The Shutdown Is Not A Negotiating Tactic. It’s The Goal.

It seems that most Americans and much of the media believe that the shutdown is the result of a failed negotiation between Trump and Congressional Democrats. But, in reality, the great dealmaker has not been negotiating in good faith all along. Indeed, his latest “proposal” was to offer Democrats things that he has previously taken away – DACA protections, immigration judges, etc.

Prior to this January, if Trump wanted $5.7 billion to fund his wall, all he had to do was ask. The Trump sycophants in the Republican-controlled House and Senate have given him everything he wanted. As evidenced by the Trump tax cuts, which have resulted in nearly $2 trillion in additional debt, they certainly weren’t worried about fiscal constraint. And, if Trump and the GOP really wanted to end the shutdown, they could do it today by voting on the budget bill that has already been passed by the House and was previously passed in the Senate by a unanimous voice vote. Or they could accede to the Democrats’ wishes and negotiate funding for increased border security where it would do the most good – at legal ports of entry. That, after all, is where the majority of illicit drugs enter our country in trucks, shipping crates and private vehicles. And they could use the funds to step up the monitoring of the people who enter our country legally and simply overstay their visas. Those people represent approximately half of undocumented immigrants. The Republicans’ failure to do so shows that the shutdown isn’t really interested in border security.

I believe the government shutdown is what Trump and his minions wanted all along.

For Republicans and this outlaw administration, the shutdown serves a variety of purposes. First, it is a distraction from the Russia investigation that is nearing completion. Second, it deprives the incoming Democratic House members the necessary funds to staff their offices, thus potentially impeding their investigations into Trump world. Third, it offers the bully in the White House an opportunity to frustrate and blame Speaker Pelosi. Fourth, in the twisted mind of Trump, the majority of government workers are Democrats, so it’s mostly Democrats who are suffering the consequences. Fifth, if as I believe, Trump really is beholden to Putin, a shutdown throws Russia’s greatest adversary into chaos.

Finally, and most important, Republicans despise government. So the shutdown allows them to call back only those workers that are necessary to their cause. For example, while many in the EPA and Interior are furloughed, Republicans have called back only those Interior employees who are responsible for issuing drilling and mining permits for public lands.

We must all face the reality that the shutdown is a right-winger’s wet dream. The most extreme among them believe the federal government should only be responsible for law and order, the protection of private property and national defense. Anything else – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, WIC, HUD, the EPA, public education – is, in their minds, a waste of money and an unwelcome intrusion into their ability to plunder the national resources and squeeze money out of the populace.

Suborning Perjury? That’s Where You Finally Draw The Line?

After learning that Trump ordered his personal attorney to lie to Congress about his continued attempts to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow, members of Congress are suddenly willing to speak of impeachment.

Seriously, that’s what finally caused you to grow a spine?

It wasn’t enough that Trump, his entire administration and his congressional supporters have lied to the American public on a daily basis? It wasn’t enough that he stole the election with the help of Russia? It wasn’t enough that Trump embraced dictators and thugs around the world? It wasn’t enough that leaders of his campaign had more than 101 known contacts with Russians during the campaign and accepted illegal campaign contributions from Russians? It wasn’t enough that members of his campaign have been convicted and pleaded guilty of illegal activities?

It wasn’t enough that he appointed a man operating as an unregistered foreign agent as his director of national security?!!!

It wasn’t enough that Trump bragged on tape that he has committed sexual assault? And that it is known that he paid hush money to cover up illicit affairs with a porn star and a centerfold model? It wasn’t enough that Trump has damaged all of our most reliable and necessary institutions, such as the FBI, the CIA and the EPA? It wasn’t enough that he regularly refers to the news media as enemies of the people? It wasn’t enough that Trump appointed a group of sycophants and unqualified toadies to positions of authority? It wasn’t enough that Trump and his cabinet squandered tens of millions on vacations and private interests? It wasn’t enough that his administration sold public and tribal lands to the highest bidders?

It wasn’t enough that Trump undermined NATO and our international relationships with our strongest and most loyal allies – that his administration has broken international laws and treaties? It wasn’t enough that he manufactured an international crisis at our southern border – that he separated thousands of refugee children from their families? It wasn’t enough that his administration’s actions resulted in the deaths of two young children who had survived a thousand mile trek from Central America?

It wasn’t enough that Trump and his supporters have supported racists and Nazis – that they excused racist violence and the death of an innocent young woman? It wasn’t enough that they gave billions in tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy while denying the basic needs of the poor as an extreme act of cruelty? It wasn’t enough that those unnecessary tax cuts ran up approximately $2 trillion in additional debt?

It wasn’t enough that his administration pandered to the victims of disasters in Texas and the southeastern US, while turning their backs on the American citizens of Puerto Rico? It wasn’t enough that Trump blamed the victims of California wildfires for losing their homes and their lives as a result of the climate change he denies? It wasn’t enough that he created trade wars causing Americans to lose markets for their products? It wasn’t enough that he shut down the federal government in a childish temper tantrum?

It isn’t enough that there is abundant evidence that he engaged in treason in plain sight?!!!

But ordering his attorney to lie to you? THAT? That’s where you draw the line?

What Would A Russian Operative Do If He Ran For President Of The United States?

He would appoint a pro-Russian lobbyist as his campaign manager.
He would change the platform of his political party to make it more friendly toward Russia.
He would invite the Russian ambassador to his party’s national convention.
He would request and accept Russian help with his election campaign.
He would have his campaign manager provide polling data to his Russian handlers so that Russia could more accurately target US voters with its disinformation campaign.
He would have members of his campaign staff and transition committee try to open secret back channels with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
He would accept millions in donations from pro-Russian Ukrainians for his inauguration.
He would appoint a retired general who was acting as a foreign agent as Director of National Security.
He would appoint unqualified sycophants to key positions in his administration with the express purpose of dismantling the agencies they control.
He would refuse to fully staff most government departments, especially those in leadership positions.
He would refuse to fully staff the State Department.
He would refuse to appoint ambassadors to many US allies.
He would try to undermine American’s trust in all government institutions.
He would encourage and sign a bill to cut taxes that would result in unprecedented national debt.
He would fire the leadership of the FBI and diminish its standing among millions of his supporters.
He would dismiss the findings of all five US intelligence agencies and accept the word of Vladimir Putin, instead.
He would repeatedly deny that he received election help from Russian interference. “No collusion!”
He would try to block and derail any investigations into his connections with Russia.
He would constantly attack the opposing party with the intent of dividing our nation as never before.
He would promote and pursue racist policies to further divide our nation.
He would lie so often that citizens would have difficulty telling falsehoods from the truth.
He would call the media “enemies of the people” and blame our problems on them.
He would undermine the relationships and standing with America’s closest and most loyal allies.
He would undermine NATO.
He would attempt to delay and block economic sanctions on Russia that were passed by Congress.
He would welcome Russian diplomats into the Oval Office and provide them classified information obtained by a US ally. He would allow only Russian media to attend the meeting.
He would create chaos with the nation’s trading partners by imposing unwarranted tariffs that would cause damage to many of our key industries.
He would have secret meetings with his handlers and destroy any record of them.
He would suddenly, with no military reason, announce the withdrawal of US troops from Syria relinquishing control of the region to a dictator and Russia.
He would attempt to rewrite history by promoting Vladimir Putin’s version of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
He would shutdown the US government on a whim and refuse to negotiate in good faith to reopen it.

As you can see, it doesn’t matter if Donald J. Trump was actually recruited to be a Russian spy. He is acting as one.

The Wannabe King.

The president’s actions on the day following the 2018 midterm elections will long be remembered as a window into his disturbing mind. He not only forced the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He replaced Sessions with a conservative ideologue. (As I’ve previously noted, that gives the president an acting Attorney General who is openly hostile to the Mueller investigation.)

Hmmmm…why do you suppose he would want to do that?

Prior to the announcement of Session’s “resignation,” the president presided over a press conference during which he courted a confrontation with a CNN reporter leading to the suspension of the reporter’s White House press credentials. When an NBC reporter stood up for his press colleague, Trump all but threatened him. And when a PBS correspondent understandably asked if the president’s labeling himself as a nationalist would be a welcome sign to white nationalists, Trump called the question “racist” and admonished the African-American correspondent for asking such a “horrible” question.

All of that was highly disturbing. But even more worrying was the president’s performance at the beginning of the press conference when he threatened “war” with Democrats after they wrested control of the House away from Republicans. More alarming yet was the fact that Trump ridiculed the Republicans who lost their bids for re-election. He mocked GOP candidates Mia Love, Barbara Comstock, Peter Roskam, Erik Paulsen, Carlos Curbelo and Mike Coffman for refusing his “embrace” saying, “They did very poorly.” “Mia Love gave me no love,” he continued, “And she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.” (Interestingly, at the time he was heaping scorn on Love, the race had not yet been called.)

The president’s comments should cause everyone to pause. Not just the members of his party. Every single one of us.

It’s clear that Trump believes that those he considers underlings should pay tribute to him above all else. Above the electorate. Above the Constitution. Above the nation. No previous occupant of the White House has ever expressed similar beliefs. Nor have they likely even entertained them. Nixon was a self-centered bully who thought he was above the law. But I think such beliefs were even beneath him.

Trump is now entering dictator territory.

It is Trump’s Me First attitude that has led to his view of the office as a money-making opportunity. To ignore the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause; to vacation at his own properties in order to generate income from his Secret Service detail; to cut trade deals with foreign governments that benefit his family’s business interests.

After China’s Xi Jinping made himself president for life, Trump said “I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll want to give that a shot someday.” Was he joking? Or was he serious? Given his performance at the press conference, we can’t be certain.

The Nexus Of Sports And Politics.

I certainly do not mean to demean sports. In my opinion, participation in team sports is one of the very best ways to prepare for life. Through my participation in team sports, I learned the value of practice, preparation, competition, teamwork, determination, toughness, and sportsmanship. When I was young, sports challenged you to do your very best. If that wasn’t good enough, you congratulated the other team then you went home and you worked even harder to improve yourself.

Unfortunately, I believe the sports culture took an ugly turn sometime around the late 80’s and early 90’s fueled, I believe, by cable sports networks. It was about that time when I first heard college fans boo the visiting team before the game even started; when I heard sports radio jocks call out and demean amateur players; when I heard fans demonize opponents; when I heard someone pronounce the runner-up of a tournament as the “first loser.”

Whether or not it was coincidental, that cultural change also happened to coincide with the self-esteem movement distinguished by the idea that you’re special; that no one in the world is exactly like you; that it’s bad for you, or your child, to be average. Receiving a C on a report card was akin to receiving an F. Though returning WWII vets were once proud to call themselves “Average Joes,” modern Americans began to consider the term average to be an insult. Everyone seemed to believe that they were exceptional.

Winning and excelling became all important. The long-time American tradition of cheering for underdogs was replaced by cheering for “winners” even if their winning is the result of cheating.

Not surprisingly, that attitude has carried over into our politics. Our politics are no longer about policies and values that will benefit the majority of Americans. Now it’s about winning at all costs. For some, even that is not enough. For them, it’s not enough for their side to win. The other side must lose. They want to punish the “libtards.” They wear shirts saying they’d rather be Russian than be a Democrat. They display bumper stickers that say “Christians cannot be Democrats. Democrats cannot be Christians.” They call Democrats an angry mob. They try to suppress, or even outright block the votes of those who might vote against them. They gerrymander districts to ensure that their political opponents are under-represented. They attack their opponents with horrific lies and attack ads. They dump manure at the doorstep of Democratic headquarters. And they think nothing of stealing the emails and communications of Democratic organizations.

Thanks to people like Newt Gingrich, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, there is no room for compromise. Indeed, a willingness to compromise is considered a sign of weakness. Such politics go beyond tribalism. For many Republicans, politics are an all-out war against the other tribe. But history tells us that, in order to survive, even the most primitive tribes eventually learned to stop fighting and seek peace. Those that failed to do so were wiped from the face of the Earth.

To My Trump-Supporting Friends.

Your hero continues to deny any “collusion” with Russians to interfere with the 2016 election. He implies that the interference could have come from anyone. He calls the Mueller investigation a “Witch Hunt.” And he labels anything that conflicts with his statements as “Fake News.”

So let’s look at what we know. These are not suppositions or fake news. They are proven facts.

1 – Every US intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did interfere with our elections. They hacked the emails and websites of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager. They also successfully hacked the voter registration data for at least 3 states and tried to hack voter data for many others. The intelligence community presented detailed information about the interference two days before the inauguration.

2 – About the same time, Russian operatives also tried to attack US nuclear, aviation and power grid infrastructure. Our intelligence agencies say Russia is continuing the attacks. And they say that the system is “blinking red” that Russia intends to interfere with the mid-term elections. Despite the warnings, Trump announced that he believes Putin’s denials – that there is no on-going threat – and he eliminated the position of National Cybersecurity Coordinator.

3 – 12 Russians have been indicted by the Mueller investigation for election meddling. Thus far, the Mueller investigation has also obtained indictments or guilty pleas from 3 companies and 20 more people, including four former Trump advisers.

4 – The Mueller indictments revealed that the Russian hacking began the same night that candidate Trump said at a press conference, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails.” After the Russian hacks of DNC analytics, the Trump campaign clearly changed campaign strategies.

5 – There have been at least 50 documented contacts between Russian officials and members of the Trump campaign team at the highest levels, including campaign chair Paul Manafort, campaign adviser and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, campaign adviser and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and many, many more . And a number of those people lied about their Russian contacts under oath.

6 – We know about the infamous meeting in Trump Tower between Donald Trump, Jr., a lawyer representing Russia and others. Emails show that the ostensible purpose of the meeting was to reveal dirt on Hillary Clinton.

7 – Shortly after the Trump Tower meeting, Donald Trump announced that he would soon reveal “big news” about Hillary Clinton.

8 – It is now known that President Trump dictated the false and misleading response to the Trump Tower meeting on Air Force One.

9 – It has been documented that Russian oligarchs close to Putin have purchased approximately $100 million in property from the Trump organization. At least 13 people with links to Russia lived in Trump properties prior to the election, including one who ran an illegal gambling ring in the apartment below Trump’s.

10 – Trump adviser, convicted felon, and part of Putin’s inner circle, Felix Sater, helped set up shell corporations and arrange funding for Trump projects, including plans for Trump Tower Moscow. (Interestingly, 77 percent of the apartments in Trump Soho were purchased by shadowy shell corporations.)

11 – The financial backing for Trump Tower Toronto came from a Russian-Canadian with proceeds from the sale of a Ukrainian steel mill. The chair of the bank that financed the deal is none other than Vladimir Putin.

12 – One of the Trump casinos was found in violation of federal money-laundering rules 100 times. (Money-laundering is popular among Russian oligarchs so they can turn their ill-gotten gains from crime into “clean” money that they can invest in the West. This is even more necessary due to US and EU sanctions on Russia.)

13 – For most of his career, developer Donald Trump proudly called himself the “King of Debt.” He bragged about building his empire with others’ money. But during the Great Recession, no US banks would loan him money because of his large debt. As a result, Trump casinos filed for bankruptcy with $1.8 billion of debt. Despite that Deutsche Bank loaned hundreds of millions to Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. (Deutsche Bank was fined $450 million for helping Russian oligarchs launder more than $10 billion.)

14 – About the same time, both Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump were on record saying that the Trump organization didn’t need to rely on US Banks, “We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”

15 – Beginning in about 2014, the “King of Debt” mysteriously began purchasing golf courses in the UK, eventually spending about $400 million in cash.

16 – When the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) received documents listing the names of clients using off-shore tax havens, the Trump name was listed 3,540 times.

17 – Trump is accused of demanding loyalty from FBI director James Comey and asked him to go easy on Michael Flynn. When Comey refused, he was fired. Trump later told Russian officials in the Oval Office that the pressure was off after firing that “nutjob” Comey.

18 – It has been documented that, in 2016, Russian oligarchs who are friends of Vladimir Putin funneled $30 million through the National Rifle Association (NRA) to benefit Republican candidates.

19 – The Department of Justice (separate from the Mueller investigation) indicted and arrested Russian national, Maria Butina. She is accused of cultivating GOP contacts through the NRA, the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC), and the National Prayer Breakfast. She was photographed with a number of GOP candidates and conservative leaders.

20 – Butina and her Russian handler (a friend of Putin’s) led a delegation from the NRA (including some connected to the Trump campaign) to Russia.

21 – In a television broadcast seen nationwide in Russia, Vyacheslav Nikonov, a Russian lawmaker and leading member of Putin’s United Russia Party boasted that Russia stole the 2016 presidential election for Donald Trump.

22 – Sean Illing, the editor of a Russian newspaper stated that the Kremlin considers Trump “a stupid, unstrategic politician.” He continued, “Putin is confident that he can manipulate Trump to his advantage and he should be.” That was obvious for all the world to see in Helsinki. And it came after he insulted our allies.

23 – Trump unilaterally instituted tariffs against some of our leading trading partners. Not surprisingly, they responded with matching tariffs on our exports. Now Trump says he is considering more with no plan for ending the trade war he began.

All of these are documented facts. They are not suppositions. They are not “fake news.” And we’re likely to see much more revealed in the coming weeks and months. Yet Trump continues to raise questions about Russian interference. He refuses to confront Putin or say anything negative about him. He seems intent on weakening NATO and the EU – two of Putin’s most obvious goals. He continues to divide our nation by promoting cruel and hateful policies against refugees, immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans, and women. And that’s not even considering his personal indiscretions with porn stars and Playboy models, his admission of sexual assaults on Access Hollywood and the Howard Stern Show, or rumors of pee-pee tapes.

Add all of that to the questions that remain unanswered.

Why was nominee Trump’s only change to the GOP platform to reduce the sanctions on Russia? Why did he allow Russian diplomats into the Oval Office along with Russian media while keeping US media out? Why his deference to the world’s worst dictators? Why did he delay further sanctions against Russia after they were passed by Congress? Why did he recommend that Russia be allowed to rejoin the G7? Why has he stated that Crimea logically belongs to Russia because many of its citizens speak Russian?

There are still more questions.

Why has he twice arranged to meet Putin in private with no diplomats or staff allowed? What was discussed between the two men in private? What agreements were made? Why did his joint press conference in Helsinki appear to be that of a Russian leader with his asset? Why does Trump seem unable to confront or criticize Putin? Why his reluctance to support the findings of US intelligence agencies? Why his refusal to accept warnings that Russia is still attacking us? Why does he lie to us so often?

Of course, there is an even more important question. What if our president really has been compromised by our greatest global rival? I know Trump supporters enjoy punishing liberals – the so-called “libtards.” But is that worth sacrificing our democracy?

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.

Manafort = Trump’s Mini-Me.

Former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his business partner, Rick Gates, have been indicted with 12 counts including conspiracy against the US, conspiracy to launder money, false statements and failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts. These are serious charges and, likely, they would not have been filed if the special counsel was not certain that he could obtain convictions.

As serious as those charges are, it’s important to note that Trump could well be guilty of many of the same things.

With regard to money laundering. Trump mysteriously received multi-million-dollar loans from Deutsche Bank – a bank fine $10 billion for Russian money laundering – after failing to obtain business loans from every large bank in the US. In addition, Trump sold multiple properties to Russian oligarchs at prices dramatically higher than market value.

As for failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, Trump’s name appeared 3,450 times in the Panama Papers – leaked documents that exposed financial accounts associated with offshore tax havens. It’s possible that his name appears simply because of the wide range of his international business activities. But why else would his name be listed if he was not involved in tax evasion?

Though Manafort’s indictment doesn’t include criminal activity with criminal mob figures, it has been reported that Manafort has ties to Russian mobsters. Likewise, it has been long reported that Trump has ties to mobsters. Indeed, given the fact that he is a developer in New York City and in New Jersey, it would be surprising if he didn’t.

Both Trump and Manafort have enjoyed lavish lifestyles. And both men have faced financial setbacks – failures that made them desperate enough to engage in illegal activity.

And though Manafort is charged with conspiracy against the US based on his failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, serving as an unregistered agent of the pro-Russian government of Ukraine, and false and misleading statements regarding the foreign agent registration act, it pales by comparison to potential charges against Trump.

Trump’s conspiracy likely involves working with a US rival to undermine our democracy and to steal the highest office in the land. So far, much of the evidence is circumstantial, but that evidence is overwhelming.

Consider the number of Trump associates who reportedly have ties to Russia: Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn Sr, Michael Flynn Jr, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Carter Page, Roger Stone, Felix Sater, Michael Cohen, Erik Prince, and Donald J. Trump himself.

America first? More like Russia first.

What Is The Real Goal Of Trump’s Rallies?

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

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

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

Those around him certainly think so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Root Of Our Political Divide.

While the mainstream media and political pundits are still debating the circumstances that led to the election of Donald Trump, a recent study published in the Columbia Journalism Review appears to have revealed the real reason for the surprising results.

Between April 1, 2015 and election day, scholars at the Berkman Klenin Center for Internet & Society, Harvard Law School and MIT Center for Civic Media examined more than 1.25 million articles pertaining to the election. They found that Clinton supporters shared stories from across a relatively broad political spectrum, including center-right news sources.

Trump supporters, on the other hand, mostly shared articles from Breitbart and a few like-minded websites such as The Daily Caller, Infowars, and the Gateway Pundit. Trump supporters even abandoned the far-right leaning Fox News Channel during the primaries as a result of its criticism of Trump.

The CJR study concluded that we are seeing “asymmetrical polarization” with the right moving ever further to the right while Democrats’ opinions remain relatively unchanged. The conclusions are further supported by a Harvard-Harris Poll that found 80% of Republicans believe there is a lot of fake news in the mainstream media. The Republican’s belief that only their sources can be trusted to tell the truth makes the political right particularly susceptible to propaganda.

This became painfully apparent in 2016 when long-time Republicans willingly abandoned their traditional ideals to fall in line behind the Trump candidacy. And it explains why, despite the fact that more than 70% of Trump’s claims have been exposed as lies, Trump supporters either don’t believe the media and fact-checking organizations, or they simply don’t care. It also explains why a 2016 NBC News/Survey Monkey found that 72% of Republicans still doubt President Obama’s citizenship.

Combined with results of other studies and polls, the scope of problem becomes even more clear.

For example, The Washington Post found that 25% of Republicans think the country has gone too far in expanding the right to vote – the most cherished aspect of American democracy. Additionally, WaPo found that 40% of Republicans believe the US has too greatly expanded freedom of the press despite it being guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Likewise, Pew Research found that just 49% of Republicans believe the freedom of the press to criticize politicians is very important, and that only 68% believe the right to nonviolent protest is very important (another right that is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights). Pew also found that, despite the Founders’ commitment to education as part of their Age of Enlightenment (several of the nation’s Founders also founded universities), 58% of Republicans and right-leaning people believe that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the nation.

Most disturbing of all are the results of a 2015 YouGov Survey that found 43% of Republicans could see themselves supporting a military coup!

Imagine how the Founders would react to the willingness of American citizens to abandon their “more perfect union” and a democratically-elected government for a military junta; or how the Founding Fathers would react to the indifference of a large percentage of Americans to the interference in our electoral process by a hostile foreign government; or how they would react to Congress’s refusal to act upon the president’s violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.

Given all of this, it’s time to ignore those who say our political chasm has been created by both parties – that both are equally at fault. It’s not Democrats who have abandoned the center. The fault lies almost entirely with Republicans and those who support Donald Trump despite his obvious unsuitability for the office of President.

In fact, if these people do not support the Constitution, one may legitimately question if they believe in democracy and the American ideals.