Jan. 6 Commission Vote Explains Why Bipartisanship Is A Myth.

Most Americans continue to call for bipartisanship in the US Congress. But it has become as elusive as UFOs, Bigfoot, and the mythical unicorn. First, let’s note that the “bi” in bipartisanship denotes the participation of two parties. Unfortunately, for at least the past 12 years, one party has been largely absent. Sure, the Republicans have been more than happy to demand a voice in any bill the Democrats put forward. For example, as Congress was debating the Affordable Care Act, Republicans offered hundreds of amendments to the bill, and Democrats accepted hundreds of them in hopes of gaining Republican support. But, when it came to the final vote, not a single Republican voted for the bill in the House or the Senate.

That set a pattern that continues to this day.

Senate GQP (Grand QAnon Party) leader, Moscow Mitch McConnell has stated repeatedly that his primary goal is to stop the Democratic agenda at any cost. When Republicans are in the minority, he repeatedly calls for bipartisanship. But when Democrats have control, he ramrods through Republican bills and nominations at record speeds, decrying any attempts at negotiation as obstruction. One need look no further than McConnell’s actions on the Senate Supreme Court confirmations of Merrick Garland and Amy Coney-Barrett to confirm his hypocrisy and his contempt for bipartisanship.

As if those two examples are not enough to make the point, consider the recent votes on a bill calling for a bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection of January 6. After Democrats agreed to each of the House Republican’s demands, both parties announced that they had reached a deal on May 14, 2021. Then, on May 18, the day before the bill was to come up for a vote, House GQP leader Kevin McCarthy announced his opposition to the bill. And hours before the House vote, Moscow Mitch followed suit. As a result, only 35 Republican House members broke ranks to vote in favor of creating the commission.

The fate of the commission now hangs in the balance in the Senate where, given the filibuster, 10 Republicans will have to demonstrate their independence from Moscow Mitch and vote for bipartisanship. Unfortunately, that is very unlikely.

One can’t help but compare the GQP to Lucy in the Peanuts cartoon series and Democrats to Charlie Brown. Despite assurances that they will hold the football this time, the GQP continues to withdraw support at the last instant, leaving Democrats to whiff and fall onto their backsides. Though contrary to their instincts and their desire for the kind of bipartisanship needed to solve our nation’s problems, it’s time for Democrats to give Republicans a dose of their own medicine.

Bipartisanship is not possible now that one of the parties has become a belligerent and autocratic cult.

America’s Racism On Full (And Constant) Display.

Even as the world is transfixed by the Derek Chauvin trial in Minnesota (a trial to decide if Chauvin was guilty of murdering George Floyd), we continue to see other examples of police abuse of black and brown people. In the past few days, video evidence of police mistreating a black man in a military uniform has come to light. And, while Americans were still recoiling in horror at seeing police pepper spray and cuff the man at gunpoint over his supposed failure to display a temporary vehicle license, we saw a young black man shot and killed by a white policewoman over expired license tags and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror.

Unfortunately, such events have become increasingly common.

In Texas, a young black woman named Sandra Bland died in jail over failure to signal a lane change. In Ohio, a young black man named John Crawford III was shot and killed by police in a Walmart for carrying a BB gun he intended to purchase. In California, it took police 10 seconds to shoot and kill a 13-year-old Latino who was carrying a pellet gun. Likewise, it took police just seconds to kill a 12-year-old black boy for playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland park. In Phoenix, a 14-year-old Latino was shot and killed while holding an air soft gun. In Detroit, a 13-year-old black boy named Tamir Rice was killed for playing with an air soft gun.

In Georgia, a black man named Ahmaud Arbery was hunted and killed by a former police officer and his armed friends while jogging. And, in Kentucky, a black woman named Breona Taylor was shot and killed in the middle of the night in her own home while police were executing a no-knock warrant.

To our nation’s great shame, the number of such examples are far too numerous and far too widespread to list. Yet, despite the publicity and efforts to hold police accountable, the number of events has not diminished. Indeed, they seem to be increasing. And far too many Americans look to blame the victims rather than the officers. They dig through the victims’ criminal history, their drug use, their failure to comply with officers’ unreasonable demands.

By contrast, we see white people treated much differently by police.

Just months after a peaceful crowd of Black Lives Matter protestors were confronted with excessive violence by large numbers of police and National Guard while peacefully protesting in Washington, DC, the almost entirely white crowd of violent insurrectionists who invaded the Capitol were able to overwhelm an undermanned and under-equipped police presence. Even after hours of mayhem and destruction, which resulted in 5 deaths and injuries to more than 140 police officers, the combatants were allowed to simply walk away. In fact, some police actually offered a helping hand to insurrectionists so they could descend the steps and bleachers without injury!

The white insurrectionists resorted to violence based on the lie that the election was stolen from their preferred presidential candidate despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Imagine what those same people might do if they believed they were unfairly stopped for minor traffic offenses; if they were subjected to humiliating searches and excessive fines; if they were subjected to excessive force; or if they were killed for a misdemeanor. Imagine if their communities tended to dismiss their complaints and, instead, displayed signs supporting the police. Imagine, if every time they went to court, their entire lives were put under a microscope in search of any past transgression that could be used against them. Imagine if they found it more difficult to find a job than others. Imagine if they were paid less. Imagine, if they were underrepresented in Congress, in state legislatures, on city councils, on police staffs, and it courts. Imagine if draconian laws were put in place to make it more difficult for them to vote. And imagine if that treatment continued for generations.

Then, and only then, would they have an understanding of what it would be like to be part of a minority.

The sad truth is, in the US, equality simply does not exist. Not for black and brown people. Not for Asian and Pacific Islanders. Not for immigrants. Not for Native Americans. Not for women. Not for people of different sexual persuasions. Not for people of different religions.

It is long past time for that to change. It must change if our ongoing experiment with democracy is to survive!

Our Broken Criminal Justice System.

Trump’s acquittal for inciting an insurrection and his pardons of some of the most treacherous criminals in our nation’s history only serve to call more attention to the inequalities of our justice system. The contrast is particularly stark in comparison to the treatment of people of color over the past year.

The truth is, the US incarcerates more people than any other nation on Earth (2.1 million as of 2018) and a higher percentage of its citizens than any other nation (639 per 100,000). Moreover, our prison populations are disproportionately people of color. And people of color are disproportionately subjected to police violence.

Why?

As with most things, the answer is: It’s complicated. Certainly, the color of one’s skin does not make one more prone to commit crimes. It does not make one more violent. Similarly, not all white people and white cops are racist. But the answer is rooted in our history of slavery, Jim Crow, and our continuing systemic racism.

For example, numerous studies have found that students of color are disproportionately affected by suspensions and punishments in schools. And the inequity begins early. Though black students represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment, they represent 42 percent of students who are suspended once and 48 percent of those suspended more than once.

The impact of such bias is long-lasting. Suspended students are less likely to graduate on time. They are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, or become involved in the juvenile justice system. And, once in the system, it is difficult for them to escape. A 2018 study published in the Boston University Law Review found a profound racial disparity in the misdemeanor arrest rate” for drug possession, theft and simple assault. In addition, they are disproportionately subjected to police violence. This disparity was borne out by the Department of Justice investigation into the City of Ferguson, Missouri following the slaying of Michael Brown, an unarmed young black man.

That report revealed a pattern of unlawful conduct within the Ferguson Police Department that violated the 1st, 4th, and 14th Amendments. In short, the investigation found that the city’s administration, its police force, and its municipal court system viewed its largely black population less as residents than as sources of revenue. Residents were arrested for minor crimes and given fines they could not afford to pay. When they failed to pay the fines, the amounts were increased. Ultimately, they were jailed until they could come up with the money to obtain their release.

And Ferguson is not unique. You can find the same pattern in the poorest neighborhoods of almost every US city.

Further, as abundantly demonstrated by the George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, John Crawford III, Tamir Rice, and untold others killed by police, there is significant racism within the police ranks. Young black males are killed by police at a rate 5 times greater than whites. And more than double the rate of Latinos.

Even if the police are not intentionally racist, many have preconceived, subconscious biases. Many assume people of color are guilty of something. They see expressions of free speech as unlawful disobedience. They see innocent movements as threats. And they too often resort to excessive force. Yet, although the number of documented cases of police abuse has grown as a result of the availability of cellphone video, the overwhelming majority of cases still go unreported for fear of retaliation.

There are many contributing factors for the problems: Police leadership – both at the top and within the ranks, flawed hiring practices, and inadequate or over aggressive training. Police are too often expected to deal with situations, such as mental health crises, for which they are unqualified and unprepared. And they are often the victims for poor communication from dispatchers. Police are also victims of our nation’s runaway gun culture. Any American can obtain a gun. And many have more firepower than the responding officers.

Other factors are the militarization of our police forces through the purchase of surplus military equipment. To keep these items, they must prove that they use it. That tends to escalate the violence. And we can’t overlook the police federations that make it difficult for Police Chiefs to enforce meaningful disciplinary actions against abusive officers.

Our court system is equally at fault.

The United Nations Sentencing Project found that US operates two distinct criminal justice systems: One for the wealthy. Another for the poor.

While people like Trump and his friends can afford high-powered attorneys to avoid or delay justice through complicated and expensive motions, the poor, especially people of color are treated very differently. Since the courts and public defenders are overwhelmed with caseloads, prosecutors are often able to intimidate defendants into accepting plea bargains. If they plead to a felony, they are often placed into a prison system focused on revenge rather than rehabilitation and education. Once they’re released, they’re still viewed as dangerous. In many states, they can’t vote. And they find it difficult to get jobs. All too often, that leads them to commit other crimes.

If their crimes involve mental illness, they may be even worse off. The US has all but eliminated mental health facilities. So, the mentally ill are relegated to jail cells. When they act up or become violent, they are placed in solitary confinement, which, in essence, becomes a life sentence.

We can’t make America great again. Because it never was. And it won’t be until we eliminate systemic racism and redesign the criminal justice system from top to bottom.

Welcome To The GQP.

No, that is not a typo. The Republican Party, once led by Abraham Lincoln who held the Union together and emancipated slaves, by Theodore Roosevelt who broke up corporate monopolies and established National Parks, and by Dwight D. Eisenhower who led the defeat of Hitler and helped build America’s middle class, has become the party of bizarre, and delusional, conspiracy theories – the Grand QAnon Party (GQP). Once dedicated to fiscal conservation, the party is now dedicated to conserving white power, institutional racism, and the massive wealth of billionaires.

Instead of constitutionalists, it’s led by radical insurrectionists dedicated only to gaining and retaining power.

The change didn’t happen overnight. It began when the wealthy in the John Birch Society began using their resources to elect compliant officials. It took root with the nurturing of “Christian” evangelicals who selectively used Bible verses to justify discrimination against minorities and to use so-called social issues to gain political power. It grew more radical under the watch of Newt Gingrich who, as Speaker of the House, demanded complete unity and fealty of his caucus on the penalty of being “primaried.” Its members became increasingly dangerous and delusional under the tutelage of the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Jeanine Pirro, and Alex Jones. The Internet and social media allowed the infection to spread unchecked. And the asylum doors were thrown open by Donald J. Trump.

In the 1970s, we saw Richard Nixon divide the nation and undermine our electoral process with the burglary at Watergate. In the 1980s, we saw Ronald Reagan destroy the middle class with his Trickle Down Economics and circumvent the Constitution and Congress with the Iran-Contra affair. In the 2000s, we saw George W. Bush use falsehoods and disinformation to lead us into war. In 2010, we saw members of the Tea Party lie and bully their way into Congress and threaten to shut down our government unless they got their way. In 2014, we saw congressmen and legislators run to the side of Cliven Bundy and his militia who had aimed their weapons at government officials acting on a legal court order. Beginning in 2016, we saw racism and corruption on full display at the highest levels of our government. We saw our president playing footsie with our nation’s enemies at the same time he verbally attacked our military heroes. And, on January 6, we saw the inevitable result of conspiracy theories, hate, racism and a violent sense of privilege run amok.

That shameful event – the worst attack on democracy in our nation’s history – should result in those who inspired the attack being sentenced to prison. It should result in all members of the GQP paying a steep political price. It should end with Marjorie Taylor-Greene, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Lauren Boebert, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell and others of the Sedition Caucus being removed from office. But it likely won’t.

Instead, we will almost certainly see Donald J. Trump acquitted by GQP members of the Senate. Not because he is innocent of the charges. But because a majority of them still wish to curry favor with their treasonous autocratic leader.

It’s clear that we are now perched on the precipice of a second Civil War. But this time, the division isn’t over slavery. It’s over reason and truth.

Why InfoWars, The NRA, Rightwing Media, And The GOP Should Be Labeled Terrorist Organizations.

Following the insurrection at the Capitol, the FBI classified the Proud Boys as a terrorist group. Even prior to the attack on our democracy, the FBI warned Congress of the threat posed by domestic terrorists. But no one in the Trump administration or in the GOP seemed to listen. Why? Because they had been inspiring domestic terrorists for many years.

Indeed, I believe the violent insurrection of January 6, was the inevitable result of decades of racist, anti-Democrat, anti-government rhetoric.

For example, the GOP reached out to white supremacists as early as the 1960s. The so-called southern strategy was to embrace southern racists who were unhappy with Democrats following passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Racists have been a reliable part of the Republican base ever since.

In 1968, Nixon and Agnew ran as “law and order” candidates as a way of courting white voters. (Ironic isn’t it, given their own crimes?) In 1980, Ronald Reagan served up racist dog whistles to assure southern support. And, by ending the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, he made the rightwing propaganda network possible, opening the airwaves to people like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Mark Levin, Jeanine Pirro, Sean Hannity, and others to spout anti-government, anti-immigrant, and anti-Democrat hate 24/7. As more Americans tuned in to their hateful rants, the GOP lurched further and further to the extreme right. But not even those hatemongers could have envisioned what was to come.

Once Alex Jones entered the arena in 1999, the Republican Party began its descent into the dark sewers of politics. Jones used his InfoWars radio platform to peddle bizarre conspiracy theories and mostly worthless junk. InfoWars made Jones rich. But it also incited the lunatic fringe, which by then had become the base of the Republican Party. He claimed President Obama was a foreign-born Muslim terrorist. He dismissed mass shootings, including the slaughter of children at Sandy Hook Elementary, as “false flag” events staged by Democrats and liberals in order to institute gun control measures. He claimed a US military training exercise in the Southwest was an Obama plot to institute Sharia law. A master of getting attention, he further convinced his followers that Democrats and liberals were the root of all their problems; that they were actively trying to destroy America.

The rhetoric of Jones and the rest of the Republican propaganda network led to a series of angry confrontations between elected officials and armed Tea Partiers at Town Hall Meetings. It likely inspired the armed confrontation between the Oath Keepers and Bureau of Land Management officers at Cliven Bundy’s “ranch.” It almost certainly led to the armed standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

These events seemed to serve as preliminaries for the insurrection to come and ushered in the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

From the time Trump descended his faux gold escalator to announce his candidacy, he pandered to racists by labeling immigrants as rapists, murderers, and thugs. And by calling for an end to political correctness, he was emboldening white supremist groups that were inclined to violence. In cities and towns nationwide, people of color were subjected to verbal and physical abuse as never before. People were berated, told to go back to where they came from, and beaten or killed. Brown babies were ripped from their parents’ arms and thrown in cages. Refugees from predominately black and brown countries were banned from entry. The violence of the racist mob in Charlottesville was dismissed by Trump stating there were “fine people on both sides.” Black Lives Matter protestors were called “very bad people” and “thugs.” And the almost mythical Antifa (short for Antifascists) was called worse.

Throughout, the NRA has continued to provide arms to potential terrorists and insurrectionists under the guise of freedom. Acting as a carnival barker for the gun industry, it pushed for more permissive gun laws and ever more lethal weaponry as a “guard against tyranny.” It made violent militias such as the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo Bois, the Oath Keepers, QAnon, and others possible. And it supported the campaigns of increasingly anti-American GOP candidates such as Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, Debbie Lesko, Jay Jordan, Matt Gaetz, Josh Hawley, Lauren Boebert, and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

All of these people and organizations, as well as the billionaires who fund them, set the stage for the violent attempt to overthrow our democracy in favor of an autocracy to be led by president-for-life Trump.

Trump and his GOP enablers called his electoral defeat the result of fraudulent voting. They incited their violent followers to overturn the election using rightwing media as their megaphone. They told them to fight, to march to the Capitol and take back their country. Alex Jones and others called for a civil war against liberals and Democrats. And those who were inspired to attack the Capitol and Congress, were armed by guns made available by the NRA.

They are terrorists, plain and simple, who have caused more harm to Americans than al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban combined. If they were Muslim or a foreign-based terrorist group, we would be readying drone strikes or preparing for all-out war. Instead, Republicans are asking us to move on, to simply forgive and forget. That is not only unrealistic. It’s unthinkable. All of them should and must be held accountable.