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.)

After Paris, What Next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Does Your Party Stand For?

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

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

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

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

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.

A Texas-Sized Conspiracy Theory.

As they say, everything is bigger in Texas and apparently tinfoil-hat paranoia is no exception. For those in the North, aka sane people, you may not be aware of Obama’s latest attempt to subjugate the people of the South under sharia law. That’s right, as a secret Muslim, President Obama has ordered the US military to “invade” Texas, declare sharia law and turn the state over to the command of the Islamic State In Mexico (ISIM). As part of the plan, the guns of all true patriots will be confiscated and Texas Walmart stores will be converted into Muslim re-education centers.

Thanks to Texas Governor Greg Abbot, the only ones standing in the way of this insidious plan are the members of the Texas National Guard who have been ordered to monitor the activities of the US military as it conducts training exercises under the guise of Jade Helm 15. (That’s right. There have been 14 previous such military exercises.)

Believe it or not, I am not quoting a satirical story from The Onion. That is the actual story as presented by radio host, Alex Jones and Facebook lunatic, Pete Lanteri.

Of course, wherever you find this sort of tinfoil-hat-like hysteria, you know the Tea Party Patriots will be fully onboard with it. They add to the paranoia through their meetings and chain emails. Then, because nobody on the right is willing to debunk such nonsense, the rumors continue to persist and grow. Almost before you can say sharia, the paranoia has gone mainstream, infecting the minds of ordinary people who are convinced that where there’s smoke, there must be fire.

The story has become so widespread in Texas and other parts of the Southwest that common sense and repeated assurances by the Obama administration and the Department of Defense have been unable to put an end to the theory.

Of course, when Operation Jade Helm (the training exercise) has ended and the conspiracy theory has not materialized, the perpetuators of the theory will take credit for stopping the takeover. “Were it not for their shining the light of publicity on the operation, our worst fears would have been realized. Without us, Alex Jones and Pete Lanteri, we would all be unarmed and praying to Allah for our freedom.” Of course, they’ll say you can reward them by listening to Jones’ radio show, reading Lanteri’s Facebook rants and patronizing their patriotic sponsors.

As H.L. Mencken once said, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” That goes double for Texas.

Far From A Cancer On The Conservative Movement, Trump Represents It.

Contrary to Rick Perry’s assessment of Donald Trump, The Donald embodies everything that’s wrong with today’s Republican Party. He’s loud, arrogant, abusive, mean-spirited, greedy, narcissistic and an unapologetic bully. He’s a friend of soulless multinational corporations and an enemy of the environment. He’s opposed to immigration, yet he happily hires immigrants for menial, low-paying jobs.

Trump is the ultimate representative of the GOP’s “I’ve got mine, you can’t have yours” mentality.

He places corporate interests above those of consumers. He despises regulations – anything that may stand in the way of his insatiable greed. He demands a strong military, yet he refused to serve, receiving 5 student deferments and a medical disability (he had a bone spur in one of his feet – he can’t remember which). Of course, that bone spur never stopped him from participating in college athletics.

Despite his claims of having earned everything he owns, Trump was born on third base and brags that he hit a triple. He inherited most of his wealth, yet accuses anyone who is impoverished of not working hard enough. He complains of high tax rates and complicated tax codes, yet he pays none.

The only reason the other GOP candidates are upset with Trump is not because they disagree with his politics. It’s that he’s willing to say what they all believe.

Moreover, Trump’s popularity with Republicans has exposed the fallacy that the mainstream media are liberal. The faux journalists are fawning all over him. I’m not just referring to the loudmouths who fill airtime on the Faux News Channel. I’m talking about those who call themselves journalists at every level – from national and international networks all the way down to local TV stations and newspapers.

And why wouldn’t a “reporter” more interested in personal advancement than real journalism cover Trump? Trump is good for ratings. He’s good for the infotainment masquerading as news.

So get used to seeing and hearing about Trump 24/7. He’ll be the focus of the Republican presidential race until real reporters (if any still exist) ask him to articulate real solutions for the nation’s problems. And until people begin to picture a clown in the White House and the impacts of his antics on the nation and the world.

Rick Perry Reveals The Right Wing Agenda.

It would seem that 2012’s “Ooops” candidate has had another “Ooops” moment. In launching his 2016 presidential bid, he finally remembered the 3 federal departments he would eliminate: the Department of Education, the Department of Labor and the Department of Energy. And that’s not all. He would also eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, the IRS, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and, of course, Obamacare.

He’s also not very keen on the Department of the Interior and the legal system, saying “It’s [America] in jeopardy because of taxes; it’s in jeopardy because of regulation; it’s in jeopardy because of a legal system that’s run amok. And I think it’s time for us to just hand it over to God and say, “God, You’re going to have to fix this.”

That’s the ticket.

Perry believes that we don’t have to worry about the state of our crumbling infrastructure, our militarized police departments, our over-stressed environment, our large corporate polluters, global warming, growing inequality, rampant racism, debilitating poverty, political polarization, and our for-hire Congress.

All we have to do is let God run the country. Oh, wait. How, exactly, can he do that? Since He doesn’t talk to all (many) of us, who will be his interpreter? Who will carry out His orders? Why Teapublicans, of course! According to the right, only they are the true patriots; only they have a close relationship with God; only they know what God wants.

Is that what you believe? That Teapublicans are the only moral, God-fearing politicians? If so, then how do you explain the pedophilia of Dennis Hastert? How do you explain the adultery of Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston and so many other Teapublicans? How do you explain the war-mongering of John McCain and Lindsey Graham? How do you explain the GOP’s uncaring attitude toward the poor? How do you explain the GOP’s embrace of the rich and powerful? How do you explain the GOP’s lack of interest in preserving the environment and all of God’s creatures?

You can’t…because it simply defies explanation.

The real problem for the GOP is that Perry was, in a manner of speaking, speaking out of school. You see, his beliefs are the same as those of most – if not all – of the declared GOP candidates. And the GOP would rather not have you know about them. They don’t want seniors to know that they want to eliminate Social Security and Medicare as “socialism.” They don’t want you to know that they consider public education “socialism.” They don’t want you to know that they are against worker’s rights and any form of collective bargaining. They don’t want you to know that they are deep in the pockets of the oil companies and are paid to do their bidding. They don’t want you to know that they simply don’t care about the poor.

Don’t believe it?

Then take a close look at what’s happening in Teapublican-controlled states like Arizona, Kansas and Wisconsin. In those and other red states, the GOP has cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy and balanced the budgets on the backs of the poor, as well as the teachers and students. The results have been disastrous, yet they don’t seem to care.

Instead of admitting their mistake and addressing the problems, the GOP is doubling down. They want to expand the misery to the entire country.

America’s Biggest Losers.

Texans have always been proud of their state’s size and independence as clearly expressed in the tourism slogan: ” It’s like a whole other country.”

Since the territory was annexed from Mexico, Texans have seemed to deny their relationship to the US, proudly referring to their state as “The great republic of Texas.” In 1861, the state declared its secession from the US and joined the Confederate States of America which fought to maintain slavery. More recently, former Texas governor and wannabe US president, Rick Perry, again raised the possibility of secession after an African-American was elected president.

Obviously, the state has not fully embraced the notion of statehood, except when there is an obvious economic benefit, such as lucrative oil and gas subsidies, the deployment of US Border Patrol agents to stem the immigration of Mexicans into their former colony, or the construction of military bases within its borders. In fact, many Texans seem to view the US in the same way they viewed their former landlords. They want the benefits of statehood, they want to control the land and all of its resources. But they refuse to acknowledge national supremacy when it comes to obeying laws and paying taxes.

These attitudes have never been more apparent than now.

You see, recently, the US Department of Defense announced a coordinated training exercise involving government troops stationed in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Utah. The training exercise, called Jade Helm 15, is not the first such exercise to be held in Texas. But it is the first to be held with an African-American occupying the White House. So, not too surprisingly, the right-wing conspiracy theories have run wild. A number of Texans have become convinced that the US military is coming to take away Texas’ freedom; that US troops are coming for their guns; that US troops are going to enslave Texans on behalf of the United Nations.

Not even public meetings with military leaders could dissuade Texans from their batcrap crazy notions. The racist conspiracy theorists openly accused the leaders of trying to sell them a pack of lies. Given such lunacy, one would think the state’s top office-holder would step in and reassure his constituents.

Of course, he did.

But instead of bringing some sanity to the situation, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that he was ordering the Texas National Guard to “monitor” the military exercises saying, “During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.”

This is going to be fun!

So the branches of the US military, with all of their weaponry are going to be “monitored” by the weekend warriors of the Texas National Guard? And, if it is determined that the constitutional rights of Texans are in danger of being infringed, the Guard is going to act. But who determines those rights are in danger? The governor? The lead conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones? The Texas Tea Party rabble? Are we to believe that the many loyal Texans in the military are going to willingly enslave their friends and neighbors? And if they try, do the Texas lunatics think their Guard is so powerful that it can defeat the world’s most powerful military?

The slogan says that Texas is “like a whole other country.” That is certainly true. But many of its residents seem to be from a whole other planet!

Videos Of Police Abuse Are Just The Tip Of The Iceberg.

The video showing the murder of Walter Scott has re-ignited the debate over police abuse by showing the cold-blooded murder of an unarmed 52-year-old man who was running away from a cop. But this video is no less alarming than other videos showing the strangulation death of a man for selling untaxed cigarettes; the merciless beating of a woman by a cop on the side of a freeway; the shooting death of a young man shopping at Walmart; and many more.

Indeed, the video of Walter Scott’s murder is no more disturbing than the video of the shooting death of a 12-year-old for playing with a toy gun in Cleveland and the video showing the shooting death of a mentally ill young man by two officers in St. Louis. Although neither of them were shot in the back, they were killed without warning despite the fact that they posed no real threat to the officers or anyone else. It’s clear that the child was given no warning – no commands. He was gunned down within seconds of the squad car’s arrival. Likewise, the mentally ill young man was gunned down within seconds.

There was no attempt to de-escalate the situation. No attempt to use non-lethal means. The cops simply resorted to the most expedient and lethal option available to them. They were not charged. They were not reprimanded. They were not reassigned. Indeed, they likely would not have been subjected to any scrutiny had it not been for the videos. Given that understanding, imagine how many such incidents are never uncovered; never recorded; never publicized; never investigated.

To understand why, we have to look at the causes of which there are many.

First, too many cops have selected their profession for the power it gives them. They enjoy the power afforded them by the badge. They enjoy making ordinary civilians uncomfortable in their presence. They like giving orders.

Second, too many cops have a sense of relativism. They believe that their abusive behavior is justified by the fact that they are called upon to deal with “the bad guys.” If the bad guys are hurt by their response, so be it. They had it coming.

Third, studies have shown there is little difference in the psyche of cops and criminals. They both like to break rules.

Fourth, many police departments prioritize military service in their hiring practices. That may be admirable, but merely having worn another uniform and having been trained in the use of weaponry does not necessarily qualify someone to be a cop. Their duties are significantly different. Professional soldiers are accustomed to taking orders, and often those orders are to shoot first and ask questions later.

Fifth, our police forces have been unnecessarily militarized. Police officers now have body armor, helmets, shields, semi-automatic handguns, assault rifles, armored personnel carriers and more. In just a few decades, they have gone from the community cop on the beat to a paramilitary force – and if you have big boy toys the desire to use them is almost irresistible. In day-to-day encounters with the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect, cops too often reach for a gun, instead of a baton or taser.

Sixth, our police officers are poorly trained in dealing with the mentally disturbed or with criminals armed with less than lethal weaponry. That is why six cops unload their firearms into a 95-pound mentally ill woman armed with a kitchen knife when any moderately experienced martial arts student could disarm and control her using only their hands. Much of the training cops do receive comes from seminars sponsored by weapons manufacturers and taught by military contractors.

Seventh, cops are protected by police unions. I am a firm believer in the need for labor unions, but police unions have taken representation to a whole new level. In many cities, it is virtually impossible for a police chief to fire an abusive cop. The dismissal must first be approved by the union and often the chief is fired before the rogue cop. That is why, after shooting an unarmed Michael Brown, the first call Officer Wilson made was to his union rep who told him how to report the incident and what to say.

Eighth, few communities have civilian review boards. As a result, ordinary citizens have little input with regard to police behavior. Too often, the police are allowed to investigate themselves.

Ninth, the fact that cops so quickly resort to drawing their guns is, at least partially, the result of our insane gun laws. Police have to assume that everyone they confront is armed with a gun. They may fear that they will be outgunned. This is especially true if the responding officer is on his, or her, own.

Tenth, cops have intense loyalty toward each other – their “brothers and sisters in arms.” They are reluctant to interfere with another officer’s abuse, let alone to report or testify against a fellow officer.

Eleventh, most Americans naively believe that abusive cops are a tiny minority of the men and women in uniform. They don’t even want to think of the possibility that the problem is widespread. But, in reality, there are precincts and entire police departments that are corrupt. If I have personally witnessed cops on the take; if I have witnessed verbal and psychological abuse by cops; if I have seen African-Americans pulled over for driving while black; if I have watched and reported cops for beating individuals for no apparent reason; if I have seen cops rousting the homeless, trashing their meager possessions and dumping them outside the city limits; if I have witnessed a gang of cops macing, kicking and beating a man already handcuffed and lying on the ground – if I have seen these things without actually looking for them – then such abusive behavior is far more prevalent than most people can imagine.

Make no mistake, a few videos and the mandated use of body cameras will not put an end to police abuse. That will only happen when ordinary citizens demand better.

The New F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. My, How Time And Money Fly!

It seems that the United States military-industrial complex has always been good at squandering taxpayer money. But, as the most costly weapons program in our nation’s history, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has taken wasteful spending to a new level.

The F-35 was supposed to replace the F-16 as the nation’s premier fighter jet. But it’s more than seven years behind schedule and more than $163 billion (yes, that’s billion with a B) over budget. It has also been grounded more than a school kid who refuses to study or listen to his parents, leading the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, to call the F-35 program “acquisition malpractice” during an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes.

In order to fully appreciate the problems with the F-35, it should be noted that a contract for the fighter was awarded to Lockheed-Martin in 2001 with expectations that our combined forces would acquire 2,852 of the planes at a cost of $233 billion. But, following a series of blunders and redesigns, only 114 had been built as of November 2014, and the fighter is not expected to be fully deployed until 2018. Ultimately, the fighters are expected to cost from $98 million to $114 million each with the total cost of the program likely to exceed $400 billion. To make matters worse, the GAO found that operating costs for the F-35 would be 79 percent higher than for the aircraft it replaces. And the F-35A’s cost per flying hour is $7,000 per hour higher than the F-16C/D.

Yet costs aren’t the only concern. There are also concerns with the plane’s performance and safety.

For example, some defense experts have questioned relying solely upon “short range” aircraft like the F-35 in future conflicts and have suggested reducing the number of F-35s ordered in favor of a longer range platform. Others have raised safety issues over the F-35’s reliance on a single engine versus the twin-engine F-16. The plane has been accused of being “heavy and sluggish” and possessing a “pitifully small payload for the money.” These problems showed themselves when, in 2008, two former RAND Corporation employees conducted simulated war games between the F-35 and the Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter. The Russian fighter won!

There are also questions about the F-35’s capability of engaging modern air defenses. In an apparent acknowledgement of the problem, the Pentagon awarded Lockheed Martin $450 million in 2012 to improve the F-35 electronic warfare systems and incorporate Israeli systems.

During evaluation flights, USAF test pilots have noted a lack of visibility from the F-35 cockpit, stating that the problem would lead to them being shot down in combat and leading one defense analyst to conclude that the F-35A “is flawed beyond redemption.” It was also noted that the plane’s current software is inadequate for even basic pilot training, that its ejection seat may fail causing pilot fatality, that its radar performs poorly, or not at all, and that its engine replacement takes an average of 52 hours, instead of the two hours specified.

A 2015 Pentagon report also found issues with the plane’s reliability and maintainability, significant fire risk due to vulnerability of its fuel tanks, concerns with wing drop that have yet to be resolved after 6 years, engine problems, problems with its software and problems with the F-35’s high-tech helmet. And even before the F-35 could be deployed, China unveiled a portable long-range surveillance radar system specifically designed to defeat stealth aircraft like the F-35.

As if all of these problems aren’t bad enough, the fighter’s technology has already been compromised. After sharing the F-35’s plans with our ally, Australia, last year it was determined that someone – likely China – had hacked Australia’s computers and downloaded the plans. Though the plane offered to Australia is not exactly like those intended for the US military, it’s close enough for concern.

Given the delays and cost overruns, would anyone really be surprised if China ended up deploying the fighter before we do?

To read even more about the F-35, visit Wikipedia.