To The People Of Hong Kong:

Since the Hong Kong demonstrations began, the readership of this blog has soared in Hong Kong. For that, I’m very grateful. At the same time, I am exceedingly worried about the outcome of the latest confrontations with police and the Chinese military. I know that you are fighting for your democratic rights; for the right of self-determination. And you should know that the vast majority of the free world supports you!

But I must also offer a warning:

For most of modern history, fundamental change has come more from non-violent demonstrations and civil disobedience than from violent conflict. That includes the women’s suffrage movement in the US, the Gandhi-led Salt March that led to the independence of India, the Martin Luther King-led movement for civil rights for African-Americans, the voting rights movement for African-Americans, the anti-Vietnam War protests in the US, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, the Singing Revolution in the Balkans, the Monday demonstrations in East Germany, the forced resignation of President Mubarak in Egypt, and the impeachment of Park Geun-hye in South Korea.

Certainly, there have been cataclysmic failures: In Tibet, in Syria, in Iran, in Turkey and in Tiananmen Square. Nevertheless, the success of non-violent change has far outweighed the use of violence. Violent responses by the masses tend to be met with even greater violence from dictators.

So, Hongkongers, I want you to know that I, too, stand by your side. I was in Lhasa and Shanghai when Hong Kong was returned to China. I witnessed the joy and the hope of the Chinese people and the paranoia of the Chinese government. I, and many others, hoped that Hong Kong would change China more than China changed Hong Kong. But I beg you not to give the autocrats of China a reason to apply their military superiority against you.

As the financial center of China – indeed of Asia – you have unique power. You are not Tibet. You are not Xinjiang. China needs you. It can’t hide its violent police actions. It can’t merely claim that it is an internal matter as with the democracy movement in Tiananmen Square. Its leaders dare not destroy the golden goose that is Hong Kong and damage its standing in the world by viciously attacking you.

Similarly, you dare not give China’s leaders cover by pushing too far too quickly. You dare not be seen as too unreasonable, too violent. That will only give China’s autocrats cover. It will permit them to hide behind the violent and destructive actions of a few demonstrators to violently crackdown on your movement. It will allow China to say that it had no choice but to act. And other world leaders, and the world’s news media, might believe it to be true.

So here’s hoping that cooler heads prevail; that you show your power in your numbers and in your determination to live free. And that Xi Jinping sees the wisdom in restraint,

The whole world is watching!

Destruction Of The US. (Part Ten – Propaganga)

The Founders had such high regard for the role of the press that they included it in the Bill of Rights as one of the essentials of freedom. Nevertheless, the news media has had a checkered past. During the late 1800s, newspapers , led by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer published increasingly false and sensational stories in an effort to build circulation. Indeed, their focus on crime and fear, and their sensational reports of Spanish brutality combined with the explosion of the Maine in Havana harbor likely led to the Spanish-American War.

Yet following the war, Pulitzer led the industry to reform. By the time of his death, his newspaper had become highly-respected. And journalism became a highly-respected profession. The industry’s reputation continued to grow as the result of the efforts of war correspondents during World War I, World War II and the Korean War when Americans at home were hungry for news of the war efforts. The industry reached a pinnacle in the 1960s and 70s when reporting by CBS and Walter Cronkite led to the end the Vietnam War and reporting by the Washington Post exposed Watergate.

Additionally, thanks to the Fairness Doctrine, broadcast media were held accountable for “serving in the public interest.” That meant that radio and television stations were held to a standard of telling the truth and separating opinion from fact. (Imagine that!)

But when the Fairness Doctrine was repealed in 1987, everything began to change.

The end of the Fairness Doctrine opened the door for sensational radio shows hosted by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and Sean Hannity. These devolved into political shows that railed against the government. They told you that your democratically-elected government was the enemy. And that liberals were only one step removed from communists who were determined to take your money.

Shortly afterward, Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch saw an opportunity to become wealthy by building Fox News in order to capture the same audience. Promoting Fox as “fair and balanced,” Ailes quickly divorced its viewers from the truth. In a few years, Fox had become little more than the propaganda arm of the Republican Party. Not the Republican Party of Eisenhower and Rockefeller – a previously moderate party that focused on the interests of business . Rather Fox News pandered to those in the Republican Party who sought to rebuild the government to serve their personal agenda – the extremely wealthy who, like the Koch brothers, believed that government should only provide for national defense and law and order. In other words, the government should protect them and their wealth.

Over the same time period, the so-called Mainstream Media began to change. Where broadcast newsrooms had long been treated as a service, the new corporate owners saw them as a potential revenue stream. They became focused on ratings and the bottom line. CBS News, once the premier news-gathering institution in the world, slashed its news bureaus and fired reporters. Others followed suit. And local news stations adopted the “if it bleeds, it leads” philosophy that focused on crime and sensational stories to build ratings.

It’s as if the ghost of William Randolph Hearst has invaded the boardrooms of corporate media organizations.

The Sinclair Broadcast Group, Disney, Comcast and many other large media owners have also jumped on the money train placing profits ahead of truth. The same is true of the new media. Breitbart and others fan the flames of division and hatred by publishing highly biased stories un-tethered from the truth. Their fear-mongering has led to the explosion in gun ownership and the resulting shootings. Because of them, there has been a rise in hate crimes. Because of them, we are more divided than at any time since the Civil War. And, only because of all them could someone like Trump gain access to the White House. Trump likes to attack the media as “fake news.” But it is precisely because of fake news from Fox, Breitbart, Sinclair and others, that the leader of a crime family, someone who has been found to make factual statements just 5 percent of the time, can claim the title of president.

And, though Trump is a product of fake news media, it is the legitimate news media that will likely lead to his undoing. It is only because of the hundreds, if not thousands, of dedicated reporters that we know of Trump’s many crimes. The reporters who spend months digging through files to uncover corruption and those who are willing to put their jobs, their reputations and, in some cases, their lives on the line to get at the truth.

If our nation survives this criminal administration, we will all owe them a great debt of gratitude.

Donald Trump By The Numbers.

19,252 – number of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee in 2016
50,000 – number of emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair
2.7 million – number by which Trump lost the popular vote in 2016
71,000 – total number of votes by which he won the electoral college
272 – number of known contacts between the Trump team and Russian operatives
2 – number of women illegally paid to keep quiet about their extramarital affairs with Trump
40 million – funds that disappeared from Trump inaugural committee
25 million – amount Trump was ordered to pay for his Trump University scam
2.8 million – charity funds misused for Trump’s political campaign
21 – number of Trump associates who have been convicted or have pleaded guilty (UPDATED WITH ROGER STONE’S CONVICTION)
86 – number of Trump properties purchased by Russians for $109 million
3,540 – number of times Trump’s name appears in Panama Papers documenting offshore tax shelters
19 – number of women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct
13 – age of a young woman when she claimed to be raped by Trump
10 – instances of obstruction of justice listed in the Mueller report
69,550 – number of refugee children held in detention centers during 2019
5,000 – number of refugee children taken from parents and placed in cages (UPDATED)
2 – number of refugee children who have died in US custody for lack of medical attention
0 – amount of money Mexico has paid for the wall
12 billion – dollars paid to subsidize farmers as result of Trump trade war
2.5 – percentage of economic growth under Trump which is a continuation of the growth rate under Obama
1.9 – percentage of economic growth expected for rest of Trump’s term
68 – number of members of the Trump administration who have left (the highest turnover in history)
1 million – number of additional jobs created under Obama than under Trump
4 million – number of Americans who have lost access to health care under Trump
3.6 million – number of Americans who would lose food stamps under new Trump rule
11,000 – number of Kurds who died fighting ISIS
347 – number of Kurdish allies killed following Trump’s ordered military withdrawal from northern Syria
1.1 trillion – federal deficit for 2020
1.5 trillion – tax revenue lost over 10 years as a result of the Trump tax cuts
6 – percentage of corporate tax savings going to workers
56 – percentage of corporate tax savings going to shareholders
20 trillion – national debt when Trump took office
+23 trillion – national debt as of November 1, 2019
106 – percentage of national debt to GDP under Trump
13,400 – number of lies told by Trump as of November 1, 2019
5 – percentage of statements made by Trump as president that are factually correct
224 – number of Trump golf trips as of November 1, 2019
+110 million – cost of Trump’s golf trips to taxpayers
+840 million – dollars owed by the Trump campaign to cities for Trump’s 2020 campaign rallies as of November 1, 2019
250 million – amount of military aid for Ukraine held hostage by Trump to obtain dirt on a political opponent
2 – number of US presidents who have been impeached before Trump

Destruction Of The US. (Part Nine – Consolidation Of Powers)

More than anything else, the framers of the Constitution were concerned that our fledgling nation could fall victim to tyranny. In particular, they feared that an authoritarian demagogue would be elected president and consolidate power to serve himself.

Given the current occupant of the White House, they had good reason to worry.

Yet the threat to our democracy has been building for quite some time. For decades, Congress has allowed its Article I Constitutional power to be diminished. For example, beginning with John Adams, Congress has allowed presidents to engage in a series of undeclared wars, despite the fact that the Constitution gives Congress the exclusive right to declare war. Never was that more problematic than in Korea and Vietnam. Though Congress passed the War Powers Resolution in 1973 in an attempt to claw back its authority to declare war, the law has not been consistently enforced. And, following 9/11, Congress gave President George W. Bush authority to pursue a war on terrorism, the ensuing presidents are able to strike in any nation at any time.

Further, Congress has acceded to the office of the president, the power to invoke tariffs. Though Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution says “Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises,” presidents have long claimed that tariffs are tied to foreign policy, which falls within their powers.

Similarly, presidents have attached many other responsibilities to their constitutionally-limited powers, which has allowed Trump to make many changes in our government policies by fiat – by executive order.

Worst of all, Congress has seemed to acquiesce to the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion that a sitting president cannot be criminally charged even though that opinion does not appear in the Constitution and it has never been decided by the Judicial Branch of our government. And since the OLC is part of the Executive Branch, the opinion is akin to the president giving an opinion on his exposure to criminal charges.

Likewise, Trump has attempted to expand his powers by claiming Executive Privilege to block all current and former White House employees from testifying before Congress. A claim that, if allowed to stand, would all but completely prevent any form of congressional oversight – a congressional duty clearly given to Congress by the Constitution.

In a further attempt to negate oversight, he has even questioned the House of Representative’s authority to conduct impeachment hearings. And, to justify his many actions to personally enrich himself with taxpayer money, he has dismissed the Constitution’s Emolument Clause as phony.

Trump, like all of the presidents before him, has taken an oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States of America. Since he’s clearly unwilling to abide by that oath, he should be removed from office.

Why Did Impeachment Take So Long?

Since Donald Trump first announced his candidacy for president, we have suffered through a litany of high crimes and misdemeanors that should have disqualified him from holding any public office…let alone the most powerful in the world.

We have heard him brag about sexually assaulting women.
We have heard him ridicule a reporter for his disability.
We have heard him disparage a Gold Star family.
We have heard him ask Russia to provide dirt on his political opponent.
We have heard him dishonor a military veteran and former POW for having the misfortune of being captured.
We have heard and read charges from more than 20 women who have claimed he raped or sexually assaulted them.
We have learned that he had extramarital affairs with two women and illegally paid them to be silent.
We have heard a woman accuse him of raping her when she was 13 years-old.
We have learned that he and his campaign clearly colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.
We have learned that he and his campaign had 272 contacts with Russian operatives.
We have learned that he attempted to suborn perjury of potential witnesses against him.
We have learned that he engaged in at least 10 clear instances of obstruction of justice.
We have witnessed his cloying deference to Vladimir Putin and numerous other dictators who are rivals to our nation and to democracy.
We have seen and heard his attacks on our most loyal allies.
We have seen him funnel millions of dollars into his own properties for his weekly golf trips and junkets.
We have seen international leaders pour money into his properties in clear violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.
We have seen his campaign refuse to reimburse numerous cities for expenses related to his campaign rallies.
We have seen him nominate numerous unqualified people to lifetime appointments as judges.
We have seen his administration separate hundreds of refugee children from their parents and cage hundreds more in squalid conditions.
We have seen an unending parade of sycophants appointed to his cabinet and government agencies.
We have heard him tell thousands of lies about anything and everything.
We have seen him attempt to bully and threaten any and all of his political opponents.
We have seen him unconstitutionally assert executive privilege to prevent the testimony of anyone associated with his administration to prevent legitimate congressional oversight of his actions.
We have seen his efforts to use campaign funds to buy the loyalty of his party’s congressmen and senators.
We have heard him openly ask China for dirt on a political opponent.
We have read the transcript of his phone call with the Ukrainian president during which he offered to release military aid in exchange for dirt on a political opponent.

All of these things would be considered reprehensible behavior for any public employee. And many of them rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors as envisioned by our nation’s Founding Fathers. But only the last – albeit a clear example of abuse of power – has led Congress to formally open an impeachment inquiry. Given all of the prior instances of criminal behavior, treachery and corruption, one has to ask: Why this? Why now?

Trump never should have been seated in the Oval Office in the first place. After all, it’s only because of the archaic Electoral College and outside interference that he was named the winner of the 2016 election. He should have been impeached and removed from office months ago. It says a lot about the state of our government that he hasn’t been.

It says even more about the putrid state of the Republican Party that continues to support him.

Are Rural Americans Treated As Unfairly As They Believe?

Those living in rural America have long held a “woe is me” attitude. They claim that they are unfairly treated by “urban elites.” They believe our government favors those who live in the cities – that most of their taxes go towards the building of urban freeways and what they perceive as unwarranted welfare assistance for “inner city residents”, i.e. people of color.

Certainly, there are misunderstandings on both sides. Too often, movies and televisions shows have portrayed rural Americans as country bumpkins. And some of those living in coastal cities consider the rest of America “flyover” country. Yet the truth is that rural Americans have advantages that all but the wealthiest of urban Americans don’t. And, if they ever took the time to look at statistics, they’d be in for a rude awakening.

For example, it has long been documented that the cost per capita of building and maintaining roads in rural areas is far greater than in large cities. So, too, is the cost of building and maintaining electric lines and communications. The cost of living in rural areas is far lower than in cities. And, though many rural states contribute less federal revenue than others, they receive more in benefits. In descending order, MS, LA, TN, MT, KY, MO and SD are the states that rely most on federal aid. Most of these are rural. And, when it comes to politics, most of them are bright, bright red.

Those living in the least populous states also have disproportionate representation in the Senate and the electoral college. For the most part, the sea of red you saw on the electoral map following the 2016 election was more a representation of geography than voters. There were nearly 3 million more votes for the Democratic presidential candidate. And there were more than 6 million more votes for Democratic Senate candidates. Yet Republicans took control of both the White House and the Senate. That’s because of a growing disparity in the population of states. For example, people in Wyoming now have 4 times the representation in the electoral college as those living in California. And the votes of those living in Vermont and North Dakota count far more than the votes of those living in New York and Florida.

Instead of one person one vote, in rural states, one person has the equivalent of two, three or four votes!

Is it any wonder then that politicians pander to those in rural areas? Why Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have disproportionate sway in our electoral process? Why farmers have received subsidies during Trump’s trade war and others affected – particularly those in cities – have not? Of course, the farm subsidies are nothing new. And American farmers are not the only ones who benefit. A recent report states that, worldwide, farming subsidies add up to roughly $1 trillion or approximately $1 million per minute! Of those, US farmers receive about $50 billion a year, not including the $28 billion in subsidies that have resulted from Trump’s trade war with China.

Yet, despite the subsidies and electoral advantages, many rural Americans continue to struggle financially. That’s because half of the annual farm subsidies are received by farmers making $100,000 or more per year. And the top 10 per cent receive 77 percent of the subsidies. There is little real benefit for smaller farmers and small town merchants. More disturbing, the subsidies often result in the destruction of forests and wetlands. They exacerbate pollution of streams and oceans. And they often encourage over-production, which drives down the prices of crops, which, in turn, encourages even more production.

Moreover, there are no such subsidies to supplement the incomes of small retailers and other small businesses in urban areas. No subsidies to protect them from the effects of governmental decisions as there are for farmers and large corporations.

The truth is, many of those living in rural areas enjoy advantages their urban brothers and sisters do not. And while they complain that the “urban elites” don’t understand their problems. They have little understanding of the problems faced by the urban homeless and the millions who are working in expensive cities for minimum wage and struggling to make ends meet. For instance, it now takes two-and-a-half full time jobs at minimum wage to afford a one-bedroom apartment in most cities.

Instead of using their outsized voting clout to elect politicians who will actually improve their situation, rural Americans tend to believe those who blame their problems on immigrants, minorities and others. But, until they reject the politics of fear and hatred, their situation is unlikely to improve.

Thoughts On Saving Our Democracy.

I have written much about what’s wrong with this nation. Now I want to offer some solutions. Think of the following as the LaMaster platform for good governance:

1 – Secure our elections while, at the same time, increasing participation. Eliminate unduly restrictive voter IDs and all forms of voter suppression. Institute same-day voter registration, expand vote-by-mail, restore the number of polling places in minority districts, stop unnecessary purges of voter rolls, restore voting rights for felons who have served their sentences, and make election day a national holiday.

2 – Reinstate some form of the Fairness Doctrine, which was repealed in 1987. Hold all mass media accountable to a standard of truth and clearly delineate opinion from news. It’s not necessary to resort to censorship. Each medium simply needs to employ editors.

3 – Make civics lessons mandatory in schools. All citizens need to understand how local, state and federal governments work.

4 – Investigate and disarm private militias, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other violent domestic terrorist groups. These groups pose a far greater threat to Americans than Islamic terrorism.

5 – Make courts less partisan. Take judicial appointments out of the hands of politicians and remove them from ballots. Have the American Bar Association provide a list of potential jurors to governments for confirmation based on performance and credentials.

6 – Restore the Article I powers of Congress giving it the exclusive power to impose taxes and tariffs, to appropriate funds for the government, to promote science, to define and punish offenses against the laws of nations, to control immigration, to enter into treaties, and to declare war.

7 – Stop the avalanche of dark money infecting our elections. Outlaw the anonymous dirty money that is funneled into election campaigns through PACs and Super PACs. Hold political advertising to the same standards of truth as that for products and services, which includes civil and criminal penalties for lying.

8 – Demand that the IRS regulate non-profits by limiting their engagement in politics and political “education” to less than 10 percent of their activities. And, to prevent charlatans from ripping off their congregations, all church properties beyond individual sanctuaries and parsonages should be taxed.

9 – Track and tax all money invested in shell corporations both on and off shore for the purposes of tax evasion. Organize the participation of all nations to create increased transparency for all international transfers of money.

10 – Expose and limit the activities of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and any similar organizations to end the practice of corporations writing “model” legislation for state legislatures. End political “think tanks.” Restore congressional budgets to permit Congress to research complex issues, instead.

11 – Demand that Congress pass legislation to overturn the SCOTUS decisions on Citizens United v FEC, which gave corporations the rights of individuals, and Valeo v Buckley, which equated money with free speech.

12 – Ban all former elected and appointed government officials from becoming lobbyists for a minimum of 5 years. Ban the families of elected officials from profiting from their relationship.

13 – Restructure the Federal Elections Commission to include an uneven number of commissioners with three members of each major party and three independents.

14 – End extreme gerrymandering. Require all 50 states to create independent redistricting commissions comprised of two Democratic members, two Republican members and two independents.

15 – Enact a small transaction tax for all securities transactions, especially high-speed micro-transactions. This will not only help level the playing field for small investors who do not have large, high-speed computers and algorithms to manipulate the stock markets. It will generate billions in tax revenue.

16 – Base taxes and minimum wages on the cost of living for the areas in which people live and work. $30,000 per year is not the same for someone living in a rural area as in a large city.

17 – Require all national and multinational corporations to include at least one member of their workforces on their boards of directors.

18 – To prevent the wealthy from escaping their fair share of taxes, make the rate of capital gains taxes the same as for earned income. To protect ordinary citizens for the one-time sale of property, pro-rate the capital gains tax over a period of at least 5 years.

19 – Institute some form of universal insurance. How it works is up to Congress, but the Canadian system would be a good model and a good place to start.

20 – Institute a national program of service that includes both domestic, foreign and military options.

21 – Clarify the Constitution’s emoluments clause to make certain that no elected official profits from their position while in office.

This is just a start. I’m certain that others can come up with more and better ideas to preserve and improve the US.

Putting Trump’s Actions Into Context.

To fully appreciate the lawlessness of the Trump administration, it’s helpful to look at the five GOP administrations that preceded him. As you will see, there is a pattern of disdain for the Constitution and the opposition party. But none of them have taken it to such extremes as Trump.

Nixon – In 1968, before the election, he sent an envoy to undermine the Paris peace talks with North Vietnam leading to hundreds of thousands more deaths in the war. Though his administration did some remarkable things (created EPA and OSHA and opened relations with China), he tried to corrupt our democracy by ordering the break-in of the DNC’s Watergate offices. As a result, 40 Nixon administration officials were indicted or jailed. Separately, Nixon’s vice-president Spiro Agnew was forced to resign amid a corruption scandal and pled guilty to tax evasion.

Ford – Before his forced resignation, Nixon chose Gerald Ford to fill the vacancy as vice-president. When Nixon resigned, Ford assumed the position of president and immediately pardoned Nixon of any crimes. His term in office was largely unremarkable, except for the annual deficits created by his policies.

Reagan – Though charming and inspirational, Reagan’s administration had a very dark underbelly. Before the 1980 election, he undermined a proposed agreement with Iran to release the hostages, convincing Iran to delay their release until after the election. His domestic policies included attacks on labor unions, Reagonomics (aka trickle-down economics) which cut taxes for the wealthy resulting in large deficits, an attempt to relax the Voting Rights Act, attempting to push prayer in schools, creating the War on Drugs and ignoring the AIDs epidemic.

His foreign policies consisted of escalating the Cold War, sending US troops to intervene in the Lebanese civil war resulting in the deaths of 241 US soldiers, invading Grenada, bombing Libya, and opposing the disinvestment from apartheid South Africa. Though the Cold War was ended during his second term, it was the result of an initiative by Gorbachev. The lowlight of his tenure was the Iran-Contra scandal, which consisted of illegally selling arms to Iran and using the proceeds to prop-up the Nicaraguan Contras in their fight against the Sandinistas who were fighting to overthrow a dictator. In effect, the administration was running a shadow government hidden from congressional oversight that destabilized the entire region.

Bush I – George H.W. Bush’s domestic policies were unremarkable. But there were many questions about his foreign policy. He ordered the invasion of Panama. His administration provided weapons to Iraq and led Saddam Hussein to believe that the US would not intervene in Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait. Then he led a coalition to attack Iraq and free Kuwait. Following the Gulf War, he closed numerous US military bases, which thrust the economy into recession. And he ended his term by pardoning those convicted in Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal.

Perhaps the most lasting action by his administration was the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine which held broadcast media accountable for telling the truth.

Bush II – Having lost the popular vote, George W. entered office only as a result of his brother’s meddling in Florida elections and a decision by a conservative-led Supreme Court. (A media consortium that recounted the entire Florida vote, found numerous improprieties and concluded that a significant majority of Floridians intended to vote for Gore.)

Once in office, Bush revived the discredited trickle-down economic theory to reward the big money and oil interests that powered his campaign. His tax cuts sent deficits soaring. He advanced oil interests at the expense of the environment. His administration botched the rescue and recovery from Hurricane Katrina. He ignored the threat of al-Qaeda and advice from the Clinton administration resulting in the attacks on 9/11. He responded with the war on terrorism. And he allowed vice-president Cheney to start the War in Iraq on false pretenses. His administration ended with the collapse of the world financial system as the result of his belief that free markets would self-regulate.

Trump – As bad as they were, the failures of the previous GOP presidents pale in comparison to the man who currently occupies the Oval Office. Donald J. Trump will be chronicled in history books as the worst president in history. He announced his campaign by making racist attacks on Mexicans. He encouraged interference in the election by Russia spawning a Special Counsel investigation which found extensive collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives that likely swayed the election in his favor.

Despite being the second Republican in 16 years to gain the office while losing the popular vote, he claimed a mandate. With the help of a GOP-led Congress he quickly set about undoing his predecessor’s legacy through executive order. He withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear treaty, withdrew from the Paris Climate Accords, repealed DACA, and made cuts to Obamacare. From the beginning, his policies have been marked by greed, cruelty and fealty to Russia. He banned entry from Muslim countries. He gave hope and encouragement to white nationalists with his response to Charlottesville. He has funneled millions into his own properties through weekly golf outings. Foreign leaders have been encouraged to stay at his hotels and resorts in order to gain access. And he ordered the CPB and ICE to place refugees into horribly overcrowded facilities and to separate families.

Trump has exposed the flaws in our current system of government by acting as a monarch. He has refused to cooperate with any congressional oversight. He has ordered anyone connected to his administration to ignore subpoenas and claim presidential privilege and trampled over the separation of powers. Worse, with the help of Mitch McConnell, he has stuffed the judicial system with dozens of unqualified and ideological judges.

On top of all that, he and the GOP exploded the deficits and federal debt by cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy with the intent of eventually ending Social Security and Medicare on the pretense of cutting the budget.

Finally, and worst of all, he has repeatedly acted on behalf of Vladimir Putin and Russia. He has refused to acknowledge Russia’s role in his election, he publicly kowtowed to Putin while attacking our most loyal allies, and he delayed congressionally-ordered sanctions on Russia. Finally, he held military aid to Ukraine hostage in order to elicit Ukraine’s help in his re-election. In doing so, he adhered to a Putin narrative that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered with our election.

No president in history has been removed from office through impeachment. But Trump has richly earned the right to be first.

It’s worth noting that no Democratic president in recent history has been so disdainful of the Constitution and the rule of law. That fact alone should make voters look more carefully at candidates whose names precede the R on a ballot.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Eight – Corruption)

If we are ever going to rescue our nation from oligarchy and restore democracy, we must remove the obscene amounts of money from our politics and prevent government officials from using the treasury as their personal piggy bank.

At no time in our history has that need been more urgent than now!

If you don’t see the urgency, consider this: Two independent studies monitored how legislation was influenced by lobbyists and other moneyed interests versus the desires and interests of ordinary constituents. They found that legislators pandered to corporations, industries and lobbying groups while the interest of citizens were ignored. The inescapable conclusion of the studies was that the US is no longer a government of the people for the people and by the people. Instead, it has become an oligarchy – a government run for the benefit of the richest few.

Nowhere is this more obvious than Trump’s refusal to abide by the Constitution’s emoluments clause. Not only has he not released his income taxes as past presidents had done. He refused to relinquish control of his businesses by placing them in a blind trust. Moreover, he has quite obviously used his position to pump money into his resorts and hotels. Virtually every weekend is spent golfing at his resorts causing the Secret Service and other government employees to rent rooms and golf carts. That has already totaled millions.

While conducting business in Europe, he chose to travel out of his way to spend time and government money in his Scottish and Irish resorts. He “recommended” that vice-president Pence stay at his resort rather than in a Dublin hotel where his government meetings were to take place. And, recently, it was discovered that, during the Trump administration, our military signed a contract to refuel aircraft at the financially struggling Glasgow Prestwick airport near his Turnberry resort.

Additionally, in order to curry favor with Trump, foreign leaders and lobbyists have spent millions at the Trump hotel in Washington.

Of course, Trump also named his daughter and son-in-law (the son of a man convicted of illegal campaign contributions and filing false tax returns) as special advisors giving them access to classified information and influence among foreign leaders which will, no doubt, lead to more profits for their businesses.

Many other Trump appointments to the administration have used their positions for personal gain, including the Secretaries of Treasury, Labor, HUD and Interior, as well as the administrator of the EPA. We have also learned that Moscow Mitch and his wife, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, have invested money in offshore shell corporations. For what purpose other than to shield their fortunes from federal taxes? We can’t be certain. But there should be enough transparency for government officials that we don’t have to speculate.

All of this is in addition to Trump’s corrupt, illegal and treasonous attempts to use his office to threaten and encourage foreign governments to interfere in our elections and to damage his political opponents.

Never before in the history of our nation has an administration been so completely and obviously corrupt. But never before has the Oval Office been occupied by a wealthy conman. (And that’s the most polite term I can think of – mob boss may be a more accurate description.)

$15 Trillion Hidden In Offshore Shell Companies To Avoid Taxes.

A recent study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has found that corporations and the wealthy have hidden $15 trillion in offshore shell companies for the purpose of avoiding taxes. At the newly reduced US corporate tax rate of 21 percent, that represents a loss of $3.15 trillion in revenue. And at Germany’s 29.79 percent tax rate, it would create more than $4.46 in revenue – revenue that could be used to improve infrastructure, to help millions out of poverty or to reduce the tax burden of ordinary people.

To put this monumental sum into perspective, it is roughly equivalent to China’s 2019 GDP of $15.5 trillion – the world’s second-largest economy. It’s more than 70 percent of the US economy of $21.4 trillion. And, by most estimates, the number of hidden dollars has increased by at least 10 percent over the last decade.

Given the impact of this lost revenue, one has to ask: Why have governments done so little to recapture the revenue and to penalize the perpetrators? It’s not as if they don’t know where the money is hidden. The study notes that 10 nations host 85 percent of the money – countries that include Luxembourg, the Cayman Islands, Isle of Man, Jersey, Ireland, Mauritius, Bermuda, Monaco, Switzerland and the Bahamas.

What’s more, recent leaks have given governments the names of people and institutions that have engaged in such tax shelters. The leaks known as the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers have revealed millions of names and documents. Those named include numerous world leaders and celebrities. For example, the Trump name appears in the Panama Papers 3,540 times.

Maybe the answer for the inaction is the fact that most of the people who have the means and the opportunity to hide their money are those who control our government like Moscow Mitch; those who buy their way into office; those who use their money to lobby and influence office-holders. Or maybe it relates to the death of a journalist investigating the Panama Papers. Daphne Caruana Galizia, a reporter who was killed with a car bomb while following a lead in Malta. Her murder is not entirely surprising, since those hiding their assets include Vladimir Putin, Russian oligarchs and many individuals who are involved in organized crime. After all, these mobsters are likely using shell companies as a way to disguise their ill-begotten funds and to launder them.

Of course, that should give governments even more reason to halt the practice of hiding money. Doing so, would create obstacles for international crime syndicates and make it more difficult to finance operations such as drug trafficking and human trafficking. These and other heinous crimes annually cost governments and societies hundreds of millions of dollars to address.

If that’s not enough to motivate you to demand the action of your government, consider this: It almost certainly would cut your tax bill.