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.

Our Greatest Strengths May Also Be Our Greatest Weaknesses.

Since its inception, the US has been celebrated for its guaranteed freedoms: Most notably the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to own a gun, and the freedom to choose our leaders no matter how flawed and unqualified they may be. But those freedoms come with a cost.

Under our Constitution, profiteers and ideologues such as Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and the mysterious Q are free to distribute a torrent of half truths, mistruths, and outrageous lies intended to divide us and to weaken our nation. As a result, there are no shared truths. Not even the need to deal with the horrors of a pandemic has been able to pull us together. Far too many have been willing to take the word of pundits and politicians over that of caregivers and scientists. Even after nearly 350,000 deaths, they continue to believe the pandemic is a hoax. By refusing to wear a mask, they are making a political statement. And they are convinced that vaccines have been created as a way for the government to track them or, worse, poison them.

White supremacists, white nationalists, and other hatemongers hide behind our freedom of religion to discriminate against those of other religions, colors, cultures, and sexual preferences. They even use their religions to deny women the freedom to control their own bodies.

The gun lobby uses the 2nd Amendment and fear tactics to expand gun ownership. Not for hunting. But for “protection.” This is despite the fact that more gun owners are likely to be shot with their own gun than to use it for self-defense. And despite the overwhelming number of gun deaths enabled by easy access to guns. Further, as hate and division have grown, millions of Americans have assembled arsenals with the expectation of using them against their political “enemies” and their own government!

As for our “free” elections, consider the fact that many American citizens are routinely denied the freedom to vote. Especially those Americans of color and those living in poverty. They have not only been victimized by reduced polling places, reduced voting hours, and the purges of voter registrations. Many have been required to take time away from work and drive long distances in order to obtain necessary voter IDs. And one need look no further than the chaos created by Donald J. Trump to see the consequences of electing greedy, unethical, and unqualified government outsiders.

It’s not hyperbole to state that our freedoms may also lead to our nation’s demise.

The question is: How can we address the weaknesses of our system while maintaining our Constitutional freedoms? How can we prevent the liars, the unethical, the profiteers, and our enemies from using our own Constitution against us, especially now that our Supreme Court has been politicized?

We can end division by, once again, demanding that media report the truth. That could be accomplished by a return to some form of the Fairness Doctrine, which required radio and television channels to operate in the public interest by clearly labeling opinions and separating them from the news. The same rules could be applied to all other media.

We could also take the politics out of religion by enforcing current laws that take away tax exemptions for churches that routinely engage in political activities. We should also tax churches that collect millions in donations, permitting their pastors to live in mansions and travel in private jets.

We can address our gun problem by instituting national gun laws, including universal background checks and red flag laws. We should also end the sales of military-style weapons, such as AR-15s, AK-47s, 50 caliber sniper rifles, and large capacity ammunition clips which add to the killing power of mass shooters. And we should conduct buyback programs to recover those already in our citizens’ hands.

Finally, we should reform our electoral system by eliminating the Electoral College, by instituting universal voter registration, and by standardizing elections from state to state. In addition, we should demand that anyone running for national office submit to extensive background checks and release all financial information, including 10 years of tax returns.

Do I think any of this will happen? No. But if we don’t make any changes, it’s pointless to continue to spend trillions on national defense. Before any external enemy can destroy us, we will likely destroy ourselves.

Give Trump Credit Where Credit Is Due.

During the 2016 campaign, Donald J. Trump promised to drain the “swamp.” And he did. Unfortunately, he replaced it with something much worse: A cesspool.

Swamps are not only natural. They’re a necessary part of the landscape. They serve as filters for our waterways. They provide homes and food for an abundance of wildlife. And they absorb floodwaters. Cesspools, on the other hand, contain only excrement and bacteria.

Consider the stench coming from the Trump cesspool over the past four-plus years: It has been thoroughly documented that Trump and members of his campaign encouraged and cooperated with Russian operatives in order to influence the 2016 election cycle using information stolen from the Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. To suppress news of his extramarital affairs, Trump ordered his private attorney to make hush money payments.

Trump filled his family coffers by holding many of his campaign events at his Trump-branded properties. He ignored the Constitution’s emoluments clause by guiding foreign leaders and powerbrokers to his Washington hotel and resorts. Following Trump’s corrupt lead, cabinet members Mnuchin, Pruitt, Sessions, Carson, Zinke and Pompeo all illegally used government resources for personal use. Trump’s weekly visits to his golf resorts funneled millions into his company’s bank accounts by charging Secret Service for rooms, food, and golf cart rentals. He even tried, and failed, to use his office to encourage G8 members to hold a meeting at his struggling Doral resort.

He chose known white nationalists as his closest advisors who cut immigration of refugees from majority black and brown nations. They ordered family separations at our border and placed children in cages. They put the Dreamers at risk for deportation to countries many could no longer remember. And they ordered the deportation of refugees to countries where their lives were at risk.

Trump oversaw the most chaotic administration in history creating a revolving door at the top of each agency as he searched for loyalists to do his bidding. One by one, competent, well-intentioned civil servants were fired or resigned in disgust. Trump pardoned loyalists for serious crimes, including crimes that bordered on treason. With a compliant Senate, he filled the courts with blatantly ideological, and often unqualified, judges. Even faced with a growing pandemic, he pushed aside virologists and epidemiologists to rely on the advice of unqualified partisans.

He spurned our traditional allies as he embraced the world’s most brutal dictators. He tried to bribe Ukrainian officials to manufacture dirt on his political opponent – an act for which he became the third president in US history to be impeached. He sold weapons to some of the worst actors in the Middle East. He sold out the Kurds who helped defeat ISIS. And he sold out the Palestinians, all but ending their dream for their own state.

The Trump administration conducted an all-out assault on the environment by deregulating corporations and freeing them to pollute our air and water. It withdrew the US from the Paris climate accords, making us the only nation on the planet that is not a signatory. It reduced national monuments and sold off the land and mineral rights to the highest bidders. And it made several endangered species vulnerable to hunting.

In the 2020 campaign, Trump ignored the Hatch Act by holding political campaign events at the White House and involved government employees in his campaign. He undermined our elections by falsely claiming his defeat was the result of widespread fraud. And he’s currently cramming through a myriad of changes with the intent of making it more difficult for his successor to govern. During his campaigns and his time in office, he has told tens of thousands of lies. His final act will be to pardon his family and himself of all crimes they committed during his horrific term.

So, yes, he did drain the “swamp” of competent, patriotic civil servants. And he’s leaving it a stinking hot mess.

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.

Dear Trump Supporters: What Will It Take?

I understand that you chose to support The Donald because you wanted change. You were angry. You felt the economy was rigged. That you would be left behind. He promised to shake up the government and end business as usual.

He most certainly has done the that.

You’ve continued to support him despite abundant evidence that he colluded with Russian agents to rig the election and obstructed justice. You’ve supported him despite an avalanche of thousands of lies as documented by independent fact-checkers. You ignored his lies about an extramarital affair with a porn star. You’ve given him credit for his predecessor’s work in rescuing and expanding the economy. You’ve continued to support him as he alienated our longstanding allies and weakened NATO. You supported him as he took Putin’s word over that of our own intelligence agencies headed by Trump appointees.

You cried “fake news” at reports of his filling the “swamp” with an astounding menagerie of swamp monsters. You ignored the evidence showing that Trump, his family, and many of his cabinet appointees used their positions to line their bank vaults with taxpayer money. You seem not to care that he dismantled ethics offices and fired inspectors general whose job it is to investigate and expose the corruption. You seemed to take satisfaction in watching him take revenge on whistleblowers. You applauded his stonewalling of congressional oversight and his demands that administration officials ignore subpoenas. You’ve seen him dismiss investigative reporters whose job it is to expose government corruption by calling them “enemies of the people.”

You turned your backs on reports that the administration ordered children to be ripped from the arms of their refugee parents. You claimed not to see videos of those children confined in cages with only a foil blanket. You ignored the obvious racism of his calling Mexicans rapists and murders, of describing Latin and African nations as “shithole countries,” of referring to neo-Nazis and white supremacists as “good people.”

You continued to support him despite all of that. (Maybe because of it?)

You stood by your con man as dozens of former administration and government officials spoke up about his incompetence and his unfitness for office. You ignored the outrage of Republican leaders and strategists who have been repulsed by his actions. You watched as he corrupted the judicial system. You seemed not to care that he continues to hide his income taxes despite legitimate claims of money-laundering and tax evasion.

You cheered when the Senate refused to remove him from office as a result of his impeachment despite overwhelming evidence that he had broken the law by demanding the Ukraine to interfere in the upcoming election in exchange for congressionally-approved financial and military aid.

And what did you do when his incompetence led to the now 140,000 American deaths from the coronavirus? You blamed it on China and claimed his failed response was due to distractions caused by the impeachment. Following his example, you have contributed to the spread of the coronavirus by ignoring the pleas of scientists to practice social distancing and to wear masks. Not even Trump’s attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the pandemic has shaken your support. Nor has the addition of roughly $4 trillion to the national debt. And when his failures led to an economic collapse, you gave him a pass, blaming it on the CDC, the WHO, Dr. Fauci, and the media, instead.

Even when it became clear that Trump ignored reports that Russia offered payments to the Taliban for killing US military personnel, you have seemingly refused to blame him or even his buddy Putin.

So, I ask: What will it take for you to finally admit that you made a mistake by voting for a con man who has placed us all in danger? A president who operates more like a mob boss than a principled public servant? A man who is intellectually, ethically, and morally unfit to hold office? A man who has done more to serve Russia than the United States?

The Death Cult Of Donald Trump.

In the US, we like to think of our nation as the world leader. We cling to the notion of “American Exceptionalism” based on the belief that America is where dreams can come true. Where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.

It’s not true. And it never has been.

Yes, our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain stated, “All men are created equal.” Unfortunately, our Founders did not believe that equality applied to women. And they certainly didn’t believe it applied to people with a different color pigment in their skin. Our Caucasian ancestors enslaved them, stole their heritage, separated their families, and stole their land.

We’re still dealing with the aftermath of that inequity, resulting in discrimination along with inequalities in wealth, income and opportunity. True, the US did become the world’s lone superpower and we do print the world’s universal currency. But we no longer use that power to defend democracy and human rights around the world. Instead, under Republican leadership, we are seeing voter suppression, human rights violations, and a disregard for rule of law in our own country.

That’s not even the worst aspect of Republican leadership. Trump and his supporters are literally trying to kill you. The GOP has become a death cult. Don’t believe me? Look no further than the fact that 56 million Americans currently lack access to affordable healthcare. And, in the middle of a pandemic, the administration is asking the courts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which will take healthcare away from millions more.

A disproportionate number of those unable to afford healthcare are descendants of slaves and the nation’s original inhabitants who, along with recent immigrants, are unable to earn a living wage. Yet these people make up the largest portion of those who are considered essential workers during the pandemic. They are meatpacking workers, retail workers, farmers, and truckers. They work in grocery stores, restaurants, hospitals, and nursing homes. They prepare our food and clean our buildings. But even though they are called essential, to the GOP, they are expendable as evidenced by Trump’s White House advisor, Kevin Hassert, referring to them “human capital stock.”

And, of course, that perfectly describes how the administration is treating them. Despite large outbreaks of Covid-19 at meatpacking plants, they are forced to continue to work. Like other essential workers they are told that they will receive no unemployment benefits as long as their workplace is open. And, if they get sick as a result, they are limited to 5 days of paid sick leave. Is it any wonder then that the US leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases (nearly 3.5 million) despite woefully inadequate availability of testing?

The US now has experienced more than 137,000 deaths due to Covid-19, roughly a quarter of all of the deaths in the world.

Taiwan, on the other hand, despite its proximity to China where the coronavirus is said to have originated, and despite receiving millions of Chinese visitors, has experienced just seven deaths. You read that right…seven deaths out of a population of 24 million! That means Taiwan’s death toll is .00005 percent of the US’s though it has roughly 14 percent of the US population!

Now Trump is campaigning to win re-election by trying to create fear of China and others as he did in 2016. But, clearly, the thing Americans should fear most is another four years of Trump.

We’re All Victims Of Trump Scandal Fatigue.

For many politicians, a single scandal has ended their careers. For Howard Dean it was a single, excited “Yaaay!” after losing the Iowa caucuses to opponent John Kerry. For Gary Hart it was an extramarital affair. For Hilary Clinton it was the use of a private email server as Secretary of State. But those are insignificant to any one of the scandals of Donald J. Trump.

In case you have forgotten them, they began with making racist statements about immigrants, demeaning the parents of a US soldier who died in combat, claiming Senator John McCain was a “loser” for being captured during the Vietnam War, bragging to a TV host that he grabbed women by their genitals, telling a radio host about walking into dressing rooms of his beauty pageants, and mocking a disabled reporter.

As his 2016 presidential campaign continued, we learned that more than a dozen women accused him of rape and sexual assault (including one who had been a teenager at the time). We discovered he had committed fraud with his charities and Trump University. We read that he had likely participated in money laundering by selling hundreds of millions of dollars of real estate to Russian oligarchs – a charge supported by the fact that he refused to make public his tax returns. We learned that Russian spies were interfering on behalf of his campaign and that the FBI and CIA documented dozens of contacts between his campaign and Russian officials. We even heard him ask Russia for help in uncovering the emails of his Democratic opponent.

Following the controversial results of his election, we heard him lie about the size of his inaugural crowd. In a blatant act of nepotism, he rewarded his daughter and son-in-law with White House jobs and classified access. We saw his National Security Advisor be fired and charged with lying to the FBI and secretly lobbying for a foreign government. We learned that he had paid hundreds of thousands to cover up extramarital affairs with a porn star and a Playboy model. And we heard him refuse to condemn the violence of neo-Nazis and members of the alt-right toward the counter protestors in Charlottesville, saying “there are good people on both sides.”

We saw him lie about his son’s pre-election meeting with a Russian agent offering dirt on Hilary. We saw him try to use his office to undermine the investigation of Russian election interference. We heard him call the FBI agents assigned to investigate “rogue” agents. We saw him kowtow to Vladimir Putin and take Putin’s word over that of our own intelligence agencies. And we saw a number of his friends and campaign officials plead guilty to crimes or be convicted in court as a result of the Mueller investigation.

Yet, despite the Mueller Report’s conclusion backed by reams of evidence that the Trump campaign requested and benefited from Russian interference, we hear Trump continue to call the investigation a hoax, say the investigation “exonerated” him, and refer to news reporters as “enemies of the people.”

We watched as Trump ordered his administration to ban entry to Muslims. We heard him threaten the future of DACA recipients – the so-called Dreamers. We saw his administration place thousands of Central American refugees in detention centers without access to toiletries, bedding or even water. We were shocked to learn that he ordered the separation of children, toddlers and infants from their immigrant parents placing them in cages with only an aluminum foil blanket. Yet, despite videos of the separated children and the accounts of reporters, he and his administration denied the obvious.

We’ve seen Trump spend more than 200 days golfing at his own properties resulting in the Trump organization receiving tens of millions in taxpayer money for rooms and golf carts for Secret Service agents. We’ve read reports of lobbyists and foreign officials spending tens of millions in Trump’s Washington, DC hotel in hopes of currying favor with the president. And investigative reporters uncovered corruption by numerous members of his cabinet – the Attorney General, the Treasury Secretary, the head of the EPA, the Labor Secretary, the Interior Secretary and more.

In just the past year, we saw him impeached for demanding the Ukraine announce an investigation of the Bidens in exchange for US financial and military aid. We also saw him ask for Chinese help for his re-election. We learned that he even made that a condition of his trade negotiations with China at the same time stating that he had no problem with China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang. We learned that, for more than a year, he ignored Russian bounties to the Taliban for killing US soldiers. And we’ve seen 136,000 of our fellow Americans lose their lives as a result of Trump’s inaction and incompetence in dealing with the coronavirus.

Any one of these scandals would have ended the political career of any other politician or government official. So how does Trump survive? I believe it’s simply a matter of the sheer quantity of his scandals. By committing so many unethical, immoral, and illegal acts; by refusing to participate in any investigation; by claiming executive privilege; by firing anyone he considers disloyal; by constantly and blatantly lying; by politicizing everything, he keeps his political opponents, the media, and most of the nation in a constant state of outrage.

There simply isn’t enough time and there are not enough resources to fully investigate all of the scandals. Each real scandal is buried by an avalanche of news reports detailing the next one. And all of them are lost in the daily outrage over his insane statements, his drug dilated pupils, his slurred speech, and his revenge politics. It creates what I call scandal fatigue. So, is it true that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, as he once claimed, and nobody would care?

Maybe. He’s already done worse.

Long-Term Consequences Of Trump’s Failed Coronavirus Response.

When China first reported the outbreak of a novel coronavirus, the Trump administration had an opportunity to prevent, or at least to minimize, its impact on the US as previous administrations had done several times before. Instead, Trump dismissed the threat, telling us that China had everything under control. Then, when it did arrive on our shores, Trump called it a “Democratic hoax.” Apparently, he did not want to anger Xi Jinping. In fact, as we recently learned, instead of worrying about the coronavirus, he was trying to enlist China’s help for his re-election campaign.

When Covid-19 evolved into a full pandemic, Trump told us that it was only because of failed Democratic governors. Instead of leadership, he offered us false promises. And, instead of utilizing his emergency powers to provide Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), he created a bidding war between states and the federal government, prioritizing the needs of Republican-controlled states.

When the stock markets crashed and the economy stalled, he delayed emergency funds for the unemployed in order to have his name printed on the checks. Further, though he signed a second congressional bill to provide loans and more emergency funds, his administration refused to reveal the recipients, which has led Congress to suspect that Trump’s family businesses have benefited. And, instead of worrying about public health, he was laser-focused on pushing states to reopen their economies in order to improve his chances of re-election.

The short-term consequences have been devastating with now more than 2.6 million cases despite limited testing and nearly 129,000 deaths. Still, he refuses to show any real leadership by ordering the manufacture of more PPE and by ordering all Americans to wear masks to limit the spread of Covid-19. In fact, contrary to scientific advice, he held two rallies that will likely further spread the virus.

The long-term consequences could be even more devastating.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has written that the administration’s response and GOP policies are all but certain to lead to a “lost generation” of workers. He points to the 14 percent of the US population that is on food stamps and the projected 30 percent unemployment rate. “The numbers turning to food banks are just enormous and beyond the capacity of them to supply. It is like a third world country. The public social safety net is not working,” says Stiglitz.

He goes on to state, “If you leave it to Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, we will have a Great Depression. If we had the right policy structure in place we could avoid it easily.”

The economy and staggering unemployment rate are only part of the problem. The trillions of dollars in additional debt will reduce our ability to fund other needs, such as infrastructure, safety nets, and national defense.

Trump’s failure to stem the pandemic has already led to a loss of US standing in the world, leaving those in other nations flabbergasted at our incompetence. That will have long-term impacts on tourism, trade, and alliances. The failure will also impact our already stressed and inadequate healthcare system. The pandemic has ended most elective surgeries and other procedures causing some clinics and hospitals to close. That will lead to even less access to healthcare, especially for the poor. And Trump’s defunding of the World Health Organization will only leave us more vulnerable to future viruses, some of which have already been identified in other parts of the world.

The Trump-ordered ban on work visas will create a brain drain for our research institutions and technology companies that can’t be fully replaced by our own residents. Americans are unlikely to quickly embrace sports, concerts and other large gatherings resulting in billions of losses annually. And since the Trump administration prioritized rescue funds for large corporations, we’re likely to see a further consolidation of brands and services.

The pandemic has already affected human rights in this country by leaving some of the poorest populations vulnerable as “essential workers” in nursing homes, groceries, and meat-packing plants. Worse, it has exposed those seeking refuge in this country who are being held in detention facilities. And it has caused others to be deported back to their countries of origin to be raped or murdered. Moreover, the GOP’s response to the pandemic will lead to further voter suppression which will most impact the poor and people of color, forcing them to risk infection in order to exercise their constitutional right.

Last, but certainly not least, the financial consequences of the pandemic, while temporarily stemming carbon emissions, will make it more difficult for the US to invest in renewable fuels to address the climate crisis.

The only conceivable answer to all of these crises can be summarized in one word: Biden. Or, if you prefer, two: Bye Don.

“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.