Examining The Arguments Against Abortion.

Abortion has become a simplistic catchall term for a wide variety of health care procedures for women, many of which don’t involve the removal of a healthy fetus. Yet the anti-abortion activists would have you believe that any intervention involving a woman’s uterus or reproductive system is against God’s will.

They imply that all abortions are undertaken merely for selfish reasons. That the woman is too lazy or immature to prevent pregnancy through the use of contraceptives or that she simply views pregnancy as inconvenient.

These are intentionally simplistic narratives that have been carefully crafted to invoke emotions. The activists want you to believe that all abortion is murder. That all women who consider terminating a pregnancy are evil. And that all doctors who come to their aid are “baby killers.” To that end, they pass laws giving the unborn the same constitutional laws as fully developed humans who are no longer connected to an umbilical cord.

To make their point, they inundate you with images of smiling babies and healthy fetuses along with (usually false) information about when a fetus’s heart begins beating. And when it is capable of feeling pain.

Given the misleading information, it’s easy to see why so many people recoil at the notion of ending the development of such sweet innocent “children.” But would they feel the same way if the anti-abortion activists told them the fetus was the result of rape or incest? Would they feel the same way if the activists showed images of unviable fetuses developing without lungs, without a digestive system, without brains, without skulls, or without other body parts necessary to sustain life? Would they feel the same way if shown images of a festering mass of dead cells that endangers the life of the woman?

Would they feel the same way looking at images of ectopic pregnancies? Of zygotes, blastocysts, or molar cysts? Would they feel the same way if they were told the only chance for a fetus to live is for the woman carrying it to die?

The answer to most of these questions is no. Maybe that’s why 61 percent of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.

Nevertheless, a minority of Americans (mostly men) believe they know better. They tell you that life begins at conception. And that any intervention with that life is against God’s will. They tell you that even the use of the morning after (aka Plan B) pill is murder. Some even go so far as to claim that any form of contraception is also interfering with God’s will.

For me, such beliefs raise some obvious questions: First of all, how do they really know what is God’s will? Which God? It’s only some Christian denominations that have taken official stances against abortion. Yet there is no mention of abortion in the Bible. In fact, the Old Testament tells us that life begins with the first breath.

Moreover, if you use the anti-abortionists’ logic, would not invitro fertilization (IVF) be against God’s will? Shouldn’t that be banned? And for the arrogant men opposed to abortion, what about ED? Isn’t the use of boner pills also against God’s will?

Using the anti-abortionists’ same flawed logic, wouldn’t most forms of health care treatment be against God’s will? If a micro-managing God controls every aspect of life on Earth as many suggest, aren’t most ailments, diseases, and accidents deigned by God? So, why not ban all other types of health care along with abortion?

The truth is abortion – all abortion – is health care. Nothing more. Nothing less. No religious or government body should meddle with it other than to ensure its safety. Such health care decisions should only be made by the patient with advice and assistance of a physician. Not by fascist politicians.

Why Not Just Leave Our Flags At Half Mast?

As I was driving home the other day, I noticed a flag at half mast, which made me wonder: Who was it honoring?

Was it for the two officers gunned down during a traffic stop in western Wisconsin? Was it for the Minnesota sheriff’s deputy who was shot and killed while responding to a domestic assault? Was it for the Wisconsin officer gunned down by a suspected drunk driver? Or was it honoring the victims of the latest mass shooting?

But, if it was for the latter, which one?

The shootings are coming at such a furious rate, it’s increasingly difficult to know which shooting victims the flags are honoring. In fact, as of midday May 23, 2023, GunViolenceArchive.org had counted 237 mass shootings and 175 law enforcement officers killed or wounded. That works out to 1.66 mass shootings per day and 1.23 law enforcement officers shot per day!

Of course, gun advocates will use that information to support their belief that even more people need to be armed. Really? The USA already has more guns in the hands of civilians than our civilians have hands, yet the number of shootings continues to increase.

Gun advocates also claim that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. But in a life-or-death situation, experts tell us that it’s seldom possible to distinguish between the two.

Moreover, if you still believe it’s necessary to carry a gun for self-defense, you might want to consider this: So far this year, there have been 436 defensive uses of a gun. Over the same period of time, there have been 604 unintentional shootings. So, you’re far more likely to shoot yourself with your own gun than use it to respond to a crime!

And that’s not even considering suicide by gun. With so many guns so readily available, it’s all too easy for people to kill themselves in a moment of anger or despair. Indeed, out of the total of 16,671 gun deaths this year, 9,438 have been from suicide leaving families and loved ones to clean blood and body parts off the walls of their family homes.

In addition, 13,566 people have been wounded, many sustaining life-changing debilitating physical injuries. And that doesn’t include the psychological damage done to the victims, the first responders, the ER teams, and the witnesses. (If you doubt that, look at the body camera footage of the officers involved at the Uvalde elementary school, which shows officers vomiting and sobbing after they finally entered the classrooms.) Many of these people will require physical or mental therapy for the rest of their lives.

The long-term costs are simply unimaginable.

CNN’s Suicide Pact With Trump.

The outcome of CNN’s effort to pander to the disgraced, twice impeached, indicted, and proven sexual assaulter was all too predictable. Giving him sole access to an hour of primetime in which he could be surrounded by his admirers and mainline his lies directly into the homes of gullible American voters was everything he could have hoped for. After all, it was his celebrity treatment by the media that helped pave his way to the White House in 2016.

Trump’s CNN Town Hall wasn’t journalism. It wasn’t news. It was little more than a misguided attempt to prop up CNN’s ratings and repair its reputation with Trump’s fascist supporters.

Why else would “The most trusted name in news” debase itself in such a manner?

It seems that CNN’s new CEO (and former employee of CBS) has taken heed of a statement made about Trump in 2016 by former CBS Chairman and CEO Les Moonves: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

Sure, the CEO could defend his decision by claiming it was the type of Town Hall offered to other leading political candidates. He could dismiss criticism by arguing that CNN was providing a service by reminding viewers of the former president’s prolific ability to lie. But, in reality, CNN merely allowed him to wallow in the adoration of his supporters who were carefully selected to be part of the live audience. It also allowed him to bask in their laughter and applause as he bullied and demeaned the journalist assigned the unsavory task of asking him questions and trying to fact check his tsunami of lies.

The resulting Trump infomercial shows how far “the most trusted name in news” has fallen.

For me, the network’s plunge in credibility is particularly painful. My former ad agency helped promote cable in its infancy by creating the National Cable Consortium. In doing so, we helped CNN and other networks gain footholds in millions of American homes. Wednesday night’s spectacle made me regret those efforts. Of course, there’s little I can do about it now except to personally relegate CNN to a status only marginally higher than that of Fox.

I will eliminate CNN from my viewing habits until they once again earn my trust. I’ve already deleted its website from my bookmarks. And, in order to hold the network accountable, I encourage others to do the same. There are many other media that hold themselves to a higher standard of journalism.

In doing so, I am struck by the fact that CNN first earned its popularity and reputation for its coverage of China’s brutal crackdown of the democracy movement in Tiananmen Square and our first war against Iraq which was fought to stop a brutal dictator. It’s ironic that its coverage of a wannabe US dictator and his attack on our democracy has irreparably damaged that reputation.

An Armed Society Is A Polite Society?

For years, that was the promise of the NRA. More guns would mean less crime and less violence.

Well, it’s now estimated that there are 466 million guns in the hands of US civilians. That’s nearly one and a half guns for every man, woman, and child. And at least one in 20 American civilians owns an AR15-style rifle – a gun designed for the battlefield and the weapon of choice for mass murderers.

So, when exactly does all of that politeness set in?

Instead of courtesy and civility, all I see is an old man shooting a teenager for ringing the wrong doorbell, an old man killing a young woman for mistakenly turning into the wrong driveway, a young man shooting a cheerleader for accidentally opening his car door. A middle-aged man murdering his neighbors for asking him to stop target shooting so a young child could sleep. And people of all ages committing mass murder in schools, theaters, nightclubs, concerts, shopping malls and grocery stores.

Not only does that result in a horrendous human toll (more than 20,000 gun deaths a year excluding suicides). The financial toll is staggering. It’s estimated that each individual wounded by gunfire costs roughly $22,000 in medical bills. Last year alone, that would have amounted to $848,100,000. And that doesn’t take into account the life-changing physical and mental disabilities suffered by the wounded, not to mention the emotional trauma experienced by the first responders, nurses, and doctors who treat them.

Obviously, more guns are not the solution.

It was all a lie designed to help gunmakers sell more guns. In fact, almost everything the NRA and other gun rights organizations have told you is a lie beginning with the Second Amendment. They ignore the first part of the amendment that states, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state…” and jump directly to, “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Why? Because the entirety of the text doesn’t serve their purpose. They don’t want you to know that the underlying reason for the amendment was to provide for the nation’s defense before the federal government had established a standing army. The new nation needed an armed and well-trained militia to defend itself.

Indeed, former Chief Justice Warren Burger said, “The gun lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American people by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.

That fraudulent interpretation was simply part of a cynical marketing strategy.

You see, around 50 years ago, much of the US was transitioning from a rural society to an increasingly urban one.  As more and more Americans moved into large cities, fewer rifles and shotguns were needed for hunting. And the sale of handguns was stagnant since citizens had to demonstrate a need for a handgun and obtain a sheriff’s permit in order to carry it.

Clearly, gunmakers needed to do something to stimulate sales.

So, the NRA and their bought-and-paid-for politicians began selling fear. They told us that crime was out of control because only the criminals had guns. They told us that gun restrictions were useless. They told us that law enforcement can’t help us. They told us the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

And Americans bought it hook, line, and bump stock.

As a result, everyone with an insecurity complex or a fixation on the Old West is now packing a handgun. People with pent-up grievances take up arms to settle scores. And toxic masculinity is projected through the flash suppressor of an AR15.

And the situation is growing worse by the day as evidenced by a statement made by the leading manufacturer of kits used to make ghost guns (untraceable guns without a sales record or serial numbers). When asked what segment of our population buys the most kits, he responded that it’s “your January 6 types.” You know, the people who charged the Capitol and brutalized law enforcement with the intent to overturn an election and hang Mike Pence.

But according to the NRA and its fascist supporters, any sort of regulation of guns is the first step toward tyranny.

What Is The Truth Worth?

Although Fox was forced to pay $787.5 million for its repeated lies about Dominion voting machines, and its depositions revealed the depth of the network’s depravity, it appears the only lesson it learned is to avoid using the names of corporations and individuals within the content of its lies. Sure, the network’s lawyers made a statement acknowledging that it told “some” lies about Dominion. But, in the next breath, they referred to the network’s commitment to “journalistic excellence.”

Journalistic excellence? Riiight!

It’s clear that $787.5 million lesson will have absolutely no effect on the network’s longstanding estrangement with truth. Fox will never reveal the depth of its lies to its viewers who will remain blissfully ignorant in their silo of misinformation. And even though it’s facing a $2.7 billion lawsuit based on its lies about Smartmatic, another maker of voting systems, Fox pundits and hosts will undoubtedly double down on their lying ways.

Even after the dismissal of the network’s most prolific and most anti-American liar, Tucker Carlson, the network is highly unlikely to suddenly resort to actual journalism and truth.

It simply can’t afford to.

After years of railing against our government, Democrats, immigrants, people of color, the LGBTQ community, gun safety, history, education, and science, Fox has created an audience that thrives on absurd lies, hate, and anger. That audience of faux patriots absolutely cannot tolerate being told the truth, especially if it means revealing the depravity of Trump and his legion of fascist followers. If the network doesn’t continue its lying ways, its audience will almost certainly abandon it for OAN or Newsmax.

So, Fox will find another entertaining liar to replace Tucker Carlson as it did following the firings of Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck. It will continue to pander to the most extreme amongst us. It will help perpetuate QAnon myths. It will continue to deny the severity of the climate crisis. It will continue to create scapegoats for our problems and redirect blame from the greedy to the most marginalized portions of our population. It will spawn even more gun deaths.

And, when it is sued again, as it almost certainly will be, it will simply tap into its massive bank account to pay for any consequences. That is now part of the Fox business model – just the cost of doing business.

Never mind that the network is almost singlehandedly responsible for the ongoing threat to our democracy. To Fox, ratings and profits are far more important.

It’s Time To Start Using The F Word.

Like many people, I’ve been hesitant to use the F word in public for fear of offending others’ sensibilities. It is, after all, the one word that can end any political debate or polite conversation. Yet I believe our nation has reached a point where it is the only word left to accurately describe a political party.

I’m not referring to the F word that ends with a k.

After watching the GOP’s followers attempting to violently overturn the results of a fair and free election, after listening to them spewing racism and hate, after seeing them place targets on the backs of LBTQ people who only want to love who they want and to live as they want, after seeing them interfere with a woman’s access to health care, after watching them strip away virtually all regulations of guns, and after watching their hate result in the recent spate of shootings, I believe the party now richly deserves to be labeled with another F word.

I’m referring, of course, to the term fascist.

You may remember that I recently compared the United States of America that Republicans have created to pre-World War II Germany. But I was wrong.

This America may be even worse!

As long ago as the 1970s, those who operate under the banner of the Republican Party determined that the only way to win a free and fair election was to divide us, to pit elements of our society against one another – white against black and brown, conservatives against liberals, Christians against Jews, Christians against Muslims, the religious against atheists and agnostics, gun owners against those who demand gun safety, anti-abortionists against those who believe in a woman’s choice, heterosexuals against homosexuals, heterosexuals against transexuals, etc., etc., etc.

Failing to offer any solutions for our nation’s problems, they intended, instead, to create scapegoats. Along the way, the fascists and their propaganda networks have peddled dishonest narratives of an oppressive government, runaway spending, out of control crime, an invasion of immigrants, and a breakdown of Christian principles to motivate their base.

They have labeled Democrats as pedophiles, non-Christians as terrorists, food stamp recipients as welfare queens, civil servants as the deep state, doctors as baby killers, journalists as enemies of the people, the compassionate as woke, teachers as groomers, and election results as fake.

They whined about so-called activist judges, praying for Supreme Court justices to die so they could seat their own ideologues. They then encouraged them to change long-standing and popular laws by judicial fiat. Having given up on trying to persuade voters, they resorted to voter suppression, gerrymandering, threats, and intimidation.

They disregard education, science, history, and expertise. In their place, they have embraced “alternative facts”, outrageous myths, and wild conspiracy theories.

They seek power, not to govern and improve lives. But to dictate their own narrow-minded beliefs. They disdain compromise and policy debates. Indeed, their only discernable policy is cruelty. They see tolerance, understanding, and compassion as weakness. They ban books and fire teachers who contradict their ignorance and hateful beliefs. They turn government meetings into carnival freak shows. They show up at state houses and election sites with guns to intimidate and threaten, using the First and Second Amendments as weapons.

They have chosen as their leader a man who panders to their ignorance and cruelty. A sociopathic bully who makes up for his lack of knowledge by creating his own “truth.” A conman who has fashioned his leadership style after mob bosses, encouraging lawlessness and giving orders by suggestion and implication – a technique that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to hold him to account. When he lost re-election, he claimed victory, his followers believing his obvious lies. In the aftermath of his defeat, they stormed the Capitol as part of a failed coup to overturn the election. And rather than accept the truth, they forced election officials, even those who are longtime members of their own party, to resign under an avalanche of death threats.

The difference between these fascists and those who once ruled Germany is almost indistinguishable. They have a leader whose thirst for power and adoration is insatiable. He has a proven ability to sell his racist and hateful dream to the masses. He has created a climate of anger and fear of “the other” – races of people he claims are keeping the nation from becoming great again. And though he has no uniformed mob of brown shirts, he has no need for them. Instead, he has a mob of Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Boogaloo Bois, and millions of heavily armed believers who are impatiently waiting for the opportunity to act.

Will there be a Kristallnacht? A burning of the Reichstag? Some other crisis created to justify a violent takeover? The danger to our democracy and the world is far from over. What happens between now and November 12, 2024, will determine our fate.

“It’s Not My Kid, Friend, Or Co-Worker.”

“There’s nothing I can do about it.” “That’s the price of freedom.” “It’s a mental health issue.” “Guns don’t kill. People do.” “Thoughts and prayers.” And, of course, there’s the old reliable excuse we hear following every mass murder: “Now is not the time to talk about solutions.”

Of all the possible reactions to mass shootings and gun violence, those have to rank among the worst. They are the equivalent of saying, “I don’t care…move along…nothing to see here…it didn’t happen to anyone I know.”

And move along they do.

The MAGA Party and its NRA sponsors continue to ignore the 10-million-pound elephant in the room: Guns. And, in fact, they continue to make matters worse by passing laws to encourage and increase gun ownership. Since the 1970s, we’ve seen them legalize conceal and carry. We’ve seen them legalize open carry and permitless carry. We’ve seen them legalize silencers and bump stocks that can turn a semi-automatic rifle into the equivalent of a fully automatic weapon. We’ve seen them pass laws to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits. We’ve seen them pass 2nd Amendment sanctuary laws to make it illegal for state authorities to cooperate with federal authorities, such as the ATF and FBI.

And we’ve seen them pass laws to protect the life of a gun (in some red states, it’s illegal to destroy a confiscated gun, even those used in crimes)!

What we haven’t seen them do is pass laws requiring universal background checks or red flag laws to keep guns from those deemed mentally unstable and dangerous. We haven’t seen bans on 3D printed guns, ghost gun kits, or Glock switches. We haven’t seen them do anything to stop the illegal trafficking of guns to Mexican cartels. We haven’t seen them pass laws to ban AR-15s, AK-47s and other weapons of war.

And, of course, we haven’t seen them do anything to protect the lives of school children, grocery shoppers, theatergoers, concertgoers, and bankers.

To the MAGA Party, the NRA, and the gun lobby, mass murders in the US are like reading about Russian war crimes halfway around the world – sad and regrettable, but they remain secure in the belief that such tragedies won’t affect them personally. That’s probably what some of the parents in Uvalde thought until it happened to them. Or the people in Nashville or Louisville or Buffalo or…fill in the blank with your city of choice. There are hundreds, if not thousands of mass murder sites to choose from.

The reality is that gun violence is now the number one cause of death for children. One in 25 American kindergartners won’t make it to their 40th birthday because of guns. As of this writing, we’ve already experienced more mass shootings (150) in the US this year than we’ve experienced days (103). And we’ve already lost 11,888 lives to gun violence.

It’s not like we don’t know how to stop it. Though we have a greater incidence of gun violence than every other nation on Earth, we don’t have a greater incidence of mental illness. We don’t have a greater incidence of poverty than most. And contrary to MAGA beliefs, more Americans are religious than in other wealthy nations.

What sets us apart is the number of guns (there are more guns in the US than there are people) and a misguided reading of our Constitution’s 2nd Amendment. (As former Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger said, “The gun lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American people by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”)

It doesn’t have to be this way. The rights granted by the 2nd Amendment, like all other rights, are not unlimited. We can restrict the types of guns sold. We can demand background checks, we can restrict the age of gun owners, we can demand safe storage, and other common sense safety measures. And, if we’re serious about ending gun violence, Australia has already set an example for us to follow.

If such measures result in economic hardships for gun manufacturers? Well, thoughts and prayers.

Can Our Democracy Survive?

The one thing Democrats and the MAGA Party (the Republican Party no longer exists having been subsumed by Fox-fueled Trump followers) can agree on is that our democracy is under attack. However, they see vastly different threats.

The MAGAs believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. While Democrats point to the January 6 insurrection and increasing laws in MAGA-controlled states that limit voting rights for MAGA opponents, that take away a woman’s right to control her own body, that prioritize the freedom to own weapons of war over the lives of children.

But I believe the division runs deeper than that. It stems from the way the leaders of the MAGA Party view democracy.

Instead of seeing democracy as a means of majority rule, I believe MAGA leaders see it as a tool that can be manipulated on behalf of the powerful and wealthy. The result is that we now have several standards of justice based on factors such as race, wealth, and privilege. We see elected officials defy the wishes of significant majorities of their constituents on universal background checks for gun purchases, red flag laws, and access to abortion. And we see them use the power of their office to threaten and punish those with whom they disagree.

As a result of the MAGA ideology, our entire economy and, at times, our government are driven by a wealthy few. The owners and investors of large, multinational corporations have been allowed to influence elections while avoiding taxes. Through their political influence, these multinationals have been deregulated. They have exported high-paying jobs. They have eliminated workers’ retirement plans and other benefits. And they have taken almost total control of entire industries through consolidation.

For much too long, we’ve had eight too-big-to-fail banks, three or four conglomerates that control most of our grain, and six companies that control most of our meat supply. The majority of pharmaceuticals sold in the US are controlled by just ten corporations. Our oil and gas industries are controlled by a few corporations and state actors that dismiss their role in the climate crisis. Likewise, our transportation, insurance, and other industries have each been captured by a few large corporations.

And, chillingly, just six corporations now own roughly 90 percent of the media that bring us the news!

At the same time, the politicians that have been bought and paid for by these corporations have cut their taxes while pushing the tax burden onto ordinary hardworking citizens. Even that has not been enough to satisfy their greed. So, they regularly offshore profits in order to extort our government into allowing them to “repatriate” their ill-gotten gains at further reduced tax rates.

Corporations’ insatiable greed has even been the primary driver of inflation. Yet they and their political lackeys have blamed it on an administration that has set about trying to curtail their power.

Understandably, many Americans are angry. But thanks to the many lies peddled by the leading cable “news” outlet and others, their anger has been misdirected. Instead of blaming the rich and powerful, they blame immigrants, the poor, and minorities.

The problem has been made worse, I believe, from the MAGAs’ Kim Jong-un-like devotion to Trump. In both cases, the followers seem to see their Dear Leaders as deities. Many MAGAs continue to believe that Trump was chosen by God. They compare him to the Messiah and pray for him to save them. And, with both Trump and Kim, the followers not only accept their leaders’ extravagant lifestyle. They celebrate it. And they contribute to it.

The only conclusion can be that the many Millennials and GenXers who have bought into the MAGA ideology, simply don’t understand the benefits of democracy. It seems they have become convinced that an autocrat – at least their autocrat – can improve their lives. That an autocrat can help them live a similar life of luxury. That, instead of the messy process of convincing others to agree with their political and religious beliefs, an autocrat can force others to agree with them by decree.

Like so many of those in pre-war Germany, they seem more interested in forcing change than preserving our government along with its freedoms. Far too many of today’s Americans lack an understanding of history or civics. And, instead of seeking truth from universities, books, and qualified experts, they turn to social media and propaganda outlets like Fox “News.” In fact, they have eschewed legitimate news sources as “enemies of the people.” They dismiss education as a waste. And they are banning books that make them uncomfortable, blissfully unaware of the comparisons to the dictators and war criminals of the past.

In doing so, they are following the path taken by unsuspecting citizens in Russia, Myanmar, Venezuela, Hungary, Turkey, Pakistan, and Iran, as well as pre-WWII Italy, Japan, and Germany. And, unless we can convince them that democracy is worth saving – that real change can only come through the ballot box – we may be headed down those same rabbit holes.

The GOP Dilemma: Choosing The Most Cruel Candidate For 2024.

Is it Don The Con Trump who ripped babies from the arms of immigrants, whose actions and inaction led to the deaths of 1.1 million Americans from Covid, who called for the murder of immigrants and protesters, who gave support to war criminal Vladimir Putin, who incited a violent coup?

Is it Mike Pence who, as Vice-President, blessed all of Trump’s cruel excesses and cloaked them in a veneer of religiosity?

Is it Ron DeSantis whose “War on Woke” has banned books, threatened teachers, and marginalized and denied rights to blacks and the LGBTQ community?

Is it Greg Abbott who has led the fight against women’s rights, who encouraged the proliferation of guns – even after the mass murder of children at Uvalde, who destroyed public schools, who competed with DeSantis in a game of busing immigrants to northern cities.

Or is it an as yet unknown candidate who is capable of even more deceit and cruelty – perhaps Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, John Bolton, Kristi Noem, Kim Reynolds, Bill Lee, Tate Reeves, Mark Meadows or Mike Pompeo?

Cruelty is, after all, the only thing the MAGA/Christian Nationalist/Own-The-Libs organization seems to care about. Certainly not a functioning federal government (witness the current House majority). Not the future of our democracy (witness January 6 and voter suppression laws). Not personal freedom (witness anti-abortion, anti-trans and anti-gay laws). Not law and order (witness gun proliferation). Not the future of our planet. (Climate crisis? What climate crisis?) Not human rights. (Who cares about immigrants and the poor?) And most certainly not the truth (witness the depositions in the Dominion v Fox News case).

The transformation of the organization from the Party of Lincoln to its current fascist state has taken more than 50 years. And even for someone like me, who was repulsed by the GOP’s actions at an early age, the change has been shocking.

That’s not to dismiss the GOP’s treasonous past, beginning with Nixon’s interference in the Vietnam peace talks by sending an emissary to convince the North Vietnamese into believing he would offer them a better deal if they postponed peace negotiations until after the election. There was also his dirty tricks squad which interfered with his opponents’ campaigns and ultimately broke into the Watergate headquarters of the DNC in an effort to improve Nixon’s election chances.

There was Reagan’s deal with Iran to delay the release of American hostages until after the election, apparently in exchange for weaponry as part of the Iran-Contra scandal.

There was Jeb Bush’s interference in the 2000 election which cost upward of 10,000 Floridians (mostly Democrats) their right to vote.

And, of course, there’s the GOP’s ongoing effort to rig elections through extreme gerrymandering, voter IDs, and reducing the number of polling places and voting hours in heavily Democratic and mostly black districts.

So, who will be next to best exemplify the sentiments of the Republican Party and become its 2024 presidential candidate? It’s a difficult question. Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Pol Pot, Vlad the Impaler, Josef Stalin, and Mao Zedong are no longer available.

Mainstream Media: Enemies Of The People?

It’s popular for those on the political right to disparage journalists, calling them enemies of the people as a result of the misguided belief that mainstream media are all biased or that they all lie.

That’s a convenient (and profitable) narrative for the likes of Fox, Infowars, OAN, NewsMax, Breitbart, Epoch Times, the entire litany of rightwing radio pundits, and the superficial and conspiracy-laden social media.

All of these supposed “truth tellers” have carved out billions in profits following the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, which required electronic media to operate in the public interest and to clearly differentiate opinion from news. (FYI, The Fairness Doctrine was a casualty of Reagan and his Republican Party who were still angry at news media over the Washington Post’s exposure of Watergate and Walter Cronkite’s broadcasts from South Vietnam which effectively led to the end of the Vietnam War.)

The reality is that real journalists – mainstream media journalists – serve a critical function in our democracy. As part of the constitutionally guaranteed free press, their work holds government officials and politicians accountable. Certainly, some slant stories (consciously or subconsciously) to favor their political views. But the vast majority try to maintain objectivity. Moreover, they cannot simply air or publish their opinions as news. They must have multiple sources and prove to their editors that their stories are true. If not, they risk losing their jobs since no legitimate news media wants to be proven unreliable and betray the trust of their audiences.

How do I know this?

Because I have a journalism degree and I taught in journalism schools. As a student, I was schooled in ethics. I was taught how to track down sources and how to verify their stories. I had articles rejected because the support for them was considered too thin. For a short time, I worked as a reporter. I worked in newspapers, radio and television. I have known a number of well-respected television news anchors. And I have learned from some of the world’s best investigative reporters.

Many journalists risk their lives to bring you the truth. Indeed, 67 were killed in 2022 alone. They report from war zones. They uncover hardened criminals, gangs and terrorists. Without them, we would know little of what goes on in foreign capitals, in Washington DC, in statehouses, or in city halls.

That’s why I’m so dismayed to see media outlets, such as Fox, lie while claiming to be “fair and balanced.” Thankfully, as a result of the Dominion lawsuit – with its transcripts of depositions and internal text messages made public – we now have proof of Fox’s depravity. Likewise, the Sandy Hook parents’ lawsuits against Alex Jones and his Infowars revealed the extent of his conspiracy theories and rightwing lies.

Such media are the real enemies of the people! They intentionally divide us and undermine our democracy. And they do the bidding of our nation’s greatest adversaries.

The revelations of their wrongdoing should serve as a warning to everyone to choose news sources wisely. Despite budget cuts, consolidation and corporate ownership, mainstream media are still the most reliable. ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, NPR, PBS, Washington Post, New York Times and most other big city newspapers still have high standards for reporting the truth. There are also great international news sources such as BBC, The Guardian and ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

And if you want to know the truth, you can’t settle for soundbites. It takes a little extra time and effort to read beyond the headlines. But it’s absolutely necessary. A healthy democracy requires an informed citizenry.