Have Republicans Confused Democracy For Democrats?

Republicans and Democrats have long been political rivals. But, beginning in the 1980s, Republicans began to view Democrats as enemies…as over-educated elitists hell-bent on destroying America. More recently, the GQP (Grand QAnon Party) has created a narrative that Democrats are evil…part of an international cabal of pedophiles and cannibals.

That was bad enough. But thanks to Trump and his propaganda network, the GQP now seems to have conflated Democrats and democracy believing they both must be defeated at all costs. A majority of Republicans have been convinced that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. With absolutely no evidence to support the claim, they believe that their own state election officials are lying and that millions of illegal votes were cast for Biden. Never mind that Republicans gained seats in those same states.

Are we supposed to believe that the election was rigged for Biden, but not for other Democratic candidates?

Not satisfied by facts or reason, the GQP is now determined to undermine our electoral system to make sure that no Democrat can ever be elected again. Since the first of this year, the GQP has introduced more than 100 bills in 28 states to make it more difficult for Democrats, especially those of color, to vote. A report by the Brennan Center for Justice states, “These proposals primarily seek to: (1) limit mail voting access; (2) impose stricter voter ID requirements; (3) limit successful pro-voter registration policies; and (4) enable more aggressive voter roll purges.” And these proposals are on top of dozens of existing measures intended to disenfranchise voters.

For example, in Arizona, the GQP House proposed a bill that would have purged an estimated 100,000 voters from the state’s early voting lists. And though the vast majority of Arizonans happily vote by mail, GQP lawmakers want to make it more difficult. One bill would require voters to have their signatures on mail-in ballots notarized. Another bill would make mail-in ballots one-way. The county elections offices would mail out ballots. But voters could not return the ballots by mail. And yet another bill would make it illegal for anyone to conduct voter registration drives but county elections officials.

In Georgia, another state that Trump lost by a narrow margin, the GQP introduced nine bills to make it more difficult to vote, including ending automatic voter registration, doing away with no-excuse absentee voting, and eliminating mail ballot drop boxes. In other words, the GQP is saying, “If our candidates can’t win on merit, we’ll keep the supporters of their opponents from voting.”

That’s not only un-Democratic. It’s undemocratic.

Our Broken Criminal Justice System.

Trump’s acquittal for inciting an insurrection and his pardons of some of the most treacherous criminals in our nation’s history only serve to call more attention to the inequalities of our justice system. The contrast is particularly stark in comparison to the treatment of people of color over the past year.

The truth is, the US incarcerates more people than any other nation on Earth (2.1 million as of 2018) and a higher percentage of its citizens than any other nation (639 per 100,000). Moreover, our prison populations are disproportionately people of color. And people of color are disproportionately subjected to police violence.

Why?

As with most things, the answer is: It’s complicated. Certainly, the color of one’s skin does not make one more prone to commit crimes. It does not make one more violent. Similarly, not all white people and white cops are racist. But the answer is rooted in our history of slavery, Jim Crow, and our continuing systemic racism.

For example, numerous studies have found that students of color are disproportionately affected by suspensions and punishments in schools. And the inequity begins early. Though black students represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment, they represent 42 percent of students who are suspended once and 48 percent of those suspended more than once.

The impact of such bias is long-lasting. Suspended students are less likely to graduate on time. They are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, or become involved in the juvenile justice system. And, once in the system, it is difficult for them to escape. A 2018 study published in the Boston University Law Review found a profound racial disparity in the misdemeanor arrest rate” for drug possession, theft and simple assault. In addition, they are disproportionately subjected to police violence. This disparity was borne out by the Department of Justice investigation into the City of Ferguson, Missouri following the slaying of Michael Brown, an unarmed young black man.

That report revealed a pattern of unlawful conduct within the Ferguson Police Department that violated the 1st, 4th, and 14th Amendments. In short, the investigation found that the city’s administration, its police force, and its municipal court system viewed its largely black population less as residents than as sources of revenue. Residents were arrested for minor crimes and given fines they could not afford to pay. When they failed to pay the fines, the amounts were increased. Ultimately, they were jailed until they could come up with the money to obtain their release.

And Ferguson is not unique. You can find the same pattern in the poorest neighborhoods of almost every US city.

Further, as abundantly demonstrated by the George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, John Crawford III, Tamir Rice, and untold others killed by police, there is significant racism within the police ranks. Young black males are killed by police at a rate 5 times greater than whites. And more than double the rate of Latinos.

Even if the police are not intentionally racist, many have preconceived, subconscious biases. Many assume people of color are guilty of something. They see expressions of free speech as unlawful disobedience. They see innocent movements as threats. And they too often resort to excessive force. Yet, although the number of documented cases of police abuse has grown as a result of the availability of cellphone video, the overwhelming majority of cases still go unreported for fear of retaliation.

There are many contributing factors for the problems: Police leadership – both at the top and within the ranks, flawed hiring practices, and inadequate or over aggressive training. Police are too often expected to deal with situations, such as mental health crises, for which they are unqualified and unprepared. And they are often the victims for poor communication from dispatchers. Police are also victims of our nation’s runaway gun culture. Any American can obtain a gun. And many have more firepower than the responding officers.

Other factors are the militarization of our police forces through the purchase of surplus military equipment. To keep these items, they must prove that they use it. That tends to escalate the violence. And we can’t overlook the police federations that make it difficult for Police Chiefs to enforce meaningful disciplinary actions against abusive officers.

Our court system is equally at fault.

The United Nations Sentencing Project found that US operates two distinct criminal justice systems: One for the wealthy. Another for the poor.

While people like Trump and his friends can afford high-powered attorneys to avoid or delay justice through complicated and expensive motions, the poor, especially people of color are treated very differently. Since the courts and public defenders are overwhelmed with caseloads, prosecutors are often able to intimidate defendants into accepting plea bargains. If they plead to a felony, they are often placed into a prison system focused on revenge rather than rehabilitation and education. Once they’re released, they’re still viewed as dangerous. In many states, they can’t vote. And they find it difficult to get jobs. All too often, that leads them to commit other crimes.

If their crimes involve mental illness, they may be even worse off. The US has all but eliminated mental health facilities. So, the mentally ill are relegated to jail cells. When they act up or become violent, they are placed in solitary confinement, which, in essence, becomes a life sentence.

We can’t make America great again. Because it never was. And it won’t be until we eliminate systemic racism and redesign the criminal justice system from top to bottom.

Don’t Mourn For The GOP Of Old.

In the age of Trump, some long for the GOP of old. True, the party of Lincoln was truly admirable. But that GOP hasn’t existed for a very long time. The GOP of modern history bore little resemblance to the party of Lincoln. Yet some would have you believe that the party of Nixon, Reagan, and Bush was just as caring, just as patriotic and just as principled.

Don’t believe the myth.

Though it is true that the GOP of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and early 2000s was significantly better than the current hot mess, it was no friend of ordinary working people. It was a coalition of corporatists and industrialists. It included war mongers, bigots, anti-unionists, and those who felt it was their duty to interfere with democracies and governments around the globe on behalf of our corporations.

It was the GOP under Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers that overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran when it tried to nationalize Iranian oil, an act that led to a brutal dictatorship and, ultimately, the Islamist revolution. It was the GOP that undermined the Vietnam peace talks to help Nixon’s election chances, an act that resulted in thousands more deaths. It was the GOP that embraced southern racists after the civil rights movement.

In the old GOP, it was Nixon who founded a dirty tricks squad and tried to circumvent our democratic elections by breaking into the Democratic National headquarters. It was Nixon who ordered the overthrow of Chile’s democratically elected president who was replaced by a dictator.

In the old GOP, it was Reagan who fomented distrust in the government, who launched an attack on labor unions, who handed out large tax cuts to the wealthy under his bogus “trickle-down” economic theory, who imposed a range of hidden taxes on the middle class, and who ran up the national debt. It was Reagan who created a shadow government that illegally sold weapons to Iran in order to fund the Central American Contras.

It was George H.W. Bush who continued Reagan’s economic policy and launched a war in the Middle East. And it was George W. Bush who used his brother to corrupt Florida’s election in order to attain office. “W” also ignored warnings of the impending terrorist attack on 9/11 and launched a horrific war in Iraq based on false information.

It was the old GOP that spawned ultra-partisans such as Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan and Moscow Mitch McConnell – the people who placed party over country and made compromise a dirty word. It is members of the old GOP who, like Mitt Romney, Moscow Mitch, and Elaine Chow, have parked funds in offshore tax havens to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. It was members of the old GOP that showered trillions on the military-industrial complex. And it was the old GOP that has gone to great lengths to suppress and intimidate voters who are unlikely to vote for GOP candidates.

Yes, the GOP of Trump is significantly worse than what preceded it – led by a treasonous conman who has taken corruption, division, lies, and bigotry to new levels. But it was the old GOP that embraced Trumpism and made this horror show possible.

Why Republicans Should Lose. And Lose Bigly.

Set aside most Republicans’ embrace of divisiveness, violent militias, Qanon and its wacko conspiracy theories, and their head-in-the-sand approach to the climate crisis. The reason you should spurn the entire Republican Party is its blatant attempts to deny millions of American citizens the right to vote.

For more than 20 years, the party has launched an all-out attack on the voting rights of people of color and the poor. It began by raising questions about the integrity of our election process on the heels of the party stealing the 2000 election in Florida. Yet the GOP had the audacity to claim that there was widespread voter fraud throughout the nation. Acting on that claim, the Bush administration ordered an investigation which found that intentional voter fraud was non-existent.

Nevertheless, many GOP-controlled legislatures began limiting voting rights to only those who had a photo ID. And, rather than make the IDs free and easy to obtain, the legislatures not only set fees for them. They limited access, often forcing poor Americans without drivers licenses to take time off from work and travel many miles to obtain the IDs. The IDs had the effect of denying voting rights millions of Americans.

In 2013, a Republican-driven lawsuit against the federal government (Shelby Co v Holder) led to a US Supreme decision that weakened the Voting Rights Act of 1965, claiming that federal oversight of state election rules was no longer necessary. Almost immediately following the decision, GOP-led states dramatically reduced the number of voting centers in areas that are predominately black. At the same time, they reduced early voting periods and voting hours. That caused voters in those areas to wait in lines twice as long as their white counterparts.

In Arizona, Georgia, and other Republican-controlled states, the legislatures have ordered a purge of registered, but infrequent, voters. That act alone almost certainly put a Republican in Georgia’s governor’s mansion, instead of the more popular Democrat.

More recently, Donald Trump his Republican Party, in an attempt to undermine the 2020 election, have argued that the election is rigged and raised concerns about the safety of mail-in ballots, saying that mail-in voting is an opportunity for Democrats and China to commit election fraud. At the same time, Republican-appointed members of the governing board of the United States Postal Service and Trump’s Postmaster General have delayed mail service by removing dozens of mail sorting machines and hundreds of mailboxes. They have called for armed militias and white supremacist supporters of Trump to show up at the polls in large numbers as “poll watchers” – an obvious attempt at voter intimidation.

In Florida, the Republican Secretary of State has defied a voter-approved referendum by refusing to restore voting rights to felons who have served their sentences until they pay all costs associate with their crimes while making it almost impossible to determine what those costs might be. The Republican governor of Texas has ordered that there can be only one voting drop-off box per county, thus making voting even more difficult for those living in large cities.

In Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin and other states, Republicans have resorted to extreme gerrymandering which allows Republican officials to choose their voters rather than voters choosing their representatives. Administration attempts to rig and cut short the Census are also intended to impact redistricting in order to create more districts that are safe for Republicans.

As if all that isn’t enough, Republicans have continued to bombard voters with disinformation to create fear and confusion. They have embraced Russian interference and disinformation campaigns. And, I believe, Trump’s performance in the first debate was intended to cause numerous voters to become so disgusted with politics that they stay home on Election Day due to the reality that voter suppression always benefits Republican candidates, since the majority of Americans support Democratic policies.

The only solution to such tactics is to vote. Vote as if the future of our democracy depends on it. Because it does.

A Few Questions For Republicans.

1. You have witnessed the decay of the middle class and the growing inequality of wealth. Do you not understand that it’s the inevitable result of Reaganomics and the continuing tax cuts for the very wealthy?
2. You have seen Congress and state legislatures blatantly ignore the will of the people on numerous issues. Do you not see that it is the result of lobbyists for billionaire businessmen and multinational corporations? Do you not realize that GOP lobbyists and corporate-sponsored organizations such as the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) write many of the bills that reach the floor of Congress and legislatures for votes?
3. I am sure you are aware of widespread voter suppression tactics waged against Democrats and minorities. Do you not understand that such tactics are blatantly undemocratic? And that your party is alienating minority voters for generations?
4. You have heard reports from all of our intelligence agencies that document Russian meddling in our elections. In fact, the Mueller investigation offered a mountain of evidence of cooperation between Russians and the Trump campaign. Similarly, you have seen Trump impeached for withholding funds from Ukraine in exchange for opening a bogus investigation into Hunter and Joe Biden. You likely also witnessed him openly ask China to interfere in the upcoming election on his behalf. Do you not worry that, in addition to being blatantly unconstitutional, such interference permanently weakens our nation?
5. You have cheered Donald Trump’s attacks on many of our most important democratic institutions – the free press, the Department of Justice, federal prosecutors, the FBI, the CIA and other intelligence agencies, the courts, and inspector generals. Do you not see that such attacks are, in fact, attacks on the rule of law and our nation?
6. You have applauded the Trump administration’s cruelty toward immigrants and refugees, including its separation of children from their parents. How can you continue to celebrate our nation’s history of immigration – “Give me your tired, your poor, your wretched masses yearning to breathe free?” Do you not realize that without these immigrants – even the undocumented immigrants – we would not have nearly enough “essential” workers to pick our produce, to process our meats, to cook our food, to serve the infirm, and to clean our buildings?
7. You claim to be “pro-life.” Yet you ignore the homeless and the hungry. And you continue to dismiss the deaths of 168,000 Americans in your rush to get back to “normal.” Do you not hear your own hypocrisy?
8. You continue to brag about American exceptionalism and claim that our healthcare system is the best on Earth. Then how do you rationalize the fact that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted Americans? And that more than 900 of our healthcare professionals have died as a result of a lack of proper protective equipment? How can you justify Trump’s attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act during the pandemic which will deny healthcare to millions more Americans?
9. You claim to admire our nation’s military. Do you not understand how little regard your president has for veterans? Did you not hear him deny that Sen. John McCain was a war hero? Did you not hear him say that avoiding STDs was his personal Vietnam? Did you not hear his vile insults aimed at a Gold Star family? Do you not realize that, in order to build his great wall on the border with Mexico, he redirected essential funding from military personnel and their families? Have you not heard him demean our nation’s military leaders by saying he knows more than our top military generals? Have you not seen that he delayed essential relief funding to the Navajo – the Native American nation that helped win WWII as “Code Talkers?”
10. You boast of America’s natural beauty “from sea to shining sea.” Do you not realize that the Trump administration has compromised that beauty by auctioning off mining and drilling leases on environmentally sensitive lands? Do you not know that the administration plans to reopen uranium mining in the Grand Canyon that will, once again, make the Colorado River radioactive? Do you not see that the administration’s actions are polluting our air, our soil, and our water? Do you have no concern for the hundreds of thousands of wildlife species that are made vulnerable as a result? Do you not worry that your party continues to deny climate change despite the multitude of evidence that it endangers the planet?
11. You now label many of your party’s former leaders – George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Jim Mattis, Michael Steele, Tom Ridge, Steve Schmidt, Rick Wilson, George Will, John Weaver, George Conway, the McCain family, Nicolle Wallace, Jennifer Horn, and many, many others as RINOs and Never Trumpers. Have you not considered why those leaders call for the defeat of Donald Trump? Do you seriously believe they have abandoned conservative ideals to become “libtards?” Or have they simply recognized that Trump is a real and present danger to our nation?
12. Many in the corrupt Trump administration and Trump’s GOP – Steve Mnuchin, Jeff Sessions, Ryan Zinke, Tom Price, Ben Carson, Wilbur Ross, Scott Pruitt, and Trump, himself – have been caught squandering taxpayer money to enrich themselves and their friends. Do you still believe that Trump will drain the swamp and hire “only the best people?” Or is Trump himself the real swamp monster?
13. You condemn a Democrat-controlled House for seeking testimony from cabinet officials and for attempting to conduct oversight of this administration. Will you have the same reaction when the roles are reversed? Or do you truly believe that a president – any president – is above the law? Do you want to tear up our Constitution and destroy our democracy so that we become an autocracy?
14. When you don’t like facts and truths based on irrefutable evidence as reported by news media, you call them “fake news” and refer to them as enemies of the people. You seek only those media that share your political ideology. Where does that end? Is the party’s longtime propaganda arm, Fox News, no longer believable because Chris Wallace dared to fact-check your Mango Mussolini?
15. You call yourself “patriots” for wrapping yourself in the flag with a Bible in one hand and a gun in the other. What kind of patriot supports a fascist regime that seems intent on destroying constitutional norms by refusing congressional oversight and claims the leader is above the law? What kind of patriot condones the funneling of taxpayer money to millionaires and billionaires? What kind of patriot denies people of color social justice, equal opportunity, and economic equity? What kind of patriot believes the most outlandish conspiracy theories and embraces foreign interference on their behalf while viewing a significant majority of Americans as the enemy?

“Mississippi With Snow.”

During television coverage of the recent protests in Minneapolis, the head of the NAACP referred to Minnesota as “Mississippi with snow.” As a proud resident of Minnesota who has long tried to address the racism in our state, that was still difficult to hear. But it is an alarmingly accurate description. Despite the economic success of Minnesota (it’s home to numerous Fortune 500 headquarters) and our widely acclaimed creativity (in music, theater, advertising, graphic arts, culinary arts and more), the primary differences between the two states are that we have a harsher climate, fewer people of color and a different accent.

Once a bastion of Scandinavian-style liberalism and tolerance, Minnesota changed under the leadership of GOP governor Tim Pawlenty. It cut taxes and passed laws that rewarded the wealthiest Minnesotans while punishing the poorest. That punishment was felt most by Minnesotans of color.

In 2008, the population of Minnesota was just 4.6 percent black compared to 12.8 percent for the US as a whole. Similarly, the Latino population in Minnesota was just 4.1 percent versus 15.4 percent for the US. Yet, black people living in Minneapolis (there are precious few outside the Twin Cities) are nearly 6 times more likely to be poor than their white counterparts. A black college graduate in the state, on average, makes less than a white high school dropout.

In 2009, at the height of the Great Recession, the unemployment rate for black Minnesotans was 22.5 percent compared to 15.5 percent for Latinos and just 7.1 percent for whites. Again, in 2010, Minnesota ranked second in the nation for racial disparity in the jobless rate behind only Mississippi. Even in 2018, before the pandemic, when black unemployment was at a record low of 6.8 percent, black unemployment in Minnesota was nearly double the US average.

Nationally, for every $1.00 of income white households receive, Latino households receive 72 cents, and black households earn just 59 cents. For every $1.00 of wealth held by white families, Latino families have 12 cents, and black families have 10 cents! And one-third of black children live in poverty, compared to 12 percent of white children.

Police in Minnesota and elsewhere kill blacks at an alarming rate compared to whites. Each killing leads to mental health issues for most of the black population. And it’s not just police killing black people. Discrimination is literally killing blacks because they are less likely to be able to afford healthcare. (A fact that has been especially apparent with the impact of the pandemic on people of color.)

Moreover, people of color not only suffer from disparities in employment, income, wealth, healthcare, and opportunity. They suffer from disparities in education, policing, and voting.

In Minnesota schools are some of the most segregated in the US. Why? Because Minnesota was an early adopter of charter schools. And Minnesota law exempts charter schools from desegregation. Public schools are also highly segregated with many predominately black schools underfunded, which has resulted in a large achievement gap between blacks and whites.

Minnesota is not alone. The US spends $23 billion more on schools that serve predominately white students versus schools that serve predominately black and Latino students. Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans are expelled from schools at a higher rate than whites for the same transgressions. Too often, that leads to participation in the “justice” system and eventually to incarceration. Once they’re in the system, they find it hard to escape.

Per capita, blacks are 2.8 times more likely to be killed by police than white people. And believe it or not, Native Americans fair even worse. They are 3.1 times more likely to be killed by police than whites. Native Americans make up 0.8 percent of the population. But they experience 1.9 percent of all police killings. Many Native Americans live in poverty with no access to clean water. And many of their children are sent to outdate, mold-infested schools. Moreover, in an age of technology, many Native Americans have none. They not only lack high-speed Internet (a growing requirement for education). Many lack phone service.

And, if you think people of color can create change by voting, think again. A recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice found that black voters stand in lines 45 percent longer than white people. Latinos wait 46 percent longer than whites. And many Native Americans are unable to vote at all because some states require a street address, which most reservations lack. As a result of GOP voter suppression tactics, the situation is getting worse as evidenced in Georgia. Is it any wonder then that there are only 3 US senators who are black?

Now, following the murder of George Floyd, Minnesota has a real opportunity to make systemic change. As it has in many other ways, it can lead the nation. It can create an environment of justice and equal treatment for people of all colors and backgrounds. It can make its immodest slogan “Minnesota Nice” truly mean something.

Reimagining Police.

Since the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing violence, I’ve been struggling to know what to write about policing in America. Despite many encounters with lazy and corrupt Bullies With Badges, my attempts to identify and explain necessary changes have seemed inadequate. Fortunately, a former police officer has described the problems better than I, or most anyone else, could.

I highly recommend you read the linked article entitled “Confessions of a Former Bastard CopConfessions of a Former Bastard Cop.”

If you read it, I believe that you will never view police the same way again. There are far more than a few bad apples in law enforcement. The entire apple tree is decaying from its roots.

We’re All Complicit In George Floyd’s Death.

Let me begin by stating that Minneapolis is a great city. It has been home to world leaders in music, advertising, graphic design, theater, education, medicine and more. In addition, it has been home to principled and forward thinking political leaders such as senators Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale and Al Franken. The city has great dining and entertainment venues, as well as a full range of professional sports. Most of all, it has long been a clean and safe place to live. It has also been known as a place that is charitable and tolerant of others. For those reasons, it has accepted an amazing number of refugees – from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Liberia, Somalia, Eritrea, Tibet and more.

That has made Minneapolis a particularly vibrant place where the warmth of its citizens more than offsets the sometimes frigid weather.

Unfortunately, the city’s tolerance has extended to corruption and racism. That became clear for all to see with the murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers. Though I’m not black, I have long been concerned about below-the-surface racism in the city after stumbling across corruption within the city council, the mayor’s office, and, in particular, the Minneapolis Police Department in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

Police officers felt emboldened to stop people of color for any reason, at any time. They harassed the homeless. And some brutalized black people. From my office window, I personally witnessed six MPD officers cuff a black man, placing him face down in slush and snow. They then took turns kicking him before one finished the assault by emptying a can of mace in his face. I reported the incident, but since I was unable to get names and badge numbers, my report was ignored.

A series of police chiefs tried to clean up the mess that seems to have begun in the 1930s – one famous for his work in the South Bronx. But those chiefs were often blunted by the city’s police union. For example, when an off-duty officer brutally beat a college student in a downtown bar, he was fired. But the officer was returned to duty following arbitration and assigned to the role of department spokesman. Since then, many others have been fired for cause, but returned to duty following arbitration, even receiving back pay!

How on earth can any chief establish and maintain discipline under those circumstances? Though I support labor unions in general, the police union is most responsible for George Floyd’s death. But they are not alone.

The public has failed to demand better. Indeed, many are in denial that racism is a problem. Not here in Minnesota! They have decried racism at the same time they joined the white flight to the suburbs ostensibly in search of better schools, which explains why 65 percent of students in the city’s schools are children of color and 70 percent are living in poverty. Meanwhile, schools in some of the city’s suburbs have larger budgets and facilities that would shame many small colleges.

To be clear, Minneapolis is not an outlier. Racism exists in every city, in every state. Indeed, it has grown as result of President Trump’s actions and words.

Racism will only end when our governments – all of our governments – take it seriously and take steps to end segregation and inequality. More important, all of us need to confront racism whenever and wherever it raises its ugly head. We need to block the Websites which racists use to congregate and plan their hateful acts. We need to hold racist politicians accountable. And we need to make sure that law enforcement officers are charged for their crimes. The Minneapolis Police Department should take the advice of Mayor Frey and immediately arrest the officer who murdered George Floyd along with his three accomplices.

Religion Perverted.

As the pandemic spreads around the globe, we see indications that people are turning to religion for help and guidance. And though there is reason to believe that religion can help some people through difficult times, we should not forget the harm that morally bankrupt religious leaders can do.

In the US, we see televangelist Kenneth Copeland take a temporary break from his fearmongering and constant calls for donations to purse his lying lips and blow away the coronavirus in the name of God. We see GOP leaders praise the demonstrators who are defying science and common sense to “liberate” states by saying they are doing the Lord’s work in fighting for protection of the Second Amendment. And we see evangelical Christians pledge their undying support to a pussy-grabbing, money-grubbing, Muslim-hating, family-breaking, child-caging, refugee-deporting, race-baiting, narcissistic sociopath. In fact, they not only support him. They believe him to be sent from God!

All of this has led me to examine religion as never before.

Historians tell us that many of today’s great religions – Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam – were created to encourage good behavior as humanity evolved from nomadic tribes into settlements. As various clans and tribes began living together, there was a need for new rules. What better way to guarantee that someone would behave appropriately than to put the fear of God into them? Unfortunately, rules based on divine retribution do not encourage compassion and morality. They result in actions born out of mere self-interest – the idea that you will be rewarded for good actions and punished for bad actions. That is not morality. Morality comes from performing good deeds without regard to personal benefit merely because they are the right, just, compassionate, and moral thing to do.

I believe it is precisely because of the concept of divine retribution that religions are so easily perverted and abused. The concept allows for pastors, priests, parishioners, and autocrats to make judgments. It permits them to decide what their God would want. It is this concept that has transformed so many religions into cults focused on evangelism, profiteering, repression, and persecution…all in the name of God.

The notion that only my fellow believers know the will of God permits the sanctimonious to turn their collective backs on those most in need: The poor, the homeless, the downtrodden and the endangered. How else do you explain Christians rationalizing the deportation of refugees to almost certain abuse or death while celebrating the supposed prosperity gospel? How else do you explain Christians justifying discrimination of minorities? How else do you explain Israel’s Zionist apartheid toward Palestinians? How else do you explain Wahhabi extremists justifying the murder of non-believers? How else do you explain the genocide of Muslims by Buddhists in Myanmar? How else do you explain religious wars?

Throughout the world, we see churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples ignore the suffering of others in defiance of their own teachings. We see them use religion as a weapon in their pursuit of a homogenous society in which everyone shares the same skin color, the same sexual preferences and the same beliefs. We see predators use the trappings of faith to abuse children. We see televangelists use their platform to purchase mansions and private jets. We see religious majorities discriminate against people of other faiths. We see them commit murder in the name of God.

Studies have shown that atheists are no less moral than those who claim to be religious. If atheists are not bound by the concept of divine retribution, why are they just as likely to do good as their religious brethren? I submit that it’s out of an internal compass…an innate sense of right and wrong, of caring for others.

For me, that raises several questions: Is organized religion any longer necessary? If it doesn’t engender good behavior, what good is it? If it is used to discriminate and divide, would we not be better off without it? Moreover, why do we afford religions special treatment? Why has it become impossible for an atheist or a deist to be elected to office? Why do we exempt churches from taxes? Though churches provide a sense of belonging and the comfort of communal support, so, too, do many other clubs and organizations.

If we are ever to achieve peace, I believe we must all embrace the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson as expressed in his writing, “…it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg… Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error.”

Jefferson believed that religion was a private matter solely between himself and his creator. We would all do well to follow his lead.

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Ironically, in the age of information, our nation has been compromised by lies and disinformation as never before.

Decades of consolidation, short-term thinking, corporate greed, extreme political ideologies, and poor leadership have left our nation’s economy, healthcare system and its citizens unnecessarily vulnerable.

Many of the decisions that led us to this point were made in good faith. Some were dictated by difficult situations. But others were made willfully and knowingly, their true purpose and their all-too predictable results hidden in a fog of falsehoods and lies. This book attempts to cut through the misinformation to examine the problems, explain how they happened and reveal the truth.