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 Six – The Environment)

The promises broken by the Trump White House far outnumber those kept. One of the most notable is Trump’s promise that he would make our air and water cleaner than ever: “Nobody cares more about clean air and water than I do.” Following are just some of the many ways he’s broken that promise:

Clean Water Act: Trump repealed the Obama-era rule regulating fracking under the 1972 Clean Water Act s, which gave the federal government broad authority to limit pollution in major bodies of water, as well as streams and wetlands that drain into those larger waters.

National Monuments: Trump’s administration has shrunk several national monuments and began auctioning off oil and mineral leases on the land, some of which is sacred to Native Americans and contains priceless archeological treasures.

Vehicle Fuel Economy Standards: Trump ordered the EPA to reopen a mid-term review of Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards that would require the industry to deliver a fleet average of at least 54.5 mpg by 2025 claiming that it would save jobs. Nevertheless, California and other states voted to maintain the standards. And at least four major manufacturers signed a deal with California to increase the fuel economy of their vehicles through 2026. The deal roughly matches the Obama-era plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3.7 percent each year through 2026.
Renewable Fuels: Trump has removed many of the incentives to convert from fossil fuels to renewables. He falsely claims that solar is a scam, because the sun doesn’t always shine. And he makes ridiculous claims about wind generation, saying it causes cancer and kills thousands of birds.

Forests: The Trump administration has not only proposed clear-cutting as a way to prevent wildfires. It has even proposed clear-cutting portions of the Tongass National Forest, the world’s largest temperate rain forest, which is critical habitat for a large variety of wildlife and a key element to heading off the worst aspects of climate change.

ANWR: Despite having witnessed the catastrophic damage done by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Trump administration has proposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. ANWR is home to a rich, indigenous culture and wildlife found nowhere else on Earth. Oil drilling in this unique wilderness could be especially devastating in this region since clean up technology is inadequate to clean up an oil spill in such a harsh environment.

Offshore Drilling: The Trump administration has not only rolled back safety measures for offshore oil drilling. It intends to expand offshore drilling off both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, the west coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico, and Alaska. If successful, we’re almost certain to see another Deepwater Horizon-like disaster.

Coal Ash & Coal Plants: Trump not only rolled back limits on carbon emissions from coal generating plants. He relaxed the rules for disposal of toxic coal ash which could, once again, end up in streams and drinking water.

Mining: The Trump administration has streamlined the process of obtaining mining leases for public lands. It’s even considering a proposal to again permit uranium mining in the Grand Canyon, which once polluted the canyon with radioactive waste.

Wildlife: The Trump administration weakened the Endangered Species Act – the law that brought many species, including the Bald Eagle, back from extinction. The new rules will reduce the amount of critical habitat and remove some of the tools needed to protect endangered species.

Climate Change: Trump promised he’d negotiate a far better deal for the environment than the Paris Climate Accord. But after pulling the US out of the Paris agreement, he has done nothing to address the climate crisis. Indeed, he claims climate change is a con, a hoax created by China and Democrats. He even refused to accept a report created by his own government on the devastating effects of climate change.

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.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Three – Immigration)

Of the thousands of falsehoods and misleading statements Trump has made since declaring his candidacy, some of the most notorious concern immigration. For example:

The Wall: When he announced his candidacy for president, Trump promised to build “a great wall on our southern border and have Mexico pay for it.” Instead, US taxpayers are paying $11 billion for the wall at the cost of $20 million per mile. The wall will dissect wildlife refuges, the National Butterfly Center, Native American lands, farms, and golf courses. And, if completed, it will block US residents from accessing much of the Rio Grande. The final cost of the wall could reach an estimated $21 billion.

Illegal Immigration: Trump promised to end all illegal immigration. (In reality, illegal immigration had steadily declined since 2000.) But there was actually an uptick in 2018 despite Trump’s “Zero Tolerance Policy.” Under that policy, Trump ordered a ban on virtually all Muslim immigration. His administration ripped children, including infants and toddlers, away from their parents. It placed immigrants, even toddlers, in cages without enough room to sleep and without access to water and the basic needs for hygiene. In addition, Trump purposely slowed the process of reviewing the refugee status of immigrants forcing most to stay in dangerous camps along the border.

At the same time, Trump labeled African nations and other predominantly black and brown nations “shithole” countries and wondered aloud why we couldn’t have more immigrants from countries like Norway. (In other words, he expressed his preference for immigrants that are white and Christian.)

Foreign Workers: Trump promised that Americans would stop losing jobs to foreign workers. Yet, until the media reported on his own hiring practices, his own resorts continued to rely on undocumented workers. And, even after dismissing many long-time workers, he continues to rely on foreigners. Mar-a-Lago is a case in point: Despite receiving hundreds of applications from US citizens, Trump instead hired foreign workers to help maintain the property and to serve his guests.

DACA: Despite promising to immediately terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Trump said that “we’re going to show great heart” toward DACA recipients. Again, after taking office, Trump stated that “they shouldn’t be worried. I do have a big heart.” Nevertheless, shortly after making that statement, he announced that he would terminate the program. To date, most of the more than 700,000 DACA recipients remain in limbo not knowing what to expect. And some DACA recipients, including US military veterans have been deported to the countries they left as children and scarcely remember.

Removing Undocumented Immigrants: Trump promised to remove all of the more than 11 million undocumented workers from the US. Unfortunately, this is one of the promises he has tried to keep. But, if he actually succeeds, the impact on the US economy will be devastating. In addition to the cost of removing them, which is estimated at $103.9 billion, the loss to our GDP will be roughly $1.6 trillion per year as estimated by the Harvard Kennedy School – money that is distributed throughout our economy. In addition, in 2014 it was estimated that undocumented workers contributed $38 billion in federal, state and local taxes.

Moreover, if he chooses to remove all immigrants who have illegally worked in the US, he will have to deport his third and current wife, Melania, who worked as a model before obtaining a green card.

Chain Migration: Trump promised to end so-called chain migration – the practice of legal immigrants bringing their families to the US. He hasn’t. And, if he had, his wife’s parents would not have been permitted to immigrate to the US.

What Didn’t Happen In 2019 – The Year In Review.

Despite the release of the Mueller Report, the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, and numerous disasters and milestones, I believe 2019 should be remembered more for what did NOT happen. Following are but a few examples:

• The GOP-controlled Senate refused to vote on more than 400 House-passed bills – half of which were bipartisan.

• Congress failed to pass a bill to rebuild our aging infrastructure – our bridges, our rail system, our electric grid and more.

• The Trump administration continued to ignore the greatest threats of our time, including the climate crisis, the mass extinction of the planet’s species, the coming job losses from automation. In fact, the administration’s actions – pulling out of Paris agreement, expanding oil drilling, relaxing fuel standards for vehicles and reducing incentives for sustainable energy, the trade war with China – actually made things worse.

• The Trump administration continued to hold the $18 billion in reconstruction funds approved by Congress that were intended to rebuild Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

• The federal government collected no income taxes from 91 corporations listed among the Fortune 500.

• There was no real effort by the Trump administration or Congress to reduce federal deficits and the ballooning national debt.

• There was no significant change in workers’ wages, despite large run-ups in the stock markets.

• There was no change in income inequality, wealth inequality or opportunity inequality. In fact, the gap between the wealthy and ordinary Americans continued to widen.

• There was no Senate or administration action to secure our elections. Indeed, the GOP rejected election security bills 3 times in 2019. And the GOP continued its efforts to suppress votes.

• There was no nuclear peace deal with North Korea. Instead, Trump removed the US from the ABM treaty with Russia to limit short and intermediate range nuclear weapons.

• There was no peace agreement with the Taliban and no end in sight for America’s longest-lasting war – the war in Afghanistan.

• There was no real effort to reach a peace agreement in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. In fact, the actions taken by the Trump administration exacerbated the problems.

• There was no trade deal with China that would provide relief to American farmers or end tariffs on imports paid by US consumers.

• There was no federal action on gun safety measures such as universal background checks, bans on bump stocks, high capacity magazines and military-style weapons.

• There was no federal action to prevent mass shootings.

• There was no action taken to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post contributor, or for yet another terrorist attack on US soil by a Saudi citizen.

• There was no effort to end the war in Yemen.

• There was no federal effort to combat white supremacist terrorism, the greatest terrorist threat to US citizens.

• There was no Brexit.

• And, once again, there was no effort by the Trump administration to represent or even reach out to all Americans. Instead, he continued to represent only his white nationalist base.

The Coming Crises.

As we understandably worry about the constitutional crisis posed by Donald Trump and the threat he poses to our democracy, there are several other crises that should be getting our full attention. Indeed, each of them poses a tremendous threat to the future of the United States and our planet.

National Debt – As of today, our national debt stands at $23.16 trillion. Worse, we will add at least $1.1 trillion to it in FY 2020. Supposedly, the economy fueled tax cuts were intended to offset the growth in spending. Instead, the cuts merely reduced revenue. And the trade wars caused by Trump’s ill-conceived tariffs have only added to the problem by increasing the cost of goods for consumers and many manufacturers. That has resulted in less real income for workers and layoffs by manufacturers. If the trend continues, how will we pay to repair our aging infrastructure? How will we be able to continue to afford our bloated defense budget? How will we be able to afford reasonable safety nets? How will the US maintain its world leadership?

Automation – Technology experts say we are now in the midst of the 4th industrial revolution. We are losing jobs to automation at an alarming rate. And the revolution has only just begun. Recent studies predict that the US will lose 30 to 50 percent of existing jobs within the next few decades. For example, in the next few years, 2 to 3 million truck drivers are expected to lose their jobs to self-driving vehicles. In addition, that will lead to a loss of jobs related to truckers – at truck stops, motels, cafes, etc. – mostly in small towns and rural areas. And that’s only the start. In addition to truck drivers, there are another 7-8 million professional drivers for taxi companies, Uber, Lyft, UPS, FedEx, etc. who will lose their jobs.

Others who work in labor intensive and repetitive jobs will be replaced by automation. Even the so-called white collar workers will lose their jobs to automation. Paralegals, lawyers, medical technologists, even lawyers and film editors could soon be replaced by Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The question is: What will the displaced workers do for income? Still think presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s proposed guaranteed annual income is a radical idea?

Overpopulation – Current world population is 7.7 billion and we added 81 million in 2019. The population is growing at more than 1 percent per year. At this rate, the population is expected to reach 11.2 billion by the end of the century. Given the onset of automation, how will they sustain themselves? How will we feed them?

Environment – For decades, corporations have used our streams and oceans as landfills. They have spilled millions of barrels of oil into the seas. They have used factory fishing trawlers to deplete our oceans of fish. They have used our forests and our lands as a sort of supermarket of resources. They have poured toxic chemicals onto our farmlands – their runoff creating dead zones in our oceans. They have filled our atmosphere with carbon from the burning of fossil fuels and with methane from our insatiable appetite for beef. They have created inhumane factory farms that drown our lands in excrement. And they have polluted aquifers through fracking and mining.

Despite all of this, the Trump administration has relaxed most of our environmental regulations and encouraged even more of this destructive behavior from corporations. At the same time, the administration has cut their taxes – revenue that could be used to help clean up their messes.

Species Extinction – Over human history, the normal extinction rate for other species has averaged 1 to 5 species per year. However, scientists say that the current extinction rate is 1,000 times normal. We are now losing dozens of species per day! At this rate, we will lose 30 to 50 percent of all species by mid-century. In other words, we are now in the midst of the 6th mass extinction mostly as a result of human encroachment on wildlife habitat and human-caused pollution.

Climate Crisis – Last, but certainly not least, is the climate crisis caused almost entirely by the burning of fossil fuels. As I write this, virtually the entire continent of Australia is on fire resulting in the loss of millions of animals and thousands of homes. California, too, has faced disastrous wildfires, albeit on a smaller scale. Each year, we see more extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, cyclones and tornados. The damage from these climate-related disasters for 2019 was estimated at more than $140 billion BEFORE the wildfires in Australia. And scientists tell us that the crisis is only going to get worse.

Each year, the reports of melting glaciers and ice caps exceed previous predictions. Though the situation is dire, most Americans have yet to recognize the effects of climate change. But they have been affected nonetheless. Taxes that could be used to rebuild our infrastructure or to reduce the cost of health care are used to fight wildfires or to repair the damage following hurricanes. Moreover, many of the refugees at our southern border are fleeing violence and starvation, much of it caused by drought.

And, in the future, it’s predicted that we will see much more climate-caused migration from droughts and rising sea levels.

Of course, none of this is good news. Contrary to the tradition of looking forward to the new year, if we don’t address these crises soon, we may well greet each new year with fear and trepidation of the events to come. Nevertheless, I wish you all a very happy New Year celebration! Enjoy it while you can.

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.

Understanding The Threat Of Trump: A Holiday Reading List.

If you have a few moments to relax from your busy holiday schedule, here is a list of books that will help you better understand the political landscape of America. With the upcoming elections in 2020, nothing…I emphasize NOTHING…could be more important. The very future of democracy and our nation are at stake!

The Constitution of the United States of America
For anyone who wants to debate politics, this is the place to start. It’s one of the most powerful documents ever written. If you haven’t read it, or if you haven’t read it since grade school, I recommend you take the time to read it and understand it.

That’s Not What They Meant!: Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America’s Right Wing by Michael Austin
The definitive guide to the thinking of our Founding Fathers and the framers of our Constitution. It’s essential reading for anyone seeking the accurate historical background to many of the today’s political debates.

CIVICS TODAY: Citizenship, Economics, & You
All naturalized US citizens are tested on the workings of our government. Yet few natural born US citizens have even read a civics book. Here’s your chance to know as much about the workings of our government as most recent immigrants.

Testing Theories of American Politics, Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page
An academic study that proves the US has become an oligarchy in which the very wealthy, the powerful and the connected control our institutions of government, often in direct contradiction of the wishes of ordinary Americans.

Fascism: A Warning by Madeline Albright
A personal and urgent examination of Fascism in the twentieth century and how its legacy shapes today’s world, written by one of America’s most admired public servants, the first woman to serve as US Secretary of State.

Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War On America And The Election Of Donald Trump by Michael Isikoff and David Corn
The incredible, harrowing account of how American democracy was hacked by Moscow as part of a covert operation to influence the US election and help Donald Trump gain the presidency written by two of our generation’s best investigative reporters.

House Of Trump House Of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia by Craig Unger
This book tells the story of one of the greatest intelligence operations in history, a campaign by Russian operatives years in the making, ending with either a willfully ignorant or an inexplicably unaware Russian asset in the White House as the most powerful man on earth.

It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America by David Cay Johnston
A great book by an exceptional journalist that describes the rise of Donald Trump in great detail. It goes on to examine how the Trump administration is gleefully destroying the US from within.

The Mueller Report
The report by Special Counsel Robert S Mueller III and his team who were tasked with investigating Russia’s attack on our democracy and the Trump campaign. Contrary to statements by Trump and William Barr, the report details the extensive connections between Russian operatives and the campaign, including Trump himself and his family. It also outlines at least 10 instances in which Trump obstructed justice and attempted to suborn perjury.

The Plot To Betray America by Malcolm Nance
A 20-year Navy veteran, Nance is an expert in intelligence and counterterrorism. In this book, he details how Trump, with the help of Putin and Russian intelligence, cheated his way into the Oval Office. He not only explains how Trump succeeded. He explains why.

Bring The War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America by Kathleen Belew
Belew details how the white nationalist movement grew out of our nation’s wars. As veterans returned home, they brought military strategies with them making the movement more dangerous. As evidenced by the reaction to America’s first black president and the White House reaction to the violence in Charlottesville, the movement now has supporters at the highest levels of government.

Democracy In Chains: The Deep History Of The Radical Right’s Stealth Plan For America by Nancy MacLean – Based on her access to a treasure trove of documents from the estate of James McGill Buchannan, MacLean reveals the playbook of the GOP, rightwing billionaires and the new conservative movement in the US.

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas
Although you may have trouble remembering his name, Giridharadas offers a clear-eyed examination of the state of our nation by taking us into the inner sanctums of the new gilded age in which the rich and powerful threaten our social order.

Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, And The Richest, Most Destructive Industry On Earth by Rachel Maddow
An unapologetic liberal, five days each week Maddow helps her viewers understand the political developments that affect us all. In this, her second book, she explores how the fossil fuel industry has corrupted our government, led us into war and is on the verge of destroying our planet.

UN Global Outlook Report 2019
The latest UN report on climate change warns that countries have collectively failed to stop the growth in global [greenhouse gas] emissions, meaning that deeper and faster cuts are now required. Without urgent and dramatic changes, the future is bleak, according to the report.

Why We Must Have A Green New Deal Now!

The courageous and determined teenager, Greta Thunberg, is only the latest and most visible advocate for combating climate change. Then-President George H.W. Bush spoke out about the need to address global warming as early as 1988. Al Gore championed the issue following his defeat in the 2000 election. And many other US politicians of both parties have called for addressing the growing threat in years since. The most recent and most visible is Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Unfortunately, many Republican politicians financed by the oily Koch brothers pilloried her. So, too, have conservative pundits. They ridiculed her Green New Deal as “taking away our meat, ending air travel, and forcing us to give up cars.”

Meanwhile, the scientific evidence of a real and present danger keeps mounting. The world’s scientists are nearly unanimous that the consequences of inaction are increasingly dire. They tell us that more than a million species will be forced into extinction, that sea levels could rise as much as 23 feet displacing tens of millions of the world’s population and drowning many of the world’s largest cities. They warn of increasingly more intense and deadly storms. They tell us that, as the ice melts and the permafrost thaws, the effects of climate change will accelerate. They tell us that our oceans could soon be fished clean of species and turned into a worldwide dead zone, that much of our most productive farmland will be devastated by droughts.

If none of that matters to you, consider this: They tell us that, If we don’t act fast, the cost to taxpayers will climb into the tens of trillions of dollars!

Science tells us that this is no longer a distant threat we can ignore. We have now passed the point where ending deforestation and replanting trees can absorb enough CO2 to head off the damage. We must take more drastic action. We must drastically change our collective lifestyles. And we have a very short time to do it. The most recent estimate is that we have about 11 years to prevent a complete disaster!

But, if we act now and we make significant changes, there is reason to hope.

Dealing with climate change will not only positively affect the climate. By changing from fossil fuels to renewable energy, we can reduce many chronic diseases such as asthma. Such a change will also boost the economy, create high-paying jobs, improve infrastructure and cut energy costs. By reducing our reliance on oil, it will cut funding to some of the world’s worst tyrants and corporations. And, since most recent wars have been fought over oil, it could reduce international conflicts.

Addressing the climate crisis with urgency and in a serious way is not just a win-win. It’s a win-win-win-win-win-win!

Destruction Of The US. (Part Four – Environment)

Not only has the Trump administration refused to acknowledge the looming threat of the climate crisis. (Trump and his minions have fired or silenced government scientists from even mentioning climate change. And they have removed any reference to climate change from government websites.) The administration has attacked the nation’s environment resulting in destruction we haven’t seen since the early 1970s.

Trump’s first Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, began his dirty work by paring down some of our national parks leaving Native American heritage sites and archeological treasures vulnerable to vandalism. He then opened federal lands for mining and fracking. Zinke was stopped only by his excesses. When the department’s Inspector General opened an investigation into his excessive use of flights and ethical lapses, he announced his resignation.

The second Trump appointee to fill the office is David Bernhardt, a former oil and agribusiness lobbyist who is already under investigation by the Inspector General for…wait for it…conflicts of interest. Like Zinke, he also believes that all of the public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management should be sold so that corporations and private interests can exploit their resources, ignoring the fact that the only reason they are public lands is that they are ecologically sensitive. Indeed, Bernhardt and the administration are in a rush to circumvent Congress and public opinion to auction off leases for oil exploration on public lands before the 2020 election

Under Bernhardt, the department is currently considering permits for fracking in northern Arizona which will pollute millions of gallons of water – a commodity that is already scarce in the region. The department has made it clear that it is also open to permitting foreign-owned companies to, once again, mine for uranium in the Grand Canyon even though previous such mining attempts left much of the region’s water radioactive and unusable. And since the previous mines have not been sealed, they are still leaking radioactive waste.

Trump’s first EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, had previously represented oil and gas companies in numerous suits against the agency. He almost immediately removed restrictions on the coal industry. And he removed regulations designed to protect streams from the coal mining practice of mountain-top removal. Indeed, he operated as if his role was to protect corporations rather than the environment. Only when he became the subject of more than a dozen ethics investigations did he resign.

The new EPA administrator has picked up where Pruitt left off. A former coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler has dismissed the conclusions of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Astonishingly, he also dismisses the impact of air pollution on public health.

Under Wheeler, the EPA has permitted the use of a pesticide known to cause brain damage in children. It has also allowed the use bee-killing pesticides to resume. He removed regulations that were part of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan limiting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. He proposed repealing an Obama-era rule restricting the emissions of mercury and other heavy metals. And he refused to adopt recommendations for contaminants in drinking water.

This anti-environment mentality spans the entire Trump administration. For example, the Department of Energy has repealed Obama-era efficiency standards for lightbulbs aimed at phasing out energy-wasting incandescent bulbs. And, despite the massive fires in other rainforests around the globe, the Department of Agriculture has proposed opening the 16.7 million acres of the Tongass National Forest to logging and other exploitation by corporations.

And it’s not just clean air, land and water that are under attack.

Species around the world are threatened by human activities as never before. Yet the administration has proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act to reduce wildlife habitat and remove protections for vulnerable species. It has proposed drilling in the sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the last remaining preserves for arctic wildlife. It has proposed water policies for California farmers that will push California salmon to extinction and starve the Steelhead Trout and Killer Whales that feed on them. It has relaxed rules on the hunting of threatened species. It issued a kill order for endangered Mexican wolves along the southwestern border, ostensibly to protect cattle. It is in the process of building a wall through the National Butterfly Center, through the Tohono O’odham reservation, and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge deemed critical to the migration of numerous species. And the Trump administration is set to roll back regulations on the release of methane – the most damaging of all carbon gases – by oil and gas operations.

Scientists understand the threat to the ecosystem. Maintaining a healthy planet should not be partisan or even a national issue. Yet Trump and his followers seem to have the attitude that the worst will only happen after they are dead and buried. In the meantime, they plan to make as much money as possible at the expense of the future.