Anatomy Of A Conspiracy To Commit Sedition.

This week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed charges of conspiracy to commit sedition against 11 members of the paramilitary group that calls itself the Oath Keepers. Given what we now know, it should be an open and shut case. The real question is: When will those who inspired and directed the insurrectionists of January 6, 2021, also be charged?

Lest you think that question is little more than partisan hyperbole, consider the following list of documented attempts by Donald J. Trump and his allies to subvert our democracy and to undermine our government:

1 – Prior to the election, Trump says it will be rigged if he doesn’t win while he and his allies deliberately try to rig the election themselves.
2 – GOP-controlled states attempt to limit or ban mail-in ballots despite the pandemic.
3 – Trump appoints Louis DeJoy to the position of Postmaster General, and DeJoy sets about creating mail delays in order to prevent many mail-in ballots from arriving on time.
4 – Trump calls for his armed supporters to go to the polls to “protect the sanctity of the election” with the intent of intimidating voters.
5 – Having encouraged his supporters to vote in person and knowing that those ballots will be counted more quickly than mail-in ballots, Trump states that whoever is ahead in the ballot counting at midnight should be declared the winner.
6 – As heavily populated precincts continue to count ballots into the next day, Trump tries to stop the count.
7 – Armed Trump supporters surround the Maricopa County Arizona counting center and threaten election workers.
8 – Trump is furious when Biden is legitimately declared the winner and claims the election was stolen.
9 – Trump calls state election officials, threatens them, and demands they find enough votes for him to win. One of those officials, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has the foresight to make an audio recording of Trump’s call.
10 – Trump and his allies file more than 40 lawsuits claiming, among other things, that the electronic voting machines were corrupted. All of the lawsuits fail.
11 – Trump, his legal team, and his supporters claim that Dominion voting machines deleted 2.7 million votes, and that China had dumped millions of paper ballots into ballot boxes in place of Trump ballots that were shredded and fed to chickens.
12 – Trump refuses to permit his administration officials to meet with Biden’s transition team.
13 – Trump pressures his Attorney General William Barr to declare the election fraudulent, and to call for a new election.
14 – When Barr insists there was no widespread fraud, Trump attempts to name his attorney Sydney Powell as special prosecutor to declare the election was fraudulent and to use martial law to keep Trump in power.
15 – Conservative attorney, John Eastman, creates a plan that calls for Trump’s allies in Congress to challenge the electors and for Pence to invoke the 12th Amendment by declaring the election “contested” and calling for a House vote by state delegations. Since Republicans controlled more states than Democrats, the House vote would likely give Trump the presidency.
16 – To continue the fight to overturn the election results, Trump’s associates create a “War Room” in the Willard Hotel with Oath Keepers acting as bodyguards for Roger Stone and other Trump associates.
17 – Trump continues to put enormous pressure on Pence to stop the certification of election results. But, after discussing the matter with former Vice-President Dan Quayle, Pence responds that doing so would be unconstitutional.
18 – Trump, his associates and their propaganda networks continue to claim the election was stolen, inciting Trump supporters to act.
19 – When Attorney General Barr resigns, Trump threatens to replace acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen unless he declares the election fraudulent. And Jeffrey Clark, a Trump-appointed environment law chief at the DOJ, tries to coerce Rosen into signing a letter declaring the election results invalid.
20 – When “Stop the Steal” organizers receive permits for the January 5 and 6 rallies, the Trump administration and Capitol Police decide to limit the number and duties of National Guard members. They seem to be worried only about the safety of Trump protestors.
21 – GOP legislators in seven states send forged documents to the National Archives and the President of the Senate (VP Mike Pence) with phony lists of Trump electors.
22 – The Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and other rightwing Trump supporters call for everyone to go to Washington on January 6. Trump advisor, Steve Bannon, is reported to have said, “We’re going to bury Biden on January 6th, (expletive) bury him.”
23 – Days before January 6, it appears that some Trump supporters in Congress gave tours of the Capitol building for reconnaissance. Indeed, it appeared that some insurrectionists had maps of the building.
24 – In advance of January 6, the Oath Keepers begin to execute a plan to invade the Capitol. They store weapons in Arlington, VA hotels and establish a Quick Reaction Force to deliver the weapons to Capitol grounds if needed.
25 – In the early morning hours of January 6, pipe bombs are left in front of the RNC and DNC buildings as an apparent diversionary tactic.
26 – On January 6, as Trump and his supporters are riling up the “Stop the Steal” crowd, Oath Keepers and others in tactical gear create diversions at the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial which draw a police response.
27 – As Trump’s GOP congressmen are objecting to the electoral count certification, Trump calls for the crowd to march up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol and “fight like hell for their country.” He says he will go with them. Instead, he goes to watch the events unfold on TV in the White House dining room.
28 – Trump watches as the insurrectionists break into the Capitol and stop the certification of the electoral vote. The insurrectionists erect gallows and search the building for Pence, Pelosi, and others.
29 – Hours into the assault on the Capitol, Trump’s children and others reportedly beg him to call it off. He continues to watch the insurrection on TV.
30 – It takes nearly 2 hours for the acting Secretary of Defense and Trump officials to approve calling out the National Guard in support of the Capitol police. Only then does Trump record a video message to his supporters to go home, saying “We love you.”
31 – After the Capitol is finally cleared, Congress returns to finish the job of certifying Biden as President of the United States of America. In the hallways and Rotunda, they walk past broken doors, glass, and statues that have been smeared with feces and blood.
32 – Trump, his supporters, and his propaganda networks decry news coverage of the events saying that the insurrectionists were no different than typical tourists.
33 – Trump tries to block or delay the release of his administration’s files leading up to and following the insurrection.
34 – Officials from the Trump administration and his allies refuse to respond to requests and subpoenas from the House January 6 Committee.
35 – Despite all evidence to the contrary, Trump and his allies continue to claim the election was stolen.

From all of this, it should be easy to reach a conclusion that Donald J. Trump and his allies inspired and incited an insurrection designed to prevent the winner of the 2020 presidential election from taking office then tried to cover up their actions. At very least, they and their supporters conspired to obstruct a legitimate government function. That charge alone can result in a sentence of 30 days to two years imprisonment. But if they are found guilty of willfully trying to overthrow our government by force (And how else could you describe an armed insurrection to prevent a duly elected president from taking office?), the perpetrators can be fined and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

With either charge, it should be simple for an independent jury of their peers to reach a guilty verdict. After all, they didn’t commit those crimes in secret. They did it openly and in full view of the public.

The January 6th Co-Conspirators Who Have Yet To Be Named.

They likely won’t be charged for their role in the insurrection. But the people most responsible for the attack on the Capitol and on the world’s longest-running democracy were not the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, etc. or even Donald J. Trump. They didn’t use pepper spray, flag poles, spears, and riot shields to assault police officers.

They used microphones, cameras, and websites instead.

You see, the insurrection began long before January 6, 2021. It actually began in 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, when the Federal Communications Commission repealed the Fairness Doctrine, an FCC policy that originated in 1949 requiring broadcasters to present information in a fair and truthful manner that clearly distinguished news from opinion.

Once freed from the shackles of truth and fairness, broadcast media owners more concerned with politics, ratings, and money than journalistic integrity unleashed the likes of Rush Limbaugh to relentlessly attack the government and the so-called “pointy-headed liberals.” News and truth were replaced by opinion and lies based on fear, anger, and hate. And listeners who had long been conditioned to believe what they heard over the airwaves accepted those lies as fact.

Farmers and laborers were particularly vulnerable to the fiction that Rush was pedaling. Since they spent hours working alone, the radio was a welcome companion on their tractors and at their worksites. Already angry that prices of commodities had tanked in the 1970s and that worker’s salaries had not kept pace with inflation, they were easy prey for a radio host who blamed their problems on immigrants, inner city “thugs” and government bureaucrats.

And things soon got worse. Other unscrupulous actors, attracted by Rush’s booming ratings, joined him on the airwaves to denounce liberals and government under the guise of presenting the “real truth.” The “truth” mainstream media – aka responsible journalists – won’t tell you.

Then Rupert Murdoch and his conservative lapdog, Roger Ailes, entered the picture with Fox News. Though it claimed to be “Fair and Balanced”, it was neither. Certainly, it built a sizeable news gathering operation to fill its 24/7 programming schedule. But it constantly combined news with opinion making it all but impossible to distinguish one from the other. And, instead of hiring respected journalists to present the information, Ailes hired a team of carnival barkers, such as Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson, to feed viewers a constant stream of far-right ideas and falsehoods.

Around the same time, there was tremendous growth in websites and social media where anyone with a computer or cellphone could make their opinions known. The more outrageous and sensational the opinions and the lies, the more clicks and money to be gained.

All of this combined to create a rightwing politician’s wet dream – a propaganda network that would be the envy of Nazi Germany’s Josef Goebbels. It was the perfect environment for an accomplished con man like Donald J. Trump.

Rush, Fox, and others used Trump to increase their ratings by further sensationalizing their racist anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, anti-feminist, anti-government, anti-Democrat agenda. And he used them to give credibility to his lies and to grow his poll numbers. Even after entering the White House, Trump relied on them as his unofficial advisors.

It was this same cult of rightwing media bullies and buffoons who amplified and perpetuated Trump’s Big Lie. They decried the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. They encouraged attacks on state and county election officials. They advertised and promoted the January 6th “Stop the Steal” rally. And they reveled in the notion that rightwing extremists in Congress along with Vice-President Mike Pence could stop the certification of Biden’s win and reassign the selection of electoral votes to Republican-dominated state legislators.

They deserve every bit as much of the credit for the attempt to violently overthrow our government as any of the extremist militias and politicians whose shameful actions almost succeeded in destroying our democracy.

They must be held accountable. If the courts of law can’t do it, the courts of public opinion must.

The GQP’s Decades Long, Multi-Pronged Assault On Democracy.

If you think the insurrection ended on January 6th, I regret to inform you that it was only the tip of the proverbial autocratic iceberg. In fact, the billionaires have been working to undermine our democracy for more than 60 years. And they haven’t stopped now.

In one of history’s greatest ironies, Charles Koch, James McGill Buchanan, Jr. and the remnants of the John Birch Society used the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision to desegregate schools in Brown v. Board of Education to co-opt the Republican Party – the political party that had ended slavery. Since then, they have spent hundreds of millions to undermine our federal government and democracy itself.

Hiding under the cloak of the Republican Party, they have tried to starve the government of the funds it needs to serve the people. Through large donations, they corrupted law schools and university economics programs to teach their political views. Once they gained control of the Supreme Court, they pushed for legal opinions to equate money with free speech (Buckley v Valeo) and to equate corporate rights with those of individuals (Citizens United v FEC) to better fund their operations. That resulted in an avalanche of dark (aka dirty) campaign money to help elect like-minded candidates.

Shouting liberty and freedom, they eroded common sense regulations designed to protect Americans. They repealed the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine which unleashed their propagandists (Fox News, OANN, Newsmax, and rightwing radio hosts) to use mass media to deliver and repeat their many hateful lies. And recognizing that it’s more difficult to win elections when more people vote, they have implemented a decades long attack on voting rights with strict ID laws, reduced voting hours, reduced numbers of polling places, and restrictions for mail-in voting.

Believing it’s easier to control state governments than the federal government, they created ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) to provide conservative legislators with “model” bills that are written by and for large corporations. To spread fear of the federal government, they embraced the NRA to expand gun ownership and to create even more fear. When cities passed ordinances to regulate short-term rentals, to ban plastic bags, and to protect undocumented immigrants, they passed laws to pre-empt cities’ self-rule.

As they filled Congress with anti-government zealots and conspiracy theorists, they have continued to cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy causing the nation to descend into a plutocracy. They have used the filibuster to block most legislation that would benefit ordinary working people. Once they got a wannabe autocrat into the White House, they used him to further cut taxes, cut regulations, sell-off oil-drilling rights and mineral rights on protected lands, and to pack the courts with partisan judges.

To ensure Trump and their other candidates would maintain control of the government, they tried to extort a foreign government into opening a false investigation into the Bidens. They purged voter registrations and replaced the postmaster to slow the pandemic-created avalanche of mail-in ballots. When that didn’t work, they tried to get state election officials to find enough votes to change the election outcome. They continued to promote the idea of massive voter fraud which resulted in the January 6 insurrection in a violent attempt to block the certification of electoral votes. Even now they continue to contest the election results by claiming that China dumped thousands and thousands of ballots into the states Trump lost and that Italy had hacked electronic voting machines.

Even more concerning is that Trump’s disgraced National Security Advisor and Qanon conspiracy theorist, Michael Flynn, has called for a Myanmar-style military coup!

So, the choice is no longer between Republican and Democrat. It is now between autocracy and democracy.

The Ongoing Theft Of Generational Wealth From Black And Brown People.

As we mark the 100th anniversary of the massacre on Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, it’s important to understand how little has changed in the past century.

First, it should be noted that the Tulsa massacre was only one of at least 40 similar attacks on people of color, not including the genocide of Native Americans. We should also recognize that all of these acts were committed by the white majority population inflamed by sensationalized stories in a biased media. And, though smaller in scope, the attacks are still happening – by white supremacists, by the police, and by our flawed criminal justice system in which the poor, especially people of color, are pushed to accept plea bargains under threat of draconian sentences.

Further, as in Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood, most people of color have been robbed of their ability to accumulate generational wealth.

For example, Native Americans have had their lands stolen and treaties broken. They have been robbed of mineral rights. They have been denied sufficient funds to build proper schools and infrastructure. The courts have continually denied them the ability to block the destruction of sacred lands, including burial sites. And, as the result of recent legislation, they have, once again, been robbed of the right to vote.

Similarly, Asians have been victimized by periods of violence, as well as legislation such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the government-ordered Japanese Internment of World War II which resulted in stolen property and wealth. And, though we rely on Latin American immigrants to harvest and prepare most of our food, they are mistreated and denied reasonable compensation for their work under constant threat of deportation.

Yet many Americans, indoctrinated by rightwing media and unwilling to recognize such theft, would have you believe that the reason so many people of color live in poverty is that they lack the work ethic of Caucasians. That they’re all too willing to live off the taxes from “real” Americans. They simply can’t understand or admit that much of poverty is the result of a biased and unfair system in which the wealthy white majority makes the rules. For example, the current Mayor of Tulsa refuses to acknowledge that the victims of the attack on Black Wall Street are owed reparations. Yet his own ancestral family came to wealth and prominence off the backs of nearly 1,000 slaves!

If we are ever to achieve racial equality, it must include an acknowledgment of our historical misdeeds and their impact on the present. Our actions must go beyond embracing the 1619 Project designed to teach children the truth of our history of slavery and racism. We must go beyond affirmative action. Beyond criminal justice reform. We must stop the GOP attempts to restrict voting rights for people of color. And we must agree on some form of reparations. We must pay for our sins.

Jan. 6 Commission Vote Explains Why Bipartisanship Is A Myth.

Most Americans continue to call for bipartisanship in the US Congress. But it has become as elusive as UFOs, Bigfoot, and the mythical unicorn. First, let’s note that the “bi” in bipartisanship denotes the participation of two parties. Unfortunately, for at least the past 12 years, one party has been largely absent. Sure, the Republicans have been more than happy to demand a voice in any bill the Democrats put forward. For example, as Congress was debating the Affordable Care Act, Republicans offered hundreds of amendments to the bill, and Democrats accepted hundreds of them in hopes of gaining Republican support. But, when it came to the final vote, not a single Republican voted for the bill in the House or the Senate.

That set a pattern that continues to this day.

Senate GQP (Grand QAnon Party) leader, Moscow Mitch McConnell has stated repeatedly that his primary goal is to stop the Democratic agenda at any cost. When Republicans are in the minority, he repeatedly calls for bipartisanship. But when Democrats have control, he ramrods through Republican bills and nominations at record speeds, decrying any attempts at negotiation as obstruction. One need look no further than McConnell’s actions on the Senate Supreme Court confirmations of Merrick Garland and Amy Coney-Barrett to confirm his hypocrisy and his contempt for bipartisanship.

As if those two examples are not enough to make the point, consider the recent votes on a bill calling for a bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection of January 6. After Democrats agreed to each of the House Republican’s demands, both parties announced that they had reached a deal on May 14, 2021. Then, on May 18, the day before the bill was to come up for a vote, House GQP leader Kevin McCarthy announced his opposition to the bill. And hours before the House vote, Moscow Mitch followed suit. As a result, only 35 Republican House members broke ranks to vote in favor of creating the commission.

The fate of the commission now hangs in the balance in the Senate where, given the filibuster, 10 Republicans will have to demonstrate their independence from Moscow Mitch and vote for bipartisanship. Unfortunately, that is very unlikely.

One can’t help but compare the GQP to Lucy in the Peanuts cartoon series and Democrats to Charlie Brown. Despite assurances that they will hold the football this time, the GQP continues to withdraw support at the last instant, leaving Democrats to whiff and fall onto their backsides. Though contrary to their instincts and their desire for the kind of bipartisanship needed to solve our nation’s problems, it’s time for Democrats to give Republicans a dose of their own medicine.

Bipartisanship is not possible now that one of the parties has become a belligerent and autocratic cult.

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 “Both Sides Are At Fault” Myth.

Faced with the political climate in our country, it’s popular for media and individuals to blame both Republicans and Democrats alike. As the story goes, the division is driven by the extreme wings of both parties.

Really?

Consider this: One party promotes policies. The other promotes hatred and fear. One party wants more people to exercise their right to vote. The other wants to make voting more difficult. One party embraces diversity. The other wants to suppress it. One party wants to pass laws to end gun violence. The other wants to pass laws to sell more guns. One party wants to end discrimination. The other promotes it. One party focuses on policies to make lives easier. The other focuses on conspiracy theories. One party wants equal justice. The other wants authoritarianism.

One party looks out for the poor. The other looks out for the wealthy. One party wants to increase wages for working families. The other wants to increase corporate returns. One party wants to make products and workplaces safer. The other wants to end regulations. One party wants to eliminate corruption. The other party excuses it. One party believes in science. The other party denies it. One party believes its opponents are wrong on policy. The other party believes its opponents are socialist, communist, and/or cannibalistic pedophiles. One party believes in democracy. The other does not.

When Democrats lost a presidential election, they believed was stolen, they accepted the Court’s ruling for the good of the country. When Republicans lost a presidential election they believed was stolen, they descended on our capitol in open and violent insurrection.

While the Democratic Party has steadfastly remained the party of equality and social justice. The “Party of Lincoln” has become the party of hate.

Republicans have excused and encouraged violence by armed militias, white supremacists, and other hate groups. At the urging of Republicans, OAN, Fox News, NewsMax, and talk radio have become open sewers of misinformation, disinformation, and hateful rhetoric. Based on Republican promises to end abortion, evangelical Christian churches have abandoned the teachings of their namesake to push cruel and discriminatory policies. Under Republican leadership, the US Congress packed the courts, corrupted the Census, and perpetuated thousands of lies.

So, spare me the bs that both parties are at fault. The Democrat and Republican parties are not the same. Not even close.

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.

America’s Racism On Full (And Constant) Display.

Even as the world is transfixed by the Derek Chauvin trial in Minnesota (a trial to decide if Chauvin was guilty of murdering George Floyd), we continue to see other examples of police abuse of black and brown people. In the past few days, video evidence of police mistreating a black man in a military uniform has come to light. And, while Americans were still recoiling in horror at seeing police pepper spray and cuff the man at gunpoint over his supposed failure to display a temporary vehicle license, we saw a young black man shot and killed by a white policewoman over expired license tags and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror.

Unfortunately, such events have become increasingly common.

In Texas, a young black woman named Sandra Bland died in jail over failure to signal a lane change. In Ohio, a young black man named John Crawford III was shot and killed by police in a Walmart for carrying a BB gun he intended to purchase. In California, it took police 10 seconds to shoot and kill a 13-year-old Latino who was carrying a pellet gun. Likewise, it took police just seconds to kill a 12-year-old black boy for playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland park. In Phoenix, a 14-year-old Latino was shot and killed while holding an air soft gun. In Detroit, a 13-year-old black boy named Tamir Rice was killed for playing with an air soft gun.

In Georgia, a black man named Ahmaud Arbery was hunted and killed by a former police officer and his armed friends while jogging. And, in Kentucky, a black woman named Breona Taylor was shot and killed in the middle of the night in her own home while police were executing a no-knock warrant.

To our nation’s great shame, the number of such examples are far too numerous and far too widespread to list. Yet, despite the publicity and efforts to hold police accountable, the number of events has not diminished. Indeed, they seem to be increasing. And far too many Americans look to blame the victims rather than the officers. They dig through the victims’ criminal history, their drug use, their failure to comply with officers’ unreasonable demands.

By contrast, we see white people treated much differently by police.

Just months after a peaceful crowd of Black Lives Matter protestors were confronted with excessive violence by large numbers of police and National Guard while peacefully protesting in Washington, DC, the almost entirely white crowd of violent insurrectionists who invaded the Capitol were able to overwhelm an undermanned and under-equipped police presence. Even after hours of mayhem and destruction, which resulted in 5 deaths and injuries to more than 140 police officers, the combatants were allowed to simply walk away. In fact, some police actually offered a helping hand to insurrectionists so they could descend the steps and bleachers without injury!

The white insurrectionists resorted to violence based on the lie that the election was stolen from their preferred presidential candidate despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Imagine what those same people might do if they believed they were unfairly stopped for minor traffic offenses; if they were subjected to humiliating searches and excessive fines; if they were subjected to excessive force; or if they were killed for a misdemeanor. Imagine if their communities tended to dismiss their complaints and, instead, displayed signs supporting the police. Imagine, if every time they went to court, their entire lives were put under a microscope in search of any past transgression that could be used against them. Imagine if they found it more difficult to find a job than others. Imagine if they were paid less. Imagine, if they were underrepresented in Congress, in state legislatures, on city councils, on police staffs, and it courts. Imagine if draconian laws were put in place to make it more difficult for them to vote. And imagine if that treatment continued for generations.

Then, and only then, would they have an understanding of what it would be like to be part of a minority.

The sad truth is, in the US, equality simply does not exist. Not for black and brown people. Not for Asian and Pacific Islanders. Not for immigrants. Not for Native Americans. Not for women. Not for people of different sexual persuasions. Not for people of different religions.

It is long past time for that to change. It must change if our ongoing experiment with democracy is to survive!

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.