Our Broken Criminal Justice System.

Trump’s acquittal for inciting an insurrection and his pardons of some of the most treacherous criminals in our nation’s history only serve to call more attention to the inequalities of our justice system. The contrast is particularly stark in comparison to the treatment of people of color over the past year.

The truth is, the US incarcerates more people than any other nation on Earth (2.1 million as of 2018) and a higher percentage of its citizens than any other nation (639 per 100,000). Moreover, our prison populations are disproportionately people of color. And people of color are disproportionately subjected to police violence.

Why?

As with most things, the answer is: It’s complicated. Certainly, the color of one’s skin does not make one more prone to commit crimes. It does not make one more violent. Similarly, not all white people and white cops are racist. But the answer is rooted in our history of slavery, Jim Crow, and our continuing systemic racism.

For example, numerous studies have found that students of color are disproportionately affected by suspensions and punishments in schools. And the inequity begins early. Though black students represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment, they represent 42 percent of students who are suspended once and 48 percent of those suspended more than once.

The impact of such bias is long-lasting. Suspended students are less likely to graduate on time. They are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, or become involved in the juvenile justice system. And, once in the system, it is difficult for them to escape. A 2018 study published in the Boston University Law Review found a profound racial disparity in the misdemeanor arrest rate” for drug possession, theft and simple assault. In addition, they are disproportionately subjected to police violence. This disparity was borne out by the Department of Justice investigation into the City of Ferguson, Missouri following the slaying of Michael Brown, an unarmed young black man.

That report revealed a pattern of unlawful conduct within the Ferguson Police Department that violated the 1st, 4th, and 14th Amendments. In short, the investigation found that the city’s administration, its police force, and its municipal court system viewed its largely black population less as residents than as sources of revenue. Residents were arrested for minor crimes and given fines they could not afford to pay. When they failed to pay the fines, the amounts were increased. Ultimately, they were jailed until they could come up with the money to obtain their release.

And Ferguson is not unique. You can find the same pattern in the poorest neighborhoods of almost every US city.

Further, as abundantly demonstrated by the George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, John Crawford III, Tamir Rice, and untold others killed by police, there is significant racism within the police ranks. Young black males are killed by police at a rate 5 times greater than whites. And more than double the rate of Latinos.

Even if the police are not intentionally racist, many have preconceived, subconscious biases. Many assume people of color are guilty of something. They see expressions of free speech as unlawful disobedience. They see innocent movements as threats. And they too often resort to excessive force. Yet, although the number of documented cases of police abuse has grown as a result of the availability of cellphone video, the overwhelming majority of cases still go unreported for fear of retaliation.

There are many contributing factors for the problems: Police leadership – both at the top and within the ranks, flawed hiring practices, and inadequate or over aggressive training. Police are too often expected to deal with situations, such as mental health crises, for which they are unqualified and unprepared. And they are often the victims for poor communication from dispatchers. Police are also victims of our nation’s runaway gun culture. Any American can obtain a gun. And many have more firepower than the responding officers.

Other factors are the militarization of our police forces through the purchase of surplus military equipment. To keep these items, they must prove that they use it. That tends to escalate the violence. And we can’t overlook the police federations that make it difficult for Police Chiefs to enforce meaningful disciplinary actions against abusive officers.

Our court system is equally at fault.

The United Nations Sentencing Project found that US operates two distinct criminal justice systems: One for the wealthy. Another for the poor.

While people like Trump and his friends can afford high-powered attorneys to avoid or delay justice through complicated and expensive motions, the poor, especially people of color are treated very differently. Since the courts and public defenders are overwhelmed with caseloads, prosecutors are often able to intimidate defendants into accepting plea bargains. If they plead to a felony, they are often placed into a prison system focused on revenge rather than rehabilitation and education. Once they’re released, they’re still viewed as dangerous. In many states, they can’t vote. And they find it difficult to get jobs. All too often, that leads them to commit other crimes.

If their crimes involve mental illness, they may be even worse off. The US has all but eliminated mental health facilities. So, the mentally ill are relegated to jail cells. When they act up or become violent, they are placed in solitary confinement, which, in essence, becomes a life sentence.

We can’t make America great again. Because it never was. And it won’t be until we eliminate systemic racism and redesign the criminal justice system from top to bottom.

Our Greatest Strengths May Also Be Our Greatest Weaknesses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are Racism And White Nationalism The Inevitable Result of Military Training?

With each military conflict, our soldiers become more lethal. In WWII, it was estimated that only 15-20 percent of our soldiers fired their weapons in combat. After changing our training methods, it was estimated that the percentage had grown to 55 percent in Korea and 90-95 percent in Vietnam.

Those numbers have likely continued to increase in recent conflicts against people of color and other faiths.

The increases are almost certainly the result of dehumanizing the enemy to make it easier for our soldiers to fire to kill in combat. That makes our military more lethal and efficient than at any time in our history. But it may have a troubling side effect.

In her book, Bring The War Home, Kathleen Belew describes how the environment inside our military has led to a number of veterans joining the White Power movement and applying their military training to make it increasingly violent. And it appears that racism within the military is growing. Indeed, a Military Times study conducted in 2019 found “36 percent of all active-duty service members have personally seen examples of white supremacy and racism within the military.”

The consequences may be as benign as military veterans rejecting dating partners with olive skin and dark hair in favor of blondes. But, too often, racism within the ranks results in deadly consequences for our society. As some members of our military retire, they seek outlets for their racist views. They end up in White Nationalist militias and other militaristic groups, such as the Oathkeepers. Others, seeking to recapture the adrenalin rush from military conflicts join more militant groups such as the Proud Boys, and the Boogaloo Bois.

During the Trump administration, far too many of these veterans contributed to the division and violence on our streets. In blatant attempts to bully political opponents, they showed up at demonstrations in military regalia with combat-style weapons. Some engaged in street fights. And, in clear conflict with their oath to protect the Constitution, others used guerilla military tactics to burn properties and create disorder to inspire a civil war or to blame Black Lives Matter or Antifa.

Worse yet, as police departments across the nation have prioritized the hiring of military veterans, too many racist and violent people have ended up with badges. Perhaps that explains why Police Federations have labeled Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization despite the fact that BLM’s marches and demonstrations have remained almost entirely non-violent. Indeed, most of the violence surrounding their events has been committed by others or instigated by the police themselves.

What can be done to stem racism in the military and to prevent it from having a residual impact on our society?

First, we must demand that our military branches do a better job of rooting out racists. Second, we must create better mental health programs for those combat veterans who are leaving the service. Third, our governments should make it a priority to break up heavily armed militias and hate groups, to confiscate the weapons of those who have instituted or threatened violence, and make it difficult for them to obtain new weapons. Fourth, we must demand that law enforcement do a better job of screening job applicants for racist and violent tendencies.

Only then can we hope to have real peace in our streets.

Now Available On Amazon:

Ironically, in the age of information, our nation has been compromised by lies and disinformation as never before.

Decades of consolidation, short-term thinking, corporate greed, extreme political ideologies, and poor leadership have left our nation’s economy, healthcare system and its citizens unnecessarily vulnerable.

Many of the decisions that led us to this point were made in good faith. Some were dictated by difficult situations. But others were made willfully and knowingly, their true purpose and their all-too predictable results hidden in a fog of falsehoods and lies. This book attempts to cut through the misinformation to examine the problems, explain how they happened and reveal the truth.

What The US Could Be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Time For Christians To Get Their House In Order.

For years, Christians have demanded that all Muslims speak out against Muslim extremists. When will they take their own advice? Domestic terrorists – most of them Christians – have murdered far more Americans than Muslims. They have used their faith to justify vandalizing synagogues and mosques; to excuse the gunning down of Muslims, Jews, members of the LGBTQ community, abortion providers, immigrants, and people of color. Yet Christian leaders have remained relatively silent about those who have committed these tragedies.

Likewise, few Christian leaders have spoken out against Christian White Supremacists. Christian churches have remained relatively silent on the sexual abuse of children by priests and pastors. They have not spoken out against Christian pastors who abuse their privilege, abandon their principles, and preach division and hatred from the pulpit. They have stood silent as con artists under the cloak of Christianity contort passages of the Bible to condemn abortion and homosexuality. They have watched in silence as pastors and televangelists fleece the faithful in order to buy private jets and mansions. They have refused to speak up against those who preach prosperity gospel while ignoring the poor and the hungry, even condoning their punishment. They have stood silent as some Christian pastors and churches funnel money into Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory as a way of displacing an entire population.

For the most part, Christian evangelicals have only raised their voices to convert others, to demand that the US be declared a Christian nation, to condemn those who do not believe as they do.

What will it take for the churches to reassert the teachings of the one they worship? What will it take for them to speak up in unison to condemn all violence, most especially that of those who commit it in the name of Christianity? What will it take for them to aggressively root out predatory pastors and priests? What will it take for them to call out corruption within their ranks?

What will it take for them to follow the advice they give to the leaders of other religions?

Destruction Of The US. (Part Eleven – Guns)

Few things have impacted life in the US more than the increased availability and lethality of guns. Since the 1960s, Americans’ gun ownership has evolved from a variety of bolt-action, pump-action and lever-action hunting weapons to semi-automatic assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns.

Where once only police and those who could prove a need could legally carry a handgun, we now must assume that everyone on the street or in public places is armed. Moreover, given that there are, on average, roughly 15,000 non-suicidal gun deaths and 350 mass shootings each year, many Americans now live in near constant fear that they could soon be included in those statistics. Indeed, if you include gun suicides, deaths by gunfire are as common as traffic deaths.

Given the pervasiveness of guns, Americans must now worry that they could become victims at the hands of a former spouse or lover, an unhappy coworker, a disenchanted student, an angry driver, a drive-by shooter, a white nationalist or a random mass shooter.

Such circumstances are now more worrisome and more deadly than encounters with criminals.

Given this, one must ask why. Why are so many Americans so heavily armed? Why do many Americans feel the need to stockpile military-style weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition? And given the fact that gun owners are more likely to injure themselves or to die from their own guns than from the guns of others, why do so many feel the need to carry them?

I believe those questions can be answered with three letters: NRA.

Since the 1970s, and especially the 1980s, the NRA has pressed state legislatures to eliminate gun laws at the behest of gun manufacturers. Most states now have conceal and carry laws. Many even have open carry laws. And the NRA is pushing to standardize laws across the nation. It has encouraged, even threatened, congressmen and senators to vote against universal background checks, government studies of gun violence, assault weapons bans and bans of bumpstocks. The NRA has accomplished this by misrepresenting the 2nd Amendment and by creating distrust in our own elected government. “Guns are the antidote to tyranny.” “You will have to pry my gun out of my cold, dead hands.” And, as we’ve recently discovered, it has been helped by millions in donations by Russian oligarchs.

Even after we’ve witnessed the slaughter of school children, the NRA has refused to admit that guns are the problem. Instead, it proposes that guns are the answer: “The only answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

It must be acknowledged how unusual this is compared to most of the world. The US has nearly 4 times as many guns per 100 citizens as any other nation in the world. And it has 6 times more gun violence than Canada, 12 times more gun violence than Germany and Australia, and 53 times more gun violence than the UK.

Those statistics are not coincidental. More guns means more gun violence. Until Congress recognizes that fact, we will continue to see gun violence in our neighborhoods and in our business districts. We will continue to see mass murders in nightclubs, in churches, in synagogues, in mosques, and at concerts. And we will continue to mass murders of our children.

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.