T Is A Hurricane of Historic Proportions

I have many calm moments, when I meditate, exercise, walk in the woods, talk with friends or simply breathe. Beautiful moments. And then—I turn on the radio or my phone and who knows what insanity might ensue.

 

I just heard the latest news about Hurricane Michael, which struck the Florida panhandle with winds of up to 155 miles an hour. It is now called the strongest hurricane to ever strike the coast. It grew so quickly, from a category 2 on Sunday to almost a category 5 today, probably due to waters overheated by global warming, the same global warming the GOP deny despite the overwhelming scientific evidence against their position.

 

Yesterday, a neighbor called to tell me of two sightings of Fishers, a carnivorous mammal related to weasels. They have only recently returned to this area and have been known to kill squirrels and other small animals, including porcupine and hare, occasionally wild turkey, bobcat, and even house cats (although rarely). They are excellent climbers and can be vicious. I immediately went to the front door of my house to call in my cats. After the Kavanaugh abomination and almost two years of T, I am, like everyone I know, a bit sensitive to bad news.

 

This administration puts us all on a continual threat alert and I think this is exactly what they want. People continually stressed are not as likely to think clearly or feel powerful.

 

The last two weeks and the hearings and discussion on Judge Kavanaugh were especially bad. They were a continual assault, a political hurricane of historic proportions threatening not only women but all of us who are not misogynists, not white nationalists or sycophantic supporters of the President, or who are not in favor of considering corporate rights or the rights of the wealthy as more important than any other rights.

 

These GOP attacked anyone who called for a real investigation into Kavanaugh’s past and were particularly vicious in their attacks on any of the women who came forward. In fact, T even mocked Dr. Ford.  He called for holding those who made “false” claims against Kavanaugh liable. What about false claims by, or in support of, Kavanaugh? Would Kavanaugh or any his supporters who lied or rushed to hide the truth be held accountable?

 

Many wondered: was the GOP rush to judgment due to fears about what will happen in the November election? Or was something else involved?

 

The Supreme Court is going to hear a case called the Gamble v US. It involves a felon arrested for possession of a firearm. It could, however, have grave implications if T is ever impeached, indicted, or tries to use his power to pardon anyone from his administration or campaign who have been prosecuted for crimes or called to testify to the Mueller investigation.

 

The Gamble case involves the question of whether “double jeopardy” is limited by “dual sovereignty.” In other words, whether a state can separately prosecute anyone after they were tried by the Federal government.

 

Right now, T can pardon people for Federal crimes, but anyone so pardoned can still be prosecuted in state courts. T wants to destroy this possibility. And Kavanaugh could help make that a reality. He might be the deciding vote in expanding T’s and the GOP’s power, so they can’t be held accountable for crimes they commit or their assaults on the rest of us.

 

While hurricane Michael was striking Florida, hurricane T was in Erie, Pennsylvania at a fundraiser and then a rally, yelling “lock her up” and such. Even a threat to the lives and property of millions of citizens did not stop him from focusing on himself and trying to rake in money.  He needs to be stopped.

 

And let me repeat what many have been advocating: each of us needs to vote, make calls, volunteer as an election official, write postcards to get out the vote—to do whatever we can to energize ourselves and throw T and his supporters out of office.

 

**Thank you to Jill Swenson and other friends who first posted on FB about Gamble v US.

Does The Core of the GOP Care At All About Democracy?

I can’t remember a time or an election that has more meaning than this upcoming one. Last week, the faux hearings on Judge Kavanaugh made this abundantly clear. We will be voting soon not only to elect representatives to Congress but to save and hopefully expand democracy. We will be voting to save our rights and the very idea that the government should serve the people of the nation, not just the rich and the politicians.

 

We will be voting to save our planet, the future of our children and our sense of ourselves as caring beings. Everyone who cares about these issues must vote.

 

This is not hyperbole. We not only have a president and an administration that uses lying and distorting the truth as daily policy, but a president who attacks the free press constantly, calling it “the enemy of the people,” calls reporters who oppose him “disgusting,” and those who believe in the freedom of the press as “foolish people.” We have all seen and heard this repeatedly.

 

We have heard T attack the institutions that keep us safe, try to undermine votingcivil and legal rights, act for his own corrupt interest and not the nation’s, and even collude with the dictator of a foreign and hostile government to undermine our voting system.

 

Kevin Baker, in a recent article in the New Republic, describes what almost everyone who pays attention has observed: our politics has become open warfare, with the aim being not to serve the people but to make sure the other party never again comes to power. It is not to foster democracy and serve the people but to seize power and keep it, by any means.

 

The Senate hearings last week clearly showed there was no intent to get at the truth of what happened to Dr. Ford or to examine Kavanaugh’s qualifications for the Supreme Court. There was only the fight for power. How can you call something a hearing when the conclusion is decided in advance—when Mitch McConnell announces in advance that no matter what happens they will plow on through to pick Kavanaugh? There was no intention to provide a humane response to a brave woman clearly describing an awful attack on her.**

 

But what many of us forget, many of us who wonder how anyone could support T, is that a good portion of his supporters do not think living in a democracy is important to them. It is not only the President who does not care about democracy, free speech or a free press.

 

Pew Research Poll in March showed that only 49% of Republicans thought a free press, with the ability to criticize the government, was important for a democracy. 76% of Democrats said it was important.

 

A recent poll from the Economist/YouGov showed something similar. It asked Americans if they would support “permitting the courts to shut down news media outlets for publishing or broadcasting stories that are biased or inaccurate.” Americans in general were roughly divided, 28% in favor, 29% against. When looked at through the lens of political affiliation, 45% of Republicans were in favor of the idea. About twice as many Democrats and Independents opposed the idea.

 

The T administration has even removed language about freedom of the press from its guidebook for U. S. attorneys.

 

Now, I have to admit that I think a “news media” organization should seek as much of the truth as possible, without political or other bias. But how will something like bias be determined or who will do it, especially with an open internet? How will a diversity of viewpoints be protected as we protect the nation from “fake news”? Is the only way to accomplish this through better education in critical thinking, compassion, and agency?

 

And when we combine these poll results with T’s attacks on anyone who does not support him, and the sycophantic support he gets in public from almost every GOP politician, we reveal an enormous problem.

 

Almost two years ago, just before T was sworn in, Diane Rehms had a show on the question: Is Liberal Democracy now a stable form of government? What movements in Europe and the US are primary threats to democracy? It was possibly her last show on NPR. The speakers on the show (Moises Naim, Alina Polyakova, and Yascha Mounk) discussed how many Americans have begun to take democracy for granted. Would they say this today?

 

Yascha Mounk said that, when asked how important it is to live in a democracy, more than two thirds of Americans born in the 1930s said it was of top importance. They rated it number ten on a one-to-ten scale. Fewer than one third of millennials in the US today thought (in 2016) it was important to live in a democracy.

 

Mounk and the other speakers speculated that many millennials do not understand what most alternatives to democracy might be like— what it would be like to live under a dictatorship or an oligarchy, for example, where the “people,” or the majority of citizens of a nation have no institutionalized source of power. They do not grasp that a dictatorship or any form of one-man or one group rule means the loss of many rights and freedoms. They never fought or lived under a Fascist government, for example. In fact, there are a few GOP candidates running for office in this country now who espouse Fascist policies.

 

Although a Pew Research Center Poll shows millenials to be the most liberal generation in the U. S., in many respects, there is some disturbing evidence against that interpretation. According to Jean Twenge, a Professor of Psychology and author, nearly two fifths of Millenials (born 1980-’94) and iGen (1995-2012) voted not just for a GOP candidate but one “affiliated with a white nationalism many thought had died out long before iGen was born.”

 

Many do not understand that democracy in a large, diverse nation, means compromise, and are focused only on the negative side of democracy—how much effort it takes, or how frustrating it could be. They do not understand that once the institutions of a democracy are undermined (as is happening today, under T), it is extremely difficult to build them back.

 

Democracy only works if a great majority of citizens take an active part in politics and their communities. We are learning, now, how much we need to research and think about the issues, imagine and value diverse viewpoints, consider the well-being of others as part of our own well-being, and act and speak up to hold our political representatives accountable.

 

And we must vote. We must vote to preserve the possibility that we will have a meaningful voice in the future. On November 6th, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 in the Senate will be contested. We must encourage every one we know to vote. We must think about it as a national imperative, if necessary even take the day off to do it. We can not afford to be complacent, like many were only two years ago. There is little or nothing that is more important right now than voting for those who will oppose the present administration and strengthen democracy. We can do this. This is not hyperbole.

 

**Senator Flake called for a pause in the rush to vote, in order to allow for a limited FBI investigation of Kavanaugh—for one week. One week! Will this be just a ploy to allow those in the GOP with a disturbed conscience an excuse to vote for a candidate they know to be unfit? Or will it lead to an end to or even an easing of the now bitter war for power? If the latter is true, then the inspiration provided by one woman’s bravery might help save US democracy.

 

***This post was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

 

 

 

 

Who Leaked What and Why?

I find it funny when I hear people ask why Russia would want to interfere in our elections. Isn’t it obvious? It is not just to put Trumpf in power so he could honor an agreement with Putin to remove the sanctions the US placed on them. It is to crash our whole political system. To isolate us from other nations and undermine our power and what’s left of democracy. This is not the old cold war revivified. It is a new species of conflict. It’s not a battle so much of armies but of information, of insight versus self-deceit, or agency versus pacifity.

 

Right now, our government is broken. And what happened this past week has just highlighted the whole situation.

 

The New York Times article, about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaking with members of the FBI and others about the possibility of wearing a hidden microphone to record the President, exemplifies what has happened to our government and news media. The information was leaked to the Times by unnamed sources. How do we hear that news?

 

The differences in coverage (of the NYT’s coverage) of this story are striking. When I first heard the story on CNN and other media, what was emphasized in the story, in my opinion, was that Rosenstein spoke to others about secretly recording the president. I thought their coverage (hopefully unintentionally) fed the Trump narrative of a there being conspiracy against him.

 

The Washington Post and David Corn of MSNBC and the Huffington Post discussed the news differently. They cited several sources, people who were actually in the room when Rosenstein’s comment was made, who said the comment was sarcastic. It was not something Rosenstein really intended to do (or ever did). People are allowed to talk with others about what action is appropriate. These sources go on to stress the whole context in which the comment was made—which was after Comey was fired. Their focus was on the chaos in the White House and people in government trying to figure out what to do about it. I focused in the article on what Rosenstein’s state of mind was working for the DOJ in this time.

 

According to the article in the NYT, Rosenstein said “The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect. …I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda.”

 

So, who leaked this information? And what was the purpose of the leak? Right wing media in general immediately called for the firing of Rosenstein (although even Fox News soon had some doubts about the facts of what Rosenstein did and if Trumpf should fire him).

 

The NYT which has, of late, been so crucial in the fight to hold Trumpf accountable, to reveal his lies and the dangers he represents, may have now given him and his allies the excuse they dreamed of (or conspired to achieve?) to fire Rosenstein, appoint a lackey to oversee or end the Mueller Investigation, and try to destroy what’s left of our democracy. It certainly has distracted many people from the revelations about Cohen and Manafort and the threat they present to Trumpf.

 

It almost distracted us, or maybe for a few minutes, from the GOP misogynistic response to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and the threat Judge Kavanaugh and the GOP agenda poses to our nation. Almost. The opposition to Judge Kavanaugh and the revelations of GOP perfidy continues to grow.

 

The two main parties of our government are almost at arms with each other. Will Russia be the ultimate winner of the battle? Or will this newest conflict lead to the impeachment of the President for obstruction of justice, collusion, etc., etc.? I hope we all vote in November, as well as do all we can until then to fight for the resurrection of our rights and the protections that government should afford us instead of take from us. We can’t afford to lose.

 

**I called the NYT comment line and shared some of what I wrote above. Maybe you could call and do the same? (844-698-6397) In the past 2 years, The NYT has been crucial in terms of holding Trumpf accountable and limiting his attempts to undermine democracy. The article on the comments by Rosenstein does the opposite. It provides Trumpf with the excuse to fire Rosenstein and further undermine the rule of law in this country. Any possible good served by the value of the information, if accurate, was undermined by the possible consequences. I hope you can publish an article, by Thursday, that reveals something that will stay T’s hand—or maybe how you were duped. And how Rosenstein should not resign.

Stories From the Borderline of Hate and Suspicion

In the locker room of the gym yesterday, three men changing their clothes near to me were talking about incidents of road rage and random anger they had witnessed. They were upset about how the mood on the street had changed since the last election. I could easily relate to the discussion and was relieved they seemed to be on “my side” of the political divide. But the remarkable thing was that on previous days I had felt suspicious of two of the three men. They had looked angry to me, aggressive, not on my side at all. Taking sides means sides to stay away from.

 

When politics gets as divisive as it is now, it reaches into almost every aspect of our lives. It’s not just online and newspapers, television and radio. It is on the street, in the gym, work, and travel. We don’t know from what side of the borderline of hate and division the driver of the car next to us might be or the person on the check out line behind us—or the policeman standing at the street corner. Hate and suspicion are contagious. This is one reason the level of anxiety and depression amongst college and k-12 students is at all-time highs.

 

And this is obviously not the first time the U. S. has been so divided. Think of the Civil War, the revolution, the suffrage, civil rights, and anti-war movements, etc. I grew up in the 1950s and 60s. Back then I was under the illusion I could discern sides by looking at the length of hair, the clothing, the age, and facial expression. All such illusions are shattered now, although sloganed t-shirts and confederate or Nazis flags speak all too clearly.

 

In December 1970, after vacationing in Berkeley, California, I had to return home to New York City. I didn’t have much money so I arranged for a drive-away car. It was easy to get such cars back then. In exchange for driving someone’s vehicle to their home for them, I could receive free transportation.  An Englishman I had met in a theatre workshop, who I will call Adam, was going to share the ride with me.

 

Adam had met a woman, Nancy, and she wanted to go east with us. That was fine with me. What wasn’t fine was that Adam had developed a drug dependency. He had been on speed and other drugs for weeks. I told him we could only travel together if he stopped using. No drugs were allowed in the car.  He agreed.

 

We left a few days after our talk. I started the driving. It was winter and a storm was forecast for that night so we had to get across the Rockies before the snows began. We drove south towards LA before turning east….

 

To read the whole story/personal essay, go to Heart and Humanity magazine, which published this piece.

Ridding Ourselves of Mental and Political Malware

Last night, I had a dream that Trumpf had planted malware in my mind. I don’t remember how, only the result. I couldn’t feel good about anything, couldn’t experience any happiness unless I did his bidding.

 

Like many dreams that synthesize multiple levels of meanings, this one revealed a twisted truth. T is trying to plant malware in our minds as well as into our political, economic, and social systems. He is doing this through actions, tweets and the statements he uses to manipulate headlines and capture attention. Even though so much of what T says and does is despicable—taking young children from their parents, starting to end the ban on asbestos and allowing its import from Russia, attacking anyone who speaks out against him, not protecting our voting systems, education and health care, etc., etc.—I think he prefers any headline over none.

 

And it’s not just the news media; it’s talk shows and social media. He is good at grabbing attention. So much of the news and entertainment media can’t or won’t resist him.

 

And it’s easy to get tired from all this. The bad news comes fast and furious. It is difficult to feel good about the future when his policies threaten that future. It’s hard to feel good about our lives when the lives of so many people are being undermined or destroyed. But doing his bidding by getting caught by his “information wars” only makes us more powerless, unhappy, and angry.

 

How do we remove the malware? Unfortunately, we can’t just download malware bytes. We can only find ways to resist. We resist by learning to be more aware and mindful of our own patterns of thinking and feeling. We can take care of ourselves and learn how to recognize the signs of anxiety and depression so we can let them go more readily.  We can strengthen our minds, our bodies, and our relationships so we can enjoy life despite him. It’s not just what he says and does that is so dangerous. It’s the values and ways of looking at the world that generates what he says and does that is dangerous.

 

And as odious as this may seem to some of us, and liberating to others, we can make political work a normal part of our lives. The midterm elections are about 3 months away. We have much to do.

 

When someone is pointing a gun at us, we can’t get caught up in debating the caliber or model. We take it away or get away. A gun is pointed now at each of us and we can’t run away.

 

We can’t lose sight of the goal or be fooled by distorted facts and statements meant to confuse and divide. Divide and conquer wasn’t just a strategy of ancient Rome. The GOP and T would like nothing more than to set progressives against liberals or moderates, debating whether health care for all is socialist or not or which candidate is more progressive.

 

In the past the GOP twisted the national discussion by turning ‘compromise’ and ‘liberal’ into dirty words. They made taxes and social support programs seem sinful, and accused the Democrats of class warfare when they pointed out how the GOP tax cuts were, yes, an example of class warfare—of the rich robbing from the poor and middle class. We need to resist their manipulation of imagery, language, and values. (Please read George Lakoff’s The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.)

 

In the last election, some of us were led to believe Hillary couldn’t lose, so we voted for Jill Stein. Others were taken in by arguments (and possibly bots) saying Hillary was as bad (or worse) than T. They would like us to bad mouth and treat should-be allies as enemies.

 

A democracy can only function when its people (including politicians) clearly consider and use a diversity of viewpoints to create new, broader understandings of issues and events. In order to hear and respect different viewpoints, a democracy must be a bit slow moving and require compromise. When anyone with different views is considered an enemy, meaningful discussion and debate is destroyed. Democracy is destroyed.

 

A recent article in the Guardian, written by Adam King and Emma Rees, explained how the Labour Party in Britain came back from a bad loss in 2015 to win in 2017. It created optimism with a bold agenda built on policies that excited people because they spoke to people’s real needs. The article recommended that Progressives in the US apply these same ideas, to work from within the Democratic Party and work with the DNC to win elections and create change.

 

King and Rees recommended that Democrats, and all those who oppose what T’s GOP is doing to our nation and our world, need to work together to support candidates who actually represent our views and interests, and will put those interests above even their own desire for office.

 

The candidates we support need to be able to work with others in congress to not only oppose T but advance democracy, at the ballot box and in the economy. When such candidates actually win, we have a better chance of unseating T and destroying his malware. (We need to research and hopefully support our local Democratic candidates. If you live in the 23rd Congressional District of Central New York, Tracy Mitrano is a candidate for Congress whose values I support. I also firmly support Michael Lausell for the N. Y. State Assembly 58th district.)

 

And as many in the centrist and progressive media have pointed out, this is already happening. Not only are more progressive candidates running as Democrats, but a report by the Center for American Progress shows there’s broad support among college educated and working class voters of all races in favor of a higher minimum wage, higher taxes on the wealthy, and more spending on health care and retirement. And more people are taking part in the political process. According to the Pew Research Center, the turnout in this years primary contests for House Democrats is 84% higher than in 2014. For Republicans, it is 24% higher.

 

There certainly have been more political protests than any time since the 1960s. According to Vox, 20% of Americans have participated in political protests over the first 16 months of the T regime. It has only gone up since then.

 

Many of us can’t stand to hear T or his Congressional GOP sycophants lie so openly and rip us off so brazenly. We are angry and afraid. There clearly is much to be angry about. T is the “King of sleaze,” a would-be dictator and probably a traitor, etc. And the DNC, the should-be leader for people’s rights and economic justice, has often acted contrary to those goals. However, I hope our anger and fear can be used as energy to wake us up to what we need to do, not turn us away from hearing or seeing what frightens and disgusts us.

 

I hope I now know, and we know, to think two, three, or four times before believing or sharing on social media or elsewhere anything that divides the opposition to T and his quest for dictatorship. That we know not to get arrogant or tricked into thinking a battle is won until it actually is won. And we take care of others and ourselves while we vote T’s GOP out of office and work to create a political system more responsive to the rights, freedom, actual needs and well-being of the great majority of people.

 

 

 

How Did It Happen?

What a week. Every week, every day, T provides a new outrage. This week, we all saw T fail to hold Putin accountable for hacking into Democratic and Republican computers and emails and the computer systems of state electoral boards. He also sided with Russia against U. S. intelligence assessments. He basically colluded in public with Russia. Yet, the GOP, after a few harsh words early in the week, by the end they let it all slide.

 

How did politics in the US get so bad? What role did economic manipulation play in the increasing divisiveness in the U. S. since the early 1990s or before? Institutional racism, sexism, anti-semitism, etc. played a huge role, but I need to center for the moment on economics or my head and heart will spin ⎼ too much information for me to digest.

 

Why are Democrats seemingly so ineffectual and the GOP so ready to support whatever T does, even when he puts Russia before US interestsdictatorship before Democracy? Why does the GOP walk so much in lockstep, ready to stomp on the humanity, rights, health care and income of so many in the middle and lower classes?

 

And the goose or lock stepping of the GOP is not just an example of politicians afraid of their base or afraid of losing their position, as many in the centrist media portray it. The base of the GOP itself is something relatively new in US politics, even though it has been developing for years. Since Reagan, the GOP has become increasingly intransigent and devoted to only one small group of people—the white super-rich. T is also something relatively new, but he is a poison in a garden that was already laid waste by politicians unable and unwilling to halt the pressure by the super-rich to undermine any restraints on their power.

 

One book I’ve been reading to help me gain some clarity is Billionaire Democracy: The Hijacking of the American Political System by economist George Tyler. This is an important book to read. It talks not only about how democracy has been hijacked, but how to take it back. In 1980, according to Tyler, the richest 0.1% contributed less than 10% of all campaign contributions. By 2012, their share increased to 44%. In 2016, it increased to about 66% of contributions to Congressional candidates.

 

Along with this trend in political contributions is a trend many have noted in wealth controlled by the top 1%. In the 1920s, before the depression, the top 1% owned 44.2% of the wealth. During the depression, and even more, during the war, the taxes on the rich were raised to 94% for top earners, and the percentage of wealth owned by the rich by 1945 was down to 29.8%. By 1979, the percentage owned by the 1% was down to only 20%. Thanks to Reagan, the percentage of wealth owned by the super-rich went up. By 2013, the top 1% owned 36.7% of US wealth. The top 20% of the US population in terms of wealth owned 89%, leaving only 11% for the remaining 80% of people. In 2017, the top 1% owned 42.8%. It has been increasing by 6% annually since the mid-2000s. (See my chart on the last page.) And the GOP tax cut is only making income inequality worse.

 

America’s wealthiest 20 people own more wealth than the bottom half the population, own more than 152,000,000 people combined. Among the Forbes 444, only 2 are African-American.

 

Tyler analyzes how the super-rich used their wealth to buy a political party. They went about this from several directions. They first chose a party that had favored the super-rich since the Gilded Age and the Robber Barons. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in the primary season for the 2016 presidential election, nearly half of all political contributions came from about 158 families. 158 families! 87% went to the GOP.

 

Second, Tyler explains how the party “culled” most of its more moderate members from their ranks or leadership positions. They culled those who would actually work with Democrats, or support Medicare, capital gains taxes, public schools, or work to limit soft money donations, etc. For example, former Senator Olympia Snowe was a moderate Republican from Maine. She was booed in the Republican convention in Bangor because of her history of cooperating with Democrats. Soon after that, she stopped her bid for reelection. (A similar thing occurred with U. S. Rep. Mark Sanford, who was a critic of Mr. T and lost his bid to run again for Congress after T tweeted his support to Sanford’s challenger.)

 

Third, the super-rich bought a movement, the Tea Party. When the Tea Party was just getting organized in 2009, wealthy donors like the tobacco industry and the Koch brothers helped finance their meetings, conventions and advertising, yet so many of their members had no idea this was happening.

 

Fourth, Tyler clarifies how the rich bought media outlets and continue to do so today. The Tea Party movement was created not only with the money of the wealthy but by their control of the media. Rupert Murdoch, for example, bought Fox news and turned it into the propaganda outlet of the rich and right-wing. The super-rich funded media that spread an anti-government, anti-tax, anti-any-social-program that actually was helpful to the lives of most Americans.

 

The rules obliging the broadcast media to provide factual reporting (called the Fairness Doctrine, spelled out in 1947) were undone in 1987 by Reagan. As Tyler put it, “since Ronald Reagan…broadcasters have abandoned objectivity in favor of an afactual, partisan din. Fables foisted as reality have become commonplace…”  (p. 193) The Trumpian attack on facts and truth has been developing for decades.

 

In Federalist 68, Alexander Hamilton warned of “cabal, intrigue, and corruption… chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the union…?” Hamilton greatly feared a misinformed citizenry. His fears were eerily actualized in the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. In fact, as Tyler puts it, the GOP strategy was to undermine exactly what the framers meant to preserve. They “demonize[d] the fact-based information industry central to the framer’s vision of a democracy sustained by an informed electorate.”

 

Fifth, the super-rich went after the legal system, including the Supreme Court. They used the concept of the personhood of a corporation to advance their agenda and diminish governmental restrictions on their power. This concept was nowhere to be found in discussions by the Founding Fathers and was nowhere mentioned in the history of the court prior to the 1880s.

 

According to Tyler, in the 1880s Roscoe Conklin, a lawyer representing a railroad baron, introduced the idea that the 14thamendment was passed not only to protect the civil rights of African-American males but also protect corporations from government interference. Conklin argued for this idea despite the total lack of any evidence for it. There were no records of it being mentioned in any of the discussions that led to the passage of the 14thAmendment in 1867. In 1886, his fabricated doctrine helped win a case protecting the railroads from “bothersome” taxes levied by the county of Santa Clara on the railroads. It has been used since to protect the rich from the rest of us.

 

The founding fathers, explained Tyler, distrusted big corporations and thought contributing to a political campaign was a way to buy a politician. It was, thus, a criminal act. Vote buying undermined the integrity of voting. This criminality became legally protected by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision of 2010, which synthesized two evils. It not only reinforced the personhood of corporations. It released corporations and the super-rich from most restrictions on the buying of politicians. It said that corporations, like people, have the right of free speech. And making political contributions was a form of protected speech, not to be restricted.

 

The whole idea that a corporation should be considered a person is ludicrous. Corporations were never given the vote, don’t give birth, don’t shake hands or die, except metaphorically. The rich who own and manage corporations already have a vote and a voice, if they are citizens. Why give them what amounts to two or thousands of votes? The constitutional guarantee of free speech refers to guarding the content of speech, not its volume.

 

Apparently, most Americans know that the rich have too much influence on the government. According to the Public Religion Research Institute, in 2015, 79% of Americans (63% of Republicans) said our economic system unfairly favors the rich. A similar view is held about the government. And the support shown to Bernie Sanders in 2016 (and maybe even to T himself) seems to confirm this.

 

Taxing the rich is one traditional way to exercise a little control over how wealthy the wealthy can be. It is not socialism, but is how the U. S. financed a winning strategy in World War II. It is how, in the 1950s and 1960s, we experienced the greatest growth of the middle class in our history. From the 1940s to 1980s, the highest earners paid more than double what they do now in taxes. In fact, from the 1940s to 1960s, the highest tax bracket was around 90%. Reagan’s first tax cut lowered the top tax rate from 70% to 50%; in 1989, it was down to 28%. Since then, the rates have gone slightly up and down, down especially with the latest GOP tax cut to the super-rich. (See below.)

 

Meanwhile, today, most of us pay in real taxes about 25% of income, which includes property, sales and other taxes, not only income tax. This puts the US at the lowest tax levels of all nations except for Korea, Chile, and Mexico.

 

So, when we think about how to take back or create democracy, we have to keep in mind who really constitutes the base of the GOP and T. We have to find a way to lessen the influence and control of the super-rich over public policy and all our lives.

 

And we have to find out how Russia fits into the plans and manipulations of the super-rich.

 

 

Chart Showing How Increasing Taxes Lowers Income Inequality (Compiled from different sources.)

Year % of wealth controlled by the top 1% Income tax rates for the wealthiest of us
1929 44.2% 24%
1945 29.8% 94%
1979 20.5% 70%
1983 30.9% 50%
1989 35.7% 28%
1990s 37.2 – 38.1 28 – 39.6%
2017 42.8%
2018 Estimate: 45.3% (6% increase per year since 2008) 37%
2030 Est: 64%

A Scary Supreme Court: Oppose The Nomination

T announced Monday night that his choice for the Supreme Court is judge Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh, according to a New York Times analysis, is possibly less conservative than Neil Gorsuch. As an assistant to Kenneth Starr in the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, he wrote an argument giving a broad definition of impeachable offenses, so much so that he disturbed some conservatives. What he thinks today, or would think facing T, is beyond my knowledge. But he was then speaking about a Democratic President.

 

However, Kavanaugh is deeply conservative in his views, so Roe vs Wade is certainly threatened. The NAACP considers him a dangerous ideologue, a strong proponent of the rights of the wealthy and a deep threat to civil rights, women’s rights, voting rights, etc.

 

There are so many viewpoints on this issue. My own view is that all those who support Democratic institutions, civil, consumer, and women’s rights—hopefully, all Democratic members of Congress should do everything they can to delay, oppose, stop the nominee from being approved, certainly until the new Congress could be elected and seated.

 

Please call:

Heidi Heitkamp (D, N. Dakota) 202 224 2043

Joe Donnelly (D, Indiana)    202 224 4814

Joe Manchin (W. VA)            202 224 3954, 304 342 5855

Susan Collins (R, Maine)      202 224 2523

Lisa Murkowski (R, Aaska)   202 224 6665

 

I say this not only because Republicans for a year stopped any vote to confirm Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court, saying (dubiously) they should not vote on a new nominee in the year of a Presidential election. 2018 is not a Presidential election year, but it is one of the most significant elections I can recall. It is also because the President himself is under several investigations, for possible collusion, corruption, interference in the Mueller probe, etc. and these investigations might wind up before the court. The President’s nominees should not be given the chance to defend the man who just chose them for the position. (Or who possibly asked for their allegiance?)

 

According to an article from the New York Times, this is especially relevant to Judge Kavanaugh. “In two law journal articles — one published in 1998 and another in 2009 — Judge Kavanaugh raised questions about whether a sitting president could be indicted, and suggested that presidents should be shielded from civil suits and criminal investigations. Both explore issues that are deeply relevant to Mr. Trump and the ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.” We could have a court that instead of enforcing a separation of powers, concentrates power in one person’s hands, and protects T from anyone who tries to hold him accountable.

 

The Aim of T and the GOP Is Not To Win An Election, But End Elections; Not To Foster Democracy, But End It.

A democracy is a government where the ultimate power belongs to the people of the nation (demos is Greek for people). It is the will of the people that should guide decisions. The views and lives of the great majority of people, their education, livelihood, health and security must be valued. Since the will of the people is paramount and must guide decision-making, relationships amongst the people must be carefully fostered. Compassion must be fostered.

 

Yet, what is the reality of T’s GOP? Kevin Baker, in a recent article in the New Republic, describes what almost everyone who pays attention has observed: our politics has become open warfare, with the aim being not to serve the people but to make sure the other party never again comes to power. It is to seize power and keep it, by any means. That includes lying and distorting the truth, attacking the institutions that keep us safe, undermining voting, civil and legal rights, enormous corruption, and even colluding with the dictator of a foreign and hostile government.

 

Our government was deliberately structured to prevent a return to power of a monarchy or one-man rule. Three branches of government were established by the constitution in order to have checks on power. Today, we have a one party government; one party controls all three branches of the government. Since the party is led and controlled by one individual, we have a government controlled largely by one individual.

 

A government of a small group is an oligarchy. A government by a class is an aristocracy. A government by one legally prescribed hereditary ruler is a monarchy. A government wherein one person takes power and/or eliminates his or her opposition is a tyranny. A kleptocracy is a government of corrupt rulers who use their power to exploit the people and the nation’s resources in order to extend and keep their own personal wealth and power. Which kind of government do we have now?

 

A democracy requires that laws rule and must protect the people as a whole, not serve the interests of any one person or small group of persons. Yet, T asks the department of justice to protect and serve him, not the law. He tries to undermine investigations by his own DOJ and attacks the FBI.

 

According to a great body of evidence, T and several people from his campaign and administration, including his own son, son-in-law, campaign manager, etc. colluded with a foreign dictator to undermine US elections. And he has largely refused to protect our own election infrastructure.

 

A democracy needs the participation of the people. Yet the GOP undermines voting rights. T encourages hate instead of compassion, calls immigrants whores, criminals, and animals. He rips children from their parents as a deterrent for immigration. He divides the nation and whips up hatred against these fellow humans, despite the fact that immigrants, even undocumented immigrants, are less likely to commit a crime than those citizens born in this country.

 

He not only whips up hatred against immigrants, but against anyone who opposes him, even from his own party. He viciously attacked, in the past and even just recently, John McCain. He insulted and/or or threatened Senator Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake, and others for going against his wishes. Certainly, he attacks Democrats and the press almost daily.

 

To make political decisions that actually solve problems and improve the well-being of the people, a democracy needs educated people. It needs to support and promote the dissemination of scientific discoveries and information. This administration attacks education, both in public K-12 schools and universities, and has blocked access to scientific data.

 

This administration shows a profound disregard, even contempt, for health care for a great number of citizens, and has consistently advanced policies that most Americans oppose, creating pressures that cause insurance rates to rise and undermining protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

 

It has attacked supports for the poor, like Medicaid, and programs that all Americans contribute to as insurance for when they are older or retired, like Medicare and Social Security—and they do this in order to protect tax cuts to the super rich who don’t need more wealth.

 

When a very small group of people get a large percentage of the nation’s wealth and income, a democracy of, by and for the people becomes impossible. According to the Congressional Budget Office, between 1979 and 2007, the income for the top 1% in the US has grown by 275%. Since last year’s GOP tax cut, income inequality is growing even more. Instead of one person one vote, and freedom of speech for all, we have one person’s voice drowning out millions of other voices.

 

Hate destabilizes a nation. When we hate, we feel hated in return. We then strike out. Anger boils up with the least provocation. Increasing numbers of us experience a deep sense of dread or anxiety. The number of children suffering from anxiety has been greatly increasing. Increasing numbers of people can’t tolerate hearing the news.

 

We have to be careful not to become what we oppose. One of the worst results of this administration is that too many have begun to doubt the efficacy and strength of kindness. There is so much to be angry about that we can forget the deleterious effects of anger. We mistake actually listening to others for weakness.

 

The aim of this administration might be to end democracy, but they haven’t succeeded, yet. And we can’t let them. Anyone who wants a real democracy, who has compassion for other humans and believes in the rule of laws, not rule by a few powerful individuals, must do what we can to make opposing the policies of this administration a normal part of our day. Must make activities to keep us sane and compassionate part of our day. This is our only viable option if we wish to uphold our humanity.

The Healing Cries of Outrage and Compassion

So much has happened in the last week or more. So much cruelty, so many lies. Yet, the hearts of many have awoken, have reached a point where mutual feeling and compassion has overcome fear or disbelief or inertia and has led so many to speak out. It feels like, or maybe I am just hoping, that the opposition to T is growing and will continue to grow.

 

T’s policy toward immigrants, of separating children from their parents so their pain will scare others away from our borders, is not only so inhumane and cruel I can barely stand to think about it, but ignorant in terms of the long range effects of this policy. If our borders are marked with red in the hearts of so many, then we, as a people and a nation, are marked with red, like targets. Like a cruel threat to eliminate. As an immoral nation. It is unbelievably costly in terms of human suffering. It is costly in terms of the money spent in building and staffing the prisons to hold the people, and providing judges to judge them, food to feed and doctors to care for them (and hopefully that will get such care).

 

And it is based on so many lies. As most of us know, and despite T’s statements and tweets to the contrary, undocumented immigrants from the south, and elsewhere, are less likely to commit a crime than US citizens. The border, despite T’s claims, has not been overrun by illegals, certainly not more than in past years.

 

T claims his policy is nothing new. President Obama supposedly did it. Democrats passed a law to do it. And he’s helpless to stop it. Congress must stop it. Then a few days later, he signs an executive order claiming to do just what he said he couldn’t do. Of course, the order, in effect, is almost as cruel as the policy it claims to end. It creates more chaos and does nothing to help re-unite parents with the children the government ripped away.

 

Of course, Obama did not have a policy of separating children from the parents of asylum seekers or immigrants as a way to scare away other immigrants. Of course, Democrats passed no law forcing T to separate children from parents.

 

Friends have cautioned me to look behind the headlines. Whenever T does something spectacularly awful, something else awful is hiding in the shadows, or something threatening to T is being hidden. It is painful to say this, but T is ripping children from their parents not only as a way to satisfy his political base and his own base instincts. He is hiding the fact he is ripping off social welfare and health care programs from most Americans as well as hiding his own possibly treasonous and criminal activities.

 

So, while many of us are focusing on the cruelty being done to immigrants, the GOP, on Tuesday, 6/19, quietly passed through a House committee a budget proposal that would fast track large cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, as well as education and other programs that actually serve most Americans, all to finance continued tax cuts to the rich. This proposal is expected to pass the House—unless there is a public outcry.

 

On Thursday, they released a plan to reorganize the federal government, and cut programs like food stamps. It would combine the education and labor departments and give private industry a more direct role in the government. This could, for example, undermine the teaching of the humanities and redirect education to be totally concerned with one goal —providing labor to corporate interests. It could undermine the power of workers in general and the enforcement of civil rights in schools.

 

However, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort remains in jail, a judge ruled that the evidence seized by the FBI from his office can be used in his trial, and new evidence has been uncovered of Trump advisers like Roger Stone meeting with Russian agents.

 

What is heartening is the outcry. Millions of Americans are calling Congress, and as Rachel Maddow revealed in a story on Thursday, 6/21, lawyers are organizing to defend, pro bono, federal officials who refuse to “follow orders” on immigration.  Multiple states are suing the T administration to stop his immigration policy. And millions of dollars have been raised in just a few days to provide legal assistance to the parents and children separated at the border.

 

Even more, the number of people who are ready to enter politics to defend America from the racism, sexism, etc., criminality, greed, and shortsightedness that this administration represents has increased dramatically this year. Over the last week, I have attended a fundraiser and/or donated to two amazing people who are running for office. One is a friend, Michael Lausell, who is running for the New York Senate in district 58. The other, a former student and graduate from the Lehman Alternative Community School, Satya Rhodes-Conway, is running for Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin. And five people are competing in the Democratic primary in New York’s 23rd district to unseat T supporter Tom Reed. I have met and talked to two of the candidates at different political demonstrations and think both are worthy of my vote (Max Della Pia and Tracy Mitrano).

 

I just hope that all those who oppose and are outraged by this immigration policy, as well as the GOP tax policy, can keep in mind that our differences are less important than what we share ⎼ our humanity, and the drive to unseat T and his whole administration. To protect our environment and create a democratic government that works for and looks to promote the rights, freedom, education, and quality of life of the great majority of people in this nation.

 

**There is a New York primary on Tuesday, June 26th.

***And remember to make calls and speak up against this immigration policy and against cutting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in order to continue to finance tax cuts for the rich. On Saturday, June 30th, there will be demonstrations all over the nation to support immigrants. In Ithaca, the demonstration will be on the Commons, at 11:00 am.

An Inhumane and Abusive Policy: Please Speak Up Now

According to the New York Times and several other news sources, since April 19 the U. S. government has separated 1995 children from the parents of asylum seekers, migrants, as well as immigrants illegally trying to cross our southern border. These children, as young as toddlers, have been placed in hastily established shelters, in prison-like conditions.  Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley said many of the children are being held in what amounts to dog cages. The facilities already in use are getting too full, so the administration is planning to erect a tent city in Tornillo, Texas to hold newly seized children —young children kept in tents in the hot Texas summer sun.

 

Imagine a one year old kept in a cage. Imagine a child being taken from her breast-feeding Mom. Imagine the irreparable harm being done to children. If it continues, imagine a generation traumatized by our government, hating our nation, and what might happen in the future. Hate sows hate.

 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to defend the policy by saying the bible tells us to obey the law. He did not speak about the verses telling people to be kind, compassionate, or loving to one another. Earlier, he said the policy was part of a “zero tolerance policy” with lawbreakers. John Kelly said the policy is meant as a deterrent to keep immigrants away from our borders. Mr. T tried to somehow blame Democrats: “Separating families at the border is the fault of bad legislation passed by Democrats.”  T is upset that Dems have not passed laws giving him what he wants, like a border wall.

 

The Washington Post fact checked T’s claim: there is no “Democrats’ law” necessitating that children be separated from their parents at the border. This was a policy created by this administration.

 

Meanwhile, the UN has condemned the policy, calling it illegal, and urged the US to end the policy. According to an article in the NYT, the UN said the practice “amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child.”

 

The GOP claim their legislation proposed recently would stop the inhumane separation of child from parent but, according an article in VOX, this is not true.

 

We need to do what we can to stop this inhumanity. If they get away with this, what’s next? We can call Congresspeople, especially Republicans, every day. Twice, three times a day if possible. Demand that they speak up and pass emergency legislation to stop it. Call your state and local representatives so that all levels of government act to stop it. Speak up in what ways you think appropriate. Share this post, copy it or write your own. This has to stop.

 

Here is a link from the NYT that I just saw, shared by Elaine Mansfield, of other things to do to oppose the policy.

 

 

HERE ARE A FEW NUMBERS:

GOP SENATORS:

Collins (R-ME) (202) 224-2523

Capito (R-WV) (202) 224-6472
Cassidy (R-LA) (202) 224-5824

Corker: 202 224 3344 [901683 1910] Flake (R-AZ) (202) 224-4521
Gardner (R-CO) (202) 224-5941
Portman (R-OH) (202) 224-3353

 

NY DEMOCRATIC SENATORS:

Gillibrand: 202 224 4451    [NYC office: 212 688 6262

Schumer: 202 224 6542     [NYC office: 212 486 4430]

 

GOP HOUSE:

Tom Reed: 202 225 3161

Paul Ryan: 202 225 0600