Religion Perverted.

As the pandemic spreads around the globe, we see indications that people are turning to religion for help and guidance. And though there is reason to believe that religion can help some people through difficult times, we should not forget the harm that morally bankrupt religious leaders can do.

In the US, we see televangelist Kenneth Copeland take a temporary break from his fearmongering and constant calls for donations to purse his lying lips and blow away the coronavirus in the name of God. We see GOP leaders praise the demonstrators who are defying science and common sense to “liberate” states by saying they are doing the Lord’s work in fighting for protection of the Second Amendment. And we see evangelical Christians pledge their undying support to a pussy-grabbing, money-grubbing, Muslim-hating, family-breaking, child-caging, refugee-deporting, race-baiting, narcissistic sociopath. In fact, they not only support him. They believe him to be sent from God!

All of this has led me to examine religion as never before.

Historians tell us that many of today’s great religions – Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam – were created to encourage good behavior as humanity evolved from nomadic tribes into settlements. As various clans and tribes began living together, there was a need for new rules. What better way to guarantee that someone would behave appropriately than to put the fear of God into them? Unfortunately, rules based on divine retribution do not encourage compassion and morality. They result in actions born out of mere self-interest – the idea that you will be rewarded for good actions and punished for bad actions. That is not morality. Morality comes from performing good deeds without regard to personal benefit merely because they are the right, just, compassionate, and moral thing to do.

I believe it is precisely because of the concept of divine retribution that religions are so easily perverted and abused. The concept allows for pastors, priests, parishioners, and autocrats to make judgments. It permits them to decide what their God would want. It is this concept that has transformed so many religions into cults focused on evangelism, profiteering, repression, and persecution…all in the name of God.

The notion that only my fellow believers know the will of God permits the sanctimonious to turn their collective backs on those most in need: The poor, the homeless, the downtrodden and the endangered. How else do you explain Christians rationalizing the deportation of refugees to almost certain abuse or death while celebrating the supposed prosperity gospel? How else do you explain Christians justifying discrimination of minorities? How else do you explain Israel’s Zionist apartheid toward Palestinians? How else do you explain Wahhabi extremists justifying the murder of non-believers? How else do you explain the genocide of Muslims by Buddhists in Myanmar? How else do you explain religious wars?

Throughout the world, we see churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples ignore the suffering of others in defiance of their own teachings. We see them use religion as a weapon in their pursuit of a homogenous society in which everyone shares the same skin color, the same sexual preferences and the same beliefs. We see predators use the trappings of faith to abuse children. We see televangelists use their platform to purchase mansions and private jets. We see religious majorities discriminate against people of other faiths. We see them commit murder in the name of God.

Studies have shown that atheists are no less moral than those who claim to be religious. If atheists are not bound by the concept of divine retribution, why are they just as likely to do good as their religious brethren? I submit that it’s out of an internal compass…an innate sense of right and wrong, of caring for others.

For me, that raises several questions: Is organized religion any longer necessary? If it doesn’t engender good behavior, what good is it? If it is used to discriminate and divide, would we not be better off without it? Moreover, why do we afford religions special treatment? Why has it become impossible for an atheist or a deist to be elected to office? Why do we exempt churches from taxes? Though churches provide a sense of belonging and the comfort of communal support, so, too, do many other clubs and organizations.

If we are ever to achieve peace, I believe we must all embrace the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson as expressed in his writing, “…it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg… Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error.”

Jefferson believed that religion was a private matter solely between himself and his creator. We would all do well to follow his lead.

Now Available On Amazon:

Ironically, in the age of information, our nation has been compromised by lies and disinformation as never before.

Decades of consolidation, short-term thinking, corporate greed, extreme political ideologies, and poor leadership have left our nation’s economy, healthcare system and its citizens unnecessarily vulnerable.

Many of the decisions that led us to this point were made in good faith. Some were dictated by difficult situations. But others were made willfully and knowingly, their true purpose and their all-too predictable results hidden in a fog of falsehoods and lies. This book attempts to cut through the misinformation to examine the problems, explain how they happened and reveal the truth.

What The US Could Be.

Our nation has reached a crossroads. Will we continue to slide further down the path to autocracy and cruelty where the nation’s leader is unaccountable, where the rule of law only pertains to those the leader says it should, where the leader puts his thumb on the scales of justice, where elected officials cater to corporations and the wealthy, where discrimination is accepted, where millions continue to live in poverty with fewer and fewer safety nets, and where those seeking asylum are locked in cages?

Or will we choose to vote for those determined to reclaim our government and reshape it to live up to its promise?

Consider what a Uniter-in-Chief, instead of a Divider-in-Chief, could do. Consider what a Congress focused on solving problems and representing the people – all of the people – could accomplish.

Unity: Instead of being divided by political and racial tribalism, we could be united in solving the greatest issues of our time. By rejecting GOP candidates determined to divide us for political gains over social issues such as abortion, religion, discrimination and wealth.

Right now, there are nearly 400 House-passed bills that have been denied a hearing in the Senate. Many, if not most, of these bills address bipartisan issues such as protecting patients with pre-existing conditions, lowering pharmaceutical prices, improving gun safety through universal background checks. Reshaping the Senate by rejecting those who would rather play politics than address the nation’s needs would end gridlock and allow us to address the issues that affect all of us.

Equality: We could treat each other as true equals. Over the past few decades, the GOP has resorted to voter suppression tactics in order to choose their voters rather than allow voters to choose their candidates. They have relied on extreme Gerrymandering, restrictive voter IDs, purging of voter rolls, intimidation, reducing voting hours and closing polling places in poor and black areas, and taking voting rights away from those who have served prison time.

It’s time to end these repressive and undemocratic practices; to end discrimination of all kinds. We must reshape all of our governments – including city, county, state and federal – and commit to restoring democracy and civil rights for all.

Equal Representation: We could dismantle the archaic Electoral College that prioritizes geography over people – a system that gives a voter living in Wyoming nearly 4 times the representation of a voter living in California.

Climate Crisis: We could save our planet from the most severe impacts of climate change.

Though scientists have known about the dangers of our reliance on fossil fuels since the mid-1960s, the issue was mostly ignored until former Vice-President Gore released the documentary An Inconvenient Truth in 2006. By the 2008 presidential election, it had finally become a political issue with both candidates promoting a policy of cap and trade to reduce carbon emissions. Since then, only one party has shown any interest in addressing climate change. The other, supported by the fossil fuel industry, refers to it as a hoax.

Let’s suppose for a moment that the GOP is correct and climate change is a hoax (it isn’t), what would be the consequences of addressing the issue and embracing clean, renewable energy? The consequences would be many high-paying jobs, cleaner air, cleaner water and an end to wars over reserves of oil. Oh, and Big Oil would no longer exert such control over our government.

Ecosystem: We could save the diversity and the beauty of the many species that share our planet.

Many parts of our ecosystem are collapsing. Bees, which pollinate our fruits, vegetables and grains, are dying as a result of the use of pesticides. There is a dead zone in the Gulf caused by the runoff of fertilizers from our farms. Glysophate, a known carcinogen used to control weeds permeates our drinking water and our foods. Fracking fluids have leaked into the aquifers many rely on for drinking water. Many of our coral reefs, home to most of our oceans’ fish, are bleaching and collapsing due to climate change. Our oceans are also showing the ill effects of decades of use as garbage dumps. Deforestation and trophy hunting has forced thousands of species to the brink of extinction. I could go on. Yet the GOP seems uniquely unmoved by the devastation.

Replacing GOP politicians with those who believe in science, who will fight for ecological understanding and justice, may be the only way to save thousands of species from extinction…including our own.

Military: We could use much of our gigantic $718 billion military budget to improve conditions for the citizens of our nation and elsewhere. And we could, for one of the very few times in our nation’s history, wage peace.

For those who think that reducing the military budget would leave us vulnerable, consider that our budget is equal to that of the next 8 countries’ combined. And 6 of those are allies. Moreover, we benefit from the more than $305 billion in military spending of the other 28 members of the NATO mutual defense organization. Finally, our military budget doesn’t include the more than $50 billion budget of the Department of Homeland Security or the nearly $220 billion for Veterans Affairs.

That means we’re currently spending nearly $1 trillion annually on defense and military-related issues. And we benefit from $305 billion more.

Healthcare: We could provide universal health care for all of our citizens and save thousands of lives.

Pharmaceuticals: By allowing the government, as the provider of universal health care, to negotiate with manufacturers and distributors, we could make necessary and life-saving pharmaceuticals affordable for all those who need them.

Religion: We could provide true religious freedom, including freedom from religion for non-believers. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God.”

Immigration: We could, once and for all, solve the issue of immigration by providing a path to citizenship for those who were brought here as children and have spent most of their lives in the US. We could create a system of work permits for those who are needed to raise and harvest our crops and to fill the jobs most US citizens don’t want. We could improve our system for those seeking asylum from violence and starvation in their home countries.

Economy: We could transform our economy from a plutocracy to a democracy that will work for all Americans. Not just the powerful and the wealthy. By eliminating the need for corporations to pay for their employees’ healthcare, we could demand that their savings be used to pay all employees a living wage. And, by asking the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes, we could invest in many other things that could benefit our nation, such as low-cost college education while, at the same time, decreasing deficits.

Infrastructure: We could create high-paying jobs that cannot be off-shored by committing to rebuild our aging and decrepit infrastructure: Streets, roads, bridges, railroads, seaports, airports and the electric grid.

Violence: We could address gun violence by ending the sale of the weapons of war. We could implement universal background checks, waiting periods and red flag laws. And we could address the issues that lead to violence, such as poverty, discrimination, lack of opportunity and easy access to guns.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Seven – Race)

The Trump White House is fond of sending out emails and Tweets stating “Promises Made. Promises Kept.” He promised to bring people together; to improve the lives of blacks and minorities. But the promises broken far outnumber those kept.

African-Americans: Trump promised a New Deal for black Americans saying he would be better for African-Americans than any previous president. “What have you got to lose?” he asked. Then he immediately went about suppressing the black vote. Upon entering the Oval Office, he hired the White Nationalist Stephen Miller as one of his closest advisors. Not surprisingly, Trump’s policies have negatively affected blacks. For example, despite the growth of the stock market, the pay gap between whites and blacks has grown under Trump.

White Supremacists: The Trump administration has reportedly stopped tracking White Supremacist violence as a separate category of domestic terrorism despite a growing number of incidents and hate crimes. While the FBI used to track 11 different categories for domestic terrorism, the administration now uses a system with only 4 categories. One of those is the overly broad ‘racially-motivated violent extremism,’ which combines incidents involving White Supremacists and so-called ‘Black identity extremists.’ This is almost certainly intended to diminish the violence of White Supremacists.

Charlottesville: Rather than condemn the violent and murderous acts of White Supremacists who rallied in Charlottesville, Trump stated: “There were good people on both sides.” It appears that he didn’t want to alienate his base. After all, he was endorsed by David Duke, the KKK, violent militias and other White Supremacists.

Muslims: After taking office, Trump tried to enact a ban on all Muslims entering the US, except those from a few favored nations like Saudi Arabia. After the ban was overturned by the courts, he expanded it to include a couple of non-Muslim countries and it was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court. Now, after being acquitted by the GOP-majority Senate, he has expanded the ban again.

Jews: Though Trump has given Netanyahu and Israel virtually everything they’ve wanted, he has been no friend of Jews in the US. There’s no better example than the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue by a neo-Nazi. Afterwards, Trump blamed the victims by stating, “If they had protection inside, the results would have been far better.” He has also attacked Jews for not supporting him saying, “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

LGBTQ: Throughout his term, Trump has escalated attacks on the LGBTQ community by using his “justice” department to make it legal to fire people for being gay or transgender under the auspices of “religious freedom.” He has moved to reverse healthcare protections for transgender people. And he has pushed to ban transgenders from serving in the military.

Latinos: From the moment Trump came down the escalator to announce his presidential campaign, it has been obvious that he has never cared to be their president. He began by calling Mexicans murderers and rapists. He has refused asylum to Central American refugees, sending many of them back to their home countries where they were murdered or abused. He placed thousands of would-be immigrants in camps under deplorable conditions. And he ordered immigrant children to be separated from their parents.

The March Toward Autocracy.

Ever watch a kindergarten class out for a walk in the city? They are all hooked to a rope connected to two teachers so that no child can step out of line. Such is the case with our Republican Congress. Led by DonTheCon, they follow along through oncoming traffic toward the edge of a cliff where they’re expected to take a giant leap of faith. If they do step out of line, there’s Moscow Mitch to herd them back into place.

I believe there’s no better description of today’s GOP under Donald J. Trump.

Trump clearly conspired with a foreign rival to attain office. Once in power, he has set about destroying the United States of America as we know it. He has intentionally divided the nation as we have not seen since the Civil War. He has undermined our institutions – the press, the judicial system, the national security apparatus, the military. He has used the machinery of government and the power of his office to attack and investigate political opponents. He has obstructed justice and any form of congressional oversight.

He has changed our tax codes to further benefit the rich and the powerful. He has demeaned and estranged our closest allies. Though having broken nearly all of the Ten Commandments, he has pandered to evangelical “Christians” while banning the followers of Islam from entering our country. He has turned aside refugees – the victims of violence and economic collapse – and re-victimized them by locking them in cages to endure horrific conditions. He has pandered to white nationalists and embraced the world’s worst dictators as though they are members of the same club.

Indeed they are.

He has carved up our national monuments and auctioned off the mineral rights to the highest bidder. He has eliminated environmental regulations allowing oligarchs to despoil our air and water. He has cheated on his taxes, refusing to reveal the depths of his cheating by hiding them from the public. He has used the national treasure as his piggy bank to enrich himself and his family while ordering the Treasury Secretary to shield the numbers from accountability.

As he neared re-election, he chose to enlist the help of a foreign government yet again, using taxpayer funds to extort its help in damaging a political opponent. And, when he was caught, he gathered those Republican congressmen and senators – those obedient toddlers – around him for protection.

Though impeached, his followers refuse to remove him from office…even refusing to examine the evidence. So now it’s up to the voters to do what the Senate should have done.

That will be difficult. Though Trump’s support represents a minority of the electorate – mostly an angry mob of white supremacists, religious zealots, the uninformed, the misinformed and aggrieved losers – his party has spent years preparing for this moment. The GOP has aggressively Gerrymandered congressional districts. It has set about removing the names of millions of voters from the rolls, forcing them to re-register to vote – that’s assuming they’re even aware that their names have been excluded. The GOP has reduced the number of polling places and voting hours in Democratic-leaning districts. It has blocked voting rights for felons who have served their sentences. It has intimidated opposition voters. And, in many states, it has forced voters to leave work and drive many miles in order to purchase a voter ID, often making them choose between obtaining the ID or earning enough to feed their children.

Even without all of their voter suppression tactics, the GOP has a distinct advantage. It controls a large majority of the nation’s geography, if not its voters. Half of the nation’s population resides in 9 largely blue states. But the remaining 41 mostly red states hold a majority of the electoral votes. So it’s possible that Trump – the president with the lowest approval ratings in modern times – will, once again, lose the popular vote this November by overwhelming numbers and still win a majority of electoral votes.

The only sure way to stop him is for decent, caring Americans to turn out to vote as never before.

And, if Trump is defeated, the winning candidate should quickly set about nullifying the Trump presidency. Every presidential order should be immediately overturned. Every appointment, every administration decision should be scrutinized and rectified, as quickly as possible. And, if Democrats are fortunate enough to gain majorities in both houses of Congress, they should pass legislation designed to protect our elections, to restore voting rights, to eliminate the Electoral College and to protect our environment.

As important, Trump should be prosecuted for his many crimes – for his tax evasion, for violating the emoluments clause, for conspiring with enemies of state, for abuse of power, for obstruction. He and his family should be forced to repay the millions they have stolen from taxpayers. And Trump should be locked up as a warning to any like-minded individuals who would consider undermining our democracy ever again.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Three – Immigration)

Of the thousands of falsehoods and misleading statements Trump has made since declaring his candidacy, some of the most notorious concern immigration. For example:

The Wall: When he announced his candidacy for president, Trump promised to build “a great wall on our southern border and have Mexico pay for it.” Instead, US taxpayers are paying $11 billion for the wall at the cost of $20 million per mile. The wall will dissect wildlife refuges, the National Butterfly Center, Native American lands, farms, and golf courses. And, if completed, it will block US residents from accessing much of the Rio Grande. The final cost of the wall could reach an estimated $21 billion.

Illegal Immigration: Trump promised to end all illegal immigration. (In reality, illegal immigration had steadily declined since 2000.) But there was actually an uptick in 2018 despite Trump’s “Zero Tolerance Policy.” Under that policy, Trump ordered a ban on virtually all Muslim immigration. His administration ripped children, including infants and toddlers, away from their parents. It placed immigrants, even toddlers, in cages without enough room to sleep and without access to water and the basic needs for hygiene. In addition, Trump purposely slowed the process of reviewing the refugee status of immigrants forcing most to stay in dangerous camps along the border.

At the same time, Trump labeled African nations and other predominantly black and brown nations “shithole” countries and wondered aloud why we couldn’t have more immigrants from countries like Norway. (In other words, he expressed his preference for immigrants that are white and Christian.)

Foreign Workers: Trump promised that Americans would stop losing jobs to foreign workers. Yet, until the media reported on his own hiring practices, his own resorts continued to rely on undocumented workers. And, even after dismissing many long-time workers, he continues to rely on foreigners. Mar-a-Lago is a case in point: Despite receiving hundreds of applications from US citizens, Trump instead hired foreign workers to help maintain the property and to serve his guests.

DACA: Despite promising to immediately terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Trump said that “we’re going to show great heart” toward DACA recipients. Again, after taking office, Trump stated that “they shouldn’t be worried. I do have a big heart.” Nevertheless, shortly after making that statement, he announced that he would terminate the program. To date, most of the more than 700,000 DACA recipients remain in limbo not knowing what to expect. And some DACA recipients, including US military veterans have been deported to the countries they left as children and scarcely remember.

Removing Undocumented Immigrants: Trump promised to remove all of the more than 11 million undocumented workers from the US. Unfortunately, this is one of the promises he has tried to keep. But, if he actually succeeds, the impact on the US economy will be devastating. In addition to the cost of removing them, which is estimated at $103.9 billion, the loss to our GDP will be roughly $1.6 trillion per year as estimated by the Harvard Kennedy School – money that is distributed throughout our economy. In addition, in 2014 it was estimated that undocumented workers contributed $38 billion in federal, state and local taxes.

Moreover, if he chooses to remove all immigrants who have illegally worked in the US, he will have to deport his third and current wife, Melania, who worked as a model before obtaining a green card.

Chain Migration: Trump promised to end so-called chain migration – the practice of legal immigrants bringing their families to the US. He hasn’t. And, if he had, his wife’s parents would not have been permitted to immigrate to the US.

Two Different Sponsors Of Terror. Two Very Different US Responses.

The US annual terrorism report of 2017 named Iran as “the foremost state sponsor of terrorism.” But is it really? Even Trump, before the 2016 election, gave that title to Saudi Arabia, apparently basing his opinion on a leaked secret memo from then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that stated Saudi donors “constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

Indeed, there was good reason for Clinton and, by extension, Trump to feel that way. After all, Saudis comprised the majority of terrorists involved in 9/11 and they were funded by a Saudi citizen – Osama bin Laden. The Saudis also created the Taliban by teaching their extreme Wahabbist form of Islam to young Afghan refugee students during the Soviet-Afghan War. (Talib means student.) The Saudis continue to finance the Taliban. And, as if all that were not bad enough, the Saudi’s Wahabbism inspired ISIL or, as it is more commonly known as ISIS.

In addition, the Saudi royal family has long used its power and extreme religious beliefs to terrorize the citizens of Saudi Arabia. It tortures and incarcerates anyone who dares to defy its religious beliefs or openly criticizes the family. And it often publicly beheads the most outspoken dissidents, even crucifying their bodies following executions to threaten anyone else considering defiance. Commit a more serious crime and the Saudis will bury you up to your neck and stone you to death.

Yet the family’s brutality and excesses are largely ignored in the West because the Saudis have lots of money and oil. Of course, that fact did not go unnoticed by the Trumps and the Kushners who have relied on Saudi money to finance their developments. Indeed, one of Trump’s first official acts as president was to travel to Riyadh where he bowed to the royal family, placed his hand on a crystal globe and gushed about the Saudi’s purchase of weapons from the US. (It should be noted that Saudi Arabia has used those weapons to carry out a brutal war in Yemen, continuing to bomb and kill thousands of civilians as part of the near 1,400-year conflict between the Sunni and Shiite factions of Islam.)

Since Trump’s meeting in Riyadh, Trump’s ties with the Saudis have become as unshakeable as his ties with Putin. Even when the Saudi leader ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, an American resident and Washington Post contributor, Trump refused to hold him accountable or to even acknowledge his involvement. Not even the mass shooting of US military personnel by a Saudi at the Pensacola Air Station drew a rebuke from Trump.

As I’ve previously written, Iran, on the other hand, was a US ally until the Islamic Revolution in 1979 when it deposed the brutal monarchy of the Shah who had gained power after the 1953 coup of Iran’s democratically-elected Iranian prime minister orchestrated by the UK and US. The prime minister’s crime? He threatened to nationalize Iran’s oil reserves.

Our relationship with Iran has been exceedingly complicated ever since.

Following our interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which border Iran, Iran’s goal has been to force the US to remove our military from the region. With that goal in mind, it has supported terrorist groups as proxies against both the US and Israel. In retaliation, the US imposed economic sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy. Yet we have occasionally worked together for common goals. Iranian militias helped the US and its allies end the violence in Iraq. They also helped fight against ISIS.

But it’s Iran’s support of Hezbollah, Hamas and Iraqi militias that has led to its reputation as a sponsor of terrorism. Hezbollah is described by the US as the primary terrorist partner of Iran. Yet that claim is open for debate. To many, especially Palestinians and Lebanese, Hezbollah is a political party and a liberation movement that uses force to resist Israeli occupation.

Iran also supports Hamas, a group that has been labeled a terrorist organization since 1997. But some argue that Hamas is a resistance movement. Not a terrorist group. In addition, some claim Iran has links to the Taliban, al-Qaeda and ISIS. But those claims are murky at best. Indeed, Iran did as much to defeat ISIS as anyone, including the Kurds.

It must be emphasized that, unlike the Saudis, no Iranian has ever attacked Americans on American soil.

So which country is the greater sponsor of terror? Which nation commits the greater number of human rights violations against its own citizens? By those measures, it would be difficult to draw a clear line between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The obvious difference seems to be in how we treat them.

Russia 2.0?

A lot has been written about Trump’s many links to Russia, his subservience to Putin and his admiration for some of the world’s most despicable strongmen. Those things should make every American wary of the intentions of our Dear Leader. But are they merely innocent, well-intentioned attempts to reach out to our adversaries in the interest of peace? Or is there something more disturbing, more threatening at play?

For that answer, it’s useful to compare Trump’s actions with those that undermined the Russian Federation’s once promising democracy and gave Putin complete control of the government and his nation’s resources.

1 – Putin labeled the government weak and ineffective promising to return the nation to its former power and glory. (Trump’s slogans of Make America Great Again and America First are right out of the dictators’ playbook.)

2 – Putin attacked the news media for reporting anything negative about him. (Trump labeled the news media and reporters as “enemies of the people.”)

3 – Putin used compliant media outlets to spread lies and propaganda. (Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, online sites such as Breitbart News, and radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh willingly and gleefully perpetuate Trump’s stream of lies.)

4 – Putin subverted the electoral process and suppressed votes for opposing candidates. (The GOP’s voter suppression efforts actually precede Trump by several decades. But these efforts have become more widespread in the age of Trump.)

5 – Putin embraced organized crime and other thuggish leaders such as Syria’s Assad to increase his power. (Trump has lifelong ties to organized crime through his family attorney Roy Cohn. He has helped Russian mobsters and oligarchs launder money. And his admiration for dictators like Putin, Erdogan and Mohammed bin Salman is obvious.)

6 – Once in power, Putin used the Russian government and economy as his personal piggy bank. And he has used offshore tax havens to shelter his ill-gotten gains. (In violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, Trump has funneled millions of government funds into his properties. And, for many years, he has used offshore accounts to avoid taxes. His name appears in the Panama Papers – a list of those who invest in offshore tax shelters – an astounding 3,540 times. Further, a similar list known as the Paradise Papers exposed links between Trump, Putin and Russia.)

7 – Putin used the intelligence apparatus and law enforcement to investigate his political enemies. (Attorney General Barr has authorized an investigation into those he and Trump claim “spied” on the Trump campaign. And Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is busy using government resources to gather dirt on Trump’s political rivals.)

8 – He took control of the courts so the laws could not be used to undermine his authority. (With the help of a compliant majority in the Senate, the Trump administration has packed the courts with a record number of young, ideological judges – many for lifetime appointments. Trump nominees now comprise a quarter of the seats on all federal appellate courts.)

9 – Putin gave control of natural resources to his closest friends and most ardent supporters making them, and himself, obscenely wealthy. (The Trump administration has auctioned off mining and oil drilling leases on federal lands to his supporters at wholesale prices. His administration has also pushed for logging in national wildernesses. At the same time, Trump has rolled back environmental regulations to make the extraction of resources more profitable.)

10 – Putin gave favors to the wealthy and corporate leaders, including helping them avoid taxes in order to further build their wealth. (One of Trump’s first acts was to cut income taxes for corporations and the very wealthy. One of the little-known effects of the bill was to allow corporations to “repatriate” billions of dollars, most of which were used for stock buybacks for the benefit of corporate executives.)

11 – Putin and his friends took control of the legislative bodies by using the power of their wealth. (The US has been an oligarchy for decades. But the money needed to run for office has skyrocketed in recent years. This, of course, benefits Trump’s wealthy supporters. In addition, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent by industries and corporations to shape or block legislation.)

12 – Putin gave favors to the leaders of the nation’s majority religion and encouraged the persecution of those who practiced other faiths, as well as gays and lesbians. (Trump has embraced evangelical Christian leaders who consider homosexuality and abortion abominations under God. In return, they have claimed he was chosen by God to lead us. Trump also placed a near-complete ban on Muslims entering the US. He has empowered his followers to commit vandalism and acts of violence against followers of other religions and people of color.)

When you compare the actions of our wannabe dictator to those of Putin and other tyrants such as Erdogan, the similarities are frightening. Given the depths to which he has taken our nation in his first term, we should all fear what a second term might bring.

Time For Christians To Get Their House In Order.

For years, Christians have demanded that all Muslims speak out against Muslim extremists. When will they take their own advice? Domestic terrorists – most of them Christians – have murdered far more Americans than Muslims. They have used their faith to justify vandalizing synagogues and mosques; to excuse the gunning down of Muslims, Jews, members of the LGBTQ community, abortion providers, immigrants, and people of color. Yet Christian leaders have remained relatively silent about those who have committed these tragedies.

Likewise, few Christian leaders have spoken out against Christian White Supremacists. Christian churches have remained relatively silent on the sexual abuse of children by priests and pastors. They have not spoken out against Christian pastors who abuse their privilege, abandon their principles, and preach division and hatred from the pulpit. They have stood silent as con artists under the cloak of Christianity contort passages of the Bible to condemn abortion and homosexuality. They have watched in silence as pastors and televangelists fleece the faithful in order to buy private jets and mansions. They have refused to speak up against those who preach prosperity gospel while ignoring the poor and the hungry, even condoning their punishment. They have stood silent as some Christian pastors and churches funnel money into Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory as a way of displacing an entire population.

For the most part, Christian evangelicals have only raised their voices to convert others, to demand that the US be declared a Christian nation, to condemn those who do not believe as they do.

What will it take for the churches to reassert the teachings of the one they worship? What will it take for them to speak up in unison to condemn all violence, most especially that of those who commit it in the name of Christianity? What will it take for them to aggressively root out predatory pastors and priests? What will it take for them to call out corruption within their ranks?

What will it take for them to follow the advice they give to the leaders of other religions?

Destruction Of The US. (Part Thirteen – Putin)

Following the fall of the Soviet Union, most of the world was hopeful that Russians would enjoy the benefits of democracy. Instead, it has become a brutal dictatorship led by a former KGB operative, Vladimir Putin. Using techniques he learned in the KGB, he controls almost every aspect of Russian life. He not only controls the government and the military. He and his criminal associates control the nation’s industries, technologies and natural resources.

As Malcolm Nance states in his latest book, The Plot To Betray America, there are four classes of society in Russia: From the top down, they include the leadership , the oligarchs and Russian mafia, the street criminals, and, at the bottom, ordinary people. Putin and his ex-KGB friends use brutality and murder to maintain control and to funnel the nation’s riches off-shore to their private bank accounts.

Nance describes Putin as a wannabe Charlemagne writing “Putin, with the Russian Orthodox Church patriarchy, would put forward a template to unite a new, conservative Europe under a Christian banner. America could come along too. He set his spymasters to develop an intelligence operation to bring the Americans along by making common cause with ideological soul mates across the Atlantic.”

Obviously, those soul mates are Trump, the GOP and evangelical Christians.

To push his agenda, Putin has used his billions and the billions of other Russian oligarchs to support political campaigns, to publish pro-Russian lies in mass media, to promote division via social media, and to meddle in Western elections.

In the US, he directed his efforts against President Obama and Hillary Clinton. And to aid Donald Trump. From the Mueller investigation, we learned that Putin’s GRU (successor to the KGB) hacked the servers of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the chair of Clinton’s campaign. The information gleaned was directed to the campaigns of GOP candidates, including Trump’s.

In addition, Mueller documented more than 100 meetings between Putin’s officials and members of the Trump campaign. Putin’s operatives engaged the NRA and his Russian oligarch friends funneled campaign donations through the organization to GOP campaigns. Mueller also documented that GRU operatives, disguised as Americans, posted millions of divisive messages and fake news on social media.

Not coincidentally, once Trump won the nomination, his campaign rewrote the GOP platform to soften its approach toward Russia. Since then, the Trump administration and GOP congressional representatives have only reluctantly criticized Russia while putting forth debunked conspiracy theories originating in Russia. (It’s Putin who’s behind the crackpot idea that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election.) Additionally, Trump has requested that Russia be re-admitted to the G7 despite Russia’s ongoing war and occupation of Ukraine territory. He appeared subservient to Putin at their public meetings. And, we can only imagine what has been said in their private meetings since Trump has refused to allow anyone to attend except a translator (and he confiscated the translators notes). Moreover, the transcripts of Trump’s private phone calls with Putin have been hidden away in classified servers. Lastly, Trump has abdicated US leadership in the Middle East by betraying our Kurdish allies leaving Russia to fill the void. Indeed, many of the Trump administration’s decisions seem to benefit Russia more than the US.

Given all of the evidence, one can only conclude that our president and the GOP leadership have become little more than puppets with Putin pulling the strings.