Risking Your Safety And Wasting Your Time.

The growing threat of terrorism, increased air travel and a shortage of security agents have led to long lines and growing frustration at airport security checks. As a result, it’s fashionable to blame the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for the problem. Indeed, Republicans would have you believe that the problem is just another example of an incompetent and inefficient federal government. That would seem to be a good explanation. It’s just not true.

Certainly, the problem is the fault of government. But the real culprit is the GOP-controlled Congress.

To get a clear picture of the problem, you must first understand that TSA agents have a difficult, almost impossible, job. They are expected to keep a watchful eye through grueling work shifts while dealing with long lines of frustrated, disrespectful and often clueless people; people who are laden down with a growing list of “necessities” as carry-on baggage; people who try to sneak any number of prohibited items through the screening process; people who fail to follow instructions then defiantly protest when they are confronted for their stupidity – all the while delaying those in line behind them. Yet those same people expect the agents to keep them safe. There is no margin for error.

Such stressful, yet monotonous work and low pay have led to an exceptionally high turnover of TSA agents – more than 20 percent annually.

In an attempt to alleviate the problem, TSA management offered a pre-clearance program that was expected to reduce the number of agents required while, at the same time, improving the flow of passengers through security. It was a good idea. But, unfortunately, significantly fewer passengers than expected signed up for the program. That forced TSA to increase its workforce. But given the low starting salary, the extensive background checks needed for such a sensitive position, and the training required, TSA has been unable to react quickly.

All of that set the stage for Republican congressional representatives to really screw things up. Despite fomenting fear by pointing to the threat of ISIS and claiming that immigrants could likely be terrorists, they swept money from TSA’s budget in an attempt to further cut the deficit. Then they pointed fingers at TSA for the resulting lines. The hope is that a backlash from passengers will help Republicans attain one of their ideological goals – to privatize airport security and most other functions of government.

Just what we need – to turn our security over to a corporation that got the contract as the lowest bidder, then competes with fast food companies to hire a bunch of underpaid, under qualified and disgruntled workers in order to meet its CEO’s profit goals. Or maybe congressional Republicans could give another no-bid contract to Halliburton – the oily company once run by Richard “The Dick” Cheney that wasted hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ money in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Conservative author and humorist P. J. O’Rourke described it best by writing, “Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work, and then they get elected and prove it.”

A 566-Page Helping Of Truth.

You know that co-worker who thinks the Donald is “authentic?” That crazy uncle who thinks Trump is a candidate who tells it like it is? That self-focused neighbor who thinks immigrants are ruining our country? That religious nut job at the gym who thinks God hates gays? The CEO who thinks that our corporate tax rates are the highest in the world? You know that feeling that they’re all full of crap, but you can’t prove it?

Here’s the help you need:

I spent years researching some of the most common lies told by conservatives and repeated by the news media. I used a variety of reliable sources – US government websites, international websites, Nobel Prize-winning economists, respected investigative journalists, even former Republican government officials – to report the truth. My findings have exposed 159 lies in an easy-to-read book that has been organized so it can serve as a reference guide. And I backed up my findings with a bibliography that’s a full 43 pages long.

The book has only recently been released, but the early reviews are positive as evidenced by the following quotes from Book Shark: (a Top 500 Reviewer) “…an underrated expose of lies perpetuated by conservatives on the public. Overall, a surprisingly insightful book, I recommend it!”

So if you want to know the truth about some of the most important issues facing our nation before you vote this fall; if you want to reaffirm what your gut is telling you; if you want to shove the facts in the face of an obnoxious right-winger, check out this book. It’s reasonably priced and available through both Amazon and Kindle.

Do Facts Still Matter?

Based on statements by the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, one would have to say no. (More than 90 percent of Trump’s statements have been rated untrue.) Moreover, the voting record of Republican congressional representatives consistently shows that, on most issues, they base their votes more on ideology that on facts, or even the majority opinion of the people.

How else can you explain Republican opposition to expanding background checks on gun sales despite the fact that the vast majority of Americans support them? How else can you explain the fact that our Republican-led Congress refuses to act on climate change in direct opposition of the overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists, the majority of the nation’s leading research institutions, the Department of Defense, NASA, even the world’s religious leaders?

The list of public-supported issues that are consistently blocked by Republican representatives is a very long one. Yet the public has voted for a Republican majority in Congress. They have voted for a depressingly large number of Republican gubernatorial candidates. And they have voted for an even more depressing number of Republican legislative candidates.

This phenomenon can only be explained by the following:

Psychological studies have shown that conservatives and Republicans base their political decisions on faith. Not facts. Similarly, studies of media habits have shown that Republicans limit their exposure to media that are ideologically aligned, while Democrats seek out media that present various opinions. Worse, conservatives believe that any facts that don’t align with their strongly-held beliefs are bogus. They refuse to trust Democrats, the so-called “lamestream” media, or even their own government.

They are utterly and completely immune to facts.

Keep that in mind as we approach this coming election. Go ahead and confront your conservative friends and relatives with the facts. Encourage them to learn the facts from books such as “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks” by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, “That’s Not What They Meant!” by Michael Austin or “Antidote to Fact-Free Politics” by yours truly. At least you can feel that you’ve tried to expose them to the truth.

But don’t expect to change their minds.

Still, knowing that you tried to make a difference may help preserve your sanity when you learn that they voted for a lying, misogynistic, self-aggrandizing, tantrum-throwing, fact-denying, mob-connected, tax-evading billionaire bully who will almost certainly act against their interests.

The Planned Dysfunction Of Our Government.

As has been repeatedly demonstrated, Republicans and conservatives have mastered the art of telling lies. And, on the rare occasions when the corporate-owned media challenge those lies, they seldom bother to correct their falsehoods, choosing instead to double-down. Why wouldn’t they? After all, there are rarely any consequences for lying. For example, Politifact.com has ruled that more than 90 percent of Donald Trump’s statements are false. Yet his supporters don’t seem to care.

For many, facts no longer matter. They’d rather rely on their guts than their heads – a phenomenon that, if Trump becomes president, is likely to result in a severe case of national indigestion.

How did we reach the point where candidates can lie with impunity? How could a candidate like Trump become the presumptive presidential nominee while spreading falsehoods and fomenting hate? He is only taking advantage of a political climate created by the Republican Party – a culture of fear and a deep-seated hatred of the federal government.

This didn’t happen overnight. It began in the 1970s with the party’s “southern strategy” which was designed to capitalize on white anger with the Civil Rights Act. It was furthered by Paul Weyrich, who famously said, “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact our [Republican] leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” Of course, the GOP embraced Weyrich’s beliefs. Through obstruction and their refusal to compromise, Congressional Republicans have created voter anger and apathy which, ironically, serves to further their cause.

There’s more.

The GOP pandered to evangelicals by promoting a variety of “social” issues. They told voters that gay rights would diminish their own rights and destroy our military; that gay marriage would destroy traditional marriage; that a woman’s right to control her own body was “against God’s will” and that it would destroy our culture; that the inclusion of contraceptives in employer-based insurance policies destroys the freedom of religion. But, in reality, all of these issues are simply a way to generate fear and to permit government-sanctioned discrimination.

In the eighties, Ronald Reagan verbally attacked the government and Grover Norquist hatched a plan to defund the government in order that Republicans might “starve the beast.” Then, in the nineties, former Speaker Newt Gingrich superimposed another destructive philosophy on Congress. A longtime fan of European-style parliamentary politics, Gingrich convinced his GOP colleagues to vote as a unified bloc on every bill. Any Republicans who had the audacity to defy the leadership and vote his or her conscience was labeled a RINO (Republican In Name Only). The party punished them by withdrawing support for their re-election campaigns and redirecting support to their primary opponents.

Through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the GOP turned over control of state legislatures to their corporate sponsors. And, through funding from the Koch brothers, the same anti-government philosophies are now being promoted in city and county elections.

That is how the GOP has become what it is today – a party that, on the day of the inauguration, chose to vote in lock-step to obstruct every one of President Obama’s initiatives, even if the initiatives were based on Republican ideas, such as Obamacare or Cap and Trade. It is now a party that willfully ignores the needs and the wishes of the voters while pandering to the very wealthy and the powerful.

Fed up with such inequality and governmental dysfunction, a large number of voters have jumped on board the Trump train thinking that an outsider can change things. Really? He is running as a Republican, representing the very party that created this mess. And, far from being an outsider, he is one of the wealthy puppeteers who pull the strings of government officials in order to further enrich themselves, all the while taking advantage of tax loopholes and offshore shell companies to avoid paying taxes.

In other words, a vote for Trump and his Republican colleagues is a vote for those who have willfully destroyed “a government of the people, for the people and by the people” and replaced it with a functioning oligarchy. It’s impossible to imagine that even the Republican Party’s founder, Abraham Lincoln, would want that.

Public Lands: A Matter Of “Me” Versus “We”.

For the past several decades, the anti-government neo-confederates (otherwise known as the Tea Party) have howled about a so-called “federal land grab.” They claim that federal ownership of any property is unconstitutional.

In fact, they have it backwards.

Their attempts to force the federal government to give public lands to the states and private enterprise is the real land grab. That’s because, from our country’s very beginning, most of the land has been considered property of the federal government until Congress chooses to dispose of it. That principle was codified in 1870 at the Congress of Confederation, which called upon all states to relinquish claims to territories outside their boundaries to federal control so that they might be administered for the common benefit of the new nation. The principle was confirmed in 1789 as Article 4, Section 3 of the Constitution, which gives Congress the power “to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting territory or other property belonging to the United States.”

Federal lands included those taken from Native Americans, as well as those acquired from France in the Louisiana Purchase, from Britain in the Red River Valley of the North, from Spain in Florida, from Mexico in the Texas Annexation, from Mexico in the American Southwest, from Britain in the Oregon Territories, from Mexico in the Gadsen Purchase and from Russia in the Alaska Purchase.

In other words, the federal government once owned all of the land outside of the original colonies.

Over the decades, Congress has chosen to give some of the lands to cities, counties and states in the form of parks or land trusts intended to be used or sold for public good. It retained forest lands and lands deemed critical for watersheds or those unsuitable for traditional farming. And it voted to save other lands for posterity.

For example, in 1864, Congress named Yosemite Valley as the first federally-owned land to be set aside for preservation and public use. In 1872, it set aside portions of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho Territories for the world’s first National Park – Yellowstone. In 1906, Congress passed the Antiquities Act which allows the President of the United States to preserve and protect “prehistoric, historic, and scientifically significant sites on public lands” through the creation of national monuments, leading President Roosevelt to create the first national monuments at Devils Tower in Wyoming, El Morro in New Mexico, and Montezuma Castle and Petrified Forest in Arizona.

The federal lands, national parks and national monuments are not the result of federal land grabs.

They are the result of Congress maintaining control of public lands for the people it represents – all of the people. As a result, the people of the United States have millions of acres to use for recreational purposes, such as hiking, hunting, fishing and camping. In addition, the people own millions of acres that can be leased for commercial purposes that benefit the public…for transportation, for cattle grazing, for mining, for timber production, and for oil and gas production. These leases generate revenues that reduce taxes.

So, if federal ownership and management of lands is constitutional and, if it benefits the public, why would the so-called “Freedom Caucus” and other right wingers object?

In a word, greed.

They want the federal government to place all lands under state control, so the Republican-controlled western states and southern states can sell the lands for commercial development. They want to give mining companies (most of them foreign-owned) the freedom to extract uranium from the Grand Canyon, making the Colorado River radioactive in the process. They want to let private hotels, restaurant chains, tour companies and amusement parks set up shop inside National Parks. They want to let lumber companies, once again, clear-cut our old-growth public forests under the guise of “fire prevention.” They want to let home-builders sell homes on the rim of the Grand Canyon to the highest bidder.

Now that would be a real land grab.

Journalism, RIP.

Regardless of what happens in the upcoming presidential race, one thing has been forever changed…journalism.

Though the competition for ratings has long influenced the news – forcing news editors to adopt the “if it bleeds, it leads” philosophy – the demand for ratings has relegated newscasts to stories of violent crimes, accidental deaths, and confrontations only occasionally interrupted by feel-good “human interest” stories. Instead of informing the public about issues that really matter (pending legislation, environmental destruction, corporate influence in government, foreign policy decisions, and government and corporate corruption), the philosophy governing reporting by corporate-owned news media seems to be to keep the public perpetually frightened and stupid.

Newscasts have become little more than infotainment.

How else do you explain Donald Trump’s ability to manipulate the media into providing his campaign with roughly $3 billion of free news coverage – many times that of his competitors? How else do you explain the lack of coverage for Bernie Sanders’ campaign, even though he has drawn larger crowds than Trump at every stop? How else do explain the media’s reporting of the latest accusations about Hillary Clinton’s emails without facts or context?

When I earned my journalism degree, every story was expected to contain the basics of who, what, where, when, why and how. Rumors and accusations were not, in themselves, considered news. No story could be printed or aired if it didn’t include those basic elements. What’s more, the story had to be verified by two independent sources – more if the story was deemed to be exceptionally controversial.

Journalists like me were inspired by giants: Edward R. Murrow, John Cameron Swayze, Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. News gathering operations like CBS had news bureaus and reporters located around the globe based on the concept that it was not enough to tell the story, it was important to provide context and real understanding. It was considered more important for reporters to be right than to be first. Opinion was clearly labeled as such and not permitted to contaminate a news story. And there was an impenetrable firewall between the business side of the media and the news department, except in the not-so-rare instances where the owner of the media was also a journalist.

Such news departments exposed the viciousness of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Bob Woodward’s and Carl Bernstein’s reporting brought down the criminal enterprise otherwise known as the Nixon administration. Seymour Hersh’s reporting laid bare the horrors of the My Lai Massacre. Cronkite’s reporting was credited with ending the Vietnam War.

In more recent times, based on the woeful state of modern journalism, the corporate news media made it possible for the Bush administration to lead our nation to war in Iraq based on propaganda and lies. And they didn’t just report Trump’s ascendency to the GOP presidential nomination. In search of ratings and ever-larger profits, they actually created the Trump we see today.

Each day, the “news” is dominated by Trump. The media rarely fact-check his rants, provide context for his claims, point out inconsistencies in his statements, or broadcast alternative views. Unlike opposing candidates, he doesn’t need to waste campaign funds on airtime. In fact, he has actually made money by using campaign funds to pay his own companies for transportation, lodging and more.

In the heyday of broadcast journalism, reporters and news anchors tried to create a signature to be used to end a broadcast. For Murrow, it was “Good night, and good luck.” For Cronkite, it was “And that’s the way it is.” Now that the media are no longer willing to hold their newscasts to the standards of journalism, I’d suggest a slightly different slogan – “Another day, another dollar.”

That’s all the corporate media seems to care about.