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.

The Cowards On The Right.

In my lifetime, the leaders of the right have evolved from courageous WWII veterans, such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, George H.W. Bush and Robert Dole, to a group of cowards and provocateurs who hide behind desks and rally others to do their hateful bidding. For example, when Trump was eligible for the draft during the Vietnam War, he could have volunteered. He could have been drafted. Or he could have had the courage, as many did, to simply refuse to participate in an illegal, immoral and ill-considered war. Instead, he used his daddy’s influence and wealth to receive a deferment for “bone spurs.”

But that was only a hint of the cowardice yet to come.

Trump talks tough. But his words are as phony as his orange combover. He teases and spins and blows out a torrent of hate directed at the most vulnerable in our midst. He attacks the disabled, the grieving parents of fallen soldiers, and starving refugees as shamelessly and relentlessly as he once attacked women by the pussy. Then, after encouraging his legion of racist Trumpanzees to do his dirty work, he steps back to admire what he has created. When it inevitably turns ugly, he disavows any complicity or connection. He’s as reluctant to take credit for his hate speech as he is to confront Putin over election meddling. Such was the case in Charlottesville. In Miami. In Pittsburg. In Gilroy. And, most recently, in El Paso. There will be many, many more.

And he’s not the only one responsible for the growing white supremacist movement in the US. Almost equally accountable are the cowards behind the microphones: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Tucker Carlson, Tomi Lahren, Alex Jones, Laura Ingraham, the crew of Fox and Friends, and others. And we must not forget the hateful contributions of Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Jim Jordan, Rand Paul, Louie Gohmert, Steve King and the full range of Republican miscreants.

Rather than have an honest discussion about policy, like Trump, these cowards blame their listeners’ and their constituents’ problems on immigrants, Muslims, Jews, and people of color. Not a single one of them would stand up to face an opponent of equal standing one-on-one. Rather, they prefer to punch down to hurt the most vulnerable: Minorities, immigrants, refugees seeking asylum, and children. Even then, they often resort to cheap shots.

Despite their rants, they claim no responsibility for the death threats directed toward a Muslim congresswoman of color. They disavow a connection between their words of hate and crimes against those they have targeted. Yet they continue to create hateful memes, to retweet the words of like-minded white supremacists and to make up hurtful lies. Then, when someone is physically hurt, they cry crocodile tears. And they run when challenged.

Thanks to these cowards, our nation is hopelessly, and perhaps permanently, divided. It is not so much a political divide as it is a division of character. And a division of facts.

Too often, I have encountered their supporters who spout the “facts” as they know them. But their “facts” are wrong – the products of propaganda repeated by the aforementioned cowards, as well as Facebook, YouTube, and Breitbart. Even when shown the truth as reported by independent sources such as Factcheck.org, Politifact.com, the AP, Reuters, BBC and others, the supporters merely dismiss it as “fake news.”

How does anyone break through that?

Almost as often, I have encountered seemingly nice people who support the GOP’s racism. These are people who seem to be good neighbors, family members and co-workers. People who would never think of harming another. They claim to be patriots. But they are willing to suppress the minority vote. They claim to be good Christians. But they are somehow unable to understand that their support of Trump’s party results in denying others – gays, transgenders, people of color, and people of other faiths – their civil rights and, in some cases, their lives.

How does one discuss policy with someone like that? What can you have in common with someone who is unmoved by children in cages?

It seems to me that “the land of the free and the home of the brave” no longer applies to all Americans. Maybe it never has. Under this administration, many are having their freedom challenged. And too few are brave enough to stand up for minorities and the most vulnerable.

No, Democrats Have Not Moved Left. The GOP Has Moved Right…Way, Way Right.

It’s popular for the media – even the so-called liberal media – to portray the “Squad” and many of the Democratic presidential candidates as far left. As if they are some aberration from the core party principles. Of course, that’s exactly what Republicans want you to believe. Indeed, even some Democratic leaders and “strategists” would have you buy into that claptrap.

It’s not only not true. It’s not even close to reality.

In the 1930s and 40s, the FDR administration and mainstream Democrats embraced social democracy as part of the New Deal. To rescue our economy FDR, the Democratic Party and even some Republicans incorporated ideas that were socialist in nature in order to move people out of the soup lines and back to work. For example, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built more than 620,000 miles of streets, more than 10,000 bridges, dozens of airports, hydroelectric dams, public buildings and large numbers of houses and apartments. Much of these are still in use today. Rural electric cooperatives (a form of socialism) brought telephones and electricity to hundreds of thousands of rural Americans who had been ignored by large utilities. In addition, the New Deal’s Social Security rescued the elderly from abject poverty. FDR had even proposed a Second New Deal which included single-payer health care, believing that access to quality health care was a human right.

When fascism and support for Nazi Germany threatened to take over the US, Democrats rejected it. And, when World War II broke out, Americans resorted to what some would now consider socialism by pulling together to produce necessary war materials and to ration consumer products in favor of supporting our troops. Indeed, most of our population temporarily abandoned free market capitalism in order to defeat the Axis powers.

Though many in the GOP opposed some of FDR’s initiatives, they supported others. In fact, the GOP was almost equally divided between conservatives and liberals. But things began to change as the result of Senator Joe McCarthy’s Red Scare in the 50s and the growing Cold War.

As post-war Europe followed the path pioneered by FDR, US politicians from both parties distanced themselves from anything that could remotely be misconstrued as communist. That included social democracy. Yet, even in the 70s, the GOP approved of some liberal ideas. For example, in response to Senator Ted Kennedy’s proposal for single-payer health care, Nixon proposed a health care mandate (Obamacare, anyone?). Nixon also supported the formation of the EPA and OSHA. And he aggressively desegregated public schools.

Only after the GOP saw an opportunity to solidify the Jim Crow South by implementing its southern strategy and creating division over abortion to bring evangelicals into the party, did it begin to lurch far to the right. Since then, it has used race and immigration to divide voters and pander to its rural base. And it has used Christian fundamentalist social issues to hold evangelicals – the so-called “values voters” – in line. Meanwhile, right-wing radio hosts and Roger Ailes’s right-wing propaganda network (aka Fox News) have pushed the party even further to the extreme right.

At the same time, Democrats, in trying to recapture the southern states it lost by pushing through the Civil Rights Acts, began to move to the center-right in order to occupy the space once held by mainstream Republicans. For president, they twice nominated the governors of southern states to win elections. And the party has continued to try to bring southerners back into the fold by moving past the center and trending further and further to the right, at the same time denying or ignoring the wishes of traditional Democratic voters in urban areas and in the rural areas of Rust Belt states.

Voters’ positions on abortion, once a non-political issue, now define them as Republicans or Democrats. And, as the Christian fundamentalists and right-wing media have fomented anger over immigration, gay marriage and transgender use of bathrooms (otherwise known as discrimination) Democrats have struggled to respond. They either had to join in the discrimination or be labeled as extreme leftists.

So here we are. We now have a center-right Democratic party that has struggled to adhere to the principles it once cherished, and an extreme far-right Republican party that uses racism and Christian fundamentalism to disguise its fascist, pro-billionaire agenda.

The GOP has long since abandoned its tradition of fiscal conservatism combined with social compassion. It is now the “everybody for themselves party” that is trying to dismantle every aspect of our government except for the military. It would have you ignore issues such as growing debt and deficits, failing infrastructure, income disparity, the lack of retirement pensions and increasingly unaffordable healthcare. Instead, it would have you blame immigrants, “uppity” people of color and the LGBTQ population for your problems. For those of you who refuse to support the party and its narrow-minded, hateful agenda, it attempts to gerrymander away your rights and make it increasingly difficult for you to vote.

And now that a growing number of Democrats are intent on implementing real, substantive change in order to give ordinary working Americans a fair shake, the GOP and its corporate-controlled media try to label them as leftists and socialists. They would have you believe that they are un-American and dangerous. But they are as American and as mainstream as FDR, JFK, Obama and even Ronald Reagan.

It’s Trump, Mitch McConnell, the NRA and the GOP who fail to live up to the ideals of our nation’s Founders

A Primer On Freedom For Trump Supporters.

Following our annual celebration of freedom known as Independence Day, and given recent events, it has become clear that some of you – including our president – are unclear as to what freedom actually means. So I’ll attempt to clear that up for you.

Wikipedia defines freedom as “…having the ability to act or change without constraint. Something is “free” if it can change easily and is not constrained in its present state. In philosophy and religion, it is associated with having free will and being without undue or unjust constraints, or enslavement, and is an idea closely related to the concept of liberty. A person has the freedom to do things that will not, in theory or in practice, be prevented by other forces.”

Those “other forces” are, by necessity, laws. In order for all those within a given society to enjoy a large degree of freedom, there must be limits. Without them, freedom would quickly devolve into anarchy.

Though not themselves perfect, our Founders hoped to usher in an Age of Enlightenment. Through the Constitution, they hoped to create a nation that would serve as a model for the world in which its inhabitants were free from tyranny…even tyranny of the majority. That’s why the Constitution created a framework of laws. Why it forbade the establishment of an official religion. It’s why the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the rights of assembly. It’s why it guarantees the right of citizens to petition the government. It’s why it created a government elected by the people and a court system in which the people could address grievances. And, to ensure equality, Article IV states, “The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states. (In other words, all states.)

That stated, perhaps the best way to define the liberty that our Founding Fathers gave us is to look at what it is not.

For example, dear Trump supporters, you and your hero do not have the freedom to proclaim the United States a Christian nation. Nor do you have the freedom to deny rights to those who practice a religion different than yours or to those who practice no religion at all – no matter how much that may offend you. Freedom does not give you the right to impose your religious beliefs on others. Freedom does not give you the right to harass, bully, assault or threaten those who look different, worship differently, love differently or vote differently than you. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you are free to cage, torture and detain indefinitely those who speak a different language than you just because they crossed our borders seeking refuge.

It does not give individuals and corporations the freedom to cheat, steal or cause harm to others. It doesn’t mean that you are free to pollute the air and water that we all need to survive. Or to steal our natural resources. It doesn’t give you the right to deny medical care and needed pharmaceuticals to others if doing so is against your perverted faith. It does not give you the right to deny other citizens the opportunity to vote even if you disagree with their choices. It does not give your president and his family the right to enrich themselves by pillaging our nation’s coffers. It does not give your Mango Mussolini and his wealthy friends the right to move their profits offshore in order to avoid taxes thereby forcing the rest of us to pick up their share.

And it sure as hell doesn’t give your politicians the right to seek and use the assistance of a foreign adversary in order to defeat their opponents!

Is The GOP A Political Party? Or A Crime Syndicate?

For those of you who think the two major political parties in the US are different in name only, I would like to correct the perception. True, both parties are far too friendly with lobbyists and large corporations. Both rely on billionaires to fund their political campaigns. Both have voted to dole out billions in corporate welfare. But that’s where the comparisons end. Today’s GOP would be unrecognizable to Republicans such as Abraham Lincoln, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Nelson Rockefeller.

In my lifetime, I’ve seen GOP Sen. Joseph McCarthy create rampant fear of communists around every corner resulting in false accusations and black lists that ruined the lives of political opponents and innocents alike.

We saw GOP presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon treasonously interfere in the Vietnam peace talks for political advantage. As president, he divided the nation. Then, in his re-election campaign, he created a dirty tricks squad to torment his opponents. He was forced from office when it was discovered that he ordered a break-in of Democratic offices and used his position to cover it up. His VP, his Attorney General, his White House lawyer and others went to prison. And, during the Watergate hearings, he was found to have committed tax fraud. But, thanks to a pardon by his Republican successor, he was spared prison even as his tax lawyer was convicted and sentenced.

Similarly, we learned that Ronald Reagan secretly, and treasonously, negotiated with the Iranians to prevent the release of US hostages until after the presidential election. Then, during his second term, it was discovered that he had illegally ordered the sale of arms to Iran in order to fund an illegal war in Central America. At least a dozen members of his administration were indicted while Reagan was allowed to ride off into the sunset. Yet few of the culprits served real consequences since Reagan’s GOP successor, George H.W. Bush, ordered his Attorney General (William Barr) to pardon them.

Under false pretenses, Bush later led a war against Iraq over Kuwaiti oil. And following his “victory” Bush sent the nation’s economy into a deep recession by closing dozens of military bases in the US.

Following in his father’s footsteps, George W. Bush ignored warnings that al-Qaeda was set to attack the US resulting in 9/11. He then took us to war in Afghanistan (our longest-running war) and lied our nation into going to war in Iraq resulting in the squandering of trillions of dollars and the complete destabilization of the Middle East the consequences of which will be felt for many generations. Bush also oversaw the continued de-regulation of our financial sector leading to the collapse of our stock markets and the Great Recession.

Now we have the boss of a crime family occupying our White House – Donald J. Trump – who ascended to power as the beneficiary of substantial election interference by Russia, information stolen from Democratic databases, election fraud, illegal campaign contributions, and more than $70 million from the NRA. He has not only refused to acknowledge Russian interference, he has obstructed investigations into that interference. Only because of an inane judgment by the DOJ has he avoided charges. Meanwhile, his personal lawyer and members of his campaign committee have either pleaded guilty or have been convicted of crimes leading to prison sentences.

And that’s not even the worst of his presidency. He has led the plundering of our treasury to enrich his family, his friends and large corporations. He has gutted regulations designed to prevent another market crash and to protect our environment. He has engaged in ill-conceived trade wars. He has implemented racist policies. He has further divided our nation by empowering white nationalists. And he has undermined the truth, the press and most of our institutions.

All of this has been enabled by compliant GOP congressional representatives who are re-elected only as the result of extreme gerrymandering, union busting and a variety of voter suppression techniques designed to prevent people of color and the working poor from voting for their opponents.

By comparison, the last three Democratic administrations have been guilty of balancing the budget, rescuing our economy from financial collapse, giving millions of Americans access to affordable health care, and twenty years relatively free from scandal…except for that blow job and those emails. You know, THOSE emails.