Where Has All The Money Gone?

In 2015, Michigan State economics professor, Mark Skidmore became curious when he heard former assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Catherine Austin Fitts mention that the Pentagon couldn’t account for $6.5 trillion in spending. So he asked Fitts and a team of his graduate students to help him confirm that number. After poring over public documents, the team discovered that the original number was inaccurate.

Instead of $6.5 trillion in unsupported spending, the team found that the actual number is $21 trillion – a sum equivalent to our entire national debt!

Even if that number is flawed (and there’s no reason to believe that it is), there is plenty of evidence to show that the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned about has severely damaged our nation’s economic health. For example, it is estimated that our misadventures in the Vietnam civil war cost us $1.3 trillion in 2017 dollars. The cost of care for Vietnam vets has cost us at least $1 trillion to date. And neither of those figures include the billions of dollars wasted on supplies fraudulently sold through the black market in Vietnam.

It is estimated that the Reagan-era tax cuts and military build-up contributed $3 trillion to our national debt. The Bush tax cuts contributed an additional $10 trillion to the debt. The cost of our war in Afghanistan – now our longest-running war – is $2.4 trillion and counting. The cost of care for Afghan war vets is $1 trillion. Our invasion of Iraq cost yet another $2.6 trillion. And the cost of care for Iraq war vets is estimated at $1.3 trillion.

In addition, the US has spent more than $61 billion in the reconstruction of Iraq. Another $8 billion of US funds is missing in Iraq. $45 billion is missing in Afghanistan. And, claiming that the cost of transportation is too great to bring military equipment home, the Pentagon ordered it buried in the sands of Kuwait.

The Pentagon’s F-35 joint strike fighter program has already cost more than $450 billion and is expected to top out at more than $1.5 trillion. Yet it has failed almost every test. In the words of two military analysts, “It can’t turn, can’t climb and can’t run.” And in another blatant display of waste, Congress authorized spending hundreds of millions of dollars for Abrams tanks that the Army doesn’t even want.

How has the Trump administration and Congress responded to all of this spending? They increased the Pentagon budget by another $700 billion! Then they passed a tax cut for corporations and the wealthy that is expected to add yet another $1-2 trillion to the national debt over the next decade!

Of course, the GOP has a plan to pay for all this spending. As articulated by Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, they plan to cut spending through “entitlement reform.” In other words, the GOP plans to cut funding for Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP and Social Security.

Maybe – just maybe – there’s another way. Imagine if, instead of spending our money on unnecessary wars and tax cuts for the rich, we spent that money for good. Imagine if we spent it on health care for our citizens; on education; on rebuilding our infrastructure; on scientific achievements; on lifting people out of poverty; on eradicating disease. We could do all of that and more with just the money the Pentagon wastes.

Author William Blum put our current military budget in context when he said, “Do you know what one year of the US military budget is equal to? One year. It’s equal to more than $20,000 per hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born.”

And that doesn’t even include the trillions of dollars in Pentagon spending that are missing or unaccounted for.

A Stark Contrast.

I truly appreciate the views of my conservative friends with regard to politics. After all, I was raised in a reliably Republican household. I believe in eliminating government waste. I believe that people should take responsibility for the own lives and their own actions. Even after the GOP was over-run with religious extremists, I shared many of the party’s beliefs. For most of my life, I was an independent voter.

The party lost me was when the Nixon-Agnew ticket used propaganda and lies to divide us; when Nixon intervened in the Paris peace talks with North Vietnam for political advantage; when the Nixon administration created the War on Drugs for the purpose of marginalizing and incarcerating minorities which were seen as political opponents; when Nixon tried to subvert our democracy by ordering the burglary of the DNC offices in the Watergate complex.

I was further alienated when Ronald Reagan reportedly sent envoys to meet with Iran’s Islamic leaders to delay the release of our embassy hostages until after his election; when the GOP tried to marginalize those who disagreed with its “Moral Majority” presuming that its opponents were immoral; when the Reagan administration eliminated the tax write-offs for interest on loans other than mortgages creating history’s largest tax increase on the middle class; when the Reagan administration trained Central American death squads and was caught selling weapons to Iran in order to meddle in Central American politics.

As someone with a journalism degree, I was horrified when President H.W. Bush engineered the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine – an action that turned our electronic news media into little more than megaphones for the propaganda spewed by Fox News Channel and the rantings of conservative radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and the dozens of other hate-mongers who dominate more than 90 percent of talk radio.

As a former business owner, I was infuriated when my larger competitors received a myriad of GOP-initiated tax breaks and subsidies that were unavailable to my company.

I was shocked when then Florida governor Jeb Bush corrupted the Florida elections that his brother might be awarded the White House – a fact later proven by a consortium of independent media. I was infuriated when, after reading Richard (the Dick) Cheney’s Plan for a New American Century which included a call for the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration acted on the plan based on false and misleading information. I became disgusted when the GOP co-opted the US flag and patriotism by denigrating anyone who opposed its ill-conceived wars.

I could go on to include the vast increases in our national debt caused by Reagan and Bush tax cuts that largely benefited the very rich, the attack on labor unions, the undermining of defined benefit pension plans, the housing crash and subsequent financial collapse of 2008, the utter disregard for the poor and the hungry, the attempts to privatize our public lands – including numerous national treasures – for development, the dismissal of science to maintain the profits of fossil fuel companies at the cost of the health of our planet, and the unfounded and racist attacks on our first black president.

Through all of that, I could still empathize with my conservative relatives and friends and their strongly-held principles of personal responsibility and cutting government waste. But now…now…the party has taken a step way too far.

It has nominated Donald J. Trump for president!

This is a bombastic billionaire who has said and done hundreds of despicable things – any one of which would have disqualified other candidates from pursuing the office. By any traditional measure, he is unfit for the office of dog catcher, let alone the highest office in the land. Following is an abbreviated list:

Family values? Trump is thrice-married and twice-divorced. (Former Senator Gary Hart was famously disqualified for seeking the nomination for a single affair and President Clinton faced impeachment by Republicans over a sexual incident with a White House intern.) He has been accused of a violent rape by one of his ex-wives. He has been accused of sexually assaulting other women, including minors. He has even publicly displayed lechery toward his own daughter, saying if she wasn’t his daughter he’d like to have sex with her!

Demeanor? Trump thrives on name-calling. He encouraged his supporters to assault those who demonstrate against him. And he has talked about physically assaulting those who spoke out against him at the Democratic National Convention.

Patriotism? Trump successfully sought a draft deferment for bone spurs in his foot – an injury that did not prevent him from competing in college athletics. When asked, he said that he couldn’t even remember which foot was injured. He also lied about donating the proceeds of a rally to charity.

Business acumen? Trump inherited much of his wealth yet, even by his own estimation of his wealth, he has earned less than if he had simply invested his inheritance in a stock index fund. He is also one of a very few casino owners who has declared bankruptcy – something previously considered impossible. And he is hated by many in Scotland and Florida for his golf course developments.

Business ethics? He has been involved in thousands of lawsuits – many of them from contractors he refused to pay for their services. He is currently being sued by a girl scout troop that he refused to pay after they performed at a rally. His bankruptcies allowed him to walk away with millions while leaving his creditors – most of them small business owners – in the lurch. And he is currently being sued for fraud over his Trump “University.”

Charity? When it comes to donations to charities, Trump has long been known as a cheapskate and, according to The Washington Post, he has donated precious little to his own Trump Foundation.

Honesty? His acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention contained no fewer than 21 lies! And, according to fact-checking organizations such as Politifact.com, throughout the campaign, he has been the least honest of all of the major party candidates. And it’s not even close.

Empathy? Some have called him a “Blue Collar Billionaire.” Seriously? Is there really such a thing? Trump conducts many of his media interviews while sitting in a gold chair in a gold-decorated penthouse that has more in common with a dictator’s palace than a blue collar family’s home. In addition, he has made numerous racist statements. He is guilty of race-baiting at his rallies. And he famously demeaned a reporter for a physical disability.

Understanding of foreign policy? Republican strategist Nicolle Wallace recently stated that Trump has less knowledge of foreign policy than Sarah Palin! She went on to say that while Palin wanted to learn, but couldn’t, Trump is completely disinterested in the subject. Further, Trump said that the US should exit the WTO (World Trade Organization), a move that would be devastating to US businesses.

Preparedness to lead? Trump has never held office, except in his own corporation. He has no understanding of the workings of our government and no commitment to public service. One has to question if he has even read our Constitution. After all, many of his promises would be blatantly unconstitutional. Maybe that’s why 4 of the last 5 people to receive the GOP nomination for president refused to attend his coronation…er…nomination at the RNC convention. Maybe that’s why the Republican governor of the host state refused to attend. And maybe that’s why none of the living presidents has endorsed him.

Understanding of national security? Trump has stated that he wouldn’t necessarily support our NATO allies against an invasion (presumably by Russia). Worse, he called for Russia to hack the emails of a former cabinet secretary and political opponent! As a result, many in our intelligence community do not want to include him in the customary briefings on national security.

Okay, I know many of my conservative friends and relatives dislike and distrust Hillary. Yes, I know you’ve probably heard accusations that Hillary stole investors’ money in Whitewater; that she unconstitutionally fired those who worked in the White House Travel Office; that she ordered the murder of Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster; that she put the US consulate in Benghazi at risk and ordered the military to stand down when it was attacked; that she “illegally” used a private email server for State Department business then, when caught, erased thousands of incriminating emails.

Certainly, Hillary has made mistakes, but they are mistakes made while serving others. Though she misread the commitment of moderate rebels in Libya and Syria, so did most of the world leaders. Though she was horrified at the attack on the consulate, there was no opportunity to save the ambassador and, contrary to right wing claims, she had no authority to tell the military to stand down. Though she admits to making a mistake by using a private email server like her Republican predecessor as Secretary of State, there was no apparent harm done, except to her reputation. And though she has made statements that were later proven false, she is a beacon of honesty compared to her opponent.

Those are not the excuses of an apologist. Those are facts.

Few talk about the many things she has done right during a lifetime of service. Moreover, few people on our planet have undergone such scrutiny as the Clintons. The investigations into the so-called “scandals” have cost roughly $100 million over a quarter century. They have garnered billions of dollars of media coverage in a constant drip, drip, drip that has been orchestrated by her political opponents. Yet, after all of the investigations led by Republicans and government agencies, little of substance has been found – certainly nothing that would disqualify her from seeking the presidency.

Her opponent, on the other hand, constantly demonstrates – with his mouth and his actions – that he is completely unfit for office.

Beware The Politics Of Self-Righteous Zealotry.

For many years, we’ve heard network pundits talk about a “war on Christianity” and call for the US to officially become a Christian nation. Such talk would have made our Founding Fathers cringe. After all, many of them had settled in the US, like some of my ancestors did, as the result of religious persecution in Europe. Our earliest European settlers were Puritans, Huguenots, Quakers, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Jews and others who had fled their homes in search of religious freedom.

Yet, some of the original colonies themselves began imposing their religious views on others, claiming that a particular denomination was the official religion of the colony and taxing all citizens to support that denomination. It was as a result of such discrimination that those who wrote the US Constitution included the wording that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Nevertheless, preying on our citizens’ fear of radical Islamic terrorism, many of our political candidates continue to call for the US to be named a Christian nation. One wants to prohibit certain immigrants based on their religion. Others want to “return our nation to its Christian values.”

That may be good politics. But it is dangerous policy. After all, almost every atrocity in the world has been committed in the name of righteousness – crimes committed as the result of zealotry for an ideology based on the ends justifying the means.

Such atrocities have been committed in the name of Christianity, Islam, Judaism…even Buddhism. But the problem doesn’t just lie with religion. Out of the same kind of self-righteous zealotry, they have also been committed in the name of communism, fascism and capitalism. Almost always, such crimes are not considered crimes by those committing them – the true believers believe that they are doing the right thing for their religion, their nation or their children. Such was the case when the Bush administration zealously decided to impose democracy in Iraq resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands (some say hundreds of thousands) Iraqis.

There have been examples of other destructive examples of self-righteous zealotry in the US. The KKK murdered blacks under the cross of Christianity. Senator Joe McCarthy accused, investigated, blacklisted and imprisoned many who failed to demonstrate that they were not communists or communist sympathizers (it’s always difficult to prove a negative). The same mentality led to the John Birch Society which believed both the Soviet Union and the US were led by a cabal of internationalists, bankers and corrupt politicians. Its leader even accused President Eisenhower of being a communist. The same rightwing conservatives wrapped themselves in the cloak of Christianity to draw greater distinctions between righteous Americans and the godless communists. To distinguish themselves from communism, they pushed through legislation replacing the original national motto “E Pluribus Unum” – from many one – with “In God We Trust.” They added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. And congressional members of The Fellowship, aka The Family, instituted the National Prayer Breakfast at the capitol, a quasi-governmental Christian event that has been held every year since 1953.

Much of the conservative-based zealotry was driven underground after Edward R. Murrow focused attention on the abuses of McCarthyism and after William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater shunned the John Birch Society. But the ideology never went away. As a result, we are now seeing conservatives again using religion to divide. The movement again raised its ugly head with the “Moral Majority” of the 70s and 80s. About the same time, the GOP’s “southern strategy” reached out to racist southern Democrats who were outraged by the Civil Rights Act. GOP politicians also latched onto the issues of abortion and the so-called “sanctity of marriage” to embolden the “righteous” and further divide us. And they claim that any attempt to prevent the establishment of Christianity as the official state religion – the placement of Christian symbols and the institution of mandatory Christian prayers in public schools and government meetings – is a “war on Christianity.” You can hear such accusations at any GOP presidential debate, at most GOP rallies and on GOP media such as Fox News Channel.

Now you may wonder, what harm could come from institutionalizing Christian values in our government? The answer lies in history – the history of Christian Protestants and others being persecuted and driven out of their homes by Catholic Christians. That’s not to say that Catholicism is any worse, or better, than other religions. It’s just that one person’s religious values can easily become another person’s religious persecution.

Though it is true that the US has long been predominately Christian, it has never been a Christian nation, and it never should be. When we hear politicians like Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and others call for special treatment of those who believe in one religion over another, or over those who believe in no religion at all, we should all be mindful that our Founding Fathers created our Constitution and our government to end tyranny, including tyranny by the majority.

To learn how a government led by a self-righteous authoritarian like Trump might look like, I encourage you to read Thom Hartmann’s excellent essay for AlterNet.org.

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?

The Attempted Destruction Of A Candidate.

Since she was Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has been the presumptive Democratic nominee for the office of president. And, of course, that has made her the prime target for Teapublican attacks. There is simply no other explanation for the continued investigation into the attack on our Benghazi consulate. In fact, few other incidents in US history have received such scrutiny. Not the attack on a Marine base in Lebanon during the Reagan administration. Not the sale of weapons to Iran during the Iran-Contra scandal under Reagan. Not the attacks on 9/11 during the Bush administration. Not even the run-up to our invasion of Iraq on false pretenses.

For nearly 3 years, there has been a near constant drumbeat of rumors and accusations by Teapublicans over the Benghazi attack. Only Obamacare has been the subject of more Teapublican rants than Benghazi. We even have a select congressional committee on Benghazi. Yet, despite no evidence of wrongdoing by Hillary or anyone in the Obama administration, the “scandal” persists. Indeed, it has grown into “e-mailgate” over Clinton’s decision to use her own e-mail and her husband’s computer server, instead of the one provided for her by the State Department.

Was she trying to hide something? Did she illegally use her husband’s server to receive and send classified information? Could the server have been hacked? More to the point, was she trying to hide what really happened at Benghazi from Teapublican congressmen?

Multiple investigations have proven that the answer to all of those questions is an emphatic no!

Clinton provided all of her e-mails from the server regarding State Department business – more than 30,000 – which have been poured over by the FBI and still there is no evidence of wrongdoing. But the purported scandal will not go away. It continues to expand. Each and every day, the so-called “liberal” media publish yet another story of a new Teapublican allegation. Now the FBI has been given access to all of Clinton’s personal e-mails. Of course, this is exactly what Teapublicans have been fishing for.

Be prepared for her private e-mails to be leaked to Teapublicans and then to the Press. Anything that can possibly be portrayed as negative, deceitful or unethical will show up in the media. And, if there happens to be one e-mail that can be construed as a “bombshell,” it will be released next summer during the peak of the presidential campaign.

We’ve seen this act before.

In 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for president, there were numerous allegations and investigations into Whitewater, an ill-fated investment in which Republicans claimed that the Clintons had defrauded other investors, but, in fact, the Clintons lost money themselves. That “scandal” was followed by Troopergate, Fostergate, Billarygate and numerous other “gates.” All of them were simply fishing expeditions to find dirt on the Clintons. Only after expending 6-7 years and more than $70 million, did Republicans finally strike paydirt when Monica Lewinsky’s friend outed her relationship with Clinton leading to a congressionally-appointed Special Prosecutor who was freed to dig into every corner and crevice of the Clintons’ lives.

In fact, the Republican obsession had little to do with the Clintons themselves. Like the elephant that serves as the Republican logo, Republicans have long memories. They are still looking for payback over the threatened impeachment and resignation of Richard Nixon. They first tried to pin a scandal on Jimmy Carter and settled for the Iran hostage crisis which was extended by Reagan’s treasonous agreement with the Iranians to hold the hostages until after the presidential elections. They tried to pin anything and everything on Bill Clinton. And they failed at painting Barack Obama as a radical Muslim Kenyan unqualified to hold the office.

Now they’ve turned their attention to Hillary.

Of course, the Teapublicans could not have any success with such manufactured scandals if not for a compliant, corrupt and lazy Press; a Press that is all too happy to fawn over every bombastic word that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth; a Press that happily publishes accusations leveled at Hillary without any attempt to research the accusations and to put them into context.

For example, did you know that Hillary was not legally bound to use a government e-mail server? Did you know that the State Department’s server was hacked while Clinton’s remained secure? (It is, after all, a server shared with a former president of the United States.) Did you know that the previous two Secretaries of State, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, also used private e-mail accounts while in office? And did you know that Karl Rove and the Bush administration funneled millions of e-mails regarding government business through a server owned by the Republican National Committee and, when asked to produce those e-mails, erased them?

Where was the outrage then? Where were the congressional investigations? Where was the Press?

When Journalism Becomes Propaganda.

Where do you go for news? Do you rely on a single source? Do you read beyond the headlines? Do you take the time to explore beyond the sound bites? Do you take the time to fact check statements by politicians? Do you check the veracity of chain emails and posts on social media?

Most people realize that news media can be biased. But do you know the extent of media bias? Of the 152 Fox News Channel statements checked by Politifact.com, 118 (77%) were found to be half true, mostly false, false or pants on fire lies. And, of the 21 statements made by Rush Limbaugh, none were true. Most other conservative radio hosts fare no better. Yet these people represent more than 90 percent of talk radio.

Of course, none of this should come as a surprise to any but the most partisan among us.

And if you think the mainstream media are liberal, you’ve been listening to far too many conservatives. Studies have shown that an overwhelming majority of the guests invited to appear on the Sunday morning network news shows are conservative. Most newscasts and newspapers are no better. Even when the media try to be objective they fail. What passes for journalistic objectivity these days consists of presenting both the Teapublican and Democratic sides of an issue. There are seldom any follow-up questions. No attempt to provide context. No attempt to get at the truth.

In states like Arizona, the only way a Democrat can make headlines is if he or she gets caught doing something wrong. Yet the same media constantly cover and promote conservative initiatives and points of view. The same is true for stories about government entities, such as the VA or the EPA. The media love to portray the government as the enemy. As mentioned in a previous post, most media reported on the toxic spill in the Animas River. But few took the time or effort to find out the causes for the spill and to put it into context with regard to other environmental accidents. For most media, the fact that the spill was caused by a contractor working for the EPA – the agency that is supposed to protect the environment – was the story. The entire story.

You can see the same mentality at work with regard to the Hillary Clinton email “scandal.” Almost all of the media have led with the story. But how many have mentioned that Clinton did nothing illegal? How many have mentioned that when Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice were Secretaries of State, they also used private email servers? How many have mentioned that the Bush White House funneled emails through the Republican National Committee’s email server, then deleted more than 20 million emails after they were requested by Congress to learn more about the outing of Valerie Plame and the run-up to the Iraq War?

You can also see conservative bias in the time and space devoted to coverage of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. They have similar poll numbers. Yet, even though Bernie Sanders has drawn larger crowds, Sanders is largely ignored while Trump is constantly in the headlines. The problem is made worse by the news editors’ desire to promote ratings or readership. Donald Trump is a celebrity. Bernie Sanders is not.

And, as long as we’re on the subject of polls, never underestimate how the media can influence issues by the way they ask questions. For example, CNN recently asked half of its poll respondents if Congress should approve or reject the Iran deal. At the same time, CNN asked the other half how they felt about a deal that would place major restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and greater international inspection of Iran’s nuclear facilities. CNN chose only to report the results to the first question which showed that a majority think Congress should reject the deal. It chose not to report the results to the second question which showed that the majority was in favor of the deal.

Only 6 companies now own the vast majority of television networks and cable or satellite carriers. 5 corporations control the majority of radio. 5 corporations control most large newspapers. And 5 corporations control a huge portion of online media. These corporations have one agenda – to make money. They demand higher ratings and greater numbers of subscribers. If it serves their interests to distort the news in order to increase those ratings, they’ll do it. And, these days, people want to hear from angry conservatives. They want to blame their problems on undocumented immigrants. They want to read stories about an out-of-control government. Who cares if the stories are unfair and untrue?

Yet, if our news media are not accurate and fair; if they do not provide context; if they prioritize facts over truth; if they are swayed by ratings, they do not practice journalism. They are merely engaging in propaganda. And if you rely on them to make decisions, you are a victim of that propaganda. So is our nation.

You simply can’t sit back and expect the media to inform you. You have to work at it. It may be frustrating and sometimes boring work. But, with the availability of online news sources and fact-checkers, it’s not that difficult. After all, our nation was founded on the expectation of an informed voting public. Indeed, it is the most important principle on which the nation was built.

The US Is No Longer A Democracy. Here’s How It Happened.

Last year, a study from Princeton and Northwestern universities, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens,” concluded that the US government no longer represents the interests of the majority of the nation’s citizens. Instead, it panders to the rich and powerful.

In other words, the US has become an oligarchy defined as a government by the few, a small group that exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.

More recently, President Jimmy Carter, commenting on how big money has subverted our elections, said, “It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations.”

The US didn’t become an oligarchy by accident. We got here as the result of a long list of political decisions designed to pander to the wealthy and the powerful. Here’s how:

During the 1800s, the US went from a largely agrarian society to a society based on the industrial revolution. This created some extremely wealthy individuals often referred to as the “Robber Barons,” who took advantage of cheap labor created by the influx of immigrants. They paid little and subjected their employees to horrific working conditions. During this so-called Gilded Age, the wealthy chose the candidates and ran the nation until the masses began to rebel.

In the early 1900s, the Gilded Age ended when workers began to unionize. The wealthy responded by hiring the police and ex-military (the American Legion) to break the labor strikes by bashing some heads. In reality, it was America’s second civil war.

When the Great Depression struck, the nation moved even further toward socialism which caused the wealthy to try to arrange the assassination of President Franklin Roosevelt. In fact, many of the industrialists wanted the nation’s government to reflect the fascist governments of Italy and Germany. Their agenda was interrupted with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, World War II and the revelations of the Nazi death camps. And they were forced to accept the will of the masses until the 1970s when President Richard Nixon and Vice-President Spiro Agnew attacked the new media in order to deflect criticism of their policies.

By raising questions about the objectivity of the media which were embraced by conservatives, it set the stage (intentionally or not) for the Reagan administration and its economic policy of “Trickle Down” theory. This was nothing more than a return to the “Horse and Sparrow” economics of the gilded age, during which government policies were carefully crafted to benefit the wealthy under the theory that if you feed enough oats (money) to the horses (the wealthy) enough will fall on the road to feed the sparrows (the masses).

Reagan portrayed the government and its regulation of industry as the enemy. He attacked labor unions. He lowered taxes for the wealthy. He increased the amount of money exempted from estate taxes. He deregulated the media by eliminating the Fairness Doctrine which held media accountable to serve in the public interest. And he lowered capital gains taxes, which allowed the wealthy to keep more of their primary sources of income – interest and dividends from investments.

With the wealthy allowed to accumulate more money, labor unions on the defensive and an emasculated press, the table was set for the oligarchs. All of this was made worse by Grover Norquist, Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed who showed the Republican National Committee that it could thrive by eliminating compromises from our political discussions and treating politics as war – a blood sport. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich took congressional dysfunction a step further by transforming the GOP into a parliamentary-style party in which the entire Party is unified on every vote. If you dare to break ranks with Party, you are punished in the next primary and election.

Add to all of this the more than $28 billion lobbying industry, which is financed almost exclusively by the rich and the powerful, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which writes laws on behalf of its corporate sponsors then hands them to its conservative members to sponsor in their state legislatures where the bills are often passed with little discussion or examination, and the George W. Bush administration which cut income taxes for the rich by 4.6 percent and all but eliminated the estate tax.

The last major player is the conservative majority on the US Supreme Court, which by 3 decisions (Buckley v Valeo, Citizens United v FEC and McCutcheon v FEC) unleashed a torrent of money in campaign donations from the oligarchs. So much so, that candidates should have to wear NASCAR-style uniforms with labels of their sponsors. Indeed, of the nearly $400 million donated to presidential candidates so far this year, nearly half has come from fewer than 400 families!

Given all of this, no election in our history has been as critical as next year’s. We can either continue further down the road of oligarchy by electing candidates who try to divide us over social issues while pandering to the wealthy. Or we can elect candidates of change – real change. Candidates who will put the power of the government back in the hands of the people.

That’s why I support Bernie Sanders.

A Voter’s Guide To The GOP Debate.

Now that the defacto head of the Republican Party, Roger Ailes of Fox News Channel, has announced the participants in the first GOP presidential debate, here are a few things you should know about the candidates:

Donald Trump – You already know he’s rich (he tells everyone at every opportunity) and that he’s a bully and blowhard. But did you know that, despite inheriting a fortune from his father, he has filed for bankruptcy protection four times? Or that, on multiple occasions, it has been reported that he has ties to the Mob? Or that Trump was the target of a 1979 bribery investigation? Or that virtually every statement he has made during his presidential campaign has been a lie? To learn more, watch the documentary at TrumpTheMovie.com.

Jeb Bush – You know that he is the son of George HW Bush and the brother of George W Bush. But do you know that it is well-documented that he actively subverted our democratic process by helping to steal the 2000 presidential election in Florida? Did you know that he has the same neo-con foreign policy advisors as his brother – the ones who led us into an unnecessary and unjustifiable war in Iraq? Did you know that the job growth he claims as governor of Florida came almost exclusively from the housing bubble? And that, when the bubble burst, the median income for Floridians declined by $5,700 – double that of the nation as a whole? Or that 200,000 fewer Florida families own their homes than in 2005?

Scott Walker – The only presidential candidate currently under indictment. John Dean, general counsel for the Nixon administration has said of Walker, “I find him more Nixonian than even Richard Nixon himself…a conservative without a conscience.” After Walker was elected, he has shown himself to be the ultimate bully and dictator. In addition to stripping state employee unions of collective bargaining rights, he led the gerrymandering of legislative districts, stacked the state’s Supreme Court then rewrote campaign finance laws and tried to narrow the open records law.

And what about Wisconsin’s economy under Walker? Thanks to GOP-style tax cuts, the state’s spending exceeds revenue, the state’s GDP ratio has dropped to -9.9 percent and the state’s federal spending to revenue ratio has nearly doubled. Wisconsin now receives $1.59 for each $1.00 it contributes in taxes.

Mike Huckabee – Once a fairly moderate governor, Huckabee seems to have gone nuts. Maybe it’s because you have to be batcrap crazy to win in the GOP. Maybe he spent too much time on Fox News Channel. Or maybe he’s been hearing too many voices. He calls evolution a theory (By the same standard, gravity is just a theory), not an established fact. He doesn’t believe in gay marriage, contraception, abortion or transgender rights. He wants to change the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards. He thinks it would be great if Americans were forced at gunpoint, if necessary, to listen to every message from David Barton (evangelist and author). And he is delusional enough to believe that most of our Founding Fathers were clergymen. (Yeah, that’s why they called for separation of Church and State.)

Marco Rubio – The GOP’s great Latino hope, Rubio has long claimed to be a refugee of Castro’s Cuba. Only the records show that his family left Cuba more than two years before the Cuban Revolution. He doesn’t believe man has contributed to climate change. He doesn’t believe in the minimum wage, abortion or employer coverage of contraception. He does, however, support comprehensive immigration reform. And though he receives a handsome salary as a US Senator, he moonlights as a university teacher, causing him to miss 99 Senate votes in 4 years – 8.3 percent!

Ben Carson – He’s smart and a celebrated surgeon, but when it comes to politics, he’s a wacko as they come. He supports a flat tax (he calls it a “proportional tax” in reference to the biblical tithe) which would destroy the poor and the middle class. He is stridently anti-gay rights, believing homosexuality is a choice and he likens gay marriage to pedophilia and bestiality. He said the Affordable Care Act is “the worst thing that has happened to this nation since slavery.” His answer to Obamacare is creating a health savings account for every American at birth. Apparently, when the money in the account has run out (and for many it will), you die.

Rand Paul – Anti-government, anti-tax, anti-abortion, anti-gun control and pro-states’ rights. He believes the primary Constitutional function of the federal government is national defense. ‘Nuff said.

Ted Cruz – Mr. filibuster and Tea Party darling. Cruz’s only real accomplishments prior to the Senate were to strengthen the NRA, help prepare testimony for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and help steal the 2000 election for George W Bush. In the Senate, about all he has done is to shut down the government, sponsor bills to repeal Obamacare and lie. Of the 50 statements fact-checked by Politifact Texas, 35 have been rated mostly false, false or pants on fire false.

Chris Christie – A bully who showed his true colors with Bridgegate, the conspiracy to punish a mayor who did not support his re-election. He also sold out his constituents by allowing Exxon Mobil to pay less than 3 percent of the cost to clean up the environmental contamination at two sites. And, under Christie’s leadership, New Jersey’s credit rating has been downgraded nine times in five years.

John Kasich – Literally, one of only three GOP candidates (the others, Jim Gilmore and George Pataki, were not included in the debate) who has a history of success and working across the aisle. Of course, that means he doesn’t stand a chance of getting the GOP nomination.

So there you have it. That’s the list of leading GOP presidential candidates. Proceed with caution.

Why Iran Began Its Nuclear Program In The First Place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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