The Bleak Future Of The US As Envisioned By Today’s GOP.

Forget for a moment, if you can, the man currently occupying the White House. As bad as he and his cartel of corrupt officials are, in many ways, Trump is merely an aberration – a con man running a scam to enrich himself with taxpayer money at the expense of decency and world peace.

The real threat is taking place in Congress and behind the scenes, perpetuated by GOP leaders and their sponsors. For example, outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan is a devotee of Ayn Rand, the “philosopher” who rejected religion, morality, ethics, altruism and, most of all, any government actions for the common good. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell skillfully blocked virtually every initiative of the previous president, stole a Supreme Court seat for the GOP and evangelicals, and as one of the largest recipients of campaign funds from the NRA, staunchly supports guns as a replacement for law and civility.

Charles Koch, the oily ideologue who has poured hundreds of millions into GOP campaigns in order to change local, state and federal governments by electing those who embrace his libertarian beliefs, is a disciple of renegade “economist” F.A. “Baldy” Harper who vehemently argued against labor unions, the five-day work week, child labor laws, employer benefits such as health insurance and pensions, the minimum wage and mandatory public education.

Casino owner Sheldon Adelson has donated hundreds of millions to GOP candidates who will remake the US government in the mold of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israeli administration – an administration whose vision of peace is imprisoning and murdering Palestinians, threatening its neighbors with pre-emptive military strikes and launching disproportionate military responses to any provocation. Adelson’s most recent contributions resulted in Trump replacing the few moderates in his administration with war-hawks such as Mike Pompeo and John Bolton. His donations are also the primary motivation behind Trump’s decision to abandon the Iran nuclear agreement and, along with it, our allies.

Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah, bankrolled Trump’s campaign for office. Together with Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News and the Sinclair Broadcast Group, they have changed the national dialogue about news media and factual reporting by attacking the free press and creating a multimillion dollar propaganda network. They, or more precisely, their millions in donations have given us Trump, Breitbart, Cambridge Analytica, Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, and Nigel Farage.

So what is their end game?

They all seem to have visions of returning the US to the “Gilded Age” when it was controlled by a few oligarchs and large corporations. They prioritize property above people, viewing workers as mere commodities to be used as needed and discarded when they are no longer of value. They want to be free to extract natural resources, and therefore wealth, without fear of regulation or repercussions. They want complete control of their billions – all of their billions – without being obligated to pay taxes. They want to eliminate social welfare programs and safety nets, such as SNAP, CHIP, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. They even want to eliminate public education in order to control thought.

Of course, ordinary taxpayers and voters would be repulsed by their plans if they were openly stated. So, in order to accomplish their objectives, the oligarchs have chosen to disguise their intent. Instead of presenting their vision to the public, they have used their billions to commandeer an entire political party. They have persistently proposed balanced budget amendments to the Constitution which, combined with a growing defense budget, would end many social programs. Failing that, they are electing those who will pass a never-ending series of tax cuts designed to starve the government of the funds needed to enforce regulations; to pay for welfare programs; to pay for safety nets.

In doing so, they hope that, by expanding the national debt to a crisis level, the voting public will have no choice but to accept such draconian cuts.

How Much Smoke Do You Need To See To Know There’s A Fire?

For those who believe the Special Counsel investigation of a potential conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign is a “witch hunt,” here’s a large dose of reality.

Every US agency and many of their European counterparts have determined that Russia interfered with our 2016 elections to benefit Trump. Also, it has been proven that Russians hacked the election apparatus in numerous states and their hacking attempts were blocked by many more. It has been proven that Russia purchased advertising on social media to sow division among US citizens. Russian trolls and bots also created fake news to further Vladimir Putin’s goals.

There were wide swings in several key swing states between the usually reliable polls and election results. Additionally, there were suspicious vote totals in the same states with each of them showing almost exactly the same 1 percent margin in favor of Trump (a near statistical impossibility) – enough to help him win the electoral college despite losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.

Looking further into the matter, a shocking number of Trump campaign officials and associates are known to have met with Russian officials and Putin-linked oligarchs: Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Rex Tillerson, George Papadopoulis, Carter Page, Michael Cohen, Erik Prince and, possibly, others. Many of those people also have long-standing connections with Russian officials and oligarchs who are close to Putin.

It has been established that Don Jr., Kushner, Manafort and possibly Trump, himself, met with a Russian attorney at Trump Tower with hopes of receiving damaging emails stolen from the DNC, DCCC and Clinton’s campaign chair. We know that, after Trump won the GOP nomination, the party’s platform was suspiciously revised to soften language against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. And we now know that longtime Trump attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, was selling access to President Trump through a Russian-connected company following the election. (That same Russian-linked company registered a number of alt-right websites during the election.)

We know that, prior to the campaign, numerous Putin-linked Russian oligarchs purchased Trump properties for prices well above the market rate. And we know that at least one Russian oligarch rented space in Trump Tower.

We know that, faced with a financial crisis in the 1990s, the Trump organization approached nearly every US bank for loans and that their requests were rejected. Yet, beginning in 2005, the organization went on a buying spree, spending more than $400 million in cash on new properties. There are well-founded suspicions that the money may have come from Russian oligarchs through Deutsche Bank – a bank fined for its involvement in a $10 billion Russian money-laundering scheme. About the same time, Trump’s own sons and son-in-law began bragging about the Trump organization’s connections to Russia, stating that, as a result, they no longer needed loans from US banks. And Donald Trump Jr. went on record at a real estate conference in 2008, stating, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Are you choking on all the smoke and gasping for air yet? If not, there’s more.

Following the election, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, telling the Russian foreign minister and US ambassador during an Oval Office meeting, “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” He likely had assistant FBI Director Andrew McCabe fired for similar reasons. And after Congress passed a bipartisan bill to increase sanctions over our elections, Trump delayed them. And he continues to speak about Vladimir Putin only in glowing terms.

So far, Flynn, Papadopoulis, Richard Pinedo, and Alex van der Zwaan have all pleaded guilty to various offenses related to the Trump campaign. In addition, Gates has accepted a plea deal. And 13 Russian nationals have been indicted.

Now we have learned that a Russian official courted Republicans beginning in 2009 – at least 5 years before the international community imposed sanctions on Russia as a result of its invasion of the Ukraine. That same Russian official, along with 22 other Russia-linked individuals also gave millions to the NRA – money that is believed to have been used for the campaigns of GOP candidates. And it has been reported that another Russian oligarch funneled $7.35 into the campaigns of GOP candidates, including Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain.

Given all of this, is it really possible that the Mueller investigation is a “witch hunt” orchestrated by the Democratic Party? I hardly think so.

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.

Understanding The Trump Phenomenon.

The success of Trump the candidate seems to have confused liberals and conservatives alike. But it’s really not that difficult to understand if you look at the underlying causes.

First, there is great dissatisfaction among many Americans on both sides of the political spectrum. Both sides see growing poverty and a struggling middle class while, at the same time, a privileged few are thriving. Both see a dysfunctional Congress that now represents only a fraction of its constituents – those with the money and power to call in political favors.

As a highly accomplished con man, Trump has tapped into the voters’ smoldering anger toward government, fueled by Fox News Channel and virtually the entire radio spectrum of rightwing, hate radio. Using a tactic perfected by unsavory dictators, he has successfully focused the blame for our problems on outsiders and those on the fringes of our society. He has convinced a substantial portion of our population that the nation is struggling as the result of Mexican immigrants, Muslims, China and “political correctness” – an oversensitivity for minorities, Muslims, immigrants, women and the disabled. That has invited angry white men to dig out their Klan sheets and to say whatever racist, sexist things that cross their degenerate minds.

Far from being the successful business leader his supporters believe him to be (he is one of the few to ever lose money as the owner of a casino), Trump is really only accomplished at the arts of persuasion and branding. He refuses to deal in specifics, understanding that emotions matter more than facts or even truth.

Capitalizing on what I would call the Kardashian effect, Trump understood that his celebrity and outrageous statements are good for media. As a result, he has been able to manipulate the media’s greed to the point that CNN and even the so-called liberal cable network, MSNBC, were willing to spend airtime focused on an empty Trump podium waiting for Trump’s latest rant than to cover a policy speech by Hillary or a large rally for Bernie.

Trump has benefited from the chronically short attention spans of the public – a public unwilling, or unable, to research or to comprehend the issues. A public that disdains nuance and complicated answers for complex subject matter. An impatient public that views the world as black or white; good or bad; right or wrong. He has also benefited from a political environment based on tribalism – knowing that even those members of his party who despise him and everything he stands for will eventually fall in line to support him. And he has seemingly embraced the strategy of former GOP strategist, Paul Weyrich, who correctly posited that suppressing the vote – even if it means alienating a majority of potential voters – benefits Republicans.

Finally, he has benefited from a chronically disorganized and divided Democratic Party – a Party that lacks clear, decisive leadership; a Party that, without control of the media, has struggled to articulate its accomplishments and its message; a Party that has made it easy for people like Trump, Cruz, Ryan, McConnell, et al to promise everything, but deliver nothing.

SCOTUS Nomination Is Emblematic Of Obama Presidency.

In 2008, Barack Obama ran for president on a platform of change and hope – hope that he could end division and bring people together. He probably should have known better. After all, the Republican Party had long based their election campaigns on fear and division.

So it was no surprise when it became known that, after the election of President Obama, Senator Mitch McConnell rallied congressional Republicans to oppose every one of Obama’s initiatives with the intent of making Obama a one-term president.

It didn’t matter that, for the first time in decades, Obama nominated members of the opposition party to his cabinet. It didn’t matter that, instead of pursuing charges against those in the Bush administration who had collapsed the economy and led our nation into a misguided war, Obama chose to look forward, instead. It didn’t matter that, in order to make healthcare affordable for millions more Americans, President Obama chose to promote a Republican idea (now known as Obamacare). It didn’t matter that, despite Democratic majorities in the House and in the Senate, President Obama chose moderation over partisanship.

He was rewarded by Republicans who used the filibuster to block any and every one of Obama’s initiatives. They blocked dozens of judicial appointments. They blocked his promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. They tried to block his budgets. They tried to block his healthcare bill. They even tried to block his stimulus bill which was intended to put millions of Americans back to work.

Not content with legislative obstruction, Republicans created the Tea Party, which challenged President Obama’s legitimacy. They portrayed him as the Joker…as the anti-Christ. They called him un-American. They called him a Muslim from Kenya. They rallied behind racist images of the president. They openly carried guns to their protest rallies and threatened to exercise their “Second Amendment rights” against the President.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that, when the most rightwing ideological Supreme Court justice died, McConnell and his Republican caucus in the Senate vowed to block any Obama nomination to the Supreme Court. They claimed that, even though President Obama has nearly a year left in office, that he is a lame-duck president. They would have you believe that his current term is for only 3 years, instead of 4.

Likewise, it is no surprise that President Obama nominated a moderate to the Supreme Court vacancy – a judge who is respected by members of both parties. After all, contrary to Republican accusations, such moderation is emblematic of the entire Obama presidency. Indeed, Obama has exemplified moderation in everything he has done. That’s why he will be remembered as one of the nation’s greatest presidents. And it’s why history will remember McConnell and the rest of the Republicans in Congress as the worst ever – a Congress that did nothing but further contribute to political hatred and divisiveness.

Allison Lundgren Grimes’ Campaign A Perfect Example Of Party Incompetence.

I’m not referring to Grimes herself, to other Democratic candidates or to the rank and file Democratic volunteers. It’s the so-called strategists who demonstrate the most incompetence. They collect millions in fees while seldom venturing outside of Washington, DC. They create cookie-cutter ads for their candidates. They ignore the principles of their own party platform. They cower at the first attack from Republicans. And they are so cautious as to harm their own cause.

In the case of Grimes, she had a legitimate chance of being elected until the strategists got a hold of her. It’s obvious that they advised her (and other Democratic candidates) to avoid mentioning the president’s name. They told her to run away from “Obamacare,” even though the program was highly effective – especially in Kentucky. They told her to hedge her answers to any questions about the accomplishments of the Obama administration. They told her to avoid any sound bites that could be used against her by the opposition.

Ironically, she provided McConnell’s campaign exactly what they wanted by following the strategists’ advice and refusing to answer the question of whether or not she voted for Obama. Instead of her own statements, McConnell was gifted the pundits’ reactions to her reticence. Now, as a reward for following their advice, the Democratic strategists have pulled their advertising buys in Kentucky.

Without following the strategists’ advice; by proudly standing behind the Democratic accomplishment of providing tens of millions with access to affordable health care; by standing up for the president who led us out of an economic meltdown worse than the Great Depression; by speaking up for the people she hopes to represent she may easily have won.

Certainly, she should win. In a year when the attitude of the majority of voters toward Congress is to throw the bums out, she is running against the poster boy of Congressional obstruction. McConnell is the do-nothing leader of the most do-nothing Congress in history. If the Democratic leaders can’t come up with a strategy to defeat McConnell, they have no right to call themselves strategists.

Let that be a lesson to future Democratic candidates.

Everything You Need To Know About Today’s GOP In One Button.

In case anyone could confuse Teapublicans for reasonable people, it should be noted that the following button was offered for sale at the California GOP convention: “KFC Hillary Special – 2 Fat Thighs, 2 Small Breasts, Left Wing.

Wow! Just wow!

This is from the party that claims to respect women all the while they try to invade their bodies, restrict their access to contraceptives and take away their access to health care. Imagine if Democrats put out a button that pondered whether or not Mitch McConnell can look past his gut to see his penis. Or a button that pondered the size of John Boehner’s testicles. Or a button that pondered whether Michele Bachmann’s brain is bigger than her mouth. Oh, wait, I think Michele has already answered that question.

But don’t get the idea that the GOP is merely offensive to women. They seem to delight in nasty attacks on all groups. They have created equally offensive materials against minorities, gays and anyone else who opposes their narrow-minded agenda. For example the same GOP convention that displayed the Hillary button offered buttons that read: “I still hate Commies even after they changed their name to Liberals.

This is the sort of stuff that makes political compromise virtually impossible. You can’t seriously negotiate with someone who openly disrespects you. And those in today’s GOP have made it abundantly clear that they have absolutely no respect for anyone who opposes them. They compare gay marriage with bestiality and incest. They call the working poor “freeloaders.” They attack minorities who demand equality for “playing the race card.” They dismiss environmentalists as “tree huggers.” They call President Obama a “socialist Kenyan Muslim” and worse. They call scientific evidence a “hoax.” They even call public education “socialism.”

At the same time, they portray themselves  as the “real patriots.” They wrap themselves in the American flag and wave their pocket copies of the Constitution. And they threaten to “use their 2nd Amendment rights” to enforce their narrow-minded point of view.

Now imagine trying to negotiate important issues with these people. Do you really think Democrats and Progressives can have an adult conversation with them over the future of our nation? It would take a far better person than me.