Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving approaches and there are always reasons to give thanks…..and to there are always reasons to pause and consider:

Requiem for a Heavyweight

This past week the bi-partisan House Ethics Committee voted 9-1 to censure Congressman Charles Rangel setting the stage for a sad ending to a confluence of ethical standards and hypocrisy.

While the counsel for the Committee stated for the record that none of the actions of Congressman Rangel were “corrupt” or “self-aggrandizing”, the Committee voted to subject him the same punishment meted out to Congressman who were convicted of payroll fraud, sexual misconduct and the acceptance of bribes. One wonders if the other 434 members of Congress could withstand the scrutiny focused upon Congressman Rangel and whether censure would be the appropriate punishment in the final accounting.

Congressman Rangel asked for a delay in his hearing as he could no longer afford counsel. It turns out that the law firm that had been paid $2 million would not continue to represent him unless it could be assured that he could pay another $1 million.

Even if one can assume that this law firm actually rendered $ 2 million worth of legal service and counsel, how this firm could be so intransigent in its billing policy that it could not work out a fee payment arrangement with a client that had already paid millions of dollars is distressing and a depressing commentary on the practice of law.

Finally, newspaper columnists, bloggers and talking heads have been crowing and bellowing over the presumed demise of Congressman Rangel’s political career. An ounce of humanity or a drop of compassion is clearly in short supply these days. But it is worth pointing out that there are thousands of men and women who have been able to go to school, pursue careers, obtain decent housing and take care of their families because of the efforts of Congressman Rangel. His acknowledged imperfections cannot tarnish his accomplishments.

Those who sit in judgment of Charles Rangel, whether they are in Congress or in the media or in the street should look in the mirror to see if they measure up to the standards of accomplishment of the man that they now choose to pillory.

“Scottsboro Boys” – cont’d

The more that I learn about this travesty of a minstrel musical (it turns out that Rosa Parks makes a cameo appearance – the flesh crawls at this arrogant absence of good taste), I am baffled that there is so little protest.

It is not only black Americans that should be outraged. People of goodwill and good judgment should know that offensive material that poses as art should be subject to criticism at the very least.

I hasten to add that this is not a First Amendment issue. The producers and directors of this buck and wing spectacle posing as an historical perspective have every right to come up with whatever drivel that they choose. I am simply surprised at how anesthetized and desensitized too many of us have become.

Perhaps the outrages of the Tea Party and Glenn Beck, et. al. have permanently lowered our standards when it comes to good taste. If that is the case, then shame on us all.

Driving Miss Ginni Crazy

In a recent Point of View “Weekend Edition” I wrote about Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and her right wing of the right wing conservative organization. I then wrote about Mrs. Thomas and her bizarre post-dawn phone call to Anita Hill soliciting an apology to her husband.

Now it has been announced that Virginia Thomas is suspending the activities of her conservative cheerleading outfit because of “too much controversy”. Perhaps after the elections of November 2nd she feels like her mission has been accomplished. We can only hope that we have heard the last of her.

But I doubt it.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – October 15, 2010

The miraculous rescue of the Chilean coal miners reaffirms the potential for triumph in the human spirit. The spiraling inane insanity of political discourse that has conferred legitimacy to birthers and tea partiers and Nazi wannabees is breathtaking in its capacity to dismay. And the beat goes on:

Clarence and Ginni
A few mainstream news articles have begun to focus on the rather interesting story of Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The facts are that Mrs. Thomas, affectionately known as Ginni, is the founder and head of Liberty Central, a nonprofit political action group that committed to “ending the tyranny of Barack Obama” and other right wing of the right wing principles.

While no one can deny the freedom of speech rights of Mrs. Thomas, the appearance of propriety is critical to the legitimacy of jurisprudence and there can be no doubt that the spouse of a Supreme Court justice appearing of Fox News with a Lady Liberty crown and braying about the need to reclaim America and hurling epithets at the President of the United States has to cause one to wonder.

I wonder, for example, if there is any way that a nominee to the Supreme Court would be confirmed if their spouse engaged in these kinds of high profile political forays – regardless of political affiliation or philosophical point of view.

Further, there is the very real matter of the Citizens United case which was decided by the Supreme Court. Citizens United held that corporations can make unlimited campaign and public contributions since corporations have the same rights to free speech as citizens.

This contorted perversion of the Constitution has not only skewed the political landscape throughout this country, it also legitimized an unlimited flow of funds to —- you guessed it — Liberty Central, a 501© (4) corporation that does not have to disclose its corporate donors, including the two companies that provided her with $550,000 to get her hatchet job operation started a few years ago.

One would think that, at the very least, the esteemed Justice Thomas (the favorite Supreme Court Justice of Sharron Angle, by the way) would have recused himself from the Citizens United case as its outcome directly affected the work of his wife. But there is no shame and very little observation of propriety on the right wing of the right wing and Justice Thomas chimed in with his fellow Blocks of Granite on the Supreme Court, Justices Roberts, Alito, and Scalia to make certain that this godforsaken decision went forward.

What is most distressing is that the Thomas-Thomas-Liberty Central connection is not news and has not been revealed through investigative reporting. These facts are known and have been known for quite awhile.

And then think about the hue and outcry if the wife of Justice Stephen Breyer, a noted progressive on the Supreme Court, was a regular contributor to Truthout or The Huffington Post or Point of View.

Clearly we are in an era where the right wing of the right wing doesn’t even pretend to adhere to basic principles of propriety and decency. And just as clearly, the progressive cohorts in the political fray have yet to find their voice.

Dazed and Amazed
Every day there are polling reports and surveys to the effect that Republicans and their Tea Party progeny are “enthusiastic” about voting in the November 2nd midterm elections and Democratic Party supporters are lukewarm and reluctant on the subject.

I confess to being dazed and amazed by this continuous news flow. The G.O.Tea Party has been very clear in setting forth its agenda to roll back each and every legislative achievement of the Obama Administration to date – from health care, to nuclear disarmament, to equal pay for women. The right wing of the right wing has declared its intention to dismantle key elements of government like the Department of Education and the Department of Energy.

Some avatars of the right have questioned the constitutionality of unemployment insurance (Joe Miller – Alaska) and the need for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Rand Paul – Kentucky). Others have engaged in such reprehensible personal conduct (Carl Paladino – New York) and have made their fortunes promoting misogyny and violence (Linda McMahon – Connecticut).

And I am dazed and amazed at the reported apathy of the progressive and moderate sectors of the electorate. Can it be that people simply don’t believe Joe Miller when he says that he thinks that unemployment insurance is unconstitutional and that he will not vote for any legislation that is not expressly permitted in the Constitution (a document that was written over two hundred years ago)? Can it be that the promise of Senate and House of Representatives populated by former witches (Christine O’Donnell – Delaware) and Nazi wannabees (Rich Iott – Ohio) is not enough to get people to go to the polls and vote?

I understand that political battle fatigue may have set in given the all out assaults from the right wing of the right wing and its Fox News megaphone. But now is not the time to retreat and hunker down. There is a promise of a darker tomorrow on the horizon. Stemming the tide of witches and wrestlers and Nazi wannabee and strict constitutional constructionists is not simply another cause.

There is a cause for alarm right now and if there was ever a time for mobilization and taking a stand against the outrageous proposition that this country was better in some mythical past, now is the time.

Or to be perfectly accurate, November 2nd is the time.

Burn Baby Burn
Recently, in Obion County, Tennessee a residence burned to the ground while the fire department stood by. What was the reason for their inaction?

The owners of the home had not paid an annual $75 fee for fire protection service. The family in question had paid in previous years, had forgotten this year and offered to pay on the spot. The firemen refused the payment and the home burned to the ground.

That eloquent voice of the right wing of the right wing, Glenn Beck, praised the Tennessee firemen for standing up for what is right and teaching a lesson to Americans who would “sponge” off their fellow citizens. As bizarre and heartless as this statement seems, Mr. Beck was supported by his fellow travelers who call themselves conservatives and libertarians.

Terms like cruel, heartless and clueless come to my mind. But keep in mind that the point of view expressed by Mr. Beck and his colleagues is held by many who would put into action these views if the G.O.Tea Party and the Blocks of Granite on the Supreme Court have their way.

VOTE ON NOVEMBER 2nd!!!

Have a great weekend!

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