United Corporations Of America.

Now that Congress has been bought by large corporate interests and billionaires, you can clearly see the GOP agenda intended to pay back campaign donors.

Some of the very first bills brought forward by the GOP include a bill demanding that President Obama and the State Department approve the Keystone XL pipeline. The stated goal is to “create jobs.” But given the fact that the pipeline would only create 35-50 permanent jobs (aside from the temporary jobs needed to build it and those who would be needed to try to clean up the toxic leaks), it’s really a blatant payback to the Koch brothers for supporting GOP candidates.

Of course, we’ve seen yet another Repeal Obamacare bill intended to throw red meat to the right wing base.

The GOP-led Congress has also passed bills intended to, once again, deregulate Wall Street and to eliminate the Consumer Protection Agency. Of course, this is a nod to the GOP’s big Wall Street donors and right wing billionaires. If signed into law, the result would be to unshackle too-big-to-fail banks and investment funds to fleece ordinary investors of their IRAs, 401ks and pension funds.

We’ve seen attempts to withhold funds from the Environmental Protection Agency. This, of course, is another bill to pay back the Koch brothers and large corporations, freeing them to extract resources without regard to the environment. And once the resources have been harvested, the public will be left to clean up the corporate mess.

And let’s not forget the other kind of GOP payback to which we have become so accustomed. The GOP is blocking confirmation of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General in an attempt to force Democrats to sign a well-intentioned human trafficking bill that has been amended to further restrict a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion. This is the same kind of nonsense we’ve seen since President Obama took office in 2009…a period that has thus far seen the GOP block dozens of cabinet and judicial nominees along with 375 bills, including 7 jobs bills and 2 bills for veterans’ benefits. (Indeed, half of the filibusters in US history have come during the Obama administration.)

Yet, instead of replacing the bums with people who might actually represent their constituents, a low voter turnout resulted in the GOPstoppers picking up control of the Senate!

And lest you think that this generation of GOP politicians is particularly disgusting, remember that others in the GOP have done worse. For example, Richard Nixon resorted to treason by undermining President Johnson’s peace talks with the Vietnamese in order to win a close election with Hubert Humphrey. Ronald Reagan intentionally aligned himself with racist Southern Christians (the KKK has long been associated with Christian believers) to defeat Jimmy Carter. And George W. Bush relied on his brother to suppress thousands of votes in Florida in order to steal the presidency from Al Gore.

Although GOP cheating was less obvious in 2004, there is considerable evidence of widespread voter fraud in Ohio, the state that allowed Bush to defeat John Kerry.

More recently, Teapublicans have gerrymandered congressional districts to make it impossible for Democrats to win. They have passed restrictive voter ID laws to prevent minorities, the poor and the elderly from voting. They have cut early voting hours and the number of polls in Democratic-leaning areas to make voting more difficult. They have skirted, or outright ignored, campaign finance laws that forbid cooperation between campaigns and PACs or so-called “education” groups. And their hand-picked conservative Supreme Court Justices have acted to strike down decades of precedent in order to open the floodgates of corporate and special interest money in support of GOP candidates. In doing so, two of those “justices” (Thomas and Scalia) refused to recuse themselves from the cases despite the fact that they personally stood to benefit from their own decision – a breach of ethics that would not be tolerated at any other level of the justice system.

As a result, things are only going to get worse.

The Balanced Budget Fraud.

It may sound like a good idea to require the federal government to balance the budget, but it’s nothing more than a thinly-disguised way for Teapublicans to shrink government and give corporations free reign to exploit people and resources.

Make no mistake, as soon as a balanced budget amendment is passed, if it ever is, Teapublicans will cut taxes at the first opportunity. That will result in less revenue, which, in turn, will result in large budget cuts. Of course, those cuts will not affect corporate welfare or the military-industrial complex. Instead, there will be cuts to regulatory agencies and safety nets. Already we’ve seen the GOP propose the repeal of the Affordable Care Act which will deny affordable health insurance to more than 16 million Americans. We’ve seen GOP-sponsored budgets that propose cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and Supplemental Nutrition programs. We’ve seen Teapublican initiatives to defund the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, the IRS, and the Department of Labor.

All of this will be made much easier if Teapublicans can muster enough votes to pass a balanced budget amendment.

The truth is, our federal government has often operated at a deficit. Not because of bad management or negligence. But out of necessity. Indeed, the Constitution was created to replace the failed Articles of Confederation over federal deficits. The fledgling government had run up substantial debts during the Revolutionary War and, without a central government, it had no way of collecting the funds to repay those debts. And that’s but one example: Had FDR not expanded government programs to put people back to work, we likely would have never emerged from the Great Depression. Had the US not operated at a deficit, we would not have been able to conduct military operations for WWII and most of our other all-too-frequent wars.

The Reagan administration operated at massive deficits in an attempt to outspend the Soviet Union. The Bush administration operated at enormous deficits in order to create the Homeland Security Department and to prosecute the Afghan and Iraq Wars. And the Obama administration has operated at deficits (albeit steadily decreasing deficits) in order to wind down operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and to dig our economy out of the trench created by Bush.

Since 1975, only two administrations have produced surpluses, and both of them were Democrats! Taking it a step further, in the past 100 years, there have been eight Democratic presidents and nine Republicans. Five of the eight Democrats oversaw deficits smaller than they inherited, while seven of the nine Republicans oversaw deficits larger than they inherited.

Given their history, do you really think Teapublicans are pushing a balanced budget amendment out of a sense of fiscal responsibility?

Moreover, balanced budget requirements are no guarantee of fiscal responsibility. In Arizona, for example, once the legislature passed a balanced budget requirement, Teapublicans set about starving the state with tax cuts. Of course, those tax cuts have not been shared equally. The state not only cut taxes for the wealthy. It has cut corporate taxes for 24 of the past 25 years. Meanwhile, it has raised sales taxes to push the costs of government onto those who can least afford it. The resulting lack of revenue has, in turn, led to catastrophic cuts to education and other services.

Since no Teapublican will ever again agree to raise taxes, the state is caught in a downward spiral fueled by ideologues, greedy corporations, self-serving politicians, dark money donations to lapdog candidates, and a series of “studies” and propaganda from conservative “think tanks.” It’s a death spiral from which the state may never recover.

The Reality Show I’d Pay To See.

I despise virtually all of the so-called “Reality” TV shows. But there is one show I’d love to see: “Sheriff Joe’s Prison Term In Tent City.”

For years, “America’s Toughest Sheriff” has, in reality, been America’s Most Corrupt Sheriff. He has ignored court orders and enforced laws as he sees fit. He has racially-profiled Latinos. He has failed to investigate hundreds of sexual assaults in Latino communities. He has ignored the dehumanizing and dangerous conditions at his Tent City. (You know, the tents in the desert where prisoners are warehoused without heat, air conditioning, toilets and running water.) He has profited from donations to his far right wing PAC. And he has cost the taxpayers of Maricopa County more than $145 million in legal costs and misspent funds.

Now, faced with a contempt of court hearing for willfully ignoring a judge’s orders, he has admitted to guilt in hopes that he will avoid the hearing and the potentially harsher penalties that could come with it.

Let’s hope the judge sees his plea for what it really is: An attempt to settle for a slap on the wrist and a stern warning. Let’s hope the judge sentences him to time in his own Tent City. And let’s hope the judge allows cameras in the prison so we can all watch his detention officers place the sheriff in a holding area with no shade from the sun as they have done to so many others; so we can watch him eat the same gruel he has forced on prisoners for years; so we can watch him stand in line for one of his own portable toilets; so we can watch him wrinkle his nose at the stench coming from the toilets and the dump next door.

Now that’s a “Reality” show I’d watch!

Is It Time To Break The “Unbreakable Bond?”

Following the results of the Israeli elections in which the Likud party led by Benjamin Netanyahu won the most seats in the Knesset, it’s time for the United States to make some difficult decisions. In order to push his party over the top, Netanyahu made a last minute statement that he would never agree to a Palestinian state or a divided Jerusalem. In addition, he created fear among Israeli Jews by saying that the opposition party was busing Israeli Arabs to the polls in droves.

That may have worked for Netanyahu in the short term. But it has most certainly created a long-term problem for all of the Middle East, including Israel, and, by extension, the United States. By dismissing the possibility of a Palestinian state, Netanyahu has dashed the hopes of self-determination for millions of Palestinian people – most of whom are refugees pushed off of their land in Israel. Further, Netanyahu has widened the rift between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews by pitting them against each other in the election.

What does all of this mean?

It means that Palestinians no longer have a reason to negotiate peace with Israel. It means that Palestine’s only peaceful option is to pursue state recognition from the world community through the United Nations. It means that the United States will be placed in the awkward position of either continuing its unwavering support of Israel by using its power as a member of the UN Security Council to deny Palestinian statehood or standing up for one of its core beliefs – the right to self-determination. It means that Netanyahu has, in all likelihood, inflamed tensions with Israel’s neighbors, especially Iran. It means that Netanyahu will continue to lead Israel and the United States to the brink of a widespread regional war.

The only apparent way out of Netanyahu’s path toward war is for the US to finally break our so-called “Unbreakable Bond” with Israel.

The voters of Israel have clearly shown that they have prioritized greed and hatred over peace. They have shown that they would rather continue to bully their neighbors and, if possible, the United States (How else could you describe Netanyahu’s speech before Congress?) than give back the land they stole from Palestinians. And they seem to expect the US to back their hard line positions with American treasure and blood.

It’s time for US taxpayers to ask some difficult questions. We should start by asking, what do we get for our approximately $20 billion per year in foreign aid to Israel? We should ask, who is driving US policy in the Middle East? The US government? Or Israelis?

Based on recent decisions by the GOP-led Congress, it’s difficult to tell.

The Reality Of Tar Sands Oil.

It’s telling that, among the priorities of the new Teapublican-controlled Congress, several bills came to the forefront. In addition to further attempts to repeal Obamacare, Teapublicans prioritized the Keystone XL pipeline and reduced funding for the Environmental Protection Agency. And who would this legislation benefit? Certainly not the general public. The primary beneficiaries are the Koch brothers whose companies would be able to refine even more of Canadian tar sands oil without interference from those burdensome government regulations.

Perhaps it’s mere coincidence that the Koch brothers and their ideological friends contributed millions to Teapublican congressional and senate campaigns, laundering the money through a complicated network of non-profits in order to disguise the original donors.

The Kochs and their Teapbulican friends would have you believe that the Keystone XL pipeline is a job creator – one that would create thousands of jobs in the US – when, in fact, studies have shown that it would create only a few thousand temporary jobs and fewer than 500 permanent jobs. What they don’t talk about is the fact that, in order to build the pipeline for its Canadian owners, the government would have to use eminent domain to take private land from ordinary Americans who would see no real benefit from the pipeline. Moreover, the pipeline would cross Native American reservations – so-called independent nations – who oppose the pipeline. It would also cross the nation’s largest, and most important, aquifer.

Even more disturbing is the fact that no one yet knows how to clean up the highly toxic tar sands oil after the inevitable pipeline breaks. We have already seen such spills in Michigan and Arkansas and, after months of trying to clean up the spills, the states’ only “remedy” was to allow the oil to sink to the bottom of the waterways where it will take many generations to disintegrate on its own.

And since Koch facilities near Chicago and Detroit have already been refining this gooey muck, we already know the consequences. A by-product of refining tar sands oil is a fine, black powder known as petcoke – sort of a poor man’s coal. Not knowing what to do with the petcoke, and not wanting to dispose of it in an environmentally-safe way, the Koch refineries have created piles of the stuff. Uncovered and exposed to the elements, it is picked up by the slightest breeze and deposited on surrounding neighborhoods where it covers homes, streets, lawns and vehicles. It also invades the lungs of anyone in the area who breathes!

Moreover, scientists tell us the effects of actually burning the planet’s dirtiest oil is “game over” with regard to climate change!

Of course, the Koch brothers and their lapdogs on the right refuse to consider such inconveniences. There is money to be made now. They will reap the profits from refining and selling the oil, all the while denying any responsibility for dealing with the long-term consequences. In other words, they will do what most every other large corporation does: Privatize the profits while socializing the consequences.

Do you still think the few jobs created by the pipeline are worth the damage to our environment? Do you still think the GOP has your best interests in mind?

A Step Way Too Far!

The letter sent by GOP senators to the leaders of Iran is certainly not the first attempt by the GOP to undermine our president. But it is, most certainly, the most egregious and the most dangerous.

Since President Obama defeated John McCain in the 2008 presidential election, the Republicans in Congress have done everything in their power to demean him and diminish his power. Indeed, the day of the inauguration they plotted to block his proposals in order to make him a one-term president. (Though it’s not unusual for the opposition party to want to defeat a president in the next election. It is unusual for that planning to take place the day the president is sworn into office.)

Despite an overwhelming margin of victory, Republicans have considered Obama unqualified to hold office. They haven’t merely questioned the president’s policies. They have questioned his birthplace, his religion, his patriotism and his authority. In the Senate, they blocked, or attempted to block, virtually every one of his appointments. They invoked the filibuster at every opportunity, with such a frequency that Congress was brought to a virtual standstill.

They have attempted to repeal his Affordable Care Act more than 50 times. They refused to consider legislation to deal with the nation’s most pressing problems. Then, when the president was forced to take action through executive orders, they have accused him of being king. They have fabricated phony “scandals” to undermine his administration. They circumvented long-standing protocol to invite the leader of Israel to speak to a joint session of Congress in order to embarrass the president and to undermine negotiations with Iran.

They have waged a propaganda war against the president on the all too willing corporate media outlets. They have used every dirty trick in the book and a few never seen before. All of this is entirely without precedent.

Yet all of that pales in comparison to the letter signed by 47 Teapublican senators sent to the government of Iran…a letter that literally tells the Iranian government to ignore any deal the administration offers in its attempts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. “The president will only be in power until 2017,” they wrote. “Congress will not ratify any agreement and the next president could wipe away any agreement with the stroke of a pen,” they continued.

Such congressional meddling in negotiations with another nation is not only a breach of protocol. It is a violation of the Logan Act, a felony punishable by up to 3 years in prison. It is also a breach of constitutional powers. And it may lead to yet another ill-advised war. Indeed, it is an act of sabotage that makes these 47 senators and their party unequaled in American history. Except for, perhaps, Benedict Arnold.


As has been widely reported, the Prime Minister of Israel spoke to a joint session of Congress for the third time. Only Winston Churchill has matched that number. However, as you know, this is the first time a leader of another nation has requested and received an invitation to appear before Congress without first going through the diplomatic channels of the State Department and the White House.

His appearance was an obvious insult to the Office of the President by both Israel and our Republican leadership.

We know why the Prime Minister requested the opportunity to speak: He and his handlers believed it would help his re-election campaign. And we know why Republicans extended the invitation: It was another opportunity to provoke and demean President Obama.

What I don’t know is why we pay attention to Netanyahu at all. His predictions of doom by a nuclear-armed Iran have seemed unnecessarily alarmist for many years. Indeed, they seem little more than a scare tactic to assure his re-election. Further, since US taxpayers provide Israel with more than $3 billion per year in direct foreign aid and an estimated $12-17 billion more in indirect aid, his offering counsel and advice to US leaders seems like the tail wagging the dog. And, if Israel is frightened at the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, imagine how Iran feels about Israel’s nuclear bombs. Imagine how Iran feels about the threat of US nuclear arms and our so-called “special relationship,” especially when one of our senior (both in tenure and age) senators jokes about “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran?”

It’s time to end this charade. It’s time to negotiate our own deal with Iran and other Middle Eastern nations. It’s time to stop listening to Netanyahu and to stop sending foreign aid to Israel. It’s time to stop looking the other way as Israel steals more and more of Palestinian land. It’s long past time for the US to stop giving military hardware to Israel. It’s time to demand that Israel end the civil rights abuses of Palestinians and negotiate a true settlement. It’s time for Palestinians to stop sending rocks and rockets across the border. It’s time to demand an end to Israel’s disproportionate military response to Palestinian terrorism. It’s time to end our UN Security Council veto of the recognition of Palestine as a separate state.

In short, it’s time the US grabbed both of these nation states by the scruff of the collar and demand that they start acting like adults in the 21st century. The 1967 war is over! It’s time to make peace…a real and lasting peace.

In addition, there should be a political penalty for Netanyahu’s arrogance. Any semblance of a “special relationship” between the US and Israel should now be over…ended by the politics of destruction practiced by people like Netanyahu, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. Unless the people of Israel vote Netanyahu out of office and relegate him to history alongside their other mistakes, and unless Israel sends a formal and very public apology to the White House, we should provide Israel no more support than we provide other allies, such as France, Germany and Sweden.

Further, President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry should all but ignore Netanyahu’s bombastic bluster while negotiating a treaty with Iran…a treaty that does more than benefit our ill-mannered little brother.

Pillorying Hillary.

The media is trying to turn the fact that Hillary Clinton used a personal email account as Secretary of State into another scandal. Of course, the right wing wants us to believe that it is part of the Benghazi conspiracy – a conspiracy that has been debunked by 6 separate commissions. Indeed, the so-called “Select Committee” on Benghazi has long known that Clinton eschewed a government email account like Colin Powell and several other of her predecessors. As long as she is willing to provide access to the account, who really cares? And, given the fact that, at the very beginning of her term in the office, the State Department’s website was hacked revealing thousands of embarrassing emails that strained relationships between the US and other nations, it may have been better for our country that she used a private account. It was likely more secure!

None of the scandal-mongering should come as any real surprise to those of us who were conscious during the early nineties. Remember Whitewater, the “conspiracy” that consisted of the Clintons losing their investment in a failed development? Remember the “Billary” health care proposal, the health care system we should have? Remember “Travelgate?” Remember the outlandish right wing accusations that Hillary had ordered the murder of Vince Foster?

Like the Obama administration, the Clinton administration was hounded by right wingers who claimed to see a conspiracy under every rug and around every corner. Yet, after years of accusations, dozens of taxpayer-funded investigations, a special prosecutor, and a right wing-led witch hunt costing more than $60 million, the closest thing to illicit activity found was a sexual indiscretion in which the former president received a consensual blowjob – something less than the sexual trysts of previous presidents that, according to historians, make Bill Clinton seem like a faithful husband.

That the corporate propagandists, otherwise known as the mainstream media, would begin assaulting Hillary’s reputation more than a year before her presumed campaign for president is predictable. The right wing hopes that, in doing so, they can derail her candidacy even before the campaign begins, leaving the Democratic Party with no clear front-runner. At the same time, she is being attacked by the left as the progressive members of the Democratic Party hope to push her to the left.

They should be careful what they wish for.

Though I am disgusted at the notion of political dynasties (if Hillary wins, 2 members of the Bush family and 2 Clintons will have held the office of president for at least 24 years), Hillary is by far the better choice over a third, more corrupt, Bush or any of the nut jobs now aspiring for the Teapublican nomination.

Democracy Lost.

In recent years, much has been written about growing inequality. It is, indeed, one of the most important issues of our time. And the effects of big money on our democracy have been devastating.

Sure, you may still be able to vote to elect those who are supposed to represent you. But that, alone, does not constitute democracy. Not only are the choices of candidates limited to two individuals – the only two who were able to climb their way up the political ladder in order to receive their parties’ blessings and, more important, their campaign funds. All too often, those who are elected are promised large campaign donations by corporations and industries in exchange for political favors. It is not necessarily quid pro quo, but the expectation for a return on the investment is there. So, too is the pressure.

In reality, such high stakes lobbying has long been a part of politics. But, over the past 35 years, things have gotten even worse.

In the late seventies, large US corporations began to see their hold on the world economy slip. New, lower-priced, high-quality imports – many of them made with robotics – from Japan and Germany began to push aside American-made products. US corporations responded by relocating manufacturing – first to the South, then off-shore – in search of lower-priced labor.

Perhaps, the most destructive response was the move to tie CEO compensation to the value of the companies’ share prices. This ushered in an era of ever-increasing CEO salaries and even more lucrative stock options for CEOs – a legalized form of insider trading. The result was for US corporations to seek ever lower-priced labor in countries where there is no regulation and no employee benefits. At the same time corporate profits have soared, employee salaries and corporate investments in the future have diminished – almost guaranteeing that the future will belong to foreign-based corporations. But why would our CEOs care? They and their money will be long gone before it matters.

Our corporations have used the threat of off-shoring jobs to extort our state and city governments. In exchange for their extortion, those governments have assumed many of the risks of corporate relocation or expansion by paying for needed infrastructure, cutting regulations, and delaying or eliminating corporate taxes.

Now these corporations are attempting to extort the federal government.

Unwilling to pay US income taxes on profits made off-shore, these corporations are stashing cash in foreign banks until the federal government agrees to “repatriate” the money at a greatly reduced tax rate. Of course, they’re justifying the extortion by saying that “repatriation” will lead to greater investments and more jobs in the US – the great “trickle down” fraud.

In reality, the money is more likely to be doled out to CEOs and other executives in the form of bonuses (as a reward for robbing ordinary taxpayers) and stock options.

In the meantime, corporations and billionaires have been working to rig the system. Realizing that buying Congress and our state legislatures is cheaper than paying lobbyists, people like the Koch brothers have stuffed the pockets of candidates willing to do their bidding. To pave the way, they pushed conservatives to stack the Supreme Court with ideologues such as Alito, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas. That inevitably led to favorable court rulings giving corporations the rights of people and all but eliminating limitations on political donations. They got the IRS to change its rules allowing “non-profits” to fund political campaigns. When they won control of legislatures, they gerrymandered congressional districts making it all but impossible for anyone but “their people” to win office. And they introduced Voter ID laws to suppress the votes of minorities and the poor.

In 2014, their efforts finally came to fruition. Having already bought the House in 2010, they now own the Senate. It’s no coincidence that the first bills to reach the House and Senate floors were to repeal “Obamacare” and to build the Koch…er…Keystone XL Pipeline. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also made it clear that issues such as raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, unemployment insurance and student loan costs will be pushed aside in favor of gutting regulations on health care and financial services and eviscerating the EPA.

If you’re still worried about the effects of so-called “dark money” on our democracy, don’t. Last year, our democracy officially became an oligarchy.