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.

This Isn’t A Political Campaign. It’s A Street Fight.

It seems that many of the Democratic candidates for president are approaching the electoral campaign as if 2016 never happened. They are focused on policy and change. What they fail to understand is that 2016 changed everything. The Democratic nominee won’t be running against a mere candidate. They will be running against an unprincipled crime boss with the most powerful position in the world. A man who is willing to lie, cheat, bully, threaten, steal, and do whatever it takes to win.

We saw, in 2016, that Trump was willing to solicit and use help from Russia. We saw him file campaign papers for his re-election just hours after his inauguration on January 20, 2017. He has used virtually every presidential appearance as a campaign event. He has launched the largest disinformation campaign in history on social media. And he was impeached for trying to use congressionally-approved aid to Ukraine to extort its leaders into announcing an investigation into phantom “wrongdoing” by Joe Biden.

Since his impeachment, in an act of retribution, he has fired two of those who testified under subpoena and fired another for the crime of being a twin brother of one of the witnesses. He has used the pretense of national security to block the book of his former National Security Advisor. He has threatened a Senator in his own party for voting for his removal. He has sent his capos – Bill Barr and Rudy Giuliani – on a mission to find dirt on his Democratic opponents. And he has undermined the Department of Justice by calling for Barr to intervene in court cases against his criminal friends.

In addition, Trump’s GOP supporters have vigorously set about trying to find new ways to rig the upcoming election. They have widely spread disinformation about Democratic candidates and the Democratic Party. In GOP-controlled states, they have Gerrymandered districts and passed laws to suppress the votes of blacks, students, and the poor – those who traditionally vote Democratic. They have even refused to change voting machines and procedures to secure the election results.

Given all this, it should be obvious that Trump is no ordinary candidate. And this will be no ordinary election. The Democratic nominee might as well be running against an angry and emboldened Don Corleone on steroids. But, unlike the Godfather, this crime boss has all of the mechanisms of the government, including the “justice” system at his disposal.

Far from being embarrassed by Trump’s lack of moral and ethical character, his supporters are energized by it, seeming to care only about sticking it to the libs, blacks, gays and “illegals.”

And, thus far, the only Democratic candidate who seems to fully recognize the kind of fight the party is facing is Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg has used his billions to troll Trump with ads designed to expose him for what he really is: A fraud and a crook. Maybe it’s because Bloomberg is another New Yorker. Maybe it’s because Bloomberg’s wealth has made him unafraid to take on Trump. Maybe it’s because Bloomberg, as New York’s former mayor, has experience putting mobsters in their place.

Don’t get me wrong. I like ALL of the Democratic candidates. I want someone who will be transformative – to undo all of the harm done by the mobster-in-chief; to take power away from the plutocrats and give it back to the people; to re-establish our democracy. But I will vote for whichever Democratic candidate wins the nomination. (In fact, I’d vote for anyone with half a pulse over Trump.) But I believe, in order to win, the nominee will have to be prepared to roll in the muck and shield themselves from the feces that The Don and his Trumpanzees are certain to fling their way.

So far, only Michael Bloomberg seems to understand that.

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.

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.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Fourteen – GOP)

This is the last of my 14-part series. But last certainly does not mean least. Without the treachery and complicity of the Republican Party, most of the other factors that are destroying our nation either would not be possible. Or they would be far less damaging.

The damage done to our government by the GOP began in earnest prior to the Nixon administration and has accelerated ever since. In 1968, Nixon undermined the Vietnam peace talks in order to benefit his election prospects. Similarly, he ordered the Watergate break-in to sabotage Democratic candidates during the 1972 election. Following Nixon’s lead, Reagan undermined the Carter administration’s efforts to release hostages from the US embassy in Iran in order to damage Carter’s re-election chances. Reagan attacked labor unions and, based on the discredited “trickle down” theory of economics, he cut taxes for the rich. George H.W. Bush led us in to war in the Middle East over oil. And two of his sons conspired to steal the 2000 election from Al Gore. Then George W. Bush led us into a war with Iraq on false pretenses.

But the GOP’s impact on our democracy has never been more damaging than it has over the past 11 years. During the Obama administration, it tried to undermine attempts to pull our economy out of a worldwide recession created by GOP policies. It blocked dozens of judicial appointments in the Senate culminating with its successful effort to steal a seat on the Supreme Court. And, having captured a number of state houses, it began instituting a wide variety of voter suppression laws in a blatant effort to prevent minorities and other Democrats from voting.

Since 2016, having colluded with a foreign rival to steal yet another election, it has allowed its Con-Man-in-Chief to sidle up to dictators, to bully allies, to promote white nationalism, to cut taxes for the ultra-wealthy, to take affordable health care from millions, to undermine public education, to roll back environmental protections, to block any attempts to address the climate crisis, to rip immigrant children away from their parents, and to pack our courts by giving lifetime appointments to young, and often unqualified, ideologues. The party has not only excused blatant abuses of power by Trump. It has openly participated in them as did William Barr in his handling of the Mueller report. Further, Republicans in Congress have tried to block any attempts of congressional oversight by the Democrat-controlled House. (Witness the behavior of House Republicans during the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s attempted shakedown of Ukraine.)

The GOP has run up trillion-dollar deficits in order to justify defunding all social safety nets, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps. At the same time, it has handed out subsidies to some of the world’s greediest corporations. Worst of all, the party has participated in the wholesale betrayal of our Constitution by accepting campaign money and other support from Russian oligarchs and excusing Russia’s interference in our elections.

It may have once been labeled the Grand Old Party as a result of Abraham Lincoln’s fight to end slavery and hold our nation together. But the only thing grand about it today is its level of hypocrisy and criminal behavior.

The Three Rs: Republicans, Religion and Racism.

Ironically, given that one of the party’s founders was responsible for emancipating African-American slaves, racism has been an integral part of the GOP ideology for a very long time, most especially after a Democratic president signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. Of course, the Republican party vehemently denies its racist appeal. But, if you examine the party’s electoral platforms from the 60s and 70s, you’ll see that states’ rights (aka Jim Crow-style racism) has long been a central theme. And if you look at the electoral maps before and after 1964, you’ll see that the South – the former slave states – suddenly turned bright red.

Lee Atwater, GOP strategist and advisor to presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, admitted as much.

During an interview, he described the party’s southern strategy this way, “You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

In other words, the party stopped using the overt language of Jim Crow and resorted to dog whistles, instead. But things changed in 2008 when the nation’s first black president was elected. It’s not coincidental that GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky responded to the 2008 election results by vowing to make Barack Obama a one-term president and by successfully blocking much of his legislation. And the party’s rhetoric, once again, became more explicit. Many of the party’s faithful and conservative pundits felt comfortable using the N word to describe the president and his family. They held up racist posters and circulated racist memes. They denied he was a citizen, they demanded to see his birth certificate and they talked about sending him back to Kenya.

In 2015, things only got worse when Donald J. Trump – the most vocal of the “birthers” – began his campaign for president as a Republican.

Trump had long been a racist. He was raised by parents who were members of the KKK. He had been charged with refusing to rent properties to people of color. He had run a full-page ad calling for the execution of five innocent young men of color who had been falsely accused. And when he took a momentary recess from tweeting, got off his gold-plated toilet, and came down the gold-plated escalator in Trump Tower to announce his candidacy for president of the United States, he began by calling Mexican immigrants murderers, rapists and terrorists.

Central to Trump’s campaign was a promise to end “Political Correctness” – code for “It’s okay to be racist again.” One of his advisors and most powerful backers was Steve Bannon who, as editor of Breitbart News, called his website a platform for the alt-right, a nuanced name for white supremacists. In addition, many of Trump’s policies have been guided by Stephen Miller who has long circulated racist talking points by email and social media. Yet another advisor, and Trump’s first choice for Attorney General, was Sen. Jeff Sessions who clearly harbored racist beliefs. Even one of Trump’s campaign themes, “America First,” was originally used by Nazi sympathizers prior to the US entry into WWII. The theme has also been extensively used by the KKK.

Once ensconced in the White House, Trump not only surrounded himself with fellow racists, he embraced white “Christian” evangelicals who saw him as a vehicle to criminalize gay marriage, to end abortion, and to consolidate the Holy Land under Israel’s control in order to fulfill a prophecy that will hasten the return of their Messiah. Of course, the evangelicals’ hatred and bigotry are not confined to homosexuality and advocates of family planning. Many white evangelicals have long associated with white nationalism. Historically, they have not only excused the violence of the KKK and other racist groups. They have marched alongside them. And they have helped burn crosses on the lawns of black families.

Indeed, the symbolism of the white-hooded mobs and Christian crosses have long been intertwined.

So, when you see the Trump administration try to ban all Muslims from entering the US; when you hear Trump call predominately black nations “shit hole countries,” when you hear the administration order babies to be ripped from the arms of brown-skinned parents and placed in cages; when you see brown-skinned refugees being sent back to their countries of origin to face near certain deaths; when you hear the president excuse the violence of white supremacists against protesters by saying “there were good people on both sides”; when you hear him tell black congresswomen to “go back where you came from”; when you see Republicans use a variety of means to suppress and diminish the vote of African-Americans; when you hear white evangelical “Christians” say that Trump was sent by God to save the US; when you see polls that show Trump’s approval rating among Republicans is 74 percent; when you see that 53 percent of Republicans believe that Trump is a better president than Abraham Lincoln, you arrive at one inescapable conclusion:

A majority of GOP voters and a substantial number of the “Christian” faithful are hopelessly and unapologetically racist!

Thoughts On Saving Our Democracy.

I have written much about what’s wrong with this nation. Now I want to offer some solutions. Think of the following as the LaMaster platform for good governance:

1 – Secure our elections while, at the same time, increasing participation. Eliminate unduly restrictive voter IDs and all forms of voter suppression. Institute same-day voter registration, expand vote-by-mail, restore the number of polling places in minority districts, stop unnecessary purges of voter rolls, restore voting rights for felons who have served their sentences, and make election day a national holiday.

2 – Reinstate some form of the Fairness Doctrine, which was repealed in 1987. Hold all mass media accountable to a standard of truth and clearly delineate opinion from news. It’s not necessary to resort to censorship. Each medium simply needs to employ editors.

3 – Make civics lessons mandatory in schools. All citizens need to understand how local, state and federal governments work.

4 – Investigate and disarm private militias, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other violent domestic terrorist groups. These groups pose a far greater threat to Americans than Islamic terrorism.

5 – Make courts less partisan. Take judicial appointments out of the hands of politicians and remove them from ballots. Have the American Bar Association provide a list of potential jurors to governments for confirmation based on performance and credentials.

6 – Restore the Article I powers of Congress giving it the exclusive power to impose taxes and tariffs, to appropriate funds for the government, to promote science, to define and punish offenses against the laws of nations, to control immigration, to enter into treaties, and to declare war.

7 – Stop the avalanche of dark money infecting our elections. Outlaw the anonymous dirty money that is funneled into election campaigns through PACs and Super PACs. Hold political advertising to the same standards of truth as that for products and services, which includes civil and criminal penalties for lying.

8 – Demand that the IRS regulate non-profits by limiting their engagement in politics and political “education” to less than 10 percent of their activities. And, to prevent charlatans from ripping off their congregations, all church properties beyond individual sanctuaries and parsonages should be taxed.

9 – Track and tax all money invested in shell corporations both on and off shore for the purposes of tax evasion. Organize the participation of all nations to create increased transparency for all international transfers of money.

10 – Expose and limit the activities of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and any similar organizations to end the practice of corporations writing “model” legislation for state legislatures. End political “think tanks.” Restore congressional budgets to permit Congress to research complex issues, instead.

11 – Demand that Congress pass legislation to overturn the SCOTUS decisions on Citizens United v FEC, which gave corporations the rights of individuals, and Valeo v Buckley, which equated money with free speech.

12 – Ban all former elected and appointed government officials from becoming lobbyists for a minimum of 5 years. Ban the families of elected officials from profiting from their relationship.

13 – Restructure the Federal Elections Commission to include an uneven number of commissioners with three members of each major party and three independents.

14 – End extreme gerrymandering. Require all 50 states to create independent redistricting commissions comprised of two Democratic members, two Republican members and two independents.

15 – Enact a small transaction tax for all securities transactions, especially high-speed micro-transactions. This will not only help level the playing field for small investors who do not have large, high-speed computers and algorithms to manipulate the stock markets. It will generate billions in tax revenue.

16 – Base taxes and minimum wages on the cost of living for the areas in which people live and work. $30,000 per year is not the same for someone living in a rural area as in a large city.

17 – Require all national and multinational corporations to include at least one member of their workforces on their boards of directors.

18 – To prevent the wealthy from escaping their fair share of taxes, make the rate of capital gains taxes the same as for earned income. To protect ordinary citizens for the one-time sale of property, pro-rate the capital gains tax over a period of at least 5 years.

19 – Institute some form of universal insurance. How it works is up to Congress, but the Canadian system would be a good model and a good place to start.

20 – Institute a national program of service that includes both domestic, foreign and military options.

21 – Clarify the Constitution’s emoluments clause to make certain that no elected official profits from their position while in office.

This is just a start. I’m certain that others can come up with more and better ideas to preserve and improve the US.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Three – Racism and Discrimination)

One of the many ways that Trump and the GOP are destroying our democracy is through discrimination – creating fear of those who look different, who speak a different language, who practice a different faith, or who love someone of the same gender. Under the guise of rejecting “political correctness” the GOP and its propaganda outlets, such as Fox News, have emboldened their followers to blame the “other” for all of their social and economic problems.

Their political strategy has led to a divisiveness not seen since before or after the Civil War. It has also led to increasing violence.

For example, inspired by Trump, two Boston brothers brutally attacked and urinated on a homeless Hispanic man. Three Trump supporters in Kansas planned to bomb Somali immigrants. A white male in Washington stabbed an interracial couple, citing Trump’s rallies. The young man who rammed his car into a crowd of people protesting the racist Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia killing Heather Heyer was emboldened to act by the election of the most overtly racist president since Woodrow Wilson or, perhaps, even Andrew Johnson. An ardent Trump supporter in Miami was moved to send package bombs to Democratic leaders and the media he believed engaged in “fake news.” Likewise, the mass killers in Pittsburg and El Paso were inspired to act by Trump. In addition, there have been many less visible and less successful domestic terrorists who were inspired to violence by Trump.

Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has led to dozens, maybe hundreds, of threats and hate crimes against brown and black people – some of them US citizens – for daring to speak Spanish or to look like immigrants. In addition, there has been a growing number of hate crimes against the LGBTQ community. GOP-nominated judges have sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians on so-called religious grounds (the religion of hate). And the rhetoric of GOP candidates and supporters has inspired anti-abortion protesters to murder doctors, nurses and patients at medical clinics.

At the same time, the Trump administration has used ICE and CBP to engage in a form of violence against immigrants – many of them seeking asylum from dangerous and hopeless situations – by ripping their children from their arms and, in some cases, placing the children in foster homes or putting them up for adoption. They have crammed immigrants into cages with no toiletries, no soap, no showers and no beds, often without sufficient room to even lie down.

All the while, Trump’s supporters, including many so-called evangelical “Christians” have cheered.

And, for decades, the GOP has practiced racial discrimination by gerrymandering districts to minimize the impact of black voters. They have purged people of color from voting lists. They have demanded photo IDs from state motor vehicle departments then closed the locations in black districts. They have also closed polling places in black areas, forcing voters to stand in line for hours.

The GOP has intentionally positioned itself as the party of choice for white nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, anti-immigrant militias, and “Christian” evangelicals. Its candidates have all been endorsed and funded by the NRA, which has made gun violence possible, perhaps inevitable. And Trump has even been endorsed by the David Duke, the former grand wizard of the KKK.

What do all these groups have in common? They are all paranoid, feeling that they are persecuted by the educated and secular “elite.” They fear that our white Christian culture will be “diluted” by people of color and people of other religions. They fear they’ll lose the advantages of their white privilege. And they fear a government that limits their freedom to rape and pillage the land, air and water; a government that forces them to pay for their fair share of infrastructure; a government that denies men the right to control women; a government that denies them the ability to discriminate without consequence.

For more on the subject, I encourage you to read Bring The War Home, The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America by Kathleen Belew.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Two – Justice)

While much of the nation is fixated on Trump’s alarming statements on Twitter and outraged by his many personal transgressions, he has quietly gone about reshaping the federal court system for a generation or more.

When Trump entered office, there were nearly twice as many judicial openings as when Obama entered office. Indeed, the 108 vacancies at the beginning of Trump’s term (many kept vacant by the obstruction of Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell) represented about one in eight lifetime appointments. With a compliant Senate, Trump almost immediately filled the Supreme Court seat that had been kept open for nearly a year by McConnell. In his first 200 days, he also nominated 43 other federal judges, 7 of which were quickly confirmed. Most, if not all of these nominees were proposed by the very conservative Federalist Society. And all met the approval of “Christian” evangelicals who not only hope to overturn Roe v Wade. They are dead set on turning the US into a theocracy with the help of their “Chosen One.”

According to Wikipedia, as of August 14, 2019, the US Senate has confirmed 146 Article III judges nominated by President Trump, including two Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, 43 judges for the US Court of Appeals, 99 judges for US District Courts, and two judges for US Court of International Trade. A priority has been placed on relatively young nominees who can serve for decades.

Additionally, Trump’s two US Attorneys General have reshaped and politicized law enforcement as never before.

His first Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, dropped recommendations from the previous administration dealing with the findings of abuse by law enforcement, the courts and the city government of Ferguson, Missouri. He dropped investigations into white supremacy groups and other domestic terrorists. He rescinded DOJ guidance for schools which was designed to protect transgender students in bathrooms and locker rooms. And, as a southern “Christian” theocrat, he sided with a cake shop owner who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Sessions undermined a major voting rights case in Texas by deciding that his civil rights unit would no longer investigate patterns of excessive force and racial profiling by local law enforcement. He threatened to withhold US grants from cities that designated themselves as sanctuaries for immigrants. He decided that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was “an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch” and could not be defended in a court challenge by Texas and other states. More disturbing, under his “zero-tolerance” policy, Sessions ordered the separation of children from parents seeking asylum and crossing the United States’ southern border. Sessions proudly proclaimed, “If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple.”

Sessions also revoked an Obama-era policy that gave federal prosecutors discretion in making decisions about charges in drug cases. And he reversed another Obama-era policy by announcing that the Justice Department would continue to use private prisons.

By almost any measure, Trump’s second Attorney General is even worse. William Barr was nominated by Trump based on his opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted. He quickly rewarded his new boss by misleading the public about the Mueller Report, falsely announcing that there was no collusion and no obstruction (a conclusion disputed by more than 1,000 former US attorneys and prosecutors). Taking it a step further, Barr even stoked conspiracy theories by announcing his intent to investigate FBI agents, CIA agents and others over the origins of the Mueller investigation, unabashedly stating, “I think spying did occur.” He chose not to defend the Affordable Care Act in court, potentially leaving millions of Americans vulnerable to a predatory insurance industry. And, more recently, Barr tried to block Mueller from testifying before Congress, ultimately limiting his testimony to the redacted report.

Perhaps the greatest threat posed by Barr is his belief that, contrary to the Constitution’s First Amendment, there should be no separation of church and state. Moreover, he has stated that he will oppose any attempt by the legislative branch to pass secular laws. He has also steadfastly refused to respond to lawful requests and subpoenas from Congress – the branch of government that the Founding Fathers considered most important as evidenced by it establishment in Article 1, Section 1 of the Constitution.

It’s startling to think that the man charged with defending our Constitution either hasn’t read it. Or doesn’t believe in it.