Why I Won’t Be Celebrating This July 4th.

In the US, the 4th of July is recognized as Independence Day – a day to celebrate our independence from the British empire. A hard-won independence that required the blood sweat and tears of our ancestors to defeat the most powerful military forces on earth. Indeed, a least eight of my ancestors fought for the Continental Army, one suffering through a devastating winter at Valley Forge. As a result, Independence Day has been an important holiday for my family for generations. And though I have long been bothered by the extreme militarization of our nation and the accompanying politicization of patriotism – an unprincipled “our country right or wrong” kind of patriotism – I have proudly celebrated the holiday along with everyone else.

But this year is different. This year, I fear that our independence is in danger as never before.

We have reached a point where the founding principles of our nation are being compromised by a winner-takes-all, pay-to-play political party that ignores the majority of its constituents to serve the interests of a few. A political party that has turned our democratic republic into an oligarchy. A party that is now led by an unethical and immoral bully who gained office with the help of our nation’s most dangerous rival and support from evangelical “Christians” – religious zealots who have sold their souls to the man based on the belief that controlling women’s bodies to “save” fetuses is more important than preserving our nation’s core values.

Our first president, George Washington, was guided by 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. But if the man who now occupies the White House has a guide, it’s likely to be titled The Art of the Insult. Indeed, he takes a perverse pride in putting down others in order to feed his all-too-fragile ego.

So I cannot, in good conscience, stuff my cheeks with hot dogs and watch the “bombs bursting in air” when I know that our government has greeted refugees fleeing violence, repression and abject poverty – conditions every bit as severe as those that brought our ancestors to these shores – by arresting them and even wrenching their children from their arms.

I cannot celebrate a nation that takes pride in feeding our bloated defense department with hundreds of billions of dollars while, at the same time, denying food stamps and medical care to the poor.

I cannot proudly wave the flag when our Congress and state legislatures are constructing new barriers to deny minorities their right to vote.

I cannot sing the Star-Spangled Banner knowing that it was written by a racist and that those who are not white or heterosexual are still treated as second-class citizens.

I cannot celebrate when our government refuses to lift a finger to stop gun violence and the mass shootings of school children.

I cannot celebrate freedom when so many of our citizens have none – imprisoned for victimless, non-violent crimes.

I cannot celebrate when the president continues to call the independent press – one of our most precious institutions – the “enemy of the people.”

I cannot celebrate when the president describes his political opponents as un-American and calls for them to be locked up.

I cannot celebrate when the president attacks long-time allies while embracing enemies and brutal dictators.

I cannot celebrate after watching Trump appoint a group of corrupt and unqualified sycophants to government agencies with the express purpose to undermine and damage the agencies they control.

I cannot celebrate a nation governed by people who view the environment as a mere supermarket of resources with no concern for the impact of their extraction on our ecosystem.

I cannot celebrate knowing that our narcissistic president is filling his bank accounts with taxpayers’ hard-earned money in defiance of the Constitution’s emoluments clause; that he refuses to release his tax returns; that he refuses to divest himself of his businesses; and that the Trump name appeared in the Panama Papers (a list of those using off-shore tax havens) 3,540 times!

I cannot celebrate independence knowing that the man was placed in office with the help of Russia; knowing that at least 11 members of his presidential campaign had suspicious contacts with Russians; knowing that Russian oligarchs have invested nearly $100 million in Trump buildings; knowing that the NRA spent more than $30 million on behalf of Trump’s campaign after accepting donations from 23 Russians; knowing that Trump is willing to take Vladimir Putin’s word over that of our own intelligence agencies.

And I cannot sleep knowing that the actions of a man who is, quite likely, illegally occupying the world’s most powerful office cannot be overturned even if, as I suspect, he will be impeached and removed from that office.

So call me un-American if you want. But the America I celebrate is almost completely at odds with that of the president and his followers. I believe in an America that embraces the words on our Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” I believe in an America that cherishes equality, fairness and opportunity for all.

Until we become that nation again; until we value human rights over the rights of corporations; until we take more pride in our treatment of the poor than in our latest military technology; until the Oval Office occupant and his administration have been sent packing; until we, once again, strive to live up to the hopes of our Founding Fathers, I’ll sit out the 4th of July celebration. I will be flying the flag. But I will be flying it upside down. Because our nation is most certainly in distress.

The Bleak Future Of The US As Envisioned By Today’s GOP.

Forget for a moment, if you can, the man currently occupying the White House. As bad as he and his cartel of corrupt officials are, in many ways, Trump is merely an aberration – a con man running a scam to enrich himself with taxpayer money at the expense of decency and world peace.

The real threat is taking place in Congress and behind the scenes, perpetuated by GOP leaders and their sponsors. For example, outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan is a devotee of Ayn Rand, the “philosopher” who rejected religion, morality, ethics, altruism and, most of all, any government actions for the common good. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell skillfully blocked virtually every initiative of the previous president, stole a Supreme Court seat for the GOP and evangelicals, and as one of the largest recipients of campaign funds from the NRA, staunchly supports guns as a replacement for law and civility.

Charles Koch, the oily ideologue who has poured hundreds of millions into GOP campaigns in order to change local, state and federal governments by electing those who embrace his libertarian beliefs, is a disciple of renegade “economist” F.A. “Baldy” Harper who vehemently argued against labor unions, the five-day work week, child labor laws, employer benefits such as health insurance and pensions, the minimum wage and mandatory public education.

Casino owner Sheldon Adelson has donated hundreds of millions to GOP candidates who will remake the US government in the mold of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israeli administration – an administration whose vision of peace is imprisoning and murdering Palestinians, threatening its neighbors with pre-emptive military strikes and launching disproportionate military responses to any provocation. Adelson’s most recent contributions resulted in Trump replacing the few moderates in his administration with war-hawks such as Mike Pompeo and John Bolton. His donations are also the primary motivation behind Trump’s decision to abandon the Iran nuclear agreement and, along with it, our allies.

Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah, bankrolled Trump’s campaign for office. Together with Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News and the Sinclair Broadcast Group, they have changed the national dialogue about news media and factual reporting by attacking the free press and creating a multimillion dollar propaganda network. They, or more precisely, their millions in donations have given us Trump, Breitbart, Cambridge Analytica, Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, and Nigel Farage.

So what is their end game?

They all seem to have visions of returning the US to the “Gilded Age” when it was controlled by a few oligarchs and large corporations. They prioritize property above people, viewing workers as mere commodities to be used as needed and discarded when they are no longer of value. They want to be free to extract natural resources, and therefore wealth, without fear of regulation or repercussions. They want complete control of their billions – all of their billions – without being obligated to pay taxes. They want to eliminate social welfare programs and safety nets, such as SNAP, CHIP, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. They even want to eliminate public education in order to control thought.

Of course, ordinary taxpayers and voters would be repulsed by their plans if they were openly stated. So, in order to accomplish their objectives, the oligarchs have chosen to disguise their intent. Instead of presenting their vision to the public, they have used their billions to commandeer an entire political party. They have persistently proposed balanced budget amendments to the Constitution which, combined with a growing defense budget, would end many social programs. Failing that, they are electing those who will pass a never-ending series of tax cuts designed to starve the government of the funds needed to enforce regulations; to pay for welfare programs; to pay for safety nets.

In doing so, they hope that, by expanding the national debt to a crisis level, the voting public will have no choice but to accept such draconian cuts.

Beyond Tribalism.

Today, most Americans are members of a political tribe – Trump’s tribe, the Republican tribe, the Conservative tribe, the Libertarian tribe, the Democratic tribe, the Liberal tribe, the Evangelical tribe. But no matter which of the labels we prefer, we should find many issues upon which we can all agree.

On the most important issues, we should all be members of the same tribe – the American tribe.

So, for the time being, let’s set aside the questions of possible conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign and whatever Hillary Clinton was accused of doing or not doing. We should all be concerned that all of our intelligence-gathering agencies agree that Russia – one of our greatest rivals – interfered with our elections. If we, as Americans, are to have confidence in our elected leaders, we need to know that they were fairly elected.

In addition, there should be plenty of other areas of agreement among ordinary Americans. For example, we should all be worried that many of our longest-standing institutions – the press, FBI, CIA, justice system, educational system, science, even the truth – are under attack. Moreover, it should be abundantly clear that there is also an all-out attack on America’s working class.

Ideology aside, we should all be horrified that corporations and the very rich received 83 percent of the benefits from the most recent tax cuts – cuts resulting in deficits that will add multiple trillions to our national debt. We should all be concerned that the president ignores the Constitution’s emoluments clause by spending nearly every weekend at one of his resorts in order to charge taxpayers millions for the rooms needed for Secret Service, as well as government and foreign officials.

We should all be outraged over reports that the president’s longtime lawyer – his “fixer” – paid hundreds of thousands to buy the silence of women with whom he had affairs. And we should be even more troubled by reports that the same “fixer” was apparently selling access to the White House and accepting millions from a Russian oligarch.

We should be skeptical of Betsy Devos’s push to privatize education, thereby taking money away from public schools in order to finance parochial and private schools for the well-heeled. We should recoil at the dozens of reports detailing Scott Pruitt’s corruption and his rollback of environmental protections, thereby threatening clean air and water.

We should be angered by Steven Mnuchin’s use of government planes for his honeymoon and other private trips. We should be equally alarmed at Ryan Zinke’s taxpayer-funded vacations, his unjustified cuts to national monuments and his sweetheart deals for campaign donors who have placed bids for drilling rights on public lands. We should be universally sickened by Ben Carson’s plan to triple the cost of rent for poor Americans (many of them seniors) who live in public housing while others in government scheme to cut funding for food assistance, Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP and Social Security.

It cannot be stated often enough or strongly enough: This is not normal!

The Constitutional Crisis That Is Donald Trump.

Russian meddling in the 2016 election has created a crisis the Founders never could have imagined – a greedy, narcissistic con man holding the highest office in the land supported by a sympathetic Congress that likely, too, was elected with the help and interference of a foreign enemy.

The Founding Fathers did put into place a system that provided for the removal of a president from office for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which certainly would apply to a man who conspired with an enemy to attain office, defied the Constitution’s emolument clause to enrich himself and his family, and appointed Cabinet members with the sole purpose of deconstructing the agencies they head – all the while ignoring every established norm of presidential behavior.

What the Founders failed to anticipate was a Congress simultaneously controlled by a party that is equally corrupt – a Congress comprised of members who, themselves, may have been elected with the help of the same foreign enemy and foreign money illegally funneled through the NRA. As a result, the Constitution has no provision for nullifying the results of elections illegally decided by external forces; no way to erase widespread electoral mistakes.

So what happens if (more likely, when) Special Counsel Mueller proves that the president, his campaign, and numerous members of his staff conspired with Russia in order to steal the election? What then? Certainly, the president could be impeached if Republicans finally agree to place country above party. Certainly, those involved could be charged with crimes and brought to trial. But what about the members of the president’s party in Congress who also benefited from the conspiracy? Can they, too, be removed? And what of the many decisions that have been made since January 20, 2017?

If the president was, indeed, put into office as the result of a conspiracy, will his many appointments to the judiciary be allowed to stand? These are appointments that could impact judicial decisions for generations.

If Republicans were found to have gained control of Congress as the result of unconstitutional gerrymandering, voter suppression, illegal campaign contributions, and foreign interference, will the bills they passed without input from the opposition party be allowed to stand? What of the deficit-ballooning corporate tax cuts? What of the changes to the Affordable Care Act? What of the stolen seat on the Supreme Court?

And what of the decisions made by the president’s appointees? What of the deregulation of the nation’s greatest polluters? What of the damage done to our public school system? What of the money squandered on private jets and $31,000 dining sets?

Worst of all, what of the damage done internationally – to our trade agreements, to our strategic defense pacts, to our standing with allies?

If the decisions made by illegally and unconstitutionally elected officials are allowed to stand, what’s to prevent it from happening again? What’s to prevent unscrupulous individuals from a party – either party – from scamming the system to win and, in doing so, ensure that it can ideologically remake America in its image for decades to come?

We need a constitutional amendment to nullify election results – all of the results – if it can be unequivocally proven that an election was stolen.

Revisiting The Second Amendment And Gun Violence.

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

I draw your attention to the full text of the amendment since the first 12 words are seldom mentioned. In fact, in the NRA headquarters, only the last half of the text is emblazoned on the wall. But, if you believe in the wisdom of the authors of our Constitution, you cannot parse the words to suit your own purposes. You must accept the document in its entirety.

We once had a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States who believed so. In a 1991 PBS interview, he stated, “The Gun Lobby’s interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud – I repeat the word fraud – on the American people by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime. The real purpose of the 2nd Amendment was to ensure that state armies – the militia – would be maintained for the defense of the state. The very language of the 2nd Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires.”

The point is that the amendment was written to ensure for the defense of the US against foreign governments at a time when our nation had no standing army, no Navy, no Air Force, no Marine Corps, no Coast Guard. Instead, the nation’s defense relied upon state militias comprised of volunteers…what have, in effect, become our state governed National Guard units.

Now that we have the world’s most effective military, the 2nd Amendment is no longer necessary. Since our government is “of the people, by the people and for the people,” the military serves us. There is no longer a need for citizens to bear arms as part of a well-regulated militia. What about the potential for government tyranny? The current administration aside, that is a remote possibility. And even if the government decided to impose martial law on the land, no disorganized band of civilians armed with an arsenal of AR-15s and AK-47s will prevail against a well-trained government army with tanks, artillery, fighter jets and nuclear weapons.

That said, let’s talk about our gun problem and what can be done to reduce gun violence, including mass shootings.

There are an average of 297 shootings each day in the US – more than 108,000 per year! Those shootings result in 11,000 murders per year and an uncounted number of wounded – many with lifelong debilitating injuries. There are 20,000 suicides from guns each year, resulting in an annual total of 33,000 deaths from guns.

More than 2,600 hundred children are killed by guns each year.

The US averages more than one mass shooting per day (as defined by 4 or more victims per shooting). Since the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there have been 1,500 mass shootings resulting in more than 1,700 people killed and more than 6,000 wounded (not counting those who were likely shot and killed today).

If you’re human; if you live in America, those statistics should frighten you! But before you run out and purchase a gun for self-defense, consider this: Guns are not defensive weapons. They are offensive weapons. In a gun fight, the first person to pull their gun usually wins. So, if someone points a gun at you, your own gun will do you little good. In fact, if you have a gun in your house, you’re 80 percent more likely to use it on yourself than any criminal.

To further debunk the “good guy with a gun myth,” consider the FBI analysis of 160 active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013, excluding shootings related to gang or drug violence. Those incidents resulted in 1,043 casualties – 486 killed, 557 wounded. The FBI found that 1 in 5 were stopped by a potential victim at the scene and most of those were unarmed! Only 5 were stopped by “good guys with guns.” And, in 21 of 45 incidents that required law enforcement to engage the shooter, 9 officers were killed and 28 were wounded, despite their training and their body armor!

Do you still think arming teachers is the answer to school shootings?

Every independent study shows a clear connection between gun violence and the number of guns. Nevertheless, Americans now own more than 300 million guns. Despite the fact that the number of individuals who own guns is actually declining, the number of gun sales is increasing dramatically. That’s because 6 million Americans – mostly white men -now own 10 or more guns. There are studies that show many of those people have psychological problems. And there are additional studies that show a clear connection between gun violence and domestic violence or violence against animals.

The only apparent answer to our epidemic of gun violence is to treat it as we do other epidemics – with intervention, outreach, and education. We should institute universal background checks and a database of gun ownership. To make the ATF’s job easier, we should institute a waiting period for anyone wanting to purchase a gun. We should ban both open and conceal carry – going back to the policies before the lobbying of the NRA. We should ban all semi-automatics. Not just military-style weapons. That’s because most semi-automatics can be just as deadly. And bolt-action, pump-action and lever-action are perfectly acceptable for most hunters. We should limit magazines to 9 rounds. We should limit the quantities of ammunition sold. And we should take weapons away from violent felons, domestic abusers, animal abusers and the mentally ill who are diagnosed with violent tendencies – toward others or themselves.

It’s time to ignore the NRA and the GOP. It’s time to change!

False Patriotism.

A few years ago, a local chapter of the VFW asked me to judge a group of essays written by middle schoolers on the subject of patriotism. As a writer and former teacher, I was honored to do so. But, after reading them, I realized that none of the students knew the real meaning of patriotism. To all of them, patriotism revolved around the military, military hardware, the flag and the national anthem. Not the Constitution. Not the ideals established by the Founders. Not the American dream. Not exercising our right – our responsibility – to vote. Not affording equal rights to our fellow Americans – all of our fellow Americans.

Of course, the students were only parroting what they had been taught by their teachers and parents.

Like many Americans, they did not understand that, though admirable, military service is only one way to show patriotism toward their country. They did not understand that displaying a flag, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and placing a hand over their heart for the national anthem are only a show of patriotism – mere symbols. (It’s good to remember that the flag was not adopted until more than a year after the beginning of the Revolution, that our nation did not have a standing army until 1789 – 12 years after the United States became a country, and that the Star-Spangled Banner did not become the national anthem until 1931 – more than 150 years after the shots were fired on Bunker Hill!)

The students did not understand that, in certain circumstances, it can be an act of patriotism to refuse military service; to stand up to government leaders by refusing to fight in an ill-conceived and illegal war. Were the soldiers who refused to follow orders and reported the war crimes at My Lai not more patriotic than those who murdered innocent men, women and children? Was not Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed the lies of the Vietnam War, more patriotic than the politicians and generals who expanded the war based on false information? Were the Americans who protested and demonstrated against our pre-emptive invasion of Iraq not more patriotic than the administration who led us into it on false pretenses?

Of course they were!

If the kids’ definition of patriotism has become the accepted version, it’s not difficult to understand why our nation is perpetually at war. It’s not difficult to understand why our military budget dwarfs those of other nations. And if we honor the flag and the anthem without embracing the ideals they represent, is it any wonder so many Americans are willing to deny equal rights to those who look different; to those who love someone of the same sex; to those of a different faith, or those of no faith?

If we become outraged at football players who refuse to stand for the national anthem as a means of protest in order to draw attention to injustice while we praise the flag-waving bullies who threaten them, we have failed to grasp the Founders’ vision for our democracy. One in which it is as patriotic to call attention to our nation’s failings as it is to celebrate its successes. Indeed, it may well be more patriotic!

So what is patriotism?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “love for or devotion to one’s country.” It’s fitting that the definition is so expansive. After all, there are many ways to love. And that definition is especially fitting for Americans, since the vision of our nation’s Founding Fathers was equally expansive. It’s why the Constitution they created has served us so well for so many years.

This Should Explain A Lot.

As the GOP Congress continues to push a tax plan that is based on the lie that it will create jobs by cutting taxes on large corporations and the very wealthy, I think it’s important to understand how the tax “reform” plan came about. In reality, it was spawned decades ago by the libertarian billionaires who now fund Republican candidates. And it was released on an unsuspecting public by the conservative-controlled Supreme Court with its rulings in the Buckley v Valeo and Citizens United v FEC.

In the first of these decisions, the Court ruled that money = free speech. In effect, that gave the wealthy the ability to choose political candidates. In the second case, the Court ruled that corporations = people. And, since large corporations are controlled by wealthy executives and shareholders, the decision gave them even more power to choose candidates and to sway election results.

Not surprisingly, the Koch brothers and a few other billionaires seized the opportunity.

Until those Supreme Court decisions, the Kochs, Sheldon Adelson, the Mercer family, the Prince family, the DeVos family, and others had, for the most part, been unable to buy elections. Even when David Koch ran for president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1980, he could not use his billions to gather votes. So he chose a different strategy. He vowed to use his money to place candidates in state and local offices then bide his time until those people could work their way into higher offices.

The Supreme Court decisions gave him the opportunity to accomplish in a few years what might have taken decades.

Billionaires and corporations now control more than 30 state legislatures through the American Legislative Exchange Council, which writes most of their legislation. Billionaire-sponsored candidates now control the US Senate and the House of Representatives. Billionaire-backed candidates have proliferated in the court system. And with the help of the Russians, a billionaire-backed candidate now sits behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. (At least when he’s not golfing or spending his time – and taxpayer money – at one of his resorts.)

Given all of this, it seems that a look at David Koch’s Libertarian Party platform from 1980 might shed further light onto the GOP tax plan and the GOP vision for the future of the United States. Here are some excerpts from that platform:

• “We urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission.”
• “We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.”
• “We oppose any compulsory insurance or tax-supported plan to provide health services, including those which finance abortion services.”
• “We also favor the deregulation of the medical insurance industry.”
• “We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system. Pending that repeal, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary.”
• “We propose the abolition of the governmental Postal Service. The present system, in addition to being inefficient, encourages governmental surveillance of private correspondence. Pending abolition, we call for an end to the monopoly system and for allowing free competition in all aspects of postal service.”
• “We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.”
• “We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.”
• “As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.”
• “We support repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws.”
• “We advocate the complete separation of education and State. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.”
• “We condemn compulsory education laws … and we call for the immediate repeal of such laws.”
• “We support the repeal of all taxes on the income or property of private schools, whether profit or non-profit.”
• “We support the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency.”
• “We support abolition of the Department of Energy.”
• “We call for the dissolution of all government agencies concerned with transportation, including the Department of Transportation.”
• “We demand the return of America’s railroad system to private ownership. We call for the privatization of the public roads and national highway system.”
• “We specifically oppose laws requiring an individual to buy or use so-called “self-protection” equipment such as safety belts, air bags, or crash helmets.”
• “We advocate the abolition of the Federal Aviation Administration.”
• “We advocate the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration.”
• “We support an end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children.”
• “We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs. All these government programs are privacy-invading, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient. The proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.”
• “We call for the privatization of the inland waterways, and of the distribution system that brings water to industry, agriculture and households.”
• “We call for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”
• “We call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
• “We support the repeal of all state usury laws.”

The Putin-led meddling in the 2016 elections by the Russians represents a very real threat to our democracy. But no greater threat than that of our billionaire-controlled GOP government.

The Unholy Marriage Between Evangelicals, Billionaires And Trump.

There’s a long history between the GOP and evangelicals dating back to the late 1800’s. In the book The Family, you’ll read about wealthy industrialists and evangelicals joining forces to keep labor unions from gaining power. In the 1950’s, Eisenhower was put in office with the help of evangelicals. He rewarded them by agreeing to create the National Prayer Breakfast, by agreeing to the addition of “Under God” to our Pledge of Allegiance and by changing the national motto from “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of many, one) to “In God We Trust.”

It was evangelicals who supported Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s abuses in the blacklisting of virtually anyone accused of socialist or communist leanings. It was evangelicals who became an integral part of the GOP’s Southern Strategy after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. And it was evangelicals and Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority” who used the anti-abortion movement to help Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush gain office.

All of that is reason enough to question the beliefs of most evangelicals. But, in 2016, these same evangelicals…the purported followers of Jesus…helped a greedy, narcissistic, unqualified billionaire who bragged about his sexual assaults to gain the White House. Why? They were willing to compromise every tenet of their supposed faith based on the promise that Trump would appoint federal judges and Supreme Court justices willing to overturn Roe v Wade to ban abortion.

And that’s only the beginning.

In a number of radio interviews, Jane Mayer has spoken about the wedding of evangelicals and anti-government libertarian billionaires with failed congressman, failed governor and current vice-president, Mike Pence, as the ring bearer.

The billionaires in question are the Koch brothers who have created a large network of dark money groups to fund candidates who support their anti-government philosophies, the Robert Mercer family who bankrolled Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News and the Trump campaign, and the combined families of Erik Prince and Betsy Devos who have used their combined fortunes to fund attempts to privatize our military and our education system.

As Jane Mayer points out, these billionaires essentially share the same belief – that the federal government should do only three things: Provide for the national defense, maintain stability, and provide for law and order. They view social issues, such as abortion and immigration, as mere tools that can be used to divide and influence voters to support their candidates. Focused on such issues, people vote for their candidates unaware of the billionaires’ plans to eliminate Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and all other social safety nets.

Similarly, many voters are oblivious to billionaires’ plans to rewrite the US Constitution to incorporate their narrow-minded beliefs. Indeed, they are just a few states short of the required two-thirds needed to hold a Constitutional Convention.

Having been placed in office as a result of dark money donations from the billionaires, Trump and the GOP congressional leaders are well on their way to cutting taxes for corporations and billionaires. If they succeed, the government will run large deficits until the resulting debt will generate draconian cuts to the safety nets that the billionaires despise. And should Trump be removed from office leaving Pence to replace him, be afraid…very afraid. Though Trump is a willing participant in the billionaires’ plans, his oversized ego makes him highly unpredictable.

The evangelical Pence, on the other hand, is a willing puppet guided as much by his billionaire sponsers as he is by his narrow and hateful interpretation of the Bible.

Keeping Track Of The Trump/GOP Agenda.

Voters and the media are all too aware of The Donald’s Twitter rants and the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in last year’s election. But while we’ve been distracted by the noise, here’s what Trump and the GOP have been doing in the shadows and away from the spotlight:

They passed and signed a bill overturning an Obama initiative to prevent the mentally ill from purchasing guns.

Trump signed an executive order withdrawing the United States from the Paris accords on climate change. We are now one of only 3 nations in the world – the others are Syria and Nicaragua – who are not part of the effort. And Nicaragua only refused to sign because they didn’t think the effort went far enough.

The administration has empowered ICE to arrest and deport thousands of undocumented workers, which has resulted in the separation of families and made it difficult for fruit and vegetable growers to find enough help for harvest.

Trump announced the end of DACA for the “Dreamers” who were brought to the US as children. Now the White House is making funding of a border wall a condition for signing a new bill that would allow Dreamers to stay in the US – the only country they know.

Trump pardoned former sheriff Joe Arpaio who was convicted for criminal contempt of court after refusing to stop racial profiling of Latinos. Arpaio also boasted of running a “concentration camp” for prisoners. Some even died while in custody.

Trump praised the actions of extreme dictators in Russia, Turkey and the Philippines.

Trump refused to denounce Nazis and white supremacists for the violence in Charlottesville while, at the same time, giving them a voice in the administration.

The DOJ announced that it is ending a program to track domestic terrorists.

They dramatically increased defense spending despite audits that have shown extensive waste and a lack of DOD oversight.

They attempted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with parliamentary tricks and no debate – an action that would have drastically cut Medicaid, defunded Planned Parenthood, and denied health care access to tens of millions of Americans.

They cut payments to insurance companies that compensate them for losses created by the pent-up demand for health care of new ACA enrollees.

After Congress failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the administration defunded publicity campaigns for ACA enrollment and shortened the enrollment period in an attempt to reduce participation in the ACA marketplaces.

Trump signed an executive order to further undercut the ACA by allowing insurance companies to offer bare bones plans that will effectively encourage the youngest and healthiest people to leave the program and make it financially impossible for insurance companies to offer affordable coverage to those who most need it, especially those with pre-existing conditions.

Trump cut subsidies to help pay the cost of health insurance for low income Americans.

Trump is also considering incentives for employers to set aside money to help employees pay insurance premiums, a move designed to allow them to end traditional employee insurance benefits.

Congress has thus far failed to extend CHIP, which provides health care to millions of poor children who are not eligible for public assistance.

The House passed a bill which would cut $39 billion from SNAP, the food stamp program for the poor.

The House passed a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks and making doctors vulnerable to prison.

They have packed the court system with young, extreme right-wing, anti-choice judges and justices.

Trump has violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution by profiting from foreign guests staying in his Washington, DC hotel.

Trump signed an executive order which allows employers to deny contraceptive coverage to employees forcing tens of thousands of women to pay for contraceptives themselves.

The EPA announced it is ending the Obama era clean energy rules which is designed to replace dirty fuels that contribute to climate change.

The EPA and NASA removed all references to climate change from their websites.

The administration increased the number of mining and oil drilling leases on federal lands, which will allow uranium mining in the Grand Canyon watershed.

The administration has refused to protect Walruses under the Endangered Species Act. At the same time, the administration is considering delisting Gray Wolves, Grizzly Bears and other species.

Trump has waged a name-calling war against the leader of North Korea, putting us on the precipice of nuclear war. Even if only conventional weapons are involved, millions of people would die on the Korean peninsula.

Trump restored many of the Cold War era restrictions on Cuba.

Trump’s proposed budget would make deep cuts to most government agencies, including Health & Human Services, the EPA, the State Department, the Agriculture Department, the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Institutes of Health, the Commerce Department, the Education Department, HUD, the Department of Transportation, the Department of the Interior and FEMA.

Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate numerous programs, including National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grants and programs that support coastal and marine management. It would cut funding for new transit programs, Amtrak, the UN’s Green Climate Fund, and the Clean Power Plan.

Trump’s proposed budget would make deep cuts to the popular Meals on Wheels program for shut-ins.

Trump has decided to “decertify” the treaty with Iran – an action that will almost certainly accelerate Iran’s nuclear program.

The Interior Department has proposed cutting the number and size of our national monuments.

The administration has proposed opening the Arctic, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to oil drilling.

Congress and the administration have proposed a tax “reform” bill that will give massive cuts to multinational corporations and the wealthy, provide a tax “holiday” for corporations that have stashed billions offshore to evade taxes, and eliminate the Estate Tax which only affects the very wealthy.

If you don’t think all of that is bad enough, consider the fact that the Trump-led GOP also hopes to replace public education with for-profit private schools, to replace our efficient Medicare program with vouchers and to privatize Social Security, effectively ending safety nets for the elderly and the poor. Or consider the millions spent on Trump’s weekly golf outings at his own properties. Or the millions spent on personal trips in private jets by his cabinet members.

This administration and this Congress are quietly doing everything in their power to undermine the health of our nation, our planet and the well-being of its citizens, except the most wealthy and the most powerful. My advice to voters and the media alike: Stop being outraged by Trump’s Twitter rages and start paying attention to the actions that he and his government are taking behind the scenes.

My Trump Obsession.

Many of my friends and acquaintances have raised questions regarding my near constant blog posts, Facebook posts and Tweets about Trump. I’ve been told, “Hillary lost. Get over it.” That they had to “put up” with Obama for 8 years so “Why can’t I just shut up and give Trump a chance?” I’ve been asked, “Don’t you have something else to worry about?” I’ve been called a “libtard,” a “snowflake” and a “loser.”

Some have questioned my patriotism. Others have even questioned my sanity. Many would prefer that I ignore the current state of our democracy and go back to posting family and travel photos on Facebook.

Here’s my response: Trump and his followers are unlike anything seen in our country since the end of the Civil War. Their hatred has further divided an already broken political system. They have not only turned Democrat against Republican. They have turned Republican against Republican, state against state, friend against friend, man against woman, brother against brother, Christian against Muslim, Christian against Christian, heterosexual against homosexual…and the world against the US.

In order for others to truly understand my obsession, I need to delve into a bit of history – some of which you probably already know.

When I first became aware of “The Donald” in the eighties, he was considered a small-time developer in New York City. His few properties made a statement only in regard to their gaudy decor and the many lawsuits against his company for racial discrimination and failure to pay suppliers. It soon became known, at least in Manhattan, that he had ties to organized crime. Those rumors were soon confirmed when he dived into the gambling industry…an industry long connected to organized crime. Yet, in a telling display of his business acumen, he was one of the few casino owners to ever go bankrupt.

His only success was his ability to call attention to himself and his “glamorous” lifestyle. That led to his role as a business mogul on “The Apprentice” in which he reveled in the opportunity to unleash his inner bully. Had it not been for that reality show (more precisely, an un-reality show) and an accomplished ghost writer who wrote “The Art of The Deal,” Trump likely would have faded into obscurity long ago, especially when the real estate crash of 2008 made him financially toxic to virtually every lender – except to the Russians and a German bank involved in Russian money-laundering.

How did he rise from those ashes to the White House? That is a question that will be debated for generations.

The reality is that, in an attempt to become relevant, he led the “birther” movement, claiming Obama was an illegitimate president. When Obama responded at the White House Correspondents Dinner, Trump was humiliated and infuriated. As a longtime racist and bully, he felt the need to strike back. So he began his presidential campaign based on racist attacks on Mexicans, refugees, Muslims, and women.

The heart of his campaign was to push aside political correctness, encouraging like-minded racists and misogynists to say and do what they had long felt, but were afraid to say. This quickly became apparent at all of his political rallies with chants of “lock her up” as well as verbal and physical attacks on protesters who were Latino or black. Of course, there were also relentless verbal attacks on the news media.

At any other time in our nation’s history, his fomenting of violence, his bullying tactics and his name-calling of other candidates, would have repulsed the majority of Americans and permanently ended his political aspirations. Instead, the more despicable his words and actions became, the more his popularity grew among white people who somehow felt oppressed by their white privilege and majority religion.

Not even a video of him bragging about grabbing women by the pussy harmed his popularity. Many even applauded his verbal attack of a Gold Star family – likely because of their skin color and their religion.

In a move that far exceeded Nixon’s Watergate transgressions, he unethically and illegally encouraged Russia to hack his political opponent’s emails. And it is now abundantly clear that his election night win was illegitimate. He obviously took office as the result of the interference of our nation’s greatest rival. Worse, given the dozens of connections between Trump’s campaign and Russia, it appears increasingly likely that his campaign colluded with Russia in order to win.

There has been no greater assault on our democracy since WWII.

If his lack of character and the illegitimacy of his position weren’t enough, Trump has made no effort to bridge the political divide. Instead, he has gone out of his way to further divide us. And his nomination of unqualified and lunatic fringe people to his cabinet and heads of federal agencies has turned our nation into a Kakistocracy – a government run by the worst, least qualified and most unscrupulous citizens – people like Betsy Devos, Ben Carson, Scott Pruitt, Tom Price, and Jeff Sessions.

Trump and his administration have taken every opportunity to enrich themselves and their families. He has emboldened the worst among us – racists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. His administration has not only tried to cut access to healthcare and withdrawn from the Paris accords on climate change. It has rolled back regulations protecting clean air, clean water and endangered species. It has plans to reduce the size of national monuments in order to sell drilling and mining rights to extraction industries. It has plans to cut funding for Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, even food programs for needy children in order to give tax breaks to the wealthy and large corporations.

Most problematic of all is the fact that Trump has essentially replaced our State Department and traditional diplomacy with his Twitter rants. His name-calling and cyber-bullying have led our nation to the brink of war with a nation led by a similar man-child – a war that would lead to the deaths of millions.

Am I obsessed with Trump? Damn right I am! As should be anyone in their right mind.