Whatever Happened To The Golden Rule?

The idea that we should treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves is a bedrock principle of many religions and cultures. Indeed, it was one of the first things I was taught in my middle American Christian church.

Given its importance to most faiths, one must wonder how today’s Christian evangelicals could have strayed so far from it. Despite their Bible stating that they have an obligation to treat strangers in their land with dignity and hospitality, the Christian evangelicals who support Trump in large numbers have simply ignored or denied the inhumane treatment of refugees seeking asylum. Confronted by the horrifying image of a young father and his daughter lying face down in a river having drowned in their attempt to find refuge, those same evangelicals simply turned away blaming the father for their deaths. And after viewing a cage filled with immigrants forced to live for weeks on concrete floors without ready access to water or even enough room to lie down, our holier-than-thou Vice-President seemed pleased.

What is wrong with these people? Did they not read their Bible? Did they miss that their religion was once based on compassion and kindness? Did they forget that the man they supposedly worship reached out to the poor and the oppressed with kindness? Did they forget that he gave the needy food and even knelt to wash their feet? Have they never read Matthew 25:40 in which Jesus is reported to have said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”?

How can the people like Pence, who wear their religion on their sleeves and profess piety, turn their backs on the needy and the displaced? How can they tolerate seeing children ripped away from their parents, caged for months without beds and basic toiletries then lost in the system and turned over to foster parents after their parents have been deported? How can they accept women being held in horrible conditions and told to drink out of toilets? How can they accept a single death of a child in our custody? How can they support a man who would order this treatment; who has bragged about sexual assault – even of children; who routinely threatens those who oppose him; whose every statement is a lie; who basks in his own racism, greed and cruelty?

If this is their religion, and I am certain it is, I want nothing to do with it. Neither should anyone else. There is no need for evangelists of hatred and greed. There are already more than enough of those people to go around.

Filling The “Swamp” With Predators And Know-Nothings.

In 2016, Trump promised voters that he would “drain the swamp” of lifelong politicians and lobbyists – the so-called “Deep State.” To a degree, he has done that. But, instead of banning lobbyists from the corridors of Washington, he has encouraged them to stay in his Washington hotel and at Mar-a-Lago where he and his family can better profit from their activities. Instead of bringing in the “best people,” he has replaced longtime public servants and scientists with know-nothings and predators – those seeking to use their positions, like Trump, to enrich themselves and their friends.

For Treasury Secretary, he replaced the controversy-free Jack Lew with Steve Mnuchin, a product of Wall Street and Hollywood who aggressively pursued foreclosures during the Great Recession and who, once in office, promptly decided he could use taxpayer-funded military aircraft for personal use.

For Interior Secretary, he replaced the pro-environment Sally Jewell with Ryan Zinke who rode a horse (cared for at taxpayer expense) to his office, demanded that the secretary’s flag be flown over the building when he was in residence, gave away federal lands to states and the mineral rights to the highest bidders, claimed climate change is “unproven” science, chartered taxpayer-funded jets for private use, reduced national monuments and sacred tribal lands in order that they could be opened for drilling and mining, and rescinded numerous environmental regulations.

For Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, he replaced Gina McCarthy, a long-time environmental scientist, with former Senator Scott Pruitt, a man with no science background who was not only cozy with the oil industry. He had spent years fighting the agency in court on behalf of polluters. Pruitt promptly began using the office for personal gain, in addition to spending thousands on an unnecessary sound-proof booth for phone calls. He then went about dismantling a host of environmental regulations for the benefit of himself and his fossil fuel buddies.

For Energy Secretary, he replaced Grace Bochenek, an industrial engineer and former director of the National Energy Technology Laboratory, with former Texas governor Rick Perry, who has spent his career in politics. His only qualification for the office is that he has a degree in animal science and in yelling from a snotty military school (yes, that’s an accurate description of ATM). And his only knowledge of the department he leads was that, while campaigning for president, he wanted to dismantle it. Only after he was installed in office did he discover that the department controlled our stockpile of nuclear weapons and other assets.

For Commerce Secretary, Trump replaced Penny Pritzker, an entrepreneur and successful businesswoman with Wilbur Ross, a fellow grifter and friend of Trump’s. In contrast to his predecessor who sold her interests in 221 companies to avoid conflicts of interests, Ross is a walking, talking mass of conflicts of interests. He not only failed to divest of his financial holdings, he has been accused of using his position to further enrich himself through insider trading.

For Labor Secretary, he replaced Tom Perez, a civil rights champion and former Maryland Secretary of Labor with Alexander Acosta. Instead of fighting for labor, Acosta has overseen the dismantling of labor unions. But he is best known for his plea-bargain with billionaire sex predator and pedophile, Jeffery Epstein, a deal that has come back to haunt him.

I could go on. But you get the idea – at least you should.

The rest of the Trump administration, a group brought in to “drain the swamp,” consists largely of sycophants and political operatives: Sonny Perdue, Elaine Chao (Sen. McConnell’s wife), Ben Carson, William Barr, and Betsy DeVos. Most of the other cabinet members, including White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, serve as acting directors or secretaries – likely because they would have difficulty being confirmed. In addition, those who serve in acting roles are less independent. They are more malleable and willing to accept Trump’s corruption. And who could forget “Javanka” – Ivanka and Jared Kushner – the grifters in training who serve as Trump’s closest advisors? They couldn’t even obtain security clearance without the intervention of Trump himself. The rest of the administration is comprised of people who operate behind the scenes to push an extreme agenda of racism, misogyny and homophobia.

Of course, there have been a few – very few – who have served this administration with integrity and honor. But they soon resigned or were fired.

So, contrary to a reclaimed swamp, Washington has become populated by a new set of swamp monsters far more dangerous and greedy than any who preceded them. It is now even more fertile ground for predators, grifters and con artists. Would you expect anything less from the predator-in-chief?

God save us if he gets another four years and a compliant GOP-controlled Congress!

Why I Won’t Be Celebrating This Fourth Of July.

On the eve of the Fourth of July and our wannabe dictator’s MAGA tribute to himself, we should pause and consider how patriotism has been commandeered by his political party to divide rather than to unite; to celebrate military might over the ideals of our founders; to benefit the greed of a few over the needs of the many; to use power to exact cruelty upon those less fortunate; to ignore human rights and the will of the majority; to deny civil rights to those who have a darker skin, who worship or love differently.

Once a celebration of our freedom from tyranny, Trump has turned the July 4th celebration in our nation’s capitol into a for-profit celebration of his power. He and the RNC have sold seats in a VIP section for his wealthy followers and lobbyists. He has filled his hotel with those seeking access to his office at the cost of $964 to $4,200 a night. He has redirected millions intended for defense in favor of military flyovers and a display of tanks. He has redirected millions in admission fees from national parks intended for maintenance and improvements to pay for his crass political rally.

His celebration should be met with outrage and derision.

Yet Trump is only a symptom of the political party and philosophy he represents. For many years now, members of the GOP have claimed to be the only true patriots – our country right or wrong. And more often than not, they have been on the wrong side of history – fighting against Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Civil Rights Acts, leading us into unnecessary wars, passing tax cuts for the wealthy, pushing us further into debt, and leading us into economic calamities.

That’s why I’ll be ignoring tomorrow’s spectacle in Washington and it’s why I’ll be flying the battle flag of the republic upside-down.

How can we celebrate narcissism and contempt for norms? How can we celebrate perpetual war over the control of oil resulting in the deaths of the brave? How can we celebrate our government’s mass cruelty toward those seeking refuge in the land of the free? How can we celebrate greed? How can we celebrate a government led by someone who failed to win a majority of votes and was put in power only with the help of a foreign rival? How can we celebrate alongside a president who embraces dictators while shunning our allies? Who shows contempt for all those who voted against him? Who separates families at our southern border and incarcerates children in worse conditions than the terrorists who attacked our country?

Instead of watching our Dear Leader’s celebration on the national mall, we should read the Declaration of Independence as we dine on our hot dogs. We should read the Constitution over a good beer. We should read the many writings of the founders in order to better understand their intent and the age of enlightenment. We should read a civics textbook as we enjoy a slice of apple pie. Better yet, we should read the Mueller Report.

Then we should ask ourselves: How did we get here? How did everything go so wrong? How can we accept our nation’s many faults and try to make amends for the fact that it stole the land from the original inhabitants through genocide and built much of its wealth on the backs of slaves? How can we live up to the ideals of our founders and not their personal failures? How can we better stand up to those who would take us down the wrong path? How can we help the USA to become a better nation?

How can we end the senseless gun violence – the slaughter of children? How can we give all of our residents equal access to quality health care? How can we better provide our citizens education and equal opportunity? How can we better encourage and utilize their unique talents? How can we make certain that all of our citizens have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote? How can we improve our justice system to make it truly blind to color, religion or sexual orientation? How can we better help and welcome those seeking asylum from tyranny as our ancestors were welcomed? How can we be a better example for others in the world? How can we help others enjoy our freedoms? How can we end war? How can we address the growing threat of climate change? How can we make the planet we share with more than a hundred other nations better?

To me, that is what true patriotism means. Not some display of military might in honor of a sociopath who is an illegitimate occupier of our nation’s highest office.

Make No Mistake. Today’s GOP Is Racist.

Given Trump’s unrestrained spending, the GOP can no longer claim to be the party of financial responsibility. Given Trump’s boorish behavior, his history of extramarital affairs and sexual assaults, his administration’s forced separation of refugee families and its torturous incarceration of young children, the party can no longer claim to be the party of family values. Given Trump’s lack of a foreign policy, his embrace of murderous dictators and his acceptance of Russian interference, it can no longer claim to be strong on defense.

Given Trump’s disdain for the FBI and his obstruction of justice, it cannot claim to be the party of law and order. Given his tariffs, it cannot claim to be the party of free trade. Given the party’s efforts to suppress voting, to gerrymander, to bury opponents in an avalanche of dirty money, and to steal elections, it most certainly cannot claim that it cares about democracy. Given the party’s determination to cut Social Security, Medicare and other safety net programs such as Meals on Wheels, it cannot claim to care about seniors. And, given its cuts to veteran’s benefits, it cannot claim that it cares for veterans.

What the today’s GOP can reasonably claim to be is a party of xenophobes, homophobes, misogynists, racists and fascists.

Once the party of emancipators and proponents of conservative fiscal policies, the GOP began its evolution following Brown v Board of Education – the Supreme Court ruling that forced the desegregation of public schools. In the wake of that decision, James M. Buchanan formulated a plan to allow the white elite to retain its power over the majority. His ideas were embraced by libertarians, in particular the billionaire Charles Koch, and southern conservatives. Then, following the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968, which were signed into law by a Democratic president (Lyndon B. Johnson), the GOP committed to Lee Atwater’s Southern strategy by reaching out to southern Democrats (the so-called Dixiecrats). Within a few years, the Old South was bright red.

Then, under the guidance of Paul Weyrich, Jerry Falwell and others, the party began the culture wars by embracing Christian fundamentalist anti-abortion and anti-gay views. It pandered to evangelicals, most especially those in the southern Baptist church.

The transformation from the party of Lincoln was complete.

In many ways, Trump is a symptom of nearly seventy years of change. His demagoguery merely gave the movement a celebrity and gave members permission to unleash their true feelings. He and his followers railed against our nation’s first black president questioning his citizenship. He fomented hate against refugees and immigrants from so-called shithole (non-white) countries. And he decried political correctness (aka politeness) which allowed the majority of Republicans to pull off their masks to reveal their true colors…er…color…white.

Trump and his advisors, Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller, even pandered to neo-Nazis and white supremacists (those “very nice people” on the other side of civil rights protestors) encouraging them to crawl out of their hidey holes and light their torches. All the while, Trump and his followers have feigned outrage over being called racists. After all, according to them, they all have a black friend or they work with people of color.

While the GOP rank and file are focused on putting African-Americans, Latinos, the LGBTQ community and “libtards” in their place, the real swamp monsters in the administration are freeing multinational corporations to pollute our environment and fleece consumers. They have given them billions in tax breaks and packed the courts with corporatists, racists and religious fanatics to protect their interests for a generation. Meanwhile the crime-boss-in-chief and his family are filling their very large pockets with taxpayer money, destroying international alliances, threatening our neighbors, the free press and our most valued institutions.

Trump’s supporters voted for him as a way of figuratively throwing a live grenade into Washington. He has done that. He is undoing the very fabric and principles that have held our nation together. And, though his supporters may not yet realize it, he is also eliminating most of the regulations that protect them from predatory financial institutions, health insurance companies, big pharma, corporate polluters and a variety of other greedy scoundrels.

Once his job is complete, and he has finished carrying out the wishes of his billionaire sponsors and friends, not even his followers’ Bibles and guns will be able to protect them.

Why It’s No Exaggeration To Call Trump A Crime Boss.

If you read the Mueller Report, or follow the news, you know that the Special Counsel’s Office obtained indictments against 34 people and three companies, many of them associated with the Trump campaign. Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen, now sit in prison. Trump National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, is awaiting sentencing. Trump advisor, Roger Stone, is awaiting trial. At least seven other criminal cases have been transferred to US Attorneys. And 14 cases have been referred to other government investigators.

Yet that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the corruption and crime of those tied to Trump. Like any organized crime family, the unsavory and criminal activity of those associated with Trump is widespread.

Consider the fact, that the Mueller team found indications of potential illegal activity by many other Trump associates, including Donald Trump, Jr. But the investigators felt there was not enough evidence to indict noting that many of the Trump team hid behind the 5th Amendment, a web of lies and deceit, the use of signals and innuendo, the use of encrypted communications, and the destruction of evidence. In fact, in its report, the Special Counsel’s Office stated, “The Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.”

Of course, the Mueller Report also lists numerous instances of obstruction of justice for which Trump could be indicted if not for a Department of Justice ruling that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

Not covered by the Mueller Report are the many other instances in which Trump family members, associates and appointees routinely lied to Congress or to the government. Former Attorney General and Senator Jeff Sessions “forgot” about his pre-election and pre-inauguration communications with Russians. There is evidence that Erik Prince lied about his meeting with Russians in the Seychelles. And presidential advisor and Trump son-in-law, Jared Kushner, not only lied to Congress about his contacts with Russians. He was denied top secret security clearance over questions about his family’s business, foreign contacts, and foreign travel.

Trump cabinet members Ryan Zinke, Steve Mnuchin, Ben Carson and Jeff Sessions have all been accused of misusing federal funds for personal benefit. More recently, Elaine Chao, Department of Transportation Secretary and Sen. Mitch McConnell’s wife has been accused of using her position to enrich her family business, Foremost Group. She is also accused of rushing the approval of $78 million in construction projects for Kentucky’s most Republican districts in advance of her husband’s 2020 re-election effort. And it was recently revealed that one of Jared Kushner’s companies received $90 million from an anonymous foreign source, raising questions of corruption and the potential influence of foreign governments in the Trump administration. Of course, Trump’s refusal to divest from his businesses or to place them in a blind trust raises the same questions. Moreover, setting aside Trump’s constant travel to Trump properties, which result in his businesses capturing millions in profits from taxpayer money, he is quite clearly in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause as representatives of foreign governments spend their time and money at Trump properties in hopes of currying favor with the administration.

Yet unethical and potentially illegal behavior is nothing new for Trump. Only the names of his partners in crime have changed.

As landlords, Trump and his father were found guilty of racial discrimination. Trump was also accused of tenant intimidation in an attempt to get tenants to leave rent-protected buildings, finally settling with the tenants and agreeing to government monitoring.

Trump has been accused of hiring undocumented workers as far back as the eighties when he hired undocumented Polish immigrants to destroy the classic Bonwit Teller building to make way for Trump Tower. His Trump Model Management company was accused of hiring undocumented models. Indeed, his current wife Melania was hired as an undocumented model. And, until recently, Trump employed undocumented workers at his golf courses.

Before the bankruptcy of his casinos, Trump was accused of breaking a variety of gambling rules, including failure to disclose a $3.5 million loan from his father. He has been accused of refusing to pay workers and contractors on his many real estate projects, illegally taking charity funds from his Trump Foundation for his personal use, defrauding those who signed up for Trump University, even buying thousands of copies of his own book with money from campaign donors in order to line his own pockets.

In many cases, Trump bullied his accusers with countersuits. And he often paid millions to settle the cases. For example, in the case of Trump University, he settled the resulting lawsuits for a sum of $25 million.

Trump has been linked to several mafia crime families. Trump’s longtime lawyer and mentor, Roy Cohn, even represented the boss of the Genovese crime family. (Perhaps that’s why Trump often uses the language of mobsters, e.g. “rat”.) Further, Russian oligarchs and mafia figures have purchased millions worth of property from Trump, raising suspicions of his involvement in Russian money laundering.

And mafia figures may not be the most unsavory of Trump’s associates.

Elliott Broidy, an RNC official and one of Trump’s top campaign fundraisers, along with his business partner, George Nader, used his influence to buy favor and bribe officials to shape the administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East. Broidy has admitted to paying his former mistress and Playboy model $1.6 million to keep the affair, and the resulting pregnancy and abortion, quiet. And Nader, already a convicted pedophile, was recently arrested for possession and distribution of child porn.

Another Trump associate, Jeffrey Epstein, was convicted of sexually abusing and trafficking underage girls for sex at parties he arranged at his New York townhouse and on his island in St. Thomas. It has been reported that Trump was a regular at Epstein’s parties, raising questions about Trump’s own activities with underage girls. After all, Trump’s affection for young women, even teenagers is well-known. Contestants in Trump’s Miss Teen USA pageant accused him of walking into their dressing room unannounced. And a woman filed suit against both Epstein and Trump accusing them of raping her at a series of sex parties when she was only 13. In addition, Trump has been accused by many others of sexual assault including unwanted groping, climbing into bed with a model unannounced and rape. And, of course, he was famously recorded bragging about his assaults.

The list goes on.

Ignore His Tweets and Taunts. Pay Attention To His Actions.

While Democrats and the media have focused on the Tweets and the taunts and the name-calling, many of the worst activities of the Trump administration have gone unnoticed. That’s because the administration seems to have borrowed a strategy from sports – especially NHL hockey. The idea is that, if you can’t win on the merits, you resort to cheating and bullying. You commit as many fouls as possible based on the theory that the referees won’t/can’t call all of them. The referees are then faced with two options: To make the game unwatchable from the constant stoppages and penalties. Or to call only the most egregious fouls.

Likewise, by burying the media, the public and Congress under an avalanche of executive orders, policy changes, unqualified presidential appointments, unjustified pardons, blatant corruption, obstruction and criminal actions, the administration seems to believe that the public will tire of the outrage and buy into the notion that the president is the victim of negative and partisan reporting.

Whatever else you can say about Donald Trump, you must admit that he is a master of the con and self-promotion. He knows how to manipulate his base and the media. Indeed, every time I see him speak, I see the narcissism of Benito Mussolini combined with the limited vocabulary and taunting of Vince McMahon and his WWE bullies. (I am quite certain that is the result of study and hours of practice in front of Trump’s favorite item – the mirror.)

Repulsed by the cartoon-like show, the majority of Americans often miss or ignore the things that are taking place behind the scenes – things that could prove fatal to our democracy.

Every single day, the administration commits more harmful and anti-democratic actions. Career public servants are replaced by unqualified family members, toadies and demagogues from the Trump propaganda network, aka Fox News. Highly partisan and unqualified judges are confirmed as a result of Mitch McConnell’s disregard for long-standing traditions and regular order. Refugees from all over the world are sent back to the dangers they tried to escape. (There are even plans to deport refugees who came here immediately following the Vietnam War.)

The constitutional protections from unreasonable search and seizures have been suspended within 100 miles of our borders – all of our borders. International laws and norms are ignored. Refugee children are traumatized by being ripped from their parents. Pollution is increased as the result of environmental deregulation. Increasingly, our lives are placed at risk by uncontrolled gun violence encouraged by Trump supporters in the NRA. Our economy and consumers are also placed at risk by the dismantling of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regulations and the Dodd-Frank bill that was designed to prevent another financial collapse. And more people will go bankrupt or die because of the administration’s undermining of the Affordable Care Act.

Each day, the administration borrows more money from China to prop up our economy and to squander on unneeded, and often flawed, weapons systems. At the same time, it has imposed tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese goods leading to a trade war and higher prices for American consumers. Diplomacy has been replaced by outright bullying and brinksmanship. Trump and his administration have threatened NATO members and turned their backs on trusted allies while embracing some of the world’s worst dictators.

The administration encourages violent racism and intentionally sews division to improve Trump’s chances of being reelected. Sacred Native American lands and public lands are being sold off to extraction industries. American citizens are displaced and their lives disrupted in order to build a senseless wall. Public schools, food stamps, veterans programs, fair trade, access to safe abortions, the constitutional separation of church and state, and so-called entitlements are all under attack. So, too, are our most important institutions like the press, the FBI and our Intelligence agencies.

The president and his mouthpieces commit daily assaults on the truth. The administration has forced a constitutional crisis by announcing that it will refuse to be burdened by congressional oversight. Meanwhile, the crime family in charge enriches itself with taxpayer money as it refuses to reveal its tax returns.

If the orange diKKKtator could accomplish all this while under investigation for conspiring with Russia during the 2016 election, imagine the harm he can cause now that he and his supporters falsely claim “total exoneration?” Even more frightening are the potential consequences of his re-election and the possibility of Congress being retaken by his stooges and sycophants.

Thankfully, you have the power to prevent that grim and dystopian future. Write or call your congressional representatives and demand that impeachment hearings begin immediately. Even more important, VOTE!

How The GOP Embraced A Crime Boss As Its Leader.

Almost immediately following Trump’s sparsely-attended inauguration, he pulled the US from the carefully-negotiated Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, the Paris Climate Accords and the Iran Nuclear Agreement. Not because they were flawed. But merely because they were legacies of the Obama administration. Moreover, despite his reputation of deal-making Trump has no time for negotiation. No willingness to compromise.

In that regard, Trump is the ideal person to lead today’s GOP.

Since Newt Gingrich took the gavel as Speaker of the House in 1995, the GOP has refused to compromise on virtually any legislation; virtually any international accords. GOP members of Congress have chosen, instead, to vote as a unified bloc. Except for the late Sen.John McCain and, occasionally, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, they followed orders fearing that they would be primaried – their opponents backed by millions of dollars in campaign donations from the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and other right-wing billionaires.

The inevitable result of this mentality is that the GOP has been willing to do anything to win. Once it gained power, it gerrymandered districts and suppressed votes to ensure that its candidates could win elections. It ignored the wishes of the majority of Americans in order to pass legislation based on its narrow-minded fundamentalist ideologies. It pandered to donors, lobbyists and multinational corporations by passing tax cuts to redistribute wealth upward. It increased funding for the Pentagon in order to build unneeded weapons in GOP-held districts in order to maintain jobs for constituents and to increase the profits of military contractors. GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bent long-standing Senate rules to rapidly confirm judges who share the GOP ideology. The GOP has enabled Trump and his administration to corruptly fill their pockets with taxpayer money and to pillage our natural resources. And, in the ultimate win-at-any-cost mentality, the GOP enabled our greatest geopolitical foe to interfere in the 2016 election on behalf of Trump and other conservative candidates.

Certainly, all of this poses a serious threat to our democracy. But when it comes to our international relationships, the GOP bully mentality is even more dangerous.

Under George W. Bush and, especially now, under Trump, the GOP’s negotiating technique has become “our way or the highway” – “you’re either with us or against us.” We saw this with Bush’s “axis of evil” and in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. Based on Richard the Dick Cheney’s “Plan for a New American Century,” the GOP has chosen to use our economic and military power to force other nations to submit to our wishes. And now we have one of the architects of the Iraq War and one of its biggest cheerleaders – John Bolton – as Trump’s national security advisor.

What could possibly go wrong?

By pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Agreement and ramping up sanctions and threats against Iran, Trump has only encouraged Iran to restart its nuclear program. By sending a aircraft carrier group to the region and dropping hints that it has plans to send 120,000 US troops to the region, the administration has inflamed the situation putting us on a path to war based on the slightest of provocations. Remember Gulf of Tonkin, anyone? In case you don’t, the Gulf of Tonkin incident was an imagined attack on the US fleet that led to a massive expansion of the Vietnam War and tens of thousands more deaths.

By pulling out of the TPP, Trump only strengthened China’s place in international markets. And by unilaterally placing tariffs on imports from our largest trading partner, Trump has created a trade war that will add hundreds of dollars to the annual purchases by US households. At the same time, it has punished US farmers and other industries whose products are now too expensive for many Chinese people. Now that the Chinese have found other sources for soybeans to replace those grown by American farmers, they may abandon US-grown crops entirely. Since Chinese leaders do not have to face re-election as US leaders must, they likely have little incentive to kowtow to the Trump administration’s demands. So the trade war could last for some time. Moreover, the trade war with China and other nations may encourage them to seek currency other than the dollar as the international standard. That would have an enormous impact on the US economy.

Such bullying tactics may have worked for the Donald in his real estate business, since there were always other vendors willing to take a chance on getting paid by Trump after completing their work. And there were always new “marks” who could be conned. Even when he failed, and according to a NY Times report, Trump was a spectacular failure in the 1980s and 90s, Deutsche Bank always seemed to step up with new loans. When those weren’t enough, Trump’s apparent willingness to launder money for Russian oligarchs kept his businesses afloat. However, Trump’s bullying is unlikely to work with powerful international foes like China and Iran unless he’s willing to use the threat of nuclear weapons.

That raises the questions: How far is the crime boss in the White House willing to go? And how long will the GOP support him?

Is The GOP A Political Party? Or A Crime Syndicate?

For those of you who think the two major political parties in the US are different in name only, I would like to correct the perception. True, both parties are far too friendly with lobbyists and large corporations. Both rely on billionaires to fund their political campaigns. Both have voted to dole out billions in corporate welfare. But that’s where the comparisons end. Today’s GOP would be unrecognizable to Republicans such as Abraham Lincoln, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Nelson Rockefeller.

In my lifetime, I’ve seen GOP Sen. Joseph McCarthy create rampant fear of communists around every corner resulting in false accusations and black lists that ruined the lives of political opponents and innocents alike.

We saw GOP presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon treasonously interfere in the Vietnam peace talks for political advantage. As president, he divided the nation. Then, in his re-election campaign, he created a dirty tricks squad to torment his opponents. He was forced from office when it was discovered that he ordered a break-in of Democratic offices and used his position to cover it up. His VP, his Attorney General, his White House lawyer and others went to prison. And, during the Watergate hearings, he was found to have committed tax fraud. But, thanks to a pardon by his Republican successor, he was spared prison even as his tax lawyer was convicted and sentenced.

Similarly, we learned that Ronald Reagan secretly, and treasonously, negotiated with the Iranians to prevent the release of US hostages until after the presidential election. Then, during his second term, it was discovered that he had illegally ordered the sale of arms to Iran in order to fund an illegal war in Central America. At least a dozen members of his administration were indicted while Reagan was allowed to ride off into the sunset. Yet few of the culprits served real consequences since Reagan’s GOP successor, George H.W. Bush, ordered his Attorney General (William Barr) to pardon them.

Under false pretenses, Bush later led a war against Iraq over Kuwaiti oil. And following his “victory” Bush sent the nation’s economy into a deep recession by closing dozens of military bases in the US.

Following in his father’s footsteps, George W. Bush ignored warnings that al-Qaeda was set to attack the US resulting in 9/11. He then took us to war in Afghanistan (our longest-running war) and lied our nation into going to war in Iraq resulting in the squandering of trillions of dollars and the complete destabilization of the Middle East the consequences of which will be felt for many generations. Bush also oversaw the continued de-regulation of our financial sector leading to the collapse of our stock markets and the Great Recession.

Now we have the boss of a crime family occupying our White House – Donald J. Trump – who ascended to power as the beneficiary of substantial election interference by Russia, information stolen from Democratic databases, election fraud, illegal campaign contributions, and more than $70 million from the NRA. He has not only refused to acknowledge Russian interference, he has obstructed investigations into that interference. Only because of an inane judgment by the DOJ has he avoided charges. Meanwhile, his personal lawyer and members of his campaign committee have either pleaded guilty or have been convicted of crimes leading to prison sentences.

And that’s not even the worst of his presidency. He has led the plundering of our treasury to enrich his family, his friends and large corporations. He has gutted regulations designed to prevent another market crash and to protect our environment. He has engaged in ill-conceived trade wars. He has implemented racist policies. He has further divided our nation by empowering white nationalists. And he has undermined the truth, the press and most of our institutions.

All of this has been enabled by compliant GOP congressional representatives who are re-elected only as the result of extreme gerrymandering, union busting and a variety of voter suppression techniques designed to prevent people of color and the working poor from voting for their opponents.

By comparison, the last three Democratic administrations have been guilty of balancing the budget, rescuing our economy from financial collapse, giving millions of Americans access to affordable health care, and twenty years relatively free from scandal…except for that blow job and those emails. You know, THOSE emails.

Is The US Still A Nation Of Laws?

If so, Congress has no choice but to begin the impeachment process now.

Trump committed obstruction of justice – not just in private by ordering his underlings to fire Mueller – but in public by calling the investigation a witch hunt. He suborned perjury by stating that he would “take care of” those who refused to testify against him and by calling those who did “rats.” He has ignored the Constitution’s emoluments clause by using his Washington DC hotel to profit from foreign leaders, foreign citizens and lobbyists. And he obviously requested then accepted and benefited from property stolen by Russian hackers.

If those actions don’t rise to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” it’s difficult to imagine what does.

Nixon resigned under threat of impeachment for ordering the break-in of the Democratic office and resorting to obstruction of justice in order to cover it up. Clinton was impeached for accepting oral sex from an intern and lying about it. Are those crimes worse than accepting property stolen from a political opponent by a hostile nation and obstructing justice by attempting to prevent an investigation into the matter?

Since Trump began his campaign to win the most powerful office in the world, we have seen him refuse to reveal his tax returns unlike most other presidential candidates since Nixon. We have heard him brag about sexual assault. We have discovered that he had an extramarital affair with a porn star and a centerfold model then illegally paid for their silence. We heard from more than a dozen women, including one who was underage, that Trump had sexually assaulted them. We learned that Trump had been a regular guest at Jeffrey Epstein’s parties before Epstein was convicted of trafficking underage girls for sex. And we learned that a tabloid managed by a Trump friend practiced “catch and kill” to bury unflattering stories about Trump.

Despite Trump’s claims that he had nothing to do with Russia, we heard his sons brag that the family business gets all the financing it needs from Russians. We learned that Trump’s lawyer had continued to negotiate a deal for Trump Tower Moscow even after the 2016 election. We learned that much of Trump’s income comes from real estate sales to Russian oligarchs – likely as a means of laundering money. We’ve seen Trump’s campaign manager, his personal attorney, his national security advisor and others associated with his campaign arrested and convicted. And we learned of more than 100 contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russians.

We watched Trump settle a lawsuit that his Trump Foundation defrauded donors. We saw him settle claims that his Trump “university” defrauded students. We learned that he and his siblings engaged in tax fraud in order to avoid paying millions on their inheritance. And we learned that his name was mentioned in the Panama Papers – a leak of those involved in offshore tax havens – 3,540 times. (Not surprisingly, his good friend Vladimir Putin was also named.)

We have seen reports of millions in donations missing from the Trump Inaugural Committee. We have learned that the former owner of an illicit massage parlor in Florida is a regular at Mar-a-Lago and helped raise funds from Chinese nationals for Trump’s campaign – funds that weren’t reported and cannot be accounted for.

We have listened to thousands of lies told by Trump and his administration since he took office. (It has been documented that roughly 70 percent of the statements Trump makes are false!) We have seen him appoint the most corrupt and unqualified cabinet in history. We have watched him appoint dozens of unqualified and ideological judges to lifetime positions. We have watched the unraveling of environmental, financial and safety regulations. We have witnessed his racism and his apologies for violent white nationalists. We have watched as his administration ripped immigrant children from their parents and housed them in cages. We have seen his administration veto a UN resolution that would hold war criminals accountable and force a change in another UN resolution that will result in the denial of abortions to girls who have been raped as a military tactic. We have read his Tweets promoting violence against a black Muslim congresswoman. And we have seen Trump cozy up to some of the world’s worst dictators while, at the same time, turning a cold shoulder to our longest-standing and most loyal allies.

How many more crimes must Congress see before taking action? How many more despicable acts?

Does Trump really have to shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, as he once bragged he could, to be held accountable for his actions? Would not any other resident of the US be charged and convicted for just one of the many crimes committed by Trump?

A woman in Texas is serving a 5-year prison sentence for not realizing that she was ineligible to vote. Yet Barr and the DOJ have let Trump and other members of his campaign off the hook for supposedly not knowing that it was against the law to undermine our electoral process by accepting help from a hostile nation. What happened to the long-standing legal principle that ignorance of the law is no excuse?

Throughout our nation’s history, we have operated according to the principle that no one is above the law. So far, that has not applied to the Teflon Don and his crime family.

The Barr Effect.

Contrary to Attorney General William Barr’s 4-page “summary” of the Mueller Report or his misleading press conference, Trump and his campaign were not cleared of collusion. And he most certainly was not exonerated. In his report, Mueller simply said that there was not enough evidence to indict Trump and his campaign for conspiring with the Russians to interfere with the 2016 election – largely because the Mueller team could not interview the Russian hackers and Russian intelligence officials to confirm that they conspired with the campaign. In addition, the Mueller Report notes that many of the campaign’s communications had been encrypted and much of the evidence had been destroyed.

Nevertheless, the report does detail many examples of cooperation with the Russians who interfered with our democratic process. It also details numerous instances during which the Trump campaign accepted material and information stolen from its political opponents.

By any definition, that is collusion!

As for obstruction, the Mueller Report outlines at least 10 incidents in which Trump tried to obstruct the investigation, including numerous occasions when he ordered underlings to fire the Special Counsel. That means that Trump clearly committed obstruction of justice even though members of his administration refused to follow his orders. (An act of obstruction does not have to be successful in order for it to qualify as an indictable offense.) But, as a result of the DOJ’s unsupported ruling that a sitting president cannot be indicted, Mueller deferred the responsibility of determining guilt to Congress. In doing so, Mueller clearly stated that his investigation DID NOT exonerate the president. And the Mueller Report does not even consider Trump’s corrupt business practices, his tax evasion, his racism, his sexual improprieties, and his obvious violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.

Yet, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, the GOP and some of the media continue to repeat the falsehoods made by Barr in his memo and press conference that the investigation “cleared Trump of all charges.” In other words, for the time being, Barr’s cover-up has worked. He has succeeded in providing a false narrative in order to protect his boss.

None of this is surprising. After auditioning for the position of Trump’s Attorney General by writing an 18-page memo proclaiming the unlimited powers of the president, the skeptics among us saw this coming. Barr’s intentions should have also been clear to anyone with an understanding of history. After all, Barr had participated in presidential cover-ups before following the capture of the sitting president of a foreign nation and the pardons of all the criminals in the Reagan administration who participated in the Iran-Contra scandal.

Indeed, it should be abundantly clear to everyone that Barr is not the Attorney General for the United States. He has merely replaced Michael Cohen as Trump’s fixer and consigliore.

Clearly, Trump is operating outside the law. And both he and Barr are operating contrary to ethical and moral standards. As a result, I believe that both should be impeached. Our nation was built on the concepts of reason, justice and the rule of law. Though it’s likely true that doing so may further divide the nation. But it’s also true that not doing so could set precedents for future presidents and attorneys general which could allow them to commit even more heinous acts. Worse, it puts the entire foundation of our nation at risk!