Please Don’t Applaud Or Encourage The Master of Distraction!

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Trump has demonstrated that, as a politician, he is good at three things:

  1.  He is very good at whipping up fear and hate.
  2. He is even better at lying.  He does it so naturally because it’s pathological.
  3. He is a master of distraction.

I’ve written extensively about his first two talents (see The Successful Republican Election Strategy …..Divide And Conquer!”   Part 1 — Wedge Issues. and The American Pluto-Kleptocracy).  So, this article is about Trump’s Art of The Distraction.

Chapter 1.  Whatever I Call You,  I Am Times Infinity.

Trump gives his opponents nicknames that are a manifestation of some of his own worst qualities.  During the campaign he called Marco Rubio “Little Marco”, specifically referencing the size of Rubio’s hands – and thereby implying Rubio had a little dick.  Now that we all unfortunately know Trump better,  he sure acts like a guy trying to overcome multiple insecurities — one of which probably involves his unusually small penis.

Marco Rubio Little

Trump’s nickname for Jeb Bush was “Low Energy Jeb”.  During the campaign, Trump didn’t come across as a low energy guy.  But since becoming President, Trump has been the laziest bastard to ever inhabit the White House.   Trump doesn’t read policy papers, daily briefings or books, instead he watches Fox News.  Trump didn’t vet Circuit or Supreme Court nominees, he used the list that the Heritage Foundation handed him.  He hasn’t invested any measurable time into healthcare, a more comprehensive immigration plan, infrastructure or really even JOBS.

Trump fat

Clearly his greatest priority is his own self-interests followed by those of his family and a small fraternity of ruthless billionaires.  He really has no macro, long-term vision for a greater America; instead he tweets his morning brain farts. He has played golf 15 times in 16 weekends on the job (politifact.com) and has spent 10 weekends at his Mir a Lago Resort in Florida.  That’s a lot for a man who said, “I would rarely leave the White House because there is so much work to be done.  I would not be a President that takes time off”  (June ’15, thehill.com).  Trump is a fat lazy fuck.

 

Which brings me to Ted Cruz, better known as “Lyin’ Ted”, his chief primary opponent and the only man I wanted to become President less than Trump.  The fact that Cruz received the second most primary votes says as much about the state of the Republican party as nominating the Orange Buffoon.  But no one trumps Trump on telling lies.  He doesn’t lie like a normal politician, making promises that he can’t keep and selling his soul to Big Donors for $$$.  Trump lies pathologically, about EVERYTHING:  little things, like the size of his inauguration crowd to huge things, like “Obama wiretapped Trump Tower”.  His lying is so pervasive that it may well be, in the end, the very flaw that sends his Presidency crashing down.  No one is a more accomplished liar than Trump, not even Cruz.  See How To Spot A Pathological Liar

And “Crooked Hillary”.  Trump knows crooked — he’s made a career out of it.

Trump liar

From contractors he stiffed, to landowners he bullied and intimidated, to banks he defaulted on, to the Trump Foundation’s funds he illegally misused, to Trump University students he scammed.  In retrospect, Hillary’s email issue seems petty and partisan compared to Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors.  He is a criminal that has, until now, escaped prosecution.  He makes Richard Nixon look like a Boy Scout.  See It’s Time to Revisit the Watergate Scandal.

Finally, the “Fake News”, “Alternative Facts” mainstream media.  Trump’s attacks on the independent media have sent the chills of Fascism down millions of spines.   And true to form, no one is a bigger phony than Trump — from his lies, his conspiracy theories,  his contentions about his wealth, his hair, his whole campaign shtick of bullshit and snake oil that 60 million gullible Americans consumed as a magic elixir.  Trump has no conscience, no real policies, no substance, he was surprised how “hard” it is to be President and was shocked that issues like healthcare and tax reform were so “complicated”.  “Who knew?” he tweeted.  Everything that doesn’t directly serve or benefit Trump is either “fake” or “false” until his deluded, addled brain decides otherwise.

By using nicknames in this fashion, he deflects his own worst flaws onto someone else.  He uses simple, 4th grade level, derogatory name-calling as a distraction.  And for many Republicans voters, it was quite effective!

Chapter 2:   If You’re Going to Distract…..Distract Bigly!

Trump’s campaign chants, “Lock Her Up”, “Build The Wall”,  “America First”, “Fake News” were simple, yet whopper distractions to overcome the fact that Trump had no policies, no real practical knowledge of governance or no long term goals.

He just couldn’t let go of the fact that he lost the popular vote by roughly 3,000,000; so he invented a distraction that “3-4 million” votes were cast fraudulently in the 2016.

Trump illegal voting

He doubled down and said proof would be coming in 2 weeks.  It’s now been 2 months and not a shred of evidence has been produced; secretaries of states from all 50 states have certified their election results and found virtually zero cases of in-person voting fraud.  Not dissuaded, Trump has recently appointed an advisory panel to investigate the non-existent fraud.

After being “forced” to fire Michael Flynn and in the wake of snowballing news on the Russia/Trump controversy and Jeff Sessions recusal, Trump tried to avert the firestorm by claiming “Obama Wiretapped Trump Tower” and demanding an investigation.

Trump Flynn

And once again he claimed that supporting evidence would be “released very soon”.  Days later he even went so far as to ask the Congressional Intelligence Committees to begin an investigation into the wiretapping — without releasing one whiff of evidence to back up his claim.  That was 2 months ago.  The FBI has said they have seen no proof nor have the Congressional Committees received anything upon which to launch an investigation.  In this author’s opinion, this claim is more than a fabricated distraction; it is liable and slander of the highest order and proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that Trump is mentally unfit to continue in the office of President of the United States.

In early April the heat in Trump’s hellkitchen was becoming uncomfortable.  Michael Flynn offered to testify before Congress; leaks were popping up everywhere; and the FBI was not corroborating Trump’s claims that “he wasn’t under investigation”.  At this sensitive moment, U.S. intelligence reported that Bashar Al-Assad had used chemical weapons against innocent civilians in Syria.  This gave Trump the opportunity to pull off one of his biggest distractions yet — he ordered a missile strike on the Syrian air base from which the chemical attack had originated.

To my horror, many people, even some who had been very skeptical of Trump, applauded the move and publically praised Trump.  Brian Williams, the MSNBC anchor, described the event:

Brian Williams syrian missle strike

“We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean,” Williams said. “I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.’”

“They are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them what is a brief flight over to this airfield,” he added.

Shame on you Brian Williams.  I thought you were better than that….

Why are people cheering this mental patient for potentially committing an act of war?  Trump really doesn’t give a damn about Syrian children caught in hell-on-Earth.  We know this because he hasn’t said “boo” about it since then, hasn’t promoted any plan to change the children’s plight, has proposed a budget that significantly reduces foreign humanitarian aid and is in neck-deep with the Russians who are propping up the thug Assad.  This was just an excuse for Trump to try out his very dangerous new toys and redirect people’s attention from his Russia scandal.  Stop cheering!  This isn’t a good thing.

Chapter 3 (and Moral To The Story):  Don’t Encourage The Master Distractor.

The absolute LAST THING we should be doing is giving Trump praise and adulation when he carelessly and without proper notification/authorization uses American military power.  I almost hesitate to print this but military strikes, military build-ups and war have traditionally been the most effective distractions for an otherwise, unpopular President.  Most recently, “W” Bush (with the help of Darth Cheney) used 9/11 to pass the Patriot Act curtailing individual freedoms and to justify torture and illegal rendition against enemy combatants in direct violation of the Geneva Convention.  And clearly the on-going Afghan and Iraq wars helped Bush win a second term.

WE CANNOT NOR SHOULD NOT APPLAUD PRESIDENT TRUMP FOR LASHING OUT MILITARILY AGAINST ANYONE AT THIS JUNCTURE OF HIS PRESIDENCY.  He is a reckless and disturbed man who has become increasingly isolated and desperate as scandals of his own making are threatening to undo everything he has accomplished.  INSTEAD, WE SHOULD REACT IN HORROR AND PROTEST WITH OUR LOUDEST VOICES AGAINST THIS MANIAC.

Resist

More recently Trump has provoked North Korea using tough talk and sending an “armada” to Australia instead of Korea.  This has done nothing but fueled talk of retaliation from North Korea, followed by an aggressive series of missile tests.

Most recently, Trump attempted another massive distraction by firing the director of the FBI and gave a series of conflicting and nonsensical reasons for doing so.  The real reason behind Director Comey’s firing is all too obvious.  Comey was leading a growing, and potentially very damaging investigation into the President and his campaign aides over their involvement in the Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.  In Trump’s deluded mind he thought this would side-track or maybe end the investigation.  Instead, he may have just added ‘obstruction of justice’ to the list of crimes he has committed.

As Trump becomes more deeply mired in scandal and possible treason, his attempts at distraction could become increasingly ominous.

drumpf-crazy-face4

I would not put it past this deranged man to do something genuinely terrifying.  Trump is unfit to remain as President and he MUST BE REMOVED either by impeachment or by invoking the 25th Amendment (Sec. 4) to the Constitution.  Unfortunately, Republicans are recklessly slow-walking the Trump/Russia investigations and have yet to stand up to this spreading cancer.  For a party that ran on the slogan “America First”, it’s time they set aside their real agenda, “Party First”, and commit to the constitutional rule of law.

In the meantime, We The People must remain vigilant and encourage our Representatives to keep Trump in check over the next few weeks and months — especially our Republican Representatives, until he can be legally and permanently removed from the office of the Presidency.

Trump impeachWrite your Congressmen and Senators today.  Demand that they hold Trump accountable and allow these investigations to move forward post-haste, and if they don’t, we will not-so-kindly show them the exit door come 2018.  Leaving Trump in power one extra day might be too long.  What other acts of desperation is Trump capable of before he is removed from office?

To Contact Members of the House Of Representatives:

http://www.house.gov/representatives/

To Contact Members of the Senate:

https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/

 

“The Power Of The People Is Greater Than The People In Power”   Wael Ghonim

 

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Life Under A Republican Regime

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Now that Republicans control all the major branches of government as well as a majority of statehouses, their governing priorities are becoming clear.  Here’s what we know so far:

CORPORATIONS AND BUSINESS INTERESTS TAKE PRIORITY OVER THE ENVIRONMENT AND PROTECTION OF OUR HUMAN HABITAT.  One of the very first pieces of legislation passed by the Republican Congress abolishes the Office of Surface Mining Streams Protection Rule — reversing an Obama era regulation to protect waterways from coal mining waste.  Republicans are in favor of more toxic coal ash in our streams!  Brilliant!  Profits are now more important than pollution.  Republicans are willing to sacrifice the quality of our water, air and soil in order to supposedly “create jobs” which, if it happens at all, will likely be temporary.  Corporations may see a short term increase in profits, but again, for how long?  And at what long term cost to all of us?

Coal Mining Pollution

 

This is a coal waste pond.  I’d like to fill the water coolers at the House of Representatives and the White House with this sludge.  Would they reverse their decision then?

 

MAKE AMERICA HATE AGAIN/MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN.  Unlimited money pouring into political campaigns and their surrogate organizations have made elections infinitely more divisive and given them a nastier and uglier tone.  This alone spells danger for American greatness.  But the U.S. has never seen an election like this last one.  The Republican candidate for President ran a campaign of open and naked contempt for people of color, women, minority religions, the poor, the disabled, our judicial system, our free press, and voices of dissent in general.  As disgusting and embarrassing as that was, he also tragically won.  Trump’s first executive order was a poorly thought out, completely unconstitutional ban on people coming to the U.S. based solely on their religious affiliation.  He has since ordered mass deportations of Latino/Hispanic immigrants, many whose only crime is being here without full documentation — even children brought here by their parents.  Trump is an admitted sexual predator who views women purely as objects for his manipulation and pleasure.  As President he has moved to block reproductive health care for American women who need it the most.  He has signed an executive order making it easier for businesses and “Christians” (my choice of word) to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.  His Attorney General, a previously avowed racist, wants to bring back the failed “law and order” tactics of the Reagan/Bush/Clinton era, such as abandoning consent decrees already in place with numerous metropolitan police forces who have a long, sordid history of abusing, intimidating and persecuting citizens, especially citizens of color.  And the Republican party has largely supported and encouraged these barbaric and primitive practices.  They have spawned a new level of hate in this country unseen since the Civil Rights victories in the 60’s and 70’s.  Hate crimes, hate speech, intolerance, discrimination, politically motivated violence are rising to the highest levels in decades.   This is life under the Republican Regime.

White Supremacists overwhelmingly endorse Republican candidates.  But never before have they endorsed a candidate so openly, so loudly and with such vigor as they have Trump.  Steve Bannon is Trump’s Chief Strategist.  Vote Republican and help enable the extreme right wing agenda.

THE RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES OF THE WEALTHIEST, MOST FORTUNATE AMERICANS VASTLY EXCEEDS THOSE OF THE REST OF US AND REPUBLICANS ARE INTENT TO SEE THOSE ADVANTAGES EXPAND.  On the political front Republicans have pushed an aggressive campaign of voter suppression targeting people who typically vote Democratic  (minorities, college students, elderly).  They have supported unlimited campaign donations and worse, dark (anonymous) contributions to Political Action Committees (PAC’s) and “527” groups (the tax code ID) enabling rich Americans to have an oversized and unequal voice in elections.  Republicans have quickly moved to roll back citizen protections against Corporate market manipulation, production of unsafe or dangerous products, predatory lending and sales practices, high-risk security trading, and capping monetary compensation for corporate malfeasance.  See my post The Successful Republican Election Strategy…..Divide and Conquer! Part 2: Voter Suppression.  for the full indictment.

The recent Trump tax code proposal spells out the Republican priorities in black and white — a “Trickle Down” tax cut where billionaires like Trump (if he actually is one) will save $10’s of millions on their taxes while the other 90% of us get a pittance.  Read my recent post,  The American Pluto-Kleptocracy  (dated 4/17) for an in-depth report.  Republican tax cuts have been the greatest driving force in creating income inequality in this country.  Mad about stagnating wages?  Pissed off that CEO’s and Financial company VIP’s make more money in a day that you make in a year?  Feel like you can’t get ahead?  Keep voting Republican and you are insuring it will get worse.

Income Inequality Cartoon

The only problem with this cartoon is that the “90%” don’t disappear, they just get angry and desperate.   That leads to civil unrest and possibly revolt.  If our path to a comfortable life is blocked or unattainable then one day, we’ll rise and overthrow the wealth hoarders.   Not a good thing if you want a stable society.

 

CAN’T AFFORD HEALTH CARE?  HAVE PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS?  WORRIED ABOUT A LIFETIME CAP ON BENEFITS?  REPUBLICANS DON’T GIVE A SHIT.  They proved it this week by passing what could only be described as the cruelest, most draconian, and worst health care bill that the House of Representatives has ever dreamed up.  They passed this nightmare bill so quickly, most of the Republicans that voted for it NEVER READ IT AND HAVE NO CLUE what the real consequences are.  They purposely chose not to allow time for an in-depth review or to wait until the Congressional Budget Office “scored” the bill (the non-partisan CBO evaluates a projected cost and effect of each major piece of legislation).  The previous Republican failed attempt at a health care bill was “scored” by the CBO to increase deficits by $337 billion and 24 million people would lose health care by 2026.  This recent bill will, by most estimates, be WORSE.  Are these legislators human?  Do they have any compassion or empathy for people?  Didn’t Candidate Trump promise “Everybody’s going to be covered….and it’s going to be GREAT!”  Well that’s more Trump bullshit.  Fewer people will be covered, more people will go bankrupt, Americans will be sicker and it’s going to cost us all more money.   That’s not great.  That plain sucks.  How do these people get elected?

My, my, aren’t all of those states above RED states??

ANTI-SCIENCE, ANTI-INTELLECTUAL, ANTI-FACT, ANTI-EDUCATION IS THE WAY TO AMERICAN GREATNESS.  Republicans scoff at book-learning, science and intelligent people.  They call them “Elites” who are not to be trusted.  If you don’t read books, you couldn’t know that this is EXACTLY the strategy used when Fascists take over a government.  Authoritarians perceive that educated, critical-thinking people are their biggest threat.  Same with a free press.  It starts with the press being vilified and labeled as enemies of the state because they are criticizing the government.  That’s where we are now.  Only selected and sympathetic media outlets are given full access to the White House.  Republicans are slashing higher education funding in many red states.  They are proposing school voucher programs that will defund public schools in favor of private, less regulated and often for-profit schools.  They are breaking up teacher’s unions and freezing teacher’s pay.  Republicans know they will perform better if the electorate is less educated, more ideological and fearful.  They deny the very real, measurable, observable facts about Climate Change .  Trump has called Climate Change a “Chinese hoax” and threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement ratified by 197 countries in a rare moment of global unity.  Instead, he wants to ramp up production of coal and oil.  This could lead to the U.S. becoming the “Energy Pariah” of the world, not unlike N. Korea is the “Nuclear Pariah”.  Trump has filled his lower Cabinet positions with completely unqualified appointees:  Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (for which he has zero qualifications);  Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy (he had no idea what the Energy Department did); Scott Pruitt as Director of the EPA (because as OK Attorney General he literally tried to sue the EPA out of existence).  Scott, like his boss, is a Climate Change denier.  Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education — despite the fact that she had never stepped foot in a public school in her life and she and her husband donated large sums of money to the Trump campaign.  And most dangerously, Jeff Sessions as Attorney General – an evil and bigoted little elf who is a throwback to the “Stop & Frisk” days of the 80’s and who has chosen as one of his first law & order campaigns to prosecute, intimidate, harass and threaten states that allow legal recreational and medical marijuana.  What about States Rights you fucking hypocrites!  29 states currently have legal medical marijuana,  8 states have legal recreational marijuana.  These programs are heavily regulated and taxed by the State and as such become a rare win-win opportunity:  increasing tax revenues (Colorado generated $200 million in tax dollars in ’16 on $1 billion in sales) and reducing law enforcement, judicial and incarceration expenses at the same time.  Hard to see the rationale here — could it be that marijuana is legal in mostly blue states that didn’t vote for Trump?  Trump promised that he would hire the best and the brightest.  If this is the best the Republicans have, we’re all in deep shit.  And these bozos shouldn’t be governing this country.

Ignorance

 

If that is so, then nothing is more dangerous than Donald Trump and the Republican agenda.

 

 

Let’s recap, these are the principles of our new Republican Regime:

Corporations over Individuals.

Profits over Habitat.

Hate, Fear, Bigotry and Divisiveness over Unity, Compassion and Tolerance.

Wealthy Privilege and Income Inequality over Middle Class Opportunity.

Sickness and Suffering over Health and Vitality

Ignorance and Ideology over Education, Critical Thinking and Innovation.

Over 90% of Americans should be disgusted and embarrassed by these unfair, discriminatory, suppressive practices.  So why is Trump’s approval rating still around 40%?  (Historically one of the lowest ratings for a new President after 100 days, but still 30% too high!).  Wake up Republican voters — You’re Being Conned and Manipulated!

I can’t see how any of these policies keep America great.  Not a one.  In fact, the longer Republicans control our government and pursue this ideology, the more damage they will do.  Divisive, ignorant, fearful and delusional is not a path to greatness.

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Why I Marched For Science — 4/22/17

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March for Science1

My sign was apparently a little too edgy.  It said:

WITHOUT SCIENCE

there would only be

IGNORANCE

& RELIGION

I think the “religion” part was the cause of the sideways glances I got.  But many people responded affirmatively anyway.  It may be a little harsh, but it is true.

I haven’t written much about religion yet on this blog, but it’s one of my favorite subjects so, stay tuned, I promise I will.

This was my favorite sign — but it has nothing to do with science:

March for Science2

I marched for SCIENCE last Saturday because Science is hard work.  Being simple-minded, superstitious and ignorant is EASY — any one can join that club.   Understanding science, science history and the application and consequences of science involves a true dedication and hunger for knowledge.  Being a critical, profound thinker, with a healthy skepticism and real facts to defend your position is MUCH HARDER.

More importantly in today’s times, science is NON-PARTISAN.  Science doesn’t care about your political or religious affiliation.  The facts and evidence are revealed — they may confirm your affiliations and beliefs or they may prove something entirely different.  I saw several signs Saturday that read a version of:  “Facts are real, whether you believe them or not”.

The March For Science is necessary because in the last several election cycles it has become apparent that roughly half of American voters are willing to reject science that conflicts with a particular ideology (mostly Conservative and Religious).  One political party has shown a strong preference for simple-minded ideologues over experienced and more intelligent candidates.  Republicans elected W. Bush (whose own father called his brother Jeb, “the smart one”) over Al Gore.  Those same voters were less enthusiastic about John McCain (much smarter and more experienced than Bush) and Mitt Romney (ditto) and now have elected Donald Trump.

What is most disturbing (and ironic) is that science deniers, anti-intellectualists and simpletons use and depend on science every single day — heating and cooling their home, much of the food they eat, their car, bus, plane or train, their computer, their cellphone, all other electronics, their hospital visit, their bank account…and the list goes on and on.  So they really don’t deny all of science, only the science which conflicts with or threatens their personal belief system.  That’s where the hypocrisy comes in.

Not all science is correct, not all science is “good”.  We need that healthy skepticism that is often forged through good education and parenting.  The beautiful thing about science is that, over time, it is self-correcting (or maybe I should say “self-improving”).  Somewhere back in grade school and again in high school or college most of us were taught about the Scientific Method — how scientific evidence is generated, analyzed and how hypotheses are transformed into useable, provable and reliable science.

The Method works like this:

  1. Make an observation.
  2. Ask questions about that observation.
  3. Look for evidence that supports or refutes that observation.
  4. Generate a hypothesis from that information and develop testable predictions.
  5. Test the hypothesis and predictions.
  6. If hypothesis appears correct, the data is often published for peer-review.
  7. If those reviewers and further testing demonstrate the hypothesis is accurate and consistent, a general theory is developed which can withstand any scrutiny.
  8. If not, the hypothesis is altered, reanalyzed, retested or rejected.

There are no short-cuts.  Knee-jerk, unsubstantiated claims or observations are quickly dismissed.  Deliberate fraud will eventually be exposed and rejected.  Ideology has no place in the equation.  This is precisely why Religion cannot be taught as science — it simply doesn’t hold up to these standards.  Use of the Scientific Method has propelled humanity to unprecedented achievement and wisdom.  If we as a species have a salvation, it is in science.  We reject sound, proven science at our peril.

This leads me to ask this question in all sincerity:  “Why do a majority of Republican voters seem to prefer less intelligent, simple-minded, ideologically driven candidates?”  Or this one:  “Why has the Republican party fostered and encouraged anti-intellectualism (which they call “elitism”), or promoted science denial, or defunding public education?  Admittedly, simple sounding solutions such as, “Build The Wall”, “Drill Baby Drill”, “Make America Great Again” are catchy and easy for people to digest.

As a result we now have a conspiracy theorist President, a climate change denier, an anti-intellectual who eschews books and is proud of his 4th grade vocabulary.  The Director of the Environmental Protection Agency is also a climate change denier, a promoter of fossil fuel use and development and a deregulator of corporate pollution.  Our Secretary of the Interior, a complete boob, once campaigned to get rid of the EPA, the Department of Education and the very department he now heads!  And let’s not forget our Secretary of Education, who until she took office, had never stepped foot in a public school and had been a leading voice to defund public education in favor of voucher programs for private and religious schools.  Make America Great Again my ass!

Science Education by country

This chart says it all.  Our academic performance is pathetic.

In this complex world in which we live, the easy, black vs. white, us vs. them, good vs. evil mentality will NEVER serve to keep America great.  The most effective solutions to the world’s problems require an intelligent, nuanced approach using the best information we have available and dynamic, innovative thinking.  That is our best hope.  To accomplish this we need a public and private education system that is second to none which produces smart people:  scientists, engineers, medical professionals, mathematicians, visionaries as well as both public and private sources of funding to make it work.  We should be striving to make America the world’s leader in these fields — that is how America remains great.

This is why I and tens of thousands of people marched for SCIENCE this weekend.  Please join us next time and fight with us for a better America for generations to come.

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The American Pluto-Kleptocracy

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America’s biggest problem is not illegal immigrants, or radical Islamic terrorists.  It’s not Planned Parenthood, it’s not guns, it’s not even religion.  These are issues that powerful special interests use to divide us and pit us against one another so they can further tilt the economic and legal playing field to their advantage.

Our biggest problem?  The political structure of the United States has become (once again) a plutocracy and most recently has devolved into a kleptocracy.

A plutocracy?  A government by the wealthy (Meriam Webster).  Ploutos is Greek for “wealth”.

A kleptocracy?  A government or state in which those in power exploit natural resources or steal; rule by a thief or thieves (Dictionary.com).  Klepto is Greek for “thief”.

Most of the significant problems that exist in American society today are at least in part attributable to the Plutocracy:  income inequality; excessive money dominating our elections; voter suppression; social inequality; criminal injustice; corporate welfare over human welfare; environmental pollution; our contribution to carbon dioxide waste and climate change; lack of a comprehensive immigration plan; the suppression of women’s reproductive freedom; a ridiculously expensive and horribly inadequate health care system; reductions in essential social services; our outrageous level of military spending; and war.

We haven’t always been a plutocracy but it has happened many times before.  It could be argued that our country started out as a plutocracy — after all only white, male landowners could vote and run for office.  During the Industrial Age of the late 1800’s , the “Robber Barrons” (powerful and wealthy corporate monopolists) controlled and manipulated many essential U.S. markets and exploited cheap labor.  J.P. Morgan was so wealthy that he famously rescued the U.S. economy in the Panic of 1907 when asked by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt.

The Roaring 20’s were a time of unprecedented monetary gains for the wealthy.  They were also a time of high anti-immigrant sentiments, alcohol prohibition (that went over well!), low taxes rates (see chart below) and rampant stock speculation. It was the Great Gatsby decade — our most recent fling with a plutocracy.

And how did things end?  With the Great Depression of 1929 that brought this country to it’s knees.

The really scary part is the similarities between the ’20’s and the 00’s. (See the chart Figure 1 below. )

Middle America, wake up.  When the plutocrats start talking about cutting taxes; what they really mean is they give us a little “teaser” cut and their tax savings will be HUGE.  Significant reductions in income tax rates, creates an even bigger and wealthier plutocratic class.  The chart below (Figure 1) shows who benefited most from the 1920’s tax cuts (represented by the  column on the left).

Income Distribution 1920's70% of income growth went to the top 1%.  The bottom 90% split up 17%.

Notice too that after the Great Depression and well into the 60’s and 70’s, we were able to neutralize the plutocracy and produce income gains amongst the 90% that well out-stripped gains for the upper 1%.  Income tax rates went back up too;  in the 1950’s & 1960’s the highest income tax bracket was 80-90%.  In the 1970’s, it had dropped a little to 70%.

Then came the so-called Reagan Revolution.  The top tax rate, paid by the fattest of cats, fell from 70% in 1980 to 31% in 1992 (see chart below) after 12 years of Republicans in the White House.  The fat cats were keeping over 2 times as much income!

 It was a revolution all right, a wealth windfall for the richest and most powerful people and corporations in the country.  They called it  “Trickle down” economics.  And that’s exactly what it did, wealth gushed in for the top income earners and everyone else had to live on a “trickle”.  The Plutocrats had returned to power!

Once the economic playing field becomes tilted to the rich and powerful, it’s very hard to level it out again.  Power and money generate more laws favorable to the wealthy:  caps on interest rates are lifted; restrictions on financial institutions are dropped; corporate tax loopholes multiply; tax rates are cut; politicians are bribed with dark money; lobbyists and lawyers run amok; safety net programs are defunded;  environmental consequences are ignored in favor of profits; huge advertising and PR budgets are used to mask corporate and political crimes and lies;  CEO’s of receive huge bonuses even while crashing the economy.  Plutocrats rarely go to prison.

After Reaganomics, the next big coup for the Plutocrats came in 1999 with the passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act or the Financial Services Modernization Act.  It removed prohibitions on financial and insurance institutions to acquire or merge with commercial banks, investment securities firms and insurance companies.  This opened the floodgates for banks to move into higher risk security trading, investments and insurance on security transactions.

When you give plutocrats an inch they will, through their armies of lobbyists, lawyers, friendly politicians and other henchman, take a mile.  Within a few years the financial industry was playing fast and loose with a whole array of new, lucrative investment “toys” such as derivatives and hedge funds.  But it would be the sub-prime mortgage market (mortgages issued to borrowers whose credit was less than perfect or who could get a mortgage with no income documentation) that would ultimately create the next big blow to the U.S. economy.

   

The chart (above Fig 1.11) illustrates how subprime mortgages were a relatively minor part of the overall mortgage industry before the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (1999).  But within a few years after the Act was passed the subprime market exploded from just over $100 million dollars in 1999 to $600 million in 2005.  Many of those loans were short-term adjustable rate loans, meaning that 2-3 years after origination, the interest rates on these loans would jump as much as 2-3% instantly.  On the chart above right, we can also see that in fact, mortgage delinquencies took off by 2007.

The Great Recession of 2008 was, by far, the most dangerous, most threatening event in our country in recent memory. It cost America 8.5 million jobs and trillions of dollars in lost wealth.  The NY Times reported in 2010, that the loss in wealth was equivalent to each and every American losing $20,000.  No other problem facing the United States has had anywhere near that kind of negative effect on the entire population.  What caused the Great Recession? A de-regulated and insatiably greedy financial industry run by?….. you guess it, plutocrats.  If you haven’t read or seen The Big Short, it’s a must.

In the years following the Great Recession, laws were passed by a Democratic Congress regulating the thieves and shysters that had robbed middle America of its wealth, retirement funds, homes, stock and real estate portfolios.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was established to protect the general public from the predatory practices of the financial industry.  Many economists (Thomas Friedman amongst others) warned that these laws and regulations hadn’t gone far enough and we could easily see a repeat once the economy rebounded.  None the less, the Republicans refused almost unanimously to vote for these regulations and attempted to obstruct this legislation at every turn.  After financial companies took us to the brink of another Great Depression, Republicans staunchly refused to reign them in.  If you can’t count yourself as one of the 1%, you should be mad as hell.

The latest blow to economic opportunity and greater income equality for 90% of America came with the disastrous Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission case (2010).  The case itself was a relatively narrow challenge concerning the rights of a corporation or organization to use its funds to criticize a candidate running for office.  But the Conservative Justices on the Court saw the case as a bigger question of campaign donations, political action committees (PAC’s), and free speech.  The 5-4 (Conservative majority) ruling that was handed down was a huge win for the Plutocrats for it basically stated that “money = free speech” allowing unlimited amounts of money to flow into PAC’s with very few restrictions on what they did with that money.  Now the wealthy Plutocrats of America could set up their own PACs, and raise, in some cases, $100’s of millions of dollars to spend on almost any cause and for or against any candidate, with very little accountability or transparency.  Prior to Citizens United there was massive amounts of money spent on political campaigns.  After Citizens United the amounts of money became obscene.  You and I can’t afford to donate hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to a cause or campaign.  But the Plutocrats can.  How is this possibly a fair way to run and finance an election??  Free speech should also be relatively EQUAL speech, otherwise the rich can drowned out everyone else.  Then it’s not really free speech for the 90% at all.  And at what point do unlimited donations become bribery?

Citizens United Unpopular

Unfortunately the attention span of the average American voter is very short — a fact upon which Plutocrats rely.  In the 2016 Presidential elections the Republicans ran the biggest, baddest Plutocrat in recent memory.  He easily bamboozled the Republican middle class by convincing them he was a “populist” and using rough, tough language and a 4th grade vocabulary.  He distracted these voters with bullshit, knee jerk slogans such as  “Make America Great Again“, “Build The Wall”, “Ban Muslims”, “Drain The Swamp”, Fake News Media”, “Only I Can Solve It”  to cover up the fact he was snake-oil salesman, pathological liar, provocateur, predatory scum-bag named Donald Trump.  Those voters drank his Kool-Aid.

The Trump Administration has not only brought back the bad-old-days of Plutocracy, they have, with the help of the Republican Party, devolved our political system in to an outright Kleptocracy.  The simple act of refusing to release his income taxes defines Trump as a kleptocrat.  He does not want us to know how much he makes, how much he owes and to whom, where he has his investments, nor who his partners might be.   This has already raised conflict of interest questions in regards to his ties with other kleptocracies such as Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan to name a few. He refuses to completely divest himself from his various companies and investments that are making more money now that he’s the Predator In Chief.

Instead of “Draining the Swamp”, he has brought in super-sized Alligators and Snakes in the form of the wealthiest cabinet in American history.  But wealth isn’t necessarily the worst of it.  As Brooke Harrington points out in a 1/19/17 Washington Post article titled “Yes, Trump’s Cabinet is super rich.  That’s not why we should be worried.”:

“On the whole, Trump’s picks are more renowned for enriching themselves than for giving to needy causes or serving others. For secretary of labor, we find the chief executive of a fast-food company who opposes a higher minimum wage and other labor regulations that cost him money. For leader of the Department of Health and Human Services, the nominee is an orthopedic surgeon who as a member of Congress built a track record of opposing policies that cut into physicians’ profits — including programs such as Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, which limit reimbursements for medical services.”

Trump has now been in office for almost three months.  His “Populist” Kool-Aid voodoo is wearing off even to some of his base.  Now we can judge the man-child by his actions not just his bombast.  He’s making money off of being President: higher membership fees at Mira Lago; higher prices at Trump Tower; and countless businesses and financial entanglements that he refuses to reveal; his sons, Uday and Qusay (Bill Maher’s nicknames for them) are travelling the world, making deals with oligarchs and kleptocrats alike because the Trump brand is now worth even more — and we, the taxpayers are picking up the tab, so far $100,000’s, for their Secret Service contingent while the family enriches itself.  If this isn’t illegal it sure as hell should be.

Back on the homefront,  Trump and his fellow Republican Plutocrat lovers are passing legislation to aid and abet his wealthy friends and donors:  removing environmental regulations so energy companies can pollute more and profit from it;  attempting, but failing, to pass a health care bill that would strip health care from some of the neediest 24 million people, while giving huge tax breaks to the wealthy; defunding and neutralizing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau whose one and only goal is to protect us, the consumers, from predatory lending practices, payday loans and risky investment schemes;  Defunding Planned Parenthood that offers a variety of women’s health services and tests to an estimated 4,000,000 mostly middle and lower class, women.  And coming soon a income tax overhaul that will include big tax cuts (remember the real meaning of that word when it comes from a Plutocrat).

The 90% is getting completely shut out of the big wealth transfer planned by the Republicans.  We can’t take this sitting down.  Stop making excuses for these pricks.  Don’t let them distract you with wedge issues while they pick your pockets, toxify your air and water and steal our future.

There are two ways to stop a Plutocracy/Kleptocracy:

1) In the 1920’s the Plutocracy came to a screeching halt because of the Great Depression.  After the collapse, government policies, laws and programs (like the New Deal) were created to aid the real victims and the neediest and most vulnerable in society.  Thanks to these measures, it took 50 years before the Plutocrats could gain the upper hand again.  So, one way to end the Plutocracy is total economic collapse.  This is not the preferred solution because while the Great Depression hurt rich and poor alike, middle and lower income earners always suffer more and endure economic hard times longer.

2)  The second way to end a plutocracy can be done without an economic meltdown — it requires a massive shift of voter consciousness.  The 99% of us must suspend our ideological war against one another over zero-sum wedge issues and vote as the cohesive economic block that we are.  Economic conditions that deny minorities decent wages, health care and wealth accumulation also deny white Americans from similar economic status the same opportunities.  Remove consumer protection regulations from the financial/insurance industry and it won’t be long before they are raiding and pillaging the middle class again.  Cut funding and enforcement for clean air and water and the 90% gets it the worst.  The recent Michigan water crisis happened in Flint, a prototypical middle class city, not in well-to-do Bloomfield Hills.  Deport undocumented workers and prices on many staple goods and services will go up.  That hurts the 99%, not the 1% that pass the laws.

We are the 99% and despite Citizens United, unlimited contributions, dark money to political entities and a Kleptocrat in the White House, we can absolutely overwhelm the Plutocrats with voting power.  This is exactly why the Republicans (the more pro-plutocratic party) depend upon spreading unsubstantiated fear, exploiting racial issues and using wedge issues to divide the 99% and dupe roughly half of us into voting against our own economic self-interests.  See my previous posts “The Successful Republican Election Strategy Parts 1 & 2” — 1/23/17 and 3/14/17 for a more detailed report on this phenomenon.

A prophetic quote from the movie “The Big Short” (2015):  “I have a feeling, in a few years people are going to be doing what they always do when the economy tanks. They will be blaming immigrants and poor people.”

The Republican Plutocracy

I encourage all voters earning under $250,000 to set aside their never-ending battles over social issues and in 2018 (or before if there are special or local elections) and 2020, VOTE TO END THE KLEPTOCRACY!.  Hold elected officials and candidates accountable for their positions on vital issues such as health care, reasonable environmental regulations, tax cuts and budgeting that hurts us and aids the wealthy, full disclosure of their financial entanglements and tax returns, their stance on reasonable Consumer Protection Laws, ethics laws, Citizens United and dark money in politics and the power and influence of lobbyists and foreign governments.

We have tried “Trickle Down” economics and it has been a complete failure for everyone except the super rich.   A Plutocracy is not a stable way to run our country.  Sooner or later it will produce a catastrophe of greed and avarice.  It weakens America, not make it stronger.  A Kleptocracy is even worse.  We, the 90-99%, are allowing thieves, swindlers and sociopaths to run roughshod over us, manipulating markets, bilking tax payers, destroying our environment, and selling us hot steaming shit and telling us it’s caviar.

We can stop them.  And all we have to do is vote.  Vote smart, vote your pocketbook, vote for the 90-99%.  The way America becomes stronger and ‘greater’ economically is from the middle class out — the exact opposite of “Trickle Down”.   The tax laws, economic opportunites, job growth, health care, educational decisions must be designed to help the middle class first and foremost.  Should we be successful, the fat cats won’t suffer too much.  But just remember, the Plutocrats will always be lurking, waiting and watching for us to drop our guard, become too apathetic or easily distracted.   For a better, more prosperous America, we can’t let that happen.

 

The Successful Republican Election Strategy…..Divide and Conquer! Part 2: Voter Suppression.

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In Part 1 (Jan. 23, 2017) of this post we discussed how Republicans, using wedge issues like abortion, contraception, immigration, LBGT rights, guns and religion, successfully motivate their voting base to turn out in large enough numbers to make their candidates competitive.  In dark red states this is all they need.  But it is not enough to win Presidential elections or to control Governorships, Senate seats or state legislatures in the all important swing states.  So they have adopted another tried and true strategy to manipulate elections: Voter Suppression.

http://progressiveissue.com/voter-suppression-could-stop-1-3-million-from-voting-in-swing-states/ :

The United States has a long and ugly history of denying citizens the right to vote and fair access to polling places.  Women could not legally vote until 1920. African Americans gained the right to vote via the 15th Amendment in 1870 but in many, particularly Southern states, additional obstacles were imposed on those new voters such as literacy tests, poll taxes, complicated registrations processes and physical and mental intimidation.  Native Americans were given citizenship in 1924 but full voting rights for all Native Americans had to wait until 1957!  Chinese Americans were not granted the right to vote until 1943.

And even after these groups won the right to vote, often after a long and bruising struggle, many states and organizations continued to do their damndest to stop them.  The NAACP was founded primarily to combat these ongoing discriminations against African Americans and was instrumental in pursuing legal challenges to many state laws.

These abuses and intimidations were so horrific that finally, after many decades, the sentiments of the country began to change and the federal government passed the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) along with other voting rights measures.

The tipping point for passing the VRA was the famous Selma to Montgomery (AL) civil rights march in 1965 protesting violence and intimidation of both African American voters and voting rights activists (See the movie “Selma“).  Barricaded from entering the city by state troopers, the marchers refused to turn back.  The police unleashed tear gas, dogs, nightsticks and whips, seriously injuring many.

                       

Photo above:  Edmund Pettus Bridge Selma, Alabama March, 1965

Photo upper right: Not from Selma.

Within days, President Johnson outlined the voting abuses in a speech to Congress:  Black voters wrongly turned away at the polls, being forced to fill out extra paperwork, take literacy tests, forced to recite the entire Constitution or explain complex laws.

The Act passed months later on a vote of 77-19 in the Senate and 333-85 in the House — a bipartisan Congressional recognition of the voting llegalities committed in many, but primarily Southern, states.  The VRA was credited with significantly increasing African American turnout; in Mississippi alone, in five  years, it went from a pathetic 6% to 59%!  (All data from History.com/Voting Rights Act).

Fast forward 48 years to 2013, the US Supreme Court heard a case known as Shelby County (AL) v. Holder (as in U.S. Attorney Gerneral Eric Holder).  The county sued to have the court declare two vital sections of the VRA unconstitutional.  A District Court in Washington DC and an Appeals Court had ruled the sections constitutional.  But in a 5-4 Conservative majority decision the Supreme Court ruled against the key sections of the VRA.  Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the majority opinion stating  the disparate treatment of the states is “based on 40 year old facts that have no logical relationship to the present day” and the country “has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must insure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”  Roberts acknowledged the success of the VRA, but declared that the voting record of jurisdictions covered by the VRA today did not demonstrate the ‘pervasive’, ‘flagrant’ and ‘rampant’ discrimination as in 1965.

The dissenting opinions from the four more Liberal justices also noted the vast improvement in voting rights and access in the covered jurisdictions but said these successes were precisely because of the VRA and there was sufficient evidence that removing the determination section of the Act (determining which jurisdictions must be in compliance) would set the stage for a renewal of voting discrimination.

Chief Justice Roberts must have overlooked the following statistics (from brennancenter.org 6/24/14):  “In the 15 years before its operation was halted, Section 5 (the main enforcement clause of the VRA) blocked 86 laws through its administrative process[1] and several more through litigation.[2] At least 13 of these laws were blocked in just the final 18 months before the Shelby Court’s ruling.[3]

Its effectiveness went beyond the laws it blocked. In one recent six-year period, 262 voting changes were withdrawn or altered after the Department of Justice (DOJ) asked the jurisdictions for more information to assess whether they were discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act (VRA).[4] That figure does not include the hundreds of voting changes that were deterred because jurisdictions knew they would not withstand VRA review.”

If that’s not an attempt at ongoing discrimination on a “pervasive, flagrant and rampant” level, I don’t know what is.  But that’s not all.

In the immediate aftermath of  Shelby Co. v Holder, the Brennan Center also noted the following.

The state of Texas moved immediately to implement a strict photo ID law that had been previously blocked by the VRA.  An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 Texans did not have photo ID’s of which approximately 300,000 were Latino-Americans.

In North Carolina, the state legislature passed a strict photo ID requirement effecting  300,000 voters in the state, including a large number of African Americans.  In addition they also cut back on early voting options and reduced voter registrations times.

Alabama also moved swiftly to implement a strict photo ID law.  Not only were African American voters disproportionately effected, but nearly 30% of the state’s voting age population lives more than 10 miles from the nearest driver’s license office and in 11 counties those offices were only open once or twice a week!

Mississippi also quickly passed a photo ID law.  Again, nearly 35% of the state’s voting age population lives more than 10 miles from the nearest license office.   13 counties, all with sizable African American populations, lack even a single full-time driver’s license office.

Florida used a different tactic.  In 2013 they attempted to purge 180,000 people from the voter’s roll on suspicion they were non-citizens.  Turned out that 58% of those had Latino surnames but Latinos only comprise 13% of Florida voters.  On final review Florida found fewer than 40 non-citizens that could have voted illegally.

Please notice that at the time the Brennan Center article was written, in all the above examples, the state’s legislatures and governors were in the hands of Republicans.

A report in The Sandbox News from 11/13/12 describes the situation in Florida from a local’s point of view:

“The main source of voting problems can be traced to Republicans, who have tirelessly attempted to convince the state that massive voter fraud is constantly underway (Even though a study by the Justice Department showed the average voter fraud at .00000013 percent of the vote). This time, Republicans came swinging from every angle. Politicians like Governor Rick Scott, Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff, and Senator Don Gaetz fought to restrict early voting hours. Some conservatives actually fought to keep lines long on voting day. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez (R) closed doors on early voting days. As a result, voters faced 6 hour long waits on Election Day, leaving some people to stand in line until 1 am.”

Full article at:  https://sandbox.spcollege.edu/index.php/2012/11/a-third-world-voting-system

The list of abuses and attempted abuses goes on and on, further rendering Justice Roberts’ argument mute.  To read the full Brennan Center article, go to: http://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/shelby-county-one-year-later

In 2013 and 2014 at least 10 of the 15 states that had been covered wholly or partially by the VRA introduced new restrictive legislation that make it harder for minority voters to cast a ballot.  Shelby Co. v Holder makes it much more difficult to track, fight or block these laws.

This is nothing short of a crime against democracy.  How can this vial, discriminatory, disgusting practice be legal?  The Republican party, its candidates, donors and legislators have conspired to suppress and disenfranchise millions of Americans from voting.  Why would a major American political party be engaged in such an un-American activity?  It is definitely not because of in-person voting fraud.  That is the greatest Republican hoax of all time.

There are so many studies that have been conducted regarding in-person voter fraud that it is truly mind-boggling that Republicans and their minions continue to spread this blatant lie and get away with it.  See this website for a list of recent studies:

https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/debunking-voter-fraud-myth

The study that I have seen most quoted is the 2014 study published in the Washington Post.  From 2000 to 2014, out of more than 1 billion ballots cast, only 31 credible instances of impersonation fraud was uncovered. 

Not only does this demonstrate incredible integrity in American elections (contrary to Predator Drumpf’s “rigged election” claim) but it begs the question:  Why are we disenfranchising millions of American voters and forcing states to spend millions of dollars to provide photo ID’s for a non-existent problem??

Republicans whine like little bitches when Democrats talk about registering all gun sales and mental health background checks.  They call this government overreach and an unnecessary invasion privacy.  But when it comes to the right to vote, more ID requirements and more government intrusion is perfectly acceptable.

Remember Republicans love to spread unsubstantiated fear to motivate their base….and it works!  The real reason behind their voter suppression campaign is because they know they can’t compete head-to-head in enough statewide and national elections if registration is convenient and can be done right up to election day, there are several options to prove voter identity, polling places are open for days (and at least one weekend) before the election, are conveniently located and well staffed, and sufficient voting machines are available at all polls.  High voter turnout is the worst possible scenario for Republican candidates.

We have the power to end the Republican crimes against democracy.  We do it by VOTING.  Voting in such overwhelming numbers, in every election, from school board to President of the U.S., that the true majority in this country cannot be denied a voice, cannot be discriminated against and will no longer be unequal in the eyes of the law.

Historically the United States has one of the worst percentages of voter turnout among the developed countries of the world.  We rank 31st out of the top 35 most developed and democratic countries (the OECD — Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development). In recent elections, we have had turnouts of between 50-60% of the voting age population, that average (54%) puts us right behind Poland and just ahead of Chile. Counties with mandatory voting, like Belgium and Turkey lead the pack with high 80’s-90%. France averages about 71%, Germany 64%, Canada 62%. Mexicans vote at 65%.

The full OECD graph:

Why does the U.S. lag so far behind?  Because voter intimidation, suppression and disenfranchisement is an integral part of our history.  If Americans would vote at 65-70% turnout during every election, this country would look and behave very differently that we do now.  We would vote out candidates that supported obvious voter suppression and disenfranchisement schemes.  We would give the boot to politicians who were blatantly discriminatory or who were beholden to the rich and powerful.  Candidates who promoted lies and conspiracy theories, or who instigated racial or gender hatred would never get elected.  It would force our elected officials to more responsive to the actual needs of the people.

Talk about American greatness!  This is the way forward.  Can we visualize such an America?  We must, because our greatness is being threatened by an ideology that wants to DIVIDE AND CONQUER us for their own selfish purposes.  They stir hate against African Americans, immigrants, Muslims, Jews and women to motivate middle-class whites, who consistently have the highest voter turnout rates, to vote against their own economic self-interests!  Middle class values are very similar regardless of race or ethnicity.  But if you are consumed by false threats of gun-stealing liberals or bad hombre immigrants or serial abortion feminists then you’ll vote out of fear rather than voting for better middle-class opportunities.

Think about this: Improved middle class opportunities include reliable, affordable health care; fair tax rates and advantages compared to the wealthier classes; a growth of job opportunities that offer fair, livable wages and long term employment; a superior public education system; affordable higher education options; better job training programs; protection against predatory industries and actions like payday loans, high pressure credit card and insurance scams, risky lending and investment practices by financial institutions; and reasonable and effective regulations to protect us from corporate abuses of our environment.

If you agree that these policies would lead to a better, healthier and more financially secure middle class — then STOP VOTING OUT OF FEAR and STOP VOTING REPUBLICAN!  Liberal, progressive and Democratic candidates are much more likely to be supportive and protective on such issues.

If the idea of deliberate Voter Suppression policies disgust you, as they should, we need HIGH VOTER TURNOUT to FIGHT BACK!  We fight suppression by voting. Please register to vote.  Petition your state legislators to offer early voting, same-day registration and adequate polling places and voting machines in your district.  Have your legislators prove significant instances of in-person voting fraud before you allow them to enact mandatory voter photo ID laws.  If your state already has voter photo ID laws, start a petition to have a referendum placed on the ballot to overturn the law.

Most of all, find 10 relatives or friends that aren’t registered or don’t usually vote and get them to register and get them off their asses to vote.  Organize transportation for your neighbors to get to the polls.  Volunteer to help register voters.  There’s so much you can do.  We must be pro-active.

From http://www.seanamcelwee.com/tag/voter-turnout/

“’If everybody in this country voted,’ the economist John Kenneth Galbraith said, ‘the Democrats would be in for the next 100 years.’ There is strong evidence to support his claim. A 2007 study by Jan Leighley and Jonathan Nagler found that nonvoters are more economically liberal than voters, preferring government health insurance, easier union organizing and more federal spending on schools. Nonvoters preferred Barack Obama to Mitt Romney by 59 percent to 24 percent, while likely voters were split 47 percent for each, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center poll. Nonvoters are far less likely to identify as Republican, and voters tend to be more opposed to redistribution than nonvoters.”

The only way to force the Republicans (and any political party that relies on unsubstantiated fear to motivate its voters) to change their ways is to defeat them, overwhelming, at the polls.  We have the numbers, we can do it.  We must exercise our right to vote.  As long they can get away with their DIVIDE AND CONQUER strategy they will continue to use it.  It’s all they have.  By forcing Republicans to change and become more responsive to the needs of the majority of people, we can once again be a country that succeeds by embracing our diversity, by benefitting from bi-partisan, forward thinking solutions, and America can continue to lead the world in promoting democracy, equality and justice.

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How To Spot A Pathological Liar

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Following up on my last blog — “Time to Revisit the Watergate Scandal”, I ended by stating that the difference between Richard Nixon’s lies and Predator Drumpf’s lies was that Nixon told lies when his paranoia and secrecy led to illegal behavior.   Drumpf is capable of lying about anything, large or small, anytime.

For a real estate developer, lying might be tolerated as long as your check clears.  But as President of the United States, prolific lying is not only a threat to the security of our country, it leaves many Americans wondering if our Predator is mentally unhinged.

drumpf-lying-face3

He lied about the weather at his inauguration — he said the rain stopped and the sun came out just as his speech began, implying that God himself was blessing the ceremony.  Film footage clearly shows that the rain continued on and off during his speech and there was no full sunshine.  A small lie by most standards, except for Drumpf’s compulsion for lying.  Why lie about something so insignificant unless you have a mental disorder?

He lied about his inauguration crowd saying it was the “biggest crowd ever”.  The National Park Service released photos of Drumpf’s crowd compared to Obama’s 2009 crowd taken from the exact same vantage point.  Obama’s crowd was estimated to be at least 1/3 larger.  Who cares except Drumpf?  Yet this debate raged for the first four or five days of Drumpf’s administration, being the most memorable topic during the first two press conferences.

If only he would confine his lies to small and relatively unimportant things.  Unfortunately the man-child can’t control himself.  Big lies are even more irresistible.

During the transition period and also since his inauguration, Drumpf made the claim that 3-5 million illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election.  So far not one single shred of evidence has been produced of any illegal votes.  The Director of the Federal Election Commission, appointed by W Bush, was recently interviewed pleading with the Drumpf administration to provide evidence of their claim.  She stated that if there was voter fraud of that magnitude she had a duty to investigate it and make sure it could never happened again.  But her plea has been met with silence.  She also said that she had spoken to at least 40 state Election Commissioners and not one of them reported any cases of illegal votes cast.

This lie is particularly heinous.  The President of the United States is deliberately and falsely questioning the very integrity of U.S. elections.  Can you hear the screams of “Treason!” and “Impeachment!” by the Republicans if Barack Obama had made such a claim?

By far Drumpf’s most disingenuous lie since taking office was calling the news reports about General Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russia and his failure to disclose those contacts to VP Mike Pence as “fake news”.  The news obviously wasn’t fake, Drumpf fired Flynn and Flynn apologized for his actions, all within days of the news reports!

drumpf-lying-face drumpf-lying-face2

Chronicling Drumpf’s lies could fill many blog posts.  It seems that Drumpf or one of his surrogates tells a bald-faced, unsubstantiated lie almost every day (Terrorist attacks in Bowling Green and Sweden; “I’m the least anti-Semitic person you’ve ever met”).

The point is, Predator Drumpf is a PATHOLOGICAL LIAR.

Path-o-log-i-cal: involving, caused by, or of the nature of a physical or mental disease.  Compulsive, obsessive.

I was curious about the specific physical symptoms of a pathological liar.

The Mayo Clinic lists persistent lying under the category “Antisocial Personality Disorder” which includes among other symptoms:  Disregard for others’ needs or feelings; Conning others; Aggressive, often violent behavior; Impulsive behavior; Lack of remorse for behavior.

The best article I read is partially transcribed below.  Notice how accurately it seems to describe Predator Drumpf:

From WikiHow.com (How To Do Anything): “3 Ways to Spot a Pathological Liar”.

Consider the nature of suspected lies. You may come to suspect a friend, family member, or co-worker is habitually stretching the truth. Pick apart the suspected lies and consider what they have in common. Pathological liars may lie to gain sympathy, boredom, or insecurity.[1]

  • Some pathological liars may be actively trying to gain sympathy in a situation. They may tend to exaggerate or make up pains and illnesses, for example, or exaggerate small issues in their lives.
  • Pathological liars may also have low self-esteem. They may lie to make themselves look more important than they truly are. They may exaggerate accomplishments in personal or professional areas in order to make their lives seem impressive.
  • Some pathological liars simply lie out of boredom. They will fabricate events and make up lies to hurt others. This creates drama, alleviating boredom in the pathological liar’s life.

Listen for other people’s stories being retold. Pathological liars may often get caught lying. Frequently, you may hear someone else’s story retold as if it happened to a pathological liar. If something about a story sounds familiar to you, stop to consider whether you’ve heard that story before.[2]

  • You may hear a pathological liar repeat the story of a friend or family member. They may also repeat stories from movies or television shows. The stories may be embellished slightly in the pathological liar’s version.
  • For example, your co-worker tells a story that sounds familiar to you, but you’re unsure where you’ve heard it before. Later, you see a similar story on the news. If your co-worker is a pathological liar, they may very well have lifted the story from the news and presented it as their own.

Observe whether the person dodges questions. When confronted, a pathological liar may find a way to avoid answering a question. Pathological liars are manipulative by nature, so you may think they’ve answered something when they really have failed to do so.[3]

  • For example, your friend reveals she had a falling out with her best friend fairly recently. You’ve been having issues getting along with this friend, and wonder whether her relationship difficulties may be a pattern for her. You ask her something like, “Why did you and Eliza stop talking?”
  • The friend may respond with something like, “We haven’t really talked for a year.” She’s not really answering the question. She may dodge more direct questions. For example, you ask her something like, “Did you used to blow off Eliza the way you blow me off a lot?” She may reply with something like, “Do you really think I’m that kind of person?”

Watch out for manipulation. Pathological liars are experts at manipulating others. They tend to study others to find ways to divert their attention away from their lies. Pay attention to how a pathological liar interacts with you. You may detect subtle manipulation.[4]

  • Pathological liars frequently use sexual tension as a means of emotional manipulation. If you’re attracted to the suspected pathological liar, they may flirt with you when confronted about their lies.
  • They will also study you carefully and learn where your personal limits are. Pathological liars have a good sense of which people will believe which lies. They may realize, for example, you will not believe lies about sickness, but may believe lies about emotional problems. If you hear the liar talking to someone else, they may fabricate claims of aches and pains but not mention these ailments to you.

See how a person reacts when caught lying. No two pathological liars are the same. However, most of them will react aggressively when caught in a lie. If someone seems to get angry in response to accusations of lying, you may be dealing with a pathological liar.[5]

Notice if someone seems too relaxed. When normal people lie, they may fidget excessively and show other signs of nervousness. In contrast, a pathological liar feels little remorse over lying. Therefore, they may seem almost too relaxed when lying. Pathological liars may actually appear quite sociable and laid back. Even when you know someone is lying, they may not demonstrate typical signs of distress or nervousness

Consider whether the person lives in reality. Pathological liars are often disconnected with reality. A lot of times, they may believe parts of their lies themselves. They may be deluded about themselves and their abilities.[12]

  • A pathological liar may have a tendency to exaggerate their importance. They may see something innocuous, like a compliment from a boss, as a sign of personal greatness. When recounting the compliment, they may fluff it’s importance.
  • A pathological liar may lack basic life skills, but may not see this as a problem

Think about the person’s relationships with others. Pathological liars tend to have unstable relationships. Consider anything you know about this person’s relationship history. Look for any warning signs of instability.[13]

  • Does this person have stable friendships or romantic relationships? A lack of longterm friends, and a series of failed romances, may indicate a pathological liar.
  • A pathological liar may also be estranged from their family.

drumpf-crazy-face4

This article could have been written exclusively about Predator Drumpf.  Is there any doubt remaining that this man has a serious mental illness?   He is mentally (and temperamentally) unfit to be President.

The only potentially good news is that his lying compulsion will get him into trouble and may have already.  His lies about his connections and pre-inaugurational contacts with the Russians could be the beginning of the end of the Drumpf administration.

Or to use a Watergate equivalency, the burglars (hackers) have been caught raiding the Democratic National Committee.  Continuing investigations will reveal more and like Watergate, the cover-up, guilt and complicity will move up the ranks.

Let’s not get over-confident yet.  We must continue to resist the policies of this disturbed man.

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It’s Time to Revisit the Watergate Scandal

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watergate-nixon-resigns-headline

All politicians lie, it comes with the job.  They make promises they can’t keep.  They have grandiose plans that fall through.  They dodge hardball questions and give fuzzy answers at town halls and press conferences.  Millions of dollars are spent to spin “facts” and distract voters.  It’s all part of our First Amendment right to free speech.

The American voter is numbingly tolerant of this type of lying because generally, it has no profound effect on national security nor does it create serious harm to U.S. citizens or interests.

However we are currently in an unprecedented era of political lying.  The war over truth and facts has once again turned the branches of government against one another.  Political entities are deliberately vilifying the press and sowing discord and division among the populace.   These lies have now impacted national security and have the potential to create serious harm to U.S. citizens and institutions.

It’s time to refresh the story of the worst single case of presidential dishonesty (to date) in modern American history — a travesty of lies, deceit and cover-ups that resulted in prison time for many high ranking advisors and ultimately in the resignation of the President of the United States of America.

Known as the Watergate Scandal, it was a fascinating, complex and horrifically dark chapter in our nation’s presidential history.  I highly recommend all American citizens read or re-read a more detailed account.  Here are the brief highlights:

In June of 1972 members of President “Tricky Dick” Nixon’s inner circle had approved a burglary and electronic bugging of the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate Office Complex in Washington D.C.  The burglars were part of a special “investigative” unit Nixon had secretly created, known as the “Plumbers”, to prevent security leaks and gather intelligence about his political enemies.  The money used to finance the operation came from the President’s own Committee to Re-elect the President (ironically abbreviated as CREEP).  The burglars were  more like bunglers.  They were caught inside the DNC’s offices at the Watergate complex by police and arrested.  Their identities quickly lead to connections in Nixon’s White House.  Nixon ordered his senior staff to aggressively cover up the break-in and deny any involvement.

watergate-office-complex

The Watergate Hotel and Office Complex — Washington D.C. in 1972

Despite the White House’s best efforts, the media revealed a growing body of new and incriminating evidence and certain information was actually leaked from within the government itself.  As the scandal widened, members of Nixon’s inner circle of advisors were implicated.  Nixon became furious, railing against a biased and vengeful media.  He approved additional covert investigations against his enemies in the press and in elected offices.  The White House and the American press were in open warfare.

Later in June 1972 through January of 1973, highly damaging information about the Watergate burglary was leaked to the Washington Post by a then anonymous source, called Deep Throat, who later turned out to be a deputy director of the FBI.

In February of 1973 the U.S. Senate, on a unanimous vote, agreed to begin investigations.  Shortly thereafter a Special Prosecutor was authorized for an independent investigation.

In April of 1973, in a nationally televised speech, Nixon publicly acknowledged the burglary and cover-up, announced the resignations of three of his most senior advisors but denied any personal complicity.

In November of 1973, Nixon again appeared on national television and delivered his most audacious and bald-faced lie:

“I had no prior knowledge of the Watergate break-in: I neither took part in nor knew about any of the subsequent cover-up activities; I neither authorized nor encouraged subordinates to engage in illegal or improper campaign tactics.”

But evidence against the President poured in at tidal wave proportions.  Nixon stubbornly hung on, flailing against his usual scapegoats.

watergate-conspirators

In August of 1974, a secret tape recorded conversation surfaced that was later tagged as the “Smoking Gun” tape (It turned out that Nixon had secretly recorded thousands of hours of conversations in the Oval Office, roughly 200 hours pertained to Watergate).  Recorded just a few days after the break-in, in June 1972, the “Smoking Gun”tape revealed Nixon and two of his top aides discussing how to cover up the break-in and manipulate the FBI investigations into the matter.

This revelation prompted Nixon’s own attorneys to comment: “The tape proved that the President had lied to the nation, to his closet aides, and to his own lawyers — for more than two years.”

Under the threat of impeachment in the House and the near certainty of conviction by the Senate, Nixon resigned his office on Aug. 8, 1974.

What were the effects of the Watergate Scandal?  First, the American people became more cynical about government in general.  The battles for Civil Rights, Women’s Rights and protests over the Viet Nam War had already done damage to the Federal Government’s credibility.  Watergate sealed the deal.   It could even be said that mistrust of government, a regular mantra of today’s Republican fear-mongering campaigns, began as a result of Watergate caused by a dishonest Republican administration!

Secondly, Watergate was an incredible civics lesson to the American people about the how our Constitution works and the genius of it’s authors, particularly in creating a government of separate powers with the ability check and balance one another.  Such a system has protected us from any one power center of government trying grab power or act independently.  So far the greatest threats to the separation of powers structure have come from the executive branch.  We should all fear a presidential power who claims to be above the law, routinely lies to the public, who attacks the judiciary when it decides against him, and vilifies the press.  Sound familiar?

Thirdly, Watergate demonstrated the importance of what is called the “Fourth Estate” an expression attributed to an 18th century English parliamentarian.  In the United States the expression refers to a free and independent press being a fourth power center as a check on the other three (legislative, judicial and executive).  Without the tireless and persistent efforts of the press, the Nixon administration may have gotten away with the crimes and cover-up of Watergate.

Today’s “Fourth Estate” is infinitely more complex that it was in 1972.  It is, in some ways, a victim of its own success.  The 24 hour TV (cable) news cycle began in 1980, only seven years after Nixon’s resignation.  News reporting was never the same after that.  By the late 1990’s, many Americans started getting their news from another source, the Internet.  This inundation of news and the media options through which it is broadcast, have permitted the rise of less-than-credible news sources intent on spreading false news, slander, misdirection and lies solely for the purpose of ratings, profits and partisan rabble-rousing.

Such speech is legal under our First Amendment.  It is up to the American public to carefully screen and fact check the news you receive.  If a news item seems unreal or sensational, check a different channel or publication.  If there is an intense debate among politicians, plug the topic or key words into your Internet browser and make sure you read more than one article on the subject.  Healthy skepticism makes for a better informed electorate.

It’s time for all Americans to refresh our knowledge of the Watergate Scandal and it’s impact on our Democracy.  There is good reason to suspect our current president is exhibiting traits similar to Richard Nixon — a belief he is above the law; condemnation of a dissenting judiciary; scapegoating the press and lying almost every time he steps up to a microphone — all in the first month of his administration.

There is one difference between Nixon and Predator Drumpf:  Nixon’s persona was shaped by his own deep paranoia and delusions born out of the Cold War, McCarthyism, his previous scandal as Vice President under Eisenhower (see Teapot Dome Scandal) and his election loses for President in 1960 and Governor of California in 1962.  Nixon was not a compulsive liar, just highly secretive and paranoid.  He lied about Watergate to cover his ass.

Drumpf’s lies are pathological.  Every American should be deeply concerned about the mental stability of our president.  This will be the subject of the next blog from La Resistance American.  Stay tuned and in the meantime:

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