Treat Trump Like A Winner.

Reality Winner, that is, the 6-year Air Force veteran, recipient of a commendation for meritorious service, and former contractor for the National Security Agency who was sentenced to 5 years and 3 months in federal prison, plus 3 years of supervised released.

What horrible crime did she commit?

She was convicted of violating the Espionage Act of 1917, 18 U.S.C. § 793(e) for sharing a classified document with The Intercept. That document revealed that Russia had interfered with the 2016 presidential election on Trump’s behalf through a cyberattack on a US election software provider and spearfishing emails to more than 100 election officials. Without Winner’s actions, US voters may never have learned of Russia’s interference.

In other words, Reality Winner acted as a whistleblower in service to the American citizenry.

Contrast her actions with that of our deposed president and dictator wannabe who was found to have stashed 700 classified and top-secret documents at his home in Mar-a-Lago. The FBI search warrant used to search his home cited the very same charge as Winner. The difference is that Winner was trying to perform a public service. And Trump was almost certainly expecting to profit off our nation’s secrets.

There is also a substantial difference in the threat that the two represent. The classified material that Winner exposed could not reasonably be considered a threat to national security. On the other hand, the material Trump hoarded represents our nation’s most highly guarded secrets, including information about our nuclear arsenal and our human assets (spies) working undercover around the globe. Such documents should have never been removed from a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility), let alone stored in a resort frequented by dozens of members including foreign nationals.

So, to paraphrase the MAGA chants of 2015 and 2016: Lock him up! Our nation’s security may depend on it.

Fox News Has Gone Full Goebbels.

During a recent Laura Ingraham show in which she questioned Mike Pompeo about his interview with the Jan 6 committee, a headline appeared at the bottom of the screen reading “Dems prop up phony democracies abroad, shred ours.” In other words, the radical conservatives are angry that we are supporting Ukraine and investigating the January 6th insurrection.

And the Ingraham show is not even the worst thing on Fox. Tucker Carlson, the multi-millionaire heir to the Swanson Foods fortune, takes partisanship to a new level in his show by blatantly promoting autocrats and white supremacists, by excusing Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and by fawning over our deposed president and crime boss, Donald J. Trump.

Despite Fox calling its content “news”, it has long been little more than a propaganda network for Republicans and Libertarians. Its schedule is packed full of hate, fearmongering, and falsehoods. So much so that it is increasingly difficult to distinguish it from the pre-World War II work of Joseph Goebbels. (Goebbels, of course, was famously known as the chief propagandist who helped Adolf Hitler rise to power.) In fact, it could seriously be argued that many of the Fox hosts, Newsmax, and other MAGA propagandists are more extreme.

This pattern of radical anti-Democratic (and anti-democratic) rhetoric has been going on since the end of the Fairness Doctrine in the late eighties. A number of TV, radio and podcast hosts (Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, Mark Levin, et al) are deeply involved in Trump’s seditious conspiracy. And their rhetoric is getting worse.

It is abundantly clear that such propaganda is the primary reason for our nation’s divisions. As Trump and his MAGA followers have labeled the legitimate press as “enemies of the people” for reporting the truth, Fox and the other propaganda outlets have promised to tell you the real story. And what a story it is – full of partisan distortions and lies which blame immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and people of color for many of our nation’s problems.

They portray immigrants as criminals and “illegals.” They raise fears that same-sex marriage will somehow undermine the marriages of heterosexuals. They portray people of color as “lazy thugs” who have destroyed the rule of law in our cities. Like Trump, they describe our nation as a democracy in decay with carnage in our streets.

Yet, in truth, it is the Trump supporters – the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, white supremacists, and violent militias – who have taken to the streets with guns and body armor. It is these MAGAts who tried to bully governors, legislators, and judges from instituting policies to mitigate the pandemic. It is the MAGATs who invaded our Capitol to threaten Congress with the apparent intent to murder individuals and overthrow an election. And it is their NRA’s greed that has made Americans feel unsafe in theaters, in shopping centers, in churches, at concerts, even at schools.

There are other striking similarities between the Republican MAGAts and Nazis. They both intended to seize power based on bullying and armed insurrection. And they both aimed their hatred at minorities.

And even though the insurrection of January 6th was stopped, the Republican Party’s attempts to destroy our democracy continue. The propagandists are unbowed, and their falsehoods are unabated. Moreover, recognizing that knowledge is a threat and a counter to propaganda, the GOP continues its attacks on education and the educated. For decades, the GOP has dismissed and ridiculed expertise. It has dismissed economists who proclaimed trickle-down economics an abject failure. It has ignored the negative impact of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. And it has ridiculed the vast majority of the world’s scientists who warned about the devastating impacts of climate change.

Republicans have undermined public schools by slashing their budgets and channeling tax dollars into private schools through vouchers. They have threatened teachers for schooling their students in our nation’s history of slavery and the genocide of natives. They have sought to marginalize LGBTQ students. And their push for private schools allows conservatives to prioritize Christianity in classrooms over science.

Republicans have also exposed the flaws of mainstream television networks. By trying to appear nonpartisan, the networks too often offer airtime to Republicans intent on spreading falsehoods and hatred. Moreover, by presenting news in soundbites without context, the networks offer a distorted and incomplete version of the truth which makes it more difficult to counter the Republican narrative.

Of course, social media plays a part in the conservatives’ attack on democracy by creating information (more accurately, disinformation) silos where many people go for their news. It is in those silos, hidden from the public eye, where extremists, seditionists, and insurrectionists can go to reinforce their twisted ideas and plot their attacks on civil society. And despite the claims of those who profit from social media, little has been done to enforce decorum on their sites and to block disinformation.

Unfortunately, there is little government can do to counter all of this. Certainly, it can prosecute crimes as they happen. And we can vote out those who would destroy public education. But given our constitutional rights to free speech and a free press, we can’t stop the propaganda. We can only make a real effort to inform ourselves and seek the truth. Let’s hope that’s enough.

The Plan To Destroy Democracy.

In case it’s not yet obvious that Trump tried everything in his power to overthrow a free and fair election, here is what we know, or can reasonably surmise, about his plan to stay in office despite an overwhelming defeat at the polls:

1. Before the election, Trump began to sow doubt in the electoral process by claiming that the election would be rigged if he didn’t win. (He did the same in 2015.)
2. In anticipation of a large mail-in vote caused by Covid, Trump named a lackey (Louis DeJoy) as Postmaster General to delay and disrupt the mail, particularly in cities with large Democratic majorities.
3. On the night of the election, Trump claimed victory long before all of the ballots were counted. This was designed to support his claims of a stolen election should Biden ultimately be named the winner.
4. As mail-in and absentee ballots continued to be counted, Trump claimed the ballots were fraudulent and encouraged armed supporters to go to ballot-counting stations to disrupt the counting and intimidate election workers.
5. When it was clear that Biden had won, Trump and his personal lawyers claimed foreign interference in the election, saying that China dumped millions of ballots in the mailboxes. That Venezuela and Italy hacked Dominion voting machines to change votes to Biden.
6. Trump and his lawyers filed more than 60 lawsuits claiming voter fraud. All but one was thrown out for lack of evidence.
7. Trump and his closest supporters created a “war room” in the Willard Hotel where sycophants made plans to overturn the election results.
8. As cabinet members announced their resignations, Trump began replacing them with more compliant loyalists, including acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller who tried to investigate a voter fraud conspiracy involving Italian satellites that the DOJ called “pure insanity.”
9. Trump pressured Department of Justice officials to declare the election fraudulent and to order a new election. When they refused, he threatened to fire acting Attorney General Rosen and replace him with Trump loyalist Jeffrey Clark.
10. Trump, his personal attorneys, and other supporters called Secretaries of State in Georgia and other critical swing states asking them to “find” the precise number of votes to change the outcome of the election.
11. As other plans for Trump to stay in power failed, he and his inner circle encouraged Republican-led state legislatures to select “alternative” slates of electors to replace the legitimate slates.
12. As Biden’s inauguration neared, Trump demanded that Vice-President Pence refuse to certify the official electoral votes on January 6 by declaring them invalid and sending the election to state legislatures where Republican legislators would declare Trump the winner.
13. Trump sycophants, including the wife of a sitting Supreme Court justice arranged for a “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, DC the day Congress was set to certify the vote. Trump tweeted supporters to “Be there. It will be wild.” In the days leading up to the rally, the recently pardoned felons, Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, met with leaders of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys to plan the coup. As part of the plan, these insurgent militias organized weapons depots outside the District of Columbia in anticipation of a civil war.
14. On January 5, at least one congressional representative provided an apparent reconnaissance tour of the Capitol for constituents who participated in the January 6 insurrection.
15. In the early morning hours of January 6, pipe bombs were placed in front of the offices of Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee as an obvious attempt to create a distraction for law enforcement prior to the insurrection.
16. On the morning of January 6, Trump placed a phone call to the Vice-President in a last-ditch attempt to convince Pence to refuse certification of the electoral votes. When he refused, Trump angrily called him a pussy before hanging up. He then tweeted that the Vice-President “didn’t have the courage to do the right thing.” In essence, this was the equivalent of a crime boss ordering a hit.
17. At the “Stop the Steal” rally, Trump extremists and conspiracy theorists made a series of fiery speeches telling the crowd to “fight like hell” or they wouldn’t have their country anymore.
18. When many of Trump’s armed supporters refused to enter the rally grounds for fear of having their weapons confiscated as they passed through security screenings, Trump became upset by the optics of a small crowd. He then demanded that the Secret Service take down the magnetometers. When told that many in the crowd were armed, Trump said he didn’t care, they weren’t there to harm him.
19. In his own speech at the rally, Trump asked his supporters to “march to the Capitol,” saying he would join them. He became furious when the Secret Service refused to take him to the Capitol to lead the insurgency.
20. As the electoral certification got underway, 147 of Trump’s congressional supporters – Biggs, Brooks, Boebert, Cawthorn, Cruz, Gohmert, Gaetz, Gosar, Hawley, Loudermilk, Taylor-Greene, Tuberville, et al began to challenge electoral votes.
21. Meanwhile, even before the rally ended, Trump’s insurgent militias began to break through police lines and encouraged others to follow.
22. As the siege of the Capitol began, gallows were constructed on Capitol grounds with the apparent intent to threaten VP Pence and Democratic leaders. After Trump issued a tweet saying Pence didn’t have the courage to do what’s right, the crowd became even more inflamed and clearly intended to murder the Vice-President, coming within a few feet of Pence and members of Congress.
23. Following Pence’s narrow escape, it appears the next step in the plan was for Trump loyalists in the Secret Service to spirit Pence away from the Capitol so that Chuck Grassley, as president pro tempore of the Senate, could take Pence’s place and send the election back to the state legislatures.
24. As a last-ditch effort, it appears Trump planned to use the violence as an excise to declare martial law. In doing so, he could order the military to seize voting machines and call for a new Putin-style “election” that he would be guaranteed to “win.”
25. Trump would then declare himself president for life as he had previously suggested when China’s Xi Jinping was given that title.

If not for the courage of the Capitol police, along with Mike Pence and a few other individuals, we would no longer be living in a constitutional democracy. But we must all realize that Trump’s attempted coup is far from over. Not only does he plan to run again in 2024. His hateful and heavily armed followers are standing by waiting for his orders. In addition, he has successfully created suspicion about election security resulting in threats of violence against election officials and their subsequent resignations. Many of those have been replaced by MAGAts who will do his bidding. And throughout the country he is promoting candidates for governor, Congress, and Secretaries of State who are attuned to his ideology.

Even if Trump is eventually charged with seditious conspiracy, manslaughter and various other crimes, he still has a compliant majority on the Supreme Court. He still has a well-established propaganda network (Fox News, Newsmax, Breitbart, and talk radio). He still benefits from a shocking amount of disinformation on social media platforms. He still has the support of the Republican Party and “Christian” evangelicals. And there are still nearly 74 million Americans who voted for his brand of hateful and vengeful politics – many of them heavily armed and waiting for the opportunity to act.

Blame It On Biden?

If you were to listen to Republicans, their propaganda networks and the corporate media, you would almost certainly believe that President Biden’s administration has been a disaster for America – worse even than that of his treasonous predecessor who used the White House as his own personal ATM and tried to violently overthrow the will of the people. But let’s take a closer look at the nation’s many problems and their actual causes. For example:

Afghanistan – Biden was blamed for our ugly exit from Afghanistan. He was accused of abandoning Afghanistan’s women and allies who worked with U.S. troops during that 20-year war. But examine the events leading up to our withdrawal, and you’ll discover that the terms and timing of our departure were negotiated by the Trump administration. So, when Biden took office, he was faced with an impossible choice – either pull our troops out of Afghanistan by the negotiated deadline. Or risk escalating the war and possibly cause it to continue for decades more.

Pandemic – Biden inherited a raging pandemic that had killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and savaged our economy. True, three vaccines were created during the previous administration. But many of Trump’s supporters steadfastly refused to take them. And by angrily refusing to wear masks, they helped spread the virus. Nevertheless, by relying on science and increasing the availability of vaccines, Biden’s administration has been able to mitigate the pandemic and to quickly restart the economy causing unemployment to drop to near historic lows.

Inflation – Biden’s stimulus plans have been blamed for overheating the economy and leading to the highest inflation in 40 years. But, when you realize that corporate profits have simultaneously reached 50-year highs, another picture emerges. The primary cause of inflation is corporate profiteering, plain and simple. Other factors include disrupted supply chains, overwhelmed seaports, understaffed trucking companies, exhausted front-line workers, and pent-up consumer demand – all the result of the Biden-inherited pandemic. It’s a basic tenet of economics that reduced supply plus increased demand equals higher prices. The administration has few tools to address that reality. It must rely on the independent Federal Reserve, and its only tool to address inflation is to increase interest rates.

Fuel Prices – Perhaps the greatest driver of inflation is soaring fuel prices. Certainly, that must be Biden’s fault. Right? Wrong! Fuel is subject to the same economic principle that affects all pricing. During the pandemic as most people worked from home, oil producers and refiners cut supply in order to reduce costs. When the country reopened, suppliers say they were unprepared for the sudden increased demand. At the same time, Russia invaded Ukraine leading to sanctions on one of the world’s largest oil producers. The administration has reacted in the only ways it can – by releasing some of our nation’s oil reserves, calling on Saudi Arabia to increase production, and trying to shame the opportunistic oil companies into lowering prices.

Moreover, given the fact that the five largest oil companies are enjoying record profits, there are legitimate questions that they may be inflating prices in retaliation against Democrats who want to force them to pay their fair share of taxes.

Federal deficit – Having refused to admit that Covid-19 was a serious threat to the U.S. lest it interrupt Trump’s “beautiful” economy, the previous administration borrowed trillions to avoid an economic collapse. Unfortunately, government revenue had also been dramatically reduced by the Trump tax cuts. That led to massive deficits. Yet the Biden administration was not only able to restart the economy. Since taking office, it has cut the deficit by $1.5 trillion.

Immigration – Republicans would have you believe that Biden has pursued an open border policy. If that’s so, how do you explain the 1.6 million immigrants waiting on the other side of our border? While it is true that Biden wants to end Title 42, he has committed to maintaining border security. He simply wants to make our border policy more humane by making it easier for immigrants to apply for refugee status if their lives would be endangered by returning to their country of origin. And, given that most of our businesses are understaffed, an increase in immigration could only help our economy.

Baby Formula – Of course, Republicans jumped on the opportunity to blame Biden for the baby formula shortage. What they fail to acknowledge is the impact of the industry’s consolidation to just four suppliers. When the FDA forced the largest of those to close a plant after dangerous bacteria were found in its products, grocery shelves emptied. Transportation issues caused by the pandemic only added to the problem as they caused delays in importing formula from other countries. To overcome those delays, Biden did the one thing he could. He turned to the military to transport formula from Europe.

Child Tax Credit – Many parents are frustrated by the end of a program that lifted millions of children out of poverty. Yes, that did happen on Biden’s watch. But it was largely due to GOP obstruction.

War in Ukraine – Russia’s latest invasion of Ukrainian territory also happened on Biden’s watch. But, in reality, it is a continuation of Russia’s 2014 capture of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. There has been fighting along the border of the two nations ever since. Unlike the previous administration that withheld nearly $400 million of congressionally approved military aid in order to gain damaging information on his likely political opponent, Biden has led an international coalition to provide military aid and sanction Russia’s plutocrats.

Surprisingly, it’s not just Republicans who are unfairly heaping blame on the Biden administration. Many Democrats and independents are frustrated that Biden hasn’t yet dealt with their long wish list of wants and demands. Why hasn’t he instituted stricter gun safety measures? Climate change is worsening. Why hasn’t he done more to address that? Why can’t he lower the cost of pharmaceuticals? Why can’t he do more to protect abortion after the conservative majority in the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade? What is he doing to protect voting rights? Why hasn’t he forgiven all student loans? Why hasn’t he expanded the number of justices on the Supreme Court.

The answer to most of those questions and more is the recalcitrance of fifty Republican Senators, two Democratic Senators and the filibuster.

Biden certainly isn’t perfect. But his administration has been faced with an almost unimaginable number of challenges. And, unlike his twice-impeached predecessor, he didn’t encourage one of our nation’s greatest rivals to help him get elected. He didn’t receive campaign funds from foreign powers. He hasn’t stuffed his pockets with taxpayer money. He hasn’t bullied allies while playing footsie with dictators and enemies of our nation. He hasn’t ordered children to be ripped from their mothers’ arms. He hasn’t tried to extort favors from a foreign leader. He isn’t a pathological liar. And he hasn’t defiled Congress and our Constitution.

America Can No Longer Be Called Home Of The Brave.

Ask most Americans to quote the 2nd Amendment and they’ll recite some version of “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged.” But that is only half of the Amendment. The full Amendment states: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged.”

Reading it in its entirety completely changes the meaning of the Amendment.

Yes, it gives you the right to own and bear arms. But only as a member of a well-regulated militia. You see, when the 2nd Amendment was adopted in 1791, the United States had disbanded the Continental Army and relied entirely on state militias for national defense. That’s because the framers of the Constitution were wary of a standing army, fearing that it could be turned against the people. As a result, their intent was for each state to maintain a militia to defend against all threats both foreign and domestic. The idea of such volunteer militias originated with the nation’s very first European settlers. For instance, in Jamestown under the guidance of Capt. John Smith and in Plymouth Colony under Myles Standish, every man was responsible to own arms and to regularly train as part of the militia.

That is the definition of “well-regulated militia.”

In no way did the framers of 2nd Amendment intend for Americans to own weapons of war in order to shoot each other. They certainly didn’t intend for domestic terrorists to stockpile weapons in order to attack political opponents and legally elected officials. And they would be horrified to know that a corrupt interpretation of the Amendment is responsible for more mass shootings annually than there are days in the year!

According to Gun Violence Archive, nearly 20,000 Americans are killed each year by homicide or accidental shootings. Nearly 40,000 more suffer wounds – many of them horrific and debilitating. And nearly 25,000 Americans use guns to commit suicide.

No other nation has anywhere near this level of gun violence. But, then no other nation has so many guns. In fact, there are now more guns in the hands of American civilians than there are people! That total includes more than 638,000 legally owned machine guns, nearly 20 million AR-15-style assault rifles, an almost incalculable number of handguns, and a growing number of untraceable ghost guns (many with so-called Glock switches that can easily convert a semiautomatic handgun into a fully automatic machine gun). The weaponry available to civilians even includes .50 caliber sniper rifles that can blast a hole through a cast iron engine block. Is it any wonder then that our police have become so militarized? In far too many crimes, they are outgunned.

Given all this, one has to ask: Why? What has gone so terribly wrong? What are Americans so afraid of? What happened to the home of the brave?

Perhaps those best suited to answer that question are the leaders of the GOP and the NRA. After all, they are the ones who have spent the last 40-plus years promoting fear in order to get elected and to sell more guns. They have worked overtime to eliminate any restrictions to carrying guns. Through their sleazy ads and propaganda networks, they have convinced many Americans to fear criminals, to fear people of color, to fear immigrants, to fear the LGBTQ community, to fear the UN, to fear their own elected government, and, most of all, to fear Democrats and those who would impose common sense gun restrictions.

Yet, for all the violence driven by fear, there are many other factors to consider. Not the least of which is the Cowboy mythology of the white-hatted hero winning a shootout with a villain. This is the myth that led to the NRA’s self-serving statement that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Therefore, their argument goes, guns are necessary for self-defense.

However, anyone with a comprehensive understanding of self-defense can tell you that guns are seldom used for defense. They are offensive weapons. Consider this: What use is a gun when a bad guy already has one aimed at you? As for most active shooter events, if numerous people on the scene are holding guns, in the chaos of the moment how are the police supposed to tell which gun owner is the real threat?

While some would have you believe that our gun violence is caused by mental illness and the separation of church and state, those are mere distractions. Certainly, mental illness plays a role. But if the gun proponents believe that is the primary cause of gun violence, why have Republicans methodically cut funds from mental health services? (Before the Uvalde school shooting, Texas Governor Abbott cut $211 million from the state budget intended to provide greater access to mental health services.)

Bullying, poverty, broken homes, social media, and disinformation have also contributed to our problem. But the real issue – the elephant herd in the room – is the ever-increasing availability and lethality of guns!

It Is No Longer Accurate To Call White Nationalists Extremists.

While those who espouse white nationalism may seem extreme to Democrats and to many independents, it has become clear that they now represent the mainstream of the Republican Party.

Don’t believe me?

Perhaps you will trust Miles Taylor, the former Chief of Staff of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) during the Goerge W. Bush and Donald J. Trump administrations. A former Republican himself, he says that fully 50 percent of today’s GOP voters believe in Replacement Theory, the racist theory that Democrats are encouraging the illegal immigration of people of color in order to reduce white Christian Americans to minority status.

Once a theory propagated by only the most twisted racists on the very fringes of society – the KKK and neo-Nazis – it has been elevated from the sewers by Trump and mainstreamed by Fox News along with rightwing radio pundits, social media, and various Internet celebrities. The violent results of their hateful rhetoric have accelerated throughout the last 5 years, beginning with the “Alt Right’ March in Charlottesville and culminating in last week’s racist shootings at a Buffalo grocery store.

Of course, those who have incited such hatred refuse to claim any responsibility. And, though they may well briefly tone down their rhetoric, they will soon return to full-throated racism.

To underscore the ties between the GOP and racial terrorism, CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) will hold its annual conference in Budapest, Hungary. Why? Because Hungary’s dictator, Viktor Orban, espouses the same racist replacement theory as much of the GOP. Indeed, so does Russia’s resident dictator and Trump supporter, Vladimir Putin. Which may explain why 25 percent of the Republican congressional caucus voted against more military aid to help Ukraine defend itself against Putin’s invasion.

Moreover, according to Taylor, 50 percent of GOP voters believe in the cult-like conspiracies espoused by QAnon, including the preposterous belief that Democrats are pedophiles and that Democratic leaders and A-list Hollywood celebrities are running a child sex trafficking ring.

Finally, Taylor notes that 70 percent of the GOP think the 2020 election was stolen despite all evidence to the contrary. Not even Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General nor the Trump-appointed judges and justices believed in the claims of widespread voter fraud. Of course, there were a few notable cases of individual voter fraud. But they were Trump supporters who returned ballots for dead family members. And, of course, there’s the case of Trump’s Chief of Staff who illegally registered to vote in two states.

Nevertheless, the GOP and many of its candidates continue to espouse the “Big Lie.” At the same time, GOP governors and legislatures are working overtime to ensure they control upcoming elections. By that, they don’t simply mean they want to win the elections. They are taking steps to rig them by any means necessary.

Taylor says the DHS determined the biggest national security threat is domestic terrorism. I would amend the threat to include the GOP.

America First? Hardly! More Like Me First.

Trump followers would have you believe that their movement is determined to Make America Great Again. To rewind the clock and return America to the mythical, utopian state of their ancestors. A state in which everyone looked like them, worshiped like them, and thought like them. A state that welcomed immigrants to the Great Melting Pot but only if they were white and their origins were in Europe. A state in which Americans were free to say and do whatever they wanted without regard to the feelings of others.

But it should be obvious that the movement is less about what the nation’s Framers envisioned and more about selfishness, authoritarianism, celebrity, racism, and fraudulent religious beliefs.

As evidenced by those who attacked our Capitol on January 6, 2021, at the heart of the movement are bullies and aspiring bullies of the Millennial and Gen X generations. These are people who spent their formative years surrounded by the material excesses of capitalism and being told that they were special. Many never learned to genuinely compete for anything. Instead, they were given participation trophies for just showing up.

They are the first generations to grow up playing computer games, surfing the Internet, and posting as trolls on social media. Indeed, that’s where they get most, if not all, of their information. Rather than trust journalists, scientists, experts, and government officials, they place their trust in YouTube videos, Instagram, anonymous Facebook groups, Internet influencers, and rightwing media hosts – evidence and facts be damned.

They grew up watching “reality” TV where they learned admire power, cunning, and vanity. As a consequence, they are inordinately impressed by wealth and celebrity, expecting that one day they, too, will live the lifestyle of the rich and famous. They populate mega-churches where they worship the almighty dollar being told that, if they only pray enough, all of their dreams will be fulfilled.

Unfortunately, for many, their expectations tend to be far greater than their work ethic.

Having failed to achieve their grandiose goals, they have immersed themselves in a sea of grievances directed at those they believe have denied them their due. They are certain their lives would be better if not for immigrants and people of color cutting in front of them to claim the degrees, jobs, positions, and stature they have long considered their birthright.

Asked to participate in three ill-conceived and unwinnable wars, some volunteered and came home even more damaged than before – angry, belligerent, and racist. So, when a narcissistic, lying “reality” TV star and conman came along telling them that he would Make America Great Again by ridding the nation of immigrants and returning their birthright, they happily embraced him. Not just as a celebrity and politician, but as a god – a reincarnation of Jesus himself.

And it’s not only the quest for material things that drives these MAGAts. They are utterly obsessed with personal freedom.

They spend thousands on weaponry, ammunition, and body armor to prepare for the coming “storm” as foretold by the mysterious and fictitious Q. They walk around with a Bible in one hand and a copy of the Constitution in the other having read neither. They falsely believe that the Constitution guarantees them the right to do as they please without regard for the rights or the safety of others. They are contemptuous of education, science, and expertise. They support law enforcement as a means of controlling others. But when police try to hold them accountable for their own lawlessness, they consider it an unconstitutional intrusion by big government and the “Deep State.”

Many hate Boomers, the generation of their parents, who they feel reaped the rewards of the American Dream while leaving them to struggle on their own. And they have a particular dislike of their political enemies as evidenced by their chants of “lock them up” and their threats to exercise their Second Amendment rights. On social media, they circulate falsehoods and preposterous stories that portray their “oppressors” – Democrats and “the libs” – as the embodiment of evil. They convince themselves that their opponents are cannibals and child sex traffickers who drink the blood of their innocent victims, that the 2020 election was stolen, and their hero is still the legitimate president of the United States.

Given their autocratic and anti-American beliefs, there can be no giving in to their view of America. There can be no compromise. We cannot permit these people to destroy our democracy and everything our ancestors fought and died for. Indeed, in the coming months, we may be forced to fight for democracy again. When Trump and his crime family are inevitably found guilty of their many felonious and treasonous acts, their supporters may once again turn violent as they did on January 6, 2021. We must be prepared for that likelihood.

But overcoming their violence will not alone end the threat. The only way for that to happen is for those of us who believe in democracy to vote. To soundly, and repeatedly, defeat Trump and his entire slate of Republican fascists at the ballot box.

When It Comes To Illegal Immigration, We Reap What We Sow.

The USA is one of the largest importers of illicit drugs on the planet. It is also the world’s largest exporter of guns, accounting for more than 41 percent of international small arms trade in 2020. While those two things may seem unrelated, they are the primary factors leading to the flood of refugees and immigrants trying to cross our southern border.

“How so?” you may ask.

Most of those behind the illicit drug trade are members of criminal cartels in Mexico, Central America, and South America. As the drug trade has grown and become increasingly profitable, the cartels have become increasingly violent. They are not only at war with each other. They are at war with law enforcement and the military. And the citizens of those countries are caught in the middle, often being forcibly enlisted into a cartel to avoid being raped and/or murdered.

Such wars require weapons. Lots of weapons.

To obtain them, the cartels recruit gun traffickers from the US where military-style guns – everything from semi-automatic handguns to 50 caliber sniper rifles – are readily available. Thousands of them are hauled across the border into Mexico every year. And, since the Border Patrol is primarily focused on what’s coming across the border into the United States, there is little chance the traffickers will be caught.

The result is a vicious cycle. The more drugs we use, the more guns the cartels need to expand their business. And more guns equal more violence. Add in the effects of climate change resulting in severe droughts and starvation within some of those countries, and you have a perfect storm leading to a tidal wave of refugees. Of course, some say none of that should matter. The citizens of those countries should either rise up against the cartels or, if they really want to enter the US, they should get in line and apply for legal entry. But that line is extraordinarily long. It can easily take up to 25 years to legally gain entry.

Many of the applicants would almost certainly be dead by the time they received a visa.

So, ask yourself: What would you do if you were an innocent family faced with such circumstances? Would you stay and face almost certain death? Or would you try to protect your family by trying to flee to safety?

Of course, it is possible to reduce illegal immigration as so many Americans wish. But that won’t happen as a result of border control. No wall can stop it. Real change requires two things: Gun control to reduce the cartels’ access to weapons of war. And programs to decriminalize and reduce the demand for illicit drugs.

In other words, don’t hold your breath.

No One Should Be Surprised By Actions Of The Minneapolis Police Department.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are known as the Twin Cities. One (St. Paul) has enjoyed a competent, public service-focused police department for all of my nearly 40 years of living in the area. The other (Minneapolis) has long been plagued by a police department that is often overly aggressive and racist in its actions.

As I’ve previously written, I personally encountered MPD cops who were corrupt, lazy, incompetent, racist and brutal. Without going into great detail, I’ve seen MPD cops shake down a bar owner. I’ve witnessed a group of six officers acting as a violent gang that needlessly beat, kicked, stomped, and maced a black man who was handcuffed face down in the snow, slush and ice. And I served on a jury for a case in which the police failed to interview even a single witness to a so-called assault.

The list of such incidents is long.

So, when George Floyd was murdered by a MPD Field Training Officer, I was not surprised. But I am surprised that, after Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder, the MPD would be so quickly back in the headlines for killing an innocent black man, especially after it narrowly dodged an attempt to replace the department with a new department of public safety.

Sure, some things have changed. The previous head of the much too powerful police federation resigned. But I suspect the Federation still has more control over the department than the mayor, city council and police chief combined. And though the previous chief has retired, the interim police chief, Amelia Huffman, was promoted from within. She has been with the MPD for 27 years. That’s 27 years of being influenced by the status quo.

Despite the MPD’s long history of problematic behavior by some of its officers, in the first interview after her appointment, Huffman proudly stated that she “loves” the MPD. She went on to state, “As a department, we must collectively recognize that rebuilding trust and enhancing public safety will require excellence in the line of duty as well as a willingness to embrace bold community safety and reform strategies.”

How has she demonstrated that commitment to excellence and reform?

When asked to cooperate with the St. Paul Police Department in executing a warrant for the arrest of a suspect in a St. Paul murder case, the MPD demanded a “No-Knock” warrant (a practice that the St. Paul police abandoned in 2016). And when a Minneapolis officer shot an innocent young man as a result, the MPD initially issued a press release in which it referred to the victim as a suspect. Only later did it acknowledge that Amir Locke was not named in the warrant and had no criminal history. And, when questioned by reporters, Huffman walked out of a press conference even after promising full transparency. (The MPD still claims the shooting was necessary because the victim pointed a gun at officers.)

If it wasn’t obvious to everyone before the Locke murder, it should now be abundantly clear that the MPD needs drastic change. There are, no doubt, many good officers within the department. But it needs a large influx of new public service-focused officers that are representative of the various neighborhoods within the city. It needs a complete new set of operating standards. It needs better training. It needs to be restructured. And it desperately needs new leadership from outside the department.

It needs its own Chief William K. Finney – the man who made the St. Paul Police Department seem like the polar opposite of the MPD.

America At War With Itself.

Some say that if our nation fails, it won’t be the result of a foreign attack. It will, instead, be the result of our own undoing. No, I’m not necessarily referring to the threat Donald J. Trump and his supporters pose to our democracy. Certainly, they are a very real threat. But a far greater threat is the aftereffects of the NRA having loosened our nation’s gun laws, which have resulted in an increasing number of Americans killing each other and themselves.

According to GunViolenceArchive.com, there were 44,868 US gun deaths in 2021 – 1,225 more than in 2020 and 5,306 more than in 2019. In fact, according to Snopes.com, there have more gun deaths in the US since 1968 than there have been in all of America’s wars combined!

And it’s likely to get worse.

In 2018, Small Arms Survey reported that US residents owned more than 393 million guns – 120.5 firearms for every 100 Americans. And rightwing anarchists (aka the GOP) have been stockpiling weapons and ammunition at an ever more alarming rate in anticipation of going to war with our own government. Their purchases rose sharply following the election of America’s first black president. And they have ramped up again following the electoral defeat of Trump.

As if to place an exclamation point on those facts, several months ago, I began receiving unwelcome emails from a company selling kits with all the parts needed to assemble ghost guns (guns without any identifiable serial numbers). To make matters worse, many of the parts are made from polymers that can’t be picked up by metal detectors. The Ohio company’s sales pitch is “build and carry,” another way of saying you won’t need a permit or background check to carry our guns. And since many of these gun kits are being purchased anonymously using cryptocurrency, they are virtually untraceable, giving a whole new meaning to the words “conceal and carry.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that nearly 24,000 ghost guns were recovered from crime scenes between 2016 and 2020.

Perhaps even more worrisome is the fact that ghost guns have been embraced by the far-right antigovernment crowd, which has been stocking up on them in its preparations for the coming “storm” – a euphemism for civil war. But if the war comes, it almost certainly won’t be in the form of an all-out attack against government troops. Having learned from asymmetrical warfare in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the failed January 6 insurrection and previous federal takedowns of domestic terrorist groups, the seditious “militias” such as the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and Boogaloo Bois are more likely to use a series of so-called lone wolf attacks to accomplish their goals. That will make it far more difficult to prosecute their organizations. And their use of encrypted communications and ghost guns will make it more challenging for law enforcement to track down the perpetrators.

Combine such easy access to untraceable guns with the NRA’s constant attacks on gun restrictions in cities and states and the threat of gun violence grows exponentially. Indeed, as I write this, there’s a case before the US Supreme Court that could overturn Washington, DC’s ban on carrying guns outside the home within our nation’s capital. To emphasize the growing threat, Everytown for Gun Safety recently released the results of a new study on gun deaths. The study found that California, Hawaii, New York and Massachusetts – the states with the strictest gun laws and some of the most densely populated cities – have the lowest rate of gun deaths. By contrast, the states with the most permissive gun laws – Louisiana, Missouri, Wyoming and Mississippi – have the highest rate of gun deaths.

More guns equal more gun deaths? Who would have thought? (Sarcasm very much intended.)

Of course, all of this should come as welcome news to America’s foreign enemies. Indeed, they might be encouraged to reduce their military budgets and hold off on any terrorist plans in the works. After all, why bother to attack our government when it’s already under attack from within? Why waste resources on planning to kill Americans when they can just sit back and watch us kill each other?