What’s Really Behind America’s Gun Deaths?

Following the most lethal mass shooting in US history, it’s once again time to take a serious look at the cause. By all accounts, the Las Vegas shooter was not a terrorist – at least not in the traditional sense. He was no Osama bin Laden. He was not a member of ISIS. Moreover, he had no criminal record. He had no history of mental illness. And he had no history of domestic abuse.

What he did have was a penchant for collecting a large number of military-style weapons and an enormous amount of ammunition. The shooter was one of a tiny minority of Americans with such stockpiles. According to a study by Northeastern University and Harvard University reported by the Guardian, 130 million of America’s guns are in the hands of just 3 percent of American adults. That means each of these Americans, mostly men, own an average of 19 guns!

For what purpose? Why do these people feel the need to own such an arsenal?

Certainly, a small percentage of these people are collectors of war memorabilia and antique weaponry. But what about the others? What drives them? 19 guns are 18 more than necessary for self-protection. 19 guns are at least a dozen more than necessary for the most avid hunter of game large or small. And 19 is many times the number of guns needed for target shooting.

So how do we explain the rest?

I believe these owners are driven by a combination of anti-government paranoia and a fascination with all things military. In other words, we have a number of apparent Seal team wannabes who have become convinced – likely by the NRA and right-wing conspiracy theorists – that the government is coming for their weapons; people who fear that the US will be taken over by the United Nations; who believe that immigrants – especially those of color – are coming for their jobs and wealth.

These are also men who were militarized from an early age; from the endless displays of military might; from the military flyovers before football games and other large events. Maybe they are motivated by the plethora of TV shows, movies and video games based on the military. If so, they aren’t be alone. Far too many Americans can only define patriotism in military terms.

Have you ever asked yourself why? Is there really no other way to share our love of country than to display weapons of war? To superficially thank veterans for their service? To adorn our homes with flags?

More to the point, why are military-style weapons in high demand when they are of little use for hunting or self-defense? Who but an assassin needs a .50 caliber sniper rifle? Who but a mass shooter or a criminal needs a device to make a semi-automatic weapon mimic the rate of fire of fully-automatic military assault rifles? Who but a law enforcement officer or a bodyguard would feel the need to carry a concealed gun? And what civilian other than a bully or someone with a very small penis would want to strap a gun over his shoulder or onto his hip to intimidate those around him?

Why do so many of our citizens think education and health care are too expensive for our government to afford, yet think nothing of spending many times more money on new military weapons systems? Have we become so affected by right-wing propaganda that we think the military is the answer to every conflict? Horrifyingly, a large percentage of our population – mostly Republicans – now believe a military takeover of our government could be a good thing in certain circumstances.

Can you imagine the reaction of our founders if they were alive to see that?

Admittedly, there are far more questions than answers; questions that everyone should be asking of themselves and those around them.

If we are to ever end the outrageous number of gun deaths in the US, we need to regulate the number of guns and limit their firepower. But that alone won’t end the shootings. We need to transform our collective psyche from one that celebrates violence and war to one that celebrates life and accomplishments. That doesn’t require our nation to weaken our military. It simply means that we put violence in perspective as a last resort…a necessary evil that is only rarely necessary for survival. Not as something to be used whenever it serves our purposes; to bully others into deferring to our wishes.

The reality is that guns aren’t the cause of our mass shootings. They’re the means. They’re also a symptom of a much larger problem.

Now Is Exactly The Time To Talk About Guns.

Each time there’s another mass shooting event, the GOP is quick to say, “Now is not the time to talk about politics.” In other words, “Let’s address the symptoms, but not the cause.” That happened after Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Charleston, after Orlando…after every single mass shooting.

The motive, of course, is to delay discussion until memories of the event become faded – only to be replaced with the trauma of the next shooting.

It is precisely the result of this strategy that more than 15,000 people died in 2016 as the result of gun violence; a figure that does not even include suicides. And that’s why 2016 saw more than one mass shooting per day (a mass shooting defined as events during which at least 4 people are injured or killed).*

Republicans must not be allowed to get away with it this time!

And it’s not just the inaction of Republicans that has allowed the gun violence to continue. It’s also their collusion with the gun lobby which has resulted in easy access to weapons of ever-increasing lethality. Thanks to the GOP and the NRA, people have been allowed to purchase weapons of war. They have made it legal for virtually anyone to carry a semi-automatic handgun without obtaining a license. They have made it legal to purchase .50 caliber sniper rifles that can blast a hole through a vehicle’s engine block at a distance of hundreds of yards.

The GOP made it illegal for the Centers for Disease Control to track gun deaths. The GOP made it illegal for physicians to discuss gun safety with parents. And the GOP made it illegal for the gun registry to create an electronic database for guns. That means the registry will have to sort through hundreds of thousands of paper documents to track the sale of the guns used by the Vegas shooter.

More recently, Trump repealed a rule designed to prevent certain mentally ill from buying guns. After all, who would want to deny the mentally ill their 2nd Amendment rights?

Even as the shooting in Las Vegas was unfolding, the GOP Congress was preparing to vote on a bill that would legalize the sale of silencers and armor-piercing ammunition! For what purpose?

Imagine if the shooter holed up in the Mandalay Bay Hotel had access to silencers. Instead of taking 15 minutes to locate and disrupt the shooter, it may have taken 2-3 times as long. How many more people would he have been able to kill in that time? How many of the SWAT team would have died as the result of the ammo penetrating their body armor?

The GOP and its NRA sponsors must not be allowed to ignore the impact of their actions any longer. They must not be allowed to continue to place profits above lives. It’s long past time for common sense gun legislation for universal background checks; to implement a one-week waiting period for all gun purchases; to create an electronic gun registry; to ban large capacity magazines; to limit the quantity and type of ammunition; to ban the open carry of guns.

This mass shooting is the fault of the shooter, the NRA and the GOP. If we do nothing, the next mass shooting will be our fault.

*Statistics from the Gun Violence Archive

What Is The Real Goal Of Trump’s Rallies?

Almost immediately after his inauguration, Donald Trump filed the paperwork for his 2020 campaign. And with the election barely over, he has continued to campaign. For what reason?

Some believe that he is simply addicted to the adulation of crowds. But every president draws crowds. And every president benefits from Americans’ respect for the office. (At least every president until now.) I believe the real reason for the rallies is more sinister than mere narcissism. I believe he is trying to further divide the nation; to destroy any remaining credibility for the mass media; to create a personal army of supporters that is immune to the facts; to create an army that is loyal to him, and him alone.

One need only listen to his rhetoric and read his tweets to see his plan in action. He continues to call any news stories that are not complementary to him “fake news.” He calls the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt.” And he continues to foment fear and violence. At his latest rally in front of an adoring West Virginia crowd, he accused his “enemies” of trying to steal his office, asking if they are just going to stand by and watch. That leads me to wonder what he suggests as an alternative to watching. Violence?

Those around him certainly think so.

Trump’s supporters continue to chant “lock her up” in reference to his former election rival. If you dumpster dive (or should I say, Trumpster dive) into the posts of his followers on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere on the Web, you will see numerous threats of violence toward Trump’s political opponents, especially from the so-called “Alt-Right” trolls. White House subordinates like Stephen Miller verbally berate anyone who dares to question or challenge Trump’s political pronouncements. Often they go further.

For example, Trump ally, Roger Stone, recently tweeted: “Robert Mueller plans a takedown of @realDonaldTrump based on trumped up charges but sadly will only begat extreme violence and his own take-down…”

Mueller, Congress, Democrats and the media should take such threats with some seriousness. Many of Trump’s supporters are, after all, heavily armed – many of them are members of the NRA. They are the same kind of bullies who stood behind Cliven Bundy just itching for an excuse to fire on federal officers who were in the process of executing a lawful court order.

If they’re willing to do that for a deadbeat rancher like Bundy, imagine how they’ll react to the sight of the fear-monger-in-chief being led out of the Oval office in handcuffs.

They’ll almost certainly be ready for war, which is likely what his orangeness is counting on. In fact, he is acting exactly like hundreds of despots before him – creating enemies both external and internal; turning citizens against one another; raising doubts about the Constitution; creating distrust of our institutions including the media, the courts and Congress; telling his followers that the “elites” are against them and only he can be trusted to fix things.

I believe Trump presents a very real threat to the future of our nation and the planet.

Now, I expect that many of you will consider this to be hyperbolic. But we’ve never had a president like this before. Yes, we’ve had candidates like George Wallace, David Duke and other equally despicable people. But, though virulently racist, even they seemed more principled than Trump. (They weren’t serial liars and they didn’t look to use the government for personal financial gain.) More to the point, they were soundly defeated. Yet just because our nation has survived other serious challenges is no reason to take this threat lightly. You need only look at the alarm sounded by the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect which draws parallels between Trump and Hitler, noting that Trump has created his own media, exploited youth at a rally, endorses police brutality, demonizes people who believe, look or love differently, stripped vulnerable people of their families, jobs and ability to live, and believes Congress should change its rules to give him more power.

And, if that’s not compelling enough, consider the current sorry status of Venezuela, a nation that modeled its constitution and government after ours. In Venezuela everything changed as the result of a financial crisis and a constitutional convention. (By the way, a Koch brothers’ effort is nearing the number of states required to call for a constitutional convention in the US.)

If dictators can take control in democratic countries such as Venezuela, Philippines and Turkey, a prospective dictator – even one as stupid and outrageous as Donald Trump – could take control here.

America First? Not From My Perspective.

In the past week, my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting the Alps of Bavaria. Not only were we treated to the splendor of one of the most beautiful places on Earth. We were able to observe a country that works.

Though Germany may not be a military super-power, it is an economic power. More important, it is extremely successful in delivering to its citizens a high quality of life. As you fly across Germany, you notice a relatively pristine landscape with cities and farmland surrounded by large forests. Instead of clear-cutting those forests for timber, the Germans appear to use selective harvesting methods which preserves the beauty of the forests and limits the potential of wildfires while still providing timber for construction.

Virtually all of the homes are well-kept and many feature solar panels on their roofs. Indeed, solar generation accounts for nearly 7 percent of Germany’s power needs as compared to just 1.5 percent in the US. This is despite the fact that large portions of the US have many more days of sunshine than Germany. (For comparison, one of our sunniest states – Arizona – generates just 3.4 percent of its needs with solar.)

There is little visible trash. The rivers, even the roadsides, are clean, likely the result of an aggressive recycling program. Recycling and trash receptacles are everywhere. And many supermarkets have efficient programs that provide refunds for returning plastic bottles. Further, most Germans use recyclable shopping bags without complaint.

Though often narrow, all of Germany’s roads and bridges seem in good repair, especially in comparison to our crumbling infrastructure. And many German commuters have the option of traveling to and from work in electric trains.

All German citizens enjoy access to quality health care, the cost of which is split between the government and private insurers much like our Medicare. In addition, German workers enjoy considerable time off for their families and for travel. They have the right to be represented by labor unions. Many workers even enjoy representation on the boards of directors of their companies.

There is no visible poverty – at least not in comparison to large portions of the US. Germany not only grows most of its food, its produce is untainted by GMO. The nation is also phasing out the use of pesticides. As a result, German produce tastes as though you just picked it from your own garden.

Despite stereotypes, the German people are active, many of them regularly hiking in the mountains. Indeed, on a mountain trail, we encountered everyone from families with young children to a woman in her nineties. Though obviously suffering from osteoporosis and using a cane, she seemed to be not even breathing deeply as she climbed past us on a steep trail. Perhaps that’s why Germany’s life expectancy is longer than that of the US.

Gun violence in Germany is virtually non-existent, especially compared to the US. Per capita, German gun deaths are less than a tenth of those in the US.

America first? American exceptionalism?

Yes, the United States is the world’s most powerful nation militarily and economically. But, in the things that really matter, such as quality of life, we are falling behind…far behind.

Republicans Are The Masters Of False Equivalency.

Following the shooting of Republican Congressman Steve Scalise, there were calls from both sides of the aisle to calm the extreme rhetoric. The House even made a great show of bipartisanship by kneeling together on the field prior to the annual Republican/Democrat baseball game. Senator Bernie Sanders made a forceful speech denouncing the shooter’s past support for his candidacy. Many others followed suit.

Yet, in a matter of hours following the Scalise shooting, the hateful rhetoric had returned.

A mere four days after the shooting, former GOP Congressman Joe Walsh tweeted, “Screw bipartisanship. This country is at war with itself. Choose your side and choose it now. Grab your musket and get ready.” That’s a great way to calm the anger. Don’t you think?

And Walsh was not alone. Others, including right-wing pundits Alex Jones and Newt Gingrich have also talked about a coming civil war. Of course, this comes on the heels of last year’s GOP convention during which the rabble chanted “Lock her [Hillary] up.” And it comes after then-candidate Trump speculated what might happen if he lost by saying, “…if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.” Others also suggested that, if Trump lost, there might be violence.

The US is more divided, and more angry, than any point in my lifetime. Indeed, the only other times we have seen such division were during the Revolution (when the Revolutionists fought against the Loyalists) and during the Civil War.

That should give everyone pause.

Of course, the fallback for Republicans is that both sides are equally guilty. But that’s simply not true. Let’s start by noting that there have been many fewer threats of violence by liberals against conservatives. I must also point out that the majority of gun owners in the US are conservatives. Indeed, a recent NPR article stated that right-wing extremists are responsible for about 74 percent of murders committed by domestic extremists. Not coincidentally, a recent Gallup study found that 55 percent of gun owners are Republican versus 32 percent Democrat. A Pew Research poll showed an even greater disparity with numbers of 49 percent for Republicans and just 22 percent for Democrats. In addition, the Southern Poverty Law Center currently lists 917 hate groups in the US. These include the KKK, neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, anti-government militias, and Christian identity groups. They are almost exclusively right-wing.

Now let’s consider the media. Certainly, The NY Times and a few other newspapers lean to the left. But the Wall Street Journal, the Arizona Republic and many others lean to the right. That said, though their editorial columns may be partisan, most try to be impartial in reporting the actual news. Talk radio is almost exclusively right-wing…Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin…angry, screaming right-wing. Indeed, within a few years of the end of the Fairness Doctrine, talk radio was already more than 90 percent conservative.

With regard to television, the conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group is one of the nation’s largest media owners. It recently ordered its local news broadcasts to advance the conservative agenda. On satellite and cable, Fox News Channel has long acted as a megaphone for the Republican party. The lower-rated MSNBC was somewhat split. It’s prime-time devoted to liberals and the morning to conservatives. In between, it was impartial. And it’s moving farther right. ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and PBS try to maintain neutrality, although their Sunday morning news programs are dominated by conservative guests.

That leaves the Internet, aka social media. There are so many Internet “news” sites, it is very difficult to make a comparison. But, if you use fake news as a determining criteria, the Internet is decidedly right-wing. The best way for me to explain is to use anecdotal evidence from Paul Horner the “King of Fake News” who appeared on a radio show I occasionally help moderate. Horner is a comedian and satirist. As such, he began writing satirical news stories during the past presidential election. He began by creating stories that would appeal to both sides. But he quickly discovered that stories aimed at liberals garnered few clicks and little money. The problem is that they would fact check his stories. Conservatives, on the other hand, bought his nonsense hook, line and sinker. As a result, almost all of his fake news was conservative. (You can listen to the interview by following this link.)

Want more evidence? Visit Breitbart “News” or any other right-wing website. Then do some fact checks.

That is not to say there aren’t some highly partisan, disgustingly angry websites, tweets and Facebook posts from the left. But there are fewer of them and even fewer of them promote violence.

Dear Trump Supporters, I Know Who You Really Are.

I’ve known you all my life. Contrary to being the country bumpkins as you’re portrayed in the media, many of you make a good living – a really good living. By the luck of nature, you were born into a world of white privilege that gave you numerous advantages over those with darker skin. You’re the people who race to climb up the economic ladder while refusing to reach out a helping hand to those behind you. You’re the farmer who complains about taxes and big government while accepting subsidies. You’re the people who screw over your neighbors during the week then go to church on Sunday and act pious. You’re the people who demand that your kids get in the best schools then vote against school bonds to help educate others.

You’re my sister’s former boss who tried to convince my parents that I was mentally ill simply because I opposed the Vietnam War and refused to kill men, women and children who had not threatened me or my country. Though you’re not overtly racist (except at Trump rallies), you tell racist jokes at family gatherings and at neighborhood parties. And, whenever you hear the word “welfare”, you wrongly picture a black or brown person instead of the white single mothers who receive the majority of welfare funds.

You are the people who readily send other Americans’ kids off to fight in ill-conceived wars while you fret over your investments in the stock markets. And by cheating on your taxes, you expect others to pay the bill.

You constantly talk about freedom, but you are all too willing to tell others how to live their lives. You want to deny civil rights to gays and lesbians; to transgender people; to Muslims; and to anyone else who looks, worships and thinks differently than you.

You want to meddle in women’s lives by denying them affordable contraception then requiring them to deliver unwanted babies – babies you refuse to help when they’re hungry or need medical care. At the most difficult time in a woman’s life, when she’s faced with the prospect of aborting an unviable fetus or die, you want to give her medical advice.

You’re the people who supported unregulated free market principles, but, when the economy crashed in 2008, you blamed the Great Recession on “free-spending” Democrats and homeowners who were merely trying to get their share of the American Dream. You’re the people who hopelessly over-simplify issues because you don’t want to clutter your minds with contradictory information. And, if you can’t understand the complexity of a problem like climate change, you just pretend it doesn’t exist.

You are the people who pass along vile, inaccurate and destructive chain emails without bothering to take the 30 seconds required to fact check them. In fact, you think fact-checkers are liberal eggheads who are hopelessly biased. You have the same attitude toward economists, scientists and other experts. Indeed, you think the only real experts appear on Fox News Channel, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones and Brietbart News.

You are among the worst offenders when it comes to wasting the world’s limited resources for your own gain or pleasure without consideration for other nations or generations. You’re too busy to concern yourself with the consequences for the future. You think the world should be exactly as it was in 1959.

You’re bullies, the world’s largest group of gun owners, and you threaten to use them if you don’t get your way. You engage in the politics of destruction and howl when the tables are turned. Rather than discuss the merits of public policies and try to convince others to vote for them, you resort to a variety of tricks to suppress your opponents’ votes. When your people are in charge, you claim to have a mandate. But when Democrats are in charge, having been elected by larger margins, you will do anything to “stop their agenda”.

You have long claimed to be “values voters” but, by voting for Trump, you have proven that you have no values. You chose a psychopathic, philandering, pussy-grabbing, tax cheating, lying bully over a smart, capable, caring woman who has devoted her life to helping others. You claimed you voted for him because her emails proved she is untrustworthy – emails that proved no such thing. You even chose him knowing that he was being aided in his campaign by Vladimir Putin.

Now you expect Democrats to do what Republicans refused to do in 2009 – you expect them to work with that tangerine-colored buffoon. F*ck you. F*ck you all to hell.

Ending Racism: A Proposal.

America has a problem with racism that we have not yet adequately addressed. Sure, we passed the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but those actions didn’t actually solve racism. Far from it. They merely altered it by making it somewhat less obvious and making it uncomfortable for racist white people to express their inner feelings.

Then along came Donald Trump and his attacks on political correctness, which freed racists to make public their long-held beliefs. In a way, such displays of overt racial hatred along with Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem can be seen as a good thing by bringing the issue back to the forefront. And I would suggest that it’s long overdue.

The problem stems from the fact that the US stands virtually alone in refusing to acknowledge its ugly past. For example, after Germany was defeated in World War II, it was forced to deal with the reality that it had committed genocide. As a result, it created memorials to those who were killed in Nazi death camps. It created textbooks for children detailing the horrors and explaining Hitler’s rise to power. And it banned any positive references to Nazism. It even banned the sale of copies of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Only recently has Germany again permitted the sale of the book, and only then if it includes notations regarding Nazi crimes.

Other nations have faced their ugly pasts is a similar manner. But the US refuses to do so. Our textbooks have been scrubbed of most references to the genocide of Native Americans. Likewise, they address slavery in a superficial, sanitized manner. And, instead of creating memorials to the victims of our genocide and to the victims of slavery, we have memorials to those who committed these vile acts. The former Confederate States of America have largely refused to acknowledge that their secession was motivated by their desire to continue the enslavement of blacks. Indeed, these states still celebrate the Confederacy, its leaders and, until recently, they still flew the Confederate battle flag.

There has been no restitution to the former slaves and their families. Indeed, the idea that they were given 40 acres and a mule is largely a myth. Lacking resources and possessions – and, in many cases, even a sense of family – following their emancipation many former slaves were employed by their former masters and corporations through a more acceptable form of economic slavery. As a result, today, more than 150 years after the end of the Civil War, we are still plagued by racism. Our schools are even more segregated now than during the late 1960s. And it has been estimated that it will take 228 years for the average black family to accumulate the wealth of the average white family!

Obviously, we have a problem.

So how can we fix it? How can we level the playing field for the descendants of African slaves and the Native Americans who had their land, their way of life and their identities stolen by our ancestors? How can we restore the well-being of cultures that were so thoroughly defeated and depressed? The answers are far more complicated than most white Americans are likely willing to accept. But I’ll make the attempt.

The solution to racism must begin with our nation, like Germany, finally acknowledging our past transgressions. As any therapist can tell you, there can be no healing as long as there is denial. And since the lingering effects of those impacted by our past actions are largely economic, we must work to provide blacks and Native Americans with opportunities. We must improve their education systems, making certain that they have the same resources and school budgets as our most affluent white suburbs. For those working in low-paying jobs, we must raise the minimum wage to a living wage. We must finally commit to universal healthcare so that all families have equal access to prenatal and childhood healthcare. We must commit to universal pre-school which has been proven to level the playing field and create lasting change. We must make certain that all families have food stability and access to healthy foods, which have been shown to improve performance in schools. We must commit to rebuilding our infrastructure, offering high-paying jobs to those without college degrees.

We must require national standards and training for those in law enforcement to eliminate racism within police departments and to ensure that all citizens are treated equal. We must end predatory city and community laws that treat citizens as a source of income for minor violations. We must pass universal background checks for gun purchases and pass other safety measures to get guns out of the hands of criminals and off of our streets. We should decriminalize and regulate drugs in order to rid the streets of predatory drug dealers. We should treat addictions with treatment instead of prison time. For the 1 in 9 black men who have already been sentenced to prison – often for petty, non-violent crimes – we should commit to rehabilitation programs to help them integrate back into society when they are eventually released.

And, most important of all, we should commit to thoroughly investigating every single claim of racist behavior – especially racism committed by those in power.

All of that may seem expensive and daunting, but it is all necessary. There can be no shortcuts – no half measures. After all, our nation benefited greatly from the labor of slaves and the resources stolen from natives. The problem of racism in this country has existed for centuries. It cannot be fixed easily or quickly.

And, if you’re wondering how our nation can pay for all of these things, just look to the cost overruns on the Pentagon’s weapons systems, such as the F-35 joint strike fighter – a fighter that has exceeded its budget by tens of billions of dollars. Also, you should consider the cost to society of not addressing racism – the cost of incarceration, lost tax revenue and the lost contributions from those who have neither the education nor the opportunity to shine.

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.)

Thoughts And Prayers Will Not Stop Shootings.

After Columbine, there were thoughts and prayers. There were more thoughts and prayers after Aurora, Sandy Hook, Charleston, San Bernardino, Orlando and, now, Dallas. After Eric Garner, after Michael Brown, after Timor Rice, after Ezell Ford, after John Crawford III, after Jonathon Ferrell, after Alton Sterling, after Philando Castile, and after the deaths of 5 Dallas police officers, there were more thoughts and prayers. Yet the shootings continue.

Obviously, thoughts and prayers alone aren’t working. They may make us feel better. But they do nothing to stop the shootings. And because the shootings continue to divide us, there will be many more thoughts and prayers.

What we need, instead, are common sense laws to improve gun safety. Ideally, that would mean banning military-style semi-automatic weapons and semi-automatic handguns. Unfortunately, that genie is out of the bottle. Even if we banned the sale of them tomorrow, there would still be millions in circulation. But what we can do is to repeal all open carry laws. Even in the Old West, open carry was banned in towns…in “polite society.” We can do that again.

We can pass laws for universal background checks on ALL gun sales to close the so-called “gun show loophole.” We can ban the sale of guns to those on the no-fly list until they can prove that they are not dangerous. We can ban the sale of guns to those who have been convicted of domestic assault or are under restraining orders. We can ban the sale of guns to those who have been convicted of any violent crimes. We can require gun safety training to those who have conceal and carry permits. And we can take the words of the Dallas Police Chief to heart and discourage people from carrying guns in public places.

We can, once again, ban silencers and large caliber sniper rifles…rifles so powerful that they can blow a sizeable hole in an engine block. We can ban large capacity magazines, except at gun ranges.

We can reinstate funding for the Center for Disease Control to study gun violence. And we can reinstate funding for services to help the mentally ill – one of the three largest groups of victims of gun violence.

We can increase budgets for police departments that will allow more training in the de-escalation of violent situations. We can make certain that our police know how to safely disarm those who are armed with weapons other than guns, such as clubs and knives. We can assess police officer candidates for personality traits so that we hire the best possible candidates and eliminate those who are racist or trigger happy. And since, we will demand more of the police, we can pay them appropriately.

There are many things we can do to help police and limit the number of senseless shootings. But, if we rely on thoughts and prayers alone, they are certain to continue.

How Has Racism Plagued The Obama Administration? Let Me Count The Ways:

I have conservative friends who deny that President Obama has been treated any differently than previous presidents. Setting aside the prolonged fishing expedition to find dirt on the Clintons and the natural reaction to a stolen election and the lies told by the Bush administration to justify its invasion of Iraq, (yes, I proudly wore an “Impeach Bush” button) let’s look at the conservative response to the nation’s first African-American president.

Even before he was nominated, Obama was beset by claims that he was not an American citizen. For the first time in US history, the political opposition demanded to see a presidential candidate’s birth certificate.

On the day of his inauguration, in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, GOP leaders met to formulate a strategy to make him fail. At so-called Tea Party rallies, protestors carried racist images of Obama. They also showed up at presidential speeches armed with loaded guns and threatened to “exercise their 2nd Amendment rights.” At the same time, rednecks all over the South dug out their Confederate battle flags, planting them in their yards, on their houses and flying them in the back of their pickup trucks. Many covered their vehicles with stickers that read “NObama,” “One Big Ass Mistake America” and more blatantly racist slogans.

The Secret Service saw a dramatic increase in threats on the President’s life. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) noted a dramatic rise in hate groups. At the same time, rightwing radio hosts and the NRA claimed that Obama was “coming for your guns,” which, in turn, dramatically increased gun sales.

When Obama prepared a video to encourage students to work hard and stay in school (something that other presidents have routinely done), conservatives howled, claiming that Obama was going to “indoctrinate” their children. They also ridiculed the First Lady for encouraging students to move for fitness and to make more nutritious choices for meals.

When Obama first addressed a joint session of Congress, a racist congressman openly shouted “You Lie.” In another joint session, conservative Supreme Court justices visibly shook their heads in disgust at the President’s justifiable criticism of the Citizens United ruling. (At least in my long lifetime, such displays of disrespect for the president have never previously occurred.)

In the Senate, the GOP blocked the President’s initiatives with a record number of threatened filibusters. Republicans also blocked a record number of administrative appointments and a record number of nominees for federal courts. And Obama’s most recent nominee to the Supreme Court has been waiting for a vote for a record length of time as a result of the GOP attitude that, with nearly a year left in office, Obama was to be considered a “lame duck.”

There have been a record number of conspiracy theories surrounding President Obama, including the lunacy surrounding the military exercise known as Jade Helm. There have been claims that he would declare martial law or, worse, declare Sharia law. Conservatives have claimed that he is a secret Muslim at the same time they have accused him of following a radical Christian pastor. They blamed him for the national debt, for shipping jobs overseas, for abandoning Iraq (even though our departure was negotiated by the Bush administration) and the creation of ISIS.

They accused him of coddling terrorists; of selling out Israel by negotiating an end to Iran’s nuclear program; of bowing to foreign leaders; of “selling out” to the communist Castro regime by normalizing relations with Cuba. They accused him of failing to secure our borders despite a record number of arrests and deportations. And, for the first time in US history, the GOP Congress invited a world leader (Netanyahu) to speak to a joint session without following protocol and going through the executive branch and the State Department.

Conservatives have circulated false emails and social media memes that falsely claim that Obama ordered crosses removed from military cemeteries, banned prayer at the military academies, and worse. They have compared the Obamas to gorillas. They have boldly stated that the First Lady is transgender and called for the Obama’s beautiful daughters to be raped.

At the same time, conservatives have not given Obama any credit for the good things he has done. They would have you believe that he only got Osama bin Laden based on previous efforts by the Bush administration. They have not credited him for trying to nominate a record number of members of the opposing party to his cabinet. They have not credited him for saving the US auto industry. They have not credited him for arresting the precipitous slide of our economy or for policies that have caused the stock markets to soar to record highs. They have not credited him for cutting the national deficit faster than any previous president. They have not credited him for preventing health insurance companies from exempting people for pre-existing conditions. And, instead of congratulating him for making health care available to millions of Americans, they have voted to repeal “Obamacare” dozens of times.

They have called President Obama the “food stamp” president, the “Imperial” president, the anti-gun president, a socialist, a fascist, and a n***er. They have blamed him for the gang violence in Chicago and violence against the police. They even blame him for the shootings of unarmed black men by police.

Finally, in a stunning show of hypocrisy, they actually have the chutzpah to blame him for increasing racism in the US! And the presumptive GOP presidential nominee who should never again be named is running on the slogan “Make American Great Again” – a dog whistle call to racists that may as well say “Make America White Again.”