Democratic viewpoints on politics, policy and activism

When A Lie Is Not A Lie: WaPo Still Seeks Contrary In Darkness

I think it’s important to point out, again and again, that the mainstream media’s contrarian and equivocating reporting has created a rhetorical failure in this country in which our leaders can brazenly lie with impunity.

The Washington Post journalist Amber Phillips is just one latest case in point. This week in a blog post she criticized former presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders for stating the obvious, which is that President Donald Trump is a liar who consistently lies. In Phillips’ view, however, the media and our leaders should be careful not to follow Sanders’ example of calling Trump out on his lies because, maybe, just maybe, Trump doesn’t even know he’s lying.

I know I risk reducing here the litany of problems of their own making faced by mainstream media outlets, but it’s hard not to see Phillips’ piece as the typical contrarian type of journalism that has brought us to this particular point of uncertainty and fear in our country’s history. Under the rhetorical formula of contemporary journalistic contrarianism, even wild lies that have been called out and proven as lies deserve some type of media redemption from great thinkers like Phillips.

It goes like this: Well, yes, Trump says untruthful things, but maybe it’s not intentional lying really and the political discourse is so extreme these days, anyway, so why increase the incivility? There you have it. The Contrarian Stance.

One has to wonder what major lie leading to some type of major authoritarian act under a Trump administration—martial law, massive illegal deportations and imprisonments, war—would make Phillips drop her equivocations and contrarianisms, or would she even drop them then? Why didn’t she spend some of her time this week writing a post demanding Trump release copies of his tax returns instead of picking on Bernie Sanders of all people?

Here’s a longer piece on the back-and-forth between Sanders and Phillips. Essentially, Sanders tweeted about Trump’s well-known lies because he’s creating awareness and is concerned about democracy. Phillips then wrote her post criticizing Sanders for his lack of civil political discourse, and then Sanders responded to Phillips with a real question without a whiff of hyperbole or personal attack because, well, that’s Trump’s style, not Sanders’ style.

So what do we do, Sanders simply asked, when the United States president is a consistent, verifiable liar? Nothing?

The entire episode shows that despite new commitments to discover and report the truth in the Trump era from such media outlets as The Washington Post and The New York Times journalists throughout the country continue to apply old rhetorical formulas to new phenomenon. This includes the he-said-she-said false comparisons between lies and real arguments and The Contrarian Stance.

What doesn’t emerge from this type of journalism are verifiable facts or a truthful center.

What is now emerging from the history and the continuation of this type of journalism are presidential authoritarianism, chaos and fear.

Sanders is right. Phillips is wrong. (No equivocation.) There’s no space for contrarianism or civil discourse on this matter. President Trump, as other prominent leaders and writers have pointed out, is a liar. The reasons for his lies are obviously calculated in a larger sense—Trump never fully corrects or even tries to correct his initial lies—in the gestures in which he manipulates his own rhetorical presence. These gestures might seem haphazard or random, or simply dismissed by Phillips or whoever as a matter of style, but at this point it’s clear that his lies are a strategy and a longtime intuitive component of his public presentation of self.

Trump has, in a few short weeks, de-centered the institution of the American presidency through his brash lies, which to name a few, include calculated fibs about the size of his election victory, the crowd attendance at his inauguration and illegal voting in this country.

How can we get ever get back to some basic center of honesty or space of verifiable facts when we now consider the integrity of that institution without some major capitulation from Trump or unless he’s driven from office through legal means. That seems unlikely on both fronts. Our president lies just like all authoritarians and despots throughout history have lied. Will it always be so now in this country?

The Republic is in danger of failing sooner than later. Journalists like Phillips, who is writing for a publication that can still make a difference, are allowing it to happen. Democracy does die in darkness as the new WaPo slogan states. It’s too bad some of their staff still won’t turn on the lights.

School Vouchers Never A Good Idea For Oklahoma

The fact that a legislative bill that would have created education savings accounts in Oklahoma has been pulled from consideration is a victory for public education and overall a positive development this session.

One always knows something good has happened on a legislative matter when it prompts a wildly misleading editorial in The Oklahoman, the ultra-conservative newspaper, which lamented the bill’s demise because, get this, everyone, it would have helped children from low-income families.

Since when has The Oklahoman cared about impoverished people or overall poverty in this state or even basic children issues? Since never, and it still doesn’t. The newspaper is a stalwart entity of right-wing extremism that not only supports further enriching the extremely wealthy people in the state through income tax cuts but also sells daily its toxic brew of income disparity initiatives and trickle-down economics as modern miracles of bold, enlightened thought.

What the editorial leaves out is what’s important here. It’s the wealthy, not the impoverished who ultimately benefit the most from education savings accounts in which families are given taxpayers dollars, or per-pupil dollars, to use to pay for private schools. Let’s be clear that poor and even middle class people usually don’t have enough money to come up with the tuition of most private schools, such as Oklahoma City’s Casady and Heritage Hall, even with partial financial help from the government. But the extremely wealthy, whose kids are already in private schools, could always use the extra money, right? That’s how vouchers work. It’s a transfer of money to the extremely wealthy.

The editorial, titled “Poor families lose with withdrawal of Oklahoma ESA bill,” begins by quoting liar-in-chief Donald Trump and then commences with its own series of whoppers. The editorial notes that Republicans “ignored the needs of some of Oklahoma’s neediest children,” without acknowledging how similar voucher programs in other states, such as Indiana, have primarily been taken advantage of by people who would have sent their children to private schools anyway.

Meanwhile, voucher programs drain public schools of needed money, and, in a place like Oklahoma, which funds its schools and pays its teachers at some of the lowest levels in the country, every dollar counts.

The ESA bill, sponsored by state Sen. Rob Standridge, a Norman Republican, was supposedly specifically designed to help low-income children in Oklahoma, Tulsa and Cleveland counties through a sliding scale of per-pupil dollar amounts, but it also allowed, as the editorial noted, “not-quite-as-poor children” to get funds for private education as well through tax dollars. Standridge pulled the bill from consideration because it lacked enough Republican support. He plans to introduce the bill again in a future session, according to media reports.

The editorial even used a partial quote by Martin Luther King Jr. to make its case. The conflation of implicit praise for Trump and Dr. King in a single editorial is bizarre as it gets, but in this case and during these not-so-normal times it’s borderline evil on a rhetorical level. Trump is a huckster and unhinged liar and an authoritarian, who threatens our democracy with each passing day. King was a pacifist minister, a legendary hero, who risked his life and bodily harm as he ushered in the civil rights era in this country.

The main problem with vouchers or whatever the right-wing wants to call them at any given moment to deceive people into privatizing education is that it takes away money from public schools, which are still tasked with educating all children despite their income level or learning ability. This is particularly important in Oklahoma, which has cut funding to education the most of any state since the 2008 recession.

Given this state’s long history of underfunding education, it will never be the right time here for ESAs or vouchers or any major privatization of our school systems. Those who stood up against the bill should be lauded, not falsely shamed for supposedly not helping poor children. It’s The Oklahoman editorial board and its supporters and apologists, with their right-wing lies and their long history of supporting policies that benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor and middle class, that should be publicly criticized.

Reign Of Error: President Trump Makes It Up Then Goes On Tweet Tirade

We can hope the mainstream media journalists who praised President Donald Trump after his supposed redemption speech last week will now understand the country is clearly dealing with an unhinged, calculating liar as its leader.

As the bizarre tweets over the weekend indicate on a larger, cosmic level, any effort to find praise for the racist and misogynistic Trump at this point for anything is an exercise in crass deflection, a grave error and disservice to this country and democratic institutions throughout the world. Some decent reporters and analysts in the mainstream media, of course, didn’t fall for Trump’s intentional misdirection play when he addressed Congress last week in a more subdued manner, temporarily abandoning his normal ranting style so we can maybe hope there’s still some hope maybe.

But the praise for Trump, mainly from the major television networks, was as bizarre as Trump’s weekend tweets, and it just wasn’t Fox News.

Of course, Trump lied his way through the speech, which the now-trying-to-be honest media, such as The New York Times, reported diligently, but the president’s television enablers—the hairs as I call them—were so struck by his different tone they became convinced his speech was some type of miraculous change in style, tone and, get this, substance. Maybe they think this is all a reality television show that ends happily for someone. That all stopped in the next couple of days as his fellow liar and campaign surrogate, fellow racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions, got caught in his own web of deceit, and the Trump regime imploded once again into a carnival of the bizarre.

By the time the weekend arrived, Trump was tweeting wild accusations about how former President Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of his offices back in October, which is not even legally or, well, physically possible unless the former president did it himself with a ladder, pliers and top secret eavesdropping gizmos. Even FBI director James Comey eventually called Trump out on the craziness and absurdity of his outburst. In one ridiculous tweet, Trump referred to Obama’s fictional action as a Watergate-type scandal and then as McCarthyism when, in fact, the continuing exposure of the Trump’s regime Russian connections is the real Watergate in the living room.

As we now know, Sessions’ lying made him recused himself from any investigation examining Trump’s and his campaign’s connection to Russia, which meddled in our recent election on both presidential and Congressional levels by hacking into emails and supporting conservatives and authoritarians for office.This mainly included support for Trump as the Russians released mundane emails through Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks of national Democratic Party officials, innocuous emails that received breathless coverage from our dysfunctional corporate media. The infighting in the Democratic Party was so important, wasn’t it, just like the Benghazi investigation and Hillary Clinton’s server, right? Does anyone, except those directly involved, even remember all the specifics about any of those two events?

Let’s be clear that the Russians duped the nation’s media outlets as much as anyone else, and they continue to do so. All this leads us to the issue of relationship between the “deep state,” which represents our intelligence agencies and our basic democratic institutions, such as the three branches of government, which, of course, are vitally important at least on some symbolic level. But that’s another post for another time.

So I’m certainly ready to give The Times, The Washington Post and some other major media outlets, such as CNN, another chance at reporting the truth instead of the he-said-she-said reporting that marked the American journalistic era Before Trump. Now is the time for a relentless reporting of truth combined with complete and utter skepticism that Trump will ever start telling the truth, which he never will. Donald Trump will never start telling the truth on a consistent basis. Now is the time for daily front-page editorials demanding, among other things, that Trump release copies of his tax returns and information about his campaign’s connections with the Russian government during his run for president.

How many lies will it take? How many times will the media fall for Trump’s misdirection plays as he assumes, momentarily, a fictional calmer demeanor or a softer tone? How more obvious can it get? How many more people have to die by hate-crime murders before the media wakes up? The blood is on every journalist who works at a major news outlet and isn’t speaking up. They have the money and instruments to report the truth. Will they do it?

Some in the media continue to want to play by the old rules in which a politician stretches the truth for simple political gain or defense in a moment of controversy or parses the numbers in a distorted manner and then there’s some back and forth on a particular issue. This isn’t the case with Trump. He lies on a truly spectacular level, and his supporters and most of the leaders in his political party, the GOP, simply don’t care. So who cares about Trump’s demeanor at any given moment on one particular day? He’s a damn liar. To normalize him is to accept all explicit liars as president from now on. It only takes one, and then it happens again and again, and there goes democracy down the drain.

Trump’s consistent lying threatens the foundation of America’s democratic institutions and our diverse culture and what freedom and voice and agency we still have. If those are not worth fighting for, then there’s pretty much nothing left worth fighting for here. People have started to rise against Trump, true, but it will be difficult to get anything done if a complacent and powerful media is still searching for its mission in the past while a president who lies repeatedly is not held accountable.

Are the people alone on this sinking U.S.S. Democracy ship? Look carefully at the two Trump tweets I’ve used so far in this post. In the first tweet I posted, note how Trump uses the term “very sacred election process” and “Bad (or sick guy)!” Isn’t it obvious that these are the allegations against Trump himself, that he and/or his surrogates encouraged the Russians to help him get elected in the “sacred” election and that he’s the one who is coming off as mentally unbalanced “sick guy” or, at least, extremely unhinged? It’s obvious he’s trying to use the same criticisms against himself on Obama to conflate truth with a mirror lie in which he levels the same criticism he faces against what he perceives as hi opponents. Let’s be clear: Trump didn’t even run against Obama, who never exhibited one sign of mental illness during his presidency.

The second tweet I posted mentions “McCarthyism,” which is another misdirection. Joseph McCarthy, the U.S Senator and Wisconsin kook who started investigations of supposed American communists in the 1950s, was a Republican, just like Trump, as was Nixon, who had to resign because of the Watergate scandal. Two things to note here. The reference to McCarthy takes us again to a parsing of our country’s relationship to Russia, a former communist country which seems front and center in the president’s mind. Trump is expressing a liberal platitude—the communist witch hunt was wrong—as a misdirection in an extremely reductionist sense and, once again by inference, is showing in yet another way a deference to Russia through a history argument. (Look how awful those people accused of “plotting’ with Russian communists were treated.) Meanwhile, Trump is also condemning the extremism and blunders of McCarthy and Nixon, two Republicans who disgraced and still define their party. But, see, Republicans recognizing the collective memory hole of American don’t care about the brand as long as they get to dismantle programs for poor people in any given legislative session to serve the oligarchy. Meanwhile, Trump doesn’t need a political party or anyone for anything.

Obviously, one question is whether the tweets are simply stream-of-consciousness rants or calculated minutely after detailed, obsessive consideration. I speculate they are calculated on this level: Because of his power as an extremely wealthy person in our culture, which attracts nauseating, faux adoration, Trump has been allowed to just make things up as he goes along, which has been met with consistent, deferential treatment from sycophants. That even allowed him, with the help of the “liberal” media, to become president as reporters clung to his every crazy word and reported the Clinton’s non-controversies as Serious Journalism art work. Why wouldn’t Trump or any millionaire for that matter continue with what has been successful for them to gain and hold power? He continues his bizarre behavior because he knows nothing else, and, no, he will never know how to act differently or become “presidential,” whatever that means at this point in our country’s history.

As all this was unfolding in the tweetashpere, Trump managed to get this out to the American public because it’s so so important:

The media needs to start out-tweeting the president of the United States. It can do so. It has the power and the intellectual power. It has, to paraphrase the late poet Allen Ginsberg, the best minds of its generation. There’s no excuse, anymore. The Times has made a small first step. Now it needs to get real. Its own survival is at risk. The buffoon Trump is a maniac, not someone who can be laughed away, although humor and satire have their serious role in the resistance and protest movement.

I’ll try to end on a constructive note. Here are some of my humble suggestions for the mainstream media, offered up as a former newspaper journalist, a current professor and a longtime blogger.

  • Run regular front-page editorials and television news commentaries demanding Trump release his tax returns.
  • Dispense with such qualifiers such as “misleading” or “distortions.” Trump is a liar. Call his lies lies. Remind readers and viewers that Trump is a liar. Call him a liar in virtually every context in your reporting as in “Trump has repeatedly lied in the past . . .” I still see a reluctance among media outlets to use the terms “lies” or “liar.”
  • Join forces with alternative media outlets to frame Trump’s lies in a broader context. Don’t worry about accusations that the “‘lamestream’ media is liberal.” Who cares about that at this point?
  • Stop all the contrarian viewpoints about any given issue when it’s obvious Trump or one of his surrogates has lied. Don’t allow anyone, even so-called experts, to parse through some ridiculous qualification of his lies. Trump is a liar; the people around him lie. That’s a given at this point.
  • Embrace groups and organizations that know the lies of the Trump regime are threatening our country’s democracy. Report on their actions with respect and urgency. Don’t dismiss the collective voice emerging from identity political groups. Help to grow it by reaching out.
  • Hire staff members who know that the country is at a dangerous moment in our history and wants the U.S to endure as a democracy with fair elections and some semblance of representative government.
  • Give up on the idea—and this especially applies to the larger coastal news outlets—that people who still support Trump can somehow be swayed by truth. That’s never going to happen on any large scale. This is a time to retrench on the truth, to call people who believe in the truth and fundamental democracy to action. Truth is not relative when it comes to Trump. People who support him, from high-ranking GOP leaders to the white supremacists who adore him, are not only complicit in his lies they also want him to lie.
  • Refuse to accept any advertising, political or otherwise, that attempts to qualify the lies of the Trump regime or attempts to normalize him in any form.
  • Embrace partisan politics by fully reporting on how the Republican leadership wants to dismantle the remains of democracy in this country. Embrace liberalism and express it openly. Use the words “liberal” and “progressive” in your mastheads and your television logos. Channel Five—the progressive voice of City, Somewhere, USA.
  • Create journalistic investigation teams made up of brave individuals who will look into Trump’s regime, such as his repeated lies, his personal finances, his family’s business ties, his connections to Russia, his anti-immigration initiatives and his build-up of the country’s war machine. Realize the categories are all connected under our historical conceptual knowledge of fascism and dictatorship.
  • This is a partial list. I could go on. The point is there needs to be a paradigm shift in the media on a major level.

    But I only have so much hope the media will respond in real opposition despite some encouraging signs lately. In the end, people have to show up in the public square in large numbers to resist and protest. They will face bodily harm and arrest, as all people protesting authoritarian governments have faced throughout history. Their lives could be disrupted in major ways that could define them forever in both positive and negative ways, but the alternative is even more grim. To function in silence at this dangerous moment is complicity.

    No Matter How You Parse The Numbers Oklahoma Still Faces Major Earthquake Crisis

    Oklahoma’s manmade earthquake crisis is still a major emergency despite how the numbers are getting parsed these days.

    NewsOK.com noted a recent decline in earthquakes in major coverage. Using Oklahoma Geological Survey data, it pointed out in a recent story, “Oklahoma averaged almost more than five magnitude-2.7 or greater quakes per day in 2015, but the rate fell to 3.6 per day last year and 1.4 per day so far this year.”

    Don’t break out the champagne just yet, however, or, more realistically, start believing the state is on a sustainable path to stop all the earthquakes here caused by an element of the hydraulic fracturing or fracking process. For example, here’s how the Los Angeles Times presented the numbers in a recent article:

    According to scientists, there were only about two earthquakes a year of magnitude 2.7 or greater in Oklahoma from 1980 to 2000. But that number jumped to 2,500 in 2014 and soared to 4,000 a year later.

    The article concedes the earthquake numbers have dropped recently, but the reason for the drop is still debatable. According to the article:

    There has recently been a decrease in wastewater being injected deep underground, either because of regulatory actions or because oil and gas extraction has declined due to falling petroleum prices. That might be a reason for the decrease in the number of Oklahoma earthquakes last year, to 2,500,

    So the state has gone from virtually no earthquakes to 4,000 in one year and is now back at around 2,500. That’s still 2,500 earthquakes, and, as anyone living in central and north-central Oklahoma will tell you, the temblors keep coming, and we’re still unsure the new rules surrounding wastewater disposal is the reason for the drop or not.

    It’s difficult for Oklahoma residents in the seismic zone to tell the difference on a personal level between 2,500 and 4,000 earthquakes when some of them might go unfelt or are only felt in certain areas.

    Scientists confirmed years ago that Oklahoma’s earthquake crisis has been caused by the oil and gas industry. These earthquakes have caused damage to personal property such as homes and other structures. Parsing the numbers, even if done as a hopeful gesture or to really indicate a trend, simply delays the inevitable, which is that oil and gas companies need to stop injecting wastewater from their fracking operations into Oklahoma’s underground rock formations.

    In the fracking process, a toxic slew of saltwater and chemicals is injected by high pressure underground to create fissures in rock formations. These fissures release oil and gas. The wastewater from the operations is then injected underground into what are called injection wells or disposal wells. As I mentioned, scientists for years now agree it’s the injection well process that is triggering earthquakes along Oklahoma’s formerly dormant fault lines.

    The Oklahoma Corporation Commission, with no help from former Oklahoma Attorney General and now U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, has shut down some wells, and limited wastewater volume amounts in other wells over the last couple of years or so. I have no doubt the commission members are well intentioned at some level, but the decline in earthquakes has corresponded directly with less oil and gas activity overall because of the world’s fossil-fuel glut. If the fracking boom hadn’t gone bust here, how many earthquakes would we have annually now? It’s a guessing game in terms of numbers, but not in terms of the reality of how much we shake here.

    What we also know is that world may have reached peak oil demand at this point because of the growth of renewable energy sources and fuel efficiency. This may mean that unless there’s a major disruption of the world’s oil supply because of a war or some other conflict Oklahoma may well has seen it’s last real oil boom. Those wind turbines everyone sees driving south down I-35 in Oklahoma are only going to multiply in years to come. Solar energy, which accounts for a growing amount of our energy supply, will also increase in geometric proportions.

    What this means is that Oklahoma is tied to a dying industry, which gets major tax breaks, thus decreasing state revenues that go to fund education while damaging our personal property. The powerful oil and gas lobby here makes it difficult for regulators to do anything significant. Obviously, the complete demise in the use of fossil fuels is far from imminent, but the direction we’re heading is quite clear.

    So the question becomes how long can Oklahoma endure these fracking-induced earthquakes even if it just’s 2,500 a year or one or two 2.7-magnitude or above earthquakes a day without major property damage? Will a big earthquake of a magnitude of 6.0 or higher, which geologists say could happen, strike in a highly populated area, causing massive damage and injuries, even death.

    We know how to solve this. Simply place a a major reduction leading to a complete moratorium on wastewater injection wells.

    No Complacency About Trump: Lies, Russian Connections Matter Even More

    The chaos generated on an almost daily basis by the presidential administration of Donald Trump is a deliberate strategy to diffuse a full and direct organized response to the growing authoritarianism of the regime.

    Trump attacks the fake news he helped to create with his outlandish birther claims, shifts focus for a moment to reductionist approaches on health care and budget matters, lies repeatedly about large issues (his historical Russian ties) and the mundane (his electoral college numbers), tweets once again his criticism of The New York Times, ignores obvious opportunities to fully condemn hateful acts of antisemitism and racism and reminds us, of course, for good measure about the flub at the Academy Awards ceremony. I could go on.

    Trump is Big Brother. He’s everywhere. He demands and craves attention like no president I have witnessed in modern history, even the fellow actor Ronald Reagan. While it’s exhausting and the temptation is to check out into passivity, especially when the opposition party has been complicit in embracing the neoliberal agenda that helped create a political climate in which a liar like Trump could even get elected president in the first place and in which neofascism could get a firm foothold, this is definitely still a time—however brief it might be—for resistance and protest.

    Meanwhile, Trump’s administration leaks its slime like a large sieve, with the compelling and not so compelling, which adds even more evidence to the growing nightmare of dealing with what some of the most intelligent people the world once warned us might well be the death of democracy in this country.

    Then, in yet another twist to the chaotic narrative, and, yes, there is even more, we learn of Trump’s family business ties in foreign countries, with all the ensuing conflicts of interest and the constitutional violations because the president, as all evidence suggests, undoubtedly wants to make money out of all the madness he has created.

    Still another twist came just last night when Trump’s supposed unity speech to Congress initially made a passing mention of Black History Month while also condemning recent hate acts against the country’s Jewish community and the recent murder of an India citizen in Kansas. So far so good, right? But this, of course, was soon supplanted by Trump’s typical xenophobic and nationalistic references to “the wall” and deporting immigrants, an appeal to the alt-right and those white supremacists among its ranks. His overall generalized proposals last night that feigned populism in terms of health care and jobs and infrastructure are simply not supported by his cabinet appointments or his initial executive orders that privilege Wall Street bankers over ordinary Americans or his specific tax ideas. The best one say about the speech is that it consisted mostly of hollow political rhetoric unsupported by his previous actions rather than the usual fare of easily discernible and outrageous lies. Unfortunately, some in the mainstream media seem to have bought into idea of a “new Trump,” at least for now.

    As the poet W.H. Auden wrote in the poem “September 1,1939” after Hitler invaded Poland, “All I have is a voice/To undo the folded lie,/The romantic lie in the brain/Of the sensual man-in-the-street.”

    Let’s parse that a bit, replacing the “I” with “we.” To me, “folded lie” fully describes Trump and the regime’s methods of repeating blatant lies sometimes walked back with half-lies or other qualifications. The lies get repeated in varying geometric progression and patterns, in some ways seemingly random, in other ways obviously deliberate. The “sensual-man-in-the-street” is, to me, someone who for whatever reason—and it’s no longer productive to search for that reason these days as if anything can be done about it—has given their lives over to the visceral instead of the rational while embracing a dark, isolationist vision for mankind in which official lies no longer matter and the authoritarian state creeps over our daily lives like an oppressive fog.

    Literary interpretations aside, “we” do have a voice and personal agency to undo lies, and that’s mostly what only we have right now, and that’s what we need to deploy no matter how draining it becomes on a day-to-day basis. Remaining on the sidelines without taking a public position these days, no matter how that may manifest itself, is complicity.

    Where we stand now a few weeks into it is that we know a mentally unstable and calculating person who repeatedly and openly lies and demeans decent people is president of the United States. There is so much verifiable evidence about his lies, in particular, that only calculating liars or extremely ill-informed people will deny it. Republicans in Congress, for example, fully know Trump lies and they are complicit in the lying as is the conservative press.

    It bears repeating that the protest against Trump and his surrogates should be framed under the realization and outing of this basic foundation of deceit. Progressives concerned about individual issues, what gets called identity politics in the prevailing parlance, can surely rally around exposing this larger deceit because it crushes us all and all our movements and individual compassions.

    The other big story for now is the incredibly obvious ties Trump and his surrogates have with the Russian government. We can intellectualize the tension between the deep state (our intelligence agencies) and Trump’s administration at this juncture, and waste time speculating on false equivalencies between contemporary Russia and the U.S., which even Trump has done and probably wants us to do, but that would be an error.

    That the Russian government meddled in our recent election to help get Trump elected has been accepted by our government leadership. We know Trump has had previous ties with Russia business leaders. We know his former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign, spoke to the Russian ambassador after then President Barack Obama announced sanctions against the country for interfering in our democratic election process. We know a former British intelligence agent has released a dossier about Trump’s ties to Russia, which includes salacious information, not yet confirmed elsewhere, that might compromise the president if used as a form of blackmail. Some of his non-salacious information has been confirmed, according to media reports.

    These facts demand an independent investigator, perhaps even a grand jury inquiry, into how much contact the Trump campaign had with Russia leaders or operatives during the election and what business dealings the president’s businesses have had and now have directly or indirectly with Russia. Watch the below longer segment from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that deals with the Russian issue and how new Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s Russian connections only add to a need for a real, non-partisan investigation:

    Finally, I appreciate the new-found commitment to the truth by The New York Times, and I support its efforts to finally tell it like it is rather than continuing to engage in the he-said-she-said type of reporting that turned the non-sensational into the sensational, such as Hillary Clinton’s email server or the Benghazi investigation or some non-important Russian-hacked emails related to the Democratic Party. But they still need to open up their pages and staff pool to people who had it right in the first place and were criticizing them for sensationalizing Republican and Russian lies and dogma that got us to this precarious position in our history. Trump is what we got for the newspaper’s old journalistic rhetorical formulas and insular newsroom.

    This applies to some other larger mainstream media outlets, too, such as The Washington Post, which are finding a new voice in calling lies out for what they are these days. Lies are lies, not one side of a legitimate argument.

    Yet, tragically, many of the nation’s media outlets, especially the major networks, continue to normalize Trump as we saw last night in their analyses after his speech. One speech can’t even begin to normalize a Donald Trump presidency. If it only takes one “normal” speech to swing the American press back into complacency, then we know it is too late.

    Divorce Bill Would Create Conflict

    Each year now for at least a decade, there has been a smorgasbord of really bad and extremist right-wing bills introduced into the Republican-dominated Oklahoma legislature, from anti-abortion measures to actions that allow discrimination against the LGBTQ community to religious intrusion initiatives that threaten the teaching of real science in our schools.

    Some actually make it through the process and are later overturned by lawsuits. Others don’t make it through the process because somewhere along the line a bit of common sense kicks in among the legislative leadership. It’s a circus, and all of this has been happening in the last eight or nine years as the state faces very real fiscal problems. Nothing like a bit of cray cray to take everyone’s minds off major cuts to education funding, right?

    House Bill 1277, sponsored by Rep. Travis Dunlap, a Republican from Bartlesville, is one such bill that needs to get stopped by common sense. The bill, which would restrict no-fault divorce in Oklahoma, would make children more vulnerable to the emotional upheaval of divorce and manufactured even more conflict when it’s terribly unnecessary.

    Dunlap was quoted in a local story about the bill this way: “I call it human flourishing or family flourishing or those sorts of things.” Okay, “those sorts of things” really doesn’t sort it all out for anyone. Strong families are diverse and have their own unique qualities. Single-parent families, blended families, singles with a strong friendship network, all can and do flourish.

    The bill would restrict the use of incompatibility for divorce for couples married 10 years or more or have minor children or when at least one of them objects to the divorce. The couple then would then have to undergo counseling. I especially think the reference in the current version of the bill stating this could come about “where one party objects in writing” is problematic. What if someone does this simply out of spite or anger? The bill has passed out of a House committee, which is not a good sign that cooler heads might prevail. Maybe the Senate will stop the bill from advancing.

    We all know Oklahoma has a high divorce rate, which often lands it in the top ten for divorce among states. Much of this has to do because of marriages among young people, whose religious backgrounds and romanticized notions about marriage distort the reality. The state even implemented the failed Oklahoma Marriage Initiative in 1999 to no avail.

    The last thing anyone—from counselors to attorneys— should want to do is to inject vitriol and conflict into a family situation involving children and extend psychological chaos because of some legislator’s archaic beliefs about human flourishing, but this is what the bill is designed to do. Dunlap and other Republicans want to engineer human behavior by implementing legal obstacles, but it doesn’t work that way.

    There’s no real legal need for this bill. If a couple with children can agree to divorce amicably then that’s obviously the best solution. The makeup of families and marriage itself has been transforming, evolving and changing over many decades now. More people need to embrace the pluralistic nature of new family structures, but that’s something that takes time, but it’s happening, even in Oklahoma.

    Resistance

    The ongoing Oklahoma budget crisis, which now threatens the very viability of our public schools, was created by conservative ideology and basic malfeasance.

    Let’s be clear: The Republican Political Party here has broken the state in ways that may well last for a generation or more. The state has cut funding to public education the most on a percentage basis of any state since 2008. It cut higher education funding last year by nearly 16 percent. Gov. Mary Fallin has refused to accept federal Medicaid expansion, leading to even more health problems in a state with terrible medical access. Conservatives fill up the state prisons while children’s stomachs remain empty.

    All this is done under the flawed ideology of cutting taxes for rich people in the supposed belief the money will trickle down and create jobs and opportunities. That’s a big fat lie, perpetuated for decades by conservatives. I don’t think most conservative politicians here even believe it. I believe they just want to serve the rich so they can get campaign donations and get reelected.

    The Oklahoma Legislature under complete domination by Republicans has slashed the state income tax, a slow drip of cuts that have primarily benefitted the rich. Conservatives have passed out tax breaks to oil and gas companies as well. All this has lead to another huge, looming budget shortfall next fiscal year—estimated at $878 million in an approximate $7 billion budget—and an immediate revenue failure, which means public education will receive yet another $11.1 million cut.

    It’s simply not sustainable. Teachers here are leaving in droves to teach in other states that will pay them more money and give them more respect. The state pays money to public universities—a decreasing amount, of course, made up by tuition increases—to train many of these teachers and they then leave here. Obviously, people will leave Oklahoma for different reasons, but why are we training teachers for other states?

    All of this will only get amplified under the authoritarian presidency of Donald Trump, who also aims to cut taxes for the rich. What federal programs will get slashed here as the state cuts funding to its agencies and educational systems even more? It’s difficult to believe a new fossil-fuel boom is on the horizon unless there’s a major world war. Renewable energy sources are steadily replacing fossil fuels, and we’ve probably reached or are close to peak oil demand.

    Oklahoma faces a bleak future not only because of its Republican-dominated government but also because of Trump’s presidency as well.

    I’ve argued at least since 2000 that there has to be a breaking point in which the right-wing extremists here come to realize how much damage they are inflicting upon themselves and others, but now the election of the dysfunctional and lying Trump and recent events in Oklahoma have made me reconsider.

    What if there isn’t a breaking point but just a steady demise of our state and country under an ideology and a rigged political and election system that makes no sense? The demise of American world power and its public institutions won’t benefit Oklahoma.

    The answer, of course, is to resist, to show up, to engage, to tell the truth, to call out the lies here by local conservative leaders and Trump. Oklahoma conservative leaders are destroying this state; Donald Trump is an unhinged, compulsive liar.

    Don’t let the sadness weigh you down. Get angry about what’s happening to our state and country. Speak up. It might be a cliché but silence really is complicity at this point.