Point of View Columns

Three Days in the Life of America

August 5, 2020

 4,771,5199 –156,830 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

 The day begins with the news that a community activist by the name of Cori Bush soundly defeated 20-term incumbent William Clay in a Democratic primary in St. Louis which virtually assures her victory in November. That is actually good news for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, keeping in mind that Congressman Clay’s father held the seat for twelve years before his forty. Families, Black or white, should not “own” elected offices.

Second, Ms. Bush was only able to win despite Clay’s massive incumbency because she articulated a progressive change agenda that resonated with the people of St. Louis….and that is a good thing.

Third, it is clear from the 2018 election and what appears to be happening in the 2020 election is that people with more progressive agendas are getting elected because people with more progressive agendas are registering and voting. And that is what real change looks like.

Meanwhile, yesterday there was a massive explosion at a warehouse in in Beirut, Lebanon. Scores of citizens have died, thousands have been injured and the physical devastation to a significant part of this major city is quite visible.

Early reports indicate that a huge and incredibly dangerous amount of ammonium nitrate was being stored in the warehouse and the ensuing catastrophic event was a tragic accident of some sort. But leave it to Trump to announce at last night’s press conference that it was “an attack” literally without any evidence to support this misstatement.

The Pentagon went on the record stating in effect that they had no idea what the president was talking about. And further, that there was no evidence or indication that the tragedy in Beirut was the result of any kind of military action.

One has to wonder if Trump was trying to stir up even more trouble than he has already caused in the Middle East, or is he just a mindless simpleton who says whatever may wander through the alleys and byways of his mind. It would be a good guess that the second option is correct.

It would have been hard to predict in January of this year that mail-in voting would become a major presidential campaign issue. Of course, no one knew that a global pandemic would change life as we know it for all time. But it appears that the issue of mail-in voting doesn’t have much to do with the pandemic and everything to do with the Republican years long campaign of voter suppression.

Voter suppression is an American tradition that goes back at least 150 years. It was the suppression of Black male voting rights that resulted in the passage of the 15th Amendment. But sadly the end of Reconstruction also marked the end of Black voting rights until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

From 1965 until 2013 white supremacists disguised as conservative Republicans worked assiduously to gut the Voting Rights Act. For 48 years multiple lawsuits challenging the act made their way through the courts, usually leading nowhere until more rightwing racist judges started proliferating through the federal judiciary thanks to Reagan and the two Bushes (even the “compassionate conservative one).

Finally, those efforts bore fruit in the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision of 2013 which did indeed gut the hated Voting Rights Act. Since then there has been a proliferation of laws, edicts, plans, ordinances and just plain executive action to make it more difficult for Black people to vote – in the process catching poor people, the elderly and people of color in that malignant net.

One of the principle tools to empowering voters has been mail-in voting. But we should keep in mind that mail-in voting has been the only way to vote in Colorado, Utah, Washington State and Oregon for over 20 years – with no problems worth mentioning.

But now……. with Trump seeing the demise of his horrific presidency on the horizon, it casting mail-in voting as the tool of the devil – except in states with Republican governors like Florida.

Trump’s ploy is a pretty transparent two step. Step one is to encourage governors in states with Republican governors and legislatures to ratchet up their voter suppression efforts by focusing on mail-in voting. Step two is to delegitimize the November 3rd election results in advance to prepare for Trump’s likely epic loss.

And then there is this quote from the historian Edward Watts in his book Mortal Republic – How Rome Fell into Tyranny:

 “No republic is eternal……It lives only as long as its citizens want it. And, in both the 21st century A.D. and the first century B.C., when a republic fails to work as intended, its citizens are capable of choosing the stability of autocratic rule over the chaos of a broken republic.”

Now most people would say that was then is this now. And they would be right. But we should all remember George Santayana’s quote….” those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

And the day would not be complete without another outrage emanating from Trump. “What did he do this time?” seems to be the eternal question in America these days.

And not one to disappoint, Trump announced that he was contemplating giving his speech accepting the presidential nomination from the Republican Party from……. wait for it………. the White House. Clearly there is no one in Trump’s very limited universe who would tell him that using the White House as a prop during a political convention is simply not done.

To be clear, presidents have always given political messages while in the White House. There is obviously no need for any president to run across the street to Lafayette Park to say something that had political overtones.

But using the White House as a prop for a political convention has simply never been done in the Age of Television. Trump seems to think that every facet, aspect and element of the federal government is there for his personal use. It is not enough that the modern presidency has many of the trappings of royalty already. Trump clearly is of the mind that being president is literally the equivalent of being a modern day monarch.

It is clear that Trump wants to use his incumbency as a political tool. Fair enough…. incumbents of any and every office certainly will do that. But accepting the nomination of a national party from the Oval Office is over the top – even for Trump.

But there is a very real possibility that this ploy might backfire. Seeing Trump accept the nomination from the Oval Office will remind many Americans that this clown playing the role of a buffoon is still president, and galvanize many voters to cast their ballots for Joe Biden just so that we can be rid of him.

Trump better be careful what he asks for.

But of course, Trump doesn’t know the meaning of the word “careful”.

August 6, 2020

 4,824,230 –158,268 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

It has been written several times in this journal, but it bears repeating. The listing of the daily register of sick and dead Americans seems like a satanic scoreboard from some hellish game. We become anesthetized to these numbers, which is why it is important to remember that each and every number is a person – perhaps with a family, perhaps loved and certainly entitled to a presence on this planet.

We are all destined to depart this Earth at some point. But to be the victim of not only a deadly disease but also the unwitting victim of the malignant incompetence, mismanagement of the amoral Trump administration is more than unfair.

And it is unfair because, with a minimum level of concern and with a minimum level of administrative ability and with a minimum level of empathy, Trump could have saved this country from the worst part of the suffering which is being endured by all Americans today.

Although so much of what we see and hear from Trump is too awful to be the source of humor, there are exceptions. Two days ago, while reading a teleprompter script announcing some programs aimed at improving national parks, including Yosemite National Park, he pronounced the famed park name as “Yo Semite” and then repeated his mangling of the park name as “Yo Semite”. It is literally impossible to make this stuff up.

There was a moment when the Anti-Defamation League leadership wondered whether this was an anti-Semitic slur that required an immediate response or whether he was trying to give a garbled shout out to the national Jewish community. And presumably, once it was realized that it was Trump speaking, it was just another reason to laugh at this pitiful excuse for a president.

On a much more serious note, the weekly jobs report came out and another 1.2 million Americans filed for unemployment during the past week. That means that over 50 million Americans have lost their job in the past 20 weeks. Put another way, one third of the American work force has been laid off during the pandemic.

Trump’s Carnage is real – think of it this way, one out of three Americans who went to work on January 2, 2020, the first day after New Year’s Day, are now out of work. And yet the Republicans are balking at a new stimulus package – the old one ran out 7 days ago – and as you are reading this there are countless citizens of the wealthiest country in the history of the planet who are homeless and going hungry.

And it is not being an “alarmist” to think that the worst is yet to come.

And, while we were watching the Trump Clown Show, the Trump Environmental Protection Agency gave permission for a Canadian mining company to begin work on something called the Pebble Mine in Alaska. Turns out the Pebble Mine would be the largest gold and copper mine in the world. And the Pebble Mine sits on waterways that flow into the river which hosts the largest sockeye salmon migration in the world.

The concern of most people, not just tree huggers, is that the waste from the Pebble Mine will ultimate pollute the salmon run resulting in something close to the extinction of this breed of salmon along with other irreversible environmental damage. The Obama administration had blocked this project for years so given that in Trump World all things Obama are bad, his EPA reversed earlier restrictions on this project. And an epic environmental cataclysm may be on the way.

And now, to the rescue comes Donald Trump, Jr.???? Yes, it turns out that Don Jr. is a passionate fisherman, hunter and all around outdoorsman and has now publicly lobbied his father to once again block the Pebble Mine project. Can’t wait to see what comes out the next father-son summit.

And, because things aren’t bizarre enough, we now have the Great Kanye Konspiracy Circus. It seems that some geniuses in the Republican campaign apparatus think that it would be a great idea to put a talented Black man with profound mental health issues on the presidential ballot in order to drain Black votes away from Joe Biden and enhance Trump’s reelection efforts.

What are we to make of this madness? Should the Biden team try to put someone crazier than Trump on the ballot in red states to drain votes away from Trump? Of course finding someone crazier than Trump who is not already institutionalized may be too much of a task in and of itself.

Do the Trump minions really think so little of Black voters that they believe Kanye West would make an even minimal difference in Black voter turnout for Biden. Granted, the late Herman Cain is no longer available, but they could have come up with Diamond and Silk as a competing ticket, which would in a bizarre world make more sense than Kanye West.

Welcome to the House of Mirrors a.k.a. the Age of Trump.

 August 7, 2020

4,884,406 –160,111 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

 Watching Trump is like watching a horrific car accident on the highway. You want to look away, but you end up looking anyway. And so it was yesterday.

There was Trump on the runway at an Ohio airport claiming that not only would Joe Biden attack the 2nd Amendment and religion. He actually said that Biden “would attack God” as president. There is no instance in any know version of the Bible, Koran or Torah where a human even threatened to attack, much less tried to attack God.

Of course Satan did wage war against God. But he was a rogue angel not a human and he literally caught Hell for that. So perhaps Trump is suggesting that Biden is Satan or a member of a satanic cult? The point is that Trump is distancing himself further from logic and sanity daily – and because he is President of the United States and not the host of some gimmick of a reality show – we should be concerned and worried.

The last time there was a president this incapacitated was Woodrow Wilson in 1919. But he suffered from a stroke and was pretty much confined to a bedroom in the White House and could speak very little, if at all. Of course, Trump never stops speaking, but one wonders if members of the White House staff have considered confining him to quarters for health reasons?

Meanwhile, count on Joe Biden to continue to engage in self-inflicted wounding. Yesterday, in speaking about the diversity of the LatinX community – Cuban, Colombian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, etc. – he felt compelled to take a brief trip to Stupid World and offer the observation that there wasn’t that level of diversity in the national Black community.

Now this came as a surprise to Black Americans who trace their heritage from Cuba, Panama, Nigeria, Barbados, etc. And it would certainly come as a surprise to the Black LGBTQI community as well as Black people who are very aware of the differences between the West Side and South Side of Chicago, or the diverse experiences to be found in Black Brooklyn as opposed to Black Harlem.

But the real point is that Biden really didn’t have to go there. His campaign staff then had to engage in another clean up job which could be summarized as “Joe didn’t really mean what he said”, which translates into “Joe really didn’t know what the Hell he was talking about”, which translates into “We really wish that sometimes Joe would just shut up”.

It is doubtful that Biden’s gaffes will drive any Black people into supporting the Trump presidency or the Kanye West campaign.

But right now Biden’s best bet is to stick to his best argument – I AM NOT TRUMP.

 

That’s really all he needs to say.

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Point of View Columns

21st Century Circular Firing Squad

Read it in the papers,

And you’ll see,

Just exactly what is worrying me,

The world is in an uproar,

The danger zone is everywhere

                           ………..Ray Charles

The fact that Trump did not precipitate the immediate start of World War III with the assassination of the Iranian Major General Qasim Suleimani (does anyone remember Sarajevo in 1914?) passes for a cause for celebration in this first year of the third decade of the twenty first century. Which is just one indication of how madness has become as normalized as having a pathological compulsive liar as President of the United States.

And it just may be that the most profound impact of the Trump presidency may be the normalization of fraud, lying, misogyny, xenophobia and racism – in no particular order. And it is this normalization that may be the reason why on November 4, 2020 we may be appalled at Trump’s re-election with a very clear understanding that this country will truly be slipping into darkness.

Reference is made to the normalization of the bizarre and the awful and the dangerous, because it must be the only explanation for why the Democratic Party is going through a “normal” process selecting its presidential candidate while Australia-like wildfires of confusion and chaos threaten the present and future of this nation.

While the “process” has finally begun to whittle the number of announced and active candidates from twenty to a dozen – which on the Planet DNC must be viewed as a reasonable number with less than six months to go before the Milwaukee convention – the damage may have already been done. And there may not be enough time to repair the leaks on the sinking Democratic ship prior to November 3rd.

With a dozen candidates come a dozen sets of constituents and zealots who have already contributed huge amounts of their time, emotional energy, personal commitment and many millions of dollars. It defies logic that these multiple constituencies will somehow magically coalesce behind someone other than their candidate with the same level of enthusiasm that they currently possess.

And let there be no doubt, come November 3rd the Democrats are going to need every bit of enthusiasm to overcome the Trump tidal waves of lies, falsehoods, dog whistles and lunatic rhetoric amplified by Russian bots, Iranian trolls and Chinese hackers. Indeed the greatest obstacle to a Democratic victory may be the voter suppression minefields planted by the Republicans since the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision of 2013 which gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

What we now see is outright hostility between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. The clear distaste between these two leading candidates was palpable at the last debate. Even if Warren and Sanders kiss and make up, what about their supporters? We know from 2016 that many Sanders supporters stay cranky when their man doesn’t win (one more reason why we now have President Donald Trump instead of President Hilary Clinton).

We know that by spending $100 million dollars or more, Michael Bloomberg will be a force to be reckoned with after the first round of primaries. How many voters will be reluctant to vote for the Democratic nominee who is perceived to have “bought” the nomination? And, by the way, how many slings and arrows need to be aimed at Joe Biden before he becomes irreparably damaged goods after Milwaukee?

The normalization of the gross, of the stupid and of illogic seems to have afflicted the leadership of the DNC. If anyone believes that this is a “normal” election year, they should go to an opioid rehabilitation center immediately. There has been nothing “normal” in this country’s politics or policies since Trump was elected and traditional strategies and echo chamber group-think among the Democrats and their supporters have resulted in the very real possibility of a Trump re-election.

While it already may be too late, as the great New York Yankees philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “It’s not over until it’s over.”

Let’s hope (and pray) that it’s not over yet.

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A Fighting Chance – The 2020 Matchup

As the Democrats finish up their 2018 Midterm Election Happy Dance, it is not too early to remember that November of 2020 moves closer every day. And if the 2016 presidential election turned out to be a battle for the soul of America, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that the foreseeable future and well-being of the nation will be at stake. The question, of course, is who is the man or woman who can defeat a lying, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, studiously ignorant incumbent with historically low approval ratings?

Any student of recent American political history might answer this question with a simple response – anybody. And that would not only be a simple response, it is simplistic….and wrong.  Of course, there is a school of thought which holds that but for the fact that Hillary Clinton ran what might arguably be called the worst presidential campaign in modern history, she would be finishing up her second year as the 44th President and this country’s first woman president. But common knowledge turned out to be not so common and she lost and this nation has been hijacked by a man who could not be more destructive of the people and institutions of this country if he was actually trying to do so.

The real problem with this particular line of thinking is that it leads to the conclusion that just about anybody can beat Donald Trump in the 2020 election, as long as the Democratic base turns out. And while it is true that voter suppression is at an historic high in the post- Shelby v. Holder era, anyone who thinks that there will be less voter suppression in 2020 is spitting into the wind.

There is a very real possibility that by 2020  Trump and his Teapublican enablers will see that their accumulated misdeeds, corruption, dishonesty and incompetence are so overwhelming that threats of impeachment and indictment and ensuing humiliation might be the least of his worries. And it is at this point we will see Trump wrapped up in his most vicious and nasty persona and the presidential election campaign will sink to a no-holds-barred mud and slime fight.

How will Democrats respond? There is an old saying that if you get in the mud with a pig you will certainly get dirty – and this pig is already dirty. The 35% of the American electorate that support Trump mindlessly would love to watch a mud fight featuring their hero and champion. And Trump has already proven that with the combination of the antiquated Electoral College and his ability to hoodwink and bamboozle another 15% of the American people, he can win a second term and most assuredly wreak more havoc on the American people and the world.

From the perspective of the Democrats, if the successful nominee is not going to out vicious/nasty Trump, then that man or woman will have to truly inspire the electorate. It is doubtful that an “I am not Trump” campaign theme will lead to victory. And as the current field of wannabe’s, liketobe’s and neverwillbe’s line up at the 2019 starting line, the question will be who that truly inspirational candidate is?

It was not that long ago that in 2004 the prevailing wisdom  was that there was no way that George W. Bush could be re-elected. With an unpopular war in Iraq and a very vivid aura of incompetence surrounding him, his re-election prospects resided somewhere between impossible and improbable. And you can ask President John Kerry how that turned out.

And now, John Kerry is one of the wannabe’s lining up to take on Trump. And with all due respect to John Kerry, the Democrats better focus on inspiration and not just aspiration. Otherwise we will be in for Act II of the Trump Apocalypse – and that is a thought that should make the blood run cold.

This is one time when country matters. America cannot afford the reelection of Donald Trump.

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Rudy Giuliani – The Last Angry White Man

Last week Rudy Giuliani reminded this country that he remains the rhetorical thug and philosophical bully that most New Yorkers remember about his tenure as mayor of the City of New York. Giuliani is interesting just like a train wreck is interesting. You want to turn away but cannot resist taking a look. But it is clearly past time for all of us to turn away.

Rudy Giuliani is not the first Teapublican to cast doubt on the citizenship and patriotism of President Obama. Indeed, Giuliani was speaking at a fundraiser for Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin when he channeled his inner Angry White Man. That would be the same Scott Walker who, when asked after the Giuliani diatribe whether he thought President Obama was a Christian, opined that he “did not know”.

So Giuliani is not alone when he casts aspersions and launches attacks that are outside the pale (pun intended) of what passes for normal political discourse in America these days. If words had an odor, you would have to brace yourself for the stench emanating from Giuliani’s speech. But if you listen closely to his words, you will hear the words of a frightened and emotionally shriveled little man who is afraid of the now and terrified of tomorrow.

Giuliani spoke of President Obama not loving this country like “we do”, saying this in a room with an overwhelming majority of white males. He said that President Obama did not grow up like “us” and you can be sure that he wasn’t just referring to the president’s childhood residences in Hawaii and Indonesia.

Over and over Giuliani beat the moribund steed of racism. His lips were dripping with words that were bloated with bigotry and echoed of discrimination. While he did not say that he hates Barack Obama because he is black – his dog whistle was in perfect working order – and the white hounds in the room heard him loud and clear.

Although it is rare to see a racist burning a cross or wearing a bed sheet, this country should not stand in the shelter of smugness believing that those days are long behind us. While we do not often see a black person lynched – we do see Ferguson and Staten Island and we remember the name of Trayvon Martin just as we remember the name of Emmett Till.

The white robes of the Klan have been replaced by the black robes of Supreme Court justices who have gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. While the film Selma harks back to the days of the civil rights movement and hard won victories, Shelby v. Holder reminds us that racism is a seven headed Hydra that does not die easily or quickly or forever.

Indeed it reinvents itself and disguises itself with verbiage that is supposed to be “conservative” but in too many instances is just dog whistle rhetoric. Calls for “law and order” and “makers and takers” are just coded language that empowers the racists and bigots to do what they do. These words allow a pitiful and largely forgotten nobody who wishes that he were somebody scuttle into the limelight for a moment.

Rudy Giuliani is a forgettable footnote in American history. But last week he spoke for all the scared and frightened white men in America who feel that “we” are losing this country and that “they” will soon outnumber “us” and then the world will be different for all time.

But here is a news bulletin for Giuliani and his dog whistle listening bigoted hounds – the world has already changed.

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Thieves in the Day

There is a reason why burglars and bank robbers usually do their best work at night – they don’t want to get caught. Thieves realize that theft can have unpleasant consequences and so the darkness is their ally. That is why it is even more brazen for the Teapublican terrorists in Congress and in state houses all over the country to conspire to steal the right to vote from American citizens in broad daylight.

Last year the Supreme Court of the United States eviscerated the historic Voting Rights Act which had reversed almost a century of the legalized disenfranchisement of black citizens in the United States. In a stunning and blatant illustration of racism barely hidden by judicial robes, the Thomas/Aliton/Scalia/Roberts Supreme Court Cabal ruled that the Voting Rights Act was a form of “racial entitlement”, fully ignoring the undisputed facts that for too long for too many black people, exercising the right to vote was literally a death-defying act.

In what would appear to be some kind of satanic synchronization, immediately upon the Supreme Court’s infamous Shelby v. Holder decision, scores of states, counties and other election districts moved to put in place restrictive voting measures that would not have been permitted the day before that decision. In the year since the Shelby decision over a dozen states have passed laws that make it far more difficult for people to vote and there should be no doubt that these laws are clearly aimed to reduce the number of minority voters who would otherwise be eligible to cast their ballots, as is there right.

We are supposed to believe that the reason for closing the gates on polling booths is to prevent voter fraud. But there is no research or data to indicate that voter fraud is even a small problem in any part of the country. Indeed, the greatest case of voter fraud in the history of the United States was committed by the Supreme Court of the United States itself in the Bush v. Gore case when the presidential election was given to candidate George W. Bush based on political and not judicial principles.

The history of denying the rights and benefits of citizenship to black Americans is as old as this country itself. At one point black Americans were constitutionally defined as 3/5th of a human being (the original Constitution of the United States). The Supreme Court at one point ruled that black Americans had no rights that a white person needed to respect (the infamous Dred Scott decisions). And, of course, it was against the law in many parts of the United States for a black person to learn how to read and right (the post-Reconstruction Era of the United States).

After the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, the battlefield for racists moved from denying literacy and the actual humanity of black people, to denial of the rights of citizenship. And that denial of citizenship began with denial of the right to vote. While the Ku Klux Klan always made noises about protecting white womanhood, the real mission of that malignant gang of terrorists was to deny any kind of power to black Americans, beginning with the right to vote.

Lynching, murder, bombing and general mayhem were all within the rules of the racists who sought to deny the voting franchise to black Americans, and most of the time, being the craven cowards they were, they operated in the night, in the shadows and away from the light of day. The black death toll from this state-sponsored terror will never be fully known, but the deaths only compounded the day to day terror of the survivors resulting in black people being excluded from the democratic processes in this country – from voting to serving on juries to holding elected office.

The Voting Rights Act was intended to change that and in many ways it has. It should be clear that the resistance of the racists, in and out of the South, did not disappear, but real change has occurred during the past half century. And now the ghosts of the Klan must be overjoyed applauding from the Hell where they belong for eternity knowing that the Supreme Court has taken up the bloody banner of the lynch mobs and night bombers who are certainly glad to know that the Teapublican terrorists have placed enough legal linen around their damnable motives so there are people who actually don’t see a real problem with the tsunami of voting restrictions that are sweeping across this nation.

And the worst part is that these thieves, who are seeking to steal rights and citizenship, are operating in broad daylight.

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