Fox News Has Gone Full Goebbels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The GOP’s Clown Car To Autocracy.

No, that’s not hyperbole. And, no, Donald Trump, the narcissistic and wannabe autocrat, is not on the ballot. But, across the nation, many equally seditious and treason-adjacent candidates are. They call themselves Republicans. And some of them make the conspiracy-loving Marjorie Taylor-Greene, the gun-toting Lauren Boebert, the insurrectionist Paul Gosar, and the alleged child sex trafficker Matt Gaetz seem almost moderate.

For example, in Arizona, Trump acolyte Mark Finchem will carry the Trump banner forward as the Republican nominee for Arizona Secretary of State. If he wins, he will be in control of the state’s elections. What makes this prospect frightening is that he is still a firm believer in the Big Lie – that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Not surprisingly, he was also in Washington, DC for the January 6th insurrection. If elected, he plans to ban electronic voting machines and ban early voting making it far more difficult for low-paid workers to cast their ballots. And, given his past, imagine what he might do if, once again, the vote totals were not in favor of his preferred candidate.

In the race for Arizona governor, the GOP will offer one of two horrific choices: the Trump-endorsed bat-crap crazy Kari Lake who says she would have overturned Biden’s victory in Arizona, or the Pence-endorsed theocratic Karrin Taylor Robson. Both are legitimate threats to democracy. And, in the race for US Senate, Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly will face off against Blake Masters, a libertarian, Big Lie-embracing, billionaire-funded venture capitalist. Masters believes that our history of slavery and racism should not be taught in schools. He blames gun violence on black people. He supports a national abortion ban and the privatization of Social Security. He also reportedly compared requirements that political candidates disclose financial donations to Nazi Germany’s Kristallnacht. And he supported some views of the Unabomber.

In Georgia, former NFL running back, Herschel Walker is the GOP nominee for the US Senate. Walker, who always refers to himself in third person, has a Trump-like aversion to the truth. Indeed, his own campaign staff has called him a pathological liar. To wit: he falsely claimed to be a former FBI agent and a valedictorian graduate of the University of Georgia (his only degree is in carrying a football). And though he claims to stand for Christian values, he has a history of domestic violence, and he seemingly can’t remember how many children he has fathered. Moreover, if forced to take the most simplistic sixth grade level civics test, he unquestionably would fail. Yet he hopes to win one of the most powerful seats in government.

In Missouri, Trump-loving Eric Schmitt is the favorite for Roy Blunt’s open Senate seat. A theocrat and 2020 election denier, Schmitt worked to help overturn Biden’s win in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin. He is also an enemy of women’s reproductive rights.

In Pennsylvania, Hillbilly Elegy author and wingnut, J.D. Vance is also running for the US Senate funded by billionaire Peter Thiel. Vance is running a campaign of fear based on all of the wacko hot button social issues, such as banning Critical Race Theory in public schools (it’s only taught in law schools). He also believes women should risk staying in abusive relationships “for the sake of the children.” And like most Republicans, he believes in regulating women’s uteruses. Not guns.

Yet, as dangerous as all those candidates seem, they pale in comparison to Republican incumbent and longtime wackadoodle, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Johnson, you may remember, was a participant in the attempt to decertify Biden’s electoral votes on January 6. Not only is he a supporter of the Big Lie, if Republicans gain control of Congress again, he wants to end mandatory funding of Social Security and Medicare. Instead, he proposes that the funding be made discretionary, which would mean Congress would have to vote to approve funding annually.

The list of such anti-government, anti-American, and anti-democracy candidates is long. And, if Republicans take control of Congress, they promise to impeach Biden (in retaliation for the twice impeached Trump), to investigate members of the January 6 select committee, and to ban all abortions. They will also do everything in their power to privatize education, to privatize or eliminate Social Security and Medicare, to eliminate affirmative action…their ugly, hateful list is long. But the even greater threat to the future of our nation is the departure of competent and trustworthy election officials.

In states and counties across this nation, election officials have resigned or been pushed out of office under threat of violence. They have been doxed – their personal information made public to Trump’s heavily armed insurgent militias who have harassed the officials by phone, staked out their homes, and threatened their lives along with the lives of their families. Many have been replaced by inexperienced and unqualified individuals who believe the 2020 election was rigged and who plan to make sure Trump and his allies never lose again.

If the MAGAts are able to take control of more statehouses, governorships, and secretary of state offices, future elections will be elections in name only. It will be officials who decide the “winners.” Not the voters.

The Plan To Destroy Democracy.

In case it’s not yet obvious that Trump tried everything in his power to overthrow a free and fair election, here is what we know, or can reasonably surmise, about his plan to stay in office despite an overwhelming defeat at the polls:

1. Before the election, Trump began to sow doubt in the electoral process by claiming that the election would be rigged if he didn’t win. (He did the same in 2015.)
2. In anticipation of a large mail-in vote caused by Covid, Trump named a lackey (Louis DeJoy) as Postmaster General to delay and disrupt the mail, particularly in cities with large Democratic majorities.
3. On the night of the election, Trump claimed victory long before all of the ballots were counted. This was designed to support his claims of a stolen election should Biden ultimately be named the winner.
4. As mail-in and absentee ballots continued to be counted, Trump claimed the ballots were fraudulent and encouraged armed supporters to go to ballot-counting stations to disrupt the counting and intimidate election workers.
5. When it was clear that Biden had won, Trump and his personal lawyers claimed foreign interference in the election, saying that China dumped millions of ballots in the mailboxes. That Venezuela and Italy hacked Dominion voting machines to change votes to Biden.
6. Trump and his lawyers filed more than 60 lawsuits claiming voter fraud. All but one was thrown out for lack of evidence.
7. Trump and his closest supporters created a “war room” in the Willard Hotel where sycophants made plans to overturn the election results.
8. As cabinet members announced their resignations, Trump began replacing them with more compliant loyalists, including acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller who tried to investigate a voter fraud conspiracy involving Italian satellites that the DOJ called “pure insanity.”
9. Trump pressured Department of Justice officials to declare the election fraudulent and to order a new election. When they refused, he threatened to fire acting Attorney General Rosen and replace him with Trump loyalist Jeffrey Clark.
10. Trump, his personal attorneys, and other supporters called Secretaries of State in Georgia and other critical swing states asking them to “find” the precise number of votes to change the outcome of the election.
11. As other plans for Trump to stay in power failed, he and his inner circle encouraged Republican-led state legislatures to select “alternative” slates of electors to replace the legitimate slates.
12. As Biden’s inauguration neared, Trump demanded that Vice-President Pence refuse to certify the official electoral votes on January 6 by declaring them invalid and sending the election to state legislatures where Republican legislators would declare Trump the winner.
13. Trump sycophants, including the wife of a sitting Supreme Court justice arranged for a “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, DC the day Congress was set to certify the vote. Trump tweeted supporters to “Be there. It will be wild.” In the days leading up to the rally, the recently pardoned felons, Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, met with leaders of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys to plan the coup. As part of the plan, these insurgent militias organized weapons depots outside the District of Columbia in anticipation of a civil war.
14. On January 5, at least one congressional representative provided an apparent reconnaissance tour of the Capitol for constituents who participated in the January 6 insurrection.
15. In the early morning hours of January 6, pipe bombs were placed in front of the offices of Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee as an obvious attempt to create a distraction for law enforcement prior to the insurrection.
16. On the morning of January 6, Trump placed a phone call to the Vice-President in a last-ditch attempt to convince Pence to refuse certification of the electoral votes. When he refused, Trump angrily called him a pussy before hanging up. He then tweeted that the Vice-President “didn’t have the courage to do the right thing.” In essence, this was the equivalent of a crime boss ordering a hit.
17. At the “Stop the Steal” rally, Trump extremists and conspiracy theorists made a series of fiery speeches telling the crowd to “fight like hell” or they wouldn’t have their country anymore.
18. When many of Trump’s armed supporters refused to enter the rally grounds for fear of having their weapons confiscated as they passed through security screenings, Trump became upset by the optics of a small crowd. He then demanded that the Secret Service take down the magnetometers. When told that many in the crowd were armed, Trump said he didn’t care, they weren’t there to harm him.
19. In his own speech at the rally, Trump asked his supporters to “march to the Capitol,” saying he would join them. He became furious when the Secret Service refused to take him to the Capitol to lead the insurgency.
20. As the electoral certification got underway, 147 of Trump’s congressional supporters – Biggs, Brooks, Boebert, Cawthorn, Cruz, Gohmert, Gaetz, Gosar, Hawley, Loudermilk, Taylor-Greene, Tuberville, et al began to challenge electoral votes.
21. Meanwhile, even before the rally ended, Trump’s insurgent militias began to break through police lines and encouraged others to follow.
22. As the siege of the Capitol began, gallows were constructed on Capitol grounds with the apparent intent to threaten VP Pence and Democratic leaders. After Trump issued a tweet saying Pence didn’t have the courage to do what’s right, the crowd became even more inflamed and clearly intended to murder the Vice-President, coming within a few feet of Pence and members of Congress.
23. Following Pence’s narrow escape, it appears the next step in the plan was for Trump loyalists in the Secret Service to spirit Pence away from the Capitol so that Chuck Grassley, as president pro tempore of the Senate, could take Pence’s place and send the election back to the state legislatures.
24. As a last-ditch effort, it appears Trump planned to use the violence as an excise to declare martial law. In doing so, he could order the military to seize voting machines and call for a new Putin-style “election” that he would be guaranteed to “win.”
25. Trump would then declare himself president for life as he had previously suggested when China’s Xi Jinping was given that title.

If not for the courage of the Capitol police, along with Mike Pence and a few other individuals, we would no longer be living in a constitutional democracy. But we must all realize that Trump’s attempted coup is far from over. Not only does he plan to run again in 2024. His hateful and heavily armed followers are standing by waiting for his orders. In addition, he has successfully created suspicion about election security resulting in threats of violence against election officials and their subsequent resignations. Many of those have been replaced by MAGAts who will do his bidding. And throughout the country he is promoting candidates for governor, Congress, and Secretaries of State who are attuned to his ideology.

Even if Trump is eventually charged with seditious conspiracy, manslaughter and various other crimes, he still has a compliant majority on the Supreme Court. He still has a well-established propaganda network (Fox News, Newsmax, Breitbart, and talk radio). He still benefits from a shocking amount of disinformation on social media platforms. He still has the support of the Republican Party and “Christian” evangelicals. And there are still nearly 74 million Americans who voted for his brand of hateful and vengeful politics – many of them heavily armed and waiting for the opportunity to act.

Blame It On Biden?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We May Have Already Lost Our Democracy.

If you believe we dodged a bullet on January 6, 2020, you are most certainly correct. But the outcome of the insurrection is still very much in doubt. Forget Trump 2024. He will likely already be in prison by that time. At very least, he will be banned from holding office.

The real threat is the five-vote radical majority in the Supreme Court.

Flexing their newfound muscle, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Thomas have already agreed to hear a case that could give state legislatures the power to choose the winners of elections. All they need is to convince the Trump-appointed Coney-Barrett to help them further gut our Constitution.

In the most extreme Republikkkan-controlled states, that would mean legislatures could overturn the will of the people if they don’t like the election outcome. Given such power in 2020, states like Arizona would have almost certainly handed the presidency to Trump. And, given that a majority of the states are currently GOP-controlled, that could ensure a never-ending chain of Republikkkan presidents, regardless of the popular vote.

Unfortunately, we have precious few ways of preventing such an outcome. We can call for the four justices who perjured themselves during their Senate confirmation hearings to be impeached, so that a new court majority can overturn the most egregious of this court’s decisions. But impeachment convictions are unlikely to pass the 60-vote threshold in the Senate.

That leaves us with only the ballot box at our disposal. In the coming mid-term election, everyone who wants to preserve our democracy must repudiate the radical right by voting for solid Democrat majorities in both the US House of Representatives and in the US Senate. Congress can then go about the process to codify reproductive rights, privacy rights, and same-sex marriage rights, as well as strengthening voting rights for all Americans.

This is the only means certain to prevent our nation from becoming a failed democracy further controlled by theocrats, autocrats, and plutocrats. (If you don’t know the definition of these terms, I suggest you look them up. Because no matter your political or theological beliefs, if they gain even more control, you will wind up holding the short end of the stick.)

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Low Gas Prices? Or The Planet? Which Will You Choose?

Fires raging in the West, excessive heat in many parts of the world, crop failures, flooding in Yellowstone, disappearing glaciers, severe storms in the Midwest, and the predicted surge of hurricanes are all indicators that we have waited far too long to address climate change. But most Americans seem willing to ignore all of that and focus, instead, on rising gas prices.

If we had taken climate change seriously when scientists first identified its cause decades ago, we wouldn’t be facing this oil-fueled economic crisis. We wouldn’t be at the mercy of the Russians and the Saudis or any of the world’s other oilygarchs. We wouldn’t be held hostage by the world’s five largest oil companies and their greedy CEOs.

We would be using renewable fuels, instead.

Nevertheless, here we are at a crossroads. Do we offer more subsidies and power to oil producers in hopes they’ll lower gas prices knowing that we’ll likely face the same problem another year or two down the road? Or, if it’s not already too late, do we finally do what we eventually must and invest in renewables that will help us avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change?

If we choose the latter, we may still avoid the flooding of all of the world’s populous coastal cities. We may yet avoid the displacement of hundreds of millions. We may avoid seeing millions dying from food shortages. We may avoid the predicted extinction of more than a million of our planet’s species. We may yet save ourselves, our children, and future generations from greater hardships and possible extinction.

Am I optimistic that we will choose the right path? No.

Unfortunately, the GOP (Does that stand for Greedy Old Plutocrats or Guns Over People?) is uniformly opposed to any measures that would come between oil companies and their billions in profits. So, too, is Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. As a result, Congress already squandered one opportunity to address the problem through Biden’s Build Back Better plan. And we’re unlikely to have another opportunity in the near future.

What makes this situation all the more frustrating is that the many billions of dollars in oil companies’ windfall profits could help pay for the changes needed to address the climate crisis. Combine that money with the trillions that will be spent on repairing the damage caused by increasingly intense storms, fires, and flooding, and we would have enough money to ensure the future of our species and the planet.

So, which path will you choose? This coming November will you vote for candidates who are serious about addressing the climate crisis? Or will you gamble on candidates who falsely claim they can lower gas prices and hope your family can survive on an increasingly dangerous and unlivable planet?

The Inevitable Outcome Of The Deep State Conspiracy Theory.

As Donald J. Trump began his campaign for the presidency, we began to hear about something called the Deep State. He and his followers claimed that a clandestine network of unelected officials was in control of the US government. The Deep State, as the theory goes, is a shadow government acting on behalf of Democrats and the coastal elites against the interests of ordinary Americans.

The obvious irony is that Trump and his closest friends are, themselves, coastal elites.

Once elected, Trump used the theory to explain away his corruption and his failures. The problems weren’t his fault. His agenda was being undermined by the Deep State!

Yet even though Trump and his henchmen are no longer in office, the theory persists. Whenever a government agency debunks a GOP lie, whenever a federal court rules against Trump and the GOP, whenever a talking point of Fox News and the rest of the GOP propagandists is proven false, their most ardent followers simply refuse to accept the outcome.

They cry cover-up. They argue that the system is irreversibly rigged. They are convinced that every competing fact, every datapoint, every adverse ruling is the result of lies perpetuated by the Deep State. They can’t grasp the reality that, aside from elected officials, our government is still run by hard-working, well-intentioned, and often underpaid civil servants. It’s more enticing to believe in conspiracy theories.

Instead of believing that most Democrats are honest, caring people who have genuine differences in policy matters – whose solutions to issues are worth consideration and debate – it’s more exciting for conspiracy theorists to believe they are cunning and evil. That they are pedophiles, cannibals and satanists who, working in concert with A-list celebrities, operate child sex-trafficking rings.

Instead of accepting that our elections results are reliable. They would rather believe that their candidates lost only as a result of fraudulent and illegal votes. Their excuses are many. And all of them are equally preposterous: Thousands of undocumented immigrants voted. Dead people voted. Democrats hauled fraudulent ballots into the polling places by the boxload. China replaced legal ballots with fraudulent ones. Iran and Venezuela hacked the electronic voting machines.

Instead of believing that scientists created safe, effective vaccines to combat Covid, the conspiracy theorists believe social media posts that claim the vaccines are part of a Deep State plot. That they are a form of mind control. That they will make you sterile. That they will turn you into a magnet. That they will give your children autism and make your testicles swell to the size of basketballs.

In previous decades, all of this would have been rejected as absurd and somewhat hilarious theater. But the Deep State conspiracy theory is a very real and ongoing threat.

When a substantial percentage of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, no longer believe in our government of the people, by the people and for the people. When they no longer believe in science, in evidence, in expertise, in truth. When they no longer believe in fair and free elections. When they are no longer willing to compromise, the only winners will be autocrats, theocrats, and our nation’s foreign enemies.

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!