Why I Won’t Be Celebrating This July 4th.

In the US, the 4th of July is recognized as Independence Day – a day to celebrate our independence from the British empire. A hard-won independence that required the blood sweat and tears of our ancestors to defeat the most powerful military forces on earth. Indeed, a least eight of my ancestors fought for the Continental Army, one suffering through a devastating winter at Valley Forge. As a result, Independence Day has been an important holiday for my family for generations. And though I have long been bothered by the extreme militarization of our nation and the accompanying politicization of patriotism – an unprincipled “our country right or wrong” kind of patriotism – I have proudly celebrated the holiday along with everyone else.

But this year is different. This year, I fear that our independence is in danger as never before.

We have reached a point where the founding principles of our nation are being compromised by a winner-takes-all, pay-to-play political party that ignores the majority of its constituents to serve the interests of a few. A political party that has turned our democratic republic into an oligarchy. A party that is now led by an unethical and immoral bully who gained office with the help of our nation’s most dangerous rival and support from evangelical “Christians” – religious zealots who have sold their souls to the man based on the belief that controlling women’s bodies to “save” fetuses is more important than preserving our nation’s core values.

Our first president, George Washington, was guided by 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. But if the man who now occupies the White House has a guide, it’s likely to be titled The Art of the Insult. Indeed, he takes a perverse pride in putting down others in order to feed his all-too-fragile ego.

So I cannot, in good conscience, stuff my cheeks with hot dogs and watch the “bombs bursting in air” when I know that our government has greeted refugees fleeing violence, repression and abject poverty – conditions every bit as severe as those that brought our ancestors to these shores – by arresting them and even wrenching their children from their arms.

I cannot celebrate a nation that takes pride in feeding our bloated defense department with hundreds of billions of dollars while, at the same time, denying food stamps and medical care to the poor.

I cannot proudly wave the flag when our Congress and state legislatures are constructing new barriers to deny minorities their right to vote.

I cannot sing the Star-Spangled Banner knowing that it was written by a racist and that those who are not white or heterosexual are still treated as second-class citizens.

I cannot celebrate when our government refuses to lift a finger to stop gun violence and the mass shootings of school children.

I cannot celebrate freedom when so many of our citizens have none – imprisoned for victimless, non-violent crimes.

I cannot celebrate when the president continues to call the independent press – one of our most precious institutions – the “enemy of the people.”

I cannot celebrate when the president describes his political opponents as un-American and calls for them to be locked up.

I cannot celebrate when the president attacks long-time allies while embracing enemies and brutal dictators.

I cannot celebrate after watching Trump appoint a group of corrupt and unqualified sycophants to government agencies with the express purpose to undermine and damage the agencies they control.

I cannot celebrate a nation governed by people who view the environment as a mere supermarket of resources with no concern for the impact of their extraction on our ecosystem.

I cannot celebrate knowing that our narcissistic president is filling his bank accounts with taxpayers’ hard-earned money in defiance of the Constitution’s emoluments clause; that he refuses to release his tax returns; that he refuses to divest himself of his businesses; and that the Trump name appeared in the Panama Papers (a list of those using off-shore tax havens) 3,540 times!

I cannot celebrate independence knowing that the man was placed in office with the help of Russia; knowing that at least 11 members of his presidential campaign had suspicious contacts with Russians; knowing that Russian oligarchs have invested nearly $100 million in Trump buildings; knowing that the NRA spent more than $30 million on behalf of Trump’s campaign after accepting donations from 23 Russians; knowing that Trump is willing to take Vladimir Putin’s word over that of our own intelligence agencies.

And I cannot sleep knowing that the actions of a man who is, quite likely, illegally occupying the world’s most powerful office cannot be overturned even if, as I suspect, he will be impeached and removed from that office.

So call me un-American if you want. But the America I celebrate is almost completely at odds with that of the president and his followers. I believe in an America that embraces the words on our Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” I believe in an America that cherishes equality, fairness and opportunity for all.

Until we become that nation again; until we value human rights over the rights of corporations; until we take more pride in our treatment of the poor than in our latest military technology; until the Oval Office occupant and his administration have been sent packing; until we, once again, strive to live up to the hopes of our Founding Fathers, I’ll sit out the 4th of July celebration. I will be flying the flag. But I will be flying it upside down. Because our nation is most certainly in distress.

The Great American Con.

The news media – the ones Trump so viciously attacks – continue to treat his administration as any other. They devote hours of airtime and barrels of printer’s ink in an attempt to decipher the actions of the Trump administration. But the sad truth is that Trump is not a typical president. He gained the office with the help of Russia and Vladimir Putin while failing to garner a majority of the popular vote. And, since taking office, his actions have defied presidential norms.

What the media fail to recognize or acknowledge is that Trump is nothing more than a con man. A man who, as defined by the dictionary, “Cheats or tricks someone by gaining their trust and persuading them to believe something that is not true.”

The definition fits Trump to a T.

And like any con man, he has chosen his marks. Those consist of evangelical “Christians” who are willing to overlook his many moral and ethical shortcomings as long as he opposes abortion and continues to make judicial appointments who are willing to take away a woman’s right to control her own body.

His other marks consist of angry, disillusioned white people who oppose immigration and who hope the image of financial success portrayed by Trump’s many properties will somehow rub off on them. In addition, he has pandered to a collection of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other deplorables who have been attracted to Trump by his verbal attacks on immigrants and refugees from Mexico, Central America and what Trump describes as “shithole” countries.

And, like any con man, having selected his marks, Trump has bombarded them with promises to return the US to the days when whites were the clear majority, when most immigrants came from Europe, when white male industrialists were in firm control, when businesses could extract natural resources and pollute with impunity, and when you didn’t have to worry about being impolite. Indeed, those promises are all summed up by his slogan “Make America Great Again.”

When he fails to deliver on his promises or when one of his scams is exposed, he either assigns blame to others (usually President Obama, Hillary Clinton or other Democrats) or merely claims success while burying his failures in an avalanche of lies.

Then, with everyone focused on reports of his scandalous behavior or the corruption of his appointees, he claims the prize he is really after: Money. He retreats almost weekly to his own resorts forcing taxpayers to pay for the accommodations of his security detail and those of other government officials. He asks his personal attorney to sell government access to corporations and foreign interests. He asks his cabinet to overturn regulations for the benefit of his own company and those of his friends. He leverages his position and those of his children to pave the way for trademarks, licenses and developments in other countries. And he continues to build his brand for the future.

It’s all a complex game of three card Monte run by a man with all of the sophistication and class of a carnival barker. And it’s long past time for the mainstream media to expose that man for what he really is before he costs us something far more valuable than money: Our democracy.

Beyond Tribalism.

Today, most Americans are members of a political tribe – Trump’s tribe, the Republican tribe, the Conservative tribe, the Libertarian tribe, the Democratic tribe, the Liberal tribe, the Evangelical tribe. But no matter which of the labels we prefer, we should find many issues upon which we can all agree.

On the most important issues, we should all be members of the same tribe – the American tribe.

So, for the time being, let’s set aside the questions of possible conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign and whatever Hillary Clinton was accused of doing or not doing. We should all be concerned that all of our intelligence-gathering agencies agree that Russia – one of our greatest rivals – interfered with our elections. If we, as Americans, are to have confidence in our elected leaders, we need to know that they were fairly elected.

In addition, there should be plenty of other areas of agreement among ordinary Americans. For example, we should all be worried that many of our longest-standing institutions – the press, FBI, CIA, justice system, educational system, science, even the truth – are under attack. Moreover, it should be abundantly clear that there is also an all-out attack on America’s working class.

Ideology aside, we should all be horrified that corporations and the very rich received 83 percent of the benefits from the most recent tax cuts – cuts resulting in deficits that will add multiple trillions to our national debt. We should all be concerned that the president ignores the Constitution’s emoluments clause by spending nearly every weekend at one of his resorts in order to charge taxpayers millions for the rooms needed for Secret Service, as well as government and foreign officials.

We should all be outraged over reports that the president’s longtime lawyer – his “fixer” – paid hundreds of thousands to buy the silence of women with whom he had affairs. And we should be even more troubled by reports that the same “fixer” was apparently selling access to the White House and accepting millions from a Russian oligarch.

We should be skeptical of Betsy Devos’s push to privatize education, thereby taking money away from public schools in order to finance parochial and private schools for the well-heeled. We should recoil at the dozens of reports detailing Scott Pruitt’s corruption and his rollback of environmental protections, thereby threatening clean air and water.

We should be angered by Steven Mnuchin’s use of government planes for his honeymoon and other private trips. We should be equally alarmed at Ryan Zinke’s taxpayer-funded vacations, his unjustified cuts to national monuments and his sweetheart deals for campaign donors who have placed bids for drilling rights on public lands. We should be universally sickened by Ben Carson’s plan to triple the cost of rent for poor Americans (many of them seniors) who live in public housing while others in government scheme to cut funding for food assistance, Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP and Social Security.

It cannot be stated often enough or strongly enough: This is not normal!

The Real State Of Our Union.

Last night, Donald Trump basked in the light of his predecessor, taking credit for declining unemployment, a rising stock market and low African-American unemployment…all things that began under President Obama and have continued as a result of their own momentum combined with improved economies throughout the world.

So what is the real state of our union under Trump?

Since Trump took office, we have seen unparalleled corruption in the executive branch. We’ve seen the president and his cabinet squander hundreds of millions of dollars on trips and vacations using private jets. We’ve seen a growth in the influence of corporate lobbyists, which culminated in a massive tax cut for corporations and the wealthy that was pushed through Congress with such haste most representatives and senators had no time to read it. And, of course, the Congressional Budget Office had no time to fully score its impact.

We’ve seen America’s international standing and its “soft power” precipitously decline. We’ve seen the GOP try to take away access to health care from millions of Americans. We’ve seen consumer and environmental protections diminished. We’ve seen GOP attempts to destroy the world’s greatest public education system and replace it with private schools that prioritize religion and myths over science and facts.

We’ve seen and heard an astounding number of lies emanating from the White House. We’ve seen an unprecedented attack on the free press, accusing the news media of being “enemies of the state.” We’ve seen multiple attacks on free elections by the GOP and Russia. We’ve seen the proliferation of guns continue unabated resulting in the unnecessary deaths of thousands of Americans each year. We’ve seen White House-led attacks on women; on gays; on transgender citizens; on Muslims; on immigrants; on refugees; on the impoverished; on diplomatic norms; on decency itself.

We’ve seen threats of nuclear war tweeted from the White House bed while the “president” consumes Fox News and cheeseburgers. We’ve seen the administration open public lands…even national monuments and parks…to extraction industries with little regard to the long-term environmental impact. We’ve heard Trump’s racist comments about “shithole” countries. We’ve seen Trump ignore the plight of tens of thousands of American citizens in Puerto Rico trying to survive without electricity and clean water. And we’ve seen the administration take giant steps backward on the environment and technology by raising tariffs on solar panels and encouraging more mining of coal.

At the same time, Trump and the GOP have ignored many of the most pressing problems facing the nation and the planet. Trump announced that he would pull the US out of the Paris accords designed to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. There is no plan to deal with the inevitable rising sea levels; no plan to offset the coming tsunami of workplace layoffs created by robotics and artificial intelligence; no plan to modernize our transportation systems.

The state of our union is that we are now living in an oligarchy where the 1 percent control our politics, our government and an astonishing amount of wealth. Indeed, Oxfam stated that the world’s 100 richest people (many of them living in the US) gain enough money each year to end the world’s extreme poverty several times over. Instead, many of these greedy bastards spend their money on lobbyists and political campaign contributions in order to elect a compliant Congress that will help them further increase their power and wealth!

The state of our union is that we have the world’s most inefficient health care system that costs many times more than those of other advanced nations yet leaves millions without access to medical care. The state of our union is that there is little control of the cost or the amount of pharmaceuticals available…where the opioid prescriptions in some counties and states exceed their populations. But we have made a non-addictive alternative – marijuana – illegal. The state of our union is that we have incarcerated a higher percentage of our population than any other nation on Earth. The state of our union is such that the Department of Defense cannot account for trillions in spending that, by some accounts, equals our entire federal debt. Yet we continue to increase its budget.

The state of our union is that, under GOP control, our democracy is crumbling as fast as our infrastructure.

Evangelical Extremists.

I’ll begin by admitting that I have always struggled with the idea of a group of people – any group of people – trying to push their ideas of morality onto others. I was horrified when I discovered that my family church was more interested in paying for building improvements than in helping others. I have marveled at the lack of substance and critical thinking of those who ring my doorbell wanting to “share the good news.” I have recoiled at the lavish structures and amenities of mega-churches paid for with the help of taxpayer money.

I was horrified to learn of pastors preaching partisan politics from the pulpit in direct violation of the Johnson Amendment. I was stunned by the belief that actions don’t matter – only faith will determine your afterlife. And I was shocked to learn of the advent of “prosperity gospel” – the stronger your faith, the more you will be rewarded with money and possessions.

Despite all of this I have remained relatively silent with regard to one’s religious beliefs. Whoever and however you choose to worship should mean little to those who believe differently than you…unless you make it their business by asking them to support and help pay for your beliefs.

That brings me to the subject of this post.

Churches only became tax exempt in 1954. Before the anti-communist Christian revival of the 1950’s, churches were subject to paying taxes as do most other private clubs. But accepting them as 501(c)(3)s, in effect, blurred the Founders’ intent of separation of church and state. It was predicated on the belief that churches contributed to the health of society – by feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. But, for the most part, that belief is based on churches of another time. For example, how does that comport with “prosperity gospel?” How does it fit with mega-churches operating as private clubs in which church members only do business with other church members? How does it fit with subsidizing Israeli development of Palestinian land in order to speed the Rapture?

Initially, obtaining 501(c)(3) status required churches to fill out an application and agree to the stipulation that they operate exclusively in the public interest. More recently, it was decided that churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches no longer need apply. They no longer have to tend to the needy to be tax-exempt. In fact, churches no longer need to adhere to any real guidelines of operation in order to avoid taxes on their buildings, their religious schools, even their businesses.

This new reality is horrifying to those of us who reject organized religion. (And before you start moralizing, recent studies have shown that those of us who do not participate in organized religion are actually more generous and more compassionate than those who do.) If Hobby Lobby can avoid paying for their employees’ contraception based on religious grounds, why must we subsidize their properties?

All of this is bad enough. But, for many evangelical churches, there are no longer any apparent standards of acceptable behavior. There is only politics.

For example, when President Obama was in office, many evangelist leaders called him the anti-Christ despite the fact he regularly attended a Christian church. Evangelists demeaned the First Lady when she wore a sleeveless dress to a public event. They openly opined that the Obamas were trying to indoctrinate children. And they were furious that President Obama helped the LGBTQ community achieve civil rights.

Then along came the Donald.

Although his orangeness rarely, if ever, attended church, the evangelicals supported him. They looked the other way at Trump’s three marriages and adulterous behavior. Of the First Lady’s nude photos, Pat Robertson, pronounced them art. They have ignored Trump’s racist and hateful comments. They ignored his bragging of sexual assaults. They ignored reports of rape, including one from a minor. And they have taken a “hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil” approach to Trump’s marital infidelity with porn stars as his wife was recovering from childbirth.

As former RNC chair, Michael Steele, recently said of evangelical leaders, “I have a very simple admonition. Just shut the hell up and don’t preach to me about anything ever again. After telling me who to love, what to believe, what to do and what not to do and now you sit back and the prostitutes don’t matter, the grabbing the you-know-what doesn’t matter, the outright behavior and lies don’t matter, then shut up…[Evangelicals] have no voice of authority anymore for me.”

Well said! But I’d take it a step farther. Why don’t you shut up and pay up? Why don’t you admit that you don’t belong to a church? You are merely leaders of a political club. It’s time you pay taxes on your property: Your mega-churches, your extravagant sound and video systems, your elaborate fund-raising schemes, your child-indoctrinating schools, your “religious” businesses, your palatial estates, your limos, and your private jets.

You aren’t religious leaders. You are mere con men, much like the president you have chosen to support come hell or high water. And frankly, I hope it’s both.

The GOP Tax Scam.

For weeks, the GOP Congress has been working behind closed doors to craft a tax “reform” bill. They promise that their bill will “give everybody a raise.” They claim that it will simplify tax codes so much that you will be able to “file your income taxes on a postcard.” And they claim that the tax cuts will accelerate the economy so much that they will pay for themselves.

We’ve heard all of this before. Remember Ronald Reagan’s trickle-down economics? Or how about George W. Bush’s tax cuts?

Instead of stimulating the economy, those plans merely stimulated the bank accounts of the very wealthy while ballooning deficits and our national debt. And though we haven’t yet begun to pay for those tax cuts, the GOP is back with more cuts and more empty promises.

Indeed, most economists who have looked at the GOP plans have concluded that they will result in adding at least $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years. Further, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation concluded that the impact on economic growth would only pay for about a third of the costs. In other words, in a best case scenario, the tax cuts will add more than $1 trillion to the deficit. And some economists worry that the tax cuts could actually slow economic growth based on increased debt and government borrowing which will result in higher interest rates!

Undeterred, the GOP responded by saying, “We don’t expect the plan to pay for itself. The only way to reduce the deficit is through spending cuts.” What they’re really saying is, “We don’t care about the consequences, the billionaires who fund our campaigns demand tax cuts.” Indeed, the GOP has admitted as much. Both the Mercers and the Kochs have threatened to stop funding GOP candidates unless they get what they want.

And fear of the sponsors is only part of the reason the GOP is in such a hurry to pass the tax cut bills. The temporary spending bill that is funding our government expires on December 8, and the GOP has made tax reform mandatory for a budget deal.

Moreover, by rushing a bill through Congress with little debate, the GOP can bury some unsavory items in the bill. For example, the Senate is considering repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which would for all intents and purposes repeal Obamacare.

The House tax bill would also repeal the Johnson Amendment which prohibits churches and other nonprofits from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office. Though the amendment is seldom enforced – pastors, especially evangelicals and conservative Catholics have been politicking from the pulpit for years without consequences thanks to GOP. This provision could impact our elections as negatively as the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates for campaign donations by nonprofits – all of which can be made anonymously through money laundering from one nonprofit to another.

The House tax bill even includes an abortion poison pill. It has a provision that would, for tax purposes, give a fetus “personhood.” That would make any abortion, for any reason, murder.

However, the most disingenuous claim made by the GOP is that their tax plan will give most working Americans a $4,000 raise – a claim refuted by most economists. But let’s, for a moment, assume that it’s true. Who wouldn’t be in favor of giving less money to the government and having more money to spend on themselves? But what if getting that money meant that there would be a cut to most government services combined with increases in fees?

What if they told you that $4,000 tax cut would be offset by eliminating tax deductions for home mortgage interest, and for state and local tax payments – deductions that could total far more than $4,000. What if they told you that there wouldn’t be enough federal revenue to rebuild our infrastructure and that the result would be toll roads? What if they told you that cutting taxes would result in less money for medical research, less money to help with natural disasters, less money for environmental clean-ups, and less money for food safety inspections?

What if they told you that the tax cuts would mean that the cost of your health care and prescriptions would, once again, skyrocket? What if they told you that, as part of the tax cut, your Social Security savings would be given to millionaires and billionaires? What if they told you that you would be asked to subsidize big bonuses for the executives of multinational corporations? What if they told you that you might have to pay for your parents’ medical costs because their Medicare would be gutted? What if they told you it would mean the end of veteran’s benefits? What if they told you there would be no more money for food stamps and welfare, so millions of Americans would have to beg for food or die? What if they told you that that their tax cut would result in trillions more in debt for your children and grandchildren?

All of those things are likely under the GOP tax plans.

If that doesn’t give you pause, ask yourself this: Since the people writing the bills are millionaires who were put into office with the help of billionaires, do you really think they have your best interests at heart? And, if the GOP ideas for tax reform are so good, why are they being crafted in back rooms out of the view of the public? Why have they not included Democrats in the discussions?

Perhaps the best question of all is one posed by Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post in a recent editorial: “If the tax bill is so great, why does the GOP keep lying about it?”

The Unholy Marriage Between Evangelicals, Billionaires And Trump.

There’s a long history between the GOP and evangelicals dating back to the late 1800’s. In the book The Family, you’ll read about wealthy industrialists and evangelicals joining forces to keep labor unions from gaining power. In the 1950’s, Eisenhower was put in office with the help of evangelicals. He rewarded them by agreeing to create the National Prayer Breakfast, by agreeing to the addition of “Under God” to our Pledge of Allegiance and by changing the national motto from “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of many, one) to “In God We Trust.”

It was evangelicals who supported Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s abuses in the blacklisting of virtually anyone accused of socialist or communist leanings. It was evangelicals who became an integral part of the GOP’s Southern Strategy after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. And it was evangelicals and Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority” who used the anti-abortion movement to help Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush gain office.

All of that is reason enough to question the beliefs of most evangelicals. But, in 2016, these same evangelicals…the purported followers of Jesus…helped a greedy, narcissistic, unqualified billionaire who bragged about his sexual assaults to gain the White House. Why? They were willing to compromise every tenet of their supposed faith based on the promise that Trump would appoint federal judges and Supreme Court justices willing to overturn Roe v Wade to ban abortion.

And that’s only the beginning.

In a number of radio interviews, Jane Mayer has spoken about the wedding of evangelicals and anti-government libertarian billionaires with failed congressman, failed governor and current vice-president, Mike Pence, as the ring bearer.

The billionaires in question are the Koch brothers who have created a large network of dark money groups to fund candidates who support their anti-government philosophies, the Robert Mercer family who bankrolled Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News and the Trump campaign, and the combined families of Erik Prince and Betsy Devos who have used their combined fortunes to fund attempts to privatize our military and our education system.

As Jane Mayer points out, these billionaires essentially share the same belief – that the federal government should do only three things: Provide for the national defense, maintain stability, and provide for law and order. They view social issues, such as abortion and immigration, as mere tools that can be used to divide and influence voters to support their candidates. Focused on such issues, people vote for their candidates unaware of the billionaires’ plans to eliminate Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and all other social safety nets.

Similarly, many voters are oblivious to billionaires’ plans to rewrite the US Constitution to incorporate their narrow-minded beliefs. Indeed, they are just a few states short of the required two-thirds needed to hold a Constitutional Convention.

Having been placed in office as a result of dark money donations from the billionaires, Trump and the GOP congressional leaders are well on their way to cutting taxes for corporations and billionaires. If they succeed, the government will run large deficits until the resulting debt will generate draconian cuts to the safety nets that the billionaires despise. And should Trump be removed from office leaving Pence to replace him, be afraid…very afraid. Though Trump is a willing participant in the billionaires’ plans, his oversized ego makes him highly unpredictable.

The evangelical Pence, on the other hand, is a willing puppet guided as much by his billionaire sponsers as he is by his narrow and hateful interpretation of the Bible.

Keeping Track Of The Trump/GOP Agenda.

Voters and the media are all too aware of The Donald’s Twitter rants and the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in last year’s election. But while we’ve been distracted by the noise, here’s what Trump and the GOP have been doing in the shadows and away from the spotlight:

They passed and signed a bill overturning an Obama initiative to prevent the mentally ill from purchasing guns.

Trump signed an executive order withdrawing the United States from the Paris accords on climate change. We are now one of only 3 nations in the world – the others are Syria and Nicaragua – who are not part of the effort. And Nicaragua only refused to sign because they didn’t think the effort went far enough.

The administration has empowered ICE to arrest and deport thousands of undocumented workers, which has resulted in the separation of families and made it difficult for fruit and vegetable growers to find enough help for harvest.

Trump announced the end of DACA for the “Dreamers” who were brought to the US as children. Now the White House is making funding of a border wall a condition for signing a new bill that would allow Dreamers to stay in the US – the only country they know.

Trump pardoned former sheriff Joe Arpaio who was convicted for criminal contempt of court after refusing to stop racial profiling of Latinos. Arpaio also boasted of running a “concentration camp” for prisoners. Some even died while in custody.

Trump praised the actions of extreme dictators in Russia, Turkey and the Philippines.

Trump refused to denounce Nazis and white supremacists for the violence in Charlottesville while, at the same time, giving them a voice in the administration.

The DOJ announced that it is ending a program to track domestic terrorists.

They dramatically increased defense spending despite audits that have shown extensive waste and a lack of DOD oversight.

They attempted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with parliamentary tricks and no debate – an action that would have drastically cut Medicaid, defunded Planned Parenthood, and denied health care access to tens of millions of Americans.

They cut payments to insurance companies that compensate them for losses created by the pent-up demand for health care of new ACA enrollees.

After Congress failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the administration defunded publicity campaigns for ACA enrollment and shortened the enrollment period in an attempt to reduce participation in the ACA marketplaces.

Trump signed an executive order to further undercut the ACA by allowing insurance companies to offer bare bones plans that will effectively encourage the youngest and healthiest people to leave the program and make it financially impossible for insurance companies to offer affordable coverage to those who most need it, especially those with pre-existing conditions.

Trump cut subsidies to help pay the cost of health insurance for low income Americans.

Trump is also considering incentives for employers to set aside money to help employees pay insurance premiums, a move designed to allow them to end traditional employee insurance benefits.

Congress has thus far failed to extend CHIP, which provides health care to millions of poor children who are not eligible for public assistance.

The House passed a bill which would cut $39 billion from SNAP, the food stamp program for the poor.

The House passed a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks and making doctors vulnerable to prison.

They have packed the court system with young, extreme right-wing, anti-choice judges and justices.

Trump has violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution by profiting from foreign guests staying in his Washington, DC hotel.

Trump signed an executive order which allows employers to deny contraceptive coverage to employees forcing tens of thousands of women to pay for contraceptives themselves.

The EPA announced it is ending the Obama era clean energy rules which is designed to replace dirty fuels that contribute to climate change.

The EPA and NASA removed all references to climate change from their websites.

The administration increased the number of mining and oil drilling leases on federal lands, which will allow uranium mining in the Grand Canyon watershed.

The administration has refused to protect Walruses under the Endangered Species Act. At the same time, the administration is considering delisting Gray Wolves, Grizzly Bears and other species.

Trump has waged a name-calling war against the leader of North Korea, putting us on the precipice of nuclear war. Even if only conventional weapons are involved, millions of people would die on the Korean peninsula.

Trump restored many of the Cold War era restrictions on Cuba.

Trump’s proposed budget would make deep cuts to most government agencies, including Health & Human Services, the EPA, the State Department, the Agriculture Department, the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Institutes of Health, the Commerce Department, the Education Department, HUD, the Department of Transportation, the Department of the Interior and FEMA.

Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate numerous programs, including National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grants and programs that support coastal and marine management. It would cut funding for new transit programs, Amtrak, the UN’s Green Climate Fund, and the Clean Power Plan.

Trump’s proposed budget would make deep cuts to the popular Meals on Wheels program for shut-ins.

Trump has decided to “decertify” the treaty with Iran – an action that will almost certainly accelerate Iran’s nuclear program.

The Interior Department has proposed cutting the number and size of our national monuments.

The administration has proposed opening the Arctic, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to oil drilling.

Congress and the administration have proposed a tax “reform” bill that will give massive cuts to multinational corporations and the wealthy, provide a tax “holiday” for corporations that have stashed billions offshore to evade taxes, and eliminate the Estate Tax which only affects the very wealthy.

If you don’t think all of that is bad enough, consider the fact that the Trump-led GOP also hopes to replace public education with for-profit private schools, to replace our efficient Medicare program with vouchers and to privatize Social Security, effectively ending safety nets for the elderly and the poor. Or consider the millions spent on Trump’s weekly golf outings at his own properties. Or the millions spent on personal trips in private jets by his cabinet members.

This administration and this Congress are quietly doing everything in their power to undermine the health of our nation, our planet and the well-being of its citizens, except the most wealthy and the most powerful. My advice to voters and the media alike: Stop being outraged by Trump’s Twitter rages and start paying attention to the actions that he and his government are taking behind the scenes.

My Trump Obsession.

Many of my friends and acquaintances have raised questions regarding my near constant blog posts, Facebook posts and Tweets about Trump. I’ve been told, “Hillary lost. Get over it.” That they had to “put up” with Obama for 8 years so “Why can’t I just shut up and give Trump a chance?” I’ve been asked, “Don’t you have something else to worry about?” I’ve been called a “libtard,” a “snowflake” and a “loser.”

Some have questioned my patriotism. Others have even questioned my sanity. Many would prefer that I ignore the current state of our democracy and go back to posting family and travel photos on Facebook.

Here’s my response: Trump and his followers are unlike anything seen in our country since the end of the Civil War. Their hatred has further divided an already broken political system. They have not only turned Democrat against Republican. They have turned Republican against Republican, state against state, friend against friend, man against woman, brother against brother, Christian against Muslim, Christian against Christian, heterosexual against homosexual…and the world against the US.

In order for others to truly understand my obsession, I need to delve into a bit of history – some of which you probably already know.

When I first became aware of “The Donald” in the eighties, he was considered a small-time developer in New York City. His few properties made a statement only in regard to their gaudy decor and the many lawsuits against his company for racial discrimination and failure to pay suppliers. It soon became known, at least in Manhattan, that he had ties to organized crime. Those rumors were soon confirmed when he dived into the gambling industry…an industry long connected to organized crime. Yet, in a telling display of his business acumen, he was one of the few casino owners to ever go bankrupt.

His only success was his ability to call attention to himself and his “glamorous” lifestyle. That led to his role as a business mogul on “The Apprentice” in which he reveled in the opportunity to unleash his inner bully. Had it not been for that reality show (more precisely, an un-reality show) and an accomplished ghost writer who wrote “The Art of The Deal,” Trump likely would have faded into obscurity long ago, especially when the real estate crash of 2008 made him financially toxic to virtually every lender – except to the Russians and a German bank involved in Russian money-laundering.

How did he rise from those ashes to the White House? That is a question that will be debated for generations.

The reality is that, in an attempt to become relevant, he led the “birther” movement, claiming Obama was an illegitimate president. When Obama responded at the White House Correspondents Dinner, Trump was humiliated and infuriated. As a longtime racist and bully, he felt the need to strike back. So he began his presidential campaign based on racist attacks on Mexicans, refugees, Muslims, and women.

The heart of his campaign was to push aside political correctness, encouraging like-minded racists and misogynists to say and do what they had long felt, but were afraid to say. This quickly became apparent at all of his political rallies with chants of “lock her up” as well as verbal and physical attacks on protesters who were Latino or black. Of course, there were also relentless verbal attacks on the news media.

At any other time in our nation’s history, his fomenting of violence, his bullying tactics and his name-calling of other candidates, would have repulsed the majority of Americans and permanently ended his political aspirations. Instead, the more despicable his words and actions became, the more his popularity grew among white people who somehow felt oppressed by their white privilege and majority religion.

Not even a video of him bragging about grabbing women by the pussy harmed his popularity. Many even applauded his verbal attack of a Gold Star family – likely because of their skin color and their religion.

In a move that far exceeded Nixon’s Watergate transgressions, he unethically and illegally encouraged Russia to hack his political opponent’s emails. And it is now abundantly clear that his election night win was illegitimate. He obviously took office as the result of the interference of our nation’s greatest rival. Worse, given the dozens of connections between Trump’s campaign and Russia, it appears increasingly likely that his campaign colluded with Russia in order to win.

There has been no greater assault on our democracy since WWII.

If his lack of character and the illegitimacy of his position weren’t enough, Trump has made no effort to bridge the political divide. Instead, he has gone out of his way to further divide us. And his nomination of unqualified and lunatic fringe people to his cabinet and heads of federal agencies has turned our nation into a Kakistocracy – a government run by the worst, least qualified and most unscrupulous citizens – people like Betsy Devos, Ben Carson, Scott Pruitt, Tom Price, and Jeff Sessions.

Trump and his administration have taken every opportunity to enrich themselves and their families. He has emboldened the worst among us – racists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. His administration has not only tried to cut access to healthcare and withdrawn from the Paris accords on climate change. It has rolled back regulations protecting clean air, clean water and endangered species. It has plans to reduce the size of national monuments in order to sell drilling and mining rights to extraction industries. It has plans to cut funding for Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, even food programs for needy children in order to give tax breaks to the wealthy and large corporations.

Most problematic of all is the fact that Trump has essentially replaced our State Department and traditional diplomacy with his Twitter rants. His name-calling and cyber-bullying have led our nation to the brink of war with a nation led by a similar man-child – a war that would lead to the deaths of millions.

Am I obsessed with Trump? Damn right I am! As should be anyone in their right mind.

Is There A Difference Between The Right And The Alt-Right?

Last year, with the help of Breitbart editor Steve Bannon, white supremacists rebranded themselves as the “alt-right” – an attempt to portray themselves as part of the mainstream. In many ways, the effort succeeded, since most of the media now use the term in referring to Nazis, the KKK and other white supremacists. I’ve even found myself using the term.

But despite the name change, they are the same ugly racists as before.

In reality, the only thing that has changed is that they now have the son of KKK parents in the White House who has appointed like-minded people to his cabinet, including a well-known racist who serves as the US Attorney General.

He was put there by a Republican Party that, with the help of Russia, cobbled together just enough electoral votes to allow him to take office. Trump’s supporters could not have been surprised by his racist leanings. After all, he was the de facto leader of the “birther” movement. And he began his campaign with the promise to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it. His voters had to know full well that Trump intended to target minorities, such as Latinos, Muslims, African-Americans and the LGBTQ community.

Republican voters also had to know that Trump’s positions were shared by many, if not most, of the Republican congressional and senate candidates. That fact was made clear by their hateful political campaigns and the legislation they supported.

For example, throughout the country, Republicans passed restrictive voter ID laws to suppress minority votes. In minority areas, they shortened early voting periods and reduced the number of polling sites. They used Gerrymandering to reduce the number and power of minorities in Congress and state legislatures. They passed so-called religious freedom laws making it legal for employers to discriminate against non-Christians and others. They blocked increases in the minimum wage that would disproportionately help minorities. And they refused to provide funding to clean up water in Flint, Michigan and on Native American lands.

Since 1986, Republicans in Congress have refused to vote on a comprehensive immigration bill. They refused to protect the Dreamers, forcing President Obama to create DACA via presidential order. Worse, they turned their backs on refugees whose only crime is to attempt to escape violence and poverty in their own countries…conditions that are often the result of US policies.

Just this year, the Trump administration has banned travel from several Muslim nations. It has begun breaking up families and harming employers by deporting undocumented immigrants. It has returned mothers and children to Central America where they are almost certain to become victims of widespread violence. The administration has banned transgender people from serving in the military. It has announced the end of DAPA and DACA. And it has targeted affirmative action programs that help high-achieving minority students gain entrance to universities.

All of this has happened with the support, or acquiescence, of the Republican-controlled Congress. Even when Trump refused to hold white supremacists accountable for the violence in Charlottesville, few Republicans were willing to speak up and denounce their party’s leader.

So tell me: What is the difference between the alt-right and the right? What is the difference between rank-and-file Republicans and white supremacists?

Looking at their actions, it seems clear that they all support racist policies. The only real difference is that one group waves Nazi and Confederate flags while the others hide behind their desks or their Twitter and Facebook accounts.