Fox News Has Gone Full Goebbels.

During a recent Laura Ingraham show in which she questioned Mike Pompeo about his interview with the Jan 6 committee, a headline appeared at the bottom of the screen reading “Dems prop up phony democracies abroad, shred ours.” In other words, the radical conservatives are angry that we are supporting Ukraine and investigating the January 6th insurrection.

And the Ingraham show is not even the worst thing on Fox. Tucker Carlson, the multi-millionaire heir to the Swanson Foods fortune, takes partisanship to a new level in his show by blatantly promoting autocrats and white supremacists, by excusing Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and by fawning over our deposed president and crime boss, Donald J. Trump.

Despite Fox calling its content “news”, it has long been little more than a propaganda network for Republicans and Libertarians. Its schedule is packed full of hate, fearmongering, and falsehoods. So much so that it is increasingly difficult to distinguish it from the pre-World War II work of Joseph Goebbels. (Goebbels, of course, was famously known as the chief propagandist who helped Adolf Hitler rise to power.) In fact, it could seriously be argued that many of the Fox hosts, Newsmax, and other MAGA propagandists are more extreme.

This pattern of radical anti-Democratic (and anti-democratic) rhetoric has been going on since the end of the Fairness Doctrine in the late eighties. A number of TV, radio and podcast hosts (Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, Mark Levin, et al) are deeply involved in Trump’s seditious conspiracy. And their rhetoric is getting worse.

It is abundantly clear that such propaganda is the primary reason for our nation’s divisions. As Trump and his MAGA followers have labeled the legitimate press as “enemies of the people” for reporting the truth, Fox and the other propaganda outlets have promised to tell you the real story. And what a story it is – full of partisan distortions and lies which blame immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and people of color for many of our nation’s problems.

They portray immigrants as criminals and “illegals.” They raise fears that same-sex marriage will somehow undermine the marriages of heterosexuals. They portray people of color as “lazy thugs” who have destroyed the rule of law in our cities. Like Trump, they describe our nation as a democracy in decay with carnage in our streets.

Yet, in truth, it is the Trump supporters – the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, white supremacists, and violent militias – who have taken to the streets with guns and body armor. It is these MAGAts who tried to bully governors, legislators, and judges from instituting policies to mitigate the pandemic. It is the MAGATs who invaded our Capitol to threaten Congress with the apparent intent to murder individuals and overthrow an election. And it is their NRA’s greed that has made Americans feel unsafe in theaters, in shopping centers, in churches, at concerts, even at schools.

There are other striking similarities between the Republican MAGAts and Nazis. They both intended to seize power based on bullying and armed insurrection. And they both aimed their hatred at minorities.

And even though the insurrection of January 6th was stopped, the Republican Party’s attempts to destroy our democracy continue. The propagandists are unbowed, and their falsehoods are unabated. Moreover, recognizing that knowledge is a threat and a counter to propaganda, the GOP continues its attacks on education and the educated. For decades, the GOP has dismissed and ridiculed expertise. It has dismissed economists who proclaimed trickle-down economics an abject failure. It has ignored the negative impact of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. And it has ridiculed the vast majority of the world’s scientists who warned about the devastating impacts of climate change.

Republicans have undermined public schools by slashing their budgets and channeling tax dollars into private schools through vouchers. They have threatened teachers for schooling their students in our nation’s history of slavery and the genocide of natives. They have sought to marginalize LGBTQ students. And their push for private schools allows conservatives to prioritize Christianity in classrooms over science.

Republicans have also exposed the flaws of mainstream television networks. By trying to appear nonpartisan, the networks too often offer airtime to Republicans intent on spreading falsehoods and hatred. Moreover, by presenting news in soundbites without context, the networks offer a distorted and incomplete version of the truth which makes it more difficult to counter the Republican narrative.

Of course, social media plays a part in the conservatives’ attack on democracy by creating information (more accurately, disinformation) silos where many people go for their news. It is in those silos, hidden from the public eye, where extremists, seditionists, and insurrectionists can go to reinforce their twisted ideas and plot their attacks on civil society. And despite the claims of those who profit from social media, little has been done to enforce decorum on their sites and to block disinformation.

Unfortunately, there is little government can do to counter all of this. Certainly, it can prosecute crimes as they happen. And we can vote out those who would destroy public education. But given our constitutional rights to free speech and a free press, we can’t stop the propaganda. We can only make a real effort to inform ourselves and seek the truth. Let’s hope that’s enough.

Blame It On Biden?

If you were to listen to Republicans, their propaganda networks and the corporate media, you would almost certainly believe that President Biden’s administration has been a disaster for America – worse even than that of his treasonous predecessor who used the White House as his own personal ATM and tried to violently overthrow the will of the people. But let’s take a closer look at the nation’s many problems and their actual causes. For example:

Afghanistan – Biden was blamed for our ugly exit from Afghanistan. He was accused of abandoning Afghanistan’s women and allies who worked with U.S. troops during that 20-year war. But examine the events leading up to our withdrawal, and you’ll discover that the terms and timing of our departure were negotiated by the Trump administration. So, when Biden took office, he was faced with an impossible choice – either pull our troops out of Afghanistan by the negotiated deadline. Or risk escalating the war and possibly cause it to continue for decades more.

Pandemic – Biden inherited a raging pandemic that had killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and savaged our economy. True, three vaccines were created during the previous administration. But many of Trump’s supporters steadfastly refused to take them. And by angrily refusing to wear masks, they helped spread the virus. Nevertheless, by relying on science and increasing the availability of vaccines, Biden’s administration has been able to mitigate the pandemic and to quickly restart the economy causing unemployment to drop to near historic lows.

Inflation – Biden’s stimulus plans have been blamed for overheating the economy and leading to the highest inflation in 40 years. But, when you realize that corporate profits have simultaneously reached 50-year highs, another picture emerges. The primary cause of inflation is corporate profiteering, plain and simple. Other factors include disrupted supply chains, overwhelmed seaports, understaffed trucking companies, exhausted front-line workers, and pent-up consumer demand – all the result of the Biden-inherited pandemic. It’s a basic tenet of economics that reduced supply plus increased demand equals higher prices. The administration has few tools to address that reality. It must rely on the independent Federal Reserve, and its only tool to address inflation is to increase interest rates.

Fuel Prices – Perhaps the greatest driver of inflation is soaring fuel prices. Certainly, that must be Biden’s fault. Right? Wrong! Fuel is subject to the same economic principle that affects all pricing. During the pandemic as most people worked from home, oil producers and refiners cut supply in order to reduce costs. When the country reopened, suppliers say they were unprepared for the sudden increased demand. At the same time, Russia invaded Ukraine leading to sanctions on one of the world’s largest oil producers. The administration has reacted in the only ways it can – by releasing some of our nation’s oil reserves, calling on Saudi Arabia to increase production, and trying to shame the opportunistic oil companies into lowering prices.

Moreover, given the fact that the five largest oil companies are enjoying record profits, there are legitimate questions that they may be inflating prices in retaliation against Democrats who want to force them to pay their fair share of taxes.

Federal deficit – Having refused to admit that Covid-19 was a serious threat to the U.S. lest it interrupt Trump’s “beautiful” economy, the previous administration borrowed trillions to avoid an economic collapse. Unfortunately, government revenue had also been dramatically reduced by the Trump tax cuts. That led to massive deficits. Yet the Biden administration was not only able to restart the economy. Since taking office, it has cut the deficit by $1.5 trillion.

Immigration – Republicans would have you believe that Biden has pursued an open border policy. If that’s so, how do you explain the 1.6 million immigrants waiting on the other side of our border? While it is true that Biden wants to end Title 42, he has committed to maintaining border security. He simply wants to make our border policy more humane by making it easier for immigrants to apply for refugee status if their lives would be endangered by returning to their country of origin. And, given that most of our businesses are understaffed, an increase in immigration could only help our economy.

Baby Formula – Of course, Republicans jumped on the opportunity to blame Biden for the baby formula shortage. What they fail to acknowledge is the impact of the industry’s consolidation to just four suppliers. When the FDA forced the largest of those to close a plant after dangerous bacteria were found in its products, grocery shelves emptied. Transportation issues caused by the pandemic only added to the problem as they caused delays in importing formula from other countries. To overcome those delays, Biden did the one thing he could. He turned to the military to transport formula from Europe.

Child Tax Credit – Many parents are frustrated by the end of a program that lifted millions of children out of poverty. Yes, that did happen on Biden’s watch. But it was largely due to GOP obstruction.

War in Ukraine – Russia’s latest invasion of Ukrainian territory also happened on Biden’s watch. But, in reality, it is a continuation of Russia’s 2014 capture of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. There has been fighting along the border of the two nations ever since. Unlike the previous administration that withheld nearly $400 million of congressionally approved military aid in order to gain damaging information on his likely political opponent, Biden has led an international coalition to provide military aid and sanction Russia’s plutocrats.

Surprisingly, it’s not just Republicans who are unfairly heaping blame on the Biden administration. Many Democrats and independents are frustrated that Biden hasn’t yet dealt with their long wish list of wants and demands. Why hasn’t he instituted stricter gun safety measures? Climate change is worsening. Why hasn’t he done more to address that? Why can’t he lower the cost of pharmaceuticals? Why can’t he do more to protect abortion after the conservative majority in the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade? What is he doing to protect voting rights? Why hasn’t he forgiven all student loans? Why hasn’t he expanded the number of justices on the Supreme Court.

The answer to most of those questions and more is the recalcitrance of fifty Republican Senators, two Democratic Senators and the filibuster.

Biden certainly isn’t perfect. But his administration has been faced with an almost unimaginable number of challenges. And, unlike his twice-impeached predecessor, he didn’t encourage one of our nation’s greatest rivals to help him get elected. He didn’t receive campaign funds from foreign powers. He hasn’t stuffed his pockets with taxpayer money. He hasn’t bullied allies while playing footsie with dictators and enemies of our nation. He hasn’t ordered children to be ripped from their mothers’ arms. He hasn’t tried to extort favors from a foreign leader. He isn’t a pathological liar. And he hasn’t defiled Congress and our Constitution.

An Open Letter To The Once Supreme Court Of The United States

I know that I speak for many Americans when I say that I no longer respect the court that I once believed supreme in regard to the wisdom of its legal rulings and interpretation of the Constitution.

In recent years, the conservative majority has ruled that money equals free speech, that corporations have the rights of people (giving executives and boards of directors both individual and corporate rights), that free speech does not include the right to boycott, that the separation of church and state does not extend to taxpayer funding of religious schools and, as the leaked document indicates, that a woman no longer has the right to privacy concerning her medical treatment and conversations with a physician.

The court’s most recent ruling seems to be based on an originalist reading of the 2nd Amendment, noting that its wording gives citizens the right to “keep and bear arms.” But what about the rest of the Amendment’s wording: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State”?

If the majority so strongly believes in the Framers’ original intent, why not rule that all males of a certain age must provide their own arms and order them to muster at designated times for training as my colonial ancestors were required to do?

I can only assume that it is because that reading does not fit the political ideology of the conservative majority.

Therein lies the problem. Many of us can no longer hold the court supreme because it has become utterly and hopelessly political. Unlike every other court in the land, this once supreme court has no code of ethics. A number of the justices have taken speaking engagements with highly partisan groups. Some have refused to recuse themselves from decisions in which they have a conflict of interest. And the wife of one justice has deeply engaged in a seditious attempt to overturn the results of an election.

In virtually every nation that has become a failed democracy, it has done so with the complicity of its judicial system. I now fear, with this court’s aid, that will be the future of the United States.

America Can No Longer Be Called Home Of The Brave.

Ask most Americans to quote the 2nd Amendment and they’ll recite some version of “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged.” But that is only half of the Amendment. The full Amendment states: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged.”

Reading it in its entirety completely changes the meaning of the Amendment.

Yes, it gives you the right to own and bear arms. But only as a member of a well-regulated militia. You see, when the 2nd Amendment was adopted in 1791, the United States had disbanded the Continental Army and relied entirely on state militias for national defense. That’s because the framers of the Constitution were wary of a standing army, fearing that it could be turned against the people. As a result, their intent was for each state to maintain a militia to defend against all threats both foreign and domestic. The idea of such volunteer militias originated with the nation’s very first European settlers. For instance, in Jamestown under the guidance of Capt. John Smith and in Plymouth Colony under Myles Standish, every man was responsible to own arms and to regularly train as part of the militia.

That is the definition of “well-regulated militia.”

In no way did the framers of 2nd Amendment intend for Americans to own weapons of war in order to shoot each other. They certainly didn’t intend for domestic terrorists to stockpile weapons in order to attack political opponents and legally elected officials. And they would be horrified to know that a corrupt interpretation of the Amendment is responsible for more mass shootings annually than there are days in the year!

According to Gun Violence Archive, nearly 20,000 Americans are killed each year by homicide or accidental shootings. Nearly 40,000 more suffer wounds – many of them horrific and debilitating. And nearly 25,000 Americans use guns to commit suicide.

No other nation has anywhere near this level of gun violence. But, then no other nation has so many guns. In fact, there are now more guns in the hands of American civilians than there are people! That total includes more than 638,000 legally owned machine guns, nearly 20 million AR-15-style assault rifles, an almost incalculable number of handguns, and a growing number of untraceable ghost guns (many with so-called Glock switches that can easily convert a semiautomatic handgun into a fully automatic machine gun). The weaponry available to civilians even includes .50 caliber sniper rifles that can blast a hole through a cast iron engine block. Is it any wonder then that our police have become so militarized? In far too many crimes, they are outgunned.

Given all this, one has to ask: Why? What has gone so terribly wrong? What are Americans so afraid of? What happened to the home of the brave?

Perhaps those best suited to answer that question are the leaders of the GOP and the NRA. After all, they are the ones who have spent the last 40-plus years promoting fear in order to get elected and to sell more guns. They have worked overtime to eliminate any restrictions to carrying guns. Through their sleazy ads and propaganda networks, they have convinced many Americans to fear criminals, to fear people of color, to fear immigrants, to fear the LGBTQ community, to fear the UN, to fear their own elected government, and, most of all, to fear Democrats and those who would impose common sense gun restrictions.

Yet, for all the violence driven by fear, there are many other factors to consider. Not the least of which is the Cowboy mythology of the white-hatted hero winning a shootout with a villain. This is the myth that led to the NRA’s self-serving statement that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Therefore, their argument goes, guns are necessary for self-defense.

However, anyone with a comprehensive understanding of self-defense can tell you that guns are seldom used for defense. They are offensive weapons. Consider this: What use is a gun when a bad guy already has one aimed at you? As for most active shooter events, if numerous people on the scene are holding guns, in the chaos of the moment how are the police supposed to tell which gun owner is the real threat?

While some would have you believe that our gun violence is caused by mental illness and the separation of church and state, those are mere distractions. Certainly, mental illness plays a role. But if the gun proponents believe that is the primary cause of gun violence, why have Republicans methodically cut funds from mental health services? (Before the Uvalde school shooting, Texas Governor Abbott cut $211 million from the state budget intended to provide greater access to mental health services.)

Bullying, poverty, broken homes, social media, and disinformation have also contributed to our problem. But the real issue – the elephant herd in the room – is the ever-increasing availability and lethality of guns!

America First? Hardly! More Like Me First.

Trump followers would have you believe that their movement is determined to Make America Great Again. To rewind the clock and return America to the mythical, utopian state of their ancestors. A state in which everyone looked like them, worshiped like them, and thought like them. A state that welcomed immigrants to the Great Melting Pot but only if they were white and their origins were in Europe. A state in which Americans were free to say and do whatever they wanted without regard to the feelings of others.

But it should be obvious that the movement is less about what the nation’s Framers envisioned and more about selfishness, authoritarianism, celebrity, racism, and fraudulent religious beliefs.

As evidenced by those who attacked our Capitol on January 6, 2021, at the heart of the movement are bullies and aspiring bullies of the Millennial and Gen X generations. These are people who spent their formative years surrounded by the material excesses of capitalism and being told that they were special. Many never learned to genuinely compete for anything. Instead, they were given participation trophies for just showing up.

They are the first generations to grow up playing computer games, surfing the Internet, and posting as trolls on social media. Indeed, that’s where they get most, if not all, of their information. Rather than trust journalists, scientists, experts, and government officials, they place their trust in YouTube videos, Instagram, anonymous Facebook groups, Internet influencers, and rightwing media hosts – evidence and facts be damned.

They grew up watching “reality” TV where they learned admire power, cunning, and vanity. As a consequence, they are inordinately impressed by wealth and celebrity, expecting that one day they, too, will live the lifestyle of the rich and famous. They populate mega-churches where they worship the almighty dollar being told that, if they only pray enough, all of their dreams will be fulfilled.

Unfortunately, for many, their expectations tend to be far greater than their work ethic.

Having failed to achieve their grandiose goals, they have immersed themselves in a sea of grievances directed at those they believe have denied them their due. They are certain their lives would be better if not for immigrants and people of color cutting in front of them to claim the degrees, jobs, positions, and stature they have long considered their birthright.

Asked to participate in three ill-conceived and unwinnable wars, some volunteered and came home even more damaged than before – angry, belligerent, and racist. So, when a narcissistic, lying “reality” TV star and conman came along telling them that he would Make America Great Again by ridding the nation of immigrants and returning their birthright, they happily embraced him. Not just as a celebrity and politician, but as a god – a reincarnation of Jesus himself.

And it’s not only the quest for material things that drives these MAGAts. They are utterly obsessed with personal freedom.

They spend thousands on weaponry, ammunition, and body armor to prepare for the coming “storm” as foretold by the mysterious and fictitious Q. They walk around with a Bible in one hand and a copy of the Constitution in the other having read neither. They falsely believe that the Constitution guarantees them the right to do as they please without regard for the rights or the safety of others. They are contemptuous of education, science, and expertise. They support law enforcement as a means of controlling others. But when police try to hold them accountable for their own lawlessness, they consider it an unconstitutional intrusion by big government and the “Deep State.”

Many hate Boomers, the generation of their parents, who they feel reaped the rewards of the American Dream while leaving them to struggle on their own. And they have a particular dislike of their political enemies as evidenced by their chants of “lock them up” and their threats to exercise their Second Amendment rights. On social media, they circulate falsehoods and preposterous stories that portray their “oppressors” – Democrats and “the libs” – as the embodiment of evil. They convince themselves that their opponents are cannibals and child sex traffickers who drink the blood of their innocent victims, that the 2020 election was stolen, and their hero is still the legitimate president of the United States.

Given their autocratic and anti-American beliefs, there can be no giving in to their view of America. There can be no compromise. We cannot permit these people to destroy our democracy and everything our ancestors fought and died for. Indeed, in the coming months, we may be forced to fight for democracy again. When Trump and his crime family are inevitably found guilty of their many felonious and treasonous acts, their supporters may once again turn violent as they did on January 6, 2021. We must be prepared for that likelihood.

But overcoming their violence will not alone end the threat. The only way for that to happen is for those of us who believe in democracy to vote. To soundly, and repeatedly, defeat Trump and his entire slate of Republican fascists at the ballot box.

When It Comes To Illegal Immigration, We Reap What We Sow.

The USA is one of the largest importers of illicit drugs on the planet. It is also the world’s largest exporter of guns, accounting for more than 41 percent of international small arms trade in 2020. While those two things may seem unrelated, they are the primary factors leading to the flood of refugees and immigrants trying to cross our southern border.

“How so?” you may ask.

Most of those behind the illicit drug trade are members of criminal cartels in Mexico, Central America, and South America. As the drug trade has grown and become increasingly profitable, the cartels have become increasingly violent. They are not only at war with each other. They are at war with law enforcement and the military. And the citizens of those countries are caught in the middle, often being forcibly enlisted into a cartel to avoid being raped and/or murdered.

Such wars require weapons. Lots of weapons.

To obtain them, the cartels recruit gun traffickers from the US where military-style guns – everything from semi-automatic handguns to 50 caliber sniper rifles – are readily available. Thousands of them are hauled across the border into Mexico every year. And, since the Border Patrol is primarily focused on what’s coming across the border into the United States, there is little chance the traffickers will be caught.

The result is a vicious cycle. The more drugs we use, the more guns the cartels need to expand their business. And more guns equal more violence. Add in the effects of climate change resulting in severe droughts and starvation within some of those countries, and you have a perfect storm leading to a tidal wave of refugees. Of course, some say none of that should matter. The citizens of those countries should either rise up against the cartels or, if they really want to enter the US, they should get in line and apply for legal entry. But that line is extraordinarily long. It can easily take up to 25 years to legally gain entry.

Many of the applicants would almost certainly be dead by the time they received a visa.

So, ask yourself: What would you do if you were an innocent family faced with such circumstances? Would you stay and face almost certain death? Or would you try to protect your family by trying to flee to safety?

Of course, it is possible to reduce illegal immigration as so many Americans wish. But that won’t happen as a result of border control. No wall can stop it. Real change requires two things: Gun control to reduce the cartels’ access to weapons of war. And programs to decriminalize and reduce the demand for illicit drugs.

In other words, don’t hold your breath.

America At War With Itself.

Some say that if our nation fails, it won’t be the result of a foreign attack. It will, instead, be the result of our own undoing. No, I’m not necessarily referring to the threat Donald J. Trump and his supporters pose to our democracy. Certainly, they are a very real threat. But a far greater threat is the aftereffects of the NRA having loosened our nation’s gun laws, which have resulted in an increasing number of Americans killing each other and themselves.

According to GunViolenceArchive.com, there were 44,868 US gun deaths in 2021 – 1,225 more than in 2020 and 5,306 more than in 2019. In fact, according to Snopes.com, there have more gun deaths in the US since 1968 than there have been in all of America’s wars combined!

And it’s likely to get worse.

In 2018, Small Arms Survey reported that US residents owned more than 393 million guns – 120.5 firearms for every 100 Americans. And rightwing anarchists (aka the GOP) have been stockpiling weapons and ammunition at an ever more alarming rate in anticipation of going to war with our own government. Their purchases rose sharply following the election of America’s first black president. And they have ramped up again following the electoral defeat of Trump.

As if to place an exclamation point on those facts, several months ago, I began receiving unwelcome emails from a company selling kits with all the parts needed to assemble ghost guns (guns without any identifiable serial numbers). To make matters worse, many of the parts are made from polymers that can’t be picked up by metal detectors. The Ohio company’s sales pitch is “build and carry,” another way of saying you won’t need a permit or background check to carry our guns. And since many of these gun kits are being purchased anonymously using cryptocurrency, they are virtually untraceable, giving a whole new meaning to the words “conceal and carry.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that nearly 24,000 ghost guns were recovered from crime scenes between 2016 and 2020.

Perhaps even more worrisome is the fact that ghost guns have been embraced by the far-right antigovernment crowd, which has been stocking up on them in its preparations for the coming “storm” – a euphemism for civil war. But if the war comes, it almost certainly won’t be in the form of an all-out attack against government troops. Having learned from asymmetrical warfare in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the failed January 6 insurrection and previous federal takedowns of domestic terrorist groups, the seditious “militias” such as the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and Boogaloo Bois are more likely to use a series of so-called lone wolf attacks to accomplish their goals. That will make it far more difficult to prosecute their organizations. And their use of encrypted communications and ghost guns will make it more challenging for law enforcement to track down the perpetrators.

Combine such easy access to untraceable guns with the NRA’s constant attacks on gun restrictions in cities and states and the threat of gun violence grows exponentially. Indeed, as I write this, there’s a case before the US Supreme Court that could overturn Washington, DC’s ban on carrying guns outside the home within our nation’s capital. To emphasize the growing threat, Everytown for Gun Safety recently released the results of a new study on gun deaths. The study found that California, Hawaii, New York and Massachusetts – the states with the strictest gun laws and some of the most densely populated cities – have the lowest rate of gun deaths. By contrast, the states with the most permissive gun laws – Louisiana, Missouri, Wyoming and Mississippi – have the highest rate of gun deaths.

More guns equal more gun deaths? Who would have thought? (Sarcasm very much intended.)

Of course, all of this should come as welcome news to America’s foreign enemies. Indeed, they might be encouraged to reduce their military budgets and hold off on any terrorist plans in the works. After all, why bother to attack our government when it’s already under attack from within? Why waste resources on planning to kill Americans when they can just sit back and watch us kill each other?

Stop Calling Senator Joe Manchin A Centrist!

For more than 40 years, the Republican Party has moved further and further to the right until 2020 when it dived right off the political spectrum into a delusional abyss. What once was a political party that believed in free markets and fiscal restraint has, over time, become anti-government, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion, white nationalist, pro-gun, pro-violence, and pro-fascist. And, since 2016, it has become a cult of Trump – the willing accomplices of a conman and crime boss.

By contrast, since the 1950’s, the Democratic Party has experienced relatively little change. It has long believed in the power of government to do good. To help people by providing safety nets, retirement funds, healthcare access, and social justice. Unlike the GQP, it believes in protecting working people from predatory corporations and the wealthy. It promotes worker safety, living wages, freedom, human rights, and democracy. And it holds fast to the principles of the Constitution. (The real Constitution. Not some 18th Century interpretation conflating the Constitution with the Articles of Confederation.)

As you can see, there really is no middle ground.

With such a gaping canyon between the two parties, what is there to negotiate? What is the compromise between fascism and democracy? Between discrimination and compassion? Between dying and living?

How then can anyone, like Manchin, claim to be a centrist? Clearly, what Manchin has become is a self-serving obstructionist. A pawn the GQP can use to stop any form of progress. By refusing to consider ending, or even modifying, the filibuster, Manchin and his sidekick, Kyrsten Sinema, stand in opposition to voting rights, racial justice, gender equality, a thriving economy, a healthy environment, and a healthy climate.

If you want a term that more accurately describes Manchin, I’d recommend “opportunist” because he’s relishing his newfound attention and power. Or, if you’d prefer a term that describes his political ideology, I’d suggest “conservative.” He more accurately fits in that category than the GQP politicians who long ago abandoned it.

The Self-Defeating Politics Of Now.

Now that President Biden has completed his first 100 days in office, a number of special interest groups have expressed their frustration that he has not yet fixed all of the nation’s problems. Of course, it’s to be expected that Republicans are upset with the Biden administration. But many of his supporters are also unhappy.

For example, organizations representing the immigrant community believe that the Biden administration has not moved quickly enough to reunite children with their families after the Trump administration’s separation policy. They believe that unaccompanied children have not been moved out of holding facilities quickly enough. And they are frustrated that Biden has not yet introduced an immigration reform bill.

Likewise, the environmental community is upset that Biden has not yet banned fracking or ended fossil fuel subsidies. They believe he has not moved quickly enough or far enough to mitigate climate change. The groups against gun violence are frustrated that Biden has not pushed strongly enough for gun control and assault weapons bans. The black community is frustrated that more has not been done to fight voter suppression, police brutality, and systemic racism. Other groups believe that Biden should have already expanded the Supreme Court to offset the seat stolen by Mitch McConnell and the GQP, that he should have held fast to the $15 minimum wage in the American Rescue Plan, that he hasn’t eliminated college debt, that he hasn’t shared enough COVID-19 vaccines with developing countries…the list is long and growing.

Some of these groups have even threatened to end their support of Democrats in the next election!

Have they forgotten who created all of these problems in the first place? Have they forgotten that it was Republicans who ripped immigrant children from the arms of their parents and failed to keep track of them? Have they forgotten that Republicans support and are supported by the gun lobbies? Have they forgotten that the voter suppression bills have all been sponsored by Republicans? Have they forgotten that the Trump administration embraced white supremacists? Have they forgotten the rampant corruption within the Trump administration? Have they forgotten that the Trump administration failed to react to the pandemic, costing more than 575,000 American lives? Have they forgotten that the GQP violently invaded our Capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of a free and fair election?

At the same time, these people seem to have ignored what Biden has done.

In his first 100 days, Biden signed more than 60 executive orders to overturn some of the Trump administration’s most heinous actions. His Rescue Plan has helped bring the economy back from the brink. His vaccination plan has made COVID-19 vaccines available to more than 200 million Americans. He has reopened negotiations with Iran to keep Iran from building nuclear weapons. He has restarted foreign aid to Central American nations to reduce the need for their citizens to emigrate to the US. He has sanctioned Russia for its interference in our elections and its cyberattacks. He has announced an end to America’s longest war. He is sending vaccines and aid to India, the country hardest hit by COVID. He overturned the Trump administration’s discriminatory ban on transgender Americans serving in the military. He has stopped the deportation of US military veterans who had agreed to serve as a way of gaining citizenship. And that’s only a partial list of his accomplishments in the first 100 days.

These groups, which have been given voice by the media, would do well to remember that the Trump administration refused to cooperate during the traditional transition period – the roughly 10-week period between the election and the inauguration – a period that included a GQP attack on democracy. So, in reality, Biden’s first 100 days were the transition period! Given that, and the traditional GQP obstruction, Biden’s accomplishments are truly amazing!

To the well-intentioned groups that have been so vocal in their frustrations, I can only advise: “Patience, grasshoppers!”

Repairing A Broken Police System.

Though evidence of the breakdowns in policing have been constant (Daunte Wright, Caron Nazario, George Floyd, Breona Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, etc., etc., etc.), change has been painstakingly slow. So, what can we do to prevent unnecessary deaths and provide equal justice under the law? To begin, let’s look at the reality of policing in the US:

1 – Only 6.7 percent of police calls involve a possible crime. The vast majority of 911 calls involve welfare checks, trespassing, homelessness, drug abuse, and mental health issues.

2 – It requires relatively little training to receive certification for law enforcement in the US. Although some police departments require a college degree in criminal justice, others simply require candidates to complete basic training. Much of that training consists of classroom work and military-style discipline (inspections, marching in file, and firearms training). There are no national standards.

3 – US police officers receive less training than many of their international counterparts. In Germany, for example, recruits are required to spend up to 4 years in basic training. By contrast, US recruits may receive as little as 20 weeks of basic training.

4 – The focus of policing is on solving crimes more than preventing them. The old-fashioned beat cop is increasingly rare. Further, many officers do not live in the community they serve. As a result, police departments often don’t reflect the racial, ethnic, and gender make-up of their communities.

5 – Despite what we see on TV and in movies, police solve relatively few violent crimes. According to Pew Research, in 2019, police solved just 45.5 percent of the violent crimes reported to them and only 17.2 percent of property crimes. Only one-third of reported rapes are solved.

6 – Law enforcement is less dangerous than many other professions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, logging, deep sea fishing, piloting aircraft, roofing, waste collection and recycling, truck driving, farming, construction, and even landscaping are more dangerous. Working as a law enforcement officer ranks 19th, yet most police officers are armed to the teeth.

Now let’s look at how we can change policing to become more effective and less costly:

1 – Create a separate department to respond to non-criminal, non-violent calls. There are several successful alternatives to police. In Eugene, Oregon, a program called CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) has operated successfully for nearly 30 years. 911 calls are triaged. If the call does not involve criminal behavior, the dispatcher sends a two-person team that consists of a medical professional and a mental health professional. The focus is on de-escalating situations and providing needed help rather than the threat of incarceration.

2 – Improve hiring and training of officers. Institute national standards for all law enforcement. Those standards should require the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. They should also include a battery of psychological tests plus training in de-escalation, and race relations. Additionally, they should include training for non-lethal responses to offenders who are armed with weapons other than guns.

3 – Improve training of dispatchers. Dispatchers should be skilled in triaging and clearly preparing first responders for what to expect. Poor communications can lead to poor results. For example, a 911 caller reported a young man pointing a gun at passersby but noted that it could be a toy, a detail not relayed to responding police officers. As a result, a young boy was shot and killed while playing with his airsoft gun.

4 – Reduce the number and lethality of weapons on the street. Thanks to the NRA and gun manufacturers, police must assume everyone they encounter represents a deadly threat. Fewer guns will result in fewer deaths of citizens and police. It would also help police to solve violent crimes by demanding registration of all guns and ammunition so they can be tracked to the perpetrators of crimes.

5 – Rely on technology for most traffic control. Using so-called redlight cameras to control speeds and most other traffic violations will prevent racial profiling and relieve police officers from many of the encounters that can turn deadly.

6 – Refocus prisons on rehabilitation of inmates. Prisons should not be mere warehouses for offenders or finishing schools for criminals. They should offer more programs to prepare prisoners for their return to polite society. It is well-known that such programs can reduce crime and recidivism.

7 – Expand mental health facilities and destigmatize mental health issues. Suffering a mental health crisis is not a crime. It should be treated like any other health problem.

8 – Eliminate or reduce poverty. Poverty is not a crime. But it, too often, leads to interactions with law enforcement, such as failure to pay traffic fines, failure to purchase licenses and required drivers insurance, as well as homelessness. In too many cases, it leads to drug abuse as a form of escapism resulting in encounters with law enforcement.

9 – Decriminalize the use of illicit drugs. Substance abuse is a medical issue and/or a mental health issue that cannot be solved by law enforcement.

We cannot know if implementing such measures will solve all the problems. But we do know what doesn’t work – the system we have now.