Clinton More Trustworthy Than Media Or Trump.

Let’s be clear, like most politicians, Hillary has made statements that were later proven to be untrue. Still, fact-checking organizations have shown that she has actually made a greater percentage of true statements during the campaign than any of the other presidential candidates.

Hillary has also made several political decisions that were unpopular and later proven to be mistakes. For example, she voted to give George W. Bush the authorization to invade Iraq, if necessary. She permitted Ambassador Christopher Stevens to travel to Benghazi. And she chose to use a personal server – one that was shared with her husband, a former President of the United States – while serving as Secretary of State.

Yes, those decisions can be second-guessed. But, like many Senators, she did not necessarily expect the Bush administration to fabricate information that indicated Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. She could not have known that terrorists would attack the US compound in Benghazi given the fact that Stevens was both familiar with the situation and unafraid. And she likely didn’t expect that her use of a private email server to stay in touch with her subordinates (the State Department’s actual business is actually conducted through cables and phone calls) given the fact that her immediate predecessors – both Republicans – had also used private servers. (Ironically, the official State Department email server was hacked early in her term while her private server remained secure.)

However, my intent is not to serve as Hillary’s apologist. Rather, the purpose of this piece is to compare her trustworthiness with her Republican opponent and with those who helped his rise to the Republican nomination.

After all, with regard to truthfulness, the non-partisan fact-checker has noted that, out of 183 of Trump’s statements it has checked to date, 75 percent of the statements have been rated mostly false, false or “Pants on Fire.” Moreover, the organization noted that Trump has more statements rated as “Pants on Fire” than all of the other presidential candidates combined.

Only 5 of Trump’s statements (3 percent) were rated true.

By comparison, the website notes that 114 (51 percent) of 223 statements made by Hillary have been rated true or mostly true. Only 3 were rated “Pants on Fire.” In other words, she has told the truth more than twice as often as Trump! Given this comparison, why has Hillary been labeled untrustworthy while Trump has been labeled as someone who “tells it like it is?”

The level of trust in Trump is even more questionable given the fact that Trump is currently under investigation for fraud over his failed Trump “University.” Trump is also under investigation for tax fraud. And, despite his claims of success, he has filed for bankruptcy 6 times. Further, his ghostwriter for Art of the Deal has raised additional questions about Trump’s trustworthiness, saying, “If Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.” Even Trump’s two previous wives found that he could not be trusted.

And, though Hillary has long been battered by allegations that she cannot be trusted, she has a long list of accomplishments to her credit. Indeed, she may be the most qualified presidential candidate ever. After her time as First Lady, she was a popular and effective Senator who was known to work across the aisle. She was a successful Secretary of State at a very difficult time in US history following the disastrous foreign policy of the Bush administration. And despite the nearly $100 million of taxpayer money spent by Republicans to investigate numerous trumped-up accusations (Whitewater, Travelgate, Vince Fostergate, Benghazi and Emailgate), she has been cleared of all wrongdoing. Even when the FBI Director, a Republican favorite, stated that “no charges are appropriate” in the case of Hillary’s use of a private server for public business, Republicans have refused to accept his judgment. They were not even persuaded when General Colin Powell, a Republican and former Secretary of State, stated that none of Hillary’s emails were classified when she sent them. And he went much further, saying that no such emails should be classified.

Yet following Chris Christie’s persecution…er…prosecution of Hillary on stage at the Republican National Convention, the GOP rabble turned into a lynch mob screaming “Lock her up.” Others have suggested that she should be hung or worse. Such comments should make one wonder, “Am I still in the United States, or have I been transported to Turkey, Syria or the Islamic State?”

Complicit in such behavior and Trump’s rise to the head of the party are the media. For years, rightwing radio (more than 90 percent of talk radio programming) has fomented distrust of the federal government and fear of the “other.” In search of higher ratings, broadcast news has focused on violent crimes even as they have dramatically decreased in the US.

The media has largely ignored the inequities in the treatment of blacks versus whites by law enforcement. The media has also ignored the racial disparity in education and opportunity. And the media fell all over themselves to cover Trump’s campaign while ignoring others. For example, in Phoenix, the leading TV station devoted the first 12 and a half minutes of its 10 PM newscast to Trump’s first visit. Yet, when Senator Sanders visited a few weeks later, they gave him a 20-second story more than 8 minutes into the newscast despite the fact that Bernie drew a crowd nearly 3 times that of Trump’s.

By now, Trump has received nearly $3 billion in free publicity! And that number is still climbing.

One suspects that the media’s ultimate goal is to help Trump get elected so they can sensationalize his fall from grace. It might be a great spectacle and great for ratings. But it would be unbelievably destructive for our nation.

There’s one way to avoid that possibility: Trust Hillary!

What The GOP Wants.

It’s easy to dismiss the mudslinging and hateful rhetoric of the speakers featured at the Republican National Convention as mere partisanship; as the typical hyperbole of a contested election. But the GOP platform shows that the fear and hate so prevalent at the convention is representative of the party’s deep-rooted beliefs.

On its surface, the GOP platform seems filled with platitudes and grandiose statements that may seem positive or, at worst, relatively harmless. But, if you look deeper, a different – more frightening – picture emerges.

The platform begins with a preamble that reaffirms the party’s commitment to the concept of “American Exceptionalism”… the very idea that led to the genocide of Native Americans, the meddling in foreign affairs, and the creation of “banana republics” as well as other puppet states that would be subservient to the US. And it further represents backward thinking by confusing the Constitution with the Articles of Confederation. (Yes, it’s true that our Founding Fathers originally committed to a limited federal government. But that was as a result of the differing beliefs of the original colonies, not the least of which was the colonies’ differing views toward slavery. But after the Revolution, the Founders wrote and ratified the Constitution which gives great, sweeping powers to the federal government.)

The platform only goes further downhill from there.

Despite our robust recovery from the Great Recession, the platform seeks to reinstate the very policies that led to the recession. It blames Democrats for the national debt despite the fact that the vast majority of the debt is the result of decisions made by the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations. Indeed, both the Clinton and Obama administrations have dramatically cut deficits created by Republicans.

The GOP platform calls for increased defense spending, claiming the Obama administration has shortchanged the defense budget for years despite the fact that the US currently spends more on the military than the next 9 nations combined – 7 of them strong US allies. And it contends that the Obama administration has refused to control our borders despite dramatic increases in border patrols and the apprehension and deportation of undocumented immigrants.

It claims that Democrats have attacked the production of energy and industry-related jobs while ignoring the reality that oil and gas production are at all-time highs, and that alternative energy production (wind and solar) has created millions of jobs. At the same time, the GOP denies the impact of technical innovation on the number of lost manufacturing jobs and its own role in providing tax incentives to multinational corporations that ship jobs overseas and hide profits offshore to avoid taxes.

The platform officially denies human-caused climate change while pandering to voters in coal country by proclaiming coal to be a “clean” energy source. It calls for a commitment to the already discredited “fair tax” that, if implemented, would not only give enormous tax breaks to the top 1 percent. It would add trillions to our national debt. And the platform perpetuates the myth that US corporations face the world’s highest tax obligations when, in reality, the US is tied with Tanzania for 64th in total tax obligations! Moreover, the US corporate tax obligation is lower than 22 of 32 OCED nations.

In addition to Trump’s notorious plan to build a wall along our Mexican border, the GOP would seek to build a virtual wall between us and our trading partners by trying to implement a series of harsh tariffs and other forms of bullying. The GOP would have you believe that Wall Street and corporations can regulate themselves free from any form of regulation. (We already know how disastrous that can be.) The platform pushes individual responsibility while excusing multinational corporations from their actions. At the same time, it seeks to diminish civil rights and equal opportunities for much of our population. It would also deny individuals many of the legal mechanisms needed to fight against injustice and predatory corporations.

The GOP platform calls for investment in our nation’s infrastructure while ignoring the fact that the only reason for our decaying infrastructure is the refusal of the party’s own members of Congress to vote for such initiatives. Moreover, Republicans didn’t just vote against those bills, they blocked many of them from ever coming to a vote. In addition, the platform continues the party’s long-standing attack on labor unions – the very institutions that helped build the middle class as the only way for workers to negotiate with management. (In case you haven’t noticed, as labor unions have been diminished, CEO and shareholder compensation have soared while the compensation of workers has stagnated. At the same time, the GOP has orchestrated the destruction of thousands of pension plans.)

Even more telling is the platform’s focus on exclusion – by unconstitutionally closing our borders to Muslims, by deporting millions of Latino immigrants, by denying civil rights to the LGBTQ community, by unconstitutionally establishing Christianity as the official religion of the US, and by diminishing the rights of women. In practice, GOP policies would diminish the rights of all those who look and think differently than white, male Republicans.

The party platform enshrines the GOP’s unwavering support of the 2nd Amendment. Yet, at the same time it embraces those who own the weapons of war, the GOP turns its back on those who are most vulnerable: Women who find themselves pregnant with a baby they cannot afford, women who wish to terminate a fetus that either endangers the mother’s life or is incapable of ever surviving on its own, the hopelessly impoverished who, without help, cannot reasonably expect to escape poverty; whose schools are underfunded; who live in areas without jobs and without access to public transportation.

The platform reaffirms the party’s intent to stack the judiciary from top to bottom with ideologues like the late Antonin Scalia. It would sell off public lands, including national parks. It would eliminate many regulatory agencies. It would privatize education and anything else that would allow corporations to profit. It would repeal Obamacare and return control of health care to insurance and pharmaceutical companies that would make health care unaffordable for tens of millions of Americans. It seeks to privatize Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. It would eliminate or diminish many of our other safety nets, including job training and food assistance.

The GOP platform indicates that the party will continue its assault on voting rights and its commitment to gerrymandering to ensure a GOP majority that does not reflect the composition of the voting public. It foments fear of others and distrust of government institutions. It doesn’t just seek to change government. It goes much further, seeking to impose a narrow set of “values” – to dictate morality and human behavior.

It is, perhaps, the most ideological document ever authored in the name of a political party. And, if implemented, it will negatively impact our nation for generations to come if, indeed, it doesn’t lead to its ultimate destruction. (If you think that’s mere hyperbole, consider the potential impact of the unabated burning of fossil fuels and environmental destruction that will make our planet uninhabitable.)

The Difficulty Of Disproving A Negative.

Once again, the Clintons have found themselves in the unenviable position of disproving negatives. Over more than 35 years, the GOP has accused them of wrongdoing and, when they have tried to prove their innocence, they have been labeled liars. According to the GOP, Bill lied about Gennifer Flowers. The GOP claims that the Clintons lied about Whitewater, about Travelgate, and about Vince Foster’s suicide. The GOP accuses Hillary of lying about Benghazi; of Bill’s motivation for meeting with Loretta Lynch. And conservatives are certain that Hillary lied about her use of a personal email server.

All of this has placed Hillary in the unenviable position of proving that she is not a liar. Even when she provides credible responses to the accusations, the GOP claims that, no matter what she says, she cannot be trusted. It doesn’t matter that there were attacks on US embassies in virtually every other administration. It doesn’t matter that both of the Secretaries of State who preceded Hillary also used private email servers during their terms. It doesn’t matter that both Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell deleted their emails from their time with the State Department. It doesn’t matter that the Bush administration funneled White House emails through the server at the Republican National Committee, then claimed that more than 22 million of government emails had been lost. It doesn’t matter that fact-checking services have found that Hillary has told the truth more than any of the candidates in the presidential race.

The unrelenting accusations have worked.

Despite having been the subjects of prolonged investigations costing a sum that must now be approaching $100 million, the only thing the GOP has been able to prove is that Bill was the recipient of oral sex from a young White House intern.

The GOP seems to have convinced much of the public that the Clintons can’t be trusted. Voters have heard the sound bites. They have read the accusations. But they don’t have time to read the explanations. They don’t have the patience for nuances.

Never mind that the last time the US created a budget surplus was under the Clinton administration. Never mind that the economy was booming during those years. Never mind that Hillary repaired US relations with allies that had been fractured during the Bush administration. Never mind that she helped open normal relations with some of our previous enemies. The Republicans and the ratings-obsessed news media have said that she’s a liar. Therefore, many of the voters plan to vote for Trump.

After all, Trump “tells it like it is.” More precisely, Trump tells it the way that angry white people and those disillusioned by decades of congressional gridlock caused by the GOP want to think it is.

It doesn’t seem to matter to them that Trump has resorted to making truthful statements only a tiny fraction of the time. It doesn’t seem to matter that he’s a proven con-man. It doesn’t matter that he gleefully incites racial hatred. It doesn’t matter that he has long-time connections to the mob. It doesn’t matter that he has been accused of fraud with regard to Trump University. It doesn’t matter that he is a misogynist. It doesn’t matter that he has been accused of sexual assault. It doesn’t matter that he has filed for bankruptcy at least 4 times. It doesn’t matter that he has been involved in more than 4,000 lawsuits and counting. It doesn’t matter that the few concrete policies he has proposed are blatantly unconstitutional and would add more than $1.6 trillion to the national debt. It doesn’t matter that many economists are convinced that he would collapse the world economy. It doesn’t matter that the leaders of other nations, including our allies, are frightened at the prospect of a President Trump.

What matters to them most is that Hillary used a private email server as Secretary of State and the GOP said that was wrong. So they’re going to vote for Trump. Un-freaking-believable!

Understanding The Trump Phenomenon.

The success of Trump the candidate seems to have confused liberals and conservatives alike. But it’s really not that difficult to understand if you look at the underlying causes.

First, there is great dissatisfaction among many Americans on both sides of the political spectrum. Both sides see growing poverty and a struggling middle class while, at the same time, a privileged few are thriving. Both see a dysfunctional Congress that now represents only a fraction of its constituents – those with the money and power to call in political favors.

As a highly accomplished con man, Trump has tapped into the voters’ smoldering anger toward government, fueled by Fox News Channel and virtually the entire radio spectrum of rightwing, hate radio. Using a tactic perfected by unsavory dictators, he has successfully focused the blame for our problems on outsiders and those on the fringes of our society. He has convinced a substantial portion of our population that the nation is struggling as the result of Mexican immigrants, Muslims, China and “political correctness” – an oversensitivity for minorities, Muslims, immigrants, women and the disabled. That has invited angry white men to dig out their Klan sheets and to say whatever racist, sexist things that cross their degenerate minds.

Far from being the successful business leader his supporters believe him to be (he is one of the few to ever lose money as the owner of a casino), Trump is really only accomplished at the arts of persuasion and branding. He refuses to deal in specifics, understanding that emotions matter more than facts or even truth.

Capitalizing on what I would call the Kardashian effect, Trump understood that his celebrity and outrageous statements are good for media. As a result, he has been able to manipulate the media’s greed to the point that CNN and even the so-called liberal cable network, MSNBC, were willing to spend airtime focused on an empty Trump podium waiting for Trump’s latest rant than to cover a policy speech by Hillary or a large rally for Bernie.

Trump has benefited from the chronically short attention spans of the public – a public unwilling, or unable, to research or to comprehend the issues. A public that disdains nuance and complicated answers for complex subject matter. An impatient public that views the world as black or white; good or bad; right or wrong. He has also benefited from a political environment based on tribalism – knowing that even those members of his party who despise him and everything he stands for will eventually fall in line to support him. And he has seemingly embraced the strategy of former GOP strategist, Paul Weyrich, who correctly posited that suppressing the vote – even if it means alienating a majority of potential voters – benefits Republicans.

Finally, he has benefited from a chronically disorganized and divided Democratic Party – a Party that lacks clear, decisive leadership; a Party that, without control of the media, has struggled to articulate its accomplishments and its message; a Party that has made it easy for people like Trump, Cruz, Ryan, McConnell, et al to promise everything, but deliver nothing.

Trumped-Up Presidential Qualifications.

Given that Donald J. Trump will soon be named the Republican nominee for president, there’s more than a little irony that, when we describe something that has been fabricated, concocted or fictitious, we commonly use the words “trumped-up.”

In fact, nothing could better describe the qualifications of the Republican nominee.

Yes, Republican voters have winnowed through all of their presidential hopefuls and decided that the best option to become leader of the free world; the best candidate to represent our nation; the one to implement changes in our economic system; the one to negotiate treaties and trade deals with other countries; the one to have access to our nuclear codes is The Donald.

They have decided that substance, facts and reason no longer matter. For them, it’s enough that Trump has promised to “make America great again.”

They have anointed Trump as their presidential candidate despite his history of more than 3,500 lawsuits – mostly against those who dared to disagree with him or to say or write the truth about him. They have voted for him despite the fact that he judges all women through the misogynistic eyes of a beauty pageant owner. They have selected him despite his reputed mob ties. They have touted his business acumen despite the fact that he has filed for bankruptcy four times; despite the fact that much of his financial success is based on tax avoidance and government subsidies; and despite the fact that he would actually have more money today if he had simply invested his inheritance in an index fund.

Republicans have convinced themselves that Trump is trustworthy and that his support cannot be bought because he is independently wealthy. Yet he was caught exploiting veterans. He and his failed Trump “University” are currently being sued for fraud. He is being investigated for bribery of state officials. Unlike every other presidential candidate for the past 40 years, he has refused to release his tax returns. And, when the Panama Papers were released, his name was reportedly mentioned hundreds of times in connection with offshore tax havens.

Trump supporters have deluded themselves into believing that the Donald is immune to corruption because he is “self-funding” his campaign. However, he has quietly accepted campaign contributions and used them to pay his own corporations for travel, hotels, even his New York campaign headquarters, thereby lining his pockets.

Many poor and middle class Americans seem to think that Trump cares about workers, yet it has been well-documented that a new hotel in Dubai bearing his name is being built with slave labor. They seem to think that he will end illegal immigration despite the fact that he has hired undocumented workers for his own projects. They believe that he will negotiate more advantageous international trade deals despite the fact that many world leaders find him abhorrent.

Republicans say they admire Trump’s “authenticity” despite the fact that he consistently fails most every fact check. (Thus far, during this presidential race, he has lied more than all of the other candidates combined.)

Trump supporters admire his aversion to political correctness which, in reality, is nothing more than being polite. He has freed them to say and do virtually anything they please, exposing a substantial undercurrent of racism in his campaign. He has emboldened and encouraged his supporters to commit acts of violence against protesters. And, not surprisingly, he has accepted endorsements from known racists, even leaders of the KKK.

Through the entire primary campaign, Trump has spoken in grandiose terms about his plans. Yet he has offered few specifics, and the few he has put forward have been proven completely unworkable. For example, his budget plan would add trillions to the national debt. Is it any wonder, then, that former Presidents and Secretaries of State (including those from Trump’s own party), military leaders, leaders in the intelligence community, business leaders, even the conservative Wall Street Journal have warned against voting for Trump?

In reality, Trump is the sort of divisive, narcissistic, self-aggrandizing bully not seen on the world stage since Benito Mussolini – the man who quite literally created fascism. (Think that’s too harsh? Then I’d suggest you compare videos of Mussolini with those of Trump – Il Duce versus Il Douche. Try to convince yourself that the postures, the attitudes, the smug expressions and the pouting lips aren’t identical.)

Supporters say they want to elect Trump because he’s different. He certainly is that – different, as in totally unqualified, as in wholly lacking the knowledge and temperament to be president. One can only conclude that America has gone mad – at least a significant portion of it.

Why We Should Be Even More Afraid Of Cruz And Rubio Than Donald Trump.

By now, most people know that Donald Trump is an insensitive, bigoted blowhard who would endanger all Americans and many others throughout the world. Yet despite his lack of policies, his grandiose promises, his angry rhetoric and threats, his refusal to denounce the endorsement by David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, and his willingness to engage in genital-measuring contests, in my opinion, he is not as great a threat as Cruz and Rubio.

Why? It’s readily apparent what the Donald is. But Trump has so dominated the media coverage that few people have examined the goals of Cruz and Rubio.

Let’s begin with Cruz. He’s an avowed Christian who approaches both politics and religion with the same evangelical zeal. In fact, he seems to happily conflate the two. If his religion was in the mold of the Christ he claims to follow – a healer who was accepting of others, who cared for the less fortunate and who promoted love and peace above all else – that might not be such a problem. But the Christianity that Cruz worships is xenophobic, misogynistic, angry, hateful and judgmental. Worse yet, Cruz wants to make his Christianity the official religion of our nation. Never mind that his position stands in stark contrast with the Constitution, Cruz claims to understand the true intentions of the Founding Fathers.

On the issues of abortion, education, environment, gun control, access to health care, immigration reform, LGBT rights, Social Security and tax reform, Cruz’s positions are not just to the right of the majority of American citizens. His positions are to the far, far right of most rightwing conservatives. In other words, Cruz represents the ideology of a tiny minority of wacko Americans. Further, he listens to virtually no one – not the majority of Americans; not the majority of his constituents; not even the majority of the Senate GOP caucus.

Cruz doesn’t even seem to care about the nation’s well-being – as evidenced by his almost single-handedly shutting down the federal government. He simply does what he wants (or what he claims God wants), all the while invoking religion with the evangelical speaking style of his father. That’s why he has been called the most hated man in Washington. And, if he became president, he would likely become the most hated man on the planet.

Rubio, on the other hand, presents a very different danger.

If elected representatives were held to the same standards as school children, Rubio would have been placed in a detention center for truancy long ago. He has the worst attendance record in Congress. Unlike Cruz, Rubiobot does and says what his wealthy contributors want him to. That’s why he continues to repeat the same lines over and over as if he has been pre-programmed by his contributors, Glenn Beck and George W. Bush’s foreign policy advisers. In fact, he has. Is it any wonder, then, that Rubio has threatened to invade half the nations in the Middle East and beyond?

Like Cruz and Trump, Rubio’s policy positions are way to the right of the majority of Americans. A Rubio presidency would be no less disastrous than that of Cruz’s or Trump’s. In fact, if you long for the “good old days” of a Bush presidency based on unjustifiable wars, unaffordable tax cuts and skyrocketing deficits, you have found your candidate in Rubio.

Such is the current state of the GOP.

Okay, GOP. Now What?

The past weekend’s results in South Carolina and the suspension of Jeb! Bush’s campaign leaves only one GOP candidate with the credentials to be president…John Kasich. And though he is extreme enough to collect the votes of some conservatives, he has little chance of winning.

The only candidates who have a real chance of winning the GOP nomination are a bombastic bully (Donald Trump) who could be the first candidate to actually make money in pursuit of the nomination; a theocratic snake (Ted Cruz) whose unusual version of Christianity led him to call for the indiscriminate carpet bombing of cities; and a remote-controlled robot (Marco Rubio) who takes direction from Glenn Beck and the same group of neo-con warmongers who manipulated the government under George W. Bush.

None of the three has the qualifications to hold the world’s most powerful office. Moreover, they all promise what they can and will do while offering few details of how they will do it. Little wonder. The few detailed plans they have offered are completely unworkable. For example, the tax plans put forward by the top 3 candidates would dramatically escalate both the deficit and national debt. According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, Trump’s plan would add $11.2 trillion to the national debt over the next decade. Cruz’s plan would add $10.2 trillion to the national debt. And Rubio’s plan would add a mere $8.2 trillion.

And these are the so-called conservatives?!! By comparison the current president they all hate so much is a piker…a true skinflint.

In addition, the GOP candidates would repeal Obamacare, once again making healthcare unaffordable for tens of millions of Americans. All of them would ignore climate change. Two of the Republican leaders claim they would deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. One (Trump) would ban Muslims from the US – a promise that appealed to 75 percent of the registered Republicans in South Carolina. Is it any wonder then that he won the primary?

For today’s GOP, it’s obvious that facts, truth, constitutionality and morality no longer matter. Instead of appealing to voters’ intellect, these candidates have chosen to appeal to emotions…specifically the emotions of hate and fear. Of course, if you have been paying attention to rightwing radio, Fox News Channel and Republican campaigns for the past several decades, that will come as no surprise.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress and rightwing media have done their best to destroy one of the most qualified presidential candidates. They continue to attack Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State. Never mind that her immediate predecessors also used private servers and received classified emails. Never mind that she has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the State Department and the FBI. She must have done something wrong if she is a Democrat who worked for President Obama. And Bernie Sanders? Even though he has been largely ignored by the media, he’s a Socialist Democrat! What more do you need to know? And though Republicans have not bothered to attack him, Hillary’s campaign and her surrogates have. Four of Bill Clinton’s economic advisers have pronounced Sanders’ plans as unaffordable. But wait! Other economists, including Robert Reich, Labor Secretary under President Clinton have endorsed Sanders’ plans, saying they could not only work, his universal health plan alone could save trillions of dollars.

But what are you going to trust? The facts and reason? Or your emotions and the lying Republicans?

After Paris, What Next?

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris, the Republican presidential candidates and others are calling for President Obama to deploy a large force of troops in Iraq and Syria. There are those who want to prohibit Syrian refugees from entering our country…unless they are Christian. And, as with every terrorist attack, there are those who blame all of Islam. Donald Trump even called for the closure of all mosques in the US!

As awful as the attacks were, we all need to take a collective deep breath. Let’s not over-react by trying to punish all Muslims and excluding refugees from western countries. Let’s not allow ourselves to be caught in between the angry religious crusaders on the right and the na├»ve apologists on the left.

It’s important to understand that most Muslims have condemned the attacks and oppose terrorism. The extremists who carried out the attacks on behalf of ISIS do not represent the vast majority of Muslims any more than Westboro Baptist Church represents all Christians. Yet it’s undeniable that the attacks and jihadist extremism are associated with radical Islamic fundamentalists.

Before we act, we should understand that the problem began in Saudi Arabia with a narrow ideology called Wahhabi (aka Salafi) fundamentalism. It divides all people into two groups – the Wahhabis (who will go to heaven) and infidels (Muslims, Christians, Jews, etc. who will not). This divisive belief system is still popular in Saudi Arabia today and it was exported to western Pakistan during the Afghan resistance to the Soviet invasion. It is still taught in Pakistani madrassas with the help of textbooks created by the University of Nebraska at Omaha and paid for by USAid that portrayed the invaders as western infidels. (Not surprisingly, many of the children taught in these madrassas later became the Taliban.) It is still nourished and funded by some Saudi billionaires. And it was used to justify the attacks on 9/11 as payback for the US military presence in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War (15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi citizens).

This form of Islam (based on 7th century beliefs and laws) became even more virulent following the US invasion of Iraq which led to the disenfranchisement of thousands of Sunnis and the appearance of the US waging war against Islam. Ultimately, this led many Sunnis and desperate youth (who have grown of age in a war zone) to coalesce into what we now know as ISIS.

All of this has been made worse by years of turmoil in the Middle East which has caused Muslim refugees to relocate throughout the region, Europe and the US. While the first generation of these refugees embraced their new countries, their children have too often found themselves feeling isolated, unemployed and the victims of racism and repression. Now in their twenties, some of these second generation refugees are easy marks for extremist recruiters.

What can be done to prevent more terror attacks, such as those that were carried out in Paris?

First, we must be careful not to over-react. As Maajid Nawaz, founder of the counter-terrorist organization, Quillium, said during an interview on Global Public Square with Fareed Zakaria, “Now is not the time to think like ISIS along religious lines.” We must not allow ourselves to follow those who want to attack and isolate Islam. Second, we need to militarily destroy ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Third, we must root out the extremist mullahs and recruiters. But, in doing so, we cannot allow our actions to be seen as a war on Islam. That will only make matters worse.

We must recognize that militarily defeating the ISIS will not, by itself, end terrorism.

More than anything else, we must focus on preventing the next generation of terrorists. We must deal with the conditions and issues that allowed Islamic terrorism to flourish. We must include young Muslim youth in our culture. We must replace their frustration and isolation with opportunity and hope. (The countries that have best succeeded in doing that, such as Germany and the US, have experienced fewer problems with home-grown terrorism than France and others.) And we must starve the extremists of funding.

As Nawaz said, “…this is an ideas problem in a civil society less so than a physical military problem.”

What Does Your Party Stand For?

These days, it’s popular to say that there is no real difference between the political parties; that they are both in the pockets of large corporations. While it is true that, following recent Supreme Court decisions, both parties rely on the wealthy for campaign donations, there are sizeable differences in what the two parties stand for.

Based on its actions of the past 50 years, here’s what the Republican Party stands for: Large corporations, increased corporate welfare, increased mining, increased oil production, increased deforestation, increased corporate farming, increased corporate fishing, off-shoring of jobs and corporate profits, unfettered financial markets, tax cuts for corporations, tax cuts for the wealthy, privatization of Social Security, elimination of Medicaid and Medicare, elimination of Obamacare, more defense spending, more wars, more militarization of police, more guns (except at GOP events), the end of legal abortions, reduced access to contraception, elimination of the minimum wage, elimination of food stamps for the needy, elimination of estate taxes, elimination of labor unions, elimination of defined benefit pensions (except for corporate executives), elimination of family leave (except for corporate executives), elimination of the EPA, elimination of the FDA, elimination of the Dept. of Labor, elimination of the Dept. of Education, elimination of free public education, deportation of all undocumented immigrants, discrimination against women, discrimination against college students, discrimination against people of color, discrimination against gays, discrimination against non-Christians, a new Constitution based on the Ten Commandments, and limited voting rights based on color, age and income.

Here’s what the Democratic Party stands for: Virtually everything the Republican Party is against.

I truly wish all of this was an exaggeration. But, in fact, all of these policies have been supported by one or more of the GOP presidential candidates either by words or action.

What If We Applied The NRA Philosophy Internationally?

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

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

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

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

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

Why the difference?

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