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Archive for the ‘Point of View Columns’ Category

As the United States begins to accommodate itself to the nightmarish catastrophe that is Trump, the Democratic Party, particularly its leaders, have been either silent or muted in their opposition to President Donald Tinyhands. The only thing more puzzling than the Silence of the Donkeys, is the thought that somewhere, somehow, Trump avoidance is a strategy for victory in 2018 and then again in 2020.

There is something about Donald Trump that has caused the so-called strategists and consultants who disserve the Democratic Party to overthink. During the 2016 presidential campaign, the prevailing wisdom was that there was No Way that Trump could win the Republican nomination so there was no need to attack him head on, the prevailing wisdom was that he would most certainly implode – and then he was the presidential nominee.

And then, during the 2016 presidential campaign the prevailing wisdom counseled moderation and restraint in retaliating against Trump even while he routinely savaged Hillary Clinton at any and every opportunity – remember “lock her up”? – Because there was simply No Way that Trump could win. So why even campaign in Wisconsin – and then Donald Tinyhands was elected President of the United States.

And now, ever since that dark and dismal day of January 20, 2017, when Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States, the Democrats have engaged in some kind of retro-Muhammad Ali rope-a-dope tactic that permits Donald Trump to run roughshod over the most fundamental concepts of good taste, wisdom or manners without anything more than a whisper of protest or discontent. There seems to be a give-him-enough-rope-and-he-will-hang-himself approach to Trump, even though he has shown quite clearly that if given enough rope he will tie up the Democrats.

Donald Trump has demonstrated that he has a base that is virtually impregnable and resistant to any attack on its demigod-like hero. True, the base makes up “only” 38 percent of the voting population. But a bit of simple political math indicates that Trump only needs to peel off 12 percent of the voters who are undecided, confused, easily hoodwinked, and susceptible to bamboozling or all of the above. And, by the way, which potential Democratic candidate for 2020 can claim even an ironclad 20 percent of the vote. Indeed, if the 2020 election were held today, who might that Democratic man or woman be? Listen carefully and you will hear the sound of crickets and not much else.

The Democratic Party and its leadership has been lifeless and virtually helpless in the face of the Trump juggernaut. Instead of going into permanent attack mode, they seem to be afraid of being labeled as obstructionists. And, by the way, the Republicans played the role of Obama-deniers for eight years and ended up electing a near-lunatic as President. It is hard to believe that Democrats cannot meet that very low bar.

There is a base of disaffected Americans who are looking for a more coherent message than “Anybody But Trump”. There are millions of Americans who are experiencing shock and awe as Trump and his minions run amok and take sledgehammers to the institutions and programs that have defined this nation. The environment, civil rights, rational foreign policy, women’s rights, gun control, fair employment, the dismantling of the incarceration nation – all these initiatives and more are under attack every day.

Donald Trump has provided the Democrats with enough ammunition to beat him in a dozen elections. But only if the Democrats put an end to their Silence of the Donkeys routine and become the leaders of resistance and opposition to the phenomenon called Trump…….and soon.

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The most recent American gun massacre in Las Vegas is the tragically perfect definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. Here in the United States of Gun, the sale of virtually any kind of gun and any kind of ammunition, no matter how lethal, is legalized and yet there is collective shock and dismay when gun massacres occur again and again. The only variable is when and where blood will be spilled again.

Since the horrific gun massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012 there have been 1518 gun massacres in which four or more people have been killed. The body count from these carnage carnivals has been 1700 dead and over 6000 injured and countless thousands mourning or cowering in fear. And now we add a new chapter The United States of Gun book, a chapter entitled Las Vegas – 10.1.17.

Newtown, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and San Bernardino – the list is too long and too sad to recount in this space. What we do know is that the United States, despite all of our technology and luxury and presumed veneer of civilization and advancements is rapidly claiming the title of The Most Dangerous Nation on Earth. And it is the sheer random nature of gun violence in this country that almost assures that America will hold this title for many years to come.

Sadly, random violence is known in too many venues around the world. But in most places the terror and mayhem arises from political and religious discord that is inexcusable, but does take place in the logic of some kind of warped universe. But in America, there is not even the semblance of rhyme or reason as to why a person will be shot to death in a nightclub, an office holiday party or a kindergarten.

The United States Congress has allowed itself to be held hostage by the National Rifle Association – an organization that poses as representing a citizen’s advocacy group when in fact it is a trade and industry association, the industry being the manufacture of guns and the trade being the unrestricted sale of instruments of death anywhere and everywhere and to anyone. There can be no possible reason why there are 300 million guns in this country, virtually a firearm for almost every American. Yet it is easier to buy a semiautomatic weapon than it is to buy a car. There is no reason why a device that converts a semiautomatic weapon into a machine gun should be sold to anyone – yet as you are reading this column someone just purchased another bumper stock.

As this country continues awash in the blood of over 30,000 gun violence victims this year, it is past time to ask why. Why do Americans need so many guns? Why does the ensuing violence inspire silence and inaction instead of thoughtful action and reflection? And why can the gun industry dominate the Congress of the United States even as Americans die of gunfire every day of every week of every month of every year.

And for once and for all, the advocacy of the Second Amendment should not provide a fig leaf for the naked greed and hypocrisy that are the main characteristics of the gun lobby. There are restrictions on every right articulated in the Constitution. Freedom of religion does not countenance human sacrifice. Freedom of speech does not include advocating the violent overthrow of the government. How can gun ownership be without any serious control, oversight or restriction?

Sadly, it would seem that there will be another Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech or Orlando tragedy long before Congress will take any realistic action. And the silent aftermath of the next tragedy will be heartbreaking and tragic and so very unnecessary.

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Unless the United States has contracted a case of pandemic amnesia, there should be no reason for the collective shock and awe occasioned by the attack of Donald Tinyhands on NFL and NBA players. It is amazing that anyone should be amazed that the President of the United States who has proven himself to be a liar, a bully and an inveterate hatemonger, would harangue and insult young black men who do not support the status quo.

Donald Trump is who he is and has always been who he is. What is odd is that there are politicians, media commentators and journalists and ordinary citizens who keep waiting for him to – mature – evolve – transform – or all of the above and then are shocked when he proves time and again that he will never change.

What is even more interesting is that the current shock and awe at his crude antics and attacks are treated as if President Trump has somehow crossed an invisible line of decency by attacking professional athletes. The considered opinion of many is that now he has gone too far. And that is truly amazing.

Obviously Donald Trump did not go too far when he serially and constantly insulted, demeaned and degraded the first black President of the United States by leading the so-called birther movement, calling into question the citizenship and legitimacy of President Barack Obama. And he did not go too far in refusing to ever apologize and own up to spewing a torrent of lies about President Obama for years.

Clearly did not go too far when he publicly announced that it was just fine to sexually assault women and then excused his self-described behavior as just “locker room talk” for which he has never apologized. This, despite the multiple charges of sexual assault that have been directed at him by seeming busloads of women.

And it appears that President Trump did not go too far when he hung up on the Prime Minister of Australia, insulted the leader of North Korea, the craziest head of state to be in possession of nuclear weapons, or when he pushed the President of Montenegro aside in a photo shoot, or when he tried to arm wrestle the President of France. And there is nothing that has been reported to believe that he thinks that there is any aspect of his behavior that he needs to change.

The point is that Donald Trump has been who he is for decades. It is improbable that at the age of 70 he would change, even upon his election as President of the United States. He remains the crass, obscene, self-absorbed, narcissistic and childishly cruel individual that New Yorkers have always known.

So while it is a good thing that Trump’s attacks on NBA players, NFL players and NFL owners, it is still odd that these attacks may turn out to be the tipping point in helping Americans know what we should have known all along. This country has placed an irredeemable miscreant in the White House and provided the entire world with a textbook example of why elections matter.

Hopefully we have learned our lesson.

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The cyclonic nature of the Trump presidency seems to create turmoil and angst whenever and wherever it touches down. There is frustration and near-hopelessness that is spreading across America because there is a sense that the administration of Donald J. Trump is a national nightmare from which we cannot awake.

If there was ever a time for Faith and Hope, now is that time. And so, the rest of this column will be a Trump-free zone (at least for this week) and I am going to share two excerpts on Faith and Hope from my soon to be published book entitled “Today and Tomorrow”.

FAITH

It is said that faith is having belief in something without having a complete and full and rational basis for doing so, without having a full and complete set of reasons. But faith may just be more than that. After all, if you are to go forward in life, you have to, you must, believe in yourself. First and foremost you must care about yourself. Not selfishly. Not without caring about others. You cannot really believe in others, uplift them with your spirit, if you do not believe in yourself.

It is difficult, if not impossible to understand, how one can have faith in their partner, their children, their God, their friendships, their love, unless they have faith in themselves. Faith in oneself is the beginning of a validation process that can culminate in faith, or belief, in any of these other matters.

 

If you have faith in yourself, then you can believe in others and rely upon their faith and belief in you. If you don’t believe in yourself, if you think of yourself as somehow being unworthy, then there is simply no way that you can think of your belief in your God as being meaningful, there is no way that you can think that your faith in the love of your friends or spouse or child can be real…..it can’t be real if you are not worthy in your own eyes.

Face it; there will always be someone who will be only too glad to tell you of your failings, speak to you of your shortcomings – what you cannot be. There will always be someone who will tell you what you cannot achieve. So there is no point contributing to the negative messages that all of us receive from time to time.

There are times, however, when the only positive voice that you hear may be your own. It is then that you have to sustain yourself and your aspirations and your energy and your direction so that you can accomplish what you set out to do, so that you can get to where you want to go, so that you can be who you are supposed to be.

But it all begins with your faith in you. It begins with you believing because you want to believe, even when other people tell you that you have no reason to do so. Believe in yourself even when so-called common sense tells you that you should not. Believe in yourself, because once you do, you empower yourself in a way that nothing else, and no one else has the power to do it.

 

You have to believe that you are worthy of good things happening to you. You have to believe that you deserve a positive outcome to your every day. You have to believe that you are entitled to expect, and receive the best. Again, if you don’t believe in yourself, who else can be expected to believe in you? Who else can be expected to share your vision, your dream whatever they might be?

And, once you begin to truly believe in yourself, once you can visualize outrageous good fortune and bewildering success, you can begin to amaze yourself. And, as you amaze yourself, you will begin to expect good fortune, you will await success with the same sense of expectation that you wait for the bus or the subway. You KNOW that it is going to come.  And, isn’t that what faith is all about?

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HOPE

Hope is the wellspring from which flows the strength and energy to keep believing in today tomorrow. And believing in tomorrow is so very important because hope for the future is the foundation upon which we build our today.

Hope is interesting, because it doesn’t have to have a rational basis to be of value and to be a source of strength. All that hope requires in order to exist is for someone to believe. To be able to share that hope is even more wonderful, of course, but in the end, if only one person holds that hope near and carries it forward like a flickering torch in the rainy nighttime of non-belief, then that can be enough.

Hoping for happiness, a better day, sunshine for the wedding or picnic-hope is a wonderful aspect of our existence. That is why the absence of hope is the subject of such profound sorrow and a condition to be avoided at all costs.

 

Of course, hope without action is like prayer without belief. Hope must be accompanied by some effort to make that hope a reality. Otherwise it is just idle musings, daydreams by the babbling brook of existence. Hope has to be nurtured and reinforced by action; it has to be supported by the energy that is unique to each of us. It makes the pleasure of seeing that hope turn into reality all the more wonderful, all the more delicious.

No fruit tastes better than the one picked from the tree which you planted and cared for yourself. That is a truth that is eternal and should always be believed.

 

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When the Trump legacy is written, it may be that the only best thing that was done by Donald Tinyhands was to help make it clear that the notion of America being in a post-racial status has always been a myth. It is useful to recall that when Barack Obama was first elected in 2008, accompanied by post-racial anthems, the skinheads, Klansmen, Aryans and assorted white supremacist mouth breathing Neanderthals were already deeply imbedded in America – everywhere.
Clear evidence of the virulent racism in this country, accompanied by the more insidious passive aggressive dehumanization of black Americans, are the scores of statues, busts and plaques throughout the country that honor the leaders of the Confederate States of America. These celebrations of traitors should not be seen as some kind of limp effort at reconciliation.
The CSA was founded on the principles of slavery as just, white supremacy and black inferiority. Any and every Confederate honoree – Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest, etc. – believed absolutely in these principles, principles that were way ahead of more esoteric notions of states’ rights and constitutional interpretations.
This is not a subjective perspective; it is a matter of fact that the first article of the constitution of the Confederate States of America upheld the eternal preservation of slavery. It is a matter of fact that the leadership of the Confederacy was wedded to an unshakeable belief in white superiority and black inferiority. And it is a matter of fact that Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Nathan Bedford Forrest were absolutely complicit in the unconscionable wholesale slaughter of black Union troops who had the misfortune of surrendering to CSA soldiers.
All of this has been known since the end of the Civil War. Yet white Americans have stood by silently while these villains and war criminals were honored, all in the name of intimidating and bullying black America. The fact that there is even a conversation about depopulating this nation’s public spaces of such obscenities is an obscene, but telling commentary as to the status of black Americans and it is fair to ask – do black lives really matter?
Consider that it is simply against the law to honor Adolf Hitler in Germany. Wearing a swastika or giving the Nazi salute on the streets of Berlin will land you in jail. The same is generally true in France. And consider that these proscriptions on honoring Nazis came about not because of pressure from the Jewish people, the banning of Nazi celebrations came from German and French men and women of good will who understood that the horror of the Nazis not only should never be repeated, it should also not be honored, celebrated or even exist in the public space.
It is 152 years since the end of the Civil War. It is astounding that there is even a conversation about celebrating Southern “heritage”, when that “heritage” encompasses the enslavement and degradation of human beings. It is shameful that there are public officials that refer to some beautiful past that should be celebrated when that past includes the wholesale slaughter, rape and exploitation of black Americans for the better part of two centuries.
It is well past time for conversation or debate. The Confederate statues, flags, busts and plaques are wrong – they have always been wrong – and any American who supports their existence is wrong. The descendants of slaves have endured this ongoing insult for too long and white Americans who accept the humanity of black Americans will understand this. And white Americans who do not accept the humanity of black Americans will not and should be adjudged as racist as the most vile skinhead goose stepping down the street.
When it comes to the Confederacy and its moldering and vile relics, there is simply no middle ground.

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Unless you have been hibernating during the Winter of Trump or hiding in a cave in the event of a Trump-induced nuclear holocaust, then you are probably aware that Colin Kaepernick is on his way to being the first player banned from the National Football League for his political views. The only thing worse than the racist right wing hegemony exhibited by the NFL owners is the indolent lap dog acceptance of this travesty by far too many black Americans.
The facts are that since he assumed his status as a free agent after the 2016-2017, not one of the 32 NFL teams has even offered him a tryout, even though most football experts would agree that he is a better quarterback than all 32 of the current backup quarterbacks in the league, and more than a few would argue that he is as good as, if not better, than more than a few of the starting quarterbacks in the league.
The facts are that numerous voices in the NFL Mothership have voiced “concerns” over Mr. Kaepernick’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before games. Further, his expressions of concern, outrage and frustration at the macabre American conveyor belt that transports the corpses of black victims of police brutality across the national landscape have been considered inappropriate for the sport.
The facts are that the NFL has welcomed players who have killed people, raped women, beaten women, ingested all manner of recreational and performance enhancing drugs and paid them enormous sums of money. The facts are that NFL players have expressed their support for Donald Trump despite his history of racism, misogyny, sexual assault and xenophobia without consequence.
The fact is that Colin Kaepernick is being denied re-entry into the NFL because his political beliefs and his public support of the Black Lives Matter movement. And it is also a fact that even though 75% of the players in the NFL are black, very few players have raised a voice of concern, much less protest – Richard Sherman and Martellus Bennett are a few come to mind, but whatever happened to Odell Beckham, Jr. or Russell Wilson or Cam Newton or any number of NFL superstars who are virtually immune from sanction because of their star power?
And what happened to DeMaurice Smith and Eric Winston, the Executive Director and President of the NFL Players Association respectively? Have they been muted by the enormous sums of money that are earned by their membership or have they been neutered by the fear of the awesome power wielded by NFL owners?
And while we are at it, where is the grassroots support for Colin Kaepernick? The black fan base in the NFL is huge and has the capacity to be vocal, but except for a recent protest by Spike Lee, the sound of black silence has rolled across this country like thunder that is simply too quiet.
The reason why the Kaepernick Affair is so important is that the NFL is such an important part of American culture. The fact is that the NFL has suckled at the breast of the American taxpayer (many of whom are black) to the tune of billions of dollars in order to build their football temple stadiums and the NFL has received many more billions of dollars of revenue from American consumers (many of whom are black).
It is sad to see so little resistance from Black America when the NFL owners are acting in such obvious concert to silence black protest. It is sad to see such silence from the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Urban League and Black Lives matter. For that matter, what has happened to the voices of Jay-Z, Oprah Winfrey, Kevin Hart, LeBron James and all the other black men and women who manage to dominate the American media for their own profit? In this age of virulent Trumpism, racism and degradation must be confronted all the time.
The NFL season begins in a little less than a month. One can only hope that Colin Kaepernick finds a roster position and one can only hope that all Black Americans – indeed all Americans – find the voice to resist this blatant injustice.

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Anthony Scaramucci, a leftover from the cutting room floor of “Goodfellas” is hired and fired by Donald Tinyhands in the span of ten days. The White House Chief of Staff and the White House Communications Director are unceremoniously jettisoned during that same day period. Nowhere is it written in the Constitution that the White House cannot be a circus act. There is no clause or amendment which prevents the President of the United States from turning his/her administration into, by turns, a vulgar, bizarre or ludicrous set of sideshows that would make the most jaded vaudevillian blush.

The last several Point of View columns have pointed out that that burlesque-like chaos in the White House should be viewed as a sideshow lest we take our eyes off what is really going on during the first six months of the Trump presidency. While SNL writers rub their hands with glee every time Kelly Ann Conway or Sean Spicer or Anthony Scaramucci have executed rhetorical pratfalls every time a microphone is near, the soundtrack for this madness could easily feature the Temptations “Ball of Confusion” as its theme song.

While Donald Tinyhands plays the part of maestro while the West Wing staff plays musical chairs on hoverboards, the blood soaked regime Kim Jong-un in North Korea threatens this country with a nuclear holocaust. While President Trump touts the record gains on Wall Street, unemployment and job growth, he recalls the rooster who takes credit for the sunrise, since he clearly believes that no one is aware that he Administration is riding the wave of economic growth and progress that began 7 years ago during the Obama Administration.

Meanwhile, Russia has imposed the harshest diplomatic sanctions on the United States since 1917. As the Trump administration has misplayed it hand when it comes to sanctions vs. rapprochement with Russia, Vladimir Putin is clearly outplaying President Trump at every turn.

Nevertheless, the Trump White House Follies have become Must See TV for anyone who has a passing interest in what the hell is going on in this country. Anyone who has ever managed a company, government agency or candy store knows that stability and predictability in that management is critical to the success of the enterprise. The fact that Donald Trump has tried to graft his cult of personality onto the American presidency bespeaks a level of pathological narcissism not seen in the American White House in history of the Republic.

Quite frankly, the narcissism and self-adulation and infantile demands for personal loyalty would not be such a problem if Trump was able to produce results that benefited the American people. But unless you believe that demolishing environmental protection regulations, reviving the era of mass incarceration and managing to alienate the leadership of most countries on the planet are accomplishments, it is pretty clear that “failure” and “Trump” will be synonyms in the dictionaries of the future.

Even the hard core of the hard core supporters of Donald Tinyhands have to be asking where is the wall? Where is the replacement for Obamacare? Where are the new jobs in our shuttered factories? And, exactly when is America going to be great again?
The takeaway lesson from what historians will one day refer to as “The Trump Tragedy”, is that elections do matter? Participatory democracy, but so is participatory politics.

Barely half of the Americans eligible to vote did so in the 2016 elections – and less than half of those who voted cast their ballot for Donald Trump.

What has happened is that a motivated, dedicated and desperate minority has hijacked the American government, leaving most Americans in the unenviable position of clinging to the desperate hope that 2018 and/or 2018 will make a difference.

Perhaps it will. But wishing will not make it so.

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