Tax Secrets Of The Wealthy.

Most Americans fear being audited by the IRS based on the knowledge that, if it is deemed that they have not paid their fair share, they could face penalties, garnishment of wages and/or possible imprisonment. Yet some of the wealthiest Americans and multinational corporations apparently have no such fear. It’s not enough that these people and organizations have used their wealth to lobby Congress to create a myriad of tax write-offs and corporate welfare schemes. Many find tax shelters to avoid paying taxes altogether.

According to the Financial Secrecy Index created by the Tax Justice Network, “An estimated $21 to $32 trillion of private financial wealth is located, untaxed or lightly taxed, in secrecy jurisdictions around the world.” The organization uses the term “secrecy jurisdictions” rather than the more common “tax havens” because the secrecy provided by these jurisdictions does more than aid tax avoidance. The secrecy is key to such illicit activities as fraud, money laundering, insider trading, and avoidance of regulations. Moreover, it allows the wealthy to hide their assets while forcing those less fortunate to subsidize their needs and to shoulder their nations’ resulting debt.

In other words, most of us are making up for the taxes that the wealthy refuse to pay.

Even some of those at the highest levels of the US government have taken advantage of secrecy jurisdictions. For example, in the Panama Papers (a list of the wealthy who used the services of a Panamanian law firm to set up tax shelters) Donald Trump’s name shows up 3,450 times. And, recently, The Intercept published a story revealing the use of one of the world’s most secret tax havens by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, Elaine Chao, both of whom have avoided taxes while cashing US government paychecks! Former Massachusetts governor, GOP presidential candidate and current Utah senate candidate Mitt Romney also has reportedly taken advantage of multiple tax havens.

Many of the wealthy don’t even have to send their money offshore to evade taxes. Some of the most active tax shelters are right here in the United States! As reported by The Washington Post, “Contrary to popular belief, notorious tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, Jersey and the Bahamas were far less permissive in offering the researchers shell companies than states such as Nevada, Delaware, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming and New York…” Indeed, The Washington Post found that US regulations for setting up shell companies are more lax than any country in the world, except Kenya!

Ironically, all of this is aided by a financial industry taxpayers saved from bankruptcy after the financial crash of 2008. According to the Tax Justice Network, “A global industry has developed involving the world’s biggest banks, law practices, accounting firms and specialist providers who design and market secretive offshore structures for their tax- and law-dodging clients.”

It’s not unlikely that such tax evasion will eventually have disastrous economic consequences for the US. But, when it does, the wealthy will simply pull up roots and relocate to another country where they can resume their form of legalized larceny leaving the rest of us to clean up their mess.

The Real State Of Our Union.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evangelical Extremists.

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

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

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

That brings me to the subject of this post.

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

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

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

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

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

Then along came the Donald.

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

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

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

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

How Low Can He Go?

Every few days, we are given a new reminder of the character of the man who now occupies the White House (at least when he’s not taking a government-paid golf vacation at one of his own resorts).

Before the 2016 election, we knew that Donald Trump was a womanizer – thrice married and involved in more extramarital affairs than we could count. From the Access Hollywood “grab ’em by the pussy” tapes and his appearances on Howard Stern’s radio show, we knew he was a misogynist. And from the Panama Papers where his name appeared in tax haven documents more than 3,500 times, we knew he was a tax evader.

We knew that he was a racist who had been taught to hate people of color from an early age by his KKK member parents. We knew he viewed those less fortunate than he with contempt – “it’s a matter of breeding.” We knew that he considered brown people from south of our border as rapists and thugs. We knew about his racist “birtherism.” And we knew that he attacked a federal judge for his Mexican heritage.

From reports by investigative journalists, we knew that the Donald had a long history of connections with organized crime. From hundreds of court cases, we knew that he had built his empire on the backs of small businesses that he refused to pay for their services. We knew that he was no business genius for having failed to make money with casinos – casinos for God’s sake! And his pathological narcissism was obvious thanks to the enormous letters spelling out his name on each of his gaudy resorts and office buildings.

We knew that Trump was a bully who used his lawyers to threaten anyone who refused to go along with his plans or raised questions about his numerous failures. We knew that he was a con man, having defrauded hundreds of people through scams such as Trump “University.” We knew that he funneled monies intended for charity into his own pockets through his Trump Foundation.

As a political candidate, we knew that he disrespected and attacked the very institutions our nation was built on. We knew that he bullied and threatened the news media, calling them “enemies of the people.” We knew that he verbally attacked a Gold Star family. We knew that he encouraged violence against peaceful demonstrators. We knew that he threatened to “lock up” his political opponent. And we knew that he had little understanding of the issues of governance.

But, despite all this, a minority of Americans voted for him anyway.

And what has happened in the year since Trump took office? He has continued to reveal even more of his character – or, more precisely, his lack of character. He has lied at an astonishing rate, beginning with the size of his inaugural crowd. He defended white supremacists as “nice people” while demeaning those who stood against them. He has expressed great admiration for leaders who are dictators and fascists. He has appointed unqualified ideologues to lead government agencies with the express purpose of undermining the agencies and ultimately destroying them.

Trump has engaged in a Twitter war with the leader of a nation that poses a nuclear threat to us by claiming that his nuclear button is bigger. Never mind the millions who will certainly die if the two actually get into a dick-measuring contest.

He has dragged down America’s standing with virtually every nation on the planet. He has offended a large portion of the world population by openly asking why the US takes so many immigrants from “shithole” countries like Haiti and those in Africa instead of those from countries like Norway. And he has threatened the very existence of our planet with his ignorance about climate change.

Despite promises to help working Americans and to “drain the swamp,” Trump led the Wall Street-backed charge to pass a tax cut for billionaires and large, multinational corporations paid for by the poor and future generations.

The most recent example of the new standard of behavior Trump has set for the office is the revelation that Trump’s lawyer paid off a porn star to buy her silence regarding his extramarital affair with her. Nevertheless, details of him chasing her around the room in his tightie whities came out anyway. And, in a particularly telling testament to Trump’s character, the porn industry has expressed concern that the association with Trump might tarnish its image and negatively impact its finances!

None of this should come as a surprise to any of us. As Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them; the first time.” And Trump clearly showed us who he is – a liar, a misogynist, a philanderer, a con artist, a bully, a grifter and a racist who is uniquely unqualified to lead the world’s most powerful nation…or even a banana republic.

His actions should cause us all to ask, “How low can he go?” But since 39 percent of those who voted for Trump still support him, perhaps a better question to ask is, “How low can they go?” Was Trump correct when he bragged “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters”?

Actions Speak Louder Than Words.

Donald Trump and the GOP leaders in Congress continue to say that they support ordinary working Americans and the middle class. Yet virtually everything they have done indicates otherwise. Following is the latest list of attacks on the American people:

• The GOP-led Federal Communications Commission voted to end Net Neutrality making it possible for corporations to discriminate and to charge you for access to certain content and applications.
• The GOP Senate passed a tax bill that will add at least $1.5 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years. (A better way to look at it is the GOP plans to take $1.5 trillion from ordinary working families and give it to billionaires and large corporations!)
• Many provisions in the GOP tax bill are carefully targeted to punish voters in predominately Democratic states.
• As part of the tax bill, the GOP Senate included a provision that will end the insurance mandate of the Affordable Care Act, which will make health care unaffordable for as many as 13 million Americans.
• The Trump administration further undermined the Affordable Care Act by allowing insurance companies to offer bare bones insurance plans that will encourage young, healthy Americans to leave the ACA and raise premiums for older Americans.
• The GOP cut subsidies to help pay the cost of health insurance for low-income Americans.
• The GOP cut payments to insurance companies that compensate them for losses created by the pent-up demand for health care of new ACA enrollees.
• The Trump administration defunded publicity campaigns for ACA enrollment and shortened the enrollment period in an attempt to reduce participation in the ACA marketplaces.
• As part of the tax bill, GOP senators voted to recognize the “personhood” of fetuses in order to set the stage for repealing a woman’s right to control her own body.
• The Senate tax bill weakens the separation of church and state by giving churches the right to campaign from the pulpit without risk of losing their tax-exempt status.
• With a stroke of a pen, Trump stole millions of acres of unspoiled land and sacred sites from Native Americans with the intent of offering it for sale to extraction industries.
• The Trump administration banned travel to the US from 7 Muslim-majority nations while overlooking the oil-rich Muslim nations that spawned virtually all of the Muslim extremists who attacked the US.
• Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Accord on climate change, making the US and Syria the only nations not part of the agreement.
• The GOP passed a bill overturning an Obama-era initiative to keep the mentally ill from purchasing guns.
• The GOP has blocked a bill that would make bump stocks (the type of devices used in the Las Vegas mass shooting) illegal.
• Trump has empowered ICE to break up families by deporting thousands of undocumented workers.
• Trump announced that he would be discontinuing DACA making it possible to deport young adults who were brought to the US as children and forcing them from the only country they know.
• Trump endorsed and campaigned for a GOP senate candidate who had been accused of being a predator of underage women.
• The GOP increased the military budget by a whopping $700 billion even though the Pentagon couldn’t account for $6.5 trillion in an audit by the Defense Department’s Inspector General.
• The Trump Department of Justice ended its program designed to track home-grown terrorists, such as Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists and the so-called “Alt-Right.”
• The GOP Congress has failed to fund CHIP, putting the health of millions of poor children at risk.
• The GOP announced that it plans to cut billions from SNAP, the food stamp program for the poor.
• Trump and the GOP have packed the court system with young, often unqualified, judges based on their willingness to end abortion rights.
• The Trump Labor Department plans to relax restrictions that prevent restaurant owners from taking their employees’ tips.
• Trump inflamed the Middle East by officially taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capitol.
• It has been reported that Trump is considering the creation of a private spy network to be run by Erik Prince, the mercenary who founded the private security firm, Blackwater.
• Trump has goaded North Korea, bringing our nations to the brink of nuclear war.
• The GOP has created a maze of obstacles to make it more difficult for minorities to vote.

False Equivalencies.

For many years, the media, pressured by Republicans, have continued to compare the activities of Democrats with those of Republicans – even when there was no true comparison. For example, most accused the two parties of being equally divisive. (They are not.) And most equated MSNBC with Fox News Channel even though Fox received daily talking points from the RNC. But MSNBC had no such direct ties to the DNC.

During the run-up to the 2016 elections, many in the media equated the allegations against Hillary with the proven transgressions of Trump. What was lost in the conversations was the context. For example, Benghazi, Emailgate, and Pizzagate were all unproven accusations made by highly partisan political opponents while many of the accusations against Trump were actually proven. He had been found to have cheated many suppliers. He had been found to have made fraudulent claims about Trump University. And he had been found to have misused the charitable contributions to his foundation. There was also credible evidence that Trump laundered money for Russian oligarchs, that he was unethically profiting from his campaign contributors and that his campaign was using information stolen from his opponents.

Now the same kinds of false equivalencies are being applied to the men accused of sexual assault.

The long overdue avalanche of such accusations began when Bill Cosby was charged with raping dozens of women who were willing to step forward and publicly tell their stories. The Cosby accusations were followed by news of the many sexcapades of Harvey Weinstein. (Is anyone really surprised that the jokes and stories about Hollywood casting couches are true?)

In the wake of those revelations, we have seen predators such as Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly forced out of their positions at Fox. We have heard credible stories of sexual assaults by celebrities such as Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose. And we have heard accusations of sexual improprieties by politicians such as President Donald Trump, President H.W. Bush, Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, Rep. John Conyers, and Sen. Al Franken.

In addition, we have heard accusations leveled against a host of former presidents and politicians, such as President Bill Clinton, President John F. Kennedy, President Dwight Eisenhower and President Franklin Roosevelt.

Unfortunately, we are now in the midst of a media feeding frenzy. And far too many people are caught up in a sensational rush to judgment. But, I ask you, are these men all equally guilty? Are the accusations proven? Are the men being afforded a fair hearing?

I submit that they are not.

To start, I see no value in trashing the legacy of someone already dead and unable to defend themselves. Second, there is a great disparity in seriousness of the accusations against these men. For example, in the cases of Cosby, Ailes, O’Reilly, Lauer, Rose, Spacey, Louis C.K., Roy Moore and Donald Trump, multiple individuals willing to be identified have come forward with credible stories of abuse.

Now let’s examine the cases against Roy Moore and Donald Trump.

At least 9 women have told their stories about Moore. We also know that he was banned from a shopping mall for harassing underage women. Yet he is likely to be elected to the US Senate. And at least 16 women have come forward to tell their stories about Donald Trump. These stories range from groping to lurking in beauty pageant dressing rooms among naked – in some cases underage – women to child rape. He was caught on tape bragging about grabbing women by the pussy. Yet he now sits behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the accusations against President Bill Clinton and Senator Al Franken.

President Clinton was proven to have received consensual oral sex from a 22-year-old White House intern. The key word is “consensual.” So, though his actions may have been unethical, they do not rank alongside the accusations that have been leveled against the others mentioned.

As for Sen. Al Franken, he was accused of sexual harassment during a USO trip to entertain the troops. There was a photo of questionable humor showing him with his hands poised over the accuser’s breasts as she slept. Yet there was no contact since she was still wearing a flak jacket. He was also accused of sticking his tongue down her throat during a rehearsed kiss. But this accusation loses some credibility after it has become clear that she did the same thing – and more – to soldiers on stage. And she loses even more credibility when you realize that she is a “shock jock” and a right-wing political ideologue who is a regular guest on the Sean Hannity Show.

A second woman claims that Franken grabbed her buttocks while posing for a photo with him at the Minnesota State Fair. Really? The photo was being taken by her husband standing just a few feet away! And they were in the midst of a crowd of tens of thousands of people! It’s very difficult to believe that, if he did touch her butt, it was intentional.

Finally, several anonymous women have accused Franken of inappropriately touching them while posing for photos with him at other public events, such as book signings. The key word here is “anonymous.” It’s difficult to believe an accusation from someone who is unwilling to be named. Nevertheless, Franken publicly apologized to his accusers and called for a Senate ethics investigation of himself. Yet many people, including Democratic senators and representatives, are already calling for Franken to resign without waiting for the hearing.

In no way am I condoning sexual assault by anyone, including Franken. But are we really willing to throw someone – especially someone who has been an admired public servant and a staunch defender of women’s rights – under the bus without due process? Without looking at the evidence? Without hearing his side of the story? If so, where do we stop? How much, or how little, evidence is enough to ruin someone’s career or someone’s life?

If Franken is forced to resign, the reality is that we could be replacing a senator accused of inappropriately, and possibly inadvertently, touching one or two women with a senator who has been accused of sexually assaulting women, including at least one woman who was underage at the time!

The offenses are not equal!

Moreover, if we’re willing to demand the resignation of someone – anyone – who has done something deemed sexually inappropriate, why are we willing to overlook the many accusations against der gropenfuhrer – Donald Trump?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Racist-In-Chief.

Unfortunately, the hatred and bigotry that claimed the national spotlight on Saturday was highly revealing.

President Trump’s tepid condemnation and initial refusal to call out the hateful groups responsible for the violence in Charlottesville called attention to the White House’s deep ties to the “alt-right.” Indeed, Trump has a long history of racism. His parents were members of the KKK. His father taught him the importance of breeding, likening humans to race horses. Early in his business career, Trump Management Corporation was sued by the Department of Justice for refusing to rent to non-whites in violation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Later, he ran a full-page ad that many saw as racist. In it, he called for the return of the death penalty for five non-whites accused of raping a woman who was jogging in Central Park. (The men were later cleared of the charges.) And, of course, he was the most prominent leader of the racist “birther” movement, calling Obama an illegitimate president.

Trump began his campaign for president by making racist claims about Mexicans and promising to build a border wall that would be paid for by Mexico. For a campaign slogan, he chose Make America Great Again, which in itself was a clarion call to racists. And the racists responded. The KKK endorsed Trump for president. Numerous other racist groups, such as Vanguard America, were formed as a result of Trump’s campaign. (The alleged driver of the car which killed one and injured at least 19 others in Charlottesville was photographed wearing a Vanguard America uniform and holding a Vanguard America shield.)

An examination of Trump’s voters is more telling. 62 percent of non-college educated white women voted for Trump. 56 percent of college-educated white women voted for Trump. And 63 percent of white men voted for the Donald. As a result, for the first time in generations, we have a white supremacist in the White House. And Trump is not the only one.

His chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is largely responsible for making Breitbart News “the platform for the alt-right” – a virtual megaphone for bigots and neo-Nazis. The White House is also the workplace for at least two other racists. Steven Miller is Trump’s senior adviser for policy and Sebastian Gorka serves as a deputy assistant to Trump. Not coincidentally, both have gone on record denying the threat of domestic terrorist groups.

Want more proof of Trump’s connections to the alt-right?

He appointed Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General, who in 1986 was denied a federal judgeship when his former colleagues testified that Sessions used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought its members were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”

In almost every conceivable way, not the least of which is color, Trump is the polar opposite of his predecessor. He is clueless and classless with no discernible redeeming traits. Indeed, he is the anti-Obama. Obama entered office saying, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America – there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America – there’s the United States of America.” President Obama reached across the political divide to appoint 18 Republicans to his administration. He repeatedly called for unity. By contrast, Trump has done nothing to reach across the divide. In fact, he has deepened the chasm and widened it. He verbally attacks anyone who disagrees with him. And his furor isn’t limited to Democrats and liberals. He has repeatedly assaulted the media and virtually everything his opponents hold dear. He has continued his assault on immigrants, on the environment, on regulations designed to protect citizens, on health care…he has even attacked the law and the Constitution.

Yet Trump has been reluctant to say anything negative about Nazis and racists.

Only when he was backed into a corner did he tepidly denounce the support for his campaign by David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the KKK. And only when there was a near universal outcry following the violence in Charlottesville did he finally, and hesitantly, call out the alt-right groups that fomented the violence. Even the Nazis and white supremacists didn’t believe he was sincere in his denunciation. Indeed, David Duke was quoted as saying, “He has our back.”

By failing to wholeheartedly condemn Nazis and racists, there is reason to wonder if Trump is trying to give the alt-right what it wants – a race war. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to realize that increased violence would give Trump the opportunity to do what the dictators he seems to idolize (Putin, Duterte, Erdogan, et al) have done and declare martial law.

Yet, as Trump has willingly become a symbol of racism in America, a bigger problem is the racists next door who enable him. They are your neighbors and your family members. They are students, laborers, truck drivers, farmers, realtors, lawyers, business executives, police officers, sheriffs, border patrol and many others. Their racism is seldom obvious. They don’t bother to wear sheets and hoods. They rarely gather to burn crosses.

Instead, they gather on websites like Breitbart, the Drudge Report, Fox News, and the Daily Stormer. They listen to hate-filled radio programs hosted by Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham and dozens of others. Like the man in the White House, they choose to bully and threaten from afar. They troll social media like Facebook and Twitter.

More worryingly, they hoard high-powered weaponry and ammunition. Many are members of the NRA. Many belong to militias such as the Oath Keepers and the Border Guard. Others are sovereign citizens who refuse to follow laws or to pay taxes. And they have been placed on alert by Trump with his warnings that his “enemies” are trying to steal his office.

It is the people who support Trump despite his overt bigotry, his birtherism and his dismissal of all Latinos as rapists and “bad hombres” who allow the alt-right to exist. It is the people who cheer Trump’s bluster and verbal attacks against the media and his political opponents who are responsible for the extreme divisiveness we face. It is the people who politely laugh when they hear racist jokes; who are willing to look the other way when they see examples of bigotry who are just as responsible for racial violence.

If we are ever to heal the divisions – racial and political – in this nation, we must be willing to call out violence and bigotry whenever we see it or hear it. We must put humanity, compassion and kindness above self. We must elect politicians who will put an end to policies that have resulted in economic inequities based on color, gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. We must encourage everyone to vote and remove from office those who try to suppress minority votes. We must put nation above tribal politics. And we must call out all those who refuse to do so.

A Tsunami Of Coincidences.

As more connections between Russia and the Trump camp are exposed, Republicans would have you believe that they are mere coincidence, the product of successful people who operate multinational businesses. That’s an explanation only the chronically naive and the willfully ignorant could accept.

Following is a list of just those connections that have been identified. Even if no further relationships are uncovered, you have to be extraordinarily suspicious of this administration.

For example, President Trump met with Russia’s UN ambassador in 1986 and began pursuing business deals in Russia shortly afterward. The head of Russian-American Chamber of Commerce is a Trump associate. Trump has numerous connections with Russian oligarchs who have rented office space at the Trump Tower and purchased a Florida estate from Trump at nearly three times its value. Trump’s business was rescued during the Great Recession as the result of huge loans from Deutsche Bank after every US bank and other European banks refused to loan him money. (Deutsche Bank was under investigation for allegedly participating in a Russian money-laundering scheme until the Department of Justice suddenly ended the investigation after Jeff Sessions became the Attorney General.)

One of Trump’s former business partners is a Russian Mixed Martial Arts fighter who is also a friend of Putin’s. Trump held the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow hosted by a Russian oligarch who is friends with Vladimir Putin. At that time, it was reported that he met with Putin.

During the campaign, US intelligence agencies were alerted to the existence of a Russian dossier on Trump by British agent who feared it would allow the Russians to compromise the candidate. Trump’s campaign financier, Robert Mercer, has reported business ties to a Russian oligarch. (It must be noted that virtually all Russian oligarchs are friends with Putin.) Also, during the campaign, it was discovered that there was a mysterious Internet connection between members of the Trump campaign and Alfa Bank, the largest private commercial bank in Russia.

Following his inauguration, it was reported that Trump tried to lift the sanctions on Russia. He also called the Preet Bharara, the US attorney who was in the midst of prosecuting a case involving money-laundering. When Bharara refused Trump’s phone call, he was fired by Trump and, following his firing, the case was settled out of court.

President Trump took the extraordinary step to meet with the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador in the Oval Office. During that meeting, he leaked classified information about Israeli surveillance of ISIS and told Russians that, having fired that “nutjob” Comey, he was under less pressure.

Further, Trump’s name appeared in the Panama Papers more than 3,500 times. These papers were the result of a long-time investigation into tax evasion through offshore shell corporations, many of them involving Russian oligarchs.

And those are just Trump’s connections to Russia. There are many more involving his cabinet and political associates.

We all know about the investigations into Trump’s former National Security Adviser, General Michael Flynn. He had numerous meetings with the Russian ambassador before and after the election. He was paid to appear on Russian TV and for several speaking engagements in Russia.

Vice-president Pence, who led the Trump transition team following the election, recommended Flynn as the National Security Adviser despite being alerted by the Justice Department that Flynn may have been compromised.

Attorney General Jeff Session failed to disclose multiple meetings with the Russian ambassador during his confirmation hearing, which resulted in him recusing himself from the Flynn-Russian investigation. Nevertheless, Sessions advised Trump to fire FBI Director James Comey.

As a CEO, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson negotiated a deal between Gazprom, the Russian government-owned gas company, and ExxonMobil which would go into effect if sanctions were lifted. In recognition of his efforts, Tillerson received the Order of Friendship Award from Putin. Tillerson also has a personal relationship with the president of Rosneft, the government-controlled oil company.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is a one-third owner of a Cypress bank known to hide money for Russian oligarchs. The other two bank owners are known allies of Putin’s.

The brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, a friend and confidant of Putin’s. And it was her husband’s company (Spectrum Health) that was linked to the mysterious Internet connection between the Trump campaign and Alfa Bank.

It was recently revealed that Trump son-in-law and very special White House adviser, Jared Kushner is a “person of interest” in the Trump-Russian investigation for having numerous undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador before and after the inauguration. Purportedly one of those meetings involved an attempt to set up back-channel communications with the Russian government.

Former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is a former business partner with Ukrainian oligarchs who received sweetheart deals from Putin. He is also a former business associate with a former Russian intelligence agent who is a friend of Putin’s. Manafort was a campaign adviser to a Ukrainian presidential candidate with ties to Putin. And he was a paid lobbyist for Turkey, which is run by a dictator tied to Putin.

Carter Page, who served as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, met with the Russian ambassador in 2016. He has had multiple contacts with a Russian spy. His business partner is a Russian oligarch. He also owns shares in Gazprom and has met with leaders of Rosneft.

It has been reported that J.D. Gordon, who served as a national security adviser to the Trump campaign, also met with Russian ambassador and then-Senator Jeff Sessions at the Mayflower Hotel during the Republican national convention.

Longtime Trump associate and former campaign adviser, Roger Stone, has received money for numerous appearances on Russian television. More disturbing is the fact that Stone admitted to meeting with Wikileaks and the Russian hackers known as Gucifer over the release of emails from the Clinton campaign and Democratic organizations.

Felix Sater, a Trump business associate pleaded guilty in a stock fraud scheme with ties to the Russian mafia. He was also indicted in a stock fraud scheme with a convicted felon who brokered a $150 million deal with a hedge fund tied to Putin. That same hedge fund invested in the Trump Soho hotel.

Michael Cohen, the longtime lawyer for Trump’s businesses and Trump’s personal attorney, is associated with two Russian-leaning Ukrainians who are now under investigation by the Ukraine for treason.

Last, but not least, Donald Trump, Jr. has business ties to numerous people with Russian connections.

As I wrote at the beginning of this article, you might dismiss one or even a dozen such connections between Trump and Russia as coincidence; the result of operating a multinational company. But I now count more than 50. To dismiss that many as mere coincidence defies logic.

Montana’s Gianforte Will Fit Right In With The Washington GOP.

So what if he’s an out-of-control billionaire who assaulted a reporter for merely asking a question? What does it matter that, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, he has supported white supremacists and other hate groups? He is a member of a political party represented by those who have done much worse.

For example, the party leader is now a thrice-married president who has admitted to serial sexual assault; who has mob ties both in the US and Europe; who demeaned Gold Star parents; who praises murderous dictators while alienating our closest allies; and who is currently using the White House as an ATM to enrich himself and his family.

The Attorney General is, and long has been, an avowed rapist by both his words and his deeds. The head of the EPA has prioritized the fossil fuel and mining industries over clean air and water. The White House budget director has stated that he will measure the success of his budget by the number of people who are no longer able to obtain food stamps and other financial support.

The Republican caucus in Washington and statehouses across the country includes delegates who have committed sexual assault and incest. The religious “family values” candidates who have been caught in extramarital affairs are too numerous to count. Many of those who vehemently claim to be anti-gay have themselves engaged in homosexual acts – some with children.

Some of the Republican congressional leaders have accepted hundreds of thousands in campaign donations from foreigners. Some raked in huge profits from investments as a result of voting to take health care away from millions of Americans. Republicans have undermined the Constitution by passing strict voter ID laws denying hundreds of thousands of citizens their right to vote. They have gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts to perpetuate their re-election. And many have turned over their legislative responsibilities to lobbyists and corporations through groups such as ALEC and the NRA.

Republicans have repeatedly campaigned on platforms of fear – encouraging people to blame their problems on the media, immigrants, people of color and the LGBT community. By fear-mongering, they are also able to channel a large percentage of our GDP to defense contractors and an already bloated defense department – a department so lax with accounting, it’s unable to account for trillions in spending, including the billions of US cash it “lost” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They are committed to a ideology of supply-side (aka trickle-down, Reaganomics, voodoo, and horse and sparrow) economics that has repeatedly failed. Indeed, it has been a disaster for our nation’s finances, resulting in massive deficits and a ballooning national debt. Its only proven success is its ability to redistribute money from ordinary people to the already very wealthy.

As part of their pandering to the rich, Republicans have fought to privatize education and prisons, even Social Security. If there’s a pool of taxpayer money, they are determined to allow corporate interests to sink their claws into it. They repeatedly privatize profits while socializing the costs to citizens and the environment.

So welcome to Washington, Congressman Gianforte. You’ll fit right in.