Point of View Columns

Nada Word Was Said

Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president and immediately insulted and degraded Mexican Americans, Mexican immigrants, Latinos and all Americans of good will and decency. But this is not about Donald Trump. It is about Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina and all of the other Teapublican candidates who uttered not one word of protest, revulsion of criticism. Not one word. Nada.

To be clear, The Trump Man was not guilty of simple public indecency or petty political incorrectness. He did not infer, he categorically stated that Mexican immigrants are “bringing in drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” These were words that would make a lot of racists and xenophobes cringe. But not the Teapublican presidential candidates – from them we heard the sounds of silence.

Keep in mind that every single one of them is a child of immigrants – it’s only a question of when. But Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are the sons of immigrants. Jeb Bush is married to a Mexican which means that his children are……….wait for it………….Mexican Americans. Chris Christie is the grandchild of immigrants. And, in any event, all the Teapublican candidates are the descendants of immigrants to this country.

Nevertheless, not one of them was sufficiently aroused or offended by Trump’s remarks to utter one word of criticism. Clearly none of them think about the fact that 250,000 Latinos turn 18 in this country every year and will continue to do so for decades. They obviously don’t realize that the United States has the second largest Spanish speaking population in the world so it is probably not a good idea to call Mexicans “rapists” who “bring in crime” when a presidential election is less than 18 months away.

But it seems that these candidates are afraid of offending the angry white fringe of this country that passes for the “base” of the party. But that base is shrinking, getting older and dying faster than falling leaves in autumn. The future success of either of the major political parties depends to a very real extent on how they fare with Latino voters. While the Democrats have not covered themselves with glory with their immigration policies, at least they don’t call Latinos criminals and rapists. The Teapublicans seem to be comfortable letting the Democrats simply be the lesser of two evils.

We can say that the Teapublicans are not biased when it comes to being biased. After the Charleston Massacre the Teapublican presidential contenders dithered for days as to whether this tragedy was a “hate crime” or “terrorism”. Some had the gall to suggest that Dylan Roof was attacking religion when the historical evidence does not suggest, it screams “terrorism” because white on black terrorism is a sad but very real aspect of the black experience in America.

It is only when the bigotry and callous nature of their falsehoods become too heavy to carry that we started to hear tepid acknowledgement of the horror that took place in Mother Emanuel AME Church. And the hesitation and delay will be remembered by black voters just like the sounds of silence will be remembered by Latino voters.

There are critically important policy issues that need to be discussed and debated. But it is difficult to understand how people are supposed to be interested in the Teapublican positions after they have dismissed the humanity of black voters and silently acquiesced Latino voters being insulted by a wig wearing maniac posing as a presidential candidate.

Black voters matter. Latino voters matter. Indeed this country matters. Perhaps Teapublicans will figure this out in December 2016.

Standard
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 American men, women and children 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 in these United States.

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) and the reason why he has never had to hold a paying job in the private sector as an adult.

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 well-satisfied with the life that the governmental system has provided for them.

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

 

Standard
Point of View Columns

None So Blind

The fact that John Boehner, John McCain and Lindsay Graham think that bombing Syria is a good thing should be all the warning that President Obama needs to know that his proposed military action is absolutely the wrong thing. Instead, in what seems like some improbable horror movie, President Obama continues to slip slide towards a bloody precipice that promises no reward but an outcome that will indelibly stain his legacy as president and while endangering Americans for years to come.

For anyone with an attention span greater than that of a goldfish, it is pretty simple to remember the young Senator Barack Obama voting against the entry of the United States into a war with Iraq. It was this principled – and intelligent – stance that served as one of the foundations of his successful candidacy for president. Indeed, it is not exaggerating to say that if Senator Obama had voted for the war in Iraq he never would have become President Obama.

We now watch the grotesque irony of President Obama going to Sweden (where he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize just four short years ago) to encourage Europeans to join the United States in a military attack on Syria. And just to twist the barb of irony a bit deeper, we should remember that Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize primarily because of he represented the promise of peace and a new direction in international relations.

We listen to the Obama Administration advocate this military disaster waiting to happen and have to wonder when did Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsay Graham and House Speaker John Boehner become foreign policy beacons for this country to follow.

John McCain was soundly rejected by the American people when he ran for president so why is his judgment and advice so meaningful to the Obama Administration?

Lindsay Graham will probably not be reelected in South Carolina, a state that hardly represents the mood of this country. And John Boehner is the leader of a Teapublican majority in Congress that represents less than half of the American people.

With his typical eloquence President Obama has presented the horrific images resulting from the chemical weapons attacks in Syria that were supposed to have been perpetrated by the Assad regime. This latest outrage is, we are told, the trigger for the United States to take military action – not to overthrow Assad – but presumably to punish him.

One has to wonder what was it about the other 80,000 plus deaths in Syria that did not warrant a military response? The use of chemical weapons is horrific but bullets and rocks leave their victims just as dead. And remember that over 250,000 people were killed in Rwanda over a thirty day period, most of the dead being victims of machetes.

The point, of course, if that this world is full of horrific incidents and violent outrages. As you are reading this column someone is probably being killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in South Sudan and who knows where else. Should the United States take on the role of roving Global Marshal punishing evildoers wherever they might be?

Taking the Obama Administration’s proposition to its logical extreme there will always be a reason for the United States to violently intercede in this bellicose world. This notion is already the leading purveyor of weapons in this world. Will the United States also be the leading violent actor on the world stage?

Americans should also be careful to note that the United States has spent more than two decades bombing and killing the people in Arab and Muslim and Middle Eastern nations. This has built up resentment and a thirst for revenge that will only be satisfied with the death and destruction of Americans. The fact that there are no American “boots on the ground” will mean little to the vengeful jihadists and nationalists who will perceive the proposed Syrian bombing campaign as one more example of The Great Satan at work.

The ultimate irony is that the Teapublicans, including Senator Rand Paul, seem to be the only opponents to this Syrian warfare who have found their voice. But one does not have to be an isolationist to realize that the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans do not have the protective power of ancient moats. One does not have to be a Teapublican to understand that when American interests are not directly threatened bombs and missiles are not viable options.

There has been so much that has been good about the Obama Administration. It is truly sad to see this president sucked into the groupthink that has misguided this country into Vietnam, Iraq (twice), Afghanistan and now Syria.

And once the missiles have been launched, once the bombs have been dropped, the consequences will flow inexorably to the shores of this country.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Valuable Free Advice

There is an old saying about free advice is worth what you pay for it. And that is usually true. But as we watch the Teapublicans serially insult black Americans and consistently embarrass themselves as they “reach out” to the black community it might be a good idea for them to listen to some free advice – just this one time.

First of all, it is not useful to find other black Teapublicans who say the same horrible things that white Teapublicans say. One would have thought that the lesson would have been learned during the deafening lack of black support for the doomed Herman Cain presidential bid or as evidenced by the infinitesimal dribble of support for the ill-fated re-election campaign of Mr. Horror Show himself, the unlamented Allen West.

Teapublican/neocon nonsense still doesn’t make sense to most black Americans, even if the nonsense is being pitched by the likes of Clarence Thomas or Condoleezza Rice. No matter whom the spokesperson might be the message still matters.

And that brings us to another fundamental problem. The Teapublican Party has to stop treating its abysmal ratings in the black community as a marketing problem. The challenge is greater than finding a new logo or a devising a catchy slogan. The disconnect is real and rooted in real problems.

A bit of history – as late as 1960 the black vote in America was evenly divided between the Republican Richard Nixon and the Democrat John Kennedy. Within the next four years the tide of black voters going in the direction of Democrats became a tsunami. What happened? The Civil Rights bills happened with the leadership of a Democratic president and Congress.

What did the Republicans do? The Republican Party became the equivalent of a Buenos Aires safe house for the diehard Dixiecrats and segregationists who simply would not abide national acceptance of justice and equality for black Americans. And it is that heritage which stains the nearly lily white, Southern-dominated Teapublican Party to this very day like a bizarre Scarlet Letter that most black Americans can see quite clearly.

This disenchantment is real and visceral. The heritage harks back to the days of Jim Crow and lynchings and Birmingham bombings, and it resonates even for black Americans who were not alive for the Scottsboro travesty, the Little Rock riots or the executions of Till, Schwerner, Chaney, Goodman and King. And until the leadership of the Teapublican party can come to grips with this fundamental set of facts there are not going to be many “inroads” into the black community.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is a libertarian zealot who believes in minimalist government (except when it came to his accepting Medicaid payments as a practicing physician). In the past he has done a rhetorical fan dance on the issue of the historic civil rights bills of a half century ago, sometime saying that he wouldn’t vote for them and sometimes saying that he would have. But he has also stated that the Republican Party “won” the black vote in 1865 and that it has to find a way to “win” the black vote again.

Senator Paul should reference the earlier advisory not to treat this matter as a marketing contest. He should also study history a little more closely.

Even a cursory understanding of the peculiarly unique institution of American white supremacist slavery would lead to the consequent understanding of what Emancipation meant to black Americans. It literally meant life itself – a life without fear of being killed on a whim, or having your children sold or having your wife raped before your eyes with no legal recourse. Emancipation meant an opportunity to believe in tomorrow, a belief which had been denied to black Americans for over two hundred years.

Emancipation was championed by Republicans and that is why black Americans voted for Republicans as a matter of faith. To use Rand Paul’s unfortunate choice of words, Republicans “won” the black vote by transforming the lives of black Americans.

Democrats in turn began to make “inroads” in the black vote during the 1930’s by instituting the New Deal which again transformed the lives of all Americans, including black Americans. Democrats ‘won” the black vote by transforming the lives of black Americans.

For Teapublicans to change the balance of political choice in the black community it will have to propose transformative, not cosmetic, changes. A new logo, a black Teapublican with the same Old South message will simply not work. Transformation will work. It is that simple and that complicated.

This free advice, if taken, could be valuable.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – March 8, 2013

Every week brings its surprises as well as its common current events. Take for example Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster, delaying the confirmation of the Director of the CIA for what turns out to be a fundraising talking point. Meanwhile Roger Ailes, the wannabe genius behind Fox News felt liberated to call President Obama “lazy”. What will he think of next? And finally, while you were sleeping or reading about Kanye and Kim or just trying to pay your bills the Supreme Court heard oral arguments that could lead to the overturning of the Voting Rights Act of 1964. We all may want to pay attention to this one.

The World According to Rand

This past week Teapublican Senator Rand Paul wasted the time and money of the American people by staging a theatrical filibuster in order to hold up the confirmation of John Brennan as the Director of the CIA. Ultimately, when Senator Paul had to use the men’s room after twelve hours of blather, the filibuster ended and Mr. Brennan was confirmed.

What did Rand Paul prove? He proved to his Teapublican base that he was willing to hold up the processes of American government to prove a point. And as a result he is now raising millions of dollars from like-minded chowder heads who think that the answer to all of their problems is chaos.

The irresponsibility prize for this week goes to Rand Paul.

Searching for the Right Word

Last year was not a good year for Roger Ailes. The so-called brains behind brainless Fox News saw himself as the master puppeteer who would use his network to con the American people into voting against their own best interests by electing Mitt Romney.

As we now know, that just didn’t happen. And Roger Ailes and his minions have been left to wonder how could it be that they are not as smart as they thought they were.

Clearly Roger Ailes has gotten past the point of reflection and self-analysis and is resuming his role as attack dog for the right wing of the right wing. In a recent interview he referred to President Obama as “lazy”. Presumably he self-edited “no-good” and “shiftless” out of his comment, but these commonplace racial slurs were lurking just below the surface.

In The World According to Roger Ailes “post-racial” means being able to call the first black president of the United States everything but a child of God.

Wake Up Everybody

The late Teddy Pendergrass recorded a hit song, “Wake Up Everybody”. Perhaps it is finally time for all of us to wake up.

Incredibly, the Supreme Court of the United States has heard oral arguments on a case where the state of Alabama is seeking to overturn the Voting Rights Act of 1964 on the grounds that it is no longer necessary in the post-racial nirvana in which we now live. To make the irony more delicious, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts seemed to support the Alabama argument by asking if the South was more racist than the North.

The simple answer is that there are no Confederate flags flying over the state capitols in the North and the stars and bars are flying over every state capitol (in one form or another) in the South. That should be conclusive evidence that the myth of a post racial America is a fable that has yet to be told.

Have a great weekend!

Standard
Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – February 15, 2013

The Teapublican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address was typical – a futile effort to go back to the future. But this time, with the unlikely team of Rubio and Paul there seems to be an effort to revive comedy teams. Meanwhile New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg got it right by effectively decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. It is the right step of a journey of many more miles. And finally, with the announced resignation of Pope Benedict Catholics and many others are hoping that the new pope will begin his reign by confronting the reality of the Catholic Church in the 21st century.

Slapstick and Punch Lines

Amazingly the leadership of the Teapublican Party thought that it would be a great idea to put Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul on national television to rebut President Obama’s State of the Union address. It wasn’t a fair fight.

Barack Obama may be one of the great communicators of all time, and when he is on his rhetorical game it is hard to say who is in second place. Last Tuesday he was on his game and with applause echoing through the Capitol Senators Rubio and Paul were asked to counter an awesome performance. They both failed – miserably.

Marco Rubio looked like the loser of a high school student council presidential debate to seem like the adult that he was not, reciting talking points that seem to come from the Young Americans for Freedom playbook of fifty years ago. And then he made this magical transition from Teapublican Savior to Water Boy as he virtually ducked off the stage to get some water in the middle of his presentation.

Rand Paul looked like someone who had just climbed out of a laundry hamper and sounded like someone who didn’t think that anyone was listening. His right wing of the right wing soliloquy repeated themes that were soundly rejected by the majority of American voters but he did his best voice in the wilderness imitation.

During the heyday of old time comedy there were comedic teams like the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello and Martin and Lewis, to name a few. We can now add Rubio and Paul to the All Star Clown List.

A Journey of a Thousand Miles…..

New York City Michael Bloomberg announced this week that possession of small amounts of marijuana would no longer result in arrest or being put on an individual’s criminal record. The impact of this directive will mean that hundreds of thousands of mostly young black and Latino men will not have to go to jail for an “offense” that simply doesn’t exist in Colorado and is rarely enforced in suburbs of a different hue. This will also mean that fewer of these young men will be marginalized in the workforce because of a petty criminal record.

That is a great step in the right direction. The next step would be to retroactively eliminate such arrests from the criminal record of the hundreds of thousands of victims of this egregious policy. And the next step after that? That would be to totally eliminate the outrageous “Stop and Frisk” policy which torments hundreds of thousands of young men of color in New York City every year.

The New Pope’s Challenge

The announced resignation of Pope Benedict touched off a flurry of commentaries about his eight year reign and what he should or should not have done while serving as pope. Certainly historians will have plenty to discuss.

It is also important for the next pope to finally and decisively confront the five thousand pound gorilla in the Catholic living room. Unless and until every aspect of the global child abuse scandal (which is most certainly over a century old) is exposed and addressed many people of the faith and outside the faith will view the Catholic Church with suspicion.

It has not only been the horrific tales of continual abuse all over the world that has shocked and dismayed, it has been the institutional cover up of the crimes and the criminals. The steadfast refusal of the leaders of the Catholic Church to fully address not only the criminals but also the enablers who have masked this institutional disgrace is unbecoming of a religious institution with over a billion believers.

We can only hope that the new pope will see that now is the time to right the wrongs by confronting them.

Have a great weekend!

Standard
Point of View Columns

The Big Frame Up

As this column is being written Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services cut its outlook on the United States to negative, warning that the U.S. fiscal profile may become weaker than that of other major countries if the budget deficit cannot be “tamed”. This bit of news raises the specter of the credit rating of the United States being downgraded from Triple-A.

By the time you read this column the “budget hawks” will be circling and preparing to swoop down with the only “solution” to the budget deficit – too much spending on social services, infrastructure and investment in the future of this country. This “solution” would cripple this country and deface its future far more than any credit rating downgrade by a discredited credit agency but that is not how the discussion will be framed – it’s a frame up.

Keep in mind that Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services is the same S&P that routinely gave favorable ratings to the noxious and toxic mortgage related bonds peddled by Wall Street firms. Those would be the same Wall Street firms that successfully bet against the economy of this country and reaped billions when the economy crashed. And S&P was more than an enabler; it has been a willing co-conspirator in the fleecing of investors from around the world.

That S&P has any credibility in the current debate regarding the United States budget and its deficit borders on the absurd. The fact that S&P alumni are not standing in a lunch line in orange jumpsuits in a federal facility is a testament to how people can benefit from the Big Lie.

Meanwhile the budget hawks will attack with this latest report from S&P grasped firmly in their talons. Their “solution” will be that it is necessary to cut expenditures and the cut taxes. Whether it is Planned Parenthood or NPR or assistance for homeless veterans, the budget hawks will demand that a cleaver be wielded and that all expenditures be put “on the table”.

Increased taxes will not be “on the table” of the budget hawks. Increasing revenue to government is anathema as far as they are concerned and any solution that calls for increased taxes is considered unworthy of discussion and is not subject to negotiation.

It is at times like this that an historical perspective is useful. Using the so-called philosophy of the budget hawks and the G.O.Tea Party, the additional governmental expenditures that helped to build the transcontinental railroad and the Panama Canal would have been rejected, thereby retarding the progress of this country in countless ways.

This would be, of course, very similar to the current cutting of the federal budget to eliminate funding for high speed rail and the expansion and improvement of the interstate highway system.
If the pseudo-philosophy of the G.O.Tea Party was employed in the past, the large governmental expenditures that literally saved the lives of the grandparents of their members – expenditures for the WPA, Social Security, the CCC, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Hoover Dam never would have been made.

It is impossible to imagine Michelle Bachman supporting the governmental expenditures that funded the G.I. Bill and changed the lives of tens of millions of Americans. Clearly Rand Paul would not have supported the creation of tax revenues that resulted in the NASA space program that accelerated technological advancement in this country, creating the environment for the advancement of personal computers and the internet.

And now here comes the big frame up. S&P, the handmaiden and enabler of Wall Street makes a pronouncement that unless the budget is “tamed” the credit rating of the United States will be downgraded. Wall Street firms and major corporations that have never been enamored of taxes of any kind (e.g. General Electric paying NO taxes on billions of dollars of revenue and profit) are financial supporters of the G.O.Tea Party.

The G.O.Tea Party, waving a cash-stained and morally tattered banner of patriotism will parade on Capitol Hill claiming that “taming” the budget is a national priority and that it can only be “tamed” by cutting the budget. Once again, no new taxes can even be considered.

This bit of bamboozling is so transparent and so barren of subterfuge it is a wonder that anyone is taking it seriously. But logic has been cast aside and we are faced with a framed up debate on how to cut a budget that has increased in part because the population of this country is now one third of a billion people.

The budget has increased in part because services for the elderly, the disabled, the poor, the young and the homeless are now part of the national rationale for a civil and compassionate society. The deficit has increased in large part because of mindless wars, irrational tax cuts and an engineered collapse of the national economy that almost worked.

If the truth is supposed to set us free it would seem that lies are meant to entrap and enslave. The big frame up has to be seen for what it is. In this instance time is not our friend.

Standard