It’s Time For Media and Liberals to Stop Helping Trump Win

It is curious that a fair number of Americans claim to detest Donald Trump like plague, and yet they are at the forefront of promoting him and his agenda due to their obsession with his social media activities. By now everyone on the planet knows Trump is an incompetent fool and a mentally unstable narcissist, so it is mind boggling that so many allegedly “smart” people hang on his every social media action and then share his message with the world. It is something he depends and thrives on and uses to his advantage.

Early on in Trump’s tenure a few pundits and some relatively intelligent people said it would be helpful if Americans would just ignore Trump’s Twitter tirades and not give the petulant little child the attention he craves.  Finally, one of those “smart guys” made an easy to understand graphic titled “A Taxonomy of Trump Tweets” explaining how Trump uses Twitter to his advantage and how the media is complicit in giving Trump the messaging advantage.

The “smart guy” is a real academic who has spent years explaining exactly how a tyrannical maniac like Trump could easily garner support in America among a certain group of people. They are the kind of people who need a strong daddy figure to tell them how, what, and when to think, and who to turn to for the solution to all their perceived ills.

George Lakoff was describing a “Trump-like” personage ages ago and he has once again taken the time to inform Americans, especially those in mainstream media and active on social media, how they are complicit in helping Trump’s strategy by repeating his messages.

Mr. Lakoff knows of what he speaks as an acclaimed Professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He recently put his expertise to work outlining the “four ways that the president Trump uses his tweets to control the news cycle.” Lakoff took to Trump’s favorite media outlet, Twitter, to inform journalists and social media devotees how “Trump uses social media as a weapon to control the news cycle. It works like a charm. His tweets are tactical rather than substantive. They mostly fall into one of four categories.”

The categories begin with “preemptive framing;” such as promoting the idea that the “hacking of the DNC” was the DNC’s fault and that Hillary Clinton “lost by a wide margin.” Both claims are false, but with valuable assistance from the media and Democrats “retweeting” Trump’s lies, he was wildly successful “framing and promoting an idea” with no basis in fact. Both of those ideas still resonate with his base of support because “real media” types kept his false assertions in the news for months.

Trump has survived thus far using another strategy, “diversion,” to shift attention away from his corruption and incompetence as well as his Russia problems. It is a tactic he was busy using throughout the 2016 campaign continuing to the present. Mr. Lakoff referred to Trump attacking a Hollywood icon, Meryl Streep, in a tweet two weeks prior to his poorly attended inauguration to enrage Americans and shift their attention away from the reporting on his personal conflicts of interest and his administration’s Russia-collusion problems.

A related scheme, “deflection” has been a mainstay of Trump’s Twitter strategy and an integral part of his administration’s messaging, especially when dealing with any unflattering or factual media reporting. A perfect example is what Lakoff noted was “attacking the messenger” to reframe a story to benefit Trump. By attacking the media as “fake news” Trump not only “erodes public trust,”  he “establishes Trump as the only source of truth and facts.” Trump began calling any media outlet that reported truthfully “fake news” early in his campaign and it was so successful he has had no reason to stop now.

The last category is what Mr. Lakoff calls the “trial balloon” to test the media and public’s reaction to an idea; such as his public flirtation with starting a new nuclear arms race or an actual American nuclear first strike. In fact, Mr. Lakoff noted that Trump’s “big nuclear” button tweet was another “trial balloon which Trump deployed spectacularly.”

Professors Lakoff explained on Twitter that:

Each tweet gets his message retweeted so he dominates social media. Reporters, social media influencers, and many others fall for it hook, line, and sinker. Every time…They may think they’re negating or undermining him, but that’s not how human brains work. As a cognitive scientist, I can tell you: Repeating his messages only helps him.”

Lakoff explained that repeating his tweets are helping “embed Trump’s message into the brains of millions of people, increase his credibility with his base,” and focus all attention on Trump as if “he is the most important thing in the world.”

As this author has preached since last November, Trump’s Twitter activity needs to be completely ignored. Or at least as Professor Lakoff suggested; “take a different approach to Trump’s social media antics” and “put them in a quiet corner of the newspaper like a throwaway item at the end of the newscast.

Professor Lakoff said one thing that cannot be overstated. Instead of being captivated by Trump’s social media activity, Americans should be “keeping a steely focus on what actually matters.”

Honest to dog, it is a travesty that many Americans are still unaware that their government is being dismantled, Republicans are transferring the Treasury and wealth of the nation to the richest one-percent, and religious Republicans are in the midst of a monumental assault on women and gays. It is not that these stories are being neglected; it is that too many Americans are focused on the latest tweet from what Lakoff said is “this disgraceful man” who dominates the media.

At this point, no media outlet or journalist has to use Trump’s “Twitter” outrages to portray him as “childish or deranged,” and the same is true of social media devotees. Of course Trump is a screaming lunatic, but spreading his insanity across social media is not “negating or undermining him.” It just emboldens him and makes him appear to be the most important thing on Earth. It also feeds his narcissistic need to dominate social media and the current news cycle; it is why he never fails to unleash something bizarre at the beginning of every weekend to keep his name in the news.

Mr. Lakoff makes many good points, but none better than “we must stop letting Trump control the media — and Americans’ minds.” While Trump dominates every stinking new cycle because the media is laser focused on his twitter activity, Republicans are raping and pillaging the nation and the government with little to no public outrage or media coverage. What is particularly appalling is that while Americans, and the media, are enthralled with Trump’s latest Twitter activity, Republicans are viciously attacking women’s rights for the evangelical fanatics in league with the Vatican.

It has now been nearly two years since Trump became “a thing” of interest for the media and they have made him the most important story on Earth based on “tweets.” It is damned high time for journalists, the media at large, and “social media influencers” to grow up, focus on how Republicans and religion are destroying America and for dog’s sake stop helping Trump win the media war.

Trump’s America Is In Thrall of Special Interests

Donald Trump’s crusade to neuter federal regulatory agencies by appointing nominees with monumental conflicts of interest, and in many cases outright animus for whichever agency they eventually run continues unabated. It is a sad commentary, but it appears there are no federal agencies remaining to protect the American people from predatory special interests because they are run by predatory special interests. It is unclear if it was the kind of change Trump and Republican supporters really wanted, but regardless their intent, it is a travesty that malcontent racists, bigots, and religious fanatics have put all Americans at the mercy of predacious special interests.

As has been the case for the past year, the newest head of an important federal regulatory agency spent three decades waging war on the agency he is now leading. Obviously, Trump is too much of a lazy ignoramus and too disinterested in governing to have sought out a confirmed enemy of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), so it almost certainly fell to the Heritage Foundation to find the perfect energy industry surrogate to run the agency responsible for regulating the energy industry.

The newly sworn-in head of FERC, Kevin McIntyre, was a partner in a “prominent” Washington, D.C. law firm with close ties to the energy companies that are now under his regulatory purview. The law firm also represented Trump during the 2016 campaign.

As ThinkProgress reported, the energy industry advocate had close “ties to energy companies that fall under the FERC jurisdiction that were so numerous and ran so deep that his swearing-in as chairman of the agency was delayed to give him more time to ‘officially’ sever his close attorney-client relationships.”

This is the first time in nearly 30 years that a nominee went directly from representing the energy industry to running the agency responsible for regulating the energy industry. Moreover, in Kevin McIntyre’s case, those so-called “former” energy industry clients are “numerous and powerful” entities.

According the financial disclosure McIntyre submitted to the Office of Government Ethics, during the past two years the Trump-appointed FERC chairman represented several different “energy and utility companies” that have cases currently before the FERC. Those former clients include energy industry giants American Electrical Power Corp. (AEP) and Enable Mainstream Partners LP.

As a legal advocate for the energy industry for decades, it is not out of the ordinary for a partner in a “prominent” law firm fighting regulatory agencies to represent giant corporate interests. However, both of those energy giants McIntyre representedagainst the FERC have important “cases under consideration” by the same FERC he now heads as chair. In normal times, McIntyre’s nomination would have raised ‘conflict of interest’ red flags and engendered major opposition from every direction, but these are far from normal times because America is in thrall of special interests.

For a perfect example of why an energy industry advocate running a federal agency tasked with “regulating” a former client is sheer madness, consider two cases involving McIntyre’s “former” client AEP.

Several of AEP’s subsidiaries are accused of generating profits exceeding the rate rules set by the FERC, a case that Mr. McIntyre likely was at least aware of as a member of the legal team representing the energy giant. Similarly, another AEP subsidiary filed a complaint with the FERC accusing an electrical grid operator of unfair treatment. There are only two options to settle both of the cited cases involving McIntyre’s “former” client AEP; including one that seems unrealistic at best.

With a former corporate energy industry lawyer leading FERC, it does not appear likely that AEP will choose the option to reach an equitable settlement each side can live with. If AEP just refuses to reach an equitable deal and opts for option two, then their former legal advocate and now head of FERC will settle the issue for them with his majority Republican “commission.” One cannot imagine energy giant AEP having any interest in a deal that is fair to both sides with their former legal advocate as adjudicator.

McIntyre is just one in a long list of Trump appointees with strong corporate ties and just as strong conflicts of interest. By now a couple of Americans may realize that a significant number of Trump’s appointees hold radical views about the agencies they run whether they represent a corporate or religious special interest. As noted by Mark Hand, Trump’s corporate and special interest radicals “hold views that are much more extreme than policy positions espoused by officials in previous presidencies.”

That is very bad news for Americans who have all but lost what little protection they had prior to special interests running the government. In McIntyre’s case, there is no better example of a special interest advocate running a federal regulatory agency — like nearly all of Trump’s administration.

Mr. McIntyre admitted to reporters that the past thirty years of his career have been solely dedicated to defending the energy industry from the FERC, but he also claimed that he could stay neutral – under certain conditions.

McIntyre pledged in an ethics letter that he would not “participate personally and substantially in any particular manner involving specific parties” with ties to his former law firm; unless he obtains a waiver from one of the ethics officials at the agency he leads. He also claimed that he would not be a participant in any case that involves a former client; unless he receives prior authorization from an official at the agency he runs as Chairman.

It is now clear that there was a definite plan to fill top positions at regulatory agencies that had nothing to do with protecting the people. Trump has put a rash of corporate lawyers and special interest lobbyists to regulate the special interests they recently lobbied or advocated for in court and they have already started adversely impacting the people.

Obviously, Trump and Republicans comprehend that it is no easy task to abolish regulatory agencies and departments, but they are doing the next best thing by either starving them of funding or putting people in charge who have no interest in enforcing any regulations that protect the people. At this point it is difficult to tell if there are any federal agencies not being run by either the special interests they are supposed to regulate or long-time enemies of the agency they run; like Scott Pruitt at the EPA or Betsy DeVos at the Education Department.

It is no exaggeration to claim that the great majority of the federal government is now being run by corporate and religious special interests controlled and funded by a few Republican donors and oligarchs. The depressing aspect of this horror story is that this is the new “normal” and apparently it is no big deal that another corporate surrogate is running an important federal regulatory agency. Americans will soon learn that they now live under a government in thrall of special interests with no regard for the general welfare of the United States as a nation or the people. This nation’s government is the definition of a corporate fascist state and instead of a power-grab or coup d’état, all it took was a system that allows stupid, racist, and religious people to vote.

Inherent Cruelty Drives Sessions’ Reefer Madness Obsession

Any American who still believes Republicans are not inherently cruel after the past 12 months is either brain dead or a savage. In case anyone needs an example of just how fiendish Republicans are according to their political nature, Trump’s lying attorney general is the poster child for what any decent person considers unusually cruel.

Sessions more than meets the definition of cruel because he is not only the kind of sub-human that “willfully causes pain or suffering to others and feels no concern about it,” he embraces it with religious fervor as his personal cause célèbre. British authorGeorge Eliot once explained that for people like Sessions and his Republican cohorts, cruelty for the sake of being cruel is its own reward and motivation. He said:

Cruelty requires no motive outside itself; it only requires opportunity.”

As attorney general, Sessions has a stellar opportunity to exercise a particularly nasty form of cruelty; cause pain and suffering to other American citizens for no apparent reason other than causing pain and suffering.

It is true that Republicans are cruel in taking healthcare, food and housing from the poor, the elderly and children, but at least they attempt to justify that barbarism with fake regard for the national debt and deficit. Of course, that justification is sheer bunk and does not excuse the Republicans’ cruelty, but they are being cruel for a reason; an expectation of recompense from their wealthy donors.

However, this Jeff Sessions character is a different breed of cruel and barbaric. He is on an obsessive religious crusade to punish Americans suffering myriad infirmities, deadly diseases, injuries and disabilities because he is in a position of authority. Sessions intends to punish sick Americans for no other reason than satisfying his unhealthy obsession by restricting access to a medicine that provides relief to millions of suffering Americans.

Even though there is no profit to him in advancing the “reefer madness” crusade, there are Republican donors in big pharma and the private prison industry that see dollar signs if Sessions succeeds in shutting down legalized medicinal and recreational cannabis in the states. Nevertheless, even that motivation appears to play little role in Sessions’ personal religious crusade against weed.

Sessions has had an unhealthy obsession about marijuana for ages and last week he turned that obsession into a seriously cruel action. As expected, Sessions rescinded the “Cole Memo” that protected states with legal cannabis and sent warning letters with “factual errors to the leaders of four states with legal cannabis markets.” He also asked Congress to give him permission to act on his obsession to prosecute medical marijuana companies because they provide relief for suffering Americans.

That Sessions again asked Congress for permission to pursue legal cannabis sales is further proof he suffers an honest-to-dog religious fanaticism about reefer. He even told Congress that legal weed is responsible for what he said was “the current historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”

The DOJ must be in a position to use all laws available to combat  drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”

Sessions was referring to states that have legal and regulated medicinal and recreational cannabis that have no connection to “drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers.”  Legal cannabis also has no connection to “the current historic [opioid] drug epidemic” much less “a potential long-term uptick in violent crime.” This lying freak of nature Sessions is obsessed to a level that precludes him from serving in any government capacity, much less as attorney general.

Sessions has already spent no small amount of time this year pressuring Congress not to reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment that prohibits the federal government from interfering with states that decriminalized medicinal or recreational pot use. The House told Sessions no, and for good measure Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a Senate amendment identical to the House version that easily passed over Sessions’ objections. Congress does not believe Sessions is in line with the will of the people or medical science of the past 40 years or so; he certainly has no compassion for the suffering of others.

These actions are not new for the reefer-obsessed Sessions. If he would exercise a fraction of regard for Americans’ civil and voting rights as he does people using a medicine he does not like, then he may not be a complete waste of oxygen. It is not just that Sessions lusts to restrict Americans from gaining relief from cannabis, he wants to eliminate what is being reported everywhere as “an effective tool for opioid users to break addiction cycles.”

This is particularly telling after Trump made a big deal about addressing the opioid crisis and epidemic, and after a House Democrat schooled and scolded Sessions for spreading lies about cannabis. He still maintains that the weed has no medicinal value for anything despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In fact, in a speech at the Heritage Foundation recently he blamed the opioid crisis and epidemic on states that legalized medicinal or recreational cannabis use.

Sessions is as big a liar as he is a racist religious fanatic and he is stuck in a long-gone era when another maniac created “reefer madness” to scare the life out of Americans.  Sessions actually told a group that his plan to strike down state cannabis laws is by utilizing more “reefer madness” propaganda; what he calls “education.” He told the group:

I do believe … that the public is not properly educated on some of the issues related to marijuana.”

Sessions does not have any “issues related to marijuana” to educate the public with; he has 1936-era government created “Reefer Madness” propaganda, but there are no issues to support Sessions’ religious belief that cannabis has no medicinal properties or value whatsoever. If Sessions is a predictably deceitful liar, and he is nothing if not a predictably deceitful liar, he will repeat what he said at the Heritage Foundation and launch a taxpayer-funded campaign blaming the opioid epidemic on states with legal cannabis.

Seriously, even as study after study after state-level data demonstrates that cannabis is an effective means of reducing opioid use, Sessions blames the epidemic on reefer. Sessions has no excuse for not knowing cannabis is effective in reducing opioid use because in late October House Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) informed him about the data and benefits of cannabis. Mr. Cohen told Sessions:

“Twenty-eight states or 29 states and the District of Columbia have legalized it [marijuana] for medical purposes; eight states and the District of Columbia for recreational purposes. In states where they’ve got medical marijuana, they have 25 percent less opioid use. It gives people a way to relieve pain without using opioids, which inevitably leads to death and crime. So I’d hope you’d take a look at that.”

Sessions promised Representative Cohen under oath in the House that:

“I will take a look at it. We will be looking at some rigorous analysis of the marijuana usage and how it plays out. I am not as optimistic as you.”

Sessions did not look at anything or he would not launch his fanatical religious crusade to stop Americans from using cannabis as medicine or for recreation. The research about the benefits of cannabis for a rash of ailments is beyond dispute and easily accessible to everyone. If Sessions really wants to “properly educate the public on some of the issues related to marijuana,” he can send them over to the NIH’s federal government website page titled “Cancer and Cannabis,” or refer them to a fairly technical medical study describing in great detail exactly how the THC in cannabis kills cancer cells.

Sessions has what appears to be a certifiable obsessive disorder about cannabis that no amount of empirical data or pathological proof will alter whatsoever. If Sessions were not certifiably batshit about weed, he would believe the mounds of research disproving his unfounded faith. However, losing his faith about cannabis would impact his intrinsic need to willfully cause pain and suffering to others by eliminating their access to a safe medicine.

Look, there is no reason for Sessions to pursue the states that decriminalized weed except to punish the people who get relief from cannabis. Medicinal or recreational cannabis does not cost the government any money and in fact is a revenue-generatingbit of commerce for states. That revenue stream is helping fund law enforcement, drug treatment programs, education and other social programs. Legalization has also eliminated the need for anything resembling “black market transactions.

Of course, Sessions is getting push-back from Republicans and Democrats alike, especially from the states. However, the issue is much more than about states’ rights or the will of the people or the benefit to state budgets with regulated cannabis sales. Although those are all valid reasons to rail against Sessions’ religious crusade against cannabis, there is the issue of him openly campaigning to deliberately inflict pain and suffering on the people he is supposed to protect.

Sessions deserves to be figuratively crucified as a cruel savage for making moves to “willfully cause pain and suffering to others without an ounce of remorse.” One would call Sessions a savage beast, but there are no “beasts” in the animal kingdom that inflict pain and suffering for the sake of inflicting pain and suffering; that is unique to human beings and wholly embraced by Jeff Sessions because he is a uniquely cruel Republican.

Image: Cannabis Culture

Republicans Set The Stage To Dismantle the Federal Government

It has taken decades, but it appears that anti-government crusader Grover Norquist’s dream of cutting the government down to a size he can drown in a bathtub is on the verge of becoming reality. No doubt 2018 will go down as a watershed year for Republicans who finally have the authority to at least begin achieving one of the conservative movement’s raison d’être.

It has been the Republican Party’s wet dream to “devolve government to the local level” since FDR and the 1930’s New Deal and they took a giant step towards that goal with a massive gift to corporations and the wealthy who own them. In case there is any confusion, “devolve government to the local level” means abolishing the federal government in its entirety – including all agencies, acts of Congress, departments and programs created for “the general welfare” of the people.

Many Americans are either too stupid or have not been paying attention to the ulterior motive behind the GOP’s “monumental tax scam;” it goes beyond forcing the majority of population to fund corporate and religious entitlements or transferring the U.S. treasury to the oligarchs funding the Republican movement. Although those are crucial to the Republicans’ and Trump’s plan to make America great for the wealthy, they are not the only goal.

The larger goal is what Trump’s chief advisor Steve Bannon described as “deconstructing the administrative state.” Since Trump, the Kochs, and congressional Republicans are prohibited from issuing an edict abolishing all federal agencies, acts, departments and established laws, they will “defund the administrative state” instead.

Republicans will still collect taxes from working class Americans, but instead of funding federal agencies that serve the people, they will give those tax dollars to corporations and religious groups in the form of entitlements. When tax revenue stops covering entitlements for the rich and the religious, Republicans will “defund the administrative state” with extreme prejudice; that will be a major Republican goal in 2018.

Bloomberg reported yesterday that former Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said that Trump and congressional Republicans’ decision to add significant debt in the form of tax cuts for the rich is leaving the country broke. Mr. Lew said in a Bloomberg Radio interview that:

It’s a ticking time bomb in terms of the debt. You cannot run a fiscal policy by spending trillions of dollars you don’t have at a time that the economy is doing well.”

Mr. Lew thinks that because Republicans created tax reform for the rich and corporations without Democrats’ input, it will be difficult for “the administration” to convince Republicans to fund any “basic functions of government.” For dog’s sake, Mr. Lew is smart enough to know “the administration” could not possibly care less about “a functioning government, deficit or debt, or whether children get thrown off healthcare;” Trump cares about Trump.

It isn’t clear which “administration” Mr. Lew was referring, but it was not Trump or any of his conservative cronies.  It is no secret that Republicans pledged to the Koch brothers two years ago that when they controlled Washington they would “go after the federal government, all of it,” and “the administration” has done its part to begin the purge. At least Lew has been paying attention to congressional Republicans’ own statements about where they intend to start deconstructing the government and who they intend to hurt in the process. He said:

The next shoe to drop is going to be an attack on the most vulnerable in our society. How are we going to pay for the deficit caused by the tax cut? We are going to see proposals to cut health insurance for poor people, to take basic food support away from poor people, to attack Medicare and Social Security. One could not have made up a more cynical strategy.”

The strategy was “made up” at least a couple of decades ago and of course, it is “cynical” by design. It is a conservative strategy that involves abolishing every last element of the New Deal and any federal program since leading up to today. The tax reform is vicious in enriching the already wealthy, but it is the permanent corporate tax cuts that will be the end of “basic government functions.” Remember, the corporate tax cuts are forever and they will allow a greater number of the biggest corporations in America to avoid paying taxes forever — by design.

John Cassady at the New Yorker fairly summed up what is going to happen. After noting the “tax reform” is already going to bring in much less revenue, he concurred with other experts that it is not only “unworkable,” it has already “launched an avalanche of new loopholes to exploit.” He explained:

What isn’t yet fully appreciated is how porous and potentially unstable the rest of the tax code will be. With a corporate rate of just 20 percent, and a big new break for proprietors of unincorporated businesses and certain types of partnerships, the new code will contain enormous incentives for tax-driven restructurings, creative accounting, and outright fraud.”

Mr. Cassady said “these contortions” are designed to undercut federal revenues, which he acknowledges many Republicans welcome as an easy means of shrinking the federal government.

“The shortfall in tax revenues could be enormous. That is what Republicans want to happen. There are some in the Party who would like to see the tax base decimated, the I.R.S. crippled, and the federal government forced to slash spending on domestic programs, particularly entitlement programs. Nevertheless, for anybody who believes in a properly functioning government, a rational, clearly defined tax system is essential. The Republican reform doesn’t meet that standard.”

As one or two Americans might be aware, the concept of a “properly functioning government” is anathema to Republicans. Their idea of a functioning government is one that takes assets from the masses to fund “the security state,  the religious state, the military state, and  the corporate state.”

As this author has noted for a few years now, if any American wants a preview of how this “dismantling of the administrative state” plays out and the deleterious effects it will have on the people they can look at what happened in Kansas. Republicans gave massive tax gifts to the rich and corporations and raped the state government in the process by design.  In fact, one Kansas Republican appealed to congressional Republicans barely two months ago and warned them to avoid Kansas’ tax cut disaster. However, true to his word to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Mitch McConnell and Republicans are “doing the exact same thing to the federal government” that Brownback did to Kansas because they control Washington.

It is an unpleasant fact that most Americans have no awareness that their government is under assault from the people they elected to “govern” on their behalf.  It is a bigger travesty that many Americans are unaware exactly what their federal government does; Americans are inherently ignorant. But they will get a clue when their workplace protections, safe transportation, clean air and water standards, safe medicine, equal rights protections, education, healthcare, and national parks are abolished under the guise of reducing the deficit to pay for corporate tax cuts. It is what Republicans are celebrating will be a very Happy New Year.

Trump Signs Secret Pact With Israel To “Deal With Iran”

It is no revelation that a fair number of Republicans have dreamed of a “substantial” war with Iran going back to 1979 when the Islamic population chose its own government. Imperialist regimes always have problems when sovereign nations reject foreign domination, and America’s conservatives are still angry the leader they installed in Iran was sent packing and the Ayatollah became Iran’s Supreme Leader. Add to that simmering anger the Republicans’ devotion to executing the demands of a foreigner who dreams of America waging war on Iran and any idea of peace in the region looks bleak at best.

Because Republicans control the entire government, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a devoted puppy in the White House, it was just a matter of time before the Israeli leader exercised his authority to set American Middle East (war) policy. It was something he enjoyed during the Bush administration where he successfully directed George W. Bush  to attack and invade Iraq. He missed having that awesome authority during President Barack Obama’s tenure and it informs his willingness to humiliate himself by pandering to Trump’s narcissism and assuming a man-crush on an honest-to-dog moron.

Now Netanyahu is imposing his will and flexing his American puppet’s muscle and setting the stage for the war Steve Bannon, most Republicans and some Israeli-Democrats want American soldiers to engage in on Israel’s behalf. Trump is an ignorant buffoon who needs a new distraction so he is obviously doing his best to satisfy his Middle East war policy advisor Netanyahu – at least as long as good old “Bibi” continues stroking Trump’s ego.

According to Israel’s Channel 10 News, Trump and Israeli “officials reached a highly secretive closed-door cooperation agreement on how to deal with Iran” a couple of weeks ago.  The “Times of Israel” reported that the “deal” was signed at the White House on December 12 with the specific aim of countering Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. The “agreement” is being touted as “translating Trump’s decertifying the Iran deal into steps [boots] on the ground.

An Israeli official commented on the purpose of the “highly secretive” agreement thus:

“The U.S. and Israel see eye to eye the different developments in the region and especially those connected to Iran. We reached at (sic) understandings (sic) regarding the strategy and the policy needed to counter Iran. Our understandings deal with the overall strategy but also with concrete goals, way of action and the means which need to be used to get obtain (sic) those goals.”

Most of the world believed that any “developments connected to Iran” were adequately dealt with two years ago by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed upon by Iran and the so-called P5+1 nations (America, United Kingdom, China, France, Russia and Germany). Trump and Netanyahu refuse to acknowledge the validity of a major deal with the world’s leading powers and Iran because it did not plan for American military action against the Islamic Republic.

It is important to note that when Trump refused to certify Iran’s compliance with the P5+1 nations, he did so despite confirmation from all the parties involved that Iran was in total compliance with conditions of the agreement. As noted here, even the “Iran nuclear deal’s critics in Congress said it was in the best interest of all parties to stay in the deal” and they were not alone by any means.

For example, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is responsible for verifying whether Iran has been in compliance and that organization reported just prior to Trump’s decertification that “Iran has been fulfilling the commitments it entered into” under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). That “official agency” confirmation was in addition to American intelligence agencies, America’s top military brass, Israeli intelligence, and Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary who all verified and assured Trump that “there is no evidence that Iran has violated the terms of the deal.”

Still, no matter how many times he has been told Iran is fully compliant with the terms of the JCPOA, Trump is fulfilling months-long rumors that a war with Iran is in the near future. That Trump made a “closed-door” secret agreement with Israel to “deal with Iran” to “translate decertifying the Iran deal into steps on the ground” is fairly telling about the warmongers’ intent.

Apparently, the rumors that Trump would make a move in October or November to expedite a conflict with Iran were not rumors after all. Decertifying the Iran deal in October and then entering into a secret agreement a mere month later to “deal with Iran” was part of a strategy to start a conflict. Moreover, it appears the strategy has been in the works since before Trump’s poorly attended inauguration.

Remember, Steve Bannon promised very early in Trump’s tenure that America would have to be at war with Iran prior to starting a war in the South China Sea.  It is noteworthy that a war with Iran will not only sate the neo-con warmongers in Trump’s administration, it will satisfy the demands of the military industrial complex for more wars to sell more weapons. However, the primary purpose of decertifying Iranian compliance and making a secret pact is to satisfy Netanyahu’s demand that America wages war against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As a brief aside, it is important to note that Iran has never attacked or invaded any nation in over 240 years; something Israel can never claim in its short 69 year existence. And yet America under Trump and Israel are promoting the Islamic Republic as an aggressor that needs to be “dealt with.

It should not surprise anyone that Trump signed a secret pact with Israel “to deal with Iran.” It is fairly obvious that because the official  P5+1 Nations’ “deal with Iran” did not give Netanyahu the American attack and invasion of Iran he wants, Trump stepped up to do the foreigner’s bidding. Trump wants to show Netanyahu that he will use American military might to “deal with Iran” the same way Israel deals with Palestinian civilians.

Only an idiot doesn’t believe that “deal with Iran” is not-so-subtle code for “start a war with Iran” to assure Netanyahu that with a Republican controlled government, Israel effectively controls America’s Middle East war policy. With a willing sycophant in the White House and an obedient Republican majority in Congress, it appears that going forward Netanyahu will determine which majority Muslim nation America wages war on.

Image: Evan Vucci

Under Trump America Goes From World Leader to Banana Republic 

On Christmas eve conservative pundit William “Bill” Kristol made it clear that in its current iteration, the Republican Party he identifies with has become a cult of personality worthy of a banana republic. Kristol didn’t mention Trump by name, but he almost certainly was projecting his abhorrence of Trump on the entire GOP; a surprising development for a dyed-in-the-wool conservative but an apt projection all the same.

It is true the Republican Party is taking the country back to the 1920’s long before America became a global leader and was hardly a world super power, but even during the Great Depression when the filthy rich became incredibly wealthier, America was hardly considered a banana republic. All that changed less than a century later.

Whatever leadership role America enjoyed prior to Trump’s poorly attended inauguration is now just a memory despite what Trump claims. World leaders are well aware that although America has military might, and is a rapidly waning economic force, its influence globally is second-rate at best; in many areas it is nothing more than an irritating spectator.

Instead of leading on addressing climate change, America under Trump is watching China “assume the leadership mantle,” and subsequently the economic prosperity that will accompany it. And as the Los Angeles Times noted, “Russia has taken over Syrian peace negotiations that Moscow officials only allowed America to attend as observers.”

Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) look to Germany and France for leadership since Trump has isolated America from even its allies and trading partners. And speaking of international trade, America is now a global trade outlier and any number of American industries are living proof that Trump’s big mouth and isolationism kills American businesses.

This is an issue because Trump gave his assessment of America’s place on the global stage during a speech last week that is as far from reality as the Earth is from the edge of the observable universe. (Roughly 46.6 billion light years)

Trump claims that since January there has been a never-before-seen “broadening of U.S. influence throughout the world.” It is an odd assertion even for a buffoon like Trump; particularly since his executive actions since January are the sole force behind America ceding its global leadership role.

That is the consensus opinion of international leaders, diplomats, and foreign policy experts who contend that Trump is guilty of “reducing U.S. influence or altering it in ways that are less constructive on a broad range of policy issues.” In fact, what those leaders and critics actually say is that “Trump has taken positions that disqualify the United States from the debate or rendered it irrelevant on that ‘broad range of policy issues.’”

This is a serious issue because no matter what horrors Republicans are in the process of unleashing on Americans, Trump represents an existential threat because besides the insanity of isolationism in a truly global era, America under Trump is dangerously unreliable and untrustworthy to the rest of the world.

In India, a nation Trump has not attacked yet, the leaders are like most sane human beings concerned about ‘Trump’s unpredictability” and doubt that he can be trusted “as a reliable partner;” especially with his rush towards isolationism. Manoj Joshi is a scholar at a New Delhi think tank, Observer Research Foundation, who fairly summed up what the rest of the planet knows about Trump.

The president Trump can and does turn things inside out. So the chances that the U.S. works along a coherent and credible national security strategy are not very high.

Nicholas Burns, a long-serving senior diplomat under both Republican and Democratic administrations said Trump’s strategy, or lack thereof, “has left the U.S. ineffective.” Mr. Burns continued by remarking on an issue many critics have warned about to no avail; a weak and aimless Department of State.

“Trump needs a strong State Department to implement its strategy. Instead, State and the Foreign Service are being weakened and often sidelined. Trump’s policy of the last 12 months is a radical departure from every president since WWII. Trump is weak on NATO, Russia, trade, climate, diplomacy. The U.S. is declining as a global leader.”

What seems to be the final straw for nearly the entire world of nations was Trump’s gift to Benjamin Netanyahu that eliminates any opportunity for a “two-state” solution. The only people Trump “delighted” by formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital were many Israelis.  Trump incited rage in the Muslim world, wiped out decades of “international consensus” on a peaceful Palestine-Israeli resolution, and incurred the wrath of “an overwhelming majority of the U.N. General Assembly.

As most of the world understands, Trump unilaterally eliminated America as “an honest broker in mediating peace by clearly siding with Israel.” As many world leaders have noted, “From now on it is out of the question for a biased United States to be a mediator between Israel and Palestine; that period is over.”

A former U.S. ambassador to both Israel and Egypt under Presidents Clinton and Bush, Daniel Kurtzer, said  that any peaceful resolution in the Middle East  “won’t be from American policy. Trump took America out of the peace process for the foreseeable future.”

There is probably a detailed list of the myriad ways Trump single-handedly diminished American influence globally, but the real horror is that he accomplished that feat in less than a year. America is going to be in trouble going forward just on the basis of Trump’s isolationism and withdrawal from trade agreements and never-ending threats against our allies and United Nations member nations for daring to disagree with Trump. Add to that prospect the Republican Congress’ well-laid plans to wipe out the government and create an impoverished population; it is no longer a question of “if” America is a banana republic, but when the entire world recognizes what it is and turns against it.

Image: Matt Rotman

Trump’s Betrayal Cost Steelworkers Their Jobs

The reports of Trump supporters struggling to realize they were really duped by a second-rate two-bit con man because he was on television continues unabated.

It is getting more difficult by the day, even for a lifelong avowed secular humanist to have a modicum of empathy for “betrayed and lied to” Trump supporters.  Their stupidity, evangelical fanaticism and racism has and will continue adversely affecting all Americans for a couple of decades at least – just think permanent corporate tax cuts.

The latest group to comprehend that they were lied to are steelworkers who are not looking forward to a very happy holiday season because they are looking for their impending layoff notices. And it is noteworthy that those layoffs will likely be permanent because last April Trump said America has no issues with China over its trade or currency policies. Remember, a pillar of Trump’s tough-guy campaign persona was clamping down on trade with China; he was not going to “let them keep raping America.” Instead, as a Merry Christmas to steelworkers, Trump’s ineptitude and China course reversal contributed to the steelworkers losing their jobs.

The New York Times reported that a “sprawling steel mill” on the outskirts of Philadelphia will lay off 150 of the plant’s 207 workers.  The job losses are considered “severe” in that  “they go so deep that even workers with decades of experience will be cast out.” It is a trend that is not going to change anytime soon.

This was a terrible assault to the senses of the workers after they celebrated Trump’s election last year and relished their part in helping him “making America great” and resurrecting America’s manufacturing sector. His campaign promise to create “a new dawn for the American steel industry with a strong ‘buy America’ agenda never happened. Trump promised to protect factories “from unfair imports” and made special pledges to  “revive the American steel industry” with what he touted was his world-renowned trade expertise and negotiating skills. Instead he made the issue worse.

Trump has done nothing to help the steel industry and in fact indicated early after his poorly-attended inauguration that loyalty to his friendly Russian oligarchs supersedes any effort to protect American jobs or manufacturers. Add to that betrayal, Trump’s big mouth and incompetence in international trade has put more than one sector of American industry in the exact opposite position he promised – at a distinct disadvantage in global trade.

Even though he has done nothing to help American industry, foreign steel makers rushed to get foreign steel into America in case Trump actually did anything. According to the American Iron and Steel Institute, there was a 20 percent increase in imported steel in the first 10 months of Trump’s tenure than in the same period last year. That is a direct result of Trump running his big mouth that he would stop steel imports with high tariffs and demonstrates the fallacy of his so-called business acumen and negotiation skills to put “America first.”

The only thing Trump accomplished was producing the same results as pulling out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and threatening to “renegotiate” NAFTA. Just the “threats of reneging on the NAFTA trade pact sent Mexico to implement its ‘Plan B’ trade strategy.” A strategy that is leaving American farmers struggling to survive and drove America’s favored trading partners to forge new and more prosperous economic alliances that America is no part of with Trump. America’s agriculture industry is the big loser and America is further isolated from the rest of the world.

In fact, just pulling out of the TPP back in January prompted the president of the United Steelworkers International Union to express an industry-wide fear of exactly what is happening today; steel workers losing their jobs. Leo W. Gerard said after Trump’s ill-advised exit from TPP:

It’s frustrating because of the impact it’s having on the [steel] industry. It’s creating a crisis that’s being exacerbated.”

For the steelworkers losing their jobs in Pennsylvania, the crisis prompted one single mother at the plant for over 22 years to tell her children:

Christmas is going to be kind of scarce, because Mommy’s going to lose her job.”

Because of Trump, the surge of imported steel hurt American steel makers who were already struggling to compete against cheaper Chinese steel. When the ArcelorMittal Philadelphia plant announced the layoffs it blamed cheap imports, as well as the low demand for American steel, on the job cuts.

It is noteworthy too that Trump did not do the industry any favors and broke another pledge that hurt the steel industry he swore to revive by allowing TransCanada to use “foreign steel” in its Keystone XL pipeline. Instead of following through on a line in the sand that TransCanada would be forced to use “American-made steel exclusively or we’re not building one,” Trump gave TransCanada a pass because one of his Russian oligarchfriends” is heavily invested in manufacturing cheaper foreign steel TransCanada wanted to use. The Russian oligarch didn’t have to do much heavy lobbying for his BFF Trump to exempt TransCanada from the “buy American” pledge and give his blessing for them to use all the foreign steel they wanted; American steelworkers and the industry they work in be damned.

To make matters worse for the steelworkers duped once by a Trump con, his Commerce Department spokesman, James Rockas, said that Trump is “aware of the plight of American steelworkers and will continue working to halt unfair trade practices that harm our economy and kill American jobs.”

Trump has no regard for the plight of American workers and it is stunning that steelworkers are just now coming to that painful realization; but losing one’s livelihood does inform a new level of sober reflection. Trump has single-handedly hurt American workers in several industries with his ineptitude on trade, and the GOP tax reform Trump is championing is full of incentives for corporations to outsource more American manufacturing jobs to avoid paying what little corporate tax the new plan envisions.

Of course it is a shame that the steel workers Trump promised to protect are losing their jobs, but they should have known the con man was lying the minute he said he would work to help them. The president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, Scott Paul, heads up a trade group representing steelworkers and he summed up exactly what Trump’s campaign pledge to help save jobs and “revive the industry” was really all about.

The president [Trump] has been using the steelworkers as political props. The president’s [Trump’s] own words and lack of action have actually put the industry in a worse position than if he had done nothing at all.”

It cannot be overstated that no small number of pundits, commentators, Nobel prize-winning economists, and regular folks warned Trump supporters they were being double-crossed. It is something they can reflect on while they stand in line for unemployment benefits – if Trump and Republicans don’t eliminate them first.

Image: AFL-CIO

GOP Education Bill Gives Religious Bigots License To Discriminate

Republicans have had a field day with a rubber stamp in the White House, and besides handing the treasury to the rich and corporations, they have handed social and domestic policy over to bigots under the guise of protecting religious liberty. And it is noteworthy that they have acted stealthily while the happy fascist in the Oval keeps the people mesmerized with social media distractions.

Last week House Republicans introduced a “massive” 542-page “higher education” bill that gives bigots steeped in evangelical fundamentalism a free pass to discriminate if they do so according to their deeply-held religious beliefs and part of their religious practices. The bill, H.R. 4508, authored by Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), contains a pair of provisions that “enables discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity” without saying it is legal to violate the 14th Amendment on religious grounds. By not specifically mentioning sexual orientation or gender identity the Republicans left room for religious fanatics to discriminate against any group they choose.

The inaptly named bill, “Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education” Reform (PROSPER Act) gives the impression that Trump’s America creates opportunities for Americans, but like nearly everything else in Trump’s America, it is a gift to evangelical bigots. Don’t believe it? In a section titled “Campus Access for Religious Groups” a provision guarantees that students can be discriminated against if the bigotry is founded on “religious beliefs or religious standards of conduct.

The offending provision states:

None of the funds made available under the Act may be provided to any public institution of higher education that denies to a religious student or organization any right, benefit or privilege afforded to other students or organization because of their religious beliefs, practices, speech, membership standards or standards of conduct of the religious student or organization.”

What that really means is any person or any group can discriminate against anyone based on a deeply-held religious belief and their religion’s standard practices without repercussions from the “place of higher learning” or state policy forbidding discrimination; it obviously neuters the 14th Amendment to sate religious bigots.

It is yet another Republican religious license to discriminate that taxpayers and tuition-paying students will have to fund and like it; it is how theocratic governments operate and Americans better get used to it.

Prior to this GOP theocratic legislation, the only way to prevent blatant discrimination was by withholding funding from institutions of learning, or by denying religious organizations campus funding for violating nondiscrimination policies they are obliged to uphold as recipients of free money. That concept is unacceptable to religious Republicans and their radical evangelical supporters. So they inserted language allowing the free flow of campus funding to evangelical bigots so they can discriminate against whatever kind of person they regard are “undesirable.”

Apparently there have been institutions of higher learning and governments that have withheld funding for groups that reject LGBTQ students’ membership or participation because “those kind of people violate the religious tenets of the group.” Despite non-discrimination policies at higher-learning institutions and the state and the federal government, the religious groups expect to be funded like every other campus organization that adheres to the U.S. Constitution and campus non-discrimination policies. With this hideous abomination of a bill, Republicans are ensuring that taxpayers and tuition-paying students will have to support bigoted religious groups whether they like it or whether it violates their humanitarian beliefs that discrimination is vile and unconstitutional.

Another section of the “PROSPER Act” protects universities that encourage and enact blatantly discriminatory policies with language virtually mirroring the religious Republicans “First Amendment Defense Act.” That “Act” is a federal Republican license to violate the 14th Amendment with impunity by protecting any businesses and organizations that refuses to serve LGBTQ people; it is the religious bigots’ version of the former Confederacy’s “whites only” laws and religious Republicans love it.  That provision states:

No government entity shall take any adverse action against an institution of higher education that receives funding under title IV, if such adverse action… has the effect of prohibiting or penalizing the institution for acts or omissions by the institution that are in furtherance of its religious mission or are related to the religious affiliation of the institution.”

Some of what religious Republicans call adverse actions to prevent discrimination are:

Denial or threat of denial of funding, including grants, scholarships, or loans; denial or threat of denial to access to facilities or programs; withholding or threat to withhold licenses, permits, certifications, accreditation’s, contracts, tax-exempt status or exemptions; or any other penalty or denial, or threat of such other penalty or denial of an otherwise available benefit.

The two provisions combined mean that institutions of higher learning cannot legally enforce their own non-discrimination policies, and states cannot enforce state or federal discrimination laws on offending schools. This hate-policy is typical of Virginia Foxx who said in 2015 after the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality that it was a threat to the rights of religious bigots and their organizations. She pledged at the time to “do everything in my power to defend these rights;” she followed through with a religious license to discriminate tucked into an education bill.

These religious impositions legalizing discrimination are a growing trend now that the religious right co-owns the federal government. And as the folks over at the Human Rights Campaign noted, this particular “higher education bill is rife with other troubling aspects that should concern both LGBTQ students and all other students.” It is a continuation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ effort to dismantle protections for victims of campus sexual assault targeting women and endemic in her crusade to use the Department of Education to “advance the kingdom of god.”

Since Trump’s poorly-attended inauguration there have been nonstop attacks on the rights of Americans, primarily women and members of the gay community, founded on evangelical fundamentalism. And those attacks are always justified as promoting religious freedoms despite they violate the U.S. Constitution; something that should horrify any American who still thinks they live in a free democratic society. Americans’ equal rights are being whittled away by religious Republicans and it is a tragedy that there is absolutely nothing any American can, or is willing to, do to stop the rush towards theocracy. For dog’s sake, most Americans are too afraid to even whisper that all of the Republican attacks on equality are founded on America’s bastardized version of Christianity and it’s exactly why the religious right is running the government.

Bishops Advise Republicans and Parents to Reject Trans Children

There is relatively solid proof now that all of the Republican negative ranting and raving about transgender people is driven by the historical bane of human decency, freedom and equality – religion.

First, when this column cites a religion as “fanatical, radical, or extremist,” particularly Christian denominations, it is not using a “broad stroke to portray” all Christians as fanatical, radical, extremist or bad. The same is true regarding criticism of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) or the Vatican or the Pope or any of that ridiculously rich syndicate’s bizarre dogmata; it is never about “all Catholics.

There are myriad reasons to attack many members of the clergy and none deserve more than the USCCB; if for no other reason than they implanted the “religious liberty” idea in the evangelical Republican lexicon. That American group of Catholic bishops are guilty of a world of offenses against women particularly, but also against members of the LGBTQ community.

At issue is an “open letter” issued by the USCCB, with many other religious leaders as signatories, “rejecting the legitimacy of transgender identity.” The theme of the letter on families is that parents have to “reject their transgender children” because god, bible, and social conservative (church) norms.

The open letter, “Created Male and Female” asserts that “transgender” is a “false idea that goes against reason;” and it is a “deeply troubling notion that a man can be or become a woman or vice versa.”  It was once a false idea and deeply troubling to “the Church” that the Earth orbited the Sun, but the Church still exists although it imprisoned and killed a few heretics for spreading a false and deeply troubling idea — heliocentrism.

The bishops failed to provide a link to any empirical data as to why transgender identity is a false idea or deeply troubling; just that a parent’s job is rejecting their child if they identify as transgender. The bishops attempted to validate their position by claiming ”transgender children are ‘harmed’ when they are affirmed in their identities,” but no-one with a pulse believes these former priests have any regard for children being “harmed.

One particularly offensive section of the letter states:

“Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can “change” their sex. Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of “first, do no harm.” Gender ideology harms individuals and societies by sowing confusion and self-doubt. The state itself has a compelling interest, therefore, in maintaining policies that uphold the scientific fact of human biology and supporting the social institutions and norms that surround it.

There is so much inherently wrong, and revealing, in that section of the letter that it boggles the mind until one remembers who issued the ‘open letter’ in the first place and who the signatories are; a bunch of religious fanatics controlling the Republican social agenda. Republicans have hewed closely, and dutifully followed, the real meaning of the USCCB’s theocratic dictate:

The state has a compelling interest to maintain [church] policies and support the social [church] institutions and [church] norms that surround it.

Now, this holy edict that children especially are “harmed” if their transgender identity is affirmed is pure bovine excrement. According to several studies’ results, “the way parents respond to their child’s gender identity can have drastic consequences for their mental health.”

Parents that heed the USCCB’s advice and “reject their children for being transgender significantly increases depression and suicidal thinking.”  Conversely, one of the single most effective  “buffers against those negative consequences” is affirming the child’s identity, “allowing them to be as happy and healthy as their peers.”  What these bishops are advising is exactly what “sows self-doubt and confusion and can be remarkably damaging;” including causing depression and suicide.

The bishops also used a favorite religious right claim that the faithful who condemn transgenders are the “true victims.” They claim:

The movement to respect transgender people is ‘deeply troubling’ and compels people to either go against ‘reason’ or face ridicule, marginalization and other forms of retaliation.”

If the bishops contend that calling a dirty bigot a dirty bigot is “deeply troubling,” then they are no different than the dirty bigots in Trump’s Alt-right Nazi movement.  What the bishops never mention is the hate, “retaliation,” and discrimination that transgender people suffer in “employment, housing, health care, education, the justice system, and public accommodations.

Something that should raise red flags, even for people unsure about what “transgender” means, is this bizarre concept that a bunch of old white guys decked out in Goth-gear and claiming to be celibate get an opinion on parenting when they have never “had” children. Oh it is true that a terrifying number of those “holy men” have “had” plenty of children, but not in the sense that normal, decent or real “god-fearing” human beings ‘have’ children.  These are the same control-freaks who claim to have profound and godly expertise in women’s reproductive science as well as OB/GYN bona fides that Republicans use to control women’s reproductive rights.

What is particularly dangerous about this USCCB “open letter” is that Republicans will seize on it as overwhelming proof that restricting transgender people’s equal rights is justified. Remember, both houses of Congress summoned the same male religious leaders to give expert testimony to restrict women’s access to contraceptives. To think they won’t reference this letter as justification for denying transgenders’ rights is the height of naïveté; the letter tells Republicans that “the state has a compelling interest to maintain church policies and support church institutions and church norms that surround it.” The only group Republicans are more obedient to than the Koch brothers is the religious right and all it entails – particularly the USCCB.

It is one thing for the bishops, priests, reverends and ministers who signed on to the USCCB letter to control Republicans and their radical evangelical supporters; stupid people are easily manipulated. But they have no right to insert their perverted opinions on child-rearing into any family; especially when there is legitimate research demonstrating that the quickest way to harm transgender children, or adults for that matter, is to follow the bishops’ teachings.

It is noteworthy that there are a significant number of religious leaders, including Catholics and Baptists, who are strong advocates on behalf of transgender people; they at least act like “real Christians” and real “followers of Christ.” They are also not enamored with the USCCB for using religious dogma to put children at risk of depression and suicide; something the bishops apparently don’t regard as important. In fact, according to one of the signatories representing the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission;  “trans people are responsible for their own suffering for rejecting God.” As Zack Ford over at ThinkProgress noted, it is a sentiment the USCCB letter strongly implies.

This “parenting” letter from a bunch of old “celibate” white guys is further proof that the force behind most GOP attacks on Americans’ equal rights is driven by religion. That might be acceptable in theocratic regimes such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, but it is an atrocity in America. Not because they are attempting to control the people, that is what religion does. The real atrocity is that Republicans are dutifully following their edicts to the letter.

If that is unbelievable, think back to the GOP’s claims during North Carolina’s “trans toilet” controversy and then note the USCCB’s letter demanding enactment of “policies that uphold the truth of a person’s sexual identity as male or female, and the privacy and safety of all.”

It is true these bishops are hateful religious leaders to even suggest that parents should reject trans kids, but they represent a controlling religious syndicate that would not exist without using hate to control their sycophants – like the Republican movement. That they would endanger children by fundamentally saying they are “deeply troubling and false” as if they don’t exist is par for the course and something Republicans will repeat ad nauseam.

Image: Patheos

Feeling Betrayed America’s Small Farmers Are Suing Trump

Over the course of the past few months there have been an increasing number of complaints from Trump supporters that they are feeling betrayed by both Trump and Republicans. But Trump, in particular, is the target of what has been up until now slowly simmering outrage.

Even before the dirty crook was installed in the White House, people with cognitive abilities higher than fungi knew that Trump’s supporters would be the first to feel the effects of “making America great” for corporations and the filthy rich.  Although they are a fairly small demographic, American farmers have been the primary recipients of Trump’s trade, immigration, and deregulatory policies that are threatening their livelihoods and in many cases their family farms existence.

This past week, a small “farmers think tank” in Nebraska actually did what other Trump supporters have been unable to do and filed a lawsuit against Trump’s U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its leader Sonny Perdue.

Like much of the despair among Trump supporters, the farmers are livid that two “Obama-era” rules specifically designed to protect the nation’s small farmers from giant corporations were eliminated to benefit four or five giant companies. It is no surprise that the farmers are now complaining that without the two “Obama-era” rules in place “we are [again] being exploited by giant corporate agriculture processing companies.”

The lawsuit was filed by the legal watchdog  Democracy Forward on behalf of the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) charging the USDA Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue “with arbitrary and capricious behavior” in rolling back the two rules. One of the rules would have made it easier for individual farmers to sue corporate giants for anti-competitive behavior. That particular rule was implemented after an eight-year “exhaustive investigation and negotiation” process by the Obama Administration specifically to aid tens-of-thousands of small family farms that were being systematically “ripped off” by big corporate agriculture.

The rules’ enactment took an eight year effort because of  “fierce resistance from big agriculture and its congressional allies that reject any kind of reform” that doesn’t enrich corporations. The main rule the corporations wanted eliminated simply made it easier for small farmers to sue for anti-competitive behavior that controlled prices and punished small farmers that dared complain they were being cheated.

In a move that shouldn’t surprise anyone, on same the day of Trump’s poorly-attended inauguration the White House announced it postponed the effective date of the new ag-rules by 60 days. Then it issued several other delays until October when USDA chief Perdue said there would be no more postponements because he just “arbitrarily” eliminated the rules. The USDA issued a statement saying “the agency’s action was consistent with President Trump’s Executive Order to reduce regulations.”

Instead of rules protecting about 200,000 small family farms, any legal disputes between the farmers and corporate agriculture will be adjudicated by an agency that works for large corporate agricultural processors to negotiate with brokers, fast-food and grocery chains. As noted by one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, what Trump’s USDA is doing is allowing corporations to police themselves; what poultry farmer Mike Weaver called “having the fox guard the henhouse.”

Another rule that defined which corporate actions are considered unfair, discriminatory or deceptive was also eliminated. Under the Trump USDA those disputes will be settled by the agency that works for the corporate agricultural processing operations. Obviously, the corporate-friendly agency will not find anything the corporate giants do to be “unfair, discriminatory or deceptive.”

Abolishing the rules to benefit 4 giant agricultural companies will have an adverse impact on “40,000 contract poultry farmers, 900,000 cattle ranchers, and 70,000 hog farmers in America’s heartland.” The group bringing the lawsuit said the current litigation “represents the tip of an iceberg of financial and emotional despair” being felt by America’s farmers. It is noteworthy that these are all “small, family-owned” farms who were fierce Trump supporters that are now so disillusioned that they had to file a lawsuit against their champion saying:

Where’s the support that you promised us? We voted for you because you were going to make things right, and it’s not happening.”

The despair among yet another segment of the agricultural community is a common refrain in Trump’s America. The ag community not only have not seen any support from their hero, they’ve seen only the negative consequences of electing a know-nothing imbecile who pandered to racists and nativists. Farmers across the nation  were already in dire straits due to Trump’s immigration policies that left many of their crops rotting in the fields because experienced field workers were too terrified of Trump’s immigration police to show up and harvest their crops.

An entirely different group of agricultural producers were sent into a panic when Trump pulled out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that gave American farmers an advantage over every country’s agricultural producers on the planet. Now those farmers are left out of other “agreements” between America’s former trading partners and will be at a distinct global disadvantage because of Trump.

American farmers are also left out of trade deals with NAFTA-affiliated nations; especially Mexico. Just Trump’s talk of “renegotiating NAFTA” sent Mexico to implement its  “Plan B” and rapidly negotiate much better trade agreements with several other nations. American farmers were not included in any of the trade agreements and like pulling out of the TPP, many farmers who were anticipating growth are now in distress and wonder if they can even survive in Trump’s America.

Joe Maxwell is the executive director of OCM and he says this revocation of the rules has “threatened America’s family farmer’s livelihood.” And a representative of the National Farmers’ Union concurred saying, “The fear in the countryside on this is palpable.”

The poultry farmer who serves as president of the Contract Poultry Growers of the Virginias, Mike Weaver, says he is one of the “very lucky few” who came to poultry farming after a career as a special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; he is not dependent on his farm income to survive. However, Weaver pointed out that less than a quarter of his fellow small farmers enjoy the luxury of not depending on their farm income to survive.

Mr. Weaver said:

71 percent of small poultry farmers live beneath the poverty level. I’ve had guys in tears on the phone, telling me, ‘My farm has been in the family for five generations, and I’m about to lose it.’”

Look, it is a struggle to feel much empathy for the small farmers because they supported Trump despite his campaign pledge to erase regulations to set corporations free, change immigration policy to keep Mexicans out, and abandon the trade agreements that benefitted American farmers. Farmers knew that implementing any one of those policies would be devastating to their livelihoods and yet they voted for him enthusiastically. Now they are attempting to sue Trump’s USDA with a brand new crop of Trump judges ready to repay their lifetime appointments with dismissals of any lawsuit against Trump with prejudice.

It seems like every week there is a new group of Trump supporters complaining that they were betrayed and lied to by their hero in spite of being warned that Trump was lying and would betray them. Now they are getting exactly what they deserve. The rest of the population knew Trump was a corporate-friendly Republican and he did tell the gullible exactly how he was going to rape and pillage them while he lied that he was looking out for their best interests. It is a travesty that all Americans have to suffer the stupidity that drove Trump’s ascendancy to the White House and it is impossible to have any compassion whatsoever for his supporters’ woes. Maybe if it is painful enough they will wise up, but no American should hold their breath; the stupid is just too powerful in America.