Republicans’ Shadow Government.

Republicans continue to rant on about the “Deep State” – unelected government officials who make decisions affecting ordinary Americans’ lives. In fact, it’s mere projection. (Given the GOP’s recent history, you can assume that they’re already doing whatever they accuse Democrats of doing.) 

But they are right about one thing. There is an unelected shadow government affecting our lives. It’s called ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), an organization of conservative state legislators and others that is funded by some of America’s largest corporations.

If you are thus far blissfully unaware of ALEC – and most Americans are – you are almost certainly familiar with some of its work. It writes so-called “model” legislation based on conservative ideologies for the benefit of – you guessed it – large corporations.

Think your elected state representative wrote the deadly “stand your ground” bill that became law in your state? Think again. It was likely authored by gun manufacturers, distributed by ALEC and introduced for votes by an ALEC legislative member.

Think your state representative authored the bill that preempts cities and other local jurisdictions from regulating guns and ammunition? Nope. It was generated by ALEC.

The “show us your papers” anti-civil rights, anti-immigration law? Nope. Once again, that was a product of ALEC. 

Indeed, whenever you see a rightwing bill introduced in your legislature that seems identical to bills passed in other states, it almost certainly is a product of ALEC. Often, legislators who are members of ALEC never even read the “model” bills before submitting them. As a matter of fact, one Florida legislator introduced a stack of ALEC-spawned bills without even removing the ALEC cover sheets from them!

One of the latest examples of the work of this shadow government is an ALEC bill that would give corporations almost complete immunity from lawsuits intended to hold them accountable for harmful actions. If the bill becomes law, it will severely limit states from collecting damages from corporations that produce and distribute dangerous or deadly products.

It’s difficult to see how such legislation benefits consumers and ordinary citizens. But the benefits to ALEC’s corporate members are obvious. And since the creator of fascism, Benito Mussolini, once said that fascism could more accurately be called corporatism, clearly ALEC and Republican legislators have earned the right to be called fascists.  

So, the next time you hear Republican conspiracy theorists rant on about the “Deep State”, don’t think about the hard-working civil servants at the Post Office or the IRS. Think about ALEC and most GOP legislators.

Dear Trump Supporters, I Still Know Who You Really Are.

In November 2016, I wrote a post aimed at Trump voters saying, “I know who you really are.” Not surprisingly, many of you were incensed by my conclusions. But then you seem easily incensed by any criticisms of you and your orange Messiah.

Recent studies found that you are angry, but that you don’t know what you’re actually angry about. And though you don’t know why, you’ve chosen to blame the government and Democrats for any and all of your frustrations.

Tired of paying what you consider too high taxes? It’s not that Republicans have consistently shifted the tax burden to the lower and middle classes from the wealthy and large corporations. It’s because Democrats spend money on food for children and the poor.

Upset about the lack of high-paying manufacturing jobs? Never mind that multinational corporations have offshored those jobs. The real culprit must be the government which has imposed regulations to protect the safety of workers.

Furious that immigrants are taking American jobs in produce fields and meatpacking plants? It’s not that very few Americans will fill those jobs due to hard work, low pay, poor working conditions, and lack of benefits. Or that, for decades, Republicans have refused to vote on immigration reform. It’s because Democrats can’t stem the flow of immigrants across our southern border.

Angry that inflation has increased interest rates and the cost of many products? It’s not that your mango-colored conman botched and politicized the response to a pandemic leading to disruptions in supply chains and widespread shortages. Or that greedy corporations are using inflation as an excuse to unnecessarily increase profits. It’s got to be the fault of President Biden and the Democrats.

Worried about crime and declining family values? It’s not that fear-mongering Republicans permitted gun manufacturers to sell weapons of war to civilians by the millions. Or that you have long discriminated against people of color and the LGBTQ community. In your feeble mind, it’s godless transexuals and historical accounts of slavery that are responsible for our political division and growing violence.

Without evidence, you believe these falsehoods just because your demented (and apparently dementia-inflicted) leader says so. You take the word of a disgraced, twice impeached, indicted, misogynistic, tax-dodging, mob-connected, fascist-loving, freedom-denying, sexual assaulting, fraud-committing, anti-democratic faux celebrity over that of experts.

Why?

I believe it’s because he’s the bully you always wanted to be. And he’s unshackled you from political correctness, i.e. common courtesy. Of course, you’ll deny it because you claim to be a church-going person of faith. Well, the uncomfortable truth is that if you support Trump, you may well be religious. But you’re neither moral nor ethical.

Neither are you the patriot you almost certainly claim to be. Because patriots support our Constitution and the rule of law. They don’t try to suppress the vote through threats and intimidation. They don’t try to violently overturn the results of an election. They don’t resort to dirty tricks against those with whom they disagree. And they sure as hell don’t beat up cops, deface the Capitol, and try to hang the vice-president.

If you support Trump, you are not a patriot. You are part of a dangerous cult that worships a domestic terrorist disguised as a presidential candidate.

Criticism Is Not Antisemitism!

After the inhumane October 7 attacks on Israeli civilians by the militant faction of Hamas, it seems that some believe any criticism of the Israeli government’s long-standing mistreatment of Palestinians and its mass bombings of Gaza is antisemitic.

It represents the same kind of twisted accusations leveled against me and others for criticizing the US government during its misguided war in Vietnam. Being appalled by the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinian civilians does not make one antisemitic any more than criticizing the Vietnam war made me un-American. And though it may be unpopular to criticize Israel’s conduct of its war on Hamas, I believe it’s important to add context to the situation.

The truth is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been festering since 1948 with no solution in sight. And though Israel’s long-standing occupation of the West Bank and its siege of Gaza does not excuse the horrendous crimes committed by Hamas (nothing can), the untenable conditions under which Palestinian refugees have been forced to live has paved the way for the rise of Hamas and its terrorism.

Consider the fact that the population of Gaza consists of Palestinians who were forced to leave their homeland during the 1948 war in addition to generations of their descendants. Consider that, since the occupation of the West Bank, Israeli “settlers” have continued to harass and kill Palestinians in order to force them off their land. (According to the UN, more than 500 Palestinian men, women and children living in the West Bank have been killed by Jewish settlers this year – most before the October 7 attacks.)

Or consider the fact that Palestinians living within the Israeli borders have fewer rights than their Israeli counterparts. And, because they are not permitted to serve in the Israeli military, they do not qualify for many of the higher-paying jobs.

But perhaps the most grievous treatment of Palestinians is the Israeli concept of administrative detention. That’s the term given to the process of detaining individuals indefinitely without charges, without trials, and with no opportunity to defend themselves. Some have never even been told why they were being detained.

Of the more than 1,300 being held, it was reported that about half had been held for longer than 6 months. Many were children as young as 12. Indeed, according to Save The Children, between 500 and 1,000 such children are held in Israeli custody each year. A majority reported being beaten and strip searched.

They may have been detained for straying too close to the Israeli-Gaza border, for waving a Palestinian flag, for saying something an Israeli found offensive, or for throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers (a crime that could receive a maximum sentence of 20 years). And those are the lucky ones. Before the current war, an Israeli general admitted that IDF forces were under standing orders to shoot at the legs of child rock throwers!

These are the hostages released by Israel as part of the hostage exchange during the temporary ceasefire.

During that exchange, US media waited breathlessly to report every detail of the hostages released by Hamas. What was their condition of health? How were they treated? Where were they held? But few US media showed any curiosity about the hostages released by Israel.

If they had, they might have discovered that Palestinian families were not even allowed to celebrate the return of their loved ones or to publicly display any signs of joy.

One of the great ironies of the moment is that, while many innocent Palestinian civilians are being held under questionable circumstances, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is free despite facing criminal charges for corruption.

Does any of this excuse Hamas’ horrendous attacks? Of course not. They are to be despised, hunted down, and brought to trial for crimes against humanity. They must be held accountable. But so, too, must the Israelis who commit war crimes in return.

And when the dust from this war settles, we must find a way for Palestinians to finally enjoy freedom and self-governance. And to give both the Palestinian and Israeli people the safety and security they deserve.

How Much Vengeance Is Enough?

Out of an abundance of guilt following the Holocaust of WWII, Great Britain and much of the world decided to create a permanent homeland for Jews called Israel. In doing so, they displaced thousands of Palestinians.

What has happened over the ensuing years and generations is, to say the least, complicated.

Indeed, since its creation, Israel has been under attack by Palestinians seeking to reclaim their land and Arab nations who resented their new neighbors. Through it all, Israel seems to have adopted a strategy of disproportionate retaliation for the attacks. For each Israeli killed, many more Palestinians have died.

The current Israeli-Hamas war is no exception.

Following the horrific terrorist attacks that killed more than 1,200 Israeli citizens, Israel has so far killed more than 18,000 Palestinians in densely populated Gaza. And the Israeli government says it has no plans to stop.

Perhaps such a toll could be justified if the vast majority of the casualties were militants and terrorists. But, according to studies by two Israeli publications, 61 percent of the Palestinian casualties are civilians! The deaths in Gaza have also included 63 journalists and more than 100 UNRWA aid workers.

And, it seems, that’s only the beginning.

The Israeli government says it intends to continue its operations in Gaza for a month or more despite UN warnings that many of Gaza’s remaining population are in immediate danger of dying from starvation and disease.

And what will the war accomplish? Likely nothing. Certainly, the bombings will reduce the number of Hamas militants, and it will destroy most of their tunnels. But many of the surviving Gazans, having seen their families slaughtered, will become future terrorists who will themselves seek revenge.

Such a predictable outcome points to the extreme futility of the situation.

Until the world comes up with a permanent solution for the estimated 5.9 million Palestinian refugees, including reparations and self-government, they and the Israelis will be stuck in a continuing cycle of bloodshed that neither side can truly win.

Further, both sides and their supporters need to be reminded that one set of war crimes does not justify another.

A Renaissance of Hate.

How else could you describe the era of Trump and his cadre of domestic terrorists? A former president who, while in office, gave the term bully pulpit new meaning by appealing to legions of bullies and white supremacists to do his bidding. A demagogue who has so mastered the art of “mob speak” that he no longer needs to tell his followers to defy laws and the Constitution. They have become so attuned to his narcissistic and sociopathic needs that they are willing to act based on the hope that they will receive his praise and avoid his wrath.

It’s an era marked by the former president so determined to burn down the government that he has ordered his mini-me representatives in the so-called Freedom Caucus to block federal funding just to spite his political rival – the consequences be damned. An era of rightwing governors using immigrants and refugees as political tools by cruelly busing them hundreds of miles to score political points. An era in which state legislatures gerrymander districts to suppress minority votes. An era of supposed righteous “Christians” who cheer policies and tactics that brutalize and marginalize women, the LGBTQ community, and migrants.

It’s an era in which ordinary Republicans, emboldened by their leader’s lies, threaten the lives of judges, jury members, and election officials – even Republican officials. An era in which seven percent of Americans have been convinced by the wannabe dictator that violence is necessary to “save” America from Trump’s political opponents, aka “Demoncrats.” An era in which the so-called party of law and order now wants to defund the FBI and politicize the DOJ because their charlatan-in-chief has been indicted for crimes against the State of New York, the State of Georgia, and the United States of America.

So, how are we to break this Trump-fueled fever?

A landslide repudiation of Republican candidates – all Republican candidates – in 2024 will help. But that alone will not inoculate our democracy from their hateful rot. There needs to be a reckoning in all aspects of our society, beginning with the churches that abandoned compassion and love in favor of power and profit.

Similarly, corporate leaders need to look beyond tax cuts, short-term profits and greed and, instead, consider their impact on the future and what’s best for the nation. Voters need to set aside ideology and vote on the issues which a vast majority approve, including gun safety, abortion rights, mitigation of climate change, civil rights, and immigration reform. Most of all, Fox News Corp, NewsMax and other purveyors of lies must be relegated back to the sewers from where they came.

We’ve done it before.

In the 1800s, tens of thousands of courageous Americans sacrificed everything to end slavery. When the KKK rose to power in the 1920s, good people stepped forward to rip off their white sheets and pointy hoods. In the 1940s, the greatest generation marched into war, and many gave their lives to defeat fascism. In the 1950s, the media and a few senators stood up to the fear mongering of Joseph McCarthy and sent him packing back to his world of darkness. In the 1960s, a majority of Americans rejected Jim Crow laws. In the 1970s, women successfully fought to break the bonds of misogyny. And in the 1980s, we finally recognized the inalienable rights of gays, lesbians, trans, and non-binary Americans.

Unfortunately, like zombies, the fascists have emerged from the grave to spread the clouds of darkness over our nation once again. It’s time for all Americans of good will to stand up and figuratively punch the bullies in the nose. The fate of our democracy depends on it.

The 2025 Project: A Republican Plan To Destroy Democracy.

When it comes to the destruction of our democracy, Donald J. Trump is only a symptom. The real killer is revealed only when you look at the Republican Party in its entirety.

Once hailed as the Grand Old Party of emancipators led by Abraham Lincoln who saved the nation from being cleaved in two, by the 1960s, the party had reversed roles with the southern Democrats of the Confederacy and took on a win-at-any-cost philosophy. In doing so, it embraced racist, anti-government white Christian nationalists. It began pandering to large, multi-national corporations and it rigged the economy for the benefit of billionaires.

It also engaged our nation in unnecessary wars and war crimes. It abandoned polite public discourse, replacing it with cruelty and a determination to “own the libs.” And, in 2016, it elected a demagogue who used the presidency to enrich himself and his family, and who eventually orchestrated a desperate, unconstitutional attempt to stay in power.

Yet, as bad as that Republican Party has been for most Americans, the latest version is even worse!

Lest you think that’s mere hyperbole, consider The Heritage Foundation’s 1,000-page 2025 Project – a plan to deconstruct the federal government, to free corporations (especially those in the fossil fuel industry) from regulations, and to give the next Republican president almost unlimited power.

Under the 2025 Project, Republicans would fire more than 50,000 federal employees and replace them with party loyalists. In addition, they would drastically shrink or eliminate numerous federal agencies altogether. Among those agencies would be the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy’s renewable energy office, the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, and the FBI.

All of this would free corporations to pollute and cheat at will. It would end most efforts to address climate change. It would overturn the rule of law, ending prosecutions of those Republican officials who committed felonies surrounding January 6th while ginning up prosecutions of Democrats under false pretenses.

It would abolish diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. It would roll back protections for workers. It would funnel most taxpayer-based education funding into private schools. It would allow the president to take control of the FCC and, therefore, the media. It would almost certainly institute a draconian nationwide ban on abortion. And it would allow the Republican president to dodge Senate confirmation of cabinet members.

With a Republican president and a government full of Republican workers subjected to loyalty tests, there would be none of the guardrails that saved our nation from dictatorship during the Trump administration.

Terrifyingly, the plan calls for the federal government to be transformed within 180 days of the inauguration of a Republican president!

Voting for Trump or one of his mini-me Republican presidential candidates would be akin to voters forming a suicide pact to destroy our democracy and the world economy. It would almost certainly plunge the world into an economic depression. And it would likely fill the streets with millions of protestors who would be met with violence from Trump’s various armies of domestic terrorists.

To be clear, the 2025 Project is not just the imagination of The Heritage Foundation, former Trump officials, and Trump enablers. It is being heralded by a host of rightwing organizations, most Republican presidential candidates and, by extension, most Republican voters.

It’s not a plan to improve the federal government, to improve our democracy, or to improve the lives of working Americans. It won’t help ordinary Americans realize the American Dream.

It’s a plan to enshrine racism, homophobia, transphobia, and cruelty. A plan to replace our form of government with an autocracy similar to Putin’s Russia where industries and the nation’s resources are controlled by oligarchs chosen by whichever Republican occupies the White House. And where the outcome of elections is predetermined by whoever is in power.

Voters need to understand that a vote for a Republican in 2024 is a vote for the 2025 Project – the political equivalent of swallowing the poisoned Kool-Aid at Jonestown.

“I Dislike The Man. But I Like His Policies.”

Really? What policies are those? Is it Trump’s racism as displayed by his support of white supremacists and his hatred of Black Lives Matter? Is it his racist verbal attacks on Latino migrants? His cruel separation of children from migrant families?

Are those the policies you like?

Or maybe you like his attacks on the LGBTQ community? His misogyny? His utter contempt for any but the most beautiful women? His admitted and proven sexual assaults?

Is that what you like?

How about his tax cuts for billionaires which added trillions to the national debt? Or perhaps you like his policy of using political office to enrich himself and his family at taxpayer expense?

Are those the policies that excite you?

Or maybe you enjoyed watching him kissing the rings of some of the world’s worst autocrats while showing disregard for our longtime allies?

Maybe what you really like is watching Trump and his evangelical supporters take away Americans’ personal freedoms while imposing their Puritanical beliefs on non-Christians? Or maybe what floats your boat is watching him politicize government to reward allies while punishing political opponents? (Though Biden hasn’t weaponized government agencies, Trump most certainly did.)

Do you like his ignorance of climate change? His disdain for laws and norms? His arrogance? His refusal to concede defeat? His open disregard for the Constitution and our democracy? Or his attempts to overturn a free and fair election that has, thus far, resulted in four criminal indictments?

Those must be the policies you like because there are no discernable others.

Freedom Fighters?

The Republican Party has a long history of claiming to be patriots and “freedom fighters.”  Indeed, many of its members have armed themselves with numerous AR15-style rifles and large stockpiles of ammunition while claiming such measures are necessary to defend themselves against tyranny – the tyranny of a Democratic-led federal government.

Really?

Exactly what Democratic policies do they fear? Providing SNAP benefits to poor families to keep their children from starving? Welcoming refugees from war-torn nations and migrants forced to leave their homeland as the result of violence or drought? Providing Social Security benefits to the elderly who spent decades paying FICA to ensure a comfortable retirement? Supporting Medicare and Obamacare so that Americans won’t die prematurely for lack of access to healthcare?

Do governmental actions cross into tyranny for distributing vaccines to millions to help prevent disease, sickness and death? Allocating billions to repair and restore our nation’s failing infrastructure? Enhancing voting systems to ensure that any eligible citizen can easily exercise their right to vote? Permitting a woman and her doctor to make decisions affecting her health? Or permitting the justice system to prosecute anyone, including the rich and powerful, who breaks the law?

Are these policies evidence of tyranny? Hardly.

Real tyranny is a government that requires elementary school gym teachers to check a child’s genitals to make sure they are using the correct pronoun. Tyranny is telling parents that they cannot decide to give their child gender altering surgery. Tyranny is telling qualified teachers they can’t give a true account of American history. Tyranny is banning books and threatening to criminally prosecute librarians. Tyranny is trying to ban boycotts of governments and corporations who commit human rights abuses. Tyranny is trying to abolish civil rights protests.

Tyranny is telling citizens they can’t marry the ones they love. Tyranny is making it increasingly more difficult for certain ethnic groups to vote. Tyranny is forcing a physician to check with attorneys before providing life-saving care to a pregnant woman whose fetus has died in the womb. Tyranny is prosecuting women and their doctors for seeking abortions. Tyranny is punishing corporations for taking a stand against discrimination or considering DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) in their staffing decisions. Tyranny is banning retirement fund managers and state treasurers from incorporating ESG (Environmental, Social and Good Government) investment strategies.

These are not the tyrannical policies of Democrats. These are policies of the Republican Party.

You know, the party that staged a violent coup to overthrow our duly elected government. The same “patriots” who supported Nixon despite his criminal activities to sway the outcome of an election. The same “freedom fighters” who supported Reagan despite his racism and his interference in President Carter’s negotiations to free the Americans taken hostage by Iran.

In reality, Republicans are more interested in fighting than freedom. It seems the only freedom they really care about is the freedom to discriminate and bully others into doing what they want.

RIP GOP.

Long ago, the Republican Party was the party of liberals – a political party that fought for abolition of slavery, fought to hold the nation together, and fought for civil rights. In the 1950s and 60s under Eisenhower, it was the party of growth. And, over time, the party evolved into the party of limited government, limited regulation, and business.

It’s difficult to imagine that history, given where the party currently stands.

Today’s Republican Party created the Department of Homeland Security, the federal government’s second-largest government agency – second only to the Department of Defense. And, instead of striving to reduce government meddling into an individual’s private affairs, the party now encourages it.

Republicans now want to use government to tell Americans how to pray, what to believe, who to love, what to read, what pharmaceuticals they can take, and what they can do with their own bodies. They have also busied themselves with reinterpreting the Constitution. According to them, the Separation Clause requiring separation of church and state doesn’t exist. Neither does the first phrase of the Second Amendment – “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state…”

According to the GOP, the Second Amendment cannot be restricted or regulated. But other freedoms in the Bill of Rights – free speech, the freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and the right to assemble – must be restricted to meet its own narrow vision of liberty.

Indeed, it seems the GOP is no longer interested in policy or democracy.

It no longer cares about solving problems for ordinary working citizens to make their lives better or safer. It has no interest in human rights, addressing climate change, or promoting democracy globally. It makes no effort to persuade a majority to vote for its candidates. Rather, it resorts to voting restrictions, voting suppression, and partisan gerrymandering. And, given its calls to defund the FBI and the DOJ for prosecuting those involved the attempted coup on January 6, it obviously no longer cares about law and order, as if it ever really did. (In fact, its previous calls for law and order were really racist dog whistles aimed at civil rights protestors.)

What drives the GOP today are conspiracy theories (Democrats stole the 2022 election, vaccines make you sterile, the FBI and DOJ have been weaponized against Republicans, Democrats are cannibalistic pedophiles, etc.). Most of all, Republicans are driven by power and hatred – hatred of science, hatred of intellectuals, hatred of the LGBTQ community, hatred of minorities, hatred of immigrants, hatred of the left.

In reality, the Grand Old Party no longer exists. Today’s Republican Party now seems to be a combination of the John Birch Society, white supremacists, narrow-minded “Christian” evangelicals, and outright fascists. And its overarching strategy is to keep ordinary Americans fighting against one another, so they can push through legislation that benefits millionaires, billionaires, multinational corporations, and themselves.

Contempt Of Court.

OPEN LETTER TO CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS:

In case you are blissfully unaware, a growing majority of Americans have lost faith in your court – the result of your “conservative” members being anything but conservative, engaged as they are in overturning decades of legal precedent. Your court continues to take fabricated cases dreamt up by anti-American rightwing ideologues – the most recent based on false information – to take away rights from American minorities and to legalize discrimination.

In doing so, your court seems to ignore the very preamble of the Constitution and creates a caste system in which the rich and powerful receive protections not afforded to those groups who need them most.

Further, as disgusting as it is to see your Catholic majority politicize the court in an attempt to force its religious views on others is the manner in which it’s done – in the dark of night as part of your shadow dockets or at the end of a session so your ethically-compromised “justices” can sneak back into their hidey holes (or some billionaire’s private jet) before the judgments are revealed.

At 77 years of age, I had long respected, even revered the Supreme Court. No longer! For your court, I, like a growing majority of Americans, have nothing but contempt.