Treat Trump Like A Winner.

Reality Winner, that is, the 6-year Air Force veteran, recipient of a commendation for meritorious service, and former contractor for the National Security Agency who was sentenced to 5 years and 3 months in federal prison, plus 3 years of supervised released.

What horrible crime did she commit?

She was convicted of violating the Espionage Act of 1917, 18 U.S.C. § 793(e) for sharing a classified document with The Intercept. That document revealed that Russia had interfered with the 2016 presidential election on Trump’s behalf through a cyberattack on a US election software provider and spearfishing emails to more than 100 election officials. Without Winner’s actions, US voters may never have learned of Russia’s interference.

In other words, Reality Winner acted as a whistleblower in service to the American citizenry.

Contrast her actions with that of our deposed president and dictator wannabe who was found to have stashed 700 classified and top-secret documents at his home in Mar-a-Lago. The FBI search warrant used to search his home cited the very same charge as Winner. The difference is that Winner was trying to perform a public service. And Trump was almost certainly expecting to profit off our nation’s secrets.

There is also a substantial difference in the threat that the two represent. The classified material that Winner exposed could not reasonably be considered a threat to national security. On the other hand, the material Trump hoarded represents our nation’s most highly guarded secrets, including information about our nuclear arsenal and our human assets (spies) working undercover around the globe. Such documents should have never been removed from a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility), let alone stored in a resort frequented by dozens of members including foreign nationals.

So, to paraphrase the MAGA chants of 2015 and 2016: Lock him up! Our nation’s security may depend on it.

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!

The Frightening Descent Of The Court We Once Held Supreme.

Many of us grew up with great respect for the highest court in the land. We did not always agree with its rulings. But we always respected them because we knew they were considered judgments based on the law.

The current version of the Court is different. Very different.

Contrary to the protestations of Alito, Roberts, and Thomas, the Court has been made highly partisan. Certainly, there have been periods of partisanship in the past. But none quite like this. It began when Republicans were enraged that Robert Bork was not confirmed by a Democrat-led Senate due to his role in firing the Special Prosecutor assigned to the Watergate investigation. Never mind that the Senate’s refusal to confirm Bork was justified, Republicans threw an absolute hissy fit that continues to this day.

Republicans became further incensed when Democrats contested the nomination of Clarence Thomas based on Anita Hill’s credible allegations of sexual impropriety. The fact that the ethically challenged Thomas was married to and influenced by a far-right extremist and activist was lost in the controversy. And we’ve been paying for that oversight ever since.

As it became clear that the Court’s rulings dramatically lurched to the right, Thomas, Scalia, and Alito all portrayed themselves as “originalists.” They seem to view the Constitution as a static document that should be viewed from the perspective of 1788 when it was ratified by the original 13 states.

Yet these “justices” always seem willing to reinterpret the Constitution to benefit Republicans.

In recent years, Republicans have accelerated the Court’s descent into blatant partisanship. The GOP-controlled Senate blocked hearings on Garland’s nomination to replace Scalia for purely partisan reasons claiming that, since it was eleven months before a presidential election, the decision to fill the Court’s vacancy should be left to the next president. Then, when Trump won, the GOP began searching for judicial nominees who would be willing to bend the rule of law to benefit the Party and to overturn Roe v Wade. They rammed through three Supreme Court nominees, the last just weeks before the 2020 presidential election.

Such choices were a payback to evangelicals – people who can’t tell a zygote from an embryo from a fetus – for supporting the GOP’s ever-present culture wars against school integration, against interracial marriage, against contraception, against gay rights, against gay marriage, against sex education, against racial equity and, of course, against abortion.

Despite angrily denying their obvious partisanship, conservatives on the Court have made their partisan views public as featured speakers at numerous Republican and conservative “Christian” gatherings. And the leaked opinion by the Court’s five conservatives as expressed by Alito is the most obvious display of partisanship yet. They have gone out of their way to impose the beliefs of evangelicals and the GOP on all American women. Further, Alito’s draft opinion sets the stage for taking away other rights, including all of those at the heart of the GOP culture wars.

His opinion, if adopted as is, would enable his cult (aka the Republican Party) to transform the nation in ways unlike any previously experienced in American history.

For example, prior to Roe v Wade, women were seldom prosecuted for having an abortion. Those women who could afford it, would ask their doctors for a procedure called a D&C to terminate their pregnancies. Those who couldn’t afford such niceties would either seek a dangerous abortion in some back alley or take things into their own hands by employing coat hangers or acid. Or they might simply throw themselves down a flight of stairs. Apparently, that was seen as punishment enough by the Puritan crowd, since only the abortionists themselves were charged with crimes.

But, in this era of theological and ideological vengeance, it seems that no punishment for women is draconian enough. According to the current GOP anti-abortion bills, women will be arrested and jailed for terminating a pregnancy. So, too, will anyone who advised or enabled them. And every woman who has a miscarriage will be under suspicion.

What’s next on the GOP agenda? Burning women at the stake?

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.

No One Should Be Surprised By Actions Of The Minneapolis Police Department.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are known as the Twin Cities. One (St. Paul) has enjoyed a competent, public service-focused police department for all of my nearly 40 years of living in the area. The other (Minneapolis) has long been plagued by a police department that is often overly aggressive and racist in its actions.

As I’ve previously written, I personally encountered MPD cops who were corrupt, lazy, incompetent, racist and brutal. Without going into great detail, I’ve seen MPD cops shake down a bar owner. I’ve witnessed a group of six officers acting as a violent gang that needlessly beat, kicked, stomped, and maced a black man who was handcuffed face down in the snow, slush and ice. And I served on a jury for a case in which the police failed to interview even a single witness to a so-called assault.

The list of such incidents is long.

So, when George Floyd was murdered by a MPD Field Training Officer, I was not surprised. But I am surprised that, after Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder, the MPD would be so quickly back in the headlines for killing an innocent black man, especially after it narrowly dodged an attempt to replace the department with a new department of public safety.

Sure, some things have changed. The previous head of the much too powerful police federation resigned. But I suspect the Federation still has more control over the department than the mayor, city council and police chief combined. And though the previous chief has retired, the interim police chief, Amelia Huffman, was promoted from within. She has been with the MPD for 27 years. That’s 27 years of being influenced by the status quo.

Despite the MPD’s long history of problematic behavior by some of its officers, in the first interview after her appointment, Huffman proudly stated that she “loves” the MPD. She went on to state, “As a department, we must collectively recognize that rebuilding trust and enhancing public safety will require excellence in the line of duty as well as a willingness to embrace bold community safety and reform strategies.”

How has she demonstrated that commitment to excellence and reform?

When asked to cooperate with the St. Paul Police Department in executing a warrant for the arrest of a suspect in a St. Paul murder case, the MPD demanded a “No-Knock” warrant (a practice that the St. Paul police abandoned in 2016). And when a Minneapolis officer shot an innocent young man as a result, the MPD initially issued a press release in which it referred to the victim as a suspect. Only later did it acknowledge that Amir Locke was not named in the warrant and had no criminal history. And, when questioned by reporters, Huffman walked out of a press conference even after promising full transparency. (The MPD still claims the shooting was necessary because the victim pointed a gun at officers.)

If it wasn’t obvious to everyone before the Locke murder, it should now be abundantly clear that the MPD needs drastic change. There are, no doubt, many good officers within the department. But it needs a large influx of new public service-focused officers that are representative of the various neighborhoods within the city. It needs a complete new set of operating standards. It needs better training. It needs to be restructured. And it desperately needs new leadership from outside the department.

It needs its own Chief William K. Finney – the man who made the St. Paul Police Department seem like the polar opposite of the MPD.