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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.

Mass Murder And Mental Illness.

Despite the fact the US has already experienced 293 mass shootings this year as recorded by gunviolencearchive.org, the president and the GOP do not want to talk about the single biggest issue that contributes to gun violence: Easy access to guns. I’m not referring to shotguns, hunting rifles and six-shooters. I’m referring to weapons of war – AK-47s, AR-15s and 50-caliber sniper rifles – weapons that have no place in the hands of civilians.

Even after the most recent mass murders in El Paso, Dayton and Odessa-Midland, the president and the GOP seem unable to summon the courage to go against the NRA to pass legislation for universal background checks or to pass legislation that would, once again, ban assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. Instead, they seem ready to pass legislation focused on mental health.

It’s a ruse…another con from the conman-in-chief.

Certainly, there is a need for more mental health facilities, more in-patient treatment centers, and more counselors. Far too many of the mentally ill are now housed in prisons with no access to treatment. And when their behavior becomes extreme, they are moved to solitary confinement for the rest of their lives where most Americans can forget they ever exist.

But the truth is, focusing on mental illness will do little, if anything, to stem gun violence. That’s because the vast majority of those with mental illness are far more of a threat to themselves than to others.

The most likely to commit mass murders with guns are white nationalists and neo-Nazis – extremists, many of them Bible-thumping racists who want to turn back the clock on America to make it white again. People who can’t stand the inevitability of the US becoming majority non-white in the next few decades. People like those in Charlottesville who marched with torches shouting, “You will not replace us.” People who were resentful of the election of President Barack Obama and who have been inspired by Trump, the racist in the White House who, after seeing video of Charlottesville claimed “there were good people on both sides.”

The only thing that will curb gun violence in the US is to keep the most lethal weapons out of the hands of extremists by passing universal background checks, passing red flag laws, and passing laws banning the sale of weapons of war, including high-capacity magazines. But I would urge Congress to also pass funding to treat those who are mentally ill. Especially, the one who most obviously is suffering from mental illness and who controls the most lethal weapons of all: President Trump.

The 2nd Amendment: What Were The Framers Thinking?

To many gun owners, and especially to the NRA, the right to own guns is as sacred as the right of free speech. The Constitution, after all, includes the 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights immediately following freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assembly and the right to petition the government. There it is in black and white: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

However, that’s not the complete wording of the 2nd Amendment. Conveniently, the NRA ignores the first and, I believe, most important part: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…” Reading the amendment in its entirety changes the meaning of the amendment dramatically.

So what were our Founding Fathers really thinking when it comes to guns? According to historian, constitutional scholar and author Fergus Bordewich, they devoted little time or discussion to the issue. In an interview on Democratic Perspective, he says, “You would think that something that looms so large for present day Americans must have been something that loomed large for those who crafted the amendment. Not so. I read the debates. And I recommend to anyone who is getting annoyed by what I’m saying here to go read the debates. All the papers for the first congress are in print. It was kind of a collective shrug, frankly. There was no discussion whatsoever of this as a fundamental human right at all.”

This should come as no surprise to any thinking American. The Founders were creating a nation governed by the people. Their only real concerns regarding tyranny revolved around defending the nation from the British to the north and the Spanish to the south, and from giving too much power to a president who might try to become king.

According to Bordewich, “There was no mystery in the [2nd] amendment except that it’s badly written. It’s badly worded because we can still be sitting here 200 odd years later debating what they actually meant. And it’s perfectly clear, if you know the history and context, that they were talking about guns that would be handled by people who belonged to a militia.” That is supported by the fact that the amendment that immediately follows, the 3rd Amendment, prohibits soldiers from quartering in a house without permission of the owner – an issue that had risen out of the actions of the British army prior to and during the Revolutionary War. In other words, the Founders and most American citizens of the time were extremely wary of creating a standing army.

So what changed? How did we get to the point where nearly anyone can go into a gun shop and walk out a few minutes later with a powerful weapon of war? What led us to accepting hundreds of mass shootings and tens of thousands of non-suicidal gun deaths each year as the price of freedom?

Bordewich responds, “You get there by having a powerful, ruthless lobbying organization that’s backed by the arms industry that wants to sell a lot of guns and has convinced people that they are somehow threatened by reasonable legislation to control guns.”

Indeed, many Americans now seem more willing to put limits on the other rights enumerated in the Constitution than they are on guns. If that ever happens, we will have lost our democracy.