What If They All Wrote Tell All Books?

Given the revelations detailed in the book by former National Security Advisor John Bolton, I began to wonder: What would we learn if all the high-level members of the Trump administration who were dismissed or resigned wrote books detailing their tenure? But after some research, I discovered that the books would make up an entire library. After all, nearly 300 cabinet-level officials have been fired or abandoned ship since Trump took office.

Allow me to repeat that. Approximately 300 high-level officials have left the Trump administration in just 3-1/2 years! That would be an astounding turnover rate for a McDonalds. Hell, it would be an astonishing rate for sewer workers.

So far, the number of officials who have resigned or have been shown the door includes 3 White House Chiefs of Staff, 8 Deputy Chiefs of Staff, and at least 16 Special Assistants to the President. It also includes 3 Secretaries of State, a Secretary of the Treasury, 2 Secretaries of Energy, 3 Secretaries of Health and Human Services, a Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a Secretary of the Interior, 2 Attorneys General, 2 Solicitors General, 2 Directors of the FBI, a Director of the Secret Service, 3 Secretaries of Labor, a Secretary of Education, 4 Secretaries of Veterans Affairs, an Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, and dozens upon dozens of Under Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Senior Advisors, and other high-ranking officials.

Given the current pandemic, it’s alarming to note that the turnover has also included 2 Directors of the CDC and 3 Commissioners of Food and Drug Administration, as well as untold numbers of scientists.

More alarming still is the fact that 4 Secretaries of Defense, 4 Secretaries of Homeland Security, 3 National Security Advisors, 25 ranking members of the National Security Council, 3 Directors of National Intelligence, a Director of the CIA, 2 Secretaries of the Air Force, 3 Secretaries of the Army, and 2 Secretaries of the Navy have been fired, retired or resigned. (And, of course, Trump’s first National Security Advisor has spent the last several years in jail.)

In addition, 24 Deputy Secretaries of Defense and other high-ranking defense officials have left their posts.

If, as Trump promised, he was only going to hire “the very best people,” you have to wonder about the quality of those who remain. Are they even better than those who left? Or are they merely the only ones who are so morally and ethically compromised that they have chosen to remain loyal to a divisive, cruel, lying, racist, misogynistic, pussy-grabbing, human rights-violating, conman who only obtained office by conspiring to rig our elections with a foreign rival?

“Mississippi With Snow.”

During television coverage of the recent protests in Minneapolis, the head of the NAACP referred to Minnesota as “Mississippi with snow.” As a proud resident of Minnesota who has long tried to address the racism in our state, that was still difficult to hear. But it is an alarmingly accurate description. Despite the economic success of Minnesota (it’s home to numerous Fortune 500 headquarters) and our widely acclaimed creativity (in music, theater, advertising, graphic arts, culinary arts and more), the primary differences between the two states are that we have a harsher climate, fewer people of color and a different accent.

Once a bastion of Scandinavian-style liberalism and tolerance, Minnesota changed under the leadership of GOP governor Tim Pawlenty. It cut taxes and passed laws that rewarded the wealthiest Minnesotans while punishing the poorest. That punishment was felt most by Minnesotans of color.

In 2008, the population of Minnesota was just 4.6 percent black compared to 12.8 percent for the US as a whole. Similarly, the Latino population in Minnesota was just 4.1 percent versus 15.4 percent for the US. Yet, black people living in Minneapolis (there are precious few outside the Twin Cities) are nearly 6 times more likely to be poor than their white counterparts. A black college graduate in the state, on average, makes less than a white high school dropout.

In 2009, at the height of the Great Recession, the unemployment rate for black Minnesotans was 22.5 percent compared to 15.5 percent for Latinos and just 7.1 percent for whites. Again, in 2010, Minnesota ranked second in the nation for racial disparity in the jobless rate behind only Mississippi. Even in 2018, before the pandemic, when black unemployment was at a record low of 6.8 percent, black unemployment in Minnesota was nearly double the US average.

Nationally, for every $1.00 of income white households receive, Latino households receive 72 cents, and black households earn just 59 cents. For every $1.00 of wealth held by white families, Latino families have 12 cents, and black families have 10 cents! And one-third of black children live in poverty, compared to 12 percent of white children.

Police in Minnesota and elsewhere kill blacks at an alarming rate compared to whites. Each killing leads to mental health issues for most of the black population. And it’s not just police killing black people. Discrimination is literally killing blacks because they are less likely to be able to afford healthcare. (A fact that has been especially apparent with the impact of the pandemic on people of color.)

Moreover, people of color not only suffer from disparities in employment, income, wealth, healthcare, and opportunity. They suffer from disparities in education, policing, and voting.

In Minnesota schools are some of the most segregated in the US. Why? Because Minnesota was an early adopter of charter schools. And Minnesota law exempts charter schools from desegregation. Public schools are also highly segregated with many predominately black schools underfunded, which has resulted in a large achievement gap between blacks and whites.

Minnesota is not alone. The US spends $23 billion more on schools that serve predominately white students versus schools that serve predominately black and Latino students. Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans are expelled from schools at a higher rate than whites for the same transgressions. Too often, that leads to participation in the “justice” system and eventually to incarceration. Once they’re in the system, they find it hard to escape.

Per capita, blacks are 2.8 times more likely to be killed by police than white people. And believe it or not, Native Americans fair even worse. They are 3.1 times more likely to be killed by police than whites. Native Americans make up 0.8 percent of the population. But they experience 1.9 percent of all police killings. Many Native Americans live in poverty with no access to clean water. And many of their children are sent to outdate, mold-infested schools. Moreover, in an age of technology, many Native Americans have none. They not only lack high-speed Internet (a growing requirement for education). Many lack phone service.

And, if you think people of color can create change by voting, think again. A recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice found that black voters stand in lines 45 percent longer than white people. Latinos wait 46 percent longer than whites. And many Native Americans are unable to vote at all because some states require a street address, which most reservations lack. As a result of GOP voter suppression tactics, the situation is getting worse as evidenced in Georgia. Is it any wonder then that there are only 3 US senators who are black?

Now, following the murder of George Floyd, Minnesota has a real opportunity to make systemic change. As it has in many other ways, it can lead the nation. It can create an environment of justice and equal treatment for people of all colors and backgrounds. It can make its immodest slogan “Minnesota Nice” truly mean something.

Reimagining Police.

Since the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing violence, I’ve been struggling to know what to write about policing in America. Despite many encounters with lazy and corrupt Bullies With Badges, my attempts to identify and explain necessary changes have seemed inadequate. Fortunately, a former police officer has described the problems better than I, or most anyone else, could.

I highly recommend you read the linked article entitled “Confessions of a Former Bastard CopConfessions of a Former Bastard Cop.”

If you read it, I believe that you will never view police the same way again. There are far more than a few bad apples in law enforcement. The entire apple tree is decaying from its roots.

We’re All Complicit In George Floyd’s Death.

Let me begin by stating that Minneapolis is a great city. It has been home to world leaders in music, advertising, graphic design, theater, education, medicine and more. In addition, it has been home to principled and forward thinking political leaders such as senators Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale and Al Franken. The city has great dining and entertainment venues, as well as a full range of professional sports. Most of all, it has long been a clean and safe place to live. It has also been known as a place that is charitable and tolerant of others. For those reasons, it has accepted an amazing number of refugees – from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Liberia, Somalia, Eritrea, Tibet and more.

That has made Minneapolis a particularly vibrant place where the warmth of its citizens more than offsets the sometimes frigid weather.

Unfortunately, the city’s tolerance has extended to corruption and racism. That became clear for all to see with the murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers. Though I’m not black, I have long been concerned about below-the-surface racism in the city after stumbling across corruption within the city council, the mayor’s office, and, in particular, the Minneapolis Police Department in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

Police officers felt emboldened to stop people of color for any reason, at any time. They harassed the homeless. And some brutalized black people. From my office window, I personally witnessed six MPD officers cuff a black man, placing him face down in slush and snow. They then took turns kicking him before one finished the assault by emptying a can of mace in his face. I reported the incident, but since I was unable to get names and badge numbers, my report was ignored.

A series of police chiefs tried to clean up the mess that seems to have begun in the 1930s – one famous for his work in the South Bronx. But those chiefs were often blunted by the city’s police union. For example, when an off-duty officer brutally beat a college student in a downtown bar, he was fired. But the officer was returned to duty following arbitration and assigned to the role of department spokesman. Since then, many others have been fired for cause, but returned to duty following arbitration, even receiving back pay!

How on earth can any chief establish and maintain discipline under those circumstances? Though I support labor unions in general, the police union is most responsible for George Floyd’s death. But they are not alone.

The public has failed to demand better. Indeed, many are in denial that racism is a problem. Not here in Minnesota! They have decried racism at the same time they joined the white flight to the suburbs ostensibly in search of better schools, which explains why 65 percent of students in the city’s schools are children of color and 70 percent are living in poverty. Meanwhile, schools in some of the city’s suburbs have larger budgets and facilities that would shame many small colleges.

To be clear, Minneapolis is not an outlier. Racism exists in every city, in every state. Indeed, it has grown as result of President Trump’s actions and words.

Racism will only end when our governments – all of our governments – take it seriously and take steps to end segregation and inequality. More important, all of us need to confront racism whenever and wherever it raises its ugly head. We need to block the Websites which racists use to congregate and plan their hateful acts. We need to hold racist politicians accountable. And we need to make sure that law enforcement officers are charged for their crimes. The Minneapolis Police Department should take the advice of Mayor Frey and immediately arrest the officer who murdered George Floyd along with his three accomplices.

Trump’s Conflict With China.

With the help of William Barr, Trump was able to dismiss the Mueller investigation’s findings that he conspired with Russia to win election and committed obstruction of justice to avoid the consequences. And, with the help of a compliant GOP-controlled Senate, Trump was able to avoid removal from office through impeachment over his unconstitutional actions with Ukraine.

Now desperate to distract from his failed response to the coronavirus that has killed nearly 100,000 Americans and left nearly 37 million unemployed, Trump is calling on his administration and his allies to place blame on China.

Certainly, China is not blameless for the pandemic. Its government downplayed the seriousness and the extent of the outbreak in Wuhan, even punishing the doctor who called attention to the threat and who later died from COVID-19. But China eventually did cooperate with the World Health Organization (WHO) and provided information on the virus before it was found in the US.

And the Trump administration is no less at fault. It has been reported that the administration ignored the pandemic playbook left by the Obama administration. In 2018, it disbanded the Pandemic Response Team. Even before that, GOP members of Congress refused to provide funds to refill the Strategic National Stockpile. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refused to use a readily available test preferring to make its own failed version. And, during the early days of the pandemic, Trump dismissed concerns of the coronavirus as a Democratic hoax.

To be fair, there were some things beyond the administration’s control. Over a period of many years, US manufacturers of medical equipment, like many other industries, outsourced much of their production to China. And, facing economic stress, hospitals had embraced the “Just In Time” mentality of other industries to reduce inventory and cut expenses.

Obviously, with regard to the pandemic, there is plenty of blame to go around. But, instead of trying to affix blame, we should be trying to make necessary changes so that it never happens again. The last thing we need is to defund the WHO, the organization best suited to prevent pandemics. And we certainly do not need to escalate the ill-conceived trade war with China into a cold war or worse. But it seems the Trump administration is determined to do just that.

After Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiated by the Obama administration and began alienating governments around the globe, China has stepped in to fill the void left by the US. It has invested heavily in emerging countries. And it has worked to expand trade with Europe. That has made China more powerful, more confident, and less dependent on the US. In addition, US tariffs on Chinese goods have hurt US consumers, US farmers, and US companies. They have also strained relations between the two nations.

Now, after long ignoring China’s ethnic cleansing of the Uighurs, the brutal occupation of Tibet, and the crackdown in Hong Kong, the Trump administration seems to have decided that it is now in Trump’s interest to demand information about the location and well-being of Tibet’s Panchen Lama. And it has decided to place sanctions on Chinese companies involved with surveillance of Hong Kong protestors. Not surprisingly, China has threatened to respond in kind. Alarmingly, some congressional Democrats have gone along with Trump’s escalation of the conflict.

This cannot end well.

After the Trump administration’s treatment of Latin American refugees, the US no longer has the high moral ground on human rights. So, China is unlikely to respond to demands from the US. And we may not get much support from the international community. Further, to a great extent, the Chinese and US economies rely on each other. Escalating the conflict will be damaging to both economies, and the US economy is already more vulnerable than at any time since the Great Depression.

Finally, since WWII, the US has focused on projecting its military might around the globe. That is extremely difficult and expensive, requiring many military bases, aircraft and naval carrier groups. But China has focused on building its military to defend the eastern hemisphere – a task far less daunting. So, any military conflict with China will be difficult for the US to win. Both are nuclear powers. And, unless China attacks the US, the US will be forced to fight against superior numbers on China’s home turf.

In reality, neither side can win a military conflict. Therefore, the only solution is diplomacy – a task the Trump administration is particularly unsuited for.

The Coming Great(er) Depression.

In the US, we are quickly approaching 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 combined with 36 percent unemployment. The losses have been staggering – akin to combining the pandemic of 1918 with the Great Depression of the 1930s. Even “reopening” the economy is unlikely to change our future other than accelerating the death rate.

At this point, we have no reliable treatment for COVID-19. No vaccine. No equitable answer for unemployment. And inadequate safety nets.

But, by far, our greatest deficiency is leadership at the national level. So far, our “Dear Leader” and wannabe dictator has only led us to the abyss. Instead of preparing for a pandemic, he ignored the playbook given him by his successor and dismantled our response team. Instead of reacting to the onset of the pandemic in China, he dismissed it as the Wuhan flu. When the first cases appeared on our shores, he dismissed it as a partisan hoax. As the pandemic spread, he abdicated his responsibility and placed it in the laps of state governments. And he continues to claim that “no one could have handled it better.”

Really? Let’s look at his administration’s response.

He and his incompetent underlings stated that the national stockpile of medical supplies was the federal government’s – that states would have to find their own sources of ventilators and personal protection equipment (PPE). They even ignored a US manufacturer who had the manufacturing capability to make millions of N95 masks before the pandemic spread. All the manufacturer needed were government assurances and federal funds to restart his production lines that had been forced to close by lower cost foreign competition.

As a result, states were forced to engage in bidding wars for equipment – much of it substandard – often against the federal government. At the same time, large federal supplies of masks held by TSA went unused. In the meantime, healthcare providers were left to treat COVID-19 patients without proper protection, resulting in unneeded stress and, in some case, unnecessary deaths. And their reward from Dandy Donnie? He accused them of hoarding or wasting masks, shields, and gowns.

He continued to treat the pandemic as a partisan issue, using it to further divide our nation. He called for the economy to reopen while deaths soared. He took the advice of his propagandists on Fox News against his own medical advisors to promote unproven drugs as a “cure” for COVID-19. He also suggested that COVID might be treated by injecting or ingesting disinfectants or somehow getting ultraviolet light inside patients!

Only when the polls showed him trailing his political rival did he begin to take the pandemic seriously.

Nevertheless, he continues to push for Americans to go back to work despite the danger. He ordered meat-processing plants to stay open as more and more of their employees tested positive for the virus. His administration failed to provide guidance for safety measures leaving employees exposed. Yet, he quickly enacted safety measures for his own place of employment when one of his staff tested positive for the coronavirus. It seems he expects other Americans to risk their lives to restore the economy to improve his re-election prospects.

But the economy isn’t coming back soon.

It’s painfully obvious that Donald J. Trump is completely unsuited for dealing with a crisis, especially one that demands reason and science. He can’t bully a virus. He can’t sue it or con it. It won’t succumb to his vulgar threats. Sure, he can rile up his base into a frothing-at-the-mouth frenzy. He can expect Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Rush Limbaugh and his other propagandists to create distractions and more conspiracy theories. He can continue to try to place the blame on others. And he can expect Vladimir Putin to meddle in our elections. But creating more anger, more hatred, more division, more racism will not end the pandemic and bring back our economy.

The only thing that can save us now is real leadership. Something that is sorely lacking in the White House and in the GOP.

Barr’s Latest Attempt To Rewrite History.

Even before Donald J. Trump won the Electoral College, it was clear to US intelligence agencies that Russia had intervened in the 2016 election on his behalf. They had not only barraged social media with lies about Hillary Clinton. They hacked the DNC website, delivering Democratic strategies and internal polling to the Trump campaign, which helped sway key battleground states. In addition, Russian oligarchs funneled millions into GOP campaign coffers through the NRA.

These were not the unsolicited acts of a foreign rival. As revealed by the Mueller investigation, they were done in concert with the Trump campaign. For example, just hours after Trump looked into a camera and said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing,” Russian operatives began attempts to hack the Clinton campaign.

The investigation documented dozens of meetings between Russians and Trump associates. It also knew of dozens of communications between Russia and the Trump campaign that were either destroyed prior to the investigation or encrypted. It even documented an attempt to set up a so-called backdoor line of communications between the campaign and Russia. Though the Mueller team concluded that there was insufficient evidence to press charges of a criminal conspiracy due to the campaign’s lies, missing communications, and the unwillingness of Russians to testify, it wrote: “…the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events detailed in the report.”

Contrary to Trump and his puppet Attorney General, William Barr, the investigation did not exonerate Trump. Nor did it rule out collusion.

The fact that Trump can continue to lie about his “exoneration” is the result of Barr’s successful attempt to mischaracterize the results by sending a misleading letter to Congress and holding a press conference before releasing the report itself. Further, Barr has continued to undermine the investigation’s findings by raising questions about the investigation’s origins and the FISA warrants issued to collect information.

It’s an old trick. If you can’t dispute the evidence, raise questions about how it was gathered. Cast the investigators as biased, incompetent or both.

Barr is an expert in the art of deception. In 1989, as Assistant Attorney General, he wrote a legal opinion justifying rendition – the arrest of fugitives on foreign soil without consent of a sovereign government – resulting in the US invasion of Panama and the arrest of Manuel Noriega. When Congress asked for a copy of the document, Barr refused to provide it, offering a “summary” instead. When Congress eventually subpoenaed the full document, it discovered that Barr had omitted key findings from the summary. Sound familiar?

Far from acting as an impartial advocate of justice, Barr has used his position to push for destructive and partisan policies under false pretense. To a great degree, he is responsible for mass incarceration, while claiming it would be good for black Americans. He launched an illegal surveillance program which gathered international phone records of innocent Americans. He pushed President George H.W. Bush to pardon Casper Weinberger for the Iran-Contra affair. And he was given the monicker “Coverup General Barr” by conservative columnist William Safire for his refusal to appoint a special counsel to investigate the scandal known as Iraqgate over the US role in the Iran-Iraq War.

It is precisely because of his ability to deceive and coverup that Barr was nominated to become Trump’s more than willing enabler. Having honed his abilities to undermine justice to a fine art, he once again sits atop a Department of Injustice. Using his power, he not only undermined the Mueller investigation. He began a partisan investigation of the FBI and US intelligence agencies. He has attacked the Affordable Care Act. He has even threatened governors for daring to invoke their emergency powers to shutdown businesses in response to the pandemic. (How dare they place the safety of their citizens over the re-election efforts of his Russian-loving, pussy-grabbing, child-caging, environment-destroying, money-grubbing, pandemic-ignoring, wannabe dictator!)

And just in time to help resurrect Trump’s failing re-election campaign, Barr has ordered a federal court to ignore Michael Flynn’s guilty plea of lying to the FBI. If the court agrees, the former National Security Advisor, conspiracy theorist, and leader of “Lock her up” chants will go free. Moreover, Trump will again be able to claim that the entire Mueller investigation was without merit. Never mind the evidence. Pay no attention to the many other convictions. Forget about Junior’s meeting with a Russian operative expecting to collect dirt on Hillary. And, by all means, ignore the incompetent response to the pandemic, the multi-trillion-dollar deficit, and the 33 million unemployed.

It’s all a Democratic hoax.

A Warning For Earth Day. And Every Day.

When I did the research for my current book, Truth Over Politics, I was astounded to see how much worse the climate crisis had become since writing my last book in 2016. Despite the brief respite caused by the pandemic, the damage will soon reach a crisis that will endanger us all. Following are but a few of the things we know about the climate crisis:

• 2019 was ranked as the second-hottest year on record, just behind 2016, which had previously replaced 2015 as the hottest year on record.
• 9 of 10 hottest years on record have occurred between 2005 and 2019.
• 2019 was the 43rd consecutive year with global land and ocean temperatures above average.
• The average global temperature in 2019 was 1.71° F (0.95° C) above the 20th century average. (Scientists have warned that an increase of 1° to 2° C over the 20th century average could be a tipping point.)
• In 2019, ocean heat content (the amount of heat stored in the upper levels of the ocean), which can contribute to sea-level rise, was the highest ever recorded.
• Atmospheric carbon dioxide is now 413 parts per million (ppm). (400 ppm has long been considered the climate tipping point and, until the late 1940s, it had never been above 300 ppm for 650,000 years.)
• Arctic sea ice has shrunk about 40 percent since 1979.
• The mass of Antarctic ice sheets has declined at the rate of 145 gigatons per year since 2003.
• The mass of Greenland ice sheets has declined at the rate of 283 gigatons per year.
• The thickness of 30 well-studied glaciers has decreased by more than 60 feet since 1980.
• The sea level has risen by 8-9 inches since 1880. (About one-third of the rise has come in the last 25 years.)
• 33 percent of the world’s coral reefs are threatened by warming oceans. (The reefs are home to more than a quarter of all marine life.)

The consequences of inaction is to invite more floods, more intense storms and hurricanes, more wildfires on the scale of Australia’s, more severe droughts leading to food and water scarcity, more unemployment, and more pandemics.

If all of that isn’t enough to alarm you, consider this: A 2019 report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) warned, “Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely.” The report went on to state, “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever.”

IPBES found that around one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction – many of them within decades. The cause of the threat? Human activities resulting in (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species.

The sirens are sounding to warn us that we desperately need to change our relationship with the planet and its other inhabitants. And they’re warning us that we need to change now! The question is: Will we listen?

Religion Perverted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Ronald Reagan Destroyed America.

For many Americans, Ronald Reagan was a great president who reawakened and re-energized the nation as exemplified by the “Morning in America” commercials created by some of my friends. They even credit him for ending the Cold War. But the credit more accurately belongs to Gorbachev.

To me, Reagan will always be the person who used a hostage crisis to win election and who turned Americans against their own government by portraying it as the enemy. And that’s only the beginning of his negative impact on the US.

He famously ran up deficits and tripled the national debt. He flipped the economy upside-down with his Trickle Down theory of economics leading to extreme inequality in income, wealth and opportunity. Under Reagan, we saw the end of national usury laws making it possible for national banks to evade interest rate caps leading to interest rates of 18%, 30%, 40% and more. At the same time, Reagan took away the tax deductions for interest paid by middle class and poor Americans on auto loans, credit cards and other personal loans. One result, as evidenced by a new Institute for Policy Studies Inequality briefing paper by Bob Lord, is that the taxes paid by America’s billionaires have decreased 79 percent since 1980!

Known by some as the “Father of Globalization”, Reagan’s economic and trade decisions led to the offshoring of high-paying American jobs. As he embraced multinational corporations, he attacked the labor unions – the very organizations that created our middle class by fighting for living wages, healthcare benefits and safe working environments.

The Reagan administration supercharged the era of corporate consolidations and legalized stock buybacks for corporate executives. Those decisions led to multi-million-dollar annual compensation for corporate executives, inflated stock prices, and mass layoffs of workers.

And though Reagan criticized Carter for the capture of US embassy workers in Tehran, he was responsible for the deaths of 241 Marines, sailors and soldiers who were killed on his watch after he sent them to Beirut with no plan of engagement. He waged war on the island nation of Grenada – yes, Grenada – for aligning with Cuba. He also circumvented congressional oversight by creating a shadow government that illegally sold weapons to Iran in order to finance death squads in El Salvador and Nicaragua.

And maybe Reagan’s worst decision of all was to call for the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine that led to the likes of Fox News Channel, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, and a host of others who have used hate, sensationalism and an avalanche of lies to divide us. I believe you can draw a direct line from that decision to Donald J. Trump and the most corrupt, conniving, inept and hateful administration in US history.