What The GOP Wants.

It’s easy to dismiss the mudslinging and hateful rhetoric of the speakers featured at the Republican National Convention as mere partisanship; as the typical hyperbole of a contested election. But the GOP platform shows that the fear and hate so prevalent at the convention is representative of the party’s deep-rooted beliefs.

On its surface, the GOP platform seems filled with platitudes and grandiose statements that may seem positive or, at worst, relatively harmless. But, if you look deeper, a different – more frightening – picture emerges.

The platform begins with a preamble that reaffirms the party’s commitment to the concept of “American Exceptionalism”… the very idea that led to the genocide of Native Americans, the meddling in foreign affairs, and the creation of “banana republics” as well as other puppet states that would be subservient to the US. And it further represents backward thinking by confusing the Constitution with the Articles of Confederation. (Yes, it’s true that our Founding Fathers originally committed to a limited federal government. But that was as a result of the differing beliefs of the original colonies, not the least of which was the colonies’ differing views toward slavery. But after the Revolution, the Founders wrote and ratified the Constitution which gives great, sweeping powers to the federal government.)

The platform only goes further downhill from there.

Despite our robust recovery from the Great Recession, the platform seeks to reinstate the very policies that led to the recession. It blames Democrats for the national debt despite the fact that the vast majority of the debt is the result of decisions made by the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations. Indeed, both the Clinton and Obama administrations have dramatically cut deficits created by Republicans.

The GOP platform calls for increased defense spending, claiming the Obama administration has shortchanged the defense budget for years despite the fact that the US currently spends more on the military than the next 9 nations combined – 7 of them strong US allies. And it contends that the Obama administration has refused to control our borders despite dramatic increases in border patrols and the apprehension and deportation of undocumented immigrants.

It claims that Democrats have attacked the production of energy and industry-related jobs while ignoring the reality that oil and gas production are at all-time highs, and that alternative energy production (wind and solar) has created millions of jobs. At the same time, the GOP denies the impact of technical innovation on the number of lost manufacturing jobs and its own role in providing tax incentives to multinational corporations that ship jobs overseas and hide profits offshore to avoid taxes.

The platform officially denies human-caused climate change while pandering to voters in coal country by proclaiming coal to be a “clean” energy source. It calls for a commitment to the already discredited “fair tax” that, if implemented, would not only give enormous tax breaks to the top 1 percent. It would add trillions to our national debt. And the platform perpetuates the myth that US corporations face the world’s highest tax obligations when, in reality, the US is tied with Tanzania for 64th in total tax obligations! Moreover, the US corporate tax obligation is lower than 22 of 32 OCED nations.

In addition to Trump’s notorious plan to build a wall along our Mexican border, the GOP would seek to build a virtual wall between us and our trading partners by trying to implement a series of harsh tariffs and other forms of bullying. The GOP would have you believe that Wall Street and corporations can regulate themselves free from any form of regulation. (We already know how disastrous that can be.) The platform pushes individual responsibility while excusing multinational corporations from their actions. At the same time, it seeks to diminish civil rights and equal opportunities for much of our population. It would also deny individuals many of the legal mechanisms needed to fight against injustice and predatory corporations.

The GOP platform calls for investment in our nation’s infrastructure while ignoring the fact that the only reason for our decaying infrastructure is the refusal of the party’s own members of Congress to vote for such initiatives. Moreover, Republicans didn’t just vote against those bills, they blocked many of them from ever coming to a vote. In addition, the platform continues the party’s long-standing attack on labor unions – the very institutions that helped build the middle class as the only way for workers to negotiate with management. (In case you haven’t noticed, as labor unions have been diminished, CEO and shareholder compensation have soared while the compensation of workers has stagnated. At the same time, the GOP has orchestrated the destruction of thousands of pension plans.)

Even more telling is the platform’s focus on exclusion – by unconstitutionally closing our borders to Muslims, by deporting millions of Latino immigrants, by denying civil rights to the LGBTQ community, by unconstitutionally establishing Christianity as the official religion of the US, and by diminishing the rights of women. In practice, GOP policies would diminish the rights of all those who look and think differently than white, male Republicans.

The party platform enshrines the GOP’s unwavering support of the 2nd Amendment. Yet, at the same time it embraces those who own the weapons of war, the GOP turns its back on those who are most vulnerable: Women who find themselves pregnant with a baby they cannot afford, women who wish to terminate a fetus that either endangers the mother’s life or is incapable of ever surviving on its own, the hopelessly impoverished who, without help, cannot reasonably expect to escape poverty; whose schools are underfunded; who live in areas without jobs and without access to public transportation.

The platform reaffirms the party’s intent to stack the judiciary from top to bottom with ideologues like the late Antonin Scalia. It would sell off public lands, including national parks. It would eliminate many regulatory agencies. It would privatize education and anything else that would allow corporations to profit. It would repeal Obamacare and return control of health care to insurance and pharmaceutical companies that would make health care unaffordable for tens of millions of Americans. It seeks to privatize Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. It would eliminate or diminish many of our other safety nets, including job training and food assistance.

The GOP platform indicates that the party will continue its assault on voting rights and its commitment to gerrymandering to ensure a GOP majority that does not reflect the composition of the voting public. It foments fear of others and distrust of government institutions. It doesn’t just seek to change government. It goes much further, seeking to impose a narrow set of “values” – to dictate morality and human behavior.

It is, perhaps, the most ideological document ever authored in the name of a political party. And, if implemented, it will negatively impact our nation for generations to come if, indeed, it doesn’t lead to its ultimate destruction. (If you think that’s mere hyperbole, consider the potential impact of the unabated burning of fossil fuels and environmental destruction that will make our planet uninhabitable.)

How Has Racism Plagued The Obama Administration? Let Me Count The Ways:

I have conservative friends who deny that President Obama has been treated any differently than previous presidents. Setting aside the prolonged fishing expedition to find dirt on the Clintons and the natural reaction to a stolen election and the lies told by the Bush administration to justify its invasion of Iraq, (yes, I proudly wore an “Impeach Bush” button) let’s look at the conservative response to the nation’s first African-American president.

Even before he was nominated, Obama was beset by claims that he was not an American citizen. For the first time in US history, the political opposition demanded to see a presidential candidate’s birth certificate.

On the day of his inauguration, in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, GOP leaders met to formulate a strategy to make him fail. At so-called Tea Party rallies, protestors carried racist images of Obama. They also showed up at presidential speeches armed with loaded guns and threatened to “exercise their 2nd Amendment rights.” At the same time, rednecks all over the South dug out their Confederate battle flags, planting them in their yards, on their houses and flying them in the back of their pickup trucks. Many covered their vehicles with stickers that read “NObama,” “One Big Ass Mistake America” and more blatantly racist slogans.

The Secret Service saw a dramatic increase in threats on the President’s life. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) noted a dramatic rise in hate groups. At the same time, rightwing radio hosts and the NRA claimed that Obama was “coming for your guns,” which, in turn, dramatically increased gun sales.

When Obama prepared a video to encourage students to work hard and stay in school (something that other presidents have routinely done), conservatives howled, claiming that Obama was going to “indoctrinate” their children. They also ridiculed the First Lady for encouraging students to move for fitness and to make more nutritious choices for meals.

When Obama first addressed a joint session of Congress, a racist congressman openly shouted “You Lie.” In another joint session, conservative Supreme Court justices visibly shook their heads in disgust at the President’s justifiable criticism of the Citizens United ruling. (At least in my long lifetime, such displays of disrespect for the president have never previously occurred.)

In the Senate, the GOP blocked the President’s initiatives with a record number of threatened filibusters. Republicans also blocked a record number of administrative appointments and a record number of nominees for federal courts. And Obama’s most recent nominee to the Supreme Court has been waiting for a vote for a record length of time as a result of the GOP attitude that, with nearly a year left in office, Obama was to be considered a “lame duck.”

There have been a record number of conspiracy theories surrounding President Obama, including the lunacy surrounding the military exercise known as Jade Helm. There have been claims that he would declare martial law or, worse, declare Sharia law. Conservatives have claimed that he is a secret Muslim at the same time they have accused him of following a radical Christian pastor. They blamed him for the national debt, for shipping jobs overseas, for abandoning Iraq (even though our departure was negotiated by the Bush administration) and the creation of ISIS.

They accused him of coddling terrorists; of selling out Israel by negotiating an end to Iran’s nuclear program; of bowing to foreign leaders; of “selling out” to the communist Castro regime by normalizing relations with Cuba. They accused him of failing to secure our borders despite a record number of arrests and deportations. And, for the first time in US history, the GOP Congress invited a world leader (Netanyahu) to speak to a joint session without following protocol and going through the executive branch and the State Department.

Conservatives have circulated false emails and social media memes that falsely claim that Obama ordered crosses removed from military cemeteries, banned prayer at the military academies, and worse. They have compared the Obamas to gorillas. They have boldly stated that the First Lady is transgender and called for the Obama’s beautiful daughters to be raped.

At the same time, conservatives have not given Obama any credit for the good things he has done. They would have you believe that he only got Osama bin Laden based on previous efforts by the Bush administration. They have not credited him for trying to nominate a record number of members of the opposing party to his cabinet. They have not credited him for saving the US auto industry. They have not credited him for arresting the precipitous slide of our economy or for policies that have caused the stock markets to soar to record highs. They have not credited him for cutting the national deficit faster than any previous president. They have not credited him for preventing health insurance companies from exempting people for pre-existing conditions. And, instead of congratulating him for making health care available to millions of Americans, they have voted to repeal “Obamacare” dozens of times.

They have called President Obama the “food stamp” president, the “Imperial” president, the anti-gun president, a socialist, a fascist, and a n***er. They have blamed him for the gang violence in Chicago and violence against the police. They even blame him for the shootings of unarmed black men by police.

Finally, in a stunning show of hypocrisy, they actually have the chutzpah to blame him for increasing racism in the US! And the presumptive GOP presidential nominee who should never again be named is running on the slogan “Make American Great Again” – a dog whistle call to racists that may as well say “Make America White Again.”

SCOTUS Nomination Is Emblematic Of Obama Presidency.

In 2008, Barack Obama ran for president on a platform of change and hope – hope that he could end division and bring people together. He probably should have known better. After all, the Republican Party had long based their election campaigns on fear and division.

So it was no surprise when it became known that, after the election of President Obama, Senator Mitch McConnell rallied congressional Republicans to oppose every one of Obama’s initiatives with the intent of making Obama a one-term president.

It didn’t matter that, for the first time in decades, Obama nominated members of the opposition party to his cabinet. It didn’t matter that, instead of pursuing charges against those in the Bush administration who had collapsed the economy and led our nation into a misguided war, Obama chose to look forward, instead. It didn’t matter that, in order to make healthcare affordable for millions more Americans, President Obama chose to promote a Republican idea (now known as Obamacare). It didn’t matter that, despite Democratic majorities in the House and in the Senate, President Obama chose moderation over partisanship.

He was rewarded by Republicans who used the filibuster to block any and every one of Obama’s initiatives. They blocked dozens of judicial appointments. They blocked his promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. They tried to block his budgets. They tried to block his healthcare bill. They even tried to block his stimulus bill which was intended to put millions of Americans back to work.

Not content with legislative obstruction, Republicans created the Tea Party, which challenged President Obama’s legitimacy. They portrayed him as the Joker…as the anti-Christ. They called him un-American. They called him a Muslim from Kenya. They rallied behind racist images of the president. They openly carried guns to their protest rallies and threatened to exercise their “Second Amendment rights” against the President.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that, when the most rightwing ideological Supreme Court justice died, McConnell and his Republican caucus in the Senate vowed to block any Obama nomination to the Supreme Court. They claimed that, even though President Obama has nearly a year left in office, that he is a lame-duck president. They would have you believe that his current term is for only 3 years, instead of 4.

Likewise, it is no surprise that President Obama nominated a moderate to the Supreme Court vacancy – a judge who is respected by members of both parties. After all, contrary to Republican accusations, such moderation is emblematic of the entire Obama presidency. Indeed, Obama has exemplified moderation in everything he has done. That’s why he will be remembered as one of the nation’s greatest presidents. And it’s why history will remember McConnell and the rest of the Republicans in Congress as the worst ever – a Congress that did nothing but further contribute to political hatred and divisiveness.

Will Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee Be “Borked?”

In case you aren’t familiar with the history of Supreme Court nominations, the threat refers to President Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork, which was blocked by a Democratic-controlled Senate. But though you may think that turnabout is fair play, the Senate’s refusal to confirm the nominee involved a much different set of circumstances than what we are seeing today.

First, unlike the current Senate’s blanket threat to filibuster any Obama nominee, Democrats warned Reagan that Bork could not be confirmed if he was nominated. They hoped he would nominate someone less controversial. The reason was Bork’s firing of Archibald Cox, the first Watergate Special Prosecutor, as part of the Nixon cover-up of Watergate. Though Bork later claimed that, as the newly-appointed Attorney General, he was acting under orders of President Nixon, it was believed that he understood the implications of the firing and was trying to prevent the impeachment of Nixon. Bork was also considered an ideologue and a divisive figure in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia. Even the ACLU opposed his nomination.

So it was clear that the Senate was not blocking any Reagan nomination to the Court. They were singularly focused on blocking the nomination of a candidate they vehemently opposed.

Nevertheless, Republicans were furious, and they vowed to repay Democrats by blocking nominations of Democratic presidents. Of course, they forget that, before Bork, they successfully filibustered Lyndon Johnson’s nomination of Associate Justice Abe Fortas to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. And later, they forced Fortas to resign from the Court over the fact that he had accepted a lifelong annual retainer for agreeing to provide legal advice to a friend and former client for a family foundation. Yet Fortas’ actions would seem to pale in comparison to those of current Justice Clarence Thomas. Not only has Thomas long been dogged by claims of sexual harassment of Anita Hill. Thomas failed to make legally-required financial disclosures for 13 years. He also refused to recuse himself from cases in which there were obvious conflicts of interest.

If the Republican-led Senate follows through with its threats to filibuster any Obama nominee, what will happen when the tables are turned? Will we see another tit for tat? Will Democrats seek payback? For more than 7 years, Republicans have blocked President Obama’s nominees. In fact, in 2010, they blocked a whopping 97 presidential appointments in a single day! Even today, there are 81 vacancies on federal courts with 39 judges waiting confirmation.

If Republicans continue on this path, Democrats will be faced with the choice of allowing the Republican dirty tricks to succeed. Or returning the favor.

Neither option benefits our nation.

What Does Your Party Stand For?

These days, it’s popular to say that there is no real difference between the political parties; that they are both in the pockets of large corporations. While it is true that, following recent Supreme Court decisions, both parties rely on the wealthy for campaign donations, there are sizeable differences in what the two parties stand for.

Based on its actions of the past 50 years, here’s what the Republican Party stands for: Large corporations, increased corporate welfare, increased mining, increased oil production, increased deforestation, increased corporate farming, increased corporate fishing, off-shoring of jobs and corporate profits, unfettered financial markets, tax cuts for corporations, tax cuts for the wealthy, privatization of Social Security, elimination of Medicaid and Medicare, elimination of Obamacare, more defense spending, more wars, more militarization of police, more guns (except at GOP events), the end of legal abortions, reduced access to contraception, elimination of the minimum wage, elimination of food stamps for the needy, elimination of estate taxes, elimination of labor unions, elimination of defined benefit pensions (except for corporate executives), elimination of family leave (except for corporate executives), elimination of the EPA, elimination of the FDA, elimination of the Dept. of Labor, elimination of the Dept. of Education, elimination of free public education, deportation of all undocumented immigrants, discrimination against women, discrimination against college students, discrimination against people of color, discrimination against gays, discrimination against non-Christians, a new Constitution based on the Ten Commandments, and limited voting rights based on color, age and income.

Here’s what the Democratic Party stands for: Virtually everything the Republican Party is against.

I truly wish all of this was an exaggeration. But, in fact, all of these policies have been supported by one or more of the GOP presidential candidates either by words or action.

The US Is No Longer A Democracy. Here’s How It Happened.

Last year, a study from Princeton and Northwestern universities, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens,” concluded that the US government no longer represents the interests of the majority of the nation’s citizens. Instead, it panders to the rich and powerful.

In other words, the US has become an oligarchy defined as a government by the few, a small group that exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.

More recently, President Jimmy Carter, commenting on how big money has subverted our elections, said, “It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations.”

The US didn’t become an oligarchy by accident. We got here as the result of a long list of political decisions designed to pander to the wealthy and the powerful. Here’s how:

During the 1800s, the US went from a largely agrarian society to a society based on the industrial revolution. This created some extremely wealthy individuals often referred to as the “Robber Barons,” who took advantage of cheap labor created by the influx of immigrants. They paid little and subjected their employees to horrific working conditions. During this so-called Gilded Age, the wealthy chose the candidates and ran the nation until the masses began to rebel.

In the early 1900s, the Gilded Age ended when workers began to unionize. The wealthy responded by hiring the police and ex-military (the American Legion) to break the labor strikes by bashing some heads. In reality, it was America’s second civil war.

When the Great Depression struck, the nation moved even further toward socialism which caused the wealthy to try to arrange the assassination of President Franklin Roosevelt. In fact, many of the industrialists wanted the nation’s government to reflect the fascist governments of Italy and Germany. Their agenda was interrupted with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, World War II and the revelations of the Nazi death camps. And they were forced to accept the will of the masses until the 1970s when President Richard Nixon and Vice-President Spiro Agnew attacked the new media in order to deflect criticism of their policies.

By raising questions about the objectivity of the media which were embraced by conservatives, it set the stage (intentionally or not) for the Reagan administration and its economic policy of “Trickle Down” theory. This was nothing more than a return to the “Horse and Sparrow” economics of the gilded age, during which government policies were carefully crafted to benefit the wealthy under the theory that if you feed enough oats (money) to the horses (the wealthy) enough will fall on the road to feed the sparrows (the masses).

Reagan portrayed the government and its regulation of industry as the enemy. He attacked labor unions. He lowered taxes for the wealthy. He increased the amount of money exempted from estate taxes. He deregulated the media by eliminating the Fairness Doctrine which held media accountable to serve in the public interest. And he lowered capital gains taxes, which allowed the wealthy to keep more of their primary sources of income – interest and dividends from investments.

With the wealthy allowed to accumulate more money, labor unions on the defensive and an emasculated press, the table was set for the oligarchs. All of this was made worse by Grover Norquist, Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed who showed the Republican National Committee that it could thrive by eliminating compromises from our political discussions and treating politics as war – a blood sport. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich took congressional dysfunction a step further by transforming the GOP into a parliamentary-style party in which the entire Party is unified on every vote. If you dare to break ranks with Party, you are punished in the next primary and election.

Add to all of this the more than $28 billion lobbying industry, which is financed almost exclusively by the rich and the powerful, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which writes laws on behalf of its corporate sponsors then hands them to its conservative members to sponsor in their state legislatures where the bills are often passed with little discussion or examination, and the George W. Bush administration which cut income taxes for the rich by 4.6 percent and all but eliminated the estate tax.

The last major player is the conservative majority on the US Supreme Court, which by 3 decisions (Buckley v Valeo, Citizens United v FEC and McCutcheon v FEC) unleashed a torrent of money in campaign donations from the oligarchs. So much so, that candidates should have to wear NASCAR-style uniforms with labels of their sponsors. Indeed, of the nearly $400 million donated to presidential candidates so far this year, nearly half has come from fewer than 400 families!

Given all of this, no election in our history has been as critical as next year’s. We can either continue further down the road of oligarchy by electing candidates who try to divide us over social issues while pandering to the wealthy. Or we can elect candidates of change – real change. Candidates who will put the power of the government back in the hands of the people.

That’s why I support Bernie Sanders.

The Ongoing Bloodless Coup.

Prior to the Great Depression, the world’s financial institutions and industrialists had most everything going their way. Still living in the gilded age, they had been able to stave off labor unions by exercising all of the power their money could muster. But when the stock market crashed and Herbert Hoover failed to right the ship of state, things changed. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Vice President Henry Wallace, led a new movement intended to help the common men and women who were out of work and out of money. This didn’t sit well with the wealthy financiers on Wall Street who had visions of turning America into a fascist government based on those of Germany and Italy.

Even before FDR’s inauguration, they struck.

Though ties to the nation’s elite were never proven, it seems clear that they had hired a lone assassin to shoot the president-elect at a public speech. But, thanks to a woman in the crowd who spoiled the shooter’s aim, FDR escaped unharmed as the bullets struck five members of his party, eventually leading to the death of the mayor of Chicago.

Then, when FDR abandoned the gold standard at the behest of manufacturers whose foreign customers could no longer afford their products, Wall Street went nuts. They believed their wealth and investments would be devalued. Almost immediately, they began seeking new ways to remove FDR from office, eventually settling on the so-called “Business Plot” involving an army of 500,000 veterans under their employ. The army was recruited from the right-wing American Legion that had already been used to beat back (quite literally) the labor union movement. The plan was for Wall Street’s army to march to the White House where it would capture FDR and replace the democratically-elected government with a business-friendly government that would mirror Mussolini’s fascist government of Italy.

Seriously!

The fact that Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh were Nazi sympathizers has been long established. But they represented just the tip of the iceberg. Other fascist supporters included the leader of the American Legion and many of J.P. Morgan’s allies, including Prescott Bush (father of George H.W. Bush and grandfather of George W. Bush and Jeb Bush), George Herbert Walker (Prescott Bush’s father-in-law), Irenee du Pont, and many others. And, though Bush and Walker escaped the embarrassment of an investigation and trial, it seems clear that they helped finance the Axis war machine even after the US declared war following Pearl Harbor.

As outrageous as it may seem, the Business Plot likely would have succeeded had the plotters not sought the help of Major General Smedley Butler. A lifelong Republican and loyal patriot, Butler played along with the plotters only long enough to take names before exposing the plot. Of course, many later dismissed the plot as a hoax, but the fact remains that the final report from a congressional committee stated: “There is no question that these attempts were discussed, were planned, and might have been placed in execution when and if the financial backers deemed it expedient.” Further, the report stated that “the committee was able to verify all the pertinent statements made by General Butler, with the exception of the direct statement suggesting the creation of the organization.” However, that statement was later corroborated in written correspondence from one of the plot’s leaders, Gerald C. MacGuire.

Yet, even though the plot was acknowledged to be a real threat, congressional hearings on the matter refused to release the names of the conspirators revealed by Butler, and Congress dragged out the proceedings long enough to allow Wall Street’s propaganda machine to gloss over the coup attempt.

Although details and the names of those behind the coup attempt were eventually exposed, and FDR was re-elected two times, it appears that the idea of a hostile takeover of our government never faded from the minds of some of America’s wealthiest families. But, instead of relying on an army of veterans to help them pursue their goals, it seems that the fascists have chosen, instead, to rely on something more familiar and trustworthy…money.

I’m referring, of course, to the global industrialists who profited from the Nixon administration, the large manufacturers who were able to beat back labor unions with help from the Reagan administration, and the interests of Big Oil, military contractors and private equity firms that profited handsomely during the Bush/Cheney administration. Of course, these big money interests had a setback in 2008 and 2012 when President Obama defeated their preferred candidates. But they most certainly haven’t given up.

They not only have a sympathetic majority of the Supreme Court, which ruled that money equals free speech, that corporations have the rights of individuals and that there should be no limits on political donations. They have control of the American propaganda machine, otherwise known as mass media. And thanks to the billions in dark money laundered through a complex network of non-profit “education” organizations, they have retaken control of Congress where Teapublicans are gleefully working to pay back their masters by attempting to deregulate Wall Street, defund the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, gut the Environmental Protection Agency and nullify the Dept. of Labor. They even want to eliminate the Dept. of Education (likely on the premise that an educated and informed citizenry is a threat to their rule).

There’s an old adage that tells us the best way to uncover corruption is to follow the money. That’s especially true when it comes to politics.

For more information about the Business Plot, check out the link to a segment on National Public Radio.

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.

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.

MLK Day: An Update.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, it seems appropriate to look at King’s legacy in the area of civil rights. By the time Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, he and his movement had made great strides. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been signed into law making it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In addition, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had been enacted guaranteeing all citizens the right to vote as protected by the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution.

It seemed that segregation and racism in the United States were coming to an end. However, that has not been the case.

According to recent studies, the US is more segregated today than it was in 1968. The white flight from the inner cities to the suburbs and the end of forced busing of school children has led to nearly lily white, well-funded suburban schools and mostly black, underfunded schools in the inner cities. More and more children from wealthy white families have been enrolled in virtually all-white private schools. And, to further accelerate segregation, Teapublican legislatures and Congress have passed new laws authorizing the redistribution of funding from public schools to charter schools, private schools and religious schools.

With regard to voting rights, Teapublicans have enacted restrictive voter ID laws in numerous states to suppress the black vote. They have limited polling hours making it more difficult for poor, working people to find time to vote. They have reduced the number of polling stations in poor, black neighborhoods creating long lines of voters. And the conservative-dominated Supreme Court has eviscerated the Voting Rights Act to make it more difficult for the Justice Department to prevent voter suppression.

On the positive side, the GLBT community has won the right for same sex marriage in 36 states. Yet, with the Supreme Court agreeing to review a lower court decision to uphold same sex marriage bans in four states, the gains in other states are now in limbo.

The opportunity for poor black students to have access to a college education is also in doubt following a 2013 Supreme Court ruling which limits affirmative action. Yet another Supreme Court decision has created special rules for religious organizations, and numerous state legislature bills have opened the door for further religious discrimination as if it isn’t already bad enough. (A recent study found that atheists are marginalized and subjected to discrimination. For Muslims, the situation may be even worse.)

Finally, racism is on the rise, made worse by the events in Ferguson, Missouri, Cleveland, Staten Island, the Bronx and elsewhere. And the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, has noted a tremendous rise in the number of hate groups since the election of our first black president.

It’s clear that much of what Martin Luther King, Jr. lived for and died for is in jeopardy. It’s up to all of us to ensure that he did not die in vain.