U.S. spends 40% of world’s total military budget & it’s controlled by an inconsistent & bellicose ignoramus who favors disruption over working together & shows no regard for victims

I saw a terrifying graphic on the last page of the most recent Fortune magazine: a chart of military spending worldwide since 1950 in constant dollars, based on numbers from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Surprise, surprise, surprise, military spending is at record levels worldwide when adjusted for inflation, an incredible $1.74 trillion in 2017.

The numbers are shocking. The governments of the world spend more than three times on weapons and soldiers than they did during the Korean War and about 25% more than at the height of the Cold War in the 1980s. As a species we are armed to the teeth.

Not surprisingly, like every year since 1950, the United States spends far and away the most on its military, about $610 billion in 2017, 40% of the world’s total and more than 2.5 times spent by the nation in second place, China, which laid out $228 billion for defense. And 2017 is not the peak, as the U.S. Defense Department budget for 2018 is $716 billion, an increase of about 17% in one year. This enormous expansion of spending on soldiers and weapons includes billions of dollars to develop two horrifying new weapons which should be outlawed across the globe: a new generation of nuclear bombs and robotic weapons systems that will operate without human command.

Our budgets for education, mass transit and other infrastructure improvements, healthcare and scientific research certainly did not increase by 17%. In fact Republicans and the Trump Administration want to make massive cuts to the domestic budget. While we brandish our drones and bombs on virtually every continent, our mass transit systems shrivel, our sewers and bridges corrode, our roads form so many potholes they resemble obstacle courses, our children are packed like sardines into classes, we continue to lose our edge in pure science and we have among the highest mortality rates in the industrialized world. If the trends of the past 35 years continue, pretty soon we’ll have an impenetrable defense protecting a ticky-tacky pile of garbage.

The amount we spend on arms becomes even more ridiculous when we convert it to per capita spending. Using the SIPRI numbers and population estimates pulled from various sources, I calculated that in 2017, the United States spent about $1,871 per person on our armed forces, set to increase to $2,198 in 2018. By contrast, the number two total spender on arms is China, which spent about $174 per person on its military last year, significantly below the $229 spent worldwide per person. It seems as if the Chinese are able to keep its population—four times as great as ours—safe for a fraction of what it costs us. Of course, Chinese weapons manufacturing is a cottage industry compared to the enormous and politically connected industrial behemoths in the United States.

When the military expenditures of the top 10 spenders worldwide are converted into per capita amounts, the United States stands alone with the autocratic, anti-Semitic, terrorist-supporting regime of Saudi Arabia, which spends $2,090 per person on its military. The other eight countries on the Top 10 list spend well under $1,000 a year per person on defense, ranging from $64 per capita in India to $865 per capita in France. Some countries that aren’t in the top 10 of spenders: Iran-$178 per capita; Turkey-$225 per capita; Israel-$1,951 per capita on military spending!!

(By the way, the SIPRI website is a great place to find scary numbers about the global arms industry. Besides providing the annual military spending of all countries since 1949, SIPRI has customizable databases of all international transfers of major conventional arms since 1950; the 100 largest arms-producing and military services companies; and all peace (read: armed intervention) operations conducted since 2000, including location, dates of deployment and operation, mandate, participating countries, number of personnel, costs and fatalities.

Even more frightening than the simple fact that the world is awash in guns and soldiers is that 40% of it is controlled by Donald Trump, an inconsistent, insecure and bellicose ignoramus who seems to favor disruption over working together and shows little regard for victims (and in fact may enjoy creating new victims).

Wait, wait, my esteemed readers may ask. We’re a democracy with one set of checks and balances in Congress and the courts, and another in a strong and talented cadre of career military, state, security and diplomatic personnel who transcend administrations. But these checks and balances only work when used. Congress has proven itself unwilling to put limits on the military actions of any president since Lyndon Baines Johnson. And when military misdeeds such as the Iran-Contra deal or the Bush II torture gulag are uncovered, Congress has decided against punishing the president and other decision-makers who committed the crimes. President Obama’s approach to torture exemplifies the American way: let’s sweep the past under a rug and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Meanwhile, career military and diplomatic personnel wring their hands in anguish as Trump makes outrageous statements and policy decisions regarding Russia, North Korea, NATO and Iran.

Which brings us to the latest military spending bill, to which Trumpty Dumpty affixed his signature this week. While broadcast and cable news and the front pages of major newspapers have focused on Trump calling an ex-employee a “dog” and pulling the security clearance of the former Central Intelligence Agency Director who took down Osama bin Laden, buried deep in a handful of newspapers is the news that in signing the military spending bill, Trump claimed in a signing statement that he has the authority to overrule dozens of provisions that he believes constrains his executive power. What that means is that he and his cronies believe that they do not have to follow the law as written.

According to the New York Times, Trump’s signing statements claim he can :

  • Ignore a ban on recognizing Russian sovereignty over Crimea.
  • Bypass restrictions on bilateral military-to-military cooperation between the United States and Russia.
  • Ignore a provision requiring the Pentagon to develop uniform standards for counting and reducing civilian bystander deaths as a result of American military operations.
  • Disregard a restriction against reducing the number of active-duty troops stationed in South Korea below 22,000.

 

Judging from how Congress has responded in the past when presidents have ignored the law in prosecuting foreign wars, what the $716 billion represents is a pool of money that Trump can essentially use in any way he sees fit, as long as the military contractors get their piece of the pie.

Donald Trump’s history of developing and running hotels and casinos demonstrates that when you give this guy a few billion bucks, he screws it all up, losing money for investors and wreaking havoc for suppliers. Now he has $716 billion dedicated to warfare…excuse me…defense…so the mess he creates is bound to be bigger and more painful for its victims. Let’s hope it doesn’t result in a “Big Bang,” this one not creating a new universe but ending human life on our small planet.

Unfortunately, voting for Democrats across the board may not help change our foreign policy. This year’s mid-term is coalescing around a handful of very important issues—healthcare, economic equity, immigration, racism, and the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The Democratic position on all these issues is far better than the Republicans for everyone in the United States except for the ultra-wealthy. The Republic Party has allowed itself to be hollowed out and taken over by what pundits like to call the “Trump base” So by all means pull the lever for any and every Democrat in November.

But as usual, not much is being said about defense spending or foreign policy, and for good reason. From Harry Truman through Obama, both parties have pretty much agreed on the broad outline of defense strategy and foreign policy. Even those who have called for a reduction or eradication of nuclear weapons like Obama have approved budgets that contained increased spending for these weapons of mass destruction. Thus, if the Democrats sweep and then manage to impeach and convict the current president and vice president, the United States may return to being a more consistent alley, but we will still be a bellicose, overly militarized nation. We will still continue to rely on force to get our way far too often, even as we negotiate and enter into peace and trade agreements.

With school districts all over the country putting armed guards into schools, it’s only a matter of time before a school guard shoots down an African-American parent

Try going to Google News and entering “armed guards in schools” and you will gain access to hundreds of articles about school districts nationwide taking additional security measures for the upcoming academic year. Most often mentioned is the posting of armed guards—usually one per school, but bringing guns into schools is not the only step school districts are taking to attempt to prevent a mass murder at their facilities. Across the country, local and national news media are reporting an increase in locked doors, buzz-in systems for visitors, hand-held metal detectors, active shooter lockdown drills and staff training. Districts are mandating the use of clear backpacks, increasing student mental health services and doing random searches.

Except for expanding mental health services and placing armed guards in schools, all of these changes involve restricting the freedom of individuals. Students and visitors will have to go through security. Others will be forced to buy new backpacks or have to undergo random searches of their lockers and backpacks. It’s indeed ironic how easily American legislators are to restrict individual freedoms, except the freedom to own guns. By contrast, our leaders fear any and all restrictions on corporations, even those that protect the health and safety of individuals.

My first emotion in perusing article after article about new security measures mixes amusement with anger. I’m amused in an ironic way that school boards can so quickly find money to increase security after years of claiming poverty, but angry that the same money—and more—has not been made available for decades to improve education. The frown gets the best of the chuckle when I consider that some if not most education systems may be paying for the new guards by cutting teachers or postponing purchases of new computers or textbooks. For decades, state and federal governments have been shaving public school budgets or letting money be reallocated to the failed educational experiment called “charter schools.” We have slowly tried to starve public education, so it’s particularly unfortunate that we feel obliged to spend money on addressing a safety problem in the schools that is of our own making.

Keep in mind that it’s possible that the districts spending the most on added security are the wealthy ones that can afford it, those that haven’t seen enrichment programs and small class sizes go by the wayside in the wake of shrinking budgets. That wealthy kids enjoy both better education and better protection merely reinforces the inequity of income, wealth and opportunity that is destroying the American dream and the dreams of most Americans.

The big question is will the added security measures work? The answer will depend on how we define success. If we look just at school shootings, it’s anyone’s guess, because the various factors interact in complex ways. Which of these measures really help and which only make us feel good? How effective will the authorities be in addressing the sickos whom enhanced mental health counseling identifies? Will the primarily white Christian terrorists who commit these acts figure out ways to get around the new security measures? Can a security guard deal effectively with a crazed killer brandishing one or more AR-15s who has no fear of his own death?

The only prediction I will offer is that the sooner or later an African-American father trying to visit a guidance counselor at a primarily white school will be shot down by a security guard.

If we, however, don’t limit ourselves to schools, but ask a broader question, Will new security measures lead to an overall reduction in gun violence?, the answer is clear. No way. Because so many schools are bringing guns onto campus, the number of guns in circulation in the country will increase. An increase in the number of guns will lead to an increase in gun violence and gun deaths. Every shred of research done on the topic in the United States and across the world has always come to the same conclusion: The more guns in a society, the greater the gun violence, the fewer guns, the less gun violence. The unintended consequence of placing more armed guards at any public location has to by definition be an increase in gun violence, even if that increase doesn’t come where the guards are posted.

Thus, arming school personnel will contribute to a reduction of gun violence and deaths if and only if we take measures to reduce the number of guns elsewhere in society. I’m fairly certain that a comprehensive package of federal gun control laws would do more to make our children safe in schools—and elsewhere—than the best efforts of all the school boards across the country to “harden” the campus with guards, buzzers, drills and searches.

I’m the left-wing nut who wants to outlaw all private ownership of firearms and make hunters and recreational target shooters rent or store their guns at hunting lodges, gun clubs and shooting ranges. But even my radical eyes can see that there are a number of actions we can take that allow individuals the privilege of owning firearms yet keep people safe, including:

  • Ban private ownership of all automatic and semi-automatic weapons and require those who currently own such weapons to sell them to the government or face still jail time.
  • Improve the gun national registry and increase participation by the states.
  • Increase to seven days the waiting period to purchase guns and extend the waiting requirement to all gun purchases, even those at gun shows and on the internet.
  • Require all individuals to pass a rigorous written and operational test before being allowed to buy or own a gun, similar to a driver’s test, and retest every 5-10 years.
  • Require all gun owners to carry firearms insurance.
  • Ban open and closed carry at all schools, universities, downtowns, malls, theatres and other public places.
  • End all “stand your ground” laws.

I have expressed the radical form of virtually all these ideas to limit and control guns in United States. More moderate versions in all cases are approved by large majorities of Americans, including majorities of gun owner. Both surveys and my extensive anecdotal evidence find that virtually all gun owners would have no problem with longer waiting times. Most don’t see any reason for anyone to own an AR-15. Most would be happy to keep guns away from known bad actors, those with ties to terrorist organizations, domestic abusers and the mentally ill.

The only impediment in the way of reducing gun violence are our elected officials who are too frightened to oppose the National Rifle Association (NRA) or depend on NRA largess for their election. Pundits assume that Russia funneled tens of millions of dollars to the NRA to help elect the Republican candidate for president in 2016. But think about it. By fostering greater ownership of firearms and therefore greater gun violence, the NRA weakens the United States, with or without the excesses of Donald Trump.

Italy weakening its child vaccination law is a broader part of the retreat from science and knowledge that’s happening in Italy, the United States and elsewhere

More bad news this week for the children of the world. Italy is relaxing its child vaccination law, which means fewer Italian children will get the basic panel of vaccinations needed to protect them from some very terrible diseases such as polio, diphtheria and Hepatitis B.

Universal vaccination would pretty much wipe out virtually all ten of the diseases against which the Italian government wants all children to get vaccinated. A recent Italian law requires all parents and guardians to provide written proof that their children have been vaccinated against these ten ailments. The law followed an outbreak of more than 5,000 cases of measles in Italy in one year, 34% of all cases in the half billion person European Union, an outsized number: Italy’s population represents only 12% of the EU. The medical community in Europe and around the world was delighted by the new legislation.

But the new Trump-like League- Five Star coalition government of Italy has decided to loosen the rule.Now parents will only be required to confirm verbally that their children have received vaccinations against these ten scourges.  Matteo Salvini, Deputy Prime Minister and member of the anti-immigrant, far-right League, has been quoted as saying the ten obligatory vaccinations “are useless and in many cases dangerous, if not harmful….I confirm the commitment to allow all children to go to school.

With that kind of encouragement, we can be certain that lying will go up and child vaccinations will go down. Sadly, illnesses and deaths among Italian children will soar.

The ten diseases, BTW, are polio, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, haemophilus influenzae B, measles. mumps, rubella, whooping cough and chickenpox.

The origin of the contemporary anti-vaccination movement in both Italy and the United States was a fraud perpetrated on the medical community and the families of the world by a British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield in 1995. Wakefield published a study in The Lancetclaiming children who had the Mumps/Measles/Rubella vaccination were more likely to have bowel disease and autism. He followed it up with another article in 1998. But the good doctor had cooked the books. By 2004, the medical community realized that Wakefield was full of it. That hasn’t stopped anti-vaxers from spouting his bogus research ever since.

When a celebrity or politician talks nonsense about the supposed dangers of vaccination, well-meaning, uneducated parents listen and sometimes decide not to vaccinate, putting both their children and the entire community in danger. That’s why I still believe that while it came early in his campaign, perhaps the most odious, horrific lie that Donald Trump has told to the American people was when he claimed in a debate that he personally knew someone whose child became autistic after being vaccinated. Impossible. Overwhelming clinical evidence proves beyond all doubt that there is absolutely no connection, correlation or relationship between vaccinations and autism. Trump was telling a lie that, like all Trump lies, a sizeable slice of the American public willingly will swallow in one gulp. How shameful to put children at risk to pander to a disproven idea.

But Trump routinely puts children at risk, sometimes with the sadistic glee of a cat batting a mouse around between its paws. The current Nationdetails five distinct ways that his administration imposes “sometimes fatal burdens of children—especially black and brown ones.”The article mentions the separation of children from their families at borders; the travel ban which, as it turns out, has a disproportionately negative effect on children; work requirements for recipients of health and welfare aid; a rolling back of Department of Education efforts to rein in unfair disciplining of African-American children; and efforts to scuttle the World Health Organization resolution favoring breastfeeding. Bullies always pick on people who can’t fight back, so it makes sense that Trump and his followers target children for their cruelty.

The tragedy of what will happen to many children is not the only alarming aspect of this change in the Italian law. The news media is reporting that the medical and scientific community believes that the statements of government officials and the vote to loosen the law increases distrust of science in Italy.

Americans know, or don’t know, something about the distrust of science. The mass media has been sowing it for years by giving coverage to wacky theories like vaccinations cause autism; treating global warming as an open questions years after science decided the issue; giving a platform to creationists; routinely denigrating intellectual endeavors; writing in feature story after feature story that school is boring; and attributing negative traits to intelligent people, e.g. socially maladroit, physically unattractive, unathletic, unstylish and awkward.

Trump, of course, has taken this anti-truth, anti-science crusade to a new level. This failed businessman turned celebrity routinely lies and uses those lies to develop and implement policies that flaunt science and scientific research. He and his administration make up lies about immigrant crime, the unfairness of current trade agreements, climate change, the renting of children to allow bad guys to cross borders, the benefit to the economy of tax cuts, the reasons behind epidemic of mass shootings, and just about everything else.  The latest addition to the hit parade of mendacity is the claim that dropping the gas mileage standards on trucks and car will benefit the economy. Trumpites have a deep distrust in experts of all kinds, especially experts who speak against their cherished beliefs, superstitions and prejudices.

The death of newspapers. The rise of the irrational as a force in social media. The decline in the number of people reading books. The gutting of scientists and other professional experts from key government positions. The continued decline in government support of public schools and colleges. Everywhere we see signs of a retreat from knowledge.

It’s happened before in world history, for example in Western Europe after the death of Charlemagne when most intellectual endeavors retreated to monasteries under the auspices of a superstitious church or during the later years of the Song dynasty when the examination system to decide who would run the country was corrupted by wealthy people wanting to make sure their children were well-positioned. Willful ignorance of the facts on the ground is probably a significant factor in the decline of all civilizations and countries. Decline always comes with extreme pain, and those who suffer most are almost always the children.

The real tragedy of separating children from their parents will come years from now when the kids suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

These past few days, I’ve been feeling a special empathy with the children whom the United States government ripped from their families at the border and sent to special facilities. My empathy comes from knowing in the most intimate way possible some of the emotional challenges that these children will face throughout their lives.

You see, I’ve been having one of my occasional bouts of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) caused by traumatic events I suffered during my childhood. My PTSD manifests itself as sudden feelings of unexplained anxiety or full-blown panic attacks in which I lose all control of my ability to focus, have hot and cold flashes at the same time, feel as if I’m going to burst out of my skin, and am unable to focus on anything. I’ll spend hours alternatively pacing and trying to remain still long enough to get some work done or sleep. I sometimes also experience sudden feelings of guilt, shame and anger, all typical of survivors of war, natural disasters, epidemics, famine, family suicide or childhood trauma.

My occasional symptoms are not the only manifestations of PTSD that inflict sufferers. Far from it. Here are some worse ones: Substance abuse, flashbacks, bad dreams, extreme depression, sleeplessness, loss of memory, sudden bouts of aggression, an inability to form relationships and a lack of trust in others, even loved ones. Everyone can experience these problems from time to time, but when they last more than a month and someone has been involved in a shooting war, raped, escaped a flood or lost their home, it’s a safe bet that they have PTSD.

Experts like to estimate the percentage of people who have had a specific trauma who end up suffering from PTSD, e.g. only (only!) 30% of Vietnam War veterans will display PSTD symptoms during their lives. Overall, the medical community believes that about 10% of the population will have PSTD, with the occurrence more common in women. I think all the official percentages of those experiencing traumatic conditions who end up with PSTD are low. Lots of people just suffer in silence, or they present symptoms that are poorly understood, e.g., the horde of men who came home from World War II and turned into distant, unemotional fathers and focused their waking hours solely on their careers and/or hid their fears and anxieties inside a bottle. As significant as underreporting is under-diagnosis: society has a vested interest in minimizing the psychic damage to those who fight wars; women who suffer sexual abuse; and the poor, usually minorities, who face food insecurity or have been moved out of their neighborhoods by urban planning or gentrification.

Whatever the unalloyed numbers are, only a fool or an ideologue would deny that a large percentage of the children torn from their families at border crossings will be scarred for life, unhappy, unable to achieve their potential, prone to depression or substance abuse, perhaps always feeling like a lonely outsider. These are human tragedies that didn’t have to occur.

But wait, the cynic among us, will say. These children were refugees from natural disasters or violence, so they already have undergone much trauma. These self-serving apologists seem to forget the special bond between children and their parents. Before the teen years, children’s lives revolve around their parents, who protect them, shelter them, feed them, love them, teach them basic values and provide them with models of human behavior. There’s a lot that parents do to protect children from trauma. They can do without so their children get what they need. They can turn a flight from terror into an adventure. They can articulate a rosy vision of the wonderful future in their new home. They can hug them and tell them they love them and that everything is going to turn out fine.

War, famine, terror, flooding, food insecurity, a sudden plunge into poverty—all children or young adults will handle any trauma better when part of a loving (or even not so loving) family when they face these evils.

But to do it without a parent? To be alone in a large cage inside a windowless building, being herded around by ominous-looking strangers, not knowing if and when you’ll ever see your family—the center of your life—again, not knowing where they are? Why were you torn away from them? When will you see them again? Why won’t they come get you? Don’t they love you anymore?

No matter how horrible a child’s life has been, it gets worse when it is taken from its family. Always.

The Trump Administration has tried an odious argument in favor of parent-child separations, stating that in many cases, the adults aren’t really the parents, but drug dealers who bought, borrowed or stole the children to make it easier to get through border control. Oh, sure there are. Just as there really was at least one woman on welfare who drove a late-model, fully-loaded Cadillac in the late 1970s. And I’m sure that Willie Horton really did commit a violent crime while on parole. But like Reagan’s welfare queen and Bush I’s paroled violent offender, the child who is part of an elaborate ploy to gain illegal admittance to the United States is a statistical anomaly. Studies show that there has never been very much welfare fraud and that most cons on parole say clean. And I’m quite certain that virtually all children who arrive at the border with adults are coming with their parents or another close family member, and not a drug dealer.

Reagan, Bush I and Trump all argued from anecdote and not from fact. The fact is that the United States started doing the “extreme vetting” Trump called for during the 2016 presidential campaign long before Trump demanded that we build a wall along the Mexican border. The proof of it is in the fact that immigrants—legal and otherwise—commit far fewer crimes per capita than native-born Americans. Under Clinton, Bush II and Obama, we developed a state apparatus which is quite good at keeping out bad actors. Breaking up families has not helped fight drug smuggling. It has done nothing but increase misery and assure that perhaps thousands of children will have emotional problems later in life. There was never any reason to automatically separate children from their parents at border control points.

Except of course, to assuage the base urge to be cruel to the downtrodden.

The cruelty of creating thousands of future PTSD sufferers is part of the greater cruelty of turning away refugees at the border. It reminds me of the cruelty with which southern sheriffs enforced Jim Crow laws or attacked Civil Rights protesters. It reminds me of the cruelty with which German soldiers treated Jews, white masters treated African-American slaves, and conquerors have treated the conquered throughout the ages. It’s as if the perpetrator of pain took—and takes—a special sadistic pleasure in hurting others.

In all cases, the underlying reason for the cruelty may have been humanity’s essential bloodthirstiness, but the excuse was that these were lesser people or not people at all—animals as Trump sometimes calls non-European immigrants.

But human beings are not animals. Those who think that some people are animals or no better than animals or want to treat them as animals are despicable human beings. The real deplorables, to take a phrase from the winner of the 2016 presidential popular vote.

American policy at home and abroad should not be to create more victims of PSTD, but to reduce the circumstances that lead to this psychic ailment.

Will Catholics follow Pope Francis and clamor against the death penalty? And will the Church now campaign against state execution like it has against abortion?

By making the opposition to capital punishment part of church law, Pope Francis cited a moral reason to oppose the death penalty: because “it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” Of course, morality is the first victim when people feel threatened. Fear stokes a certain American blood-thirstiness that made a majority of Americans approve the mass incarceration laws of the 1990s and the Bush II torture regime. Fear-induced bloodthirstiness has swayed large numbers of Americans to support the current administration’s mean-hearted treatment of immigrants and refugees.

Pew studies show that currently 54% of all Americans and 53% of Catholics favor the state killing people convicted of certain crimes. Only 39% of all Americans and 42% of Catholics oppose the death penalty. Will the Pope’s announcement change minds? Past experience suggest the answer is, “not many,” unless the Catholic Church engages in an aggressive campaign to promote the new position. Even that might not work, considering how many rightwing politicians depend on fear-mongering about crime, drugs, immigrants and terrorism to get elected.

Catholics in westernized nations, like their Jewish and Muslim cousins, find it an easy matter to reject religious teachings when it’s convenient for them to do so. A year ago, the Gutmacher Institute reported that 98% of all Catholic women will use birth control methods banned by the Church sometime in their lives. Another Gutmacher study showed that about 24% of all women who have abortions are Catholic. An older Gutmacher survey found that about 2.2% of Catholic women have an abortion each year, compared to 1.8% of Protestant women. About eight years ago, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that 61% of all American women will live in a sexual relationship with someone without the benefit of marriage sometime in their life; based on how Catholics compare to others when it comes to capital punishment, birth control and abortion, we can safely assume that the percentage among Catholics who cohabitate is about the same as the overall population. Thus, Catholics are used to using a “just say no” approach to the teachings of their religion.

We can only hope that the Catholic Church throws at least as many resources behind advocating against capital punishment as it has to oppose a woman’s right to control her own body.

Morality is just one of several reasons to oppose capital punishment. Here are some of the others:

  • It doesn’t work as a deterrent. The preponderance of the evidence from the studies done on the deterrent effect of capital punishment show that the fear of being executed does not stop murders. And it turns out that, as with a lot of research supporting rightwing positions, many studies claiming to show that capital punishment does deter people from taking the lives of others have severe methodological and mathematical errors. One researcher reran the numbers used in a survey supposedly proving that capital punishment works as a deterrent and found that it actually increased the murder rate!
  • Capital punishment is irrevocable: Juries make mistakes all the time. When the mistake is uncovered, the wrongly convicted person usually eventually gets out of jail. But society can’t reverse an execution.
  • Our adversarial legal system makes executing someone an expensive process. Executing an inmate on death row costs much more than sending an inmate to prison for life without the possibility of parole. Those sentenced to death are guaranteed by the Constitution to a very long, thorough and expensive judicial process before taking the needle. It costs states millions of dollars for each execution.
  • It is unfair, or at least will remain unfair as long as racism and poverty exist. The racial bias to capital verdicts in the United States has existed since record-keeping of such matters began. Wealthy people can afford expensive attorneys, whereas poor people often have to settle for overworked public defenders. The unfairness of capital verdicts reflects and magnifies the unequal treatment of minorities and the poor throughout the judicial system.
  • Virtually all other countries have abolished the death penalty: About 140 nations worldwide, including the vast majority of countries in Western Europe and the Americas, have abandoned capital punishment. The United States remains in the bad company of Iraq, Iran, China and other human rights abusers as countries still engaging in state execution. In the 21st century global village, capital punishment may have become “cruel and unusual punishment” and therefore inherently unconstitutional.
  • It demeans society. Capital punishment reduces society to the level of the murderer. As a society, we are supposed to be better than our worst elements.  Sparing the killer’s life makes us more human and more humane than the killer, and increases the value that our society puts on human life. Sparing the killer is an affirmation of our social contract to live in peace. Sparing the killer tells him or her, and the world, that when we say that human life is holy we mean it.

Of course, what the Pope is saying supersedes all these reasons. Even if capital punishment served as a deterrent, it would still be immoral. Even if it were no longer expensive for society or biased against racial minorities and the poor, it would still be immoral. Even if every country in the world allowed state executions, it would still be immoral.

New York Times news staff makes up false narrative that there are extreme differences between left & mainstream Democrats, but never tell us what those differences are

An unstated but obvious unofficial policy of the New York Times is to undercut the Democratic Party in news stories, even as it pretends to support virtually all of the positions that Democrats hold in its editorials.

The game this year consists of using the heavily-charged word “socialist” as much as possible to describe the more left-leaning Democrats while playing up a supposed generational divide between more progressive millennials and their centrist-leaning elders. As we will see, it’s a completely false narrative meant to suppress the Democratic vote and drive independents to hold their nose and vote for Trump’s-boot-licking Republicans. (Begging the question: Is that “boot” or “bootie” to which servile GOP candidates have placed their puckered lips.)

This Sunday’s Times followed this false narrative to a tee. Both the front page lead story and the lead story of the national news page focused exclusively on the divide between mainstream Democrats and the charismatic Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives who have won primaries. Both articles stress that Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders and others call themselves democratic socialists; sometimes the articles sometimes drop the “democratic.”

The problem is the Times never defines what a democratic socialist is and what democratic socialism stands for.

“Socialism,” of course has long been a dirty word in the United States invoking totalitarianism and complete social control to the right-wing and to the many centrists brainwashed by decades of fear of the Soviet Union’s corrupt and autocratic version of socialism. Right-wingers have long labeled such government programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps as “socialist” in hopes of convincing the public that because socialism was bad, so were these programs. They’ve labelled regulatory efforts as socialist. Their arguments would fail miserably unless the public accepted the premise that socialism was evil.

Which of course, it’s not. Historically, socialism referred to the government collectively owning and administering the means of production and distribution of goods. But in the real world, there’s a vast continuum of government intervention and control. Europe provides a number of models of democratic socialism: governments addressing social challenges such as health care, retirement and education; unions having a greater say in the management of companies or in the development of national industrial policy; greater regulation of businesses to protect the environment or consumers or set standards of employment and wages. The European democracies, Japan, Canada, and—let’s face it—even the United States all have mixed economies that graft various socialist solutions onto private enterprise and the free market.

By not getting into any of what constitutes democratic socialism, the Times let’s stand the decades of fear-mongering rightwing demonization of the word “socialism.”

Moreover, the Times attempts to exaggerate the differences between more centrist and more leftist Democrats by never talking about what those differences are. The headline of one of the articles says “Democrats Are Bracing for a Progressive Storm Brewing Far to the Left.” The articles quote a number of Democrats suggesting that extreme differences exist between mainstream Democrats and the candidates subscribing to “hard-left ideology.”

Yet in the two articles, which stretch across more than two pages of text and photographs, only three times does the Times mention what position any Democrat has on any issue. A phrase of text and a photo caption point out that Ben Jealous, running for governor in Maryland, is in favor of single payer health care. The other reference is this weird sentence referring to voters in Republican districts: “Across most of the approximately 60 Republican-held districts that Democrats are contesting, primary voters have chosen candidates who seem to embody change — many of them women and minorities — but who have not necessarily endorsed positions like single-payer health care and abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.” The only way to understand that sentence in the context of the article is to assume that single-payer and a desire to dismantle ICE are extremist positions with which mainstream Dems disagree.

The Times never mentions what the differences between the “far left” and the rest of the party are, never does an issue-by-issue comparison. And there’s a good reason for it. There are few real differences, and those that exist are quibbles, at best. While I’m quite confident that large numbers of Democrats do not want to see ICE abolished, virtually all want to see it reformed. Surveys suggest that most Dems like the single-payer concept when presented to them as “Medicare for all.”

Now let’s look at the large number of issues that the Times doesn’t mention. Surveys tell us that that virtually all Democrats:

  • Want to raise the minimum wage. The quibble in the past election cycle was that Bernie wanted to raise it to $15 right away, whereas Hillary wanted to do so over a period of time.
  • Want more government support of public education, especially higher education.
  • Think the tax package passed late last year was a giveaway to the rich and want to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations.
  • Want to give the Dreamers a path to citizenship and help refugees seeking asylum in the United States.
  • Are against the dismantling of regulations that protect the environment and consumers.
  • Support a woman’s right to an abortion and fear that Roe v. Wade may be overturned.
  • Support the Mueller investigation and want to prosecute any American who collaborated with the Russians to fix the election in favor of any candidate.

Most of all, virtually every Democrat wants to rein in Donald Trump by electing a Congress that is not afraid to overrule his actions with legislation and make certain that his appointees are competent and not irrational ideologues or thieving cronies.

As we have seen, all Democrats pretty much share the same basic views, especially when contrasted with the Trumpublicans. The only way to conceal this underlying unity, however, is not to mention or talk about issues, something that the Times news staff has proven itself quite capable of doing.

In-country with Trump supporters: As long as there are tax cuts and a conservative Supreme Court, they’re happy

I took a brief trip to Pittsburgh this week during the two-day outburst of treasonous remarks by Donald Trump, who first said he believed Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin over U.S. intelligence services, then tried to weasel out of it by focusing on one word of one sentence of a long diatribe, but still managed to get in a dig undermining the intelligence agencies yet again.

Being in Pittsburgh meant I spent some time with two old friends who are Trump supporters. Although both are long-time Republicans, neither is a virulent racist and both are old-fashioned cold warriors, so their support of Trump in light of his denial of Russian tampering in the 2016 elections and the likelihood his campaign colluded with the Russians is both frightening and illuminating.

One of my friends is a high-level professional service vendor in his late 50s whose expertise mostly helps nonprofit organizations. He lives in a distant white suburb and is extremely Christian, building virtually all of his non-work life around his church. My guess is his family’s net worth is about like mine—upper middle class. The other friend is in his late 70s, retired from working for the government in a position in which he primarily interacted with poor people. For decades has also pursued a career in the arts that has made him prominent local presence. He lives in a diverse city neighborhood and has libertarian views on social matters, although he is definitely against a woman’s absolute right to get an abortion. He barely scrapes by on his pension and savings.

There are many things that should have offended these guys about Trump from the first. His all-too-frequent rude comments and multiple marriages and affairs should have disgusted my Christian friend. As a small business entrepreneur, he should have seen through Trump’s bluster and realized the Donald is a bad businessperson except in the narrow specialty of mass-appeal branding. He should have also resented the thousands of lawsuits filed against Trump for breaking contracts with small contractors and suppliers. The racism and treatment of women should have turned off my friend who lives in the city, who has a number of African-American acquaintances and is what I call a “true ladies’ man,” meaning he always has a lady friend because he respects women and treats them as equal, at least in public.

Both of these guys have a hard time accepting reality when it contradicts their beliefs, but in profoundly different ways. The fervent Christian is used to dealing with facts and reality and is ready to accept science, but when the facts undermine his basic beliefs, the scales seem to fall from his eyes for literally a nanosecond before forming again as he retreats into an almost catatonic state in which he keeps repeating a core doctrine. Several times over the years I have tried to convince him that lowering taxes on the wealthy and corporations does not create jobs or grow the economy. I have carefully explained that the government spends all its money, whereas rich folk and business put their extra cash from a tax break into assets that form bubbles, like real estate and secondary stock market. He admitted that he—like me—has put the proceeds from our recent tax break into the secondary stock market, meaning it doesn’t go to any company and creates no new jobs. He had this moment of realization that I was right and then his eyes glazed over and he said in an affectless, hypnotized drone, “Tax cuts are good. We should cut taxes more.” Another time, he and a group of other conservatives who all owned companies that serve nonprofit organizations were complaining that their business was down. I patiently explained that a large number of their clients depend on government contracts and cuts by federal and state governments were choking these organizations. I proposed that we raise taxes to what they once had been so the state had more money to fund these organizations, all of which deliver vital services. Again, I could see the look of epiphany in their eyes—the beam that says, Eureka, “Yes, he’s right!” Then almost in unison, as if members of a cult, they said, “Can’t raise taxes. Must lower taxes more.” My friend’s faith in the false Reaganist creed of cutting taxes is as strong as his faith in the truth of every word in the Bible.

My other friend argues from a cynicism born of no faith in anything. He explicitly states that he prefers to believe a single anecdote that supports his argument than reams of facts and studies that prove that what he thinks is wrong. Now in Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman uses extensive research to show that many if not most people are exactly the same, putting more credence in anecdotes than facts. But hardly anyone admits it as brazenly as my friend, who reasons that all research is suspect because it always reflects the biases of the people or organizations paying for it. He lives in a post-Karl Rove world in which reality is a construct of those strong enough to force their version on everyone else. It was Rove who said, “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” My friend’s argues that if all research is inherently corrupt, he might as well believe the stuff that supports his side. It’s the scholarly equivalent of fake news. All news is fake and all pursuits of knowledge are fake. If it sounds like Machiavellian rhetoric, that’s because it is. His true belief may rely on faith, but he maintains it through a cynical and amoral disregard of truth. In this, he resembles Trump.

When I asked them why they continue to support Trump, I get the same answer: Trump has done more good than bad. They mention they like the tax breaks, the Supreme Court justices and placing the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. They also point out that they don’t like the tariffs. No mention of the treatment of immigrants or the massive rollback of regulations that protect the environment and consumers. In a real way, my friends reflect the attitude of Republican leadership, which forgives anything Trump does or says, as long as they get their tax breaks, relief from government regulation and a conservative Supreme Court. If Trump delivers those things, they’ll overlook all of the man’s failings. And that includes treason.

The Trump Administration is never afraid to hurt children in its never-ending quest to create markets for its cronies

There always have been a limited number of ways for companies to sell more goods or services. The most obvious are to develop new products or to sell in new territories or to new markets, the latter being the point of global trade. Just as significant is to the creation of new needs for an existing product or service—new reasons to buy the same product from the company or industry, as when a pharmaceutical company finds a new use for an existing prescription drug. Sometimes, the economy or society itself creates the new need. A few old examples should suffice: In the 19th century, once states required many professionals to pass rigorous examinations that tested knowledge of standardized but highly specialized information, there was a new need to educate lawyers, physicians and other professionals which led to the rapid expansion of universities. During the same century, the consolidation of regional companies into national corporations created a new need for advertising. The rise of the fast food industry in the 20th expanded the market for throwaway plates, bowls and utensils enormously.

Most lobbying of legislatures and the administrative offices of the executive branch of state and federal governments is intended to make sure government either helps to create a new market or doesn’t do anything to shrink an existing market. An example of the former is to enter into an agreement with foreign countries that lowers tariffs on the products a company sells. An example of the later is to ban the use of a certain material, say lead in paint or gasoline. These governmental decisions result in companies and industries gaining or losing business. Almost since the founding of the United States, companies, especially larger ones, have made sure that elected officials understand that.

Unfortunately, all too often, our elected officials listen and respond with laws, regulations and policies that reward a few, typically contributors, at the expense of the many.

And all too often in the Trump Administration, the actions that create a new market for their cronies and contributors involve directly hurting children. We can see this most obviously in the recent policy to break up families that are seeking refugee status in the United States from countries south of the border, sending parents to one center and children to another. It is now well-documented that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has depended heavily on private organizations to process, house and feed the tens of thousands of refugee men, women and children nabbed at border crossings. Estimates of how much it costs to house each child range from $600-$900 a day, most of which goes into the hands of private companies that have courted Trump and Pence for years. Considering the accommodations, the profit margins must be phenomenal.

This week’s brouhaha over the United Nation’s World Health Assembly statement on breastfeeding is a virtual repeat of the decision to imprison everyone who tries to enter the country and take their children from them. Trump attempted to bully the UN and the rest of the world to help companies selling infant formula. But that policy hurts children. Virtually every expert agrees that breastfeeding an infant produces healthier and smarter babies who have fewer health problems later on and tend to live longer. But of course every baby who is breastfed is one less family buying infant formula, which, while a good substitute when breast-feeding is impossible or harmful to the mother, should for most mothers be a distant second choice to breastfeeding. We may not see the horrible photos of traumatized children and parents, but policies and advertising that steer mothers away from breastfeeding are nonetheless harmful to large numbers of children.

When the UN wanted to issue a strong statement recommending that mothers breastfeed, Trump officials went bat-shit crazy, pushing their weight around and threatening trade sanctions and withdrawal of military aid if any nation dare support a resolution at the United Nations. America officials wanted to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding.” The administration’s threats made Ecuador back down from introducing the resolution.

To quote the New York Times, “Health advocates scrambled to find another sponsor for the resolution, but at least a dozen countries, most of them poor nations in Africa and Latin America, backed off, citing fears of retaliation, according to officials from Uruguay, Mexico and the United States.” The reason the administration didn’t like full-hearted support for breast feeding was obvious to everyone from the beginning. The Trump Administration wanted to avoid narrowing the market opportunities for Abbot, Nestles and other makers of infant formula.

Unlike the fiasco at the border, the latest attempt to ignore science and put the interests of business first even though it directly hurts thousands of children, has a somewhat happy ending. One nation proved fearless enough to agree to introduce the resolution in its strongest version. For some reason, this nation didn’t fear retaliation from Trump. For some reason, Trump feared pissing off this nation and refused to threaten it in any way.

That country was Russia.

Yes, Russia became the hero of the moment, defending both science and the right of families all over the world to get accurate information and the best nutrition for their children.

Meanwhile, America continues to lose the respect of the rest of the world.

Especially appalling—and depressing—is that direct harm to children is the end result of so many efforts by the Trump Administration to create business opportunities for its cronies. Trump doesn’t seem to care if he creates a generation of PTSD sufferers by ripping children from their families. He doesn’t seem to care if millions of babies around the world could get inferior nutrition, which will shorten their lives. Trump and his Education Secretary Betsy DeVos don’t care that all the studies show that well-funded public schools produce better educated students than do private schools or charter schools. In all three cases, the Trump Administration believes the best interests of industry far outweigh the health or educational needs of children.

We celebrated the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, but we live every day by a Constitution that the Supreme Court says favors property over people

Whether grilling hamburgers, attending a parade, watching fireworks, playing softball or zoning out to the Dirty Hairy binge-a-thon on Sundance TV, our celebration of July 4th commemorated an obsolete document.

All the fuss about Independence Day celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence, easily recognized by its key passage, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The idea that animates the Declaration of Independence is equality of rights and opportunity for all men (which at the time meant white males but has since been expanded to include people of color and women). This ideal, however, was superseded by the Constitution, which as interpreted by the Supreme Court almost from its first case onward, holds as government’s primary function the protection of private property. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America” is how the Constitution begins. Sounds like a contract between large corporations, which, as it turns out it was, and is.

I have been reminded of the predominance of property over people in U.S. law reading We the Corporations: How American Corporations Won Their Civil Rights, Adam Winkler’s breezy history of Supreme Court decisions that have gradually recognized and expanded the rights of corporations. As Winkler notes, one strand of legal thinking shared by many of the rich white merchants and slave owners who wrote the Constitutions “understood the Constitution largely in terms of protecting private property and private economic relations from majority rule.” This theory predominates the thinking of the Reagan Era right wing. It is a guiding principle of the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Mercatus Center and other 21st century right-wing propaganda mills. It animates the political contributions of the Koch brothers. (see Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains.)

One ramification of the industrial and financial revolutions after the Civil War was that vast amounts of property (wealth) were transferred from the hands of individuals to corporate control. Even though individuals controlled corporations and other individuals owned them, a corporation was something different from the sum of those individuals. In essence, a corporation comprises its tangible and intangible assets and its debts (which are negative forms of property) and thus is nothing more or less than a piece of property, no less than land, furniture, equipment or the right to use an image.

Early on, the managers and owners of corporations wanted to assert corporate rights, while governments and reformers wanted to restrict them. It was up to the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution and decide what rights corporations—compositions of property and property rights—had. According to Winkler, the “corporate rights” movement developed alongside the Civil Rights movement, and was more successful earlier on.

From the turn of the 20th century to just before World War II in what is known as the “Lochner Era,” named after a 1905 case, the Supreme Court distinguished between property rights and liberty rights. The court gave property rights to corporations, but not liberty rights, such as the right to free speech. In fact, it was in this era that the first laws were passed limiting the ability of corporations to give money to support candidates. But the Court in the Lochner Era also invalidated state and federal legislation that constrained corporations, such as minimum wage laws, federal child labor laws, and regulations of the banking, insurance and transportation industries.

After World War II, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren focused much more on protecting the rights of individuals, but to the degree that these included property rights, Court decisions also helped corporations.

Since Nixon replaced four Supreme Court justices with pro-business conservatives in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Court has gradually recognized that corporations—again, collections of property owned collectively by individuals—have liberty rights, too, in decisions such as First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, in which the Court ruled that corporations had a First Amendment right to speak and spend freely on ballot referenda. The coup-de-grace for corporate liberty rights was, of course, Citizens United, which has enabled corporations to give unlimited amounts of “dark money” to support candidates.

By giving corporations that same rights as individuals, the Supreme Court has enthroned property as more important than “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” It has also created a number of asymmetries which give large corporations overwhelming advantages over smaller businesses and individuals. While corporations can’t cast votes, they have greater influence over elections than individuals because they have more money to spend. Once de facto limits are removed from campaign contributions, as Citizens United did, those with more money have more votes. Likewise in employment: the corporate entity has the power not to hire someone who doesn’t accept an arbitration agreement.

Most Americans like to think that the great arc of history—and in particular American history—bends towards freedom and justice for all, as Martin Luther King once said. The freeing of the slaves, the gaining of the right to vote, minimum wage, child labor and overtime laws, the end of legal segregation, gay marriage—these are all milestones in the American pursuit of liberty and equal opportunity. But Winkler’s conclusion in We the Corporations is that over the course of time, corporations have won more constitutional rights than have individuals. And every win for corporations is a win for property over people. Remember, we live by the Constitution, not the Declaration. Our right to pursue happiness—enshrined by the Declaration of Independence—exists, but it’s not as strong or as meaningful as the rights of a corporation to pursue profit for the rich folk who own it.

Despite the many recent setbacks & the fear that Roe V. Wade could be overturned, progressives have some cause for optimism

Just about everyone with whom I’ve spoken these past few days is stunned and depressed because of the accelerating accumulation of Trump Administration actions that are against the best interests of most Americans, morally offensive, signs of a growing autocratic state or some combination of the three.

At the risk of driving half my readership to drink, dope or anti-depressants, let me review the terrible stuff to happen just this week:

  • We began to recognize the full extent of the incompetence and cruelty with which the administration is prosecuting its zero tolerance policy against refugee families.
  • The Supreme Court issued several horrible 5-4 decisions, including Janus v. AFSCME, which could gut public sector unions, and Trump v. Hawaii, which upheld the right of Donald Trump to impose a travel band even if his public comments demonstrate the ban is meant to discriminate against one religious group.
  • Trump announced a July summit with Vladimir Putin, where he is sure to give away whatever of the store is left after his capitulations to North Korea.
  • The trade war with allies intensified and we began to see analyses that show that the net effect of Trump’s tariffs even before the imminent trade war will be to create a few jobs in shrinking industries like steel manufacturing while destroying jobs in growth industries such as renewable resources.
  • Another mass murder—this one of journalists—with no federal gun control law anywhere close to being passed.
  • The kicker of course was the announcement that Anthony Kennedy was retiring from the Supreme Court allowing Trump to replace a right-wing, pro-business ideologue who was okay with gay marriage and abortion with a right-wing, pro-business ideologue who is against gay marriage and abortion. Most liberals expect and fear that Roe V. Wadewill soon be overturned and from 18-26 states will ban abortion outright.

Every week it seems we get hit by more and more of these abominations. No wonder most of us on the left are feeling a little punch-drunk right now, as if we can’t take any more of these constant hits to our body politic. Over the past two weeks I have heard more pessimistic sentiments from liberal acquaintances than over the previous two years. Friends and acquaintances are now sure that Trump will avoid impeachment and win again in 2020, with the help of voter suppression and Donald’s best bud in Moscow. Others rightfully despair that we will likely get the most politically activist right-wing Supreme Court in American history. Others seem to be suffering contact post-traumatic stress disease (PTSD), as they see the bleak images of children crying in cages and learn more about the biggest federal government botch job since the Bush II’s Iraq and Katrina debacles. We feel powerless to help ease the pain of these children, and we know the horrible truth that the psychological part of it will persist for decades after the proximate cause is removed. I can still conjure the images and emotions of several childhood traumas I suffered, but even worse are my imagined sufferings that my son never went through, but could have. I know I’m among tens of millions of parents who have transferred empathy for their own children to the innocent children Trump’s ICE took away from their parents. It’s a miserable feeling of helplessness.

(Aside: A lack of competence seems to characterize all ideological regimes, in the United States as elsewhere. Just think of the similarities between the Trump regime and the Soviet Union under the communists.  People get positions because of their ideological purity or emotional proximity to the great leader, not competence. Competent people who disagree with the party line lose their jobs. Decisions are made based on the a priori beliefs of the great leader or the ruling elite, even if those decisions ignore scientific evidence or empirical experience. The results are half-baked policies which are then implemented incompetently.)

The current emotional depression (as opposed to the economic one likely to come in a few years) deepens into despair for those who consider that the rationale for most of the policies that Trump has implemented are pure lies: Environmental protections do not hurt the economy or diminish jobs. We do not have a problem with too many immigrants, and in fact could use some more to fill the many open positions our economy now has. Immigrants commit less crime than native-born Americans and increase the jobs and income of non-immigrants. Our allies were not taking advantage of us in treaties. Iran was not ignoring the terms of the nuclear agreement. Cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations does not lead to greater investment in new jobs. Socialized healthcare keeps populations healthier and costs less per person. Then there are the filthy lies, like the one that an overwhelming majority of government aid recipient are minorities or that minorities receive preferential treatment by schools, employees and government. Not one part of the Trumpite program starts with a factual basis.

Like patients of talk therapy, let’s pick at the open wound and dig deeper into the dismal morass of the current political situation by remembering that Trump is not a solitary figure who upset everyone’s apple cart, but only the extreme version of Reagan Republicanism. Other than tariffs, consider how similar Trump’s actions have been in office to what the rest of the field save Kasich was advocating. Just about all Republicans since Reagan have retreated to a large degree from the fact-based universe when it did not jibe with the ideology they wanted to impose on reality. Just about all have been more interested in power than fairness in government. All have supported privatization of basic services as a way to reward their contributors and business allies. All have worked almost exclusively for the interests of the wealthy and extremely wealthy, while stringing along the religious right by supporting anti-woman and anti-LGBTQ positions. All have worked to restrict voting rights. Just about all have played the race card with frequency, usually in a subtle code language.

If the Republican Party has seemed quick to embrace Trump despite his ignorance, autocratic predilections, uncivility and overt racism and sexism, it is merely because it has been moving in those directions since Reagan fanaticized about welfare queens driving Cadillacs and Americans workers vampirized of every incentive to work by cheap, free healthcare. What that means is that Republicans are happy to see us slip into fascism, as long as a white majority elects the autocrats running and ruining the country for the benefit of the ultra-wealthy.

A pretty grim situation, and yet I have hope.

My hope comes from the fact that even with restrictive voting laws, if all the constituencies of the Democratic Party come out to vote, the Democrats can still control the House and Senate and win the Electoral College. It will take a massive effort to register voters and then get them out to the polls, but it can be done.

My hope comes from knowing that groups that tend to vote Democratic are growing—college educated white women, millennials, minorities, whereas groups that have now tend to vote Republican are shrinking—whites without education, evangelicals.

I’m hopeful because millennials and minorities are pushing the Democrats left, so that when they do take power again, the Dems will more likely be emboldened to make real change—Medicare for all, a trillion-dollar infrastructure program, steep tax increases on the wealthy, legislating all the environmental regulations the Trump administration has been rolling back, responding to all the crap that’s going to come out of the Roberts’ Court with overriding legislation.

We are in the final stages of a coup d’état by a theocratic autocracy, but all is not lost, as long as we have the right to vote. But for once, we have to exercise it and do so with some common sense. Whoever the candidate for whatever the office, we have to vote for the Democrat, and not the independent, the “good Republican,” the Green Party candidate or none of the above. At the same time, we have to vote and support the most left-leaning candidate in every Democratic primary.

So in the gloom of the summer of our discontent, fellow lefties, let’s dream of November and think not just about voting but helping others to register and get to the polls.