The Greatest Challenges Of The 21st Century.

Through the rest of this century, the world is facing a number of seemingly insurmountable problems – problems for which there appear to be no easy answers. Some so complex and so threatening that they could doom humanity for all eternity. Yet, even for those challenges, there are answers if we are willing to acknowledge the problems and make the changes so urgently required.

Here they are in ascending order of difficulty:

Rise of Authoritarianism – The solution for this one is exceedingly simple: Vote! Vote only for those politicians who are committed to democracy. Fight tyranny at every turn. No politician who embraces discrimination of any kind belongs in office.

Corporate Consolidation – The phenomenon of too-big-to-fail banks and multinational corporations has led to a wide variety of problems for humanity. These include a lack of competition leading to inflation, the elimination of pension funds for workers, the growing disparity of income between CEOs and workers, the exporting of jobs in the search for ever cheaper and more compliant labor…the list is long.

Fortunately, the solution is also simple. Indeed, Congress gave us a seldom-used tool to break up these industrial cabals and growing monopolies: The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. It’s time our government used it.

Wealth Disparity – Globally, the richest 10% of the global population currently take home 52% of the income. Those in the poorest half of the global population earn just 8%.

In the U.S., the wealthiest one percent of Americans hold more than 32 percent of the nation’s wealth. The top 10 percent hold 77 percent of the wealth, while the bottom 50 percent of households hold just one percent of the wealth. And 7.5 percent of the population has a negative net worth – meaning they are in debt.

By race, white households hold more than 86 percent of the wealth while black and Latino households hold less than 3 percent of the wealth.

And, until the election of President Biden the problem has only gotten worse, a result of the vicious economic policy called Trickle-Down Theory that was embraced by Ronald Reagan and every Republican president since. The subsequent wealth gap has led to growing poverty and food insecurity, unfair tax policies, a government that is bought and paid for by wealthy individuals and corporations, and a loss of tax revenue that has led to a growing national debt.

Yet there is some glimmer of hope for those at the bottom of the wealth scale. According to the Federal Reserve, the average wealth of the bottom half of Americans has increased by 80 percent since 2019, perhaps as a result of President Biden’s policies. (Of course, wealth growth is statistically much more profound if you have very little wealth to begin with.)

The solutions to wealth disparity also seem relatively simple: Enact a wealth tax and impose strict limits on donations to political campaigns. That could give all Americans a chance at the equal representation our Founders intended.

Gun Violence – The U.S. suffers approximately 20,000 violent gun deaths each year (not including suicides) and more than 35,000 gun injuries. Thanks to the NRA, other so-called gun rights groups, and gun manufacturers, police have to assume that every person they encounter is armed. Our schools and many public buildings have become virtual fortresses in an attempt to prevent mass shootings. And, from the age of 5, children are taught to live in fear of active shooters. No other developed nation in the world experiences these problems. But our gun manufacturers are trying to change that by exporting guns to criminal gangs worldwide.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

The solution is to follow Australia’s lead by banning and collecting guns, especially semi-automatics. Instead, as exemplified by the recent Supreme Court decision overturning the ban on bump stocks, the U.S. is headed in the opposite direction.

Climate Crisis – The U.S. has long led the world in the amount of fossil fuels burned per capita. And now we are the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. For more than 50 years, scientists have been warning us that, by incinerating fossil fuels, we are in danger of incinerating our planet. Unwilling to believe them, we have protected our fossil fuel industry and refused to modify our unsustainable lifestyle.

Sure, we have made some limited progress by recycling, better insulating our homes, producing more energy efficient appliances, and expanding the use of renewable fuels. But those measures are far too little, too late.

We led the world in establishing an extravagant, disposable culture. Now we need to lead the world to live within our planet’s means. Change is possible. But we must hurry. As you can see by the ever-increasing, ever more violent storms and other climate-related disasters, time is running out, and quickly.

Mass Migration – In recent years, migrants have flooded the borders of the United States and other highly developed nations. As a result of wars, violent gangs, autocratic rulers, and natural disasters such as drought, storms, and flooding, millions of people are faced with the choice of either migrating or dying.

Think immigrants are ruining your country? Then demand that our politicians do something to improve circumstances in their home countries. And be willing to open your hearts as well as your pocketbooks to help.

Mass Extinctions – In Earth’s history, there have been 5 mass extinctions defined as the loss of 75 percent of all species within a relatively short period of time. Scientists tell us that we are about to experience a sixth mass extinction as the result of human activities such as deforestation, unsustainable food production, pollution, encroachment of habitat, and the burning of fossil fuels.

Currently, extinction of species is occurring 1,000 to 10,000 times more rapidly than the natural rate. Why should we care?

First, we are living in an ecosystem. The life of one species depends on the life of others. Second, the world will become a much less interesting and livable place without some of the most vulnerable species. And third, we’re one of the species that could go extinct!

You already know the ways to mitigate the sixth mass extinction: Stop wasting resources, limit the use of fossil fuels, limit travel, stop polluting, and quickly transition to a mostly plant-based diet.

We have been the problem. Now we must become the solution.

Artificial Intelligence – AI could be the answer to many of our problems. Or, it could add to them. It simply depends on how we use it.

Used properly, AI can help us eradicate diseases, streamline research, create solutions for complex problems, perform the most dangerous and boring jobs, and help us to objectively solve conflicts.

AI-driven vehicles could make our roads safer and more orderly. AI could make logistics more efficient and more predictable. The possibilities are endless.

But there’s a much darker side to AI.

AI is already creating deepfakes – fake videos and images of people saying and doing things they never intended or even imagined. Women have been victimized by fake images of them nude or engaging in sex acts. Even worse, deepfakes of political candidates and leaders could have profound consequences.

AI could eliminate millions of jobs making humans essentially obsolete.

Not surprisingly, AI has been embraced by the military to replace humans in battle. Future armies, navies and air forces could be dominated by AI-controlled robots making real-time decisions of life and death. Once that happens, will we become the predominate targets?

One AI researcher believes so. He estimates there’s a 99.9% chance that AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) will lead to human extinction within the next 100 years claiming that no AGI model he has seen has been safe. And though other AI researchers are less certain that AGI will lead to our extinction, they are not particularly reassuring.

A Final Word: As daunting as some of these challenges seem, to some degree, they all can be addressed with one simple action: Vote! We must climb out of our media silos, ignore the misinformation and disinformation peddled by the moneyed interests, educate ourselves, and vote for the politicians who are willing to acknowledge the scope of the challenges and attack them in earnest.

How The Party Of Lincoln Became The Party Of Trump.

The Republican Party was once the party of abolitionists and the party of progressives. Its first leader, Abraham Lincoln, not only held the nation together during the Civil War. He signed the Emancipation Proclamation that ended one of the saddest chapters in U.S. history.

Unfortunately, a political party operating under the same name is now attacking the very foundations of our nation…the democratic principles established by our founders. Of course, the transformation of the once Grand Old Party didn’t happen overnight. After Lincoln, the party soon embraced the privileged and the powerful – the entrepreneurs rightfully labeled the “robber barons” who presided over the Gilded Age, a period of excesses marked by political corruption and unbridled materialism.

During that time, the nation was controlled by a succession of Republican presidents who presided over runaway capitalism founded on “Horse and Sparrow” economics – the theory that if you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through and fall to the ground for the sparrows to eat.

As disgusting as that idea is, it didn’t disappear along with the Gilded Age. Though it was credited, in part, for the Panic of 1896 and the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Republican Party clung to the idea through every succeeding administration until it resurfaced under Reagan who renamed it “Supply Side” economics (aka “Trickle Down” theory or, perhaps more accurately “Voodoo” economics), and it continued under George W. Bush and Donald Trump. Again and again, it has resulted in economic failure for the majority of working Americans.

But failed economic policy alone is not responsible for where the Republican Party stands today.

In an effort to rig the 1968 election, Richard Nixon treasonously undermined the Vietnam peace talks, promising the Vietnamese that they would get a better deal if they stalled negotiations to help him be elected. During that period, Lee Atwater launched the party’s so-called southern strategy to embrace southern racists who were angry about integration and the Voting Rights Act. And in 1974, Nixon was forced out of office following the revelations of Watergate in which he overtly stole the 1972 presidential election.

In the late 70s and 1980s, Paul Weyrich used Roe v Wade to bring anti-abortion evangelical Christians into the Republican fold.

Not to be outdone by Nixon, Ronald Reagan also committed a treasonous act by undermining the Iran hostage negotiations. He, too, promised a better deal if the negotiations were delayed in order to help his electoral chances.

Of course, it was Reagan who also named the federal government – the government of the people, by the people and for the people – as the enemy of most Americans. He also famously led the attack against labor unions, favoring multinational corporations over workers. And his presidency ended in a cloud of corruption when his administration was caught illegally selling weapons to Iran to finance death squads in Central America.

In the 1990s, political divisions among Americans really began to take hold after Newt Gingrich was selected as Speaker of the House. To ensure his caucus would follow his lead, he threatened to have them “primaried” if they failed to vote as he wished, effectively ending true representation of their constituents.

During that time, the Republican congressional majority led an impeachment of President Bill Clinton that began with an unsuccessful investigation into a real estate and ended with the exposure of an illicit relationship with an intern.

In 2000, George W. Bush’s brother, Jeb, and a conservative majority Supreme Court helped “W” steal the presidential election. Once in office, he cut taxes for the wealthy, led us into an unpopular war with Iraq based on lies, and ended his term with a financial crisis that resulted in the Great Recession.

In 2016 and 2017, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blatantly stole two SCOTUS seats for conservatives. And that was far from the only Republican theft. Trump was able to steal the election through a variety of schemes with the help of Russia, news of an investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server, and a cover-up of Trump’s extramarital affairs with a porn star and a former Playboy centerfold model.

Once in power, Trump used the Oval Office for personal enrichment, a highly partisan failed response to a public emergency (the Covid-19 pandemic), and tax cuts for the wealthy. And, like Nixon, he turned to Roger Stone and a host of other dirty tricksters in an attempt to steal the 2020 election. He even encouraged his supporters to engage in a violent insurrection to prevent the peaceful transition of power.

Republican administrations have overseen repeated economic failures, financial inequality, increased poverty, at least one war based on lies, and corporate consolidation resulting in numerous monopolies. They have allowed the NRA to flood our streets with increasingly lethal military-style weaponry. They have weakened the institutions that have made this country great. And they have led us to the brink of autocracy.

It wasn’t just one man or one term that corrupted the GOP. The transition of the party from the idealistic Party of Lincoln to the criminal enterprise that is the Party of Trump is the result of a series of planned events that prioritized party over nation, money over freedom, and power over honesty.

Gov. Noem’s Cruelty Is Emblematic Of MAGA Party.

Perhaps no event better summarizes the character of today’s Republican Party than Kristi Noem bragging about her heartless and ruthless killing of a 14-month-old puppy and a “filthy” goat. After all, this is a political party (dare I say cult) that seems to revel in cruelty. Cruelty aimed at political opponents, at immigrants, at homosexuals and transexuals, at pregnant women, at people of color, at people of other faiths, even at children.

Indeed, Republican cruelty seems to have no bounds.

Remember when Trump-supporting Republicans were more than happy to let seniors die of Covid? Remember when they took pleasure in ripping immigrant children from their parents’ arms? Remember when Trump proposed shooting immigrants in their legs? Remember when those same people, under the banners of Trump and the banners of the old Confederacy, attacked our nation’s capital with the intent of hanging the Vice-President and murdering Democrats?

There appears to be no vicious act today’s Trump-supporting Republicans won’t stoop to. No limits on their attacks on democracy. Many of those heavily armed MAGAts have bragged that they are willing to turn to violence should their Dear Leader lose the next election.

Yet many, if not most, of these people claim to be “God-fearing, Christian Patriots.”

They claim to be pro-life, yet they are more than willing to force a woman to die while carrying an unviable fetus. And though they are pro-birth, they are more than willing to deny food to impoverished families. Moreover, they deny aid to the children of single mothers (aka “welfare queens”) forced to carry fetuses to term after being denied an abortion. And what do they offer unwanted children? In a word, nothing.

As for patriotism, it’s difficult to believe they even understand the meaning of the word.

In fact, their definition of patriotism centers almost entirely around militarism and guns. I’m convinced that the only part of the Constitution they’ve memorized is the Second Amendment. It’s only a single sentence, but I very much doubt they could cite the first half of it: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state….” Of course, they also ignore the references to separation of church and state. And as for the Bill of Rights, they seem to believe the right to free speech, the right to peaceably assemble, the right to practice religion – any religion – only applies to them.

And, by once again, choosing Donald Trump as their presidential candidate – a man with a lurid sexual history, a man who lies with almost every breath, a man who led an insurrection to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, a man who is clearly determined to turn our democratic republic into his personal fiefdom – they obviously are willing to turn our nation into an autocracy closely aligned with the world’s worst dictators.

That, of course, would be the ultimate cruelty.

Freedom Fighters?

The Republican Party has a long history of claiming to be patriots and “freedom fighters.”  Indeed, many of its members have armed themselves with numerous AR15-style rifles and large stockpiles of ammunition while claiming such measures are necessary to defend themselves against tyranny – the tyranny of a Democratic-led federal government.

Really?

Exactly what Democratic policies do they fear? Providing SNAP benefits to poor families to keep their children from starving? Welcoming refugees from war-torn nations and migrants forced to leave their homeland as the result of violence or drought? Providing Social Security benefits to the elderly who spent decades paying FICA to ensure a comfortable retirement? Supporting Medicare and Obamacare so that Americans won’t die prematurely for lack of access to healthcare?

Do governmental actions cross into tyranny for distributing vaccines to millions to help prevent disease, sickness and death? Allocating billions to repair and restore our nation’s failing infrastructure? Enhancing voting systems to ensure that any eligible citizen can easily exercise their right to vote? Permitting a woman and her doctor to make decisions affecting her health? Or permitting the justice system to prosecute anyone, including the rich and powerful, who breaks the law?

Are these policies evidence of tyranny? Hardly.

Real tyranny is a government that requires elementary school gym teachers to check a child’s genitals to make sure they are using the correct pronoun. Tyranny is telling parents that they cannot decide to give their child gender altering surgery. Tyranny is telling qualified teachers they can’t give a true account of American history. Tyranny is banning books and threatening to criminally prosecute librarians. Tyranny is trying to ban boycotts of governments and corporations who commit human rights abuses. Tyranny is trying to abolish civil rights protests.

Tyranny is telling citizens they can’t marry the ones they love. Tyranny is making it increasingly more difficult for certain ethnic groups to vote. Tyranny is forcing a physician to check with attorneys before providing life-saving care to a pregnant woman whose fetus has died in the womb. Tyranny is prosecuting women and their doctors for seeking abortions. Tyranny is punishing corporations for taking a stand against discrimination or considering DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) in their staffing decisions. Tyranny is banning retirement fund managers and state treasurers from incorporating ESG (Environmental, Social and Good Government) investment strategies.

These are not the tyrannical policies of Democrats. These are policies of the Republican Party.

You know, the party that staged a violent coup to overthrow our duly elected government. The same “patriots” who supported Nixon despite his criminal activities to sway the outcome of an election. The same “freedom fighters” who supported Reagan despite his racism and his interference in President Carter’s negotiations to free the Americans taken hostage by Iran.

In reality, Republicans are more interested in fighting than freedom. It seems the only freedom they really care about is the freedom to discriminate and bully others into doing what they want.

What They Say Versus What They Do.

Today’s Trump-loving MAGA GOP has tried to stake out the political high ground by waving the flag and likening themselves to the colonial patriots of 1776. They claim to be the only true defenders of the Constitution – God-fearing Americans who are for low taxes and limited government. Many walk around with a copy of the Constitution in one hand and a Bible in the other. But, following countless encounters with such people, I can assure you that most have read neither. Moreover, they have a flawed understanding of American history and civics if, indeed, they have any understanding at all.

So, let’s examine their boastful – dare I say delusional – claims one by one:

• They call themselves patriots. But they are actively trying to destroy our government. They support autocrats, dictators and our nation’s adversaries such as Putin and Russia. So, in reality, the only thing they have in common with the original patriots is that they own guns.
• They claim to support freedom. But they are trying to limit the freedom of others to love and worship as they please. They are denying others the right to vote. And they are denying women the freedom to control their own bodies.
• They claim to be for ordinary working people. But most of the bills they propose are written for them by large corporations and corporate “think” tanks.
• They claim to be anti-crime. But they have made it incredibly easy for any criminal to obtain military-style weaponry that permits them to out-gun the police. Many support those who attacked police on January 6. And now they are trying to undermine the FBI and the DOJ.
• They claim to be fiscally conservative. But they have given trillions in tax cuts and subsidies to the wealthy and large multinational corporations. The resulting loss of revenue has led to large deficits and a growing national debt. Further, they have created “free market” messes – the Great Depression and the Great Recession – that were left for Democrats to clean up.
• They claim to be against raising taxes. But they have proposed a 30 percent sales tax that would be devastating to everyone but the very wealthy.
• They claim to support Social Security and Medicare. But they have opposed them from their very beginning and they continue to call for major changes that would put millions of seniors at risk.
• They claim the mainstream media is biased against them. But their media darlings on Fox News have been proven to be little more than propagandists peddling lies that divide us and damage our nation.
• They claim to be pro-life. But they are really only pro-birth. For example, they refuse to do anything to stop school shootings. They continually try to cut food stamp programs and school lunch programs that feed impoverished children. And, by encouraging the births of more unwanted children, they will further overload the foster system – a system that too often serves as a feeder system for our prisons.
• They claim to be pro-education. But they are banning books and threatening teachers who dare to discuss real American history.
• They claim to be Christian. But they have little to no compassion for the poor and the oppressed.
• They claim that the events of January 6 were part of a peaceful demonstration carried out by tourists. But anyone with a functioning brain could see that it was a violent attack on our nation’s capitol as part of a failed coup incited by the disgraced, twice-impeached former president.
• And, of course, they claim the 2020 election was stolen. But multiple recounts and audits found negligible voter fraud. And most of the fraud that was uncovered was committed by some of their very own.

In other words, everything they say is a lie.

What Happens When Those Unwanted Fetuses Become Unwanted Children?

As the theocrats and pro-birthers are celebrating the court decision to overturn Roe v Wade, I can’t help but focus on the consequences of that decision. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 630,000 abortions in the United States each year. Many are for medical reasons to save the life of the woman. Many are because the fetus was not viable and could not live if brought to term. Presumably, the rest could have become living, breathing children. Children who, for a variety of reasons, were unwanted by the women who conceived them.

What if all of those fetuses were born? Certainly, though an economic and emotional burden to their mothers, some would be cared for and loved. Some would be given up for adoption to loving families. But more than you can imagine will live in poverty or worse – many victimized, abused, or abandoned. And tens of thousands would be placed in foster care, a system that is already overwhelmed and underfunded. (The foster system currently contributes, on average, less than 50 percent of what it costs a family to raise a foster child.)

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there were 407,000 children in the foster care system at the end of 2020. These kids face a daunting future. Many blame themselves for having been removed from their birth parents. Many want to return to their birth parents, even if those parents have abused them. Some are similarly abused by their foster parents.

Many foster kids feel lost and helpless. Those who are waiting for adoption feel unwanted. Many are shuttled from one foster family to another. Most feel insecure and uncertain about their futures, as well they should. That’s because, each year, 23,000 of foster kids age out of the system without finding permanent families. Approximately 45 percent of those kids will become homeless within a year. A significant percentage will end up jobless and on public assistance. And at least a quarter of them face a disproportionate risk of becoming incarcerated within two years of leaving foster care. In fact, nearly 20 percent of our prison population spent time in the foster care system.

Not surprisingly, the children of color who will be born as a result of the “Supreme” Court’s forced birth decision will face more challenges than whites. According to the Juvenile Law Center, “Black children are around twice as likely to be placed in foster care as white kids. Because black kids are already subject to disproportionate rates of school discipline and criminalization, being a foster youth compounds this risk. Foster youth, particularly girls, are targeted by sex traffickers, and the criminalization of sex work can funnel these victims of modern-day slavery into the criminal justice system.”

So, when all of you pro-birthers are done celebrating, get ready to open your homes and your bank accounts. Thanks to your efforts to overturn Roe v Wade, there are going to be a hell of a lot of kids who will be counting on you.

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.

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.

Political Party Turned Death Cult.

For many decades, the Republican Party portrayed itself as the right-to-life party in order to gain the support of conservative Christians. Indeed, the party even went so far as to prioritize the life of a fetus over the life of the woman carrying it and the lives of medical personnel willing to abort it.

Yet, as Republicans have continued to fight for the unborn, they have largely turned their backs on the living. They have seemed all too willing to let children go hungry or be consigned to a failing foster system in which children are too often abused and shuttled from home to home. As a result, a significant percentage of those who populate our prison system are products of our foster system.

Further evidence of Republicans’ disdain for the living could be seen as they cheered on the previous administration as it ripped apart families at our borders, caged children, and deported refugees to certain misery and death.

Within the past year, Republicans seem to have taken their distaste for the living to an entirely new level. Many refused to take the necessary steps to control the pandemic by wearing masks. Many attended so-called “super spreader” events against the best advice of scientists. Those actions directly contributed to the deaths of more than 525,000 Americans. They also strained our hospitals to the breaking point.

Now, with an end to the pandemic in sight, Republican governors are prematurely dropping mask mandates and opening up their states’ economies. And a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 28 percent of Republicans will refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19. The poll also found that another 18 percent will “wait and see” before getting a shot.

Wait and see? For what? For their orange messiah to tell them the pandemic is not a hoax? For him to admit, that without quick medical intervention, he might have died? To admit that, on his way out of office, he and his family were vaccinated in secret?

Have these Republicans not seen the videos of Americans dying in such numbers that their bodies are held in refrigerated trucks waiting for burial? Have they not seen interviews with medical personnel suffering from PTSD after caring for so many dead and dying? Have they not lost a friend or family member to Covid-19? Have they not encountered any of the long haulers who are still suffering from the disease months after being first diagnosed?

By refusing to be vaccinated, Republicans are revealing themselves as members of a death cult. A death cult that seems to value fetuses, guns, discrimination, the stock market, and tax cuts for the rich and powerful more than human lives. A death cult that prioritizes corporations over children, profits over people.

If millions of Republicans refuse to be vaccinated as claimed, they could prevent our population from reaching herd immunity potentially resulting in tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, more deaths. Worse, their obstinance could allow the virus to continue to spread and mutate, thus rendering the new vaccines useless and forcing all of us to endure another year or more of deaths and disruption.

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.