Point of View Columns

Battling for Tomorrow Today

By now there should be no doubt that the extreme conservative/regressive movement in this country has assumed the upper hand in all matters political in this country. The Supreme Court, the United States Congress and the Presidency are all in the hands of those who would turn back the hands of time. And there is a very good reason why the right wing of the right wing is in the ascendancy – it is because they have planned for the future and, for American regressives, the future is now.

It is hard to remember, and for some Americans of a certain age it is almost impossible to realize, that a few decades ago issues such a woman’s right to privacy, basic affirmative action measures to insure equity in education and in the work place were not on the verge of evaporating into the neoconservative atmosphere.

There was a time, not too long ago, when Republican and Democratic presidential administrations may have differed over the extent to which government should assist those Americans who needed assistance but certainly it was a settled fact that the environment – air, land and water – needed to be protected and preserved since they belong to everyone.

This is not an ode to days gone past. For there was a time not too long ago when the criminal justice system was hell bent on sending as many black and Latino men to prison hell. Mass incarceration was seen as the antidote to urban crime and the predicate to urban renewal which was the precursor of the national gentrification phenomenon. And there was a time not too long ago that invading countries from Iraq to Grenada to Panama to Afghanistan also seemed like really good ideas.

But while many were concerned with the big picture or just a few pixels of the little pictures, there were men and women, many of them possessed of great wealth, who wished to impose their vision of America into the lives of all Americans, whether they were persuaded of that vision or not. And so, the right wing of the right wing focused on boring stuff like school board elections, and city council and state legislative elections.

While many watched presidential debates spellbound as if they were all that really mattered, the right wing of the right wing focused on local and state elections because ultimately that is how the Electoral College can be a tool for electing the unelectable (see George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump, for example). And of course, the right wing of the right wing focused on the Supreme Court of the United States where 5 to 6 judges with lifetime appointments can decide the future of a nation for decades to come.

There can only be a few progressives left who will argue that it is better to have a proto-conservative Congress and President in order to highlight the hypocrisy that pervades so much of chasm between American ideals and American reality. And, of course, it is that kind of thinking that left Hillary Clinton in a heap of electoral ashes and elevated Donald Trump into the fulfillment of all of his crazed megalomaniacal dreams.

As November 2018 elections approach it is going to be critical that progressives and proponents of positive change in America vote – certainly. But it is also important that these same progressives start battling for tomorrow, today. That means not only focusing on the bright shiny objects of a few high profile elections. It also means focusing on the long term journey to reclaim the high ground in American politics and to cease adopting an eternally defensive stance.

For example, if that means that if the Democrats retake the House of Representatives impeaching Brett Kavanaugh for perjury as being possessed of a demeanor and temperament that makes him unfit for the position of Supreme Court justice, then that course of action should be pursued.

Trump and his enablers cannot spell “moderation” or “compromise” and progressives should finally recognize that we are in a battle for tomorrow today and that there is no longer any time left to find a middle ground with men and women who believe that their way is not only the right way, but that it is the only way.

One more march is not the answer. One more rally will not bring about change. Petitions will not change the mind of a single right wing ideologue. The only answer to this daytime nightmare is direct action, resistance and the focus on a long term vision.

And of these, the long term vision is the most important.

Point of View Columns

I Am White Man – Hear Me Roar

Having watched the Ford-Kavanaugh hearings last week some facts can be gleaned from the Circus Maximus-like event. First, and probably foremost, the vociferous supporters of Brett Kavanaugh said that he was “bold” and “passionate” and “courageous” in his boisterous, bellicose and belligerent attack on the Democratic senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee. And it is a fact that if Ellen Kagan or Sonia Sotomayor had trotted out heir angry white man imitation they would have been castigated for being hysterical, unhinged and certainly unfit to hold a lifetime seat on the United States Supreme Court.

However, given the fact that the Senate Judiciary Committee is dominated by white males who seem to have stumbled out of some antediluvian American nightmare, there is very little chance of Kavanaugh being sanctioned and the chance of him not being confirmed by the Teapublican-led Senate is microscopic at best.

Nevertheless, it is useful to consider what the nation witnessed when Kavanaugh went into his epic rant last week. Somehow, some way, someone convinced him that going ballistic was a useful strategy for someone who was ostensibly in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee as a presidential nominee for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States. Instead, he came across as being unqualified to even serve on a kangaroo court or as a backup to Judge Judy and raised real questions as to what the hell he was doing serving a federal judge on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals of the United States in the first place.

What the world witnessed was the primal scream of the privileged and entitled American White Male. The frustration that Kavanaugh expressed was clear – he clearly stated that he had checked all the White Male boxes – he went to Yale (twice, no less), he went to Georgetown Prep, he played sports, he “busted his tail” and was a husband and a father. Whatever missteps in his behavior that might have taken place were beside the point, “a joke” as Kavanaugh so eloquently stated.

What the world also witnessed is the very obvious revelation of who Brett Kavanaugh is. It is axiomatic that everyone is likeable, poised and engaging when they are being praised. Response to praise and privilege is not a useful indication of the person. We truly find out who we are in times of adversity – when we are not being praised, when we are being closely questioned or even attacked. The man or woman who can keep their poise during trying times is the person with inner strength and fortitude. Brett Kavanaugh showed himself to be sorely lacking when it comes to these qualities, that much is clear.

What is also clear, as evidenced by the unconditional support that has been expressed by most Teapublican members of the Senate is that sense of entitlement and privilege is supposed to make the American White Male invulnerable and untouchable when it comes to questioning his behavior, deportment or character. The #MeToo movement has made a dent in his ivory armor, but there should be no doubt that the era of the Angry White Male is upon us – just look at the 2016 presidential election, just look at the Trump “base”, just look at Brett Kavanaugh.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – November 29, 2013

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

Diplomacy 101

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

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

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

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

The Disaster that Isn’t

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

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

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

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

Religion Incorporated?

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

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

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

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

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – July 5, 2013

There have been plenty of Teapublicans assuming their natural naysaying negative posture who have been claiming that sequestration hasn’t been “that bad”. Of course if they left their right wing fantasy world for a few moments a dose of reality would lead them to a very different conclusion. Meanwhile the implosion of the presidency in Egypt and the continued carnage in Syria has heightened calls for President Obama to “do something”. Fortunately President Obama knows the cost of “something”. And finally, within days of the Supreme Court’s damnable Voting Rights Act decision there was great haste to drive an electoral wedge into this country’s racial divide.

Sequestration Secret?

The July 5, 2013 editorial of the New York Daily News mocks President Obama’s earlier claims that sequestration would have a calamitous effect on the American people. It seems that since this country has not ground to a halt there is proof in the wisdom of sequestration.

The only problem with the News editorial board and its fellow travelers is that they are not telling the truth. In point of fact the entire federal government has been shifting monies to keep various programs functional. But national parks are closing or operating on reduced hours. Children are already being denied spaces in Head Start programs that will begin in September. And we should never forget the shameful delays in treatment and services that are being suffered by veterans every day.

The spectacular air traffic delays occasioned by sequestration were addressed by Congress because members of Congress felt the pain. But the News editors and members of Congress don’t feel the pain of federal furloughs and the consequent impact on small businesses in the communities where the furloughed workers live.

It seems like some people are living in a dream land that is a nightmare for everyone else.

Middle East Mystery?

The implosion Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi’s government has led to predictable questions about the future of Egypt and its impact on a Middle East region that is already in turmoil. Civilian slaughter continues in Syria, Iraq wobbles on the brink of chaos and Iran and Israel continue their Texas Death Match choreography.

Some observers of this ball of confusion are calling for President Obama to “do something”. Thankfully, up to this point President Obama has been very restrained in crafting this country’s response perhaps keeping in mind that when the United States has done “something” in the Middle East the results have not been salutary.

The United States did “something” in Iran in 1953 overthrowing a democratically elected president and that “something” has engendered ill will in that country and throughout the region for over half a century. This country did “something” in Iraq in 2003 and pushed that country in a maelstrom of blood and destruction while sacrificing the blood and treasure of this country needlessly.

And it should be noted that if this country does “something” else in the Middle East there is a good chance that the consequences will be felt not only in that region but here in the United States as well.

SCOTUS Fallout

The ink was barely dry on damnationworthy the Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act before scores of state and county governments issued various  proposals that would have the effect of suppressing voter participation, especially among minorities. This could not have been a surprise to anyone with a pulse.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had already termed the VRA an instrument of “racial entitlement”. And while the SCOTUS majority contended that there was no longer a need for the protections afforded by the VRA they made this contention with the full knowledge of the voter suppression tactics employed in the 2012 presidential election.

The shame of the SCOTUS VRA decision is extravagant in that it not only condones racist practices, it actually encourages them.

And the worst is yet to come.

Have a great weekend and stay strong!

Point of View Columns

The 2000 Pound Gorilla

Last week the George W. Bush Presidential Library was dedicated on the campus of Southern Methodist University. Every living former president and President Obama were in attendance and the ceremonies had the expected pomp and circumstance. It was a momentous day for former President Bush and every speech was gracious and respectful of the moment. But one could not help but wonder at how long the 2000 pound gorilla on the podium could remain silent.

There is something to be said for honoring the position – president, governor, chairperson, commissioner – because it is important in maintaining institutional stability and respect. And it is for that reason that no one could honestly expect the 2000 pound gorilla to be invited to speak. Actually, there were a troop of 2000 pound gorillas on the podium at SMU shielded from public view out of respect for the office that President George W. Bush once held.

But after last notes of “Hail to the Chief” fade away it is important to find out what these gorillas might have said:

Gorilla Number One: The reality of the Bush presidency is that it began with the theft of a presidential election. The only recorded electoral theft that was more brazen might have been the faux election of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876. In 1876 the accomplice to the theft was the Electoral College. In 2000, the Supreme Court of the United States ratified this electoral skullduggery with one of the deciding votes being cast by a Supreme Court justice appointed by George W. Bush’s father.

This banana republic imitation was harmful and nearly disastrous to the popular perception of democracy in the United States. But the 2000 electoral escapade was the very public beginning of the Republican strategy of advocating voter suppression and the outright theft of elections.

Gorilla Number Two: This gorilla would be accompanied by the ghosts of anywhere between 100,000 and one million dead Iraqis and 4,486 dead members of the American military along with the shadows of 32,226 wounded Americans, many of whom have no real hope of living a normal life. George W. Bush pursued a war of choice in Iraq, what motivated his choice – oil industry interests?, avenging threats to his father, neocon madness? – no one may ever know.

What we do know is that before the first bomb was dropped on Baghdad the United States government had no reliable proof that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Further, the Bush Administration knew that Saddam Hussein posed no threat to the United States. And the Bush Administration knew for sure that Saddam Hussein was not connected in any way to the 9-11 attack on the United States.

Yet, using the gossamer veil of lies and misinformation, President Bush led this country into a war with horrific results – virtually destroying a country that already had enough challenges under the regime of Saddam Hussein, causing the needless deaths of so many Americans and Iraqis, destabilizing the entire Middle East region – that future generations will have to confront for years to come.

Gorilla Number Three: This gorilla would be representing the clear damage to the economic infrastructure of this country that was directly caused by the policies of George W. Bush. Pursuing unnecessary tax cuts while fighting not one, but two unfunded wars is only the tip of the iceberg.

The Bush Administration actively engaged in a policy of creating a deregulated financial marketplace by suppressing oversight so that there was virtually no distinction between Wall Street and a second rate casino. And when the wheel stopped spinning millions of Americans lost their homes, their jobs and their hopes. The collateral damage caused by Bush Administration can be seen in shuttered factories, Americans with graduate degrees competing for part-time jobs at any wage and the continued redistribution of wealth in favor of the most wealthy.

The American way calsl for every former president to have his/her own library. By that standard George W. Bush is entitled to his presidential library.

But just once I would like for that troop of 2000 pound gorillas to have their say.

Point of View Columns

Dark Shadows

Within the next few days the Supreme Court of the United States will issue a ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act. Very shortly we will come to understand if there are any limits to the conservative partisanship that has defined the RobertsScaliaThomasAlito right wing of the right wing of SCOTUS. During the past decade the emboldened conservative cabal has stolen a presidential election and opened the floodgates through which corporate cash now flows into American politics. It now threatens to withhold healthcare from the American people.

The motives that the RobertsScaliaThomasAlito right wing of the Supreme Court are clearly partisan and reflective of a conservative philosophy that is so mean spirited that it would have to reach up to be low. The right wing of the right wing, through its black-robed accomplices has sworn to doom the Obama presidency to failure. The Affordable Health Care Act, passed in 2010, has already saved lives and preserved the health of millions of Americans. By eliminating this signal legislative achievement the motive is to drive a blow into the solar plexus of the Obama Administration.

But there’s more. During the past several years there has been an evolution – or devolution – of conservative philosophy. Staunch conservatives like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan wanted to limit the role of government. But the brand of conservatism that they espoused had some measure of mercy and compassion for those that were less fortunate.

Certainly Reagan and Goldwater opposed the expansion of the social services safety net. Today’s conservatives are seeking to shred it, watching the young, the elderly and the poor tumble into the oblivion of hopelessness while the wealthy watch impassively, if they even bother to watch.

It is a wonder that, of all the so-called developed countries in the world, the United States is the only one without a universal healthcare system. It is amazing that the self-titled greatest nation on earth has almost 20% of its population living without medical insurance while almost half of its population is underinsured. And it is cruel irony that the country that is possessed of the most advanced medical technology on the planet denies access to that technology to so many of its citizens.

That a reputedly civilized country could even argue about the entitlement of every citizen to healthcare is a condemnation of the sense of morality in this country. The fact that the RobertsScaliaThomasAlito Gang of Four will attempt to wrap gossamer threads of bogus legal logic around the meanness of this neo-conservative philosophy is simply shameful.

No matter the decision of the Supreme Court we will still be subject to the whims of the right wing Gang of Four that will probably be on the bench for another two decades. That would be twenty more years of stealing elections, depriving Americans of basic human rights and degrading desecrating the political system.

The Gang of Four has proven itself to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Teapublican Party and even if the Affordable Health Care Act survives the scimitar wielded by the Supreme Court this time, it will not be the last time.

When people seriously question the importance of choosing between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama they should think about what the next twenty years will be like if the RobertsScaliaThomasAlito wing is increased by two more right wing zealots. President Romney will certainly do the bidding of his Teapublican handlers and present as Supreme Court justices zealots who will salivate at the mere thought of limiting the reproductive rights of women, rolling back the civil rights laws and eviscerating any and every law that even hints at controlling corporate conduct.

We should always remember that the 2000 presidential election was stolen and that this theft was the handiwork of the right wing of the right wing, both on the Supreme Court and in hallways and corridors of power. We should always remember that the Citizens United decision has already warped and skewed the political process so that billionaires use the power of their cash to drown the voices of the electorate.

And we should always remember that it is the President of the United States who nominates Supreme Court justices. President Obama can point to Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan as his nominees who currently sit on the Court. Mitt Romney can point to the RobertsScaliaThomasRoberts Gang of Four as his prototype for future justices.

We have already seen the cataclysmic damaged wreaked by this Gang of Four. The Affordable Health Care Act may survive this week, but the battle for its existence will continue. The battle for rights and justice in this country will also continue as long as the Gang of Four sits on the bench.

Remember November 6th!

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – March 30, 2012

The very existence of the Affordable Health Care Act, known in Teapublican circles as “Obamacare”, is being argued before the United States Supreme Court. It appears that the G.O.Tea Party and its amen corner on the Court is ready to dismantle a system designed to enhance and save lives, with no alternative proposal. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney got all overheated and stuck in a Cold War time warp as he declared Russian the “number one global enemy of the United States”. And finally, as controversy surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin continues some people are speaking words that need to be spoken – for too many young black men the enemy is young black men.

Going Through the Motions

The Supreme Court of the United States had a reputation of being a nonpartisan forum for the resolution of legal issues of import. Ever since 2000 when the Supreme Court was explicitly complicit in the theft of a presidential election, there has been no doubt that on many issues jurisprudence has been swept aside in the name of naked partisanship.

But even in this era of supercharged bipartisanship the Teapublican jihad against the Affordable Healthcare Act is difficult to understand. The legislation itself is based largely upon a comprehensive healthcare proposal originally drafted by the very conservative and very Republican Heritage Foundation. And it was a Republican governor, none other than Mitt Romney (who was for universal healthcare until he was against it), who implemented the first (and only) universal healthcare plan in the country in the state of Massachusetts.

What is also difficult to understand is that the opposition to the Affordable Healthcare Act provides no alternative to solution. It is not as if 45 million uninsured Americans who will be covered by the current law will go away once they are stripped of the assurance of coverage that the law provides. And it is highly likely that without the mandate of law medical insurance companies will return to their practice of denying coverage for pre-existing illnesses and setting caps on benefits for Americans with catastrophic illnesses. And then what?

The fat and happy RobertsThomasAlitoScalia right wing of the right wing of the Supreme Court tosses out hypotheticals about mandatory funeral cost coverage and health club memberships as if this issue is some kind of moot court competition. And all the while they and their families have access to the best healthcare coverage on the planet. Meanwhile the game is already fixed and we know exactly how the RobertsThomasAlitoScalia gang will vote just as this gang (minus Roberts) knew that they were going to steal the 2000 presidential election.

The Teapublicans swear that their alternative to the Affordable Healthcare Act is not “let them die”. I wouldn’t bet my life (or yours) on it.

The Return of Dr. Strangelove

One of the great works of director Stanley Kubrick was “Dr. Strangelove” which featured a title character who was obsessed with the notion of going to war with the Soviet Union. In a Strangelovian reprise, Mitt Romney took time out from his trudging march towards the Teapublican nomination to refer to Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical enemy” – shades of the “Evil Empire”.

It would be a good idea if someone reminded Mr. Romney that the year is 2012 and not 1962 and that Russia, while not always a cheek and jowl ally, is hardly the “enemy”. It is one more country with competing interests to those of the United States. If every country that has competing interests is an “enemy”, the United States under President Mitt Romney is going to be an isolated, friendless and seriously weakened nation.

The Plague of Black Death

The killing of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch vigilante highlights the precarious existence of young black men in these United States. Some commentators have focused on issues of racial profiling and the proliferation of weapons. And it is important that these concerns receive serious and continued attention.
It is, however, also important that a fact is recognized – young black men are killing young black men at genocidal rates in this country. The George Zimmermans and rogue police of this country can be clear and present dangers for young black men. Tragically, young black men are an even greater danger. It is a fact that must be acknowledged and addressed.

For every Trayvon Martin tragedy there are countless cases of nameless young men who are dying at the hands of their brothers. Fratricidal genocide must be addressed by any 21st century progressive agenda.

Have a great weekend!