaise on white bread good news items as the historic decline of unemployment, the lessening reliance on foreign oil or the fairly benign notion that the minimum wage should be raised from its current, hardly luxurious $7.25 level.

Indeed, the only time that the Teapublican cabal applauded spontaneously is when President Obama mentioned that he would never run for office again. It was, however, a move that the Teapublicans immediately regretted as the president reminded them that he was not running anymore because he had beaten them in the last two elections – thereby proving once again that at times silence really is golden.

Real world, real time issues like education, immigration reform, tax reform and the implementation of a reality-based environmental policy all need to be in the forefront of policy decision-making in Washington. The Teapublicans offer little hope that they have any interest in improving the quality of life for anyone given the fact that their first act in the new Congress was to bring a bill to the floor that articulates draconian restrictions on abortion – as if this issue is what keeps the majority of Americans awake at night. Female Teapublicans squelched this particular bit of grandstanding, but it is an unfortunate sign of things to come.

Meanwhile, another highlight of President Obama’s speech was his call for the lifting of the Cuban trade embargo, a punitive policy that was a failure at the beginning, a failure for the past half century and is a failure to this very day. And in this instance, failure means that the trade embargo has done nothing to change the political environment in Cuba, it has imposed unnecessary harm and damage on the Cuban people, and it has denied economic opportunities to American firms who cannot compete with companies that are based in more enlightened – or pragmatic – countries.

Needless to say, the Teapublican leadership seems intent on clinging to this hoary and worn out relic of the Cold War, even as the Berlin Wall has become part of the pavement between East and West, even as Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China have become robust trading partners with this country. What is it about Cuba that warrants such enmity and political hatred?

For the answer to that question, one would have to ask the aging, Castro-obsessed Cubanos in Florida and New Jersey. They are clearly the tail that is wagging the Teapublican dog in this case and it would seem that they don’t have any real answer except that they want Cuba to go back to the good old days that they remember in their fizzled dreams – and it ain’t gonna happen.

Meanwhile, President Obama is pursuing a progressive agenda that, while far from radical, does move the country in a different direction than that proposed by the likes of John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, et. al. As noted, the fourth quarter should be interesting.

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Point of View Columns

It’s the Same Old Song

It is interesting to note that racial slavery in America was around for a longer time (approximately 240 years) than black Americans have lived in a state of presumptive emancipation (approximately 150 years). So it really should not be a surprise that the virus of racism has not been eliminated from the blood stream and consciousness of this country. And that is why it is surprising that people are “shocked” by Donald Sterling’s mindless and malignant statements.

Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the National Basketball Association knows that Donald Sterling is a Grade A knucklehead and a horrible owner of a professional sports team. Any semiliterate person with a pulse in Los Angeles knows that he is a racial troglodyte who believes and accepts white superiority in the same fashion that he believes and accepts the law of gravity.

Certainly the other 29 owners of NBA teams are well aware of the bigoted stench that accompanies Donald Sterling whenever he walks into a room. Yet not one of these 29 billionaires ever suggested that he was a problem until the now viral Sterling recording made the rounds.

Certainly the players and coaches in the NBA just had to know how bad a person Donald Sterling is – his sexism, racism and racist housing practices are a matter of very public record. Yet not one NBA player, black or white, has ever hesitated to pick up the multimillion dollar checks that the Los Angeles Clippers have been handing out for decades.

Perhaps what is most disconcerting about the Sterling Situation is that so many people profess shock and outrage regarding statements made by Donald Sterling while they remain mute or muted when equally offensive or even worse language is flooding the airwaves and cyberspace.

After all, Donald Sterling may be the billionaire owner of a basketball team and controls some real estate properties in Southern California. But Congressman Paul Ryan is one of the leaders of the Republican Party, the party that controls the United States Congress and is seeking control of the United States Senate in November as well as the Presidency in 2016.

Paul Ryan is a man of real influence and what he says matters – a lot more than any mindless drivel dribbling out of the mouth of Donald Sterling. And when Paul Ryan says that “inner city males” do not come from a culture of working, he demeans and diminishes African Americans in a way that is far more harmful and far more dangerous than anything found on the Sterling Tapes.

That is because Paul Ryan can actually implement policies and legislative initiatives that will be based upon his callous and shockingly exaggerated characterization of African American males. These draconian and punitive policies will be justified by this wrongful and stereotypical portrayal of black men and people will truly suffer.

Yet there has been no hue and cry regarding Paul Ryan’s statements. There have been no demonstrations or proclamations that “racism has no place in the U.S. Congress”. Instead, because Paul Ryan has put some rhetorical lipstick on his racist pig, he is treated as a statesman engaged in honest policy discussion instead of being reviled for the closet racist that he is.

Certainly Donald Sterling deserves the entire tsunami of revulsion that has washed over him. But it is important to remember what is important in this world.

A cranky basketball team owner spewing racist sewage is unpleasant. One of the leaders of the Teapublican Party slinging racist mud while blowing on his racist dog whistle is not only unpleasant, it is dangerous and should not be ignored — ever.

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Point of View Columns

Ryan’s Lyin’

Paul Ryan is a living breathing example of why elections do count. It is only because of six percentage points in the 2012 election and Mitt Romney not slipping on a banana peel, that Paul Ryan isn’t President of the United States right now. The fact that his plan to dismantle much of the federal government and the social safety net was soundly rejected has not stopped him from tilting at windmills in a sad parody of “The Man of La Mancha”.

Most recently, Paul Ryan has proposed a budget plan that would essentially eliminate and shred the same social safety net that provided comfort to his family as well as a well paved path to wealth and pleasure. By declaring government as the enemy and its beneficiaries as undeserving “takers”, Congressman Ryan and his neocon brat pack – Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee – are taking this country on an ugly path that will make the divisions of the Civil War seem like a ten cent family spat.

Consider this recent Ryan quote:

(We are experiencing a)”tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning to value the culture of work”.

In just thirty one words Paul Ryan has managed to conjure up an apocalyptic view of this country being devoured by non-working “takers”. Leaving aside the fact that the Paul Ryan’s family made its fortune by paving government funded roads and highways and that his college tuition was paid for by Social Security benefits, Paul Ryan’s employment experience in the private sector is just a few degrees away from non-existent.

But it is not just “takers” that Paul Ryan, it is “black” takers. Turning his dog whistle into a bugle, by using the “inner cities” code words, he has transformed class warfare into a racial conflict. Conjuring up visions of Willie Hortons and Zip Coons and Stagger Lees sucking up welfare payments, housing allowances and food stamps at the expense of hardworking white Americans – all because they simply aren’t even “thinking about working or learning to value the culture of work” is meant to justify the permanent shredding of the social safety net that he proposes in his draconian budget from Hell.

The Paul Ryan is blithely undeterred by the fact that most of the recipients of food stamps, housing allowances and welfare payments are white. By demonizing the social safety net as a comfy hammock for good for nothing, shiftless, lazy black men he can be assured that there are enough votes around to shake the very foundations of the governmental system that gave aid and comfort to the family of young Ronald Reagan, provided physical therapy for the injured John McCain and the stable economic environment that was the platform for the wealth of Mitt Romney, Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers.

Those facts are virtually obliterated by the “Birth of a Nation” vision of watermelon eating, convenience store robbing, fried chicken munching and multiple baby mama black men mooching off America. The fact that most black men are not engaged in this conduct is irrelevant. The imagery is enough to damn the facts and support the damnation of the very system that has allowed this country to even approach the threshold of the possibility of greatness.

Now Paul Ryan is going to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus and lie through his federally-cleaned teeth. He will claim that his reference to men is in the inner cities had no racial intent. He might as well spit in the face of the Caucus members and tell them that it is raining.

 

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – January 17, 2014

It must be the Mean Season on the Planet Teapublican – seemingly the only explanation for its followers in Congress insisting on continuing to deny benefits to the long term unemployed. Meanwhile, in an effort to repair the wreckage to the Voting Rights Act inflicted by the RobertsonScaliaThomasAlito cabal in the Supreme Court, Congress engaged in a bit of sleight of hand. And finally, while the celebratory skydive of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was covered in the news, Sarah Palin, the approximate cause of her discontent, got a free pass.

In the Land of Mean

Too many Americans know the stress and the shame and the pain of unemployment. The painful irony is that the longer that someone is unemployed, the more difficult it is to find a job. Indeed, some unenlightened employers refuse to even interview unemployed job applicants.

Over the last few years the federal government has extended benefits to the long term unemployed. It has certainly been a compassionate initiative and it has also been helpful to a hobbled national economy, provided direct infusions of cash to shops, stores and service providers each time those checks have gone out.

Now in step the Teapublican shock troops claiming that unemployment benefits, meager as they are, provide a disincentive for the unemployed to find a job. Heroic hypocrites like Congressman Paul Ryan – who grew up in a wealthy family that made its money as government contractors, used his father’s Social Security death benefits to attend college and who never had to look for a job in his life – claim that budget balancing is more important than saving the lives and self-respect of millions.

I am certain that Paul Ryan and his fellow Ayn Rand acolytes are good to their own children and family members. But it has been said that we measure the generosity of someone’s spirit in how they treat people that they do not know.

By that measure Paul Ryan and the Teapublicans come up short.

That Old Bad Magic

When observing events in Congress it is important to pay attention to the details. The seemingly laudable bi-partisan effort to repair the damage caused by the United State Supreme Court in virtually gutting the Voting Rights Act last year is a case in point.

The new legislation which seems to address many of the key elements of the Supreme Court’s attack on America, particularly black and Latino America, does not address the odious Photo I.D. legislation that is spreading across this country like some incurable cancer from KKK hell.

So we will read in the paper that Congress has passed a new Voting Right Act. Great news!

Race/racist driven Photo I.D. laws will still be the subject of trench warfare, state by state, county by county because Congress could not/would not act on this transparent strategy to suppress the voting power of people of color.

NOT great news!

Free Pass for Sarah Palin?

Last week most people of good will celebrated the fact that former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords celebrated her continued recovery from the Tucson Massacre by sky diving. Her recovery is an inspiring narrative and a tribute to the strength of her spirit and the support of her husband, family and friends.

But Sarah Palin, the Lady Macbeth in this story, was never mentioned in the news media. Somehow, only three years later, the mainstream media seems to have forgotten that it was on Sarah Palin’s website that a rifle scope was placed over then Congresswoman Gifford’s district – along with several others.

The fact that the man who shot Gabrielle Giffords in the head may not have been directly inspired by Sarah Palin’s cyber-obscenity does not diminish the fact that her overheated and gun-inspired rhetoric contributed to an atmosphere where violence entered into public and political discourse.

Sarah Palin should never get a free pass on this one.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

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Point of View Columns

Don’t Let Them Eat Cake

At the beginning of this month we were all witness to a shameful illustration of ideological fantasy transformed into institutional cruelty. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was forced to reduce food stamp benefits for tens of millions of Americans in the name of austerity and fiscal probity. What was really happening is that the mean-spirited worst aspects of the right wing of the right wing were implemented in real time leaving American men, women and children to suffer.

Part of the fantasy of the right wing of the right wing of the Teapublican Party is that this country is based on principles of total self-reliance and that it has been by the sheer will of the individual that all progress has taken place in this country, indeed on this planet. That this patently untrue is obvious to even the casual student of the history of this country.

From the implementation of a national postal system to the construction of the Erie Canal to the establishment of a transcontinental railroad, major progress has taken place in this country only through collective engagement and governmental support. The public health system, the public education system and government support of and participation in scientific research in multiple fields have established a societal platform that has supported unprecedented industrial and commercial success.

There have been men and women who have been highly successful in their use and exploitation of this platform. But to quote President Obama, “…they didn’t build that.” The American people have built that platform over the course of more than two centuries and it is undeniable that the millionaires and billionaires who reside in America (even if their money doesn’t) cannot even imagine a more suitable place in the world where they could create and amass the fortunes that they possess.

And so it is more than odd, it is counterintuitive that men and women who populate the right wing of the right wing who are direct beneficiaries of government-based initiatives now wish to reduce and eliminate these beneficial initiatives for other Americans now that they and their families are comfortable and secure. Consider the example of Congressman Paul Ryan, the recently failed Teapublican Vice Presidential candidate who is considered a leading theorist in the right wing drive towards fiscal austerity and the shrinkage of government.

Paul Ryan’s family became very wealthy and comfortable in Wisconsin by building roads. What kind of roads? Public roads and highways that were funded by public funds are the key source of wealth for the Ryan family and is a major reason why Paul Ryan did not have to drop out of school and go to work when his father died (his brief stint at McDonald’s notwithstanding).

To make the irony even more bittersweet, Paul Ryan attended college with Social Security benefits that he received by reason of the unfortunate death of his father. The same Social Security program that he now wants to scale back and privatize, turning it into a shredded semblance of a social safety net once helped him and his family.

It should be clear that the narrative of Paul Ryan is not exceptional for its hypocrisy and crass betrayal of a system from which he has reaped enormous, life transforming benefits. Senator Rand Paul, another Teapublican avatar and faux advocate of self-reliance, had no problem reaping millions of dollars in Medicare payments while practicing medicine.

Senator Ted Cruz is another Teapublican avatar who claims that government is the enemy of the American people. But the American government wasn’t the enemy when his father immigrated to this country from Cuba. Presumably the elder Cruz could have selected some other country to pursue his hopes and dreams and to raise his family, but he chose the United States precisely because to the programs, infrastructure and societal platform that he son now seeks to destroy.

To compound his detestable and dangerous hypocrisy, Ted Cruz attended Princeton and Harvard, two institutions that have received billions of dollars of federal assistance over the years for research, scholarships and other supportive measures. Because these schools have been able to maintain a level of excellence over the years, Ted Cruz was able to reap those benefits. Again, these are now benefits that he would seek to eliminate for current and future generations of students.

And it is within this House of Hypocritical Mirrors that we see the Teapublican apostles of austerity cutting food stamp programs while they sit well-fed, well-educated and satisfied with the life that the governmental system has provided for them.

I am reminded of the selfish caricatures that climb up the ladder to success and then pull up the ladder so that no one can follow.

 

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – October 26, 2012

News flash – the RomneyRyan strategy is to get all the Neanderthal votes in America. That can be the only explanation for Mitt Romney refusing to totally disavow miscreants like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. Meanwhile it would appear that critics of the Obama Administration’s handling of the Benghazi tragedy believe that action movies are true. Finally, speaking on behalf of Mitt Romney, John Sununu said that Colin Powell is supporting President Obama (again) because he is black. Someone please find him a white hood, robe and burning cross.

The Cave Man Strategy

Todd Akin, who is already a Teapublican member of the House of Representatives, is running for the office of senator in Missouri. He has referred to his opponent, incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill, as “unladylike”. He has more famously stated that in cases of “actual rape” women’s bodies “shut that thing down” so that they don’t get pregnant.

Richard Mourdock, who is the Teapublican nominee for senator in Indiana, has stated that while rape is a horrible thing, a pregnancy resulting from rape is the “will of God”. That this idiot can presume to know the “will of God” is proof of his idiocy. That this idiot might have a role in determining the fate of women’s reproductive choices is a tragedy in waiting.

Meanwhile vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan is unapologetically “pro-life”. He is so absolute on this subject that he has co-sponsored and co-conspired with Todd Akin to introduce legislation that would virtually eliminate legal abortion in the United States. When asked about exceptions in the instance of rape, Mr. Ryan has replied that circumstances of conception are not relevant.

Mitt Romney has said that in his mythical presidency he would happily sign a bill that outlawed abortion without exceptions. The arrogance and presumption of such a flawed perspective is stunning.

In seeking to drag women back to the Stone Age can only mean that Teapublican pollsters have discovered that there is a huge, but hidden Neanderthal vote that can propel the RomneyRyan ticket to victory. Clearly they believe that there are enough women-hating men and enough women who are willing to give up their reproductive choices to the will of these men to insure that victory.

We shall see.

Libya – The Movie

There has been a lot of Teapublican criticism of the Obama Administration’s handling of the storming of the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. It seems that there is a prevailing view that foreign policy crises resemble the plot from some kind of action movie.

The fact that murderous riots and raging mobs don’t create neat and clean scenarios seems to have escaped the Teapublicans. Also, it seems that these neo-conmen also want us to believe that there are squads of Jack Bauers and James Bonds who can solve every crisis within the time it takes to watch one episode of “24” or one James Bond movie.
Of course the real world is very different. Someone should tell Mitt Romney.

October White Sale

This week former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed President Obama for the second time. In the process of conveying his very important endorsement Secretary Powell was clear in pointing out the very flawed nature of Mitt Romney’s candidacy as part of his reason for supporting the Democratic Party candidate even though he is a registered Republican.

Never missing an opportunity to sound stupid and racist at the same time, Romney surrogate John Sununu contended that Colin Powell’s endorsement was based on one black man supporting another black man. Mr. Sununu was so wrong and so racist that some people have vainly hoped that Mr. Romney might distance himself from such a degrading and insulting remark……..no chance of that.

Mr. Sununu has already referred to President Obama as “lazy” and now calls Secretary Powell a mindless black sheep. One has to wonder when we will find him shopping for a white hood and robe to go with the racist rhetoric that he spews.

Have a great weekend!

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