Monthly Archives: October 2018

What We Are Fighting For

If you are reading this, it’s very likely that you are going to vote. The purpose of this column is not to convince you to vote but rather to urge you to convince every eligible voter you know to cast their vote. This is a crucial election.  Let’s consider what Democrats are fighting for and why it’s so important that we turn out every eligible voter we can reach.

The results of this election will determine the future of our country, the viability of our democracy.  Two years of Donald Trump have demonstrated that his basic instincts are non-democratic and that congressional Republicans will not stand up to him.

Trump is a dreadful person.  Nonetheless, it is theoretically possible for Trump to be a jerk and still be a champion of democracy.  Sadly, this is not the case.

Donald Trump is a tyrant.  His basic instincts are undemocratic — he’s focussed on what’s best for him and absolutely willing to trample on the right of others in order to accomplish his objectives.  For Trump, winning is everything; he believes the ends justify the means and that might makes right.

But it’s not only Trump’s operational style that is undemocratic, Donald’s morality is similarly warped.  Trump’s conduct demonstrates that he doesn’t believe in the Golden Rule; nor does he spend any time seeking “win-win” solutions where everyone comes out ahead. Donald ruthlessly seeks wealth and power.

Trump lies.  And lies.  And lies.  On October 30th, the Washington Post reported that in 649 days in office, Trump made 6420 “false or misleading claims.”  ( )  The average number of false claims per day keeps climbing the longer Trump stays in office.  Since June the number has escalated.  On September 7, the president reached a new daily high of 125 false and misleading claims. In October, Trump , made more than 1000 false claims

Trump lies in order to further his ambition.  He will say and do anything to win.  And he will attack anyone that gets in his way.

It goes without saying that Trump is a sexist.  (He’s an unrepentant sexual predator.)  He’s also a racist.  These traits are consistent with his dominant behavior as a full-throttle bully.  Trump doesn’t believe in collaboration or compromise; he believes in running over people.  As President, he has made no attempt to reach out to Democrats or to those who did not vote for him.  Donald’s entire focus has been to motivate his base.  He is not President for all the people, only those he perceives as being on his side.

Therefore, it is true that this election is about Trump.  But it’s also true that Trump is not on the ballot.  In state after state, Democrats are going after Republican incumbents because they will not stand up to Trump — they will not defend Democracy.

After the presidential election, many of us hoped that congressional Republicans would stand up to Trump; we hoped that they would limit his most egregious actions.  Our hopes were dashed.  Republicans have united behind Trump — with a few notable exceptions such as the late Senator John McCain.

A recent NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll asked voters about what their top issues were, heading in the 2018 midterm election.  20 percent responded “Economy, jobs;” 17 percent healthcare; 17 percent immigration; 9 percent “taxes, spending:” 7 percent climate change; and 5 percent guns.  Trump and the GOP are on the wrong side of all these issues.

On August 11th, Forbes magazine ( ) noted that Trump’s economic legacy is “higher inflation, flat wages, and a ballooning federal deficit.”  Trump has managed the economy to benefit himself and his wealthy supporters.

Trump campaigned on the promise to “repeal and replace Obamacare.”  Republicans came within one vote of completely repealing Obamacare.  (The latest Kaiser Poll ( ) finds that 50 percent of respondents support Obamacare and 40 percent oppose it.)  Trump and Republicans continue to attack Obamacare but have offered no replacement and no protection for 0those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Trump’s signature issue is immigration.  At the conclusion of his midterm campaigning, he’s warning for an “Invasion” of immigrants from Central America and ordering thousands of troops to the border.  Despite his strong rhetoric, Trump has had no impact on immigration.  Mother Jones   ( reported that under Trump “southwest Border Apprehensions” — the proxy for border crossings — are about the same as they’ve been for the last 10 years.  (In 2018 the number will be around 400,000.)

Trump and his Republican cohorts passed a massive tax cut that benefits corporations and America’s wealthiest one percent.  As a consequence the national debt increased to more than $21 Trillion.  The fiscal year deficit will be approximately $1 trillion.

Trump’s attitude about climate change has softened.  Originally he called it a hoax.  In a recent 60 Minutes interview ( ) he equivocated: “I think something’s… changing and it’ll change back again.  I don’t think it’s a hoax… But I don’t know that it’s manmade… I don’t want to give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t want to lose millions and millions of jobs.”  He’s not going to do anything.

Finally, with regards to guns, Trump and his Republican cronies are beholden to the IRA.  They don’t want any change in gun laws.

In the November 6th election, Democrats are fighting for Democracy.  We are struggling to replace a Republican Congress that has been unwilling to standup to would-be dictator Donald Trump.  We moving forward with commonsense solutions to America’s most critical problems.  Vote.

Voter Suppression in the 2018 Midterms

We’re less than two weeks away from the November 6th midterm elections and the strategies of each Party are well defined. Democrats are determined to rally their base and to encourage Independents and inconsistent voters to go to the polls. Republicans are determined to get out their base and to suppress the vote of everyone else.

The GOP voter-suppression strategy has two parts.  At the national level, Donald Trump fans fear by suggesting there is widespread voter cheating.  In a recent Tweet, Trump wrote: “All levels of government and Law Enforcement are watching carefully for VOTER FRAUD, including during EARLY VOTING. Cheat at your own peril. Violators will be subject to maximum penalties, both civil and criminal!”  (A recent report from The Brennan Center ( ) found that voter fraud is “very rare.)  The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights observed: “President Trump’s statement regarding vote fraud is one of the most naked attempts to promote voter suppression that we have seen in modern times.”

The second part of the GOP voter-suppression strategy is at the state level.  There have been Republican voter-suppression laws enacted in 15 states (Arizona to Texas).   The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights noted; “This administration and the Justice Department’s silence regarding widespread voter suppression has been deafening. To date, this Justice Department has failed to file a single case to enforce the Voting Rights Act and has failed to take any action to protect the rights of minority voters.”

The State of Georgia has a particularly egregious campaign of voter suppression. There’s a tight race for Georgia Governor that pits Democrat Stacey Abrams against Republican Brian Kemp.  (The 538 website forecasts that Kemp will get 49.6 percent of the November 6th vote and that Abrams will get 49.2 percent — if this happens, no candidate gets 50 percent plus of the vote, there would be a runoff in December.)

Republican Kemp happens to be Georgia’s current Secretary of State.  He has not recused himself from decisions about Georgia voter eligibility; that’s resulted in a variety of voter suppression issues.  The most recent is Kemp’s invocation of the “exact-match” law to deny 53,000 voter-registration applications.  (This law requires that citizens’ names on their government-issued IDs must precisely match their names as listed on the voter rolls.)  Kemp has thrown out applications for infractions as minor as a hyphen missing from a surname. (By the way, African-Americans make up thirty-two per cent of the state’s population, but they represent nearly seventy per cent of the suspended applications.)

In a separate action, investigative reporter Greg Palast alleges that Kemp incorrectly purged 340,134 voters from the Georgia data base after dinging them for “no activity.” (  (By the way, in 2016, Brian Kemp was the only Secretary of State to refuse election-security assistance from the Department of Homeland Security.)

Writing in The New Yorker, Jelani Cobb observed: “The events in Georgia are part of a broader political project. The xenophobia and the resentment that Donald Trump stirred up during the 2016 election are fundamentally concerns about the future of the American electorate. (His reported comment that too many people are immigrating from “shithole countries” in Africa and the Caribbean was paired with a lament that not enough are coming from Europe.) He has repeatedly stated that he lost the popular vote because non-citizens voted for Hillary Clinton.”

Thom Hartmann agrees that Trump and Republicans, in general, are conspiring to suppress the vote.  Writing in Common Dreams ( ) Hartmann noted: “In North Carolina, for example, 158 polling places were permanently closed in the 40 counties with the most African American voters just before the 2016 election, leading to a 16 percent decline in African American early voting in that state. An MIT study found that, nationwide, Hispanic voters wait 150 percent longer in line than white voters, and Black voters can expect to wait 200 percent longer in line to vote.”

Many of the new Republican voting laws complicate the notion of a “valid id.”  The New Hampshire Supreme Court just struck down a GOP-led effort targeting students.  Alternet reported, “[The] court struck down a law the GOP had passed in 2017 to impose additional residency restrictions on voters that was crafted to suppress the votes of Democratic-leaning college students.”  There have been similar victories in Iowa ( and Wisconsin.

Even in Georgia, the courts are moving to protect the right to vote.  On October 24th, a Federal judge stopped Secretary of State Brian Kemp  from rejecting mail-in ballots under Georgia’s exact match law.  PoliticusUsa ( ) reported that Kemp must, “Notify voters of problems with their ballots and [give] them the opportunity to verify their eligibility to vote.”

Georgia Republican Kemp is going to extraordinary lengths to thwart the gubernatorial campaign of Stacey Abrams because she is a formidable candidate with a good chance of winning.  Recently, at a campaign event, Kemp expressed alarm at the success of Abrams’s campaign in generating “an unprecedented number” of absentee ballots, continuing “[this is] something that continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote — which they absolutely can — and mail those ballots in.”

Kemp, and Republicans in general, should be scared.  Throughout the nation, Democrats have fielded a huge number of competent candidates and Dems have mounted an aggressive effort to get out the vote.  As long as they keep demanding the right to vote, in the courts and at the polls, Democrats will prevail on November 6th.

Jamal Khashoggi’s Murder

The murder of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, spotlights the moral depravity of Donald Trump. Khashoggi was an outspoken journalist — an exemplary member of a profession  Trump deplores.  Khasoggi opposed the Saudi rulers — friends of Trump.  Given this background, it’s no surprise that Trump is avoiding meaningful response to Khashoggi’s assassination.

In 2017, Jamal Khashoggi, perhaps the most famous journalist in the Arab world, left Saudi Arabia after being banned from publishing or appearing on television because he had criticized the Saudi rulers and Donald Trump.  Khashoggi relocated to the United States and began writing for the Washington Post.  On October 2nd, Khashoggi entered the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey, and has not been seen since.  There are numerous reports that he was killed by a 15-person assassination team dispatched by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

To understand how this killing became a major Trump scandal, we must follow three threads.  The first is the relationship between Jamal Khashoggi and his country.  In 1958. Khashoggi was born into an affluent Saudi family.  He went to Saudi schools and then came to the U.S.,  receiving his college degree at Indiana State University in 1982.  Khashoggi returned to Saudi Arabia and became a journalist; during the next twenty years he traveled extensively, interviewing many Middle East luminaries including Osama bin Laden ( ).

In 2003, the Saudi Ministry of Information removed Khashoggi from his post as editor of Al Watan and he moved to London.  In 2007, Khashoggi moved back to Saudi Arabia and again became editor of Al Watan.  In 2010 he was fired for criticizing the government.  Nonetheless, he continued to write columns, and provide TV commentary, for a variety of media outlets.  In December 2016, the Saudi authorities banned him from writing columns or appearing on television.  Early in 2017 Khashoggi moved to the United States and began writing for the Washington Post.

Khashoggi’s Post columns were sharply critical of the Saudi government, particularly Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman — next in line for the Saudi throne.  In April 2018  Khashoggi wrote that Saudi Arabia, “should return to its pre 1979 climate when the government restricted hard-line Wahhabi traditions. Women today should have the same rights as men. And all citizens should have the right to speak their minds without fear of imprisonment.”  He criticized Saudi intervention in Yemen and the government crackdown on media and dissent.  Khashoggi even established a Saudi political party, Democracy for the Arab World Now.

There’s strong evidence that Jamal Khashoggi was murdered, on October 2nd, at the direction of Mohammad bin Salman.  The Crown Prince doesn’t like to be challenged.  Neither does Donald Trump.

Trump has made no secret of his contempt for the press.  At his campaign rallies he’s encouraged his followers to heap abuse on nearby members of the press.  He regularly calls out journalists in his Tweets.  (By the way, Trump has particular contempt for The Washington Post, Khashoggi’s employer.  He’s called out various Post reporters and the owner,  Jeff Bezos.)  One of Trump’s objectives is to diminish freedom of the press by expanding libel laws to permit more law suits against journalists ( ).  Since becoming President, Trump has railed at alleged “fake news.”  In August he began call journalists “enemies of the people.”  (More than 300 U.S. media outlets have published editorials condemning Trump’s words.)

Given this background, it was to be expected that Trump minimized the importance of Khashoggi’s murder.  On October 11th, when queried about Khashoggi, Trump responded, “This took place in Turkey, and to the best of our knowledge, Khashoggi is not a United States citizen.”  (Khashoggi was in the U.S. as a lawful immigrant,)

However, Trump has stronger reasons to avoid a strenuous inquiry into Khashoggi’s death; Trump has financial ties to Saudi Arabia.  During the 2015 presidential campaign, Trump boasted: “Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me… Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much… They buy all sorts of my stuff. All kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundred of millions.”( )  By the way, Trump now denies these financial ties; on October 16th, Trump tweeted: “For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia.”  (There’s also evidence that Trump’ son-in-law, Jared Kushner has ties to the Saudis. ( )

Not surprisingly, Trump shows no interest in putting pressure on the Saudis.  It’s been suggested that he should threaten to withdraw from his touted “$110 billion” arms deal, to force the Saudi’s to cooperate.  He’s unlikely to do this.  Since May of 2017, the White House has touted “a $110 billion Saudi-funded defense purchase … which will grow to $350 billion over the next 10 years.”  But it turns out that most of the $110 billion consists of “memorandum of intent” and only $14.5 billion are covered by the firmer “Letters of Agreement.” ( )  In other words, Trump is lying about this arms deal.

The Trump Administration isn’t going to do anything about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.  Just like they haven’t done anything about the murders of other brave journalists in Russia and other parts of the world  ( ).  They don’t support freedom of the press.

Jamal Khashoggi’s last column was published posthumously by The Post (  Khashoggi observed: “Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate… The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power.”

Donald Trump isn’t going to do anything about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi because the crime was consistent with Trump’s attitude about the press.  He wants to impose his own Iron Curtain.  Who will be the first American journalist to die?

Global Climate Change Comes Home

There are many reasons to dislike Donald Trump. He’s an unrepentant sexual predator, who lies without remorse. In addition, Trump is a bigoted bully whose only moral precept is “might makes right.” Nonetheless, the most important reason to dislike Donald is that he refuses to protect our children and grandchildren.  Trump is obsessed with immediate gratification and. therefore, has chosen to ignore global climate change. Now it’s coming home to bite all of us.

If you blinked, you missed the October 8th report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (  It’s very disturbing; if we don’t take immediate action to control emissions, we’re screwed.  More about that later.

You may have not seen the IPCC climate change report because the mainstream-media focus quickly shifted to the fight between Donald Trump and Taylor Swift.  And then to sexual predator Brett Kavanaugh’s first day on the Supreme Court — by the way, he has four female clerks.  Or, if you live in the southeast, you may have been preoccupied with Hurricane Michael bearing down on the Florida panhandle.

If you’re among the unfortunates living on the coast of Alabama and Florida, I sympathize with your situation.  Perhaps, as your considering the hurricane damage, you’ll have a moment to reflect that you, too, are a victim of global climate change.  These days, that’s the pattern: people don’t pay attention to climate change until it comes to their neighborhood.

Every American has an opinion about climate change, but few of us rank it as an important concern when deciding who to vote for.  Instead, prospective voters focus on the near term: healthcare costs, jobs and the economy, or guns.  This is the recurring pattern when Americans ponder climate change: they decide it’s too abstract or difficult and they don’t do anything about it.   Unless you are fortunate enough to live in California.

In August, Quinnipiac ran a small poll (175 respondents) that asked: “Do you think the United States is doing enough to address climate change, doing too much, or do you think more needs to be done to address climate change?”  64 percent responded “more needs to be done;” the highest number since Quinnipiac started asking the question.  (And “doing too much” or “doing enough” were at all all time lows.)  The pollsters added a new follow-on question: “The wildfires in California are the worst in the state’s history. Do you think climate change is a factor in making these fires more extreme, or not?”  53 percent of respondents believed climate change was a factor.

In California, we take climate change very seriously and a strong majority believes that climate change was a factor in our fires.  A recent Public Policy Poll ( found that 80 percent of Californians view climate change as a serious “threat to the state’s future economy and quality of life.”  (California Democrats and Independents view climate change more seriously than do Republicans — only 22 percent of Trump’s Party see it is a threat; they’re more worried about Taylor Swift.)  Californians have to take climate change seriously; a recent report indicated that the frequency of major fires will increase by 77 percent by the end of the century.

In California we’re taking a variety of actions to stem the tide of climate change — such as limiting our carbon emissions — because we understand that  we don’t have a choice.

Meanwhile, the October 8th IPCC report indicates that the world is rapidly reaching the point of no return:  “We are on track to cross a key threshold of danger —1.5 degrees C or 2.7 degrees F—much earlier than anticipated: 2040.”  (A 1.5 degree Celsius increase is the point at which irreversible sea level rise, massive coral reef extinctions, and food shortages begin to occur.)  In California, this would increase the severity of fires and the probability of drought.  It would also increase flooding along the coast and raise the probability that salt water would intrude into the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta — an event that would have cascading consequences, threatening drinking water supplies and impacting farm land.

California is taking steps to deal with this and it’s likely Florida will join us.  The day the IPCC report appeared, Florida got news that Hurricane Michael was heading their way.  (On the afternoon of October 10th, Michael hit the Florida panhandle with winds between 115-155 mph.)  It’s the third major hurricane to hit Florida in the past 3 years.

It’s not Florida’s only global climate change event.  For almost a year, Florida has been beset by the “red tide” ( ), which has killed: “At least a hundred manatees, a dozen dolphins, thousands of fish, 300 sea turtles, and more have died or washed along shores in putrid-smelling masses.”  The red-tide has become a factor in Florida’s election:  Republican Governor Rick Scott exacerbated the situation by cutting Florida’s water-management budget.

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration chose not to respond to the IPCC report.  When queried, Donald said, “It was given to me, and I want to look at who drew it… Because I can give you reports that are fabulous, and I can give you reports that aren’t so good. But I will be looking at it. Absolutely.”  Trump isn’t going to read the report and he isn’t going to lead an effort to protect our children and grandchildren from future harm.

Response to the IPCC report will have to happen at the state level.  In the meantime, move to higher ground.

Righteous Anger: Kavanaugh and Trump

The confirmation process for Brett Kavanaugh began on September 4th, quickly devolved into a demolition derby, and finally has reached it’s ultra-partisan conclusion. Kavanaugh will be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. Republican actions will live on in infamy. And Democrats are united in righteous anger.

This 33 day process established several things.  First, Brett Kavanaugh is unfit to be a Supreme Court Justice.  At first, many of us opposed him because we thought his views were too extreme — he will, I’m sure, oppose Roe v. Wade and any other law that lets women make their own health decisions.  (And he is a corporatist who will side with corporations, and the wealthy, in cases that pit these interests against working folks.)  But, as he we got to know Kavanaugh — through the determined efforts of Senators like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris — we realized that he’s a liar; that he had lied to Congress ( )  And then, because of the courageous efforts of Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and other women, we learned that Kavanaugh had (or has) a drinking problem and, when he drank to excess, assaulted women.

Finally, when Kavanaugh was asked to defend himself from the Blasey-Ford accusations, he lost control of his temper: “This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election. Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record. Revenge on behalf of the Clintons. and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.  This is a circus.”  Kavanaugh does not have “judicial temperament.”

Watching the hearings, millions of Americans came to the conclusion that Kavanaugh is unfit to be a judge.  Among these was retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens ( )

The second thing the Kavanaugh hearings established is that the Republican Party, run by old white men, will say and do anything to win.  The GOP has embraced the morality that “the ends justify the means.”  This shouldn’t come as a surprise; after all, the Republican Party decided to invade Iraq because they needed a wining issue for the 2002 mid-term elections.

What’s so disappointing is that the entirety of the Republican Senate — with the exception of Senator Lisa Murkowski — has gone over to the dark side.  No longer can we find a handful of Senators — such as the late John McCain — who, on occasion, were willing to do what’s right; who were willing to declare that Emperor Trump has no clothes.  The Republican party has lost its moral compass.

The third thing we learned from the Kavanaugh hearings is that the Republican Party is Trump’s Party.  Trump pushed through a totally unfit Supreme Court nominee and, in the process, he forced the GOP to submit to his will.  With the exception of brave Senator Murkowski — and for a few minutes Senator Jeff Flake — no Republican was willing to stand up to Trump.  They will not stand up to an unrepentant sexual predator and habitual liar.

The fourth thing that was established during the 33 day ordeal is that Democrats, and like-minded voters, are angry.  The website 538 reported that Kavanaugh was the least popular choice for the Supreme Court in 100 years (  Kavanaugh was supported only by Republican voters.  (Overall, women were strongly opposed to Kavanaugh.)

There’s strong feeling about the Kavanaugh confirmation process.  Watching Christine Blasey Ford’s September 27th testimony, many sexual-assault survivors were re-triggered.  They were not pleased with the way the Republican-controlled committee handled Professor Ford — or Kavanaugh’s other accusers — and they were angered by Donald Trump’s mocking Professor Ford on October 2nd.

As a result of this painful process, Democrats, and their allies, are angry at Donald Trump and his Republican Party.  Now they plan to channel their anger into work related to the November 6th midterm elections.  The 538 website ( ) just cited a poll that concluded: “more voters would be angry than enthusiastic if Kavanaugh was confirmed.”  That confirms what we’re seeing on the Left Coast.  There’s a big money and determination gap between Democrats and Republicans.

Nonetheless, two incumbent female Democratic Senators were hurt by their opposition to Kavanaugh: Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill and North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp.  Their bravery merits support.

Finally, the Kavanaugh hearings established once and for all that the Republican Party can no longer claim to represent orthodox Christians.  Surely no political Party that consistently lies and supports the moral tenet that the ends justify the means, can claim allegiance to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus said: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”  On October 6th, 2018, it’s the Democratic Party that hungers and thirsts for righteousness.  With 30 days of hard work, our quest for righteousness will be fulfilled.