America’s Great Character Test.

Each 4th of July, we celebrate Independence Day, the day the Declaration of Independence was ratified by the Second Continental Congress. That act, of course, led to the Revolutionary War, our freedom from a tyrannical king and the world’s longest-lasting democratic experiment.

It was called an experiment by our nation’s founders because they were uncertain if our citizens could maintain it. Though the Constitution was written to “establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” the framers could not guarantee that it would last.

They were right to be worried.

Since the original Independence Day, our nation has faced a number of critical tests. Tests that have required character, courage, determination, luck and a great deal of our citizens’ blood. From its beginning, the Revolution was very much in doubt. Even after the defeat of British forces, we had to face them again in the War of 1812. Then came the Civil War, a war testing the founders’ original belief that “all men are created equal.”

World War II again put the future of our nation in doubt as it raised the question of whether or not we could defeat the cruelty of fascism.

Of course, we passed each and every test. But it remains to be determined if we can fend off fascism and tyranny from within.

Ironically, just prior to this Independence Day, our nation’s highest court has made the defense of liberty and democracy much more difficult. Following years of political division and challenges to the rule of law by former president Trump and his supporters, the court’s highly partisan MAGA majority ignored one of the founders’ most intensely held beliefs – that no man is above the rule of law. Their decision has not only delayed justice for Trump’s illegal activities. Should Trump be elected again, the court has given him immunity for “official acts” no matter how corrupt or cruel they may be.

We all know that Trump’s mindset has always been that of a narcissistic, sociopathic bully – one who was mentored by Roy Cohn, attorney to Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the New York Mafia. During his term in office, Trump was held partially in check by men of good conscience. Men like John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Gen. Mark Milley, and, in the end, V.P. Mike Pence.

But, according to the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 and Trump’s Agenda 47, should Trump be re-elected, no one of good conscience will be anywhere near him. The entire executive branch, and virtually the entire government will be filled with tens of thousands of Trump loyalists. Unfettered by legal and ethical constraints, Trump will be free to do what bullies do – seize power and exact retribution on anyone and everyone he considers an enemy.

His enemies list is already quite long. And it’s growing. It includes anyone who dares to question his decisions and who makes negative statements about him.

So, this November, Americans will face another test that will determine the future of our democratic experiment – a character test. Will we choose a leader, such as Joe Biden, a man who has long proven to be of good character? A leader who, though you may or may not agree with his policies, believes in democracy to his core. A man who has accomplished much in his political career. Who led us out of the pandemic. Who helped put our economy back on firm footing. Who engineered a bipartisan infrastructure bill.

A leader whose policies have led to near full employment, record wage growth, and record stock markets. A man who has taken on some of the world’s greatest problems, such as wealth disparity and climate change. A man, who unlike Trump, stands for truth. A man who has never been divorced, who has never been convicted of a felony or defamation or sexual assault. A man who has never needed to pay hush money to women with whom he has had affairs. A man who has never created a fraudulent “university” or a fraudulent charity. A man who has never led an attack on our government and institutions.

Indeed, the biggest knock against him is his age and the fact that he botched a debate when overwhelmed by Trump’s avalanche of lies.

Or will we choose a lying, womanizing, false prophet and conman totally lacking in character? A man who is known to admire the world’s worst strongmen and who will undoubtedly emulate them. A man who sees our government as a personal piggy bank. A man who will try to turn the world order upside down by embracing our nation’s enemies and alienating our greatest allies.

But the decision isn’t just about the candidates’ character. It’s about yours.

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.

The New Rule(s) Of Law.

When SCOTUS pronounced George W. Bush president by ruling the Florida recount could not proceed, my faith in the court (and that of many other Americans) was shaken.

I was further horrified by the theft of a seat on the bench by Sen. McConnell’s refusal to hold a consent hearing on Merrick Garland’s nomination eleven months before the 2016 election. Of course, that hypocrisy was laid bare when McConnell rushed to confirm Amy Coney-Barrett mere weeks before the 2020 election. And I became further disillusioned with the court when the blatant corruption of Justices Thomas and Alito was revealed.

Given all this, it is not entirely surprising that the so-called originalists on the once “Supreme” Court have obviously attempted to return the nation to an earlier time when minorities and women were treated as second class citizens. How else can one explain the court’s decisions to gut the Voting Rights Act and to overturn Roe v. Wade?

What’s next?  A return to witch trials and the legalization of slavery?

Yet, as bad as those rulings are, their impact may be surpassed by the court’s decision to stack the legal deck in the federal cases against the treacherous former president. By agreeing to further delay Trump’s criminal trials in order to rule on his preposterous claim of immunity for inciting an insurrection, it appears that court’s Republican majority is trying to influence the outcome of the upcoming presidential election and offering Trump the possibility of pardoning himself for his crimes.

Moreover, the court has made it painfully obvious that there are multiple levels of justice in the United States: One standard of justice for the poor who cannot afford quality representation. A second standard of justice for citizens of modest means. A third for the wealthy and the powerful. A fourth for those who share ideologies with the court’s conservative majority. And a fifth for Donald J. Trump.

Indeed, the court and our system of justice have been so gravely diminished in the public’s view – the rule of law so corroded by recent decisions – that the very foundation of our nation may crumble.

Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied.

In the United States, one of the accepted principles of our justice system is the right to a timely and fair trial. Yet that principle never seems to apply to Donald J. Trump.

Trump has long made it a practice to avoid prosecution through a seemingly never-ending series of delays and appeals – often based on tortured logic and preposterous claims. And, of course, he has resorted to the same tactic when faced with indictments on 91 criminal charges related to his attempted coup and his theft and mishandling of some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets.

In Florida, he has thus far managed to avoid trial for his refusal to return classified documents by continuing to manipulate the seemingly incompetent federal judge he appointed while in office.

In Georgia, when he seemingly ran out of avenues to delay accountability for trying to steal the state’s electoral votes, he created further delay by successfully putting the prosecution on trial over a romantic relationship that has absolutely no bearing on his own culpability.

And in Washington, D.C., he was given a reprieve from the impending trial over his actions on January 6 with the help of the rightwing majority of the Supreme Court. Perhaps the most partisan and unethical court in history decided to hear arguments over Trump’s claim that, having been president, he is immune from prosecution.

His attorneys would have us believe that he could have ordered Seal Team 6 to murder his political rival without consequence!

Of course, that is utter nonsense. But the rightwing justices, having refused Special Prosecutor Jack Smith’s request to rule on Trump’s immunity claim last December, and despite the Circuit Court of Appeals having ruled against Trump, decided to delay the pending trials by adding the immunity case to their court docket.

The result of that decision is of obvious benefit to the Insurrectionist-in-Chief since the ruling may not be announced until July! That means, even if SCOTUS denies the claim of immunity, the federal trials cannot be scheduled until a few months before the presidential election. Predictably, Trump will then argue that any such trials will constitute election interference, and if the rightwing justices adhere to form, they may well rule that the trials cannot be scheduled this year!

What happens then?

If voters are inclined to put the wannabe Putin-style dictator back into office, he will almost certainly pardon himself or order his hand-picked Attorney General to drop the cases altogether.

We cannot allow that to happen.

So, I propose the following: If SCOTUS rules that a president has complete immunity, President Biden should immediately order Seal Team 6 to arrest Trump and send him to Gitmo. He should then sign an executive order demanding that Justices Alito, Thomas, Roberts, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Coney-Barrett replace their black robes with attire more fitting to their legal acumen – clown suits.

Contempt Of Court.

OPEN LETTER TO CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS:

In case you are blissfully unaware, a growing majority of Americans have lost faith in your court – the result of your “conservative” members being anything but conservative, engaged as they are in overturning decades of legal precedent. Your court continues to take fabricated cases dreamt up by anti-American rightwing ideologues – the most recent based on false information – to take away rights from American minorities and to legalize discrimination.

In doing so, your court seems to ignore the very preamble of the Constitution and creates a caste system in which the rich and powerful receive protections not afforded to those groups who need them most.

Further, as disgusting as it is to see your Catholic majority politicize the court in an attempt to force its religious views on others is the manner in which it’s done – in the dark of night as part of your shadow dockets or at the end of a session so your ethically-compromised “justices” can sneak back into their hidey holes (or some billionaire’s private jet) before the judgments are revealed.

At 77 years of age, I had long respected, even revered the Supreme Court. No longer! For your court, I, like a growing majority of Americans, have nothing but contempt.

An Armed Society Is A Polite Society?

For years, that was the promise of the NRA. More guns would mean less crime and less violence.

Well, it’s now estimated that there are 466 million guns in the hands of US civilians. That’s nearly one and a half guns for every man, woman, and child. And at least one in 20 American civilians owns an AR15-style rifle – a gun designed for the battlefield and the weapon of choice for mass murderers.

So, when exactly does all of that politeness set in?

Instead of courtesy and civility, all I see is an old man shooting a teenager for ringing the wrong doorbell, an old man killing a young woman for mistakenly turning into the wrong driveway, a young man shooting a cheerleader for accidentally opening his car door. A middle-aged man murdering his neighbors for asking him to stop target shooting so a young child could sleep. And people of all ages committing mass murder in schools, theaters, nightclubs, concerts, shopping malls and grocery stores.

Not only does that result in a horrendous human toll (more than 20,000 gun deaths a year excluding suicides). The financial toll is staggering. It’s estimated that each individual wounded by gunfire costs roughly $22,000 in medical bills. Last year alone, that would have amounted to $848,100,000. And that doesn’t take into account the life-changing physical and mental disabilities suffered by the wounded, not to mention the emotional trauma experienced by the first responders, nurses, and doctors who treat them.

Obviously, more guns are not the solution.

It was all a lie designed to help gunmakers sell more guns. In fact, almost everything the NRA and other gun rights organizations have told you is a lie beginning with the Second Amendment. They ignore the first part of the amendment that states, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state…” and jump directly to, “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Why? Because the entirety of the text doesn’t serve their purpose. They don’t want you to know that the underlying reason for the amendment was to provide for the nation’s defense before the federal government had established a standing army. The new nation needed an armed and well-trained militia to defend itself.

Indeed, former Chief Justice Warren Burger said, “The gun lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American people by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.

That fraudulent interpretation was simply part of a cynical marketing strategy.

You see, around 50 years ago, much of the US was transitioning from a rural society to an increasingly urban one.  As more and more Americans moved into large cities, fewer rifles and shotguns were needed for hunting. And the sale of handguns was stagnant since citizens had to demonstrate a need for a handgun and obtain a sheriff’s permit in order to carry it.

Clearly, gunmakers needed to do something to stimulate sales.

So, the NRA and their bought-and-paid-for politicians began selling fear. They told us that crime was out of control because only the criminals had guns. They told us that gun restrictions were useless. They told us that law enforcement can’t help us. They told us the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

And Americans bought it hook, line, and bump stock.

As a result, everyone with an insecurity complex or a fixation on the Old West is now packing a handgun. People with pent-up grievances take up arms to settle scores. And toxic masculinity is projected through the flash suppressor of an AR15.

And the situation is growing worse by the day as evidenced by a statement made by the leading manufacturer of kits used to make ghost guns (untraceable guns without a sales record or serial numbers). When asked what segment of our population buys the most kits, he responded that it’s “your January 6 types.” You know, the people who charged the Capitol and brutalized law enforcement with the intent to overturn an election and hang Mike Pence.

But according to the NRA and its fascist supporters, any sort of regulation of guns is the first step toward tyranny.

It’s Time To Start Using The F Word.

Like many people, I’ve been hesitant to use the F word in public for fear of offending others’ sensibilities. It is, after all, the one word that can end any political debate or polite conversation. Yet I believe our nation has reached a point where it is the only word left to accurately describe a political party.

I’m not referring to the F word that ends with a k.

After watching the GOP’s followers attempting to violently overturn the results of a fair and free election, after listening to them spewing racism and hate, after seeing them place targets on the backs of LBTQ people who only want to love who they want and to live as they want, after seeing them interfere with a woman’s access to health care, after watching them strip away virtually all regulations of guns, and after watching their hate result in the recent spate of shootings, I believe the party now richly deserves to be labeled with another F word.

I’m referring, of course, to the term fascist.

You may remember that I recently compared the United States of America that Republicans have created to pre-World War II Germany. But I was wrong.

This America may be even worse!

As long ago as the 1970s, those who operate under the banner of the Republican Party determined that the only way to win a free and fair election was to divide us, to pit elements of our society against one another – white against black and brown, conservatives against liberals, Christians against Jews, Christians against Muslims, the religious against atheists and agnostics, gun owners against those who demand gun safety, anti-abortionists against those who believe in a woman’s choice, heterosexuals against homosexuals, heterosexuals against transexuals, etc., etc., etc.

Failing to offer any solutions for our nation’s problems, they intended, instead, to create scapegoats. Along the way, the fascists and their propaganda networks have peddled dishonest narratives of an oppressive government, runaway spending, out of control crime, an invasion of immigrants, and a breakdown of Christian principles to motivate their base.

They have labeled Democrats as pedophiles, non-Christians as terrorists, food stamp recipients as welfare queens, civil servants as the deep state, doctors as baby killers, journalists as enemies of the people, the compassionate as woke, teachers as groomers, and election results as fake.

They whined about so-called activist judges, praying for Supreme Court justices to die so they could seat their own ideologues. They then encouraged them to change long-standing and popular laws by judicial fiat. Having given up on trying to persuade voters, they resorted to voter suppression, gerrymandering, threats, and intimidation.

They disregard education, science, history, and expertise. In their place, they have embraced “alternative facts”, outrageous myths, and wild conspiracy theories.

They seek power, not to govern and improve lives. But to dictate their own narrow-minded beliefs. They disdain compromise and policy debates. Indeed, their only discernable policy is cruelty. They see tolerance, understanding, and compassion as weakness. They ban books and fire teachers who contradict their ignorance and hateful beliefs. They turn government meetings into carnival freak shows. They show up at state houses and election sites with guns to intimidate and threaten, using the First and Second Amendments as weapons.

They have chosen as their leader a man who panders to their ignorance and cruelty. A sociopathic bully who makes up for his lack of knowledge by creating his own “truth.” A conman who has fashioned his leadership style after mob bosses, encouraging lawlessness and giving orders by suggestion and implication – a technique that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to hold him to account. When he lost re-election, he claimed victory, his followers believing his obvious lies. In the aftermath of his defeat, they stormed the Capitol as part of a failed coup to overturn the election. And rather than accept the truth, they forced election officials, even those who are longtime members of their own party, to resign under an avalanche of death threats.

The difference between these fascists and those who once ruled Germany is almost indistinguishable. They have a leader whose thirst for power and adoration is insatiable. He has a proven ability to sell his racist and hateful dream to the masses. He has created a climate of anger and fear of “the other” – races of people he claims are keeping the nation from becoming great again. And though he has no uniformed mob of brown shirts, he has no need for them. Instead, he has a mob of Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Boogaloo Bois, and millions of heavily armed believers who are impatiently waiting for the opportunity to act.

Will there be a Kristallnacht? A burning of the Reichstag? Some other crisis created to justify a violent takeover? The danger to our democracy and the world is far from over. What happens between now and November 12, 2024, will determine our fate.

“It’s Not My Kid, Friend, Or Co-Worker.”

“There’s nothing I can do about it.” “That’s the price of freedom.” “It’s a mental health issue.” “Guns don’t kill. People do.” “Thoughts and prayers.” And, of course, there’s the old reliable excuse we hear following every mass murder: “Now is not the time to talk about solutions.”

Of all the possible reactions to mass shootings and gun violence, those have to rank among the worst. They are the equivalent of saying, “I don’t care…move along…nothing to see here…it didn’t happen to anyone I know.”

And move along they do.

The MAGA Party and its NRA sponsors continue to ignore the 10-million-pound elephant in the room: Guns. And, in fact, they continue to make matters worse by passing laws to encourage and increase gun ownership. Since the 1970s, we’ve seen them legalize conceal and carry. We’ve seen them legalize open carry and permitless carry. We’ve seen them legalize silencers and bump stocks that can turn a semi-automatic rifle into the equivalent of a fully automatic weapon. We’ve seen them pass laws to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits. We’ve seen them pass 2nd Amendment sanctuary laws to make it illegal for state authorities to cooperate with federal authorities, such as the ATF and FBI.

And we’ve seen them pass laws to protect the life of a gun (in some red states, it’s illegal to destroy a confiscated gun, even those used in crimes)!

What we haven’t seen them do is pass laws requiring universal background checks or red flag laws to keep guns from those deemed mentally unstable and dangerous. We haven’t seen bans on 3D printed guns, ghost gun kits, or Glock switches. We haven’t seen them do anything to stop the illegal trafficking of guns to Mexican cartels. We haven’t seen them pass laws to ban AR-15s, AK-47s and other weapons of war.

And, of course, we haven’t seen them do anything to protect the lives of school children, grocery shoppers, theatergoers, concertgoers, and bankers.

To the MAGA Party, the NRA, and the gun lobby, mass murders in the US are like reading about Russian war crimes halfway around the world – sad and regrettable, but they remain secure in the belief that such tragedies won’t affect them personally. That’s probably what some of the parents in Uvalde thought until it happened to them. Or the people in Nashville or Louisville or Buffalo or…fill in the blank with your city of choice. There are hundreds, if not thousands of mass murder sites to choose from.

The reality is that gun violence is now the number one cause of death for children. One in 25 American kindergartners won’t make it to their 40th birthday because of guns. As of this writing, we’ve already experienced more mass shootings (150) in the US this year than we’ve experienced days (103). And we’ve already lost 11,888 lives to gun violence.

It’s not like we don’t know how to stop it. Though we have a greater incidence of gun violence than every other nation on Earth, we don’t have a greater incidence of mental illness. We don’t have a greater incidence of poverty than most. And contrary to MAGA beliefs, more Americans are religious than in other wealthy nations.

What sets us apart is the number of guns (there are more guns in the US than there are people) and a misguided reading of our Constitution’s 2nd Amendment. (As former Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger said, “The gun lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American people by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”)

It doesn’t have to be this way. The rights granted by the 2nd Amendment, like all other rights, are not unlimited. We can restrict the types of guns sold. We can demand background checks, we can restrict the age of gun owners, we can demand safe storage, and other common sense safety measures. And, if we’re serious about ending gun violence, Australia has already set an example for us to follow.

If such measures result in economic hardships for gun manufacturers? Well, thoughts and prayers.

Why A New Civil War Seems Inevitable.

It seems the majority of Americans have viewed Marjorie Taylor-Greene’s call for a “national divorce” as laughable. But many of us who have been following the extreme right for the last several decades are not laughing. Both the rhetoric and actions of what can only be called the sedition caucus point to the near inevitability of a civil war led by many of the same people responsible for the January 6 insurrection.

Consider that some of the planners and cheerleaders for the coup attempt are not only still occupying seats in the US House of Representatives. They have, thus far, faced no repercussions. Indeed, they now control both the Speaker and many of the House committees. Likewise, the former president who led the coup has not yet been held accountable. He has even announced that he is running for president in 2024 and, in fact, is the leading candidate of the Republican Party despite his obvious attempt to turn our democracy into an autocracy!

Moreover, he has previously shown an intent to use the office to dismantle institutions, to punish opponents, and to sell favors to other nations, including our adversaries.

But the threat to our democracy goes much deeper.

For one thing, the twice-impeached former president packed our courts with rightwing loyalists. So, any court cases against Republican legislation designed to undermine our democracy are likely to fail. Second, autocracy-friendly Republicans have full control of 23 of our 50 states. They also have legislative control of 30 states. And 19 of those states have already called for a convention to rewrite the Constitution. If successful, their rewrites are likely to remove the barrier between church and state, as well as to change the requirements for citizenship and voting. They might even embrace far more radical ideas such as a bill offered by a Florida legislator which would essentially ban the Democratic Party in that state.

An even more likely recipe for civil war was outlined in a chilling Twitter thread by author and former Navy aviator Brynn Tannehill. She begins by stating that “we have two competing visions for America that are mutually exclusive, both sides really don’t like each other, but one of the two is violent, delusional, and willing to destroy democracy to get its way.” She then explains how Republicans are forcing the issue with a new bill that passed out of committee in Tennessee. According to Tannehill, the bill “would bar insurers from doing business with the state if they cover health care for trans people anywhere in the US.”

What are the chances of the six staunchly Catholic justices who comprise the majority of SCOTUS ruling against such a law? After their ruling which overturned decades of precedent to throw out Roe v Wade, those chances are likely zero, nada, nil.

Almost certainly, that will cause states to react as they did following the end of Roe v Wade. Red states quickly banned abortion while blue states began passing laws that would codify a woman’s right to abortion. So, in a reaction to Tennessee, blue states are likely to require insurers to cover trans health care in their own states.

Even if the Tennessee bill doesn’t pass, there will be other discriminatory bills proposed by rightwing zealots with the intent to further divide us. As Tannehill points out, “…this sort of blackmail can be used on any topic: whether it’s Disney for promoting ‘woke’ material, coverage of abortions, drug manufacturers and Mifepristone, or anything else they want to ban.”

Of course, the real flashpoint between the two sides revolves around guns. Democrats rightfully want to limit access to weapons of war and to ban untraceable ghost guns. But Republicans view the 2nd Amendment as the 11th commandment: “Thou shall not take away our guns.” Yet, without new gun safety measures which restrict the sales of ever more lethal weaponry, our nation will be consigned to a future with more school shootings and mass murders. Assuming that our nation, which has been far too passive in addressing climate change, has any future at all.