GOP Government Setting New Standards For Corruption.

While most of the nation’s attention is focused on the immigration ban, the level of this administration’s corruption has been largely overlooked. It began even before Donald Trump took office when he became the first presidential candidate since Gerald Ford who refused to release his tax returns. As you no doubt recall, the reason given was that his returns were being audited by the IRS. But, after his election, Trump now claims that only the media are interested.

Why is he the first president in 40 years to break with tradition? Likely because his returns will show that he is not as successful as he claims and that, as many have reported, he owes a fortune to Russian oligarchs with ties to Putin.

But that is only one example of Trump’s new standard for lack of transparency.

It is now know that Trump used his campaign to funnel $14 million into his company coffers. Following his election, he refused to place his business interests into a blind trust to prevent conflicts of interest. This is important because Trump has business dealings around the globe – any one of which could violate the Constitution’s emoluments clause (Article 2, Section 1) which is cause for impeachment. Despite such concerns, immediately following the election, Trump used a phone call with the Japanese prime minister to request special handling of a hotel permit.

More worrying is the fact that Trump’s transition team tried to eliminate all Inspectors General which are responsible for investigating misconduct, waste, fraud and abuse of government procedures. The moment Trump was sworn into office (actually, it was the majority of Americans who were doing the swearing), Trump was in violation of the terms of his DC hotel lease. Eric Trump’s recent trip to Uruguay for Trump’s business interests cost taxpayers $97,830 in hotel bills (at a Trump Hotel, of course) for his accompanying security. And not to be left out, Melania’s attorneys argued as part of her libel suit against the Daily Mail that a story cost her a once in a lifetime chance to make millions in her business pursuits based on her new status as First Lady.

And the Trumps are not alone with their disregard for ethical standards.

The very first act of the new GOP-controlled Congress was to try to eliminate the independent Congressional ethics office with an early morning vote. They were stopped only when Democrats called attention to the vote and when Trump tweeted his displeasure (likely not with the action itself, but with the appearance of his complicity).

Despite reports from US intelligence agencies that Vladimir Putin interfered with our elections by ordering the hacks of the email accounts of the Democratic National Committee, the DCCC, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, and by paying young adults to serve as pro-Trump social media trolls, Congress has refused to authorize a special prosecutor to investigate. In fact, they have given the reports far less attention than the multiple investigations of Benghazi. And though, Republicans were horrified by Clinton’s use of a private email server, they seem totally unconcerned that Trump’s White House advisers are using private email accounts.

Moreover, many of Trump’s cabinet nominees and White House advisers have long-time ties to Putin. Trump himself has spoken in glowing terms about Putin and has drawn parallels between Putin’s strong arm tactics and the US. There are credible reports that Trump is being blackmailed by Putin as a result of a dossier on Trump’s actions while visiting Russia. In addition, there are allegations that Igor Sechin, CEO of Russia’s state oil company, offered Trump ally Carter Page a 19 percent stake in the company in exchange for Trump’s lifting of US sanctions on Russia. Though the economic sanctions have not yet been lifted, disregarding Trump’s executive order removing sanctions on the sale of cyber-technology to the Russian intelligence agency, there are reports that 19.5 percent of the Russian oil company was sold to anonymous buyers through a labyrinth of shell companies – a fact that should give us pause since it equals the exact amount promised to Trump plus the requisite brokerage fees!

In addition, White House insiders have reported that the Oval Office recorder was turned off during Trump’s phone conversation with Putin (shades of Tricky Dick Nixon). Yet Congress still refuses to have a serious investigation into Trump-Putin ties.

Domestically, Congress and Trump plan to gut Dodd-Frank, the law designed to prevent another financial meltdown such as the banking collapse of 2008. Trump overturned the fiduciary rule put in place by former President Obama to require financial planners to work in the best interests of their clients. The Senate confirmed Trump’s unqualified nominee for Secretary of Education likely due to the millions donated by DeVos and her family to help elect Republican candidates. And the Senate has voted to repeal the Dodd-Frank anti-corruption rule – a decision that benefits only too-big-to-fail banks and other large, multinational corporations.

Of course, there is much more.

Congress has promised to repeal the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act. There are bills to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and The Department of Education. And, given Trump’s cabinet nominees, it would seem that many other government agencies and departments, including the Labor Department, Energy Department and Health and Human Services are earmarked for destruction.

It cannot be said loud enough or repeated often enough: THIS IS NOT NORMAL!

Republicans Aren’t Content With Changing Administrations. They Want To Change History.

For most of our nation’s 241-year history, we have seen a relatively seamless and peaceful transition from one administration and from one Congress to another. This time is different. The GOP-controlled Congress and the Trump administration seem intent on erasing the Obama administration and, for that matter, most other administrations from history.

Trump has already begun the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act by executive order. He issued an executive order erasing the rate decrease for mortgage insurance. He issued an executive order reinstating the gag order for NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that provide abortions and family planning. He has issued executive orders to restart the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline, to withhold federal funds for cities that provide sanctuary to undocumented immigrants, to begin the process of walling off our nation’s borders, and to prevent the resettlement of immigrants from Muslim countries.

Even more telling are changes to the White House website. All references to climate change have been erased. So, too, has Spanish language content been erased (speak ‘merican, dammit).

Trump has also signed executive orders (Remember how much the GOP whined about Obama’s executive orders?) freezing all government hiring and gagging government employees – especially those in the EPA – from communicating with American citizens.

For its part, Congress passed a law making it possible to cut the annual salary of any government employee to $1.00 and freezing all new government regulations. I guess that Congress is operating under the assumption that criminals, con artists and corporations will not invent new ways to cheat the public.

All of this is destructive enough. But the GOP has indicated that it won’t stop there. Congress quietly ended investigations into the Flint water crisis. The administration and Congress are readying legislation that will privatize Medicare and Social Security; that will place limits on Medicaid through the use of block grants to states; that will extract taxpayer money from public schools and give it to private schools and charter schools without any of the bothersome transparency public schools are subject to; that will give away public lands; that will give extraction industries access to resources on public lands, including national parks; that will give oil and gas companies access to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and to our coasts; that will limit or overturn the Endangered Species Act; that will make it more difficult for minorities and young people to vote; that will cut funding for NASA’s research on climate change.

At the same time, the GOP has turned its back on standard operating procedures. The very first thing the new Congress tried to do was to eliminate the independent office overseeing Congressional ethics. They have ignored calls for the president to turn over his tax returns despite a more than 40-history of doing so. They have ignored the obvious conflicts of interest inherent in Trump’s expansive businesses. Most have ignored calls for an independent investigation into intelligence reports that Russia interfered with our elections and aided Trump. And they have ignored concerns that Trump is already in violation of the emoluments clause in our Constitution.

All of these actions are not just intended to wipe out any memory of the Obama administration. They are intended to wipe out most of the progress made through all previous administrations. Social Security, for example, was part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act was instituted during the Truman administration. NASA was created during the Kennedy administration. The Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid are all legacies of Lyndon Johnson’s administration. The EPA and the Endangered Species Act were created under the Nixon Administration. Amnesty for illegal immigrants was granted by the Reagan administration. Legal immigration, including that of refugees, was expanded by the George H.W. Bush administration. NAFTA and CAFTA were created by the Bush and Clinton administration. And the Clear Skies Act was passed during the George W. Bush administration.

All of these things and more are in jeopardy now that the GOP has control of all the reins of government.

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.

Current Election More Revealing Of Character Than Policy.

There was a time when the debate between candidates and their supporters revolved around issues such as defense spending, tax policy, safety nets, federal deficits and debt. No longer. This election cycle has revolved around character – not just the character of candidates. But that of their supporters.

Here’s a case in point: Someone I know has been agonizing over a health crisis his wife is facing. Yet when he told a long-time friend and Trump supporter, the friend chose to use the situation to score political points by attacking Obamacare. Seriously? In fact, the wife would not be alive today without Obamacare. But his friend failed to consider that. So, instead of displaying a shred of sympathy or humanity, the friend chose to try to score political points!

As bad as that may seem, the example is far from unique.

Emboldened by Trump, people I’ve long known and cared about have made horribly racist statements. I’ve seen them reflexively attack Trump’s victims of sexual assault without knowing the women or the circumstances. I’ve heard them call for the exclusion of Muslims from the US and the deportation of Mexicans. I’ve heard them say that Hillary should be locked up even though they have not taken the time to examine the facts of her supposed transgressions. I’ve seen them repeat vicious, false and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories despite all the evidence to the contrary. I’ve heard them say that they admire how Trump “tells it like it is” even though independent fact-checking organizations have concluded that a vast majority of his statements are false.

I’ve seen these people support a candidate who has bragged about refusing to pay suppliers; who has filed hundreds of frivolous lawsuits out of spite; who calls himself smart for evading taxes; who has encouraged violence; who has embraced the endorsement of the KKK, who has supported the torture of our enemies; who has called for the murder of combatants’ families; and who has stated that our democratic process is rigged so he may be unwilling to accept the outcome of the election. He has even suggested that the only remedy for his defeat is for his supporters to “exercise their second amendment rights.”

Any one of these things would be disqualifying for someone seeking to become a third world dictator, let alone for a candidate for President of the United States.

But what about his supporters – those who have helped Trump attain the nomination of a once-great party? How should we view them? Is it possible to remain friends with those who have revealed themselves to be of such questionable character? Personally, I don’t think so.

I can be friends with those who disagree with me on policy. Indeed, I encourage it. I learn little when I’m surrounded by like-minded people – they simply reinforce the views I already have. I thrive on debate – thoughtful, insightful and sometimes impassioned debate on issues that are supported by facts. But I do not care to engage in relationships with those who hold racist beliefs; those who would deny civil rights to others; those who choose hatred and meanness over respect and kindness; those who would deny aid to families in need; those who place partisanship over country; those who choose unsubstantiated lies over truth; those who care so little for the circumstances and feelings of others that they no longer understand what it means to be human.

In this regard, the 2016 election has done us all a great favor. It has helped us know our families, friends and acquaintances as never before.

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.

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 Hoax That Won’t Go Away.

Following the release of videos showing Planned Parenthood employees discussing fetal tissue donations, rightwing politicians continue to call for defunding Planned Parenthood. Even though the videos have been discredited as fraudulently-edited and obtained under false pretenses, and even though defunding the organization would deny healthcare to thousands of women, the ginned-up controversy won’t go away.

Why? The controversy is being fueled by rightwing media, including Fox News Channel. They apparently see abortion as a wedge issue for the 2016 elections – particularly since they are likely to face the nation’s first serious female presidential candidate.

We’ve seen this drama play out before. A surreptitious and unscrupulous right wing group lies to gain access to an organization. Then it edits the videos to portray that organization in a false manner. The Republicans in Congress become outraged – outraged I say – and demand that the organization be stripped of all federal funds. Then, sometime later, it is proven that the videos were fraudulent, but it doesn’t matter, because the damage has been done.

It happened to ACORN. It happened to Shirley Sherrod of the Department of Agriculture. And it happened to the NAACP.

Now it’s Planned Parenthood that’s in the Republican crosshairs despite the fact that, according to a 2013 Gallup Poll, 53 percent of Americans support legal abortions, while only 29 percent oppose the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. But the will of the people seldom matters to the Republican ideologues. Neither do the rights of women and minorities.

In reality, Planned Parenthood operates more than 700 healthcare clinics nationwide. Abortion represents only 3 percent of the organization’s activities. It does not sell fetal tissue. But, in some states, it does permit women to donate fetal tissue in order to help them make the best of a bad situation. The majority of Planned Parenthood’s work consists of family planning, STD prevention and treatment, and primary medical care. Its clinics are an important part of the nation’s healthcare system. Without them, many families would have to travel long distances for care or be denied care altogether.

Nevertheless, in their continuing attempts to divide the nation in order to gain votes while depressing votes for their opponents, Republicans are willing to put all of that at risk. That’s why they continue to incite the uninformed and the misinformed with continuing attacks. It’s a hateful and cynical strategy.

Let’s make sure it’s also a failed strategy.