An Open Letter To Congress.

Dear Senators and Congressional Representatives:

We understand that it’s hard work to win an election. There’s the fundraising, the canvassing, the fundraising, the travel, the fundraising, the public appearances, the fundraising, the baby-kissing and the butt-kissing, the fundraising, the debates, the fundraising, the media interviews, and, of course, the fundraising.

We also believe that, by electing you, we afford you a great honor – the honor of representing us in our seat of government. Given that, we should expect you to appreciate that honor and to do what you can to live up to your campaign promises. We expect you to follow in the footsteps of our Founding Fathers – people like Franklin, Hamilton, Jay, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Washington – to do what’s best for us and our nation.

Unfortunately, that seems to be an increasingly quaint and naive notion as evidenced by an exhaustive study by Professor Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Professor Benjamin Page of Northwestern University.

Gilens and Page collected data on your policy decisions from 1981 to 2002. Their report, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens,” concluded that economic elites (the top 1%) and business groups (lobbyists) have substantial impact on your decisions while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little to no influence on your decisions.

In short, the professors found that our democratic republic has become an oligarchy, defined as a small group of people having control of a country or organization. But the Gilens-Page study only confirms what many of us already suspected.

For example, we have seen how members of Congress have prioritized the profits of defense contractors over the needs of our military and over reason itself. We’ve noticed how you repeatedly vote to increase weapons spending despite the fact that the Pentagon cannot account for its spending of more than $7.3 trillion, and despite the fact that our defense budget is greater than that of the next 7 countries combined (5 of which are close allies). And we suppressed our frustration as we watched you vote to require the US Army to purchase tanks and other weapons systems it no longer uses or needs.

We’re all too aware that you seem far more concerned with the profits of pharmaceutical companies and health insurance companies than with the economic and physical health of your constituents. We aren’t blind to the fact that 40 of the lawmakers in your midst held $23 million in shares of health insurance companies as they voted to take health care coverage away from millions of Americans.

We’ve seen how you passed laws prioritizing the desires of Wall Street over the needs of Main Street. For example, in 1999, you voted to deregulate banks, clearing the way for them to gamble with our deposits and pension funds. That decision led to the financial crash and Great Recession of 2008. And yet your GOP members are intent on repealing the regulations enacted to prevent such an event from ever happening again.

We’ve also observed that the majority in Congress is working to eliminate regulations designed to keep our air, water and food clean in order to improve the bottom lines for their large corporate sponsors.

Of course, we have noted that such decisions also improve your campaigns’ bottom lines. Those large corporations reward you with large amounts of money for your re-election campaigns. They pay for junkets to exotic places. They give you tickets to concerts and other galas…the kinds of gifts few ordinary voters can afford.

And though you readily do the oligarchs’ bidding, you hide from your constituents. You avoid town halls. You send letters to constituents that are based on lies. And you have the unmitigated gall to ask your constituents for their money and their support!

Here’s an idea: Instead of beginning fundraising for your re-election campaign the minute you get into office, why not just do the right thing? Why not vote for policies that will help the vast majority of your constituents? Why not vote for better schools, better health care, better roads, safer bridges, better mass transportation and cleaner energy? Why not balance the budget by raising taxes on the fortunate few and cutting taxes for those who are struggling? Why not crack down on those who avoid paying their fair share through the use of offshore tax havens? Why not open your doors to all of your constituents? Not just those with the most money to offer.

Why don’t you treat the office as though you’re in it to serve? Why not prioritize country over party and people over money?

If you do that, believe us, we’ll notice. We’ll ignore your opponents’ attack ads. We’ll contribute to your campaigns. And we will almost certainly vote for you again. And, if you lose to someone better, you can leave office with your head held high knowing that you’ve done everything you can to represent us. You can take solace in the fact that our Founders never intended for public office to become a permanent position. (They sure as hell didn’t expect our nation to become an oligarchy in the mold of Putin’s Russia!)

As reported in John Avlon’s book, Washington’s Farewell, when the father of our nation, George Washington bade farewell to public service, he warned of three things: Hyper-partisanship, excessive debt and foreign wars.

Unfortunately, our nation is now burdened with all three. You may not be personally responsible for creating those burdens. But you can be responsible for ridding us of them…if you just do the right thing.

The Many Reasons Donald Trump Can Never Be My President.

1. He spent years undermining a sitting president by claiming that the president was not a citizen of the United States.
2. He broke a 40-year tradition of presidential candidates releasing tax returns. What is he hiding?
3. He has a long record of refusing to pay small businesses for work on his properties.
4. He has long bullied his critics by initiating frivolous lawsuits.
5. He has reputed ties to the mob.
6. He has licensed his name to foreign governments that use slave labor to build resorts.
7. He hired a campaign manager with ties to foreign governments that oppose democracy.
8. He openly praised the dictator of our nation’s chief rival.
9. He mocked a reporter with a physical disability.
10. He was recorded bragging about his sexual assaults of women earning him the title, Das Gropenfuhrer.
11. He has been accused of raping a 13-year-old girl.
12. He has been accused of being a serial sexual assailant.
13. He offered few policies to “make America great again.”
14. The policies he did offer were racist and unconstitutional.
15. He encouraged violence and racism at his rallies.
16. He refused to disavow the support of the KKK and other racist organizations.
17. He encouraged a foreign government to meddle in our presidential election by stealing confidential information from his opponent.
18. He refuses to disentangle himself from his business interests, creating conflicts of interest worldwide.
19. He refuses to hold press conferences to answer the questions of journalists preferring, instead, to communicate by Tweets.
20. He lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes and won the electoral vote by carrying 3 states by a total margin of fewer than a 78,000 votes. Yet he claims to have won by a “landslide.”
21. He has undermined the current president by interfering in foreign policy before his inauguration.
22. He has threatened other governments by tweet.
23. He used his status as president-elect to broker deals to benefit his family businesses.
24. He was elected as a direct result of the meddling by a foreign dictator, according to all of our intelligence agencies.
25. He not only refused to accept the findings of our intelligence agencies. He demeaned them.
26. He was elected as a direct result of voter suppression of minorities.
27. He has appointed a racist and originator of fake news as a senior adviser to the White House.
28. He has selected cabinet appointees who, instead of being reformers, are openly antagonistic of the departments they have been chosen to lead.
29. He nominated a racist to become Attorney General.
30. He nominated a close friend of Vladimir Putin to be Secretary of State – a oil executive whose company has a $500 billion deal at stake with Putin’s state-owned oil company.
31. Before inauguration, he recalled all US ambassadors.
32. He requested names of individuals within NASA who have been assigned to the study of climate change indicating that they will be singled out for punishment.
33. He requested names of individuals within the Energy Department who have worked to combat climate change.
34. He has sought waivers from government nepotism laws in order that he may appoint family members to positions within his administration creating even more conflicts of interest.
35. He has clearly demonstrated a lack of understanding of the Constitution and the office he will hold.
36. He has a long history of vindictiveness and he will hold the codes for our nuclear weapons.
37. He is filling the White House with family members and business partners.
38. He insulted and demeaned a Gold Star family.
39. He is a serial liar.
40. He exhibits all of the characteristics of a narcissistic sociopath!

Let’s Not Over-Analyze Trump’s Victory.

Despite the blame being heaped onto the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party, I believe it was never a fair contest. Hillary was outgunned by a biased media; by a partisan FBI director; and by Russian interference. But even without those things, Hillary may have fallen victim, as did Trump’s primary opponents, to the cultural changes that have taken place over the past five decades.

Those who voted for Trump simply wanted to throw a live grenade into Washington without regard for the aftermath. They have been enticed by a right-wing ideology that has destroyed respect for America’s greatest institutions – the federal government, the court system, traditional news media, science, and public education.

Contrary to popular belief, Trump voters were not merely blue collar workers who are struggling as the result of globalization. In fact, many of Trump’s supporters are comfortably retired, or are quite wealthy. These people were driven to vote for Trump out of the fear that they will lose their power and wealth to immigrants and people of color. Indeed, for many, President Obama was the embodiment of that fear.

Certainly, there is also the rural-urban divide that has been much discussed. But that is based on economic conditions that no president or administration can easily solve. It has followed the demise of the family farmer. Since the 1960’s, the size of farms has grown by ten-fold. As a consequence, there are far fewer people to shop in small towns.

In addition, franchise organizations and large box stores like Walmart, which are subsidized by governments, have used predatory pricing to hollow out the retail centers of small and medium-sized towns. That means there are far fewer independent retailers, and far fewer small-town jobs that pay a living wage.

At the same time, robots have replaced human workers in auto plants and other manufacturing plants.

Those who once worked in rural communities and mid-size cities have been left with a choice: Either continue to struggle, or give up the only lifestyle they have known and move to the large urban centers. These people are angry…at their former employers, at their government, and at what they see as the urban “elites” who seem to be do doing much better than they are.

Obviously, their anger is misplaced. But they have fallen victim to the new GOP’s message of fear – fear of those they don’t know and don’t understand. And their fear is driven by Republican propaganda on Fox News; on right-wing radio; on Breitbart News; on social media. During this past election, they were also deluded by a plethora of fake news sites – many of them financed by Putin’s Russia.

Addressing their anger and their plight will not be easy. Jobs lost to corporate farms, big box stores and robots will not be coming back. And adding tariffs to goods from our international trading partners, as Trump suggests, will only make matters worse by increasing the cost of the goods they need.

No president can wave a wand and bring back family farms and restore small towns to their former glory. That would take an act of Congress to end subsidies for corporate farms; to make multinational corporations pay their fair share of taxes; to make the wealthy pay their share of income taxes. But those things are anathema to those who now control Congress and the White House. Instead, they are committed to trickle-down economics on steroids – an economic theory that has never worked.

Given that reality, it seems likely that the new government will have to distract their angry rural supporters by creating a diversion. It’s likely they will try to re-focus the anger toward immigrants; toward Muslims; toward Planned Parenthood.

Oh wait! They’ve already done that. That’s how they got elected to begin with!

Starving The Beast? More Like Drowning It In A Cesspool Of Oil And Right-Wing Ideologies.

For years, the GOP has been intent on starving the federal government of the funds in needs to operate. Unconcerned by large deficits (except when Democrats are in power), Republicans have continued to cut taxes for the wealthy. At the same time, they have happily created loopholes for corporations to evade taxes. By doing so, they are convinced that they will be able to force Democrats to accept draconian cuts to so-called “entitlements” like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

With a Russian lapdog in the Oval Office (Trump apparently thinks he’s too good to live in the White House), majorities in both the House and the Senate, and an unfilled seat on the Supreme Court (thanks to GOP obstruction), Republicans have an opportunity to achieve their goal as never before. One need only look at the list of Trump nominees to see why all Americans, even those who voted to toss a tangerine-colored grenade into Washington, should be concerned for their future.

For example:

Attorney General – Trump’s nominee is Sen. Jeff Sessions, a man who was previously denied a federal judgeship for his racist views; a man who only objected to the KKK when he learned that some members smoke pot; a man who claims the NAACP and ACLU are communist-inspired; a man who thinks the Voting Rights Act is a piece of intrusive legislation; a man who is virulently anti-gay and convinced of the Biblical righteousness of his cause. If confirmed, he will be the person most responsible for enforcing the nation’s laws.

Secretary of Education – The nominee is Betsy DeVos, a billionaire whose school-choice advocacy group has racked up more than $5 million in unpaid election fines. DeVos once described public education as a “closed system, a closed industry, a closed market…a monopoly, a dead end.” She has spent millions trying to persuade states to replace government funding of public schools with a system of vouchers that benefit private and parochial schools. In Michigan, her efforts resulted in an increased number of “free choice” charter schools, most of which have recorded math and reading scores below the state average.

Secretary of Energy (the department that oversees the nation’s nuclear program) – The nominee is former Texas governor, Rick Perry, a slower-witted, less charming version of the governor he succeeded: George W. Bush. Perry has not only proven himself to be an incompetent dancer, he was a largely incompetent governor. More troubling is the fact that, if he is confirmed, he will be in charge of a department that, as a presidential candidate, he vowed to eliminate – that is, when he could remember that it existed…oops.

Secretary of Labor – The nominee is Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurant Holdings, the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. No friend of labor, Puzder opposed minimum wage increases and the Affordable Care Act. (After all, why should a business be expected to offer its employees a living wage and health care benefits?) In addition, his organization has a spotty history when it comes to compliance with labor laws. According to a Bloomberg study, since 2009, roughly 60 percent of Labor Department investigations of Carl’s Jr. restaurants found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act which regulates wages. Indeed, Puzder is more supportive of management than labor.

Secretary of Health and Human Services – The nominee is Rep. Tom Price who has long called for the repeal of Obamacare which would take health care coverage away from more than 20 million Americans. If he is confirmed, the department would more fittingly be known as the Department of Unhealthy and Inhuman Services.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – Ben Carson is the former presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon whose home displays a large portrait of the doctor alongside Jesus. However you describe Carson, modest is certainly not one of the terms that comes to mind. Though he grew up in public housing, he seems oddly opposed to affordable housing.

Secretary of Treasury – Steve Mnuchin is a former Goldman Sachs (Remember how Trump derided Clinton’s ties to the company?) banker who has no political or policy experience. Indeed, his views on issues are a complete mystery. About all that’s known about Mnuchin is that he is very wealthy and his bank, OneWest, aggressively foreclosed on homes following the 2008 housing crisis, including the home of a 90-year-old woman who owed the grand sum of 27 cents!

Secretary of Homeland Security – Retired Marine General John Kelly is the nominee to lead the nation’s 3rd-largest government department. He carries a mixed bag of right-wing ideologies and practical beliefs, ranging from maintaining Gitmo and cracking down on the now virtually non-existent illegal immigration across our southern border to supporting human rights and supporting religious freedom of an individual to “…venerate any God he or she pleases.”

Secretary of Defense – Retired Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis has been chosen to lead the DOD, despite the fact that his nomination flies in the face of the law that requires the position to be filled by a civilian who has been away from the military for at least 7 years (Mattis retired 4 years ago). To be confirmed, Congress will have to grant him an exception. That aside, he may be the most qualified and the most sane of all of Trump’s cabinet picks.

Secretary of State – The nominee, Rex Tillerson, is worrying on several fronts. He is CEO of ExxonMobil, the mega oil company that for decades covered up data linking fossil fuels with global warming. Tillerson also has strong ties to Russia, including strong relationships with Vladimir Putin and Russian military leadership.

Director of the CIA – Rep. Mike Pompeo, an extremist and Benghazi conspiracy theorist with lengthy ties to the Koch brothers in his home state of Kansas. In the words of the NY Times, if confirmed, Pompeo will become “one of the most overtly partisan figures to take over the CIA.” Indeed, he could make Sen. Joe McCarthy proud.

Director of the EPA – Scott Pruitt is the Attorney General of Oklahoma, climate change denier, ally of the fossil fuel industry and long-time detractor of the agency he has been chosen to lead. Indeed, it would seem that Pruitt was chosen to the post with the expectation that he will all but dismantle the agency and the regulations that protect us.

National Security Adviser – Michael Flynn is a retired lieutenant-general who is akin to Richard “The Dick” Cheney on steroids. Flynn’s passion for wild conspiracy theories is highlighted by his tweet suggesting that Hillary Clinton was involved in a child sex ring in the basement of a Washington, DC pizzeria – a claim that resulted in an armed Trumpster shooting up the place. He believes that Islamic terrorists have been guided across the Mexican border with the help of Arabic-language signs he claims to have seen. And he seems convinced that Democrats have begun to impose Sharia law in Florida and elsewhere. To make matters worse, he is already surrounding himself with a group of like-thinking wingnuts whose only experience seems to be as contributing conspiracy theorists for Fox News Channel.

Chief White House Strategist – Steve Bannon is the former editor of the fake news site, Breitbart News. He is also one of the chief propagandists for the white supremacy movement and the man who has attempted to clean up the image of neo-Nazis by renaming them the alt-right.

One of Trump’s campaign promises was that he would drain the “swamp.” But, upon examining his proposed cabinet choices, it would seem that he is intent on replacing it with an open sewer of bad ideas.

It’s going to be a looooooooooong 4 years!

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.

Fascism, American Style.

Let me begin by stating that I recognize that fascism is a loaded and almost universally misunderstood term. Indeed, it’s one of the F words used to end conversations. But, in most cases, the fascist label is wrongly applied. For example, if you are intolerant of other races and ethnic groups, you may be a bigot. But you are not necessarily a fascist. Or, if, like President Obama, you are a democratically-elected official attempting to act on an agenda you were elected to enact, you are almost certainly not a fascist.

On the other hand, if you believe in extreme nationalism (that your country is always right, regardless of its actions) and that large corporations should necessarily enjoy a special status above that of individuals then you are almost certainly a fascist.

That’s not just my opinion.

It’s based on the words of the man who has been widely recognized as the founder of fascism, Benito Mussolini, who once said, “The definition of fascism is the marriage of corporation and state” and “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism.” Mussolini also believed in an extreme form of nationalism. As the Italian Prime Minister, he demanded complete authority, believing that he was the only person capable of solving his nation’s problems. Yet he decried state ownership of institutions, writing, “It leads only to absurd and monstrous conclusions; state ownership means state monopoly…”

If these beliefs and statements remind you of the GOP vision for America – unfettered free markets, privatization of all public institutions, a belief in “American Exceptionalism”, the co-opting of the American flag as a show of nationalism and party affiliation, a determination to enforce “family values” and a powerful leader who promises to run the nation as a business – they should. By Mussolini’s definition, such views are the very embodiment of fascism.

In fact, thanks to the Republican Party, the US now leans heavily toward fascism. After all, the vast majority of our media are controlled by a very few large corporations. We have begun to privatize our schools, our prisons, even our roads. Large corporations have been allowed to hide their profits offshore to avoid taxes. Defense suppliers have been given no-bid contracts and are allowed to pass billions of dollars in cost overruns along to taxpayers. Our government is not permitted to negotiate the prices of pharmaceuticals on behalf of our citizens. And Republicans have called for the privatization of Social Security and Medicare.

So how did we get here?

First, it should be noted that among certain circles – primarily those including powerful industrialists and financiers – fascism was popular in the US before WWII. But, though it was defeated, the concepts of fascism began to reappear in the US with corporate lobbying and what former President Eisenhower termed “the military-industrial complex.”

The ideology gained traction when Reagan vilified government and attacked labor unions. It was aided by the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine which required media to act in the public interest. It was legalized when the conservative-dominated Supreme Court ruled that money equals free speech, that corporations are people, and that limits on political donations are unconstitutional. And it was institutionalized through the creation of ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) which brings large corporations and legislators together. As part of its charter, ALEC’s corporate lawyers write corporate-friendly bills dubbed “model legislation” then hand them to ALEC’s conservative legislative members who take them back to their respective states – often without reading them – and introduce the bills as if they are their own.

As a result of all this, large corporations and the very wealthy control most of Congress, many state legislatures and many other elected officials. And to ensure future control, the Koch brothers and their associates are using their wealth to meddle in many down-ballot races, including city councils, county boards of supervisors, even school boards.

All of this is bad enough. But what happens if we elect a nationalistic, authoritarian ideologue to the White House who believes government should be run like a business? I shudder to think of the possibility.

A Stark Contrast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It has nominated Donald J. Trump for president!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If It Was A Joke, We’re Not Laughing.

After encouraging Russia to hack the former Secretary of State’s website and reveal 33,000 of her personal emails, the Republican “Presidential” nominee now says he was joking. Having seen his plea to Russia at his news conference, it sure didn’t seem like a joke at the time. And no one was laughing. Not the FBI, not the NSA, not the CIA, not the White House, not the media, not even Republican members of Congress.

And given that the “clarification” was spewed from the mouth of the would-be Liar-In-Chief, it’s difficult to take it seriously. Indeed, the clarification is much more laughable than the original statement.

What is even less funny is the fact that a candidate for the most powerful office in the world called for one of our nation’s greatest adversaries to commit a cyber attack on a rival candidate in order to influence the election. Military leaders called it “unbelievable,” “disqualifying,” and “shocking and dangerous.” Some called for him to be denied the national security briefings traditionally given to the parties nominees for president out of fear that he might share the information with his Russian friends.

Taken by itself, Trump’s request might have been easily dismissed as just another of his bat-crap crazy statements designed to get media attention. But put his plea into the context of his previous statements of admiration for Vladimir Putin; of his campaign manager Paul Manafort’s ties to Vladimir Putin; of his nearly $60 million in profit from the sale of a Florida home to a Russian oligarch; of the reported investments in Trump’s enterprises by Putin’s friends; of his refusal to release income tax statements that might show his ties to Russian oligarchs; of his announcement that, if elected, he might not stand with our NATO allies; of his taking delight in the hack of the DNC email server by Russian intelligence agencies and the subsequent release of DNC emails by Wikileaks. With all of those combined, you have the makings of a real conspiracy – the very real possibility that Trump is conspiring with a foreign power to meddle in a US election in order to affect the outcome.

Trump has acknowledged that he is running on the same law and order theme used by Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. Is it possible that Trump is trying to one-up the Nixon campaign’s burglary of the DNC’s Watergate offices? Is it possible that he has so little regard for the US electorate that he thinks, unlike Nixon, he can get by with it?

At times, it seems that Trump’s campaign is a bizarre parody of itself – an attempt to test the limits of American politics; to see how much free publicity he can garner; to see how outrageous he can be before the reaction is so overwhelmingly negative that he has to walk back his statements; to test the gullibility of American voters.

As a result, I half-expect that one day, before the election, he’ll step to a microphone and announce that his entire campaign has been a practical joke. In fact, it already is.

We May Be Living In America’s Golden Age.

Contrary to what some politicians would have you believe, things in the world – and the US in particular – are not bleak. Indeed, a case can be made that things have never been better!

Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square on CNN pointed to statistics compiled by two Harvard professors. They show that, despite the events unfolding in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and Syria, worldwide, mass killings and genocides are near all-time lows. Violent crimes in the US have steadily declined since the 1990s. Incarceration is dropping. Victimization of children has dropped dramatically. Reported rape and sexual assaults in the US are near all-time lows. And, despite recent events, deaths of police are near an all-time low.

At the same time, Zakaria notes that the US economy is growing. The US emerged from the Great Recession better than any of the world’s other major economies. The US has produced more than 14 million jobs since 2009 – more than the 35 other advanced economies combined. US auto sales have climbed from 9.6 million in 2009 to 16.6 million last year. The US has surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. US unemployment is now below 5 percent nationwide – a figure that is historically considered near full employment. Wages are gradually improving. Our tax burden is low compared to other advanced nations. Despite claims to the contrary, the overall tax burden of US corporations is among the lowest in the OCED (Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development). Inflation is low while stock markets are at record highs. And, contrary to the beliefs of some, since 2009, more Mexican migrants have left the US than have entered it.

That’s right, the net rate of immigration from Mexico is below ZERO!

Those are the facts. If you doubt them, ask yourself: In which time period would you rather be living? The 1700s when the country was being founded on the backs of slaves? The 1800s when the nation was torn apart by slavery and white immigrants were committing genocide of Native Americans? The early 1900s when many of our citizens, including children, were forced to work seven days a week in sweat shops? When women and blacks were denied the right to vote? When we were embroiled in WWI?

How about the 1930s during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression? Or the 1940s when our men and women were dying on the battlefields of Africa, Asia and Europe? Would you rather be living in the 1950s when the top tax rate was 91 percent; when women were relegated to menial jobs and blacks were fighting (and dying) for the right to vote and to attend the same schools as whites; and when Americans were dying in Korea? Would you rather be living in the 1960s when we were fighting in Vietnam and at home over an ill-conceived war? Would you rather be living in the 1970s when both inflation and gas prices soared; when mortgage rates were as high as 25 percent, if you could qualify; and when women were routinely victimized in the workplace?

Would you rather be living in the 1980s when we were still engaged in the Cold War; when the national GDP fell; and when crime rates, incarceration rates and the national debt soared? Would you rather be living in the 1990s when incarceration rates continued to climb; when the economy rose out of the doldrums and when the federal government ran surpluses? Okay, I admit that might be a toss-up.

Would you rather be living in the early 2000s when we suffered the largest terrorist attack on our soil in history; when we invaded Afghanistan; when we invaded Iraq on false pretenses; when the government accumulated massive deficits and debt; and when the housing market caused the economy to implode?

Or would you rather be living now?

If you’re a white Christian male who has grown up believing that you are entitled to a life of privilege and power; if your media choices are Fox News Channel, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and the like; or if you believe some of the lies told by politicians, you may want to return to a previous decade, or even a previous century. But, if you believe in science and facts; if you truly believe that all people are created equal regardless of race, religion or gender, you might just realize how lucky we are.

Certainly, there are many problems. Global climate change is a real and gathering threat. Our wilderness and oceans are being destroyed. Many species are being slaughtered. We must honestly face the problems of the past with regard to black slavery and the genocide of Native Americans. We must work to improve our policing and to lower incarceration rates. We must continue to improve Americans’ access to affordable health care. We must improve mental health care. We must find a way to get guns off of our streets. We must improve education and make it more affordable. We must rebuild our outdated and crumbling infrastructure. We must control greed and provide living wages to any who are willing to work full-time. We must find ways to create jobs to replace those that are being lost to robots and technology. We must strengthen our safety net programs for those less fortunate than ourselves. And we must rededicate ourselves to treat all people equally.

Nevertheless, all things considered, I choose to disregard the lies of politicians who portray our nation in crisis and the media who gleefully repeat their claims in search of higher ratings and profits. If not for the political divisiveness created by such people, we might all recognize how good we have it and that, if we choose to work together, things can be even better.

This is a golden age.

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.)