A Texas-Sized Conspiracy Theory.

As they say, everything is bigger in Texas and apparently tinfoil-hat paranoia is no exception. For those in the North, aka sane people, you may not be aware of Obama’s latest attempt to subjugate the people of the South under sharia law. That’s right, as a secret Muslim, President Obama has ordered the US military to “invade” Texas, declare sharia law and turn the state over to the command of the Islamic State In Mexico (ISIM). As part of the plan, the guns of all true patriots will be confiscated and Texas Walmart stores will be converted into Muslim re-education centers.

Thanks to Texas Governor Greg Abbot, the only ones standing in the way of this insidious plan are the members of the Texas National Guard who have been ordered to monitor the activities of the US military as it conducts training exercises under the guise of Jade Helm 15. (That’s right. There have been 14 previous such military exercises.)

Believe it or not, I am not quoting a satirical story from The Onion. That is the actual story as presented by radio host, Alex Jones and Facebook lunatic, Pete Lanteri.

Of course, wherever you find this sort of tinfoil-hat-like hysteria, you know the Tea Party Patriots will be fully onboard with it. They add to the paranoia through their meetings and chain emails. Then, because nobody on the right is willing to debunk such nonsense, the rumors continue to persist and grow. Almost before you can say sharia, the paranoia has gone mainstream, infecting the minds of ordinary people who are convinced that where there’s smoke, there must be fire.

The story has become so widespread in Texas and other parts of the Southwest that common sense and repeated assurances by the Obama administration and the Department of Defense have been unable to put an end to the theory.

Of course, when Operation Jade Helm (the training exercise) has ended and the conspiracy theory has not materialized, the perpetuators of the theory will take credit for stopping the takeover. “Were it not for their shining the light of publicity on the operation, our worst fears would have been realized. Without us, Alex Jones and Pete Lanteri, we would all be unarmed and praying to Allah for our freedom.” Of course, they’ll say you can reward them by listening to Jones’ radio show, reading Lanteri’s Facebook rants and patronizing their patriotic sponsors.

As H.L. Mencken once said, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” That goes double for Texas.

Why Iran Began Its Nuclear Program In The First Place.

With all of the talk about the agreement between Iran, the US and 5 other world powers, one key aspect has been largely overlooked. Iran may never have tried to develop nuclear weapons had it not been for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. That ill-conceived and unwarranted act placed US troops at the Iranian doorstep and, since George W. Bush labeled Iran as part of the “axis of evil”, it implied that Iran could be invaded next.

So if you’re the leader of Iran, what would you do to prevent such an invasion? The most reliable deterrent is nuclear weapons.

Why else would the US not have invaded western Pakistan when we knew that its madrassas were inciting Muslim extremism? (We knew that because we helped create them to fight the Soviet Union.) Pakistan had nuclear weapons and the missiles to reach Europe…possibly the US. Nuclear weapons are the ultimate deterrent – the ultimate equalizer.

The threat of our invasion has led Iran to the brink of becoming a nuclear power. Iran will not give up that deterrent without receiving something in return. That’s why the nuclear agreement negotiated between Iran and the world powers is the best possible outcome for everyone. The US, Europe and Israel get the assurance that Iran cannot complete their nuclear program. And Iran sees an end to paralyzing economic sanctions.

The agreement has already been approved by the United Nations. It should be approved by Congress.

If not, Iran will become a nuclear power within a matter of months. Moreover, China, Russia and other nations who have their own economic problems will tire of the sanctions against Iran and will resume trading with them.

And what if the US and/or Israel are foolhardy enough to carry out a series of military strikes on the Iranian nuclear installations? That will not only result in international condemnation and make the Iranian people even more anti-US. It will give Iran incentive to quickly rebuild the program and to finance anti-US, anti-Israeli terrorism throughout the region and the world. And the US will likely become embroiled in a war across the entire Middle East.

Considering those alternatives, the negotiated agreement looks a lot better, doesn’t it?

What If We Applied The NRA Philosophy Internationally?

Since the latest mass shooting in the United States comes at a time when Teapublicans are denouncing the Iran Nuclear Agreement, it makes me wonder: “What if we treated all armaments the same way as the National Rifle Association and its Teapublican supporters want us to treat guns?” If their answer to mass shootings is to place guns in the hands of more and more people, why not treat nuclear arms the same way?

According to NRA and Teapublican logic, that should make us all feel safer.

There are nine countries confirmed to have nuclear weapons and delivery systems. If we follow the NRA’s logic, shouldn’t we encourage all nations to obtain them? Do you feel safer knowing that Pakistan has nuclear weapons? North Korea? I suspect not. Then why should Americans feel safer knowing that crazy Uncle Larry has an AR-15 assault rifle? Why should the recently divorced woman feel safer knowing that her ex is armed with a semi-automatic handgun? Why should we feel safer in the knowledge that, without universal background checks, virtually any sociopath can obtain such firepower? Why should we feel safer knowing that domestic terrorists, such as the racist young man in Charleston, the young man in Chattanooga and the angry anti-government “patriot” in Lafayette have easy access to guns?

Of course, we shouldn’t feel safe. Because, thanks to the NRA and our insane gun laws, any American can choose from a wide array of weaponry of ever-increasing lethality.

Teapublicans say that Iran should be denied nuclear weapons at all costs. They say the Obama administration shouldn’t have negotiated any deal with Iran; that we should have increased economic sanctions until Iran buckled; or, following Netanyahu’s advice, we should just attack Iran’s nuclear installations. Yet that stance is completely counter to the Teapublicans’ stance on the ever-increasing proliferation of semi-automatic handguns and assault weapons in the US.

Why the difference?

If we want to make this a safer world, we should not allow Iran and other far less stable nations to obtain nuclear weapons. The new international agreement is the best possible way to ensure that. Likewise, we should not allow the continued proliferation of increasingly lethal guns in the US. A law requiring universal background checks and a ban on the sale of all semi-automatic weapons to civilians will reduce the number of mass shootings.

Far From A Cancer On The Conservative Movement, Trump Represents It.

Contrary to Rick Perry’s assessment of Donald Trump, The Donald embodies everything that’s wrong with today’s Republican Party. He’s loud, arrogant, abusive, mean-spirited, greedy, narcissistic and an unapologetic bully. He’s a friend of soulless multinational corporations and an enemy of the environment. He’s opposed to immigration, yet he happily hires immigrants for menial, low-paying jobs.

Trump is the ultimate representative of the GOP’s “I’ve got mine, you can’t have yours” mentality.

He places corporate interests above those of consumers. He despises regulations – anything that may stand in the way of his insatiable greed. He demands a strong military, yet he refused to serve, receiving 5 student deferments and a medical disability (he had a bone spur in one of his feet – he can’t remember which). Of course, that bone spur never stopped him from participating in college athletics.

Despite his claims of having earned everything he owns, Trump was born on third base and brags that he hit a triple. He inherited most of his wealth, yet accuses anyone who is impoverished of not working hard enough. He complains of high tax rates and complicated tax codes, yet he pays none.

The only reason the other GOP candidates are upset with Trump is not because they disagree with his politics. It’s that he’s willing to say what they all believe.

Moreover, Trump’s popularity with Republicans has exposed the fallacy that the mainstream media are liberal. The faux journalists are fawning all over him. I’m not just referring to the loudmouths who fill airtime on the Faux News Channel. I’m talking about those who call themselves journalists at every level – from national and international networks all the way down to local TV stations and newspapers.

And why wouldn’t a “reporter” more interested in personal advancement than real journalism cover Trump? Trump is good for ratings. He’s good for the infotainment masquerading as news.

So get used to seeing and hearing about Trump 24/7. He’ll be the focus of the Republican presidential race until real reporters (if any still exist) ask him to articulate real solutions for the nation’s problems. And until people begin to picture a clown in the White House and the impacts of his antics on the nation and the world.

The GOP Clown Car Has Turned Into A Clown Caravan.

With John Kasich’s recent announcement, there are now officially 16 – count ’em – 16 Teapublicans running for president. That’s certainly an impressive number. Now let’s talk about how many are actually qualified to be president.

Zero. None. Nada.

Certainly, some have led their respective states as governors. Others have been elected to Congress. Still others have been successful in business. Those credentials would certainly make them appear to be qualified. Yet their actual accomplishments – or lack of them – tell another story. For example, the leading clown is Donald Trump who inherited his wealth. After nearly gambling away his inheritance, he managed to rebuild his fortune through a combination of bullying tactics and his irrepressible loud mouth – neither of which are traits that would qualify him for public office. In fact, since declaring his intentions to run for office, he has already managed to offend US veterans, most of Mexico, and the majority of those not already eligible for mental health counseling.

Next in the polls is Scott Walker, the Koch-financed governor of Wisconsin who has led the gerrymandering of legislative districts, cut taxes for the wealthy, destroyed collective bargaining in Wisconsin and overseen the most sluggish economic recovery in the Midwest. A US economy based on Walker’s Wisconsin model would be disastrous.

Close behind, his clown shoe toes tripping on the heels of Walker’s, is Jeb Bush the man, who as governor of Florida, disenfranchised more than 10,000 eligible voters in order to hand the 2000 election to his brother. Do you really want to see yet another Bush in the White House? More to the point, do you really want to reward Jeb for subverting the democratic process?

Farther back in the clown caravan are Mike “Uncle Sugar” Huckabee who believes that we should let God run the country. Of course, that presumes that he has a direct connection to the supreme being. If that’s what you believe, why not just skip Huckabee and initiate a write-in campaign for Pope Francis or the Dali Lama? Certainly, they have more verifiable connections to higher beings.

Next, we have Marco Rubio who has long claimed to be a refugee of Castro’s Cuba, only the records show that his family left more than two years before the Cuban Revolution. In the polls, he’s followed by Tea Party favorite Dr. Ben Carson who has equated gay marriage to bestiality, Rand Paul, Ted “The Filibusterer” Cruz, Rick “Oops” Perry, Chris “Bridgegate” Christie, the aforementioned Kasich, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina and Lindsey “I’ve never seen a war I didn’t like” Graham who, despite pedaling as fast as they can, are going in circles.

Nothing could better illustrate the dismal state of the Republican Party than its presidential candidates. If this is the best the Party can offer, then the Party is on life-support. And if – gasp – one of them is actually elected, our nation will likely soon be in a similar state of despair.

So Netanyahu Doesn’t Like The Agreement. So What?

Whether or not Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu likes our nuclear agreement with Iran shouldn’t matter. He wasn’t in the room while the deal was being made. And if he had been, we’d likely be at war right now. You see, it’s clear by now that Netanyahu doesn’t want peace in the Middle East. It appears that he won’t be happy until Israel has annexed all of the Palestinian territory and blasted its neighbors back to the stone age.

Not even world opinion has swayed him from his expansionist goals. Not the world outrage at Israel’s disproportionate response to Palestinian rockets. Not the international outrage at the increasing number of Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Not the Obama administration’s outrage at the break in protocol when Netanyahu accepted the Republican invitation to speak to the US Congress.

For certain, Israel has the right to exist and a right to live in peace. But, just as certainly, Israel’s leader does not have the right to dictate foreign policy to the US or any other nation. Neither should he have any say in the just announced agreement between the US, Iran and other world powers. Of course, that hasn’t stopped him from trying to derail the deal. From the very beginning of the talks, Netanyahu has appealed to the Republican chicken hawks in Congress to use force to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Never mind that the use of force would almost certainly backfire (quite literally). A military strike against Iran’s nuclear installations, would incense Iran and much of the rest of the world. Worse, it would give Iran even more incentive to complete a nuclear weapon.

After all, military powers, even superpowers, tend not to attack countries that possess nuclear weapons. For good reason. The consequences are simply too dire. And a nuclear-armed Iran that has been previously attacked would likely feel justified in supporting more terrorism and pursuing retribution against its attackers. Moreover, the sanctions against Iran…even the proposed increased sanctions…were not hindering Iran’s progress toward a nuclear bomb. The sanctions were only hurting innocent Iranian civilians and entrenching Iran’s antagonism with the West.

The fact is, the nuclear agreement was by far the best of all of the available options. At minimum it delays Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It provides a framework for inspections. And it opens the door to more negotiations and more cooperation.

Make no mistake, the new agreement is not a one-sided concession to Iran. The agreement calls for Iran to submit to inspections and to dispose of nuclear fuel in exchange for the lifting of the current sanctions by international community. That is not only fair. It is a positive for everyone involved. Indeed, history has shown that such agreements are far more productive than the alternatives. For example, as a result of our engagement with China, it has gone from a Cold War enemy to our largest trading partner in just 3 decades. In contrast, our get-tough expansion of NATO and deployment of missiles on Russia’s doorstep has led to increased tensions and armed incursions by Russian troops into Ukraine. And we all know what has happened as the result of our ill-conceived invasion of Iraq. Not only has it destabilized Iraq and much of the Middle East, it has led to the creation of a much more dangerous enemy – ISIS.

So Netanyahu thinks the nuclear agreement with Iran is a historic mistake? So what? Let’s not let him derail the agreement and lead us, along with the Republican warmongers, down the path to yet another war. He can continue to bluster and act the spoiled brat. It really shouldn’t matter. And, if Netanyahu threatens to do more than whine, we should ignore him.

Check that…we should make it clear that any attempt to derail the agreement will be met with a suspension of US support and an embargo on weapons.

What If The US Were Like The EU?

The corporate media propagandists have portrayed Greece as a debtor nation unable to get its fiscal house in order due to the laziness and greed of its people. They fail to report that Greece is only in its current situation largely as the result of the US-created mortgage crisis and the greed of huge international banks.

It’s more convenient to blame the Greek crisis on pensions and a bloated government.

But the fact is, prior to the mortgage crisis, the nation’s debt was roughly 8.3 percent of GDP. Then Goldman-Sachs…yes that Goldman-Sachs…”helped” Greece hide its debt through a risky, off-the-books derivative. When the world markets crashed in 2008, Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio exploded to 100 percent of GDP. And that number continues to climb.


As many of the world’s most respected economists will tell you, increased debt is the inevitable result of extreme austerity. As Greece increases lay-offs of government employees, the unemployed workers have less to spend. As a result, small businesses suffer, which results in more lay-offs and lower tax revenues. The result is a downward spiral from which it is difficult to escape.

For example, Greece’s unemployment now stands at approximately 28 percent or roughly the same percentage as the US during the Great Depression! Worse, youth unemployment is nearly 50 percent. And 40 percent of Greece’s children now live in poverty. But pay no attention to those numbers…the international banks are profiting and, as long as Greece remains in the EU, most of the world’s stock markets are soaring.

The problem is that the EU has no form of wealth redistribution like that of the US. Imagine if we treated our poorest states in the same manner the EU is treating Greece. North Dakota now has a debt ratio of -89 percent. In other words, in 2014, North Dakota received $7.51 from the federal government for every $1.00 it contributed in federal income taxes. Many other states also routinely run in the red. Ironically, most of those are also politically red. Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin all receive more from the federal government than they contribute. Should we then force austerity on them and force them to payback the difference with interest?

That’s what the EU is doing to Greece.

And what of California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, et al, who contribute far more in taxes than they receive? California contributes $236.5 billion more than it receives. That’s enough to single-handedly cover the deficits of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia combined. What if we had the EU system and California acted like Germany? Many of those states would now be facing excruciating austerity, skyrocketing unemployment and debilitating poverty.

Teapublicans are fond of saying that, unless we cut spending and cut taxes, the US will become another Greece. That’s simply not true. Economically, our nation has little in common with Greece. The only way our economy could begin to resemble Greece’s is if we resort to self-imposed austerity as the Teapublicans recommend.

There Is No Freedom Without Responsibility.

The Fourth of July has long been declared a national holiday so Americans can take time to celebrate our freedom. To many Americans, that makes us unique. But, in reality, the US is not the only country with freedom. Indeed, based on a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which looks at 60 indicators in five separate categories measuring pluralism, civil liberties, and political culture, the US ranks only 19.

That means 18 nations in the world offer greater freedom than the US. Further, 75 of the world’s nations are democracies. Another 41 are governed by a hybrid system. In fact, of the 167 nations measured, only 52 are listed as authoritarian regimes, including several friends of the US, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Obviously freedom is something to celebrate. But have some Americans taken the concept of freedom too far? And are all of the citizens of the US truly free? The answer to those questions may well depend on who you ask. Certainly, the thousands of people incarcerated or on probation for drug use might not consider themselves free. Likewise, those who have been convicted of felonies and can no longer vote or find a suitable job despite having served their time may not consider themselves free.

In addition, the African-Americans who have been segregated into the poorest areas of our largest cities with under-funded schools, disproportionately high unemployment and few opportunities might not consider themselves truly free. American Muslims who are discriminated against for the way they choose to dress and worship might not consider themselves entirely free. The so-called “Dreamers” who were brought to the US by their parents at a very young age, and now live in fear of deportation, are unlikely to celebrate their freedoms. And the Native Americans who live in some of the nation’s worst conditions, and who continue to watch their traditional lands stolen by large corporations without fair compensation, may not think themselves free.

At the same time these people are denied their freedom, others – namely some greedy and mean-spirited Americans – abuse theirs.

For example, many corporate leaders, bankers and hedge fund managers use their freedom and wealth to buy favor with politicians. They then use a variety of legal tricks to “legally” steal money from ordinary Americans. They ship American jobs offshore. At the same time, they use their wealth to convince politicians to cut taxes. And for good measure, they often stash their money in offshore tax havens in order to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Faced with less revenue, our federal and state governments cut the funding of public schools and universities. The inevitable result is that our nation lags behind many others in terms of upward mobility.

Corporate-owned news media have used their freedom to boost ratings with propaganda. Instead of reporting on things that really matter, such as bringing transparency to our government, they focus on sensational trials and violent crimes – especially those involving people of color. The result is to create more fear leading to more segregation.

Following gains by the civil rights movement, some racists in the South resurrected the Confederate battle flag under the guise of celebrating history. To the descendants of slaves, this was an obvious show of power intended to keep them in “their place.” At the same time, a small portion of our citizens have stockpiled weaponry with the express purpose of intimidating their neighbors and threatening the government to which they pledge allegiance. (Does the name Cliven Bundy ring a bell?)

Freedom, then – at least in the US – is relative. For some in the US, there is too little. For others, there is too much.

Some excuse such things by claiming that freedom is, by its very nature, noisy and messy. However, Germany is free. As a matter of fact, it currently ranks 6 places ahead of the US. Yet in Germany, it is illegal to display the Nazi flag. That may restrict the freedom of some, but it shows a clear sense of responsibility and a compassion for those harmed by Hitler’s regime.

Maybe it’s time the US embraced such values. Even after 239 years, we can still learn and improve our nation. We should understand that with great freedom comes great responsibility – that in a nation of more than 330 million, you cannot do everything you want without infringing on someone else’s freedom. That’s where responsibilities and regulations come into play. As well-educated men of means who celebrated enlightenment, I believe the Founding Fathers assumed our citizens would understand that concept.

Unfortunately, too many don’t.