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.

Barr’s Latest Attempt To Rewrite History.

Even before Donald J. Trump won the Electoral College, it was clear to US intelligence agencies that Russia had intervened in the 2016 election on his behalf. They had not only barraged social media with lies about Hillary Clinton. They hacked the DNC website, delivering Democratic strategies and internal polling to the Trump campaign, which helped sway key battleground states. In addition, Russian oligarchs funneled millions into GOP campaign coffers through the NRA.

These were not the unsolicited acts of a foreign rival. As revealed by the Mueller investigation, they were done in concert with the Trump campaign. For example, just hours after Trump looked into a camera and said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing,” Russian operatives began attempts to hack the Clinton campaign.

The investigation documented dozens of meetings between Russians and Trump associates. It also knew of dozens of communications between Russia and the Trump campaign that were either destroyed prior to the investigation or encrypted. It even documented an attempt to set up a so-called backdoor line of communications between the campaign and Russia. Though the Mueller team concluded that there was insufficient evidence to press charges of a criminal conspiracy due to the campaign’s lies, missing communications, and the unwillingness of Russians to testify, it wrote: “…the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events detailed in the report.”

Contrary to Trump and his puppet Attorney General, William Barr, the investigation did not exonerate Trump. Nor did it rule out collusion.

The fact that Trump can continue to lie about his “exoneration” is the result of Barr’s successful attempt to mischaracterize the results by sending a misleading letter to Congress and holding a press conference before releasing the report itself. Further, Barr has continued to undermine the investigation’s findings by raising questions about the investigation’s origins and the FISA warrants issued to collect information.

It’s an old trick. If you can’t dispute the evidence, raise questions about how it was gathered. Cast the investigators as biased, incompetent or both.

Barr is an expert in the art of deception. In 1989, as Assistant Attorney General, he wrote a legal opinion justifying rendition – the arrest of fugitives on foreign soil without consent of a sovereign government – resulting in the US invasion of Panama and the arrest of Manuel Noriega. When Congress asked for a copy of the document, Barr refused to provide it, offering a “summary” instead. When Congress eventually subpoenaed the full document, it discovered that Barr had omitted key findings from the summary. Sound familiar?

Far from acting as an impartial advocate of justice, Barr has used his position to push for destructive and partisan policies under false pretense. To a great degree, he is responsible for mass incarceration, while claiming it would be good for black Americans. He launched an illegal surveillance program which gathered international phone records of innocent Americans. He pushed President George H.W. Bush to pardon Casper Weinberger for the Iran-Contra affair. And he was given the monicker “Coverup General Barr” by conservative columnist William Safire for his refusal to appoint a special counsel to investigate the scandal known as Iraqgate over the US role in the Iran-Iraq War.

It is precisely because of his ability to deceive and coverup that Barr was nominated to become Trump’s more than willing enabler. Having honed his abilities to undermine justice to a fine art, he once again sits atop a Department of Injustice. Using his power, he not only undermined the Mueller investigation. He began a partisan investigation of the FBI and US intelligence agencies. He has attacked the Affordable Care Act. He has even threatened governors for daring to invoke their emergency powers to shutdown businesses in response to the pandemic. (How dare they place the safety of their citizens over the re-election efforts of his Russian-loving, pussy-grabbing, child-caging, environment-destroying, money-grubbing, pandemic-ignoring, wannabe dictator!)

And just in time to help resurrect Trump’s failing re-election campaign, Barr has ordered a federal court to ignore Michael Flynn’s guilty plea of lying to the FBI. If the court agrees, the former National Security Advisor, conspiracy theorist, and leader of “Lock her up” chants will go free. Moreover, Trump will again be able to claim that the entire Mueller investigation was without merit. Never mind the evidence. Pay no attention to the many other convictions. Forget about Junior’s meeting with a Russian operative expecting to collect dirt on Hillary. And, by all means, ignore the incompetent response to the pandemic, the multi-trillion-dollar deficit, and the 33 million unemployed.

It’s all a Democratic hoax.

What The US Could Be.

Our nation has reached a crossroads. Will we continue to slide further down the path to autocracy and cruelty where the nation’s leader is unaccountable, where the rule of law only pertains to those the leader says it should, where the leader puts his thumb on the scales of justice, where elected officials cater to corporations and the wealthy, where discrimination is accepted, where millions continue to live in poverty with fewer and fewer safety nets, and where those seeking asylum are locked in cages?

Or will we choose to vote for those determined to reclaim our government and reshape it to live up to its promise?

Consider what a Uniter-in-Chief, instead of a Divider-in-Chief, could do. Consider what a Congress focused on solving problems and representing the people – all of the people – could accomplish.

Unity: Instead of being divided by political and racial tribalism, we could be united in solving the greatest issues of our time. By rejecting GOP candidates determined to divide us for political gains over social issues such as abortion, religion, discrimination and wealth.

Right now, there are nearly 400 House-passed bills that have been denied a hearing in the Senate. Many, if not most, of these bills address bipartisan issues such as protecting patients with pre-existing conditions, lowering pharmaceutical prices, improving gun safety through universal background checks. Reshaping the Senate by rejecting those who would rather play politics than address the nation’s needs would end gridlock and allow us to address the issues that affect all of us.

Equality: We could treat each other as true equals. Over the past few decades, the GOP has resorted to voter suppression tactics in order to choose their voters rather than allow voters to choose their candidates. They have relied on extreme Gerrymandering, restrictive voter IDs, purging of voter rolls, intimidation, reducing voting hours and closing polling places in poor and black areas, and taking voting rights away from those who have served prison time.

It’s time to end these repressive and undemocratic practices; to end discrimination of all kinds. We must reshape all of our governments – including city, county, state and federal – and commit to restoring democracy and civil rights for all.

Equal Representation: We could dismantle the archaic Electoral College that prioritizes geography over people – a system that gives a voter living in Wyoming nearly 4 times the representation of a voter living in California.

Climate Crisis: We could save our planet from the most severe impacts of climate change.

Though scientists have known about the dangers of our reliance on fossil fuels since the mid-1960s, the issue was mostly ignored until former Vice-President Gore released the documentary An Inconvenient Truth in 2006. By the 2008 presidential election, it had finally become a political issue with both candidates promoting a policy of cap and trade to reduce carbon emissions. Since then, only one party has shown any interest in addressing climate change. The other, supported by the fossil fuel industry, refers to it as a hoax.

Let’s suppose for a moment that the GOP is correct and climate change is a hoax (it isn’t), what would be the consequences of addressing the issue and embracing clean, renewable energy? The consequences would be many high-paying jobs, cleaner air, cleaner water and an end to wars over reserves of oil. Oh, and Big Oil would no longer exert such control over our government.

Ecosystem: We could save the diversity and the beauty of the many species that share our planet.

Many parts of our ecosystem are collapsing. Bees, which pollinate our fruits, vegetables and grains, are dying as a result of the use of pesticides. There is a dead zone in the Gulf caused by the runoff of fertilizers from our farms. Glysophate, a known carcinogen used to control weeds permeates our drinking water and our foods. Fracking fluids have leaked into the aquifers many rely on for drinking water. Many of our coral reefs, home to most of our oceans’ fish, are bleaching and collapsing due to climate change. Our oceans are also showing the ill effects of decades of use as garbage dumps. Deforestation and trophy hunting has forced thousands of species to the brink of extinction. I could go on. Yet the GOP seems uniquely unmoved by the devastation.

Replacing GOP politicians with those who believe in science, who will fight for ecological understanding and justice, may be the only way to save thousands of species from extinction…including our own.

Military: We could use much of our gigantic $718 billion military budget to improve conditions for the citizens of our nation and elsewhere. And we could, for one of the very few times in our nation’s history, wage peace.

For those who think that reducing the military budget would leave us vulnerable, consider that our budget is equal to that of the next 8 countries’ combined. And 6 of those are allies. Moreover, we benefit from the more than $305 billion in military spending of the other 28 members of the NATO mutual defense organization. Finally, our military budget doesn’t include the more than $50 billion budget of the Department of Homeland Security or the nearly $220 billion for Veterans Affairs.

That means we’re currently spending nearly $1 trillion annually on defense and military-related issues. And we benefit from $305 billion more.

Healthcare: We could provide universal health care for all of our citizens and save thousands of lives.

Pharmaceuticals: By allowing the government, as the provider of universal health care, to negotiate with manufacturers and distributors, we could make necessary and life-saving pharmaceuticals affordable for all those who need them.

Religion: We could provide true religious freedom, including freedom from religion for non-believers. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God.”

Immigration: We could, once and for all, solve the issue of immigration by providing a path to citizenship for those who were brought here as children and have spent most of their lives in the US. We could create a system of work permits for those who are needed to raise and harvest our crops and to fill the jobs most US citizens don’t want. We could improve our system for those seeking asylum from violence and starvation in their home countries.

Economy: We could transform our economy from a plutocracy to a democracy that will work for all Americans. Not just the powerful and the wealthy. By eliminating the need for corporations to pay for their employees’ healthcare, we could demand that their savings be used to pay all employees a living wage. And, by asking the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes, we could invest in many other things that could benefit our nation, such as low-cost college education while, at the same time, decreasing deficits.

Infrastructure: We could create high-paying jobs that cannot be off-shored by committing to rebuild our aging and decrepit infrastructure: Streets, roads, bridges, railroads, seaports, airports and the electric grid.

Violence: We could address gun violence by ending the sale of the weapons of war. We could implement universal background checks, waiting periods and red flag laws. And we could address the issues that lead to violence, such as poverty, discrimination, lack of opportunity and easy access to guns.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Eight – Violence and Gun Safety)

The Trump White House is fond of sending out emails and Tweets stating “Promises Made. Promises Kept.” But, though promising to end gun violence, he has done nothing to help. After all, he wouldn’t want to turn off the spigot of NRA campaign money.

Age Limits: After the Parkland school shooting, Trump promised that he would push to increase the age for buying a gun to 21. He hasn’t.

Universal Background Checks: Trump promised to look at legislation requiring universal background checks. Instead, he refused to support the bi-partisan Toomey-Manchin bill or any other gun safety legislation.

School Shootings: Trump promised to address school shootings. Yet he has ignored the parents of victims. Indeed, one parent was escorted from the gallery during Trump’s recent SOTU address for responding to a Trump statement by shouting, “Victims of gun violence like my daughter.” So far, Trump’s only action is to embrace the NRA position of arming teachers with guns.

Red Flag Laws: When asked about disarming gun-owners who have been convicted of domestic violence, Trump said, “…take the guns first, go through due process second.” Yet he refused to even comment on legislation proposed by Senators Blumenthal and Graham. And, when he revealed his gun policy in 2018, there was no mention of legislation regarding domestic violence.

Mass Shootings: In 2018, when asked about ending mass shootings, Trump said, “We’re going to get it done.” But mass shootings keep rising, and, instead of pushing for gun safety legislation, Trump has chosen to focus on mental health even though experts say that mental illness isn’t the issue. The availability of guns is. Indeed, the only action he has taken is to issue an order banning bump stocks following the slaughter of concert-goers in Las Vegas.

This Isn’t A Political Campaign. It’s A Street Fight.

It seems that many of the Democratic candidates for president are approaching the electoral campaign as if 2016 never happened. They are focused on policy and change. What they fail to understand is that 2016 changed everything. The Democratic nominee won’t be running against a mere candidate. They will be running against an unprincipled crime boss with the most powerful position in the world. A man who is willing to lie, cheat, bully, threaten, steal, and do whatever it takes to win.

We saw, in 2016, that Trump was willing to solicit and use help from Russia. We saw him file campaign papers for his re-election just hours after his inauguration on January 20, 2017. He has used virtually every presidential appearance as a campaign event. He has launched the largest disinformation campaign in history on social media. And he was impeached for trying to use congressionally-approved aid to Ukraine to extort its leaders into announcing an investigation into phantom “wrongdoing” by Joe Biden.

Since his impeachment, in an act of retribution, he has fired two of those who testified under subpoena and fired another for the crime of being a twin brother of one of the witnesses. He has used the pretense of national security to block the book of his former National Security Advisor. He has threatened a Senator in his own party for voting for his removal. He has sent his capos – Bill Barr and Rudy Giuliani – on a mission to find dirt on his Democratic opponents. And he has undermined the Department of Justice by calling for Barr to intervene in court cases against his criminal friends.

In addition, Trump’s GOP supporters have vigorously set about trying to find new ways to rig the upcoming election. They have widely spread disinformation about Democratic candidates and the Democratic Party. In GOP-controlled states, they have Gerrymandered districts and passed laws to suppress the votes of blacks, students, and the poor – those who traditionally vote Democratic. They have even refused to change voting machines and procedures to secure the election results.

Given all this, it should be obvious that Trump is no ordinary candidate. And this will be no ordinary election. The Democratic nominee might as well be running against an angry and emboldened Don Corleone on steroids. But, unlike the Godfather, this crime boss has all of the mechanisms of the government, including the “justice” system at his disposal.

Far from being embarrassed by Trump’s lack of moral and ethical character, his supporters are energized by it, seeming to care only about sticking it to the libs, blacks, gays and “illegals.”

And, thus far, the only Democratic candidate who seems to fully recognize the kind of fight the party is facing is Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg has used his billions to troll Trump with ads designed to expose him for what he really is: A fraud and a crook. Maybe it’s because Bloomberg is another New Yorker. Maybe it’s because Bloomberg’s wealth has made him unafraid to take on Trump. Maybe it’s because Bloomberg, as New York’s former mayor, has experience putting mobsters in their place.

Don’t get me wrong. I like ALL of the Democratic candidates. I want someone who will be transformative – to undo all of the harm done by the mobster-in-chief; to take power away from the plutocrats and give it back to the people; to re-establish our democracy. But I will vote for whichever Democratic candidate wins the nomination. (In fact, I’d vote for anyone with half a pulse over Trump.) But I believe, in order to win, the nominee will have to be prepared to roll in the muck and shield themselves from the feces that The Don and his Trumpanzees are certain to fling their way.

So far, only Michael Bloomberg seems to understand that.

The March Toward Autocracy.

Ever watch a kindergarten class out for a walk in the city? They are all hooked to a rope connected to two teachers so that no child can step out of line. Such is the case with our Republican Congress. Led by DonTheCon, they follow along through oncoming traffic toward the edge of a cliff where they’re expected to take a giant leap of faith. If they do step out of line, there’s Moscow Mitch to herd them back into place.

I believe there’s no better description of today’s GOP under Donald J. Trump.

Trump clearly conspired with a foreign rival to attain office. Once in power, he has set about destroying the United States of America as we know it. He has intentionally divided the nation as we have not seen since the Civil War. He has undermined our institutions – the press, the judicial system, the national security apparatus, the military. He has used the machinery of government and the power of his office to attack and investigate political opponents. He has obstructed justice and any form of congressional oversight.

He has changed our tax codes to further benefit the rich and the powerful. He has demeaned and estranged our closest allies. Though having broken nearly all of the Ten Commandments, he has pandered to evangelical “Christians” while banning the followers of Islam from entering our country. He has turned aside refugees – the victims of violence and economic collapse – and re-victimized them by locking them in cages to endure horrific conditions. He has pandered to white nationalists and embraced the world’s worst dictators as though they are members of the same club.

Indeed they are.

He has carved up our national monuments and auctioned off the mineral rights to the highest bidder. He has eliminated environmental regulations allowing oligarchs to despoil our air and water. He has cheated on his taxes, refusing to reveal the depths of his cheating by hiding them from the public. He has used the national treasure as his piggy bank to enrich himself and his family while ordering the Treasury Secretary to shield the numbers from accountability.

As he neared re-election, he chose to enlist the help of a foreign government yet again, using taxpayer funds to extort its help in damaging a political opponent. And, when he was caught, he gathered those Republican congressmen and senators – those obedient toddlers – around him for protection.

Though impeached, his followers refuse to remove him from office…even refusing to examine the evidence. So now it’s up to the voters to do what the Senate should have done.

That will be difficult. Though Trump’s support represents a minority of the electorate – mostly an angry mob of white supremacists, religious zealots, the uninformed, the misinformed and aggrieved losers – his party has spent years preparing for this moment. The GOP has aggressively Gerrymandered congressional districts. It has set about removing the names of millions of voters from the rolls, forcing them to re-register to vote – that’s assuming they’re even aware that their names have been excluded. The GOP has reduced the number of polling places and voting hours in Democratic-leaning districts. It has blocked voting rights for felons who have served their sentences. It has intimidated opposition voters. And, in many states, it has forced voters to leave work and drive many miles in order to purchase a voter ID, often making them choose between obtaining the ID or earning enough to feed their children.

Even without all of their voter suppression tactics, the GOP has a distinct advantage. It controls a large majority of the nation’s geography, if not its voters. Half of the nation’s population resides in 9 largely blue states. But the remaining 41 mostly red states hold a majority of the electoral votes. So it’s possible that Trump – the president with the lowest approval ratings in modern times – will, once again, lose the popular vote this November by overwhelming numbers and still win a majority of electoral votes.

The only sure way to stop him is for decent, caring Americans to turn out to vote as never before.

And, if Trump is defeated, the winning candidate should quickly set about nullifying the Trump presidency. Every presidential order should be immediately overturned. Every appointment, every administration decision should be scrutinized and rectified, as quickly as possible. And, if Democrats are fortunate enough to gain majorities in both houses of Congress, they should pass legislation designed to protect our elections, to restore voting rights, to eliminate the Electoral College and to protect our environment.

As important, Trump should be prosecuted for his many crimes – for his tax evasion, for violating the emoluments clause, for conspiring with enemies of state, for abuse of power, for obstruction. He and his family should be forced to repay the millions they have stolen from taxpayers. And Trump should be locked up as a warning to any like-minded individuals who would consider undermining our democracy ever again.

Russia 2.0?

A lot has been written about Trump’s many links to Russia, his subservience to Putin and his admiration for some of the world’s most despicable strongmen. Those things should make every American wary of the intentions of our Dear Leader. But are they merely innocent, well-intentioned attempts to reach out to our adversaries in the interest of peace? Or is there something more disturbing, more threatening at play?

For that answer, it’s useful to compare Trump’s actions with those that undermined the Russian Federation’s once promising democracy and gave Putin complete control of the government and his nation’s resources.

1 – Putin labeled the government weak and ineffective promising to return the nation to its former power and glory. (Trump’s slogans of Make America Great Again and America First are right out of the dictators’ playbook.)

2 – Putin attacked the news media for reporting anything negative about him. (Trump labeled the news media and reporters as “enemies of the people.”)

3 – Putin used compliant media outlets to spread lies and propaganda. (Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, online sites such as Breitbart News, and radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh willingly and gleefully perpetuate Trump’s stream of lies.)

4 – Putin subverted the electoral process and suppressed votes for opposing candidates. (The GOP’s voter suppression efforts actually precede Trump by several decades. But these efforts have become more widespread in the age of Trump.)

5 – Putin embraced organized crime and other thuggish leaders such as Syria’s Assad to increase his power. (Trump has lifelong ties to organized crime through his family attorney Roy Cohn. He has helped Russian mobsters and oligarchs launder money. And his admiration for dictators like Putin, Erdogan and Mohammed bin Salman is obvious.)

6 – Once in power, Putin used the Russian government and economy as his personal piggy bank. And he has used offshore tax havens to shelter his ill-gotten gains. (In violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, Trump has funneled millions of government funds into his properties. And, for many years, he has used offshore accounts to avoid taxes. His name appears in the Panama Papers – a list of those who invest in offshore tax shelters – an astounding 3,540 times. Further, a similar list known as the Paradise Papers exposed links between Trump, Putin and Russia.)

7 – Putin used the intelligence apparatus and law enforcement to investigate his political enemies. (Attorney General Barr has authorized an investigation into those he and Trump claim “spied” on the Trump campaign. And Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is busy using government resources to gather dirt on Trump’s political rivals.)

8 – He took control of the courts so the laws could not be used to undermine his authority. (With the help of a compliant majority in the Senate, the Trump administration has packed the courts with a record number of young, ideological judges – many for lifetime appointments. Trump nominees now comprise a quarter of the seats on all federal appellate courts.)

9 – Putin gave control of natural resources to his closest friends and most ardent supporters making them, and himself, obscenely wealthy. (The Trump administration has auctioned off mining and oil drilling leases on federal lands to his supporters at wholesale prices. His administration has also pushed for logging in national wildernesses. At the same time, Trump has rolled back environmental regulations to make the extraction of resources more profitable.)

10 – Putin gave favors to the wealthy and corporate leaders, including helping them avoid taxes in order to further build their wealth. (One of Trump’s first acts was to cut income taxes for corporations and the very wealthy. One of the little-known effects of the bill was to allow corporations to “repatriate” billions of dollars, most of which were used for stock buybacks for the benefit of corporate executives.)

11 – Putin and his friends took control of the legislative bodies by using the power of their wealth. (The US has been an oligarchy for decades. But the money needed to run for office has skyrocketed in recent years. This, of course, benefits Trump’s wealthy supporters. In addition, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent by industries and corporations to shape or block legislation.)

12 – Putin gave favors to the leaders of the nation’s majority religion and encouraged the persecution of those who practiced other faiths, as well as gays and lesbians. (Trump has embraced evangelical Christian leaders who consider homosexuality and abortion abominations under God. In return, they have claimed he was chosen by God to lead us. Trump also placed a near-complete ban on Muslims entering the US. He has empowered his followers to commit vandalism and acts of violence against followers of other religions and people of color.)

When you compare the actions of our wannabe dictator to those of Putin and other tyrants such as Erdogan, the similarities are frightening. Given the depths to which he has taken our nation in his first term, we should all fear what a second term might bring.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Fourteen – GOP)

This is the last of my 14-part series. But last certainly does not mean least. Without the treachery and complicity of the Republican Party, most of the other factors that are destroying our nation either would not be possible. Or they would be far less damaging.

The damage done to our government by the GOP began in earnest prior to the Nixon administration and has accelerated ever since. In 1968, Nixon undermined the Vietnam peace talks in order to benefit his election prospects. Similarly, he ordered the Watergate break-in to sabotage Democratic candidates during the 1972 election. Following Nixon’s lead, Reagan undermined the Carter administration’s efforts to release hostages from the US embassy in Iran in order to damage Carter’s re-election chances. Reagan attacked labor unions and, based on the discredited “trickle down” theory of economics, he cut taxes for the rich. George H.W. Bush led us in to war in the Middle East over oil. And two of his sons conspired to steal the 2000 election from Al Gore. Then George W. Bush led us into a war with Iraq on false pretenses.

But the GOP’s impact on our democracy has never been more damaging than it has over the past 11 years. During the Obama administration, it tried to undermine attempts to pull our economy out of a worldwide recession created by GOP policies. It blocked dozens of judicial appointments in the Senate culminating with its successful effort to steal a seat on the Supreme Court. And, having captured a number of state houses, it began instituting a wide variety of voter suppression laws in a blatant effort to prevent minorities and other Democrats from voting.

Since 2016, having colluded with a foreign rival to steal yet another election, it has allowed its Con-Man-in-Chief to sidle up to dictators, to bully allies, to promote white nationalism, to cut taxes for the ultra-wealthy, to take affordable health care from millions, to undermine public education, to roll back environmental protections, to block any attempts to address the climate crisis, to rip immigrant children away from their parents, and to pack our courts by giving lifetime appointments to young, and often unqualified, ideologues. The party has not only excused blatant abuses of power by Trump. It has openly participated in them as did William Barr in his handling of the Mueller report. Further, Republicans in Congress have tried to block any attempts of congressional oversight by the Democrat-controlled House. (Witness the behavior of House Republicans during the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s attempted shakedown of Ukraine.)

The GOP has run up trillion-dollar deficits in order to justify defunding all social safety nets, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps. At the same time, it has handed out subsidies to some of the world’s greediest corporations. Worst of all, the party has participated in the wholesale betrayal of our Constitution by accepting campaign money and other support from Russian oligarchs and excusing Russia’s interference in our elections.

It may have once been labeled the Grand Old Party as a result of Abraham Lincoln’s fight to end slavery and hold our nation together. But the only thing grand about it today is its level of hypocrisy and criminal behavior.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Thirteen – Putin)

Following the fall of the Soviet Union, most of the world was hopeful that Russians would enjoy the benefits of democracy. Instead, it has become a brutal dictatorship led by a former KGB operative, Vladimir Putin. Using techniques he learned in the KGB, he controls almost every aspect of Russian life. He not only controls the government and the military. He and his criminal associates control the nation’s industries, technologies and natural resources.

As Malcolm Nance states in his latest book, The Plot To Betray America, there are four classes of society in Russia: From the top down, they include the leadership , the oligarchs and Russian mafia, the street criminals, and, at the bottom, ordinary people. Putin and his ex-KGB friends use brutality and murder to maintain control and to funnel the nation’s riches off-shore to their private bank accounts.

Nance describes Putin as a wannabe Charlemagne writing “Putin, with the Russian Orthodox Church patriarchy, would put forward a template to unite a new, conservative Europe under a Christian banner. America could come along too. He set his spymasters to develop an intelligence operation to bring the Americans along by making common cause with ideological soul mates across the Atlantic.”

Obviously, those soul mates are Trump, the GOP and evangelical Christians.

To push his agenda, Putin has used his billions and the billions of other Russian oligarchs to support political campaigns, to publish pro-Russian lies in mass media, to promote division via social media, and to meddle in Western elections.

In the US, he directed his efforts against President Obama and Hillary Clinton. And to aid Donald Trump. From the Mueller investigation, we learned that Putin’s GRU (successor to the KGB) hacked the servers of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the chair of Clinton’s campaign. The information gleaned was directed to the campaigns of GOP candidates, including Trump’s.

In addition, Mueller documented more than 100 meetings between Putin’s officials and members of the Trump campaign. Putin’s operatives engaged the NRA and his Russian oligarch friends funneled campaign donations through the organization to GOP campaigns. Mueller also documented that GRU operatives, disguised as Americans, posted millions of divisive messages and fake news on social media.

Not coincidentally, once Trump won the nomination, his campaign rewrote the GOP platform to soften its approach toward Russia. Since then, the Trump administration and GOP congressional representatives have only reluctantly criticized Russia while putting forth debunked conspiracy theories originating in Russia. (It’s Putin who’s behind the crackpot idea that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election.) Additionally, Trump has requested that Russia be re-admitted to the G7 despite Russia’s ongoing war and occupation of Ukraine territory. He appeared subservient to Putin at their public meetings. And, we can only imagine what has been said in their private meetings since Trump has refused to allow anyone to attend except a translator (and he confiscated the translators notes). Moreover, the transcripts of Trump’s private phone calls with Putin have been hidden away in classified servers. Lastly, Trump has abdicated US leadership in the Middle East by betraying our Kurdish allies leaving Russia to fill the void. Indeed, many of the Trump administration’s decisions seem to benefit Russia more than the US.

Given all of the evidence, one can only conclude that our president and the GOP leadership have become little more than puppets with Putin pulling the strings.