Gone but not Forgotten

Remember Barack Obama? The guy who was born in Kenya but cleverly managed to insert birth notices in Hawaiian newspapers so he could one day grow up and become president of the US?

The Muslim mole who was going to help Islamic extremists colonize America?

The Anti-Christ?

Obama’s two-term presidency ended without any of the disasters predicted by right-wing conspiracy theorists. The sea did not boil, the heavens were not set ablaze.

Obama did not manage to diminish the military, turn kids gay through Common Core and kill America’s livestock. He did not even bring down the global economy, causing Muslim immigrants to flood the US and establish Shariah law.throughout the land.

The country actually did pretty well, recovering from the worst financial disaster in a generation and staying out of any more major wars.

But that doesn’t mean we can forget about Obama. His menace persists, living on in the fetid imaginations of rightwing conspiracy theorists.

President Trump knows.

Trump knows Obama wiretapped his phones. Trump knows Obama is behind those protests sweeping the land. Trump knows it was Obama who funded the troublemaking groups organizing the protests (you mean it wasn’t George Soros, after all?)

Yes, Trump knows Obama – and Valerie Jarrett and Eric Holder and the rest of the gang – are holed up in some secret lair, plotting a coup d’état.

And I’m sure Trump knows about that CIA plot to assassinate him.

You didn’t know? You didn’t hear that Obama is planning a third term? Obviously, you don’t keep up with right-wing propaganda.

Imagine, there you are, worrying about Trump’s Russian connection, when you could be focusing on the real threat – that old bogeyman Obama.

Trump’s chumps know better. They know who the subversives really are. And nobody can convince them otherwise. After all, they have their own news sources; they have their own facts.

They don’t have to rely on the “fake news” you and I get from the mainstream media.

This old world gets weirder and weirder, doesn’t it?

Trump’s wiretapping charge

New Obama conspiracy theories

Past Obama conspiracy theories

And more conspiracy theories

 

Women Shouldn’t Have to Go it Alone

The activists who organized that women’s march on Washington are calling on Americans to join a global women’s strike on March 8. Millions showed up for the march but will the strike be as successful?

When the Hispanic immigrants called a strike a while back, many of them were fired. The same could happen to the women.

This is where the rubber meets the road, folks.

How many women have the will to risk being fired?

In days of old when men were the ones who worked outside the home, they laid down their tools and manned the picket lines to protest brutal working conditions. They were beaten by goons. Sosome were even killed. Their jobs were stolen by scabs.

But in the end they won a better deal from their bosses.

Now, it;s your turn, ladies.

The National Labor Relations Act might protect your right to strike. But are you prepared for the hassle?

There’s no union to back you up. So you’ll be on your own if you decide to fight your firing in court.

Of course, those civil rights potesters had no union, either. They were beaten. Some where even killed. But they found the will to march on.

And the civil rights protesters weren’t all black. Sympathizers with other ethnic backgrounds joined their battle for justice.

The women’s movement is a civil rights issue. They should not have t go it alone.

How about it, guys? Why not back them up? How about joining th strike? And if you’re too scared, how about taking a sick da?

More on the women’s strike

 

No Politics in Golf

Call me a fascist. A bigot. Any of the nasty names Rory McIlroy got called.. But I don’t blame him for accepting Trump’s golf date.

I’ve played thousands of rounds of golf in my life, and I never once asked my companions about their politics.

That’s the charm of golf. That’s the charm of sports.

I heard a story long ago about the English and German soldiers – I think it was in World War I – laying down their arms on Christmas Day and playing soccer together before resuming their battle.

When I heard the story, it was considered admirable. In American politics today, that kind of gesture would be considered a betrayal. By both sides.

That’s how divided the nation is. And it’s a shame.

There’s nothing about Republican politics that I like. I think it’s mean spirited and heartless, oppressing the most vulnerable to enrich and empower the most powerful.

But I will listen to Joe the bug man when he comes to spray the house. Or Rick the plumber. Or any of the decent, hard working tradesmen I encounter here in Central Florida. And they’re all Republicans.

It may be because  of their color. They happen to be white, and Democrats around here tend to be black or Hispanic. But if that’s what it is, I don’t think they realize it. They defend their views with pragmatic reasoning and examples from their personal experience. And I try to do the same in countering their arguments.

We part friends.

It’s a great pity that so many Americans seem to have lost the ability to disagree amicably. Yes, I know the stakes are high – sometimes a matter of life and death.

But, even so, we should reason together with decorum. As Pope Francis wisely said, “Don’t shout.”

There’s far too much shouting in American politics today. Far too much sniping on social media. Far too much name calling and conspiracy theorizing.

What happened to “the benefit of the doubt”? What happened to friendly disagreement? What happened to good sportsmanship?

I know one place where you can still find that kind of thing. On the golf course.

Let’s not sabotage one of the few sanctuaries we have left. Let’s go play a round of golf. And if Trump wants to join us, why not?

More on the Trump golf date

More on the Christmas Truce

 

It Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

As Trump and his Republican pals struggle with the mess they’ve made by promising to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, even they are beginning to see it isn’t going to be easy.

In a meeting with the country’s governors yesterday, Trump confessed:

Nobody knew it could be so complicated.

But it’s only complicated because politicians don’t have the guts to make it simple. Not just simple but effective, economical and life saving.

All they have to do is:

Expand and revise Medicare to include everybody.

But they won’t do that because they have to protect the vested interests that pay their way.

Republicans never do anything that might help ordinary citizens without making sure their corporate contributors get a piece of the action.

When George W. Bush was president, Congress took pity on desperate seniors and decided to pay for our rescriptions. In a roundabout way, they also gave us a break on other healthcare needs (through a program called Medicare Advantage).

But they couldn’t just pay our healthcare bills. That would have left the private insurers in the lurch. So we have to go through a private insurer to get our government benefits.

I’m sure you don’t have the time (or patience) for me to describe how it works and the many vexing problems it creates.

Just take it from me, it’s complicated.

More on the Obamacare dilemma

 

“Identity Politics”? You Mean Racism?

I heard a conservative activist at the recent CPAC Conference promoting the concept of “identity politics.”

No one in the media asked him to define the term. To  me, it sounds a lot like racism.

Tribalism is a basic human instinct. Some would argue it’s  a basic instinct in animal life.

You may have heard the old story about the blue-eyed rabbit that was torn to bits when it was put into a cage with brown-eyed rabbits.

I don’t know if that actually happened, but even if it did, surely the human species has progressed beyond the rabbit stage?

“Basic instincts” include a lot of antisocial impulses. Selfishness and greed, for example. Indeed, without socialization human beings can be a sorry lot.

And it seems to me that  today’s”conservatives” are arguing for an abandonment of socialization. In effect, they are advocating a kind of jungle law, in which humans are free to follow their basest impulses.

I imagine that as the world grows more complex, the pressure to “behave” can be uncomfortable. Increasingly, people want to “let it all hang out.”

This revolt against decent behavior is evident not just in America but throughout the civilized world. And global politics is reflecting the trend.

I think the media have a duty to defend decency and expose primitive ideas. This is one area in which journalists cannot pretend to be objective.

When racists are allowed to disguise their ugly doctrine with euphemisms like “identity politics,” it becomes easier for their ideas to become mainstream.

And God help us if they do.

More on CPAC

 

How Bad is it – Really?

Listening to the heated debate raging in this divided country, the rest of the world must think Americans are spoiled.

It’s a debate that presents a distorted view of American society. Donald Trump, for example, talks about the “carnage” in American streets, calls us “losers” and rails against the media. To listen to him, you might think today’s America is a hell hole.

But the truth is Americans suffer far less than most human beings in this “vale of tears.”

Americans live in a bubble, a relatively safe, relatively comfortable bubble. And this privileged existence is to a large extent underwritten by other countries (through the global financial system, lopsided commodities agreements, deals with corrupt dictators…. and so on.)

Yes, the gun violence in cities like Chicago is tragic – and unacceptable. Yes, it’s a shame so many Americans live in “poverty.” Yes, I sympathize with the single mothers who must work two jobs to feed their kids.

But this kind of suffering pales beside the starvation in parts of Africa, the sweatshops in places like Bangladesh and China…And remember those scenes from “Slum Dog Millionaire”?

“Poverty” in America is far, far different from poverty in Africa, India, Nepal – even Jamaica, where I grew up. I haven’t seen a home in America that has the bare earth for its floor, as I did so often in Jamaica.

Have you ever been to the Dungle (Dung Hill?) in West Kingston? As a reporter for the Gleaner, I have. And I have seen nothing like that here in America.

Yes, there are homeless Americans. But how many are homeless by choice? Well meaning activists are partly to blame for the homeless problem. They agitated for release of the mentally disabled who were being detained for their own safety. And now those former mental patients wander the streets at will.

Much of the suffering in America is self-inflicted. What causes the most misery in American homes? I would blame drug use.

What makes so many people unfit for a decent job? Skipping school, for one thing.

To those who buckle down, listen to their teacher, do their homework and stay in school, there is opportunity out there. You may not get to choose the job you like – being a rock star (or a coal miner), for example. But if you will accept what’s available, there’s probably a job waiting for you.

It may not be steps from your home of course. You might have to hit the road. Believe me, there’s a vacancy somewhere in this vast country. But it’s not going to come looking for you.

Of course America is not perfect. Far from it.

An entrenched elite has figured out how to game the system so a few unscrupulous parasites can pocket the bulk of the society’s wealth.

But it’s up to us to make our society better. And we are free to do just that.

Americans do not have a dictator like so many other countries. We can speak freely. And we have a free press.

It’s up to each of us to say our piece, do our bit, hustle our buns. Nobody promised us a rose garden. But we can dig a few yam holes if we have the will.

And we can do our best to grow our own rose gardens.

More on global poverty

 

Black Americans and Obama

At the risk of having my opinion dismissed again as “garbage,” I am going to give you my two cents worth on the complaints some black Americans  have against President Obama.

Of course President Obama did not meet the expectations of all black Americans.  There may even be some justice in accusations that his administration was unfair to black farmers. And the persistent high unemployment among minorities in America is inexcusable.

But think of the fallout if he had favored the 11 percent of the country who happen to have denser melanin than the rest. The other 89 percent would have been in an uproar.

As president, Barack Obama had a duty to all Americans, not just the ones with skin color resembling his own.

Only history will tell how much Barack and Michelle did for black American culture. They were wonderful role models, for one thing.

I don’t think black Americans have much to gain from promoting a racial view of American politics, anyway. They just don’t have the votes. The population is about 70 percent white, and Hispanics have overtaken African-Americans as the largest ethnic minority.

Besides, I would ask Obama’s critics to consider how well Jamaican immigrants have done in this country.

They faced the same barriers but refused to be defeated.

Don’t get me wrong, I know black Americans who have done very well, too. (Of course, they didn’t adopt defiantly outlandish styles and talk like “gangstas.”)

To believe that Donald Trump will offer black Americans a new deal is delusional. Trump is a rogue who is in it for himself, not anyone else.

He will promise anything to get his way, but his promises are worthless. He has what we call in Jamaica “sweet mouth.”

If the Democratic Party has been derelict in representing its loyal black following, I suggest we set out to reform the party – not abandon it.

With all its flaws, it’s still our best bet for racial and social justice in America.

Obama and black America

 

Faking out the Media

I like Don Lemon. He seems to be fair and reasonable. But he does have his candid moments. Last night, for example, he told a guest on CNN:

If you don’t want to participate in the news stories of this network, then don’t come on and participate.

And, moments later, he cut the show short to shut the guest up.

Not text book “journalism.” But I can understand why Lemon decided he’d had enough.

The guest was Paris Dennard (above, left), a former staffer in the George W. Bush administration, and he was doing one of those numbers Trump supporters do on the media. He was trying to make out that Lemon’s interview with him – yes the one they were doing at that very moment – was “fake news.”

How annoying is that?

If you have been following the Trump campaign, you must know who is spreading “fake news.” It’s Trump and his acolytes, of course.

From “alternative facts” to supporters supposedly representing the African American community (but actually promoting a defunct criminal cult) the Trump propaganda machine sprays lies with abandon.

I’m sure the Trump propagandists don’t expect you and me to believe their obvious lies. They’re counting on the low-information Americans, who are easily confused.

And if they can spread enough confusion, they can discredit the entire news industry – real and fake.

It’s an old trick but it works.

The best thing to do is what Lemon did. Stop listening.

Click for the news story.

 

A Mad Guy with a Gun?

OK, so the only defense against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. At least that’s the way you see it if you are a faithful fan of  Western movies or an NRA supporter. But why on earth would anyone want to have a mad guy with a gun show up?

Even the most limited intelligence must realize mentally ill people can be dangerous? Especially with a gun?

So why did Congress vote to arm mentally ill Americans?

According to the Associated Press:

Congress on Wednesday sent President Donald Trump legislation blocking an Obama-era rule designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people.

Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican, argued that “disabled’ people have rights, too . Even the right to bear arms.

“Disabled”?

Is that the picture you get when you think of some loon on a rampage?

Surely that’s taking political correctness to a bizarre extreme?

Yet according to the AP story, the American Civil Liberties Union and “advocacy groups” for the disabled  joined the NRA’s protest against the Obama regulation.

It’s a mad, mad world – sorry  mentally disabled.

Click for the story.

 

How about a New Democratic Party?

Back when I was a young reporter at the Toronto Star, Canadians formed a political party designed to protect the interests of the “working class.”

At the time, there were two major political parties in Canada – Liberals, who were heavily French Canadian, and Progressive Conservatives, who leaned more toward English Canada.

Both were unabashedly establishment oriented, but being Canadian, they were fairer and far more compassionate than American conservatives.

Traditionally egalitarian, Canadians would probably have denied they had a class system, but they did. If your parents could afford to send you to Upper Canada College, for example, you chances of success were greatly enhanced.

The formation of the New Democratic Party by Canada’s labor unions was a candid admission that a class system existed, and that the working class needed political help.

Over the years, the New Democrats have pressured Canada’s political system to introduce such reforms as free medical care for everyone, fairer wages and better working conditions, and compassionate welfare laws.

I  credit the NDP – and early leader Tommy Douglas – with much of the enlightenment that has occurred in  Canada during the past half century.

And I wonder whether it’s time for Americans to admit they, too, have a class system, and the working class needs help.

The Democratic Party of today seems based on the myth that America is a classless society, in which a rising tide lifts all boats. Party leaders seem to believe that you can please all the people all the time.

It might be a good idea to ditch the baggage-burdened Democratic Party,and create a new political organization candidly dedicated to protecting the interests of the working class in America.

They could call it the New Democratic Party.

More on the NDP

More on the Democratic Party

More on Tommy Douglas