The Shutdown Is Not A Negotiating Tactic. It’s The Goal.

It seems that most Americans and much of the media believe that the shutdown is the result of a failed negotiation between Trump and Congressional Democrats. But, in reality, the great dealmaker has not been negotiating in good faith all along. Indeed, his latest “proposal” was to offer Democrats things that he has previously taken away – DACA protections, immigration judges, etc.

Prior to this January, if Trump wanted $5.7 billion to fund his wall, all he had to do was ask. The Trump sycophants in the Republican-controlled House and Senate have given him everything he wanted. As evidenced by the Trump tax cuts, which have resulted in nearly $2 trillion in additional debt, they certainly weren’t worried about fiscal constraint. And, if Trump and the GOP really wanted to end the shutdown, they could do it today by voting on the budget bill that has already been passed by the House and was previously passed in the Senate by a unanimous voice vote. Or they could accede to the Democrats’ wishes and negotiate funding for increased border security where it would do the most good – at legal ports of entry. That, after all, is where the majority of illicit drugs enter our country in trucks, shipping crates and private vehicles. And they could use the funds to step up the monitoring of the people who enter our country legally and simply overstay their visas. Those people represent approximately half of undocumented immigrants. The Republicans’ failure to do so shows that the shutdown isn’t really interested in border security.

I believe the government shutdown is what Trump and his minions wanted all along.

For Republicans and this outlaw administration, the shutdown serves a variety of purposes. First, it is a distraction from the Russia investigation that is nearing completion. Second, it deprives the incoming Democratic House members the necessary funds to staff their offices, thus potentially impeding their investigations into Trump world. Third, it offers the bully in the White House an opportunity to frustrate and blame Speaker Pelosi. Fourth, in the twisted mind of Trump, the majority of government workers are Democrats, so it’s mostly Democrats who are suffering the consequences. Fifth, if as I believe, Trump really is beholden to Putin, a shutdown throws Russia’s greatest adversary into chaos.

Finally, and most important, Republicans despise government. So the shutdown allows them to call back only those workers that are necessary to their cause. For example, while many in the EPA and Interior are furloughed, Republicans have called back only those Interior employees who are responsible for issuing drilling and mining permits for public lands.

We must all face the reality that the shutdown is a right-winger’s wet dream. The most extreme among them believe the federal government should only be responsible for law and order, the protection of private property and national defense. Anything else – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, WIC, HUD, the EPA, public education – is, in their minds, a waste of money and an unwelcome intrusion into their ability to plunder the national resources and squeeze money out of the populace.

Suborning Perjury? That’s Where You Finally Draw The Line?

After learning that Trump ordered his personal attorney to lie to Congress about his continued attempts to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow, members of Congress are suddenly willing to speak of impeachment.

Seriously, that’s what finally caused you to grow a spine?

It wasn’t enough that Trump, his entire administration and his congressional supporters have lied to the American public on a daily basis? It wasn’t enough that he stole the election with the help of Russia? It wasn’t enough that Trump embraced dictators and thugs around the world? It wasn’t enough that leaders of his campaign had more than 101 known contacts with Russians during the campaign and accepted illegal campaign contributions from Russians? It wasn’t enough that members of his campaign have been convicted and pleaded guilty of illegal activities?

It wasn’t enough that he appointed a man operating as an unregistered foreign agent as his director of national security?!!!

It wasn’t enough that Trump bragged on tape that he has committed sexual assault? And that it is known that he paid hush money to cover up illicit affairs with a porn star and a centerfold model? It wasn’t enough that Trump has damaged all of our most reliable and necessary institutions, such as the FBI, the CIA and the EPA? It wasn’t enough that he regularly refers to the news media as enemies of the people? It wasn’t enough that Trump appointed a group of sycophants and unqualified toadies to positions of authority? It wasn’t enough that Trump and his cabinet squandered tens of millions on vacations and private interests? It wasn’t enough that his administration sold public and tribal lands to the highest bidders?

It wasn’t enough that Trump undermined NATO and our international relationships with our strongest and most loyal allies – that his administration has broken international laws and treaties? It wasn’t enough that he manufactured an international crisis at our southern border – that he separated thousands of refugee children from their families? It wasn’t enough that his administration’s actions resulted in the deaths of two young children who had survived a thousand mile trek from Central America?

It wasn’t enough that Trump and his supporters have supported racists and Nazis – that they excused racist violence and the death of an innocent young woman? It wasn’t enough that they gave billions in tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy while denying the basic needs of the poor as an extreme act of cruelty? It wasn’t enough that those unnecessary tax cuts ran up approximately $2 trillion in additional debt?

It wasn’t enough that his administration pandered to the victims of disasters in Texas and the southeastern US, while turning their backs on the American citizens of Puerto Rico? It wasn’t enough that Trump blamed the victims of California wildfires for losing their homes and their lives as a result of the climate change he denies? It wasn’t enough that he created trade wars causing Americans to lose markets for their products? It wasn’t enough that he shut down the federal government in a childish temper tantrum?

It isn’t enough that there is abundant evidence that he engaged in treason in plain sight?!!!

But ordering his attorney to lie to you? THAT? That’s where you draw the line?

What Would A Russian Operative Do If He Ran For President Of The United States?

He would appoint a pro-Russian lobbyist as his campaign manager.
He would change the platform of his political party to make it more friendly toward Russia.
He would invite the Russian ambassador to his party’s national convention.
He would request and accept Russian help with his election campaign.
He would have his campaign manager provide polling data to his Russian handlers so that Russia could more accurately target US voters with its disinformation campaign.
He would have members of his campaign staff and transition committee try to open secret back channels with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
He would accept millions in donations from pro-Russian Ukrainians for his inauguration.
He would appoint a retired general who was acting as a foreign agent as Director of National Security.
He would appoint unqualified sycophants to key positions in his administration with the express purpose of dismantling the agencies they control.
He would refuse to fully staff most government departments, especially those in leadership positions.
He would refuse to fully staff the State Department.
He would refuse to appoint ambassadors to many US allies.
He would try to undermine American’s trust in all government institutions.
He would encourage and sign a bill to cut taxes that would result in unprecedented national debt.
He would fire the leadership of the FBI and diminish its standing among millions of his supporters.
He would dismiss the findings of all five US intelligence agencies and accept the word of Vladimir Putin, instead.
He would repeatedly deny that he received election help from Russian interference. “No collusion!”
He would try to block and derail any investigations into his connections with Russia.
He would constantly attack the opposing party with the intent of dividing our nation as never before.
He would promote and pursue racist policies to further divide our nation.
He would lie so often that citizens would have difficulty telling falsehoods from the truth.
He would call the media “enemies of the people” and blame our problems on them.
He would undermine the relationships and standing with America’s closest and most loyal allies.
He would undermine NATO.
He would attempt to delay and block economic sanctions on Russia that were passed by Congress.
He would welcome Russian diplomats into the Oval Office and provide them classified information obtained by a US ally. He would allow only Russian media to attend the meeting.
He would create chaos with the nation’s trading partners by imposing unwarranted tariffs that would cause damage to many of our key industries.
He would have secret meetings with his handlers and destroy any record of them.
He would suddenly, with no military reason, announce the withdrawal of US troops from Syria relinquishing control of the region to a dictator and Russia.
He would attempt to rewrite history by promoting Vladimir Putin’s version of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
He would shutdown the US government on a whim and refuse to negotiate in good faith to reopen it.

As you can see, it doesn’t matter if Donald J. Trump was actually recruited to be a Russian spy. He is acting as one.

Confronting Racism Wherever And Whenever You Encounter It.

Though I’m generally reluctant to write about personal experiences, I feel that a recent confrontation might help to illuminate the seriousness of racism in America. Having been invited to Christmas dinner at a friend’s house, I was warned in advance that one of the other guests was a conservative. So I vowed to avoid politics. But as we sat down to eat, this white personal injury attorney announced that while working in a parking lot during his college years, he had been robbed by black men. He went on to state that most crimes are committed by black men. He said he has the statistics to prove it concluding that committing crimes is part of the black culture.

Where to begin? Do you confront such overt racism? Or, not wanting to disrupt a pleasant evening, do you simply let it slide? Before I detail my response to the situation, I should explain a bit about my background.

I am a white male who was raised in a nearly all-white region of the country surrounded by family and friends who often shared racist jokes at gatherings. In addition, my father often vehemently expressed his distaste for African-Americans – in particular Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders of the time. I don’t want to make excuses for these people, but I believe their comments simply showed a lack of knowledge and understanding.

As a young boy, I came to believe such behavior to be normal. But after attending a large university and making friends with people of diverse backgrounds, races, and nationalities, I realized that I could never again sit silent as someone made racist comments or told racist jokes.

Over time, I have witnessed rogue cops commit crimes and blame them on black activists. In my mixed race neighborhood, I saw a cop chain his attack-trained dog so that it could cross the sidewalk and bite any unsuspecting passersby. I learned of the practice of redlining in large cities to prevent black families from buying homes in white areas. I read studies showing that children of color routinely received more severe punishment in school than their white counterparts for the same offenses.

I read reports of corporations refusing to interview job applicants who had black sounding names. I heard my African-American friends tell of police harassment. And I personally witnessed six police officers take turns to brutally beat a black man who was handcuffed and lying on his belly in the snow and ice. (When I took my story to the Assistant Chief, I was told there were no arrests reported in the area on that day. I regret not pursuing the matter farther.)

Despite what many other white people believe, racism didn’t end with the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act. Nor did it end when we elected our first black president. One need only read the Department of Justice report following the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. Or watch the many videos of black harassment posted online. Or watch the video of the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia. Or watch “President” Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville. Or watch the videos of kids in cages at our southern border.

So, yes, I confronted my friend’s dinner guest. I politely explained the racism I have witnessed. I detailed the harassment suffered by my black friends. I patiently explained that we are only a few generations removed from the end of the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves. (I personally met veterans of that war.) I explained that, following emancipation, the slaves had nothing. And that it would take many more generations for black people to achieve financial equality with their white peers.

What was the dinner guest’s reaction? He told me – rather he yelled at me – that racism no longer exists then stomped out.

Call me the Grinch who ruined Christmas, but I believe that failing to confront racism at every opportunity only serves to perpetuate it. I may have ruined a Christmas dinner and caused my friends some grief. But that pales in comparison to what many people of color face on a daily basis. And I vow to do more to confront it.

Do We Really Need The Mueller Report To Know That Trump Colluded With Russia?

Here’s what we already know about Trump’s business ties to Russia:
1. When US banks refused to lend to his organization after his multiple bankruptcies, Trump sought and received funding from Russian investors.
2. Eric Trump told golf writer, James Dodson, “… we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”
3. A Russian mobster was among the first to buy luxury condos in Trump Tower. And David Bogatin purchased not one, but five condos. (Real estate is one of the Russians’ preferred ways to launder money illegally obtained.)
4. Two Russian mobsters are serving time in prison for running an illegal sports betting operation out of Trump Tower just a few floors below Trump’s living quarters.
5. Russian oligarchs have purchased nearly $100 million worth of real estate in Trump buildings in Florida.
6. A Russian oligarch paid $93 million for a Trump-owned mansion in Palm Beach, Florida – well over the market price – only to have it demolished and the property divided into three lots.
7. Trump made his first visit to Moscow in 1987 and he has pursued a deal to build Trump Tower Moscow ever since. His personal attorney was engaged in talks with Russian oligarchs about the proposed project through the first half of 2016.
8. In 2013, the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant was hosted by Moscow and a Putin ally.
9. A Trump business associate, Russian-born Felix Sater (born Felix Mikhailovich Sheferovsky), who has ties to Putin pleaded guilty to a $40 million stock fraud scheme orchestrated by the Russian mafia.

Here’s what we know about the Trump campaign connections to Russia:
1. In late 2015, Ivanka Trump connected Michael Cohen with a Putin ally who promised business and political synergy with the Trump organization and the Trump campaign.
2. In early 2016, a Russian with ties to Putin ally, Alexander Torshin, offered Trump a meeting with Putin.
3. In 2016, Torshin attended the NRA’s annual convention where he met with Donald Trump, Jr.
4. George Papadopoulos, a campaign foreign policy advisor, spoke with well-connected Russians who proposed a Trump-Putin meeting.
5. Paul Manafort, a longtime consultant to the Russian-backed president of the Ukraine who was overthrown in 2014 and has a history of multi-million dollar deals with Russian oligarchs, was hired as Trump campaign manager. (Manafort has since been convicted on multiple counts of tax fraud.)
6. Carter Page, a Trump foreign policy advisor with business ties to the Russian state-owned oil company Gazprom, traveled to Moscow in July 2016 with the Trump campaign’s approval. While there, he gave a speech criticizing the US and other Western nations.
7. During the campaign, Trump foreign policy advisor Michael Flynn was paid $45,000 to speak at a Russia Today banquet in Moscow where he was seated at a table with Vladimir Putin.
8. In April of 2016, Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak attended a conservative event where Trump spoke. Kislyak sat in the front row and spoke with both Jared Kushner and then-senator Jeff Sessions, who led the campaign’s foreign policy team.
9. In May 2016, Trump consultants Michael Caputo and Roger Stone communicated with a Russian using the name Henry Greenberg who offered damaging information on Clinton.
10. Donald Trump, Jr. received an email requesting a meeting with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton. His response was “I love it.” The meeting took place in Trump Tower on June 9, 2016. (The lawyer has since been tied directly to the Kremlin.)
11. In July of 2016, Trump called for Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s email. Hours later, Russian intelligence targeted Clinton’s email account along with more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts.
12. Trump campaign advisor and personal confidant, Roger Stone, claimed to be friends with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and seemingly tweeted advance knowledge of the release of emails stolen from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.
13. After Trump won the GOP nomination, the Republican platform was changed to remove references to US sanctions on Russia.
14. Russian ambassador Kislyak attended the Republican national convention in July of 2016 where he again met with Sessions.
15. During the campaign, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort offered briefings on US politics to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. (It is now known that Manafort shared Trump campaign polling data with Russia.)
16. Ambassador Kislyak had a private meeting in Sessions’ office in September 2016.
17. After Russians stole data from the Democratic National Committee which included information on more than 120 million voters, they began a Kremlin-sanctioned program to use social media for the benefit of the Trump campaign.
18. The Trump campaign changed its entire social media campaign within days after the Russians hacked the DNC voter data.
19. After the election, and before Trump’s inauguration, Russian ambassador Kislyak maintained regular contact with Kushner and Michael Flynn. The three met in Trump Tower December 1, 2016 where they discussed mitigating US sanctions on Russia. In addition, they discussed creating “back channels” between Russia and the Trump administration.
20. Investigators have found emails, text messages, phone calls and meetings between members of the Trump campaign and numerous other Russians including Evgeny Shmykov, a former military intellence officer, and Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman.
21. The Trump transition team led by VP Mike Pence was warned by the FBI that General Michael Flynn was acting as a foreign agent. Yet they named him National Security Advisor anyway.
22. In January of 2017, Trump campaign advisor and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, traveled to the Seychelles to meet with a Russian oligarch where they reportedly discussed a back channel between Trump and the Kremlin.
23. Leonard Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born billionaire who is tied to Putin and a Russian bank, contributed $7.35 million to Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain.
24. Maria Butina, the young Russian operative with ties to the NRA and GOP politicians met with Don Jr. during the 2016 campaign to seek a back channel between Trump and Putin. (Butina has since pleaded guilty to conspiracy and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.)

Here are but a few of the yet-to-be-substantiated claims:
1. Igor Sechin, CEO of Rosneft, Russia’s state oil company, offered former Trump adviser Carter Page and his associates an opportunity to broker a 19 percent stake in the company in exchange for lifting US sanctions on Russia.
2. Computer scientists claim to have identified a computer link during the campaign between a Russian bank and the Trump organization.
3. Russia pressured Trump to not name Romney Secretary of State and instead he name Rex Tillerson, a Russian friend, to the office.
4. Russian oligarch Alexander Torshin funneled millions to the Trump campaign through the NRA.

Here is evidence of obstruction of justice by Trump and his administration:
1. Trump asked FBI director James Comey to drop the investigation of Michael Flynn.
2. When Comey refused, Trump fired him. He then told Russian visitors to the White House, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job.” He went on to say, “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
3. During the Senate confirmation process, several of the Trump administration nominees lied under oath about their Russian contacts.
4. In his application for security clearance, Jared Kushner omitted his contacts with Russia.
5. Trump fired AG Jeff Sessions over his recusal from the Mueller investigation and installed an acting FBI director who has been outspoken against the investigation.
6. Trump committed witness tampering by calling Michael Cohen a rat for cooperating with the Mueller investigation and praising Roger Stone for saying he would never testify.
7. He helped craft a misleading public statement about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Don Jr. and the Russians.
8. He lied to reporters about his role in hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and others.
9. He dangled pardons to Manafort and others who might testify against him.

As you can see, there is abundant evidence that Trump is in the White House only because of Russian interference and a conspiracy between the Trump campaign, the GOP and Russia. Further, it is clear that Trump has made numerous efforts to obstruct justice.

The only question is: What are we going to do about it?

America’s On-going Unnatural Disaster.

It has been nearly a year since a former student walked into the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, pulled out a military-style weapon and shot 34 students. 17 of those students died. 17 more were seriously wounded. And many of those who escaped will likely suffer from PTSD for the rest of their lives.

Let that sink in for a moment.

High school students who were merely sitting in a classroom now share a disability with many of our military personnel returning from war zones! Even worse, Parkland was only one of 340 mass shootings that took place in the United States in 2018. Including Parkland, those shootings claimed 354 lives and wounded or injured 1,341.

Still worse, according to GunViolenceArchive.org, in 2018, there were 56,768 incidents in which an American pointed a gun at another and pulled the trigger. That’s an average of roughly 155 shootings per day, or about 6.4 shootings an hour!

In total, an astounding 14,600 people were killed by guns in the US last year. And that doesn’t even include gun suicides, which amount to almost twice the number of people shot by others. We see reports of these shootings in the news every day. We learn of the domestic violence killings; of the murder-suicides; of the road rage killings; of those being killed by stray bullets; of the children who discover a gun and unintentionally kill themselves or a playmate.

And what do we do about all of this?

We simply move on to the next news story or turn the page because we’ve come to accept this slaughter as normal. Or we accept it as the penalty our society must suffer in order to protect the 2nd Amendment.

But let me remind you. This is far from normal in the civilized world. No other advanced nation experiences such slaughter. Indeed, there are more casualties in the US from guns than there are in some nations that are considered war zones!

Let me also remind you that the Founding Fathers never intended the 2nd Amendment to allow US citizens gun down each other. It was only included in the Constitution to provide a mechanism for the defense of our nation. We did not yet have a standing army – indeed, the Founders were exceedingly wary of authorizing one – so they included the right to bear arms as part of a “well-regulated” state militia.

Further, as interpreted by the courts, the 2nd Amendment was not without limitations. The courts have consistently ruled that various jurisdictions can ban certain types of guns and ammunition. They have also ruled that certain people can be legally prevented from purchasing or owning firearms.

If our nation experienced even a small percentage of these deaths and injuries from other causes, there would be a loud uproar. People would be calling for the heads of the executives or politicians responsible. For example, in 2014, much of our population was panic-stricken over two deaths from Ebola in the US. Two! Allow me to do the math for you: That’s 14,598 fewer people who died from Ebola in the history of the US than died as the result of shootings last year alone.

And many of our citizens are willing to spend tens of billions of dollars and compromise the very fabric of our nation to prevent refugees from crossing our borders for fear a tiny percentage of them might commit a crime. But gun violence? Many of those same people won’t lift a finger or spend a dime of taxpayer money to reduce it.

Seriously, does that make any freaking sense?