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It looks to be official.  Bibi will hold on to his power.  The latest from Israel says that the Likud party will have 25-29 seats.  With other right-wing parties in Israel, Bibi will be able to form his government.  Conservatives in this country are gloating over the apparent victory.  I guess they want to take at least some credit for Bibi’s win.

But there remains a question with the outcome of the election.  What does this mean for Israel and the world?  Is this something that should be celebrated, or is it something that should be dreaded?  I guess the answer to that will depend on your views of Netanyahu and his right-wing policies.

Just before the elections, Netanyahu said that there “would be no Palestinian State” as long as he was Prime Minister.  That does not sound good for the prospects of peace.  The Israeli government has been saying for years that they agree to a two-state setup.  One for Israel, and one for the Palestinians.

Netanyahu has made it very clear through his negotiation practices that he did not want a Palestinian State.  That coupled with the fact that almost all of the “settlements” on the West Bank have been completed under his watch, is proof he isn’t interested in allowing the Palestinians to have their own state.

He is against any negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program because he says you “cannot trust your enemy.”  He thinks that the only way to make sure Iran doesn’t get nuclear weapons is to invade the country and replace their “regime” with one more favorable to the west.

Of course, he refuses to say whether or not Israel has nuclear weapons.  It has been firmly believed for years that Israel does have nuclear weapons.  To tell you the truth, I am not sure whether Iran or Netanyahu is the more crazy of the two.  I am not convinced that if Netanyahu thinks Iran is close to getting a nuclear weapon that he wouldn’t use nuclear weapons against Iran to stop them.

Even with that in mind, I rather believe that Netanyahu wants the U.S. to invade Iran rather than Israel.  Why risk killing Israelis if the Republicans are willing to kill Americans instead?  He would rather use his army to wipe out the Gaza Strip, which is supposed to be part of a Palestinian State.

But since Hamas runs the Gaza Strip, that is all of the justification Netanyahu needs to keep a Palestinian State from happening.  Not to mention all those settlements he might have to remove if the West Bank became an independent state.  That, of course would be political suicide for him.

Since Netanyahu won his election, we can assume that “peace in the Middle-East” is not going to happen anytime soon.  Netanyahu is not interested in peace.  He is interested in creating an “Israeli Zone of Influence” so he can justify his actions.  If that means using the U.S. to do his killing for him, all the better.

That was the real reason he was so eager to give his speech to a joint session of Congress.  To make sure the neo-cons here are in support of his war plans.  It will be our young men and women who will face the dangers of a war with Iran.  All Bibi needs to do is muck up any negotiations with Iran and let the American neo-cons start another war in the Middle-East.

The problem is that our neo-cons are falling for his gimmick.  They are all too anxious to get into another fight with the “dreaded Muslims.”  As a result, I am afraid that all we will see in the next few years is another war we don’t want.  More of our service people killed and injured.  And more patriotic speak from the right-wing to justify their insanity.

I am afraid that the world is much more dangerous with Bibi’s victory.  I hope I am wrong, but since we have so many hotheads in this country willing to follow Netanyahu’s lead, the future doesn’t look good.

I have come to the grand conclusion that if the Republican Party was in charge of a two float parade, they would manage to screw up the parade.  I really don’t understand them anymore.  I remember a day when you could pick between two parties in an election.  The biggest difference between them was “how” they wanted to make things better for the average American.

Those days are long gone.  Now, instead of actually trying to make life better for everyone in the country, the Republican Party decided that nothing is beneath them.  They are willing to torpedo every bill that comes to the floor of either house all in the name of “power” for themselves.

There has been little news about it, but there is a bill in the Senate right now that should have passed with a huge bi-partisan vote.  It is the anti-human trafficking bill.  That sounds like something everyone could get behind.  And, for the most part it was ready to be voted on and passed.

Then the Republicans tried to make an end run on the bill, and got caught.  Seems that the Republicans added anti-abortion language to the bill.  There has always been a “gentlemen’s” agreement that when the majority changes the language in a bill, the minority is notified.  Democrats said the Republicans did not notify them that this language was being added.

What the Republicans did was add language from the Hyde Amendment to the anti-human trafficking bill.

Originally passed in 1976 in response to the Supreme Court’s legalization of abortion, the Hyde Amendment banned taxpayers’ money from paying for abortions for women receiving Medicaid.  It’s never been permanent law, yet it is customarily re-authorized every year.

What they did differently in the anti-human trafficking bill was add language that would permanently disallow fines collected from traffickers to pay for abortions sought by their victims.  It would still be possible for victims to get their abortions paid for because they could claim they were raped by their traffickers.  Even under the Hyde Amendment, victims of rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother are exempt from this amendment.

When the language was discovered, Democrats balked at passage of the bill.  They argue that this fundamentally changes the Hyde Amendment.  With passage now in doubt, Mitch McConnell came up with a brilliant plan to force Democrats to see it his way.  He announced that he would delay the vote to confirm Loretta Lynch as Secretary of Justice until the Senate finishes its work on the trafficking bill, in effect holding Lynch hostage to an obscure anti-abortion provision that was added by the GOP.

So, McConnell has resorted to another “hostage taking” plan to “get his way.”  We have seen this circus several times during the last six years.  Anytime the Republicans don’t get their way, they hold their breath and take something or someone hostage.

But, there is another side-show that is about to hit the Senate floor as well.  Not satisfied with bottling up this bill over abortion, Senator Vitter of LA decided that the 14th Amendment can be “gotten around” as well with this bill.  The 14th Amendment has a citizenship clause that confers citizenship on ”all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” Supreme Court precedent dating to the 19th century affirms that the clause applies to the U.S.-born children of noncitizens.

But Vitter doesn’t like that part of the 14th Amendment.  So, he wants to add language to this anti-human trafficking bill that would deny U.S. citizenship to children born in this country to undocumented immigrants.  He basically wants to change the Constitution without going through the hassle of actually amending it.

Vitter defends his language by saying “There is a whole industry, an underworld, that is selling so-called birth tourism. This acts as a magnet — a potent, powerful magnet growing in power by the year to lure more and more folks to come across the border in specific cases to have their babies here, 300,000 to 400,000 per year.”

Maybe I should try to get in on that industry.  Imagine making money by simply getting tourists to have their baby while in the U.S. just so that child can become a citizen?  The only problem is that these numbers he is stating are wrong.  According to data for 2008, of the 340,000 undocumented immigrant women who gave birth in this country over 80% were here for more than a year.  If they came here under this “birth tourism” plan, they were really planning ahead.

So, there you have it.  A bill which should have soared through the Senate without hardly a word against it has become another political football.  And, the nominee for the head of the Department of Justice, who by the way the Republicans favor much more than Eric Holder, is being held up because of this Republican created mess.

When McConnell assumed the leadership, he promised no government shutdowns, and that the GOP would get things done.  Well Mitch, when are you going to get things done?  So far, you haven’t been too successful.  As I said, if the Republican Party was in charge of coordinating a two float parade, they would screw it up big time!

We are only two months into the new Congress that is controlled by the Republican Party.  There are several Republicans maneuvering to run for the White House in 2016.  The Republicans promised us that we would see “meaningful” legislation come out of Congress and those states they controlled.

Most of us knew what they meant by “meaningful” legislation, and in just two months, they have shown their true colors.  As most of us knew, the middle-class, the working poor, and the unemployed are not on the Republicans radar.  Unless of course, you count ruining their lives even more as part of being on their radar.

In Wisconsin the Governor managed to cram through his infamous “Right-to-work” legislation.  The real impact of this type of legislation is that it is the “right-to-work-for-less.”  In states that have passed so-called right-to-work legislation, the average worker makes at least $1500 less than in states that do not have such legislation.

There two main goals in “right-to-work” legislation.  The first is to cripple unions who represent workers.  The second is to lower wages.  In 1935 Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act which encourages collective bargaining.  Before 1935, income inequality was even worse than it is today.

The four decades that followed saw union membership grow, the middle-class blossom, and income inequality shrivel.  People were actually making a livable wage and sending their children to college.  The “ladder” from poverty to the middle-class was firm and working.

However, in the last three decades, we have seen this “right-to-work” nonsense reverse all of those improvements to the middle-class.  Actually, the middle-class has stagnated mostly because unions have shrunk.  As a result, we are very close to the same income inequality that we saw before the passage of the National Labor Relations Act.

Some proponents of these “right-to-work” laws say they are just protecting those workers who don’t want to join a union from being forced to pay union dues.  That is a lie.  No one is forced to join a union.  In places where union representation was voted in by the workers, the law says that the union must represent all workers whether they are union members or not.  There are fees, which are less than dues, that cover costs such as bargaining contracts that benefit all workers and representing workers who haven’t joined the union but want it to file grievances for them against the company.

By denying unions these “fair share fees” they are attempting to bankrupt the unions.  Unfortunately, it is working.  The real unfortunate result is that people are working for less money, less benefits, and under poorer working conditions.  Collective bargaining allowed unions to help workers gain pay raises based on the profits of the company.  These “right-to-work” laws are denying workers their collective bargaining rights.

In addition, Republican controlled states are slashing education budgets across the country.  They are even going after University funding in order to make it more costly to attend college.  College education is the one thing that helps those in poverty to move up the economic ladder.  With cuts as deep as $300 Million, the cost of education will rise dramatically meaning fewer working-class people who are making less money will be able to afford to send their children to college.

On the federal level, we are seeing more of the same failing economic policies being introduced by our Republican brothers.  They are about to unveil their “budget blueprint” this week.  We all remember how hard they fought for the sequester cuts in the past, the ones they are now saying wasn’t their fault.  But, they are planning to make even more cuts.

The usual suspects for cuts are on the forefront of their agenda.  They plan to slash Medicare, health care subsidies, food stamps and the Medicaid program for the poor and elderly to produce a budget that’s balanced.  They are looking to cut $5 Trillion from the budget over the next 10 years.

I know a lot of people will say that cuts in the budget are necessary to balance the budget.  I am not convinced that having a balanced budget is the right thing to do.  Besides, why is it that all of the savings must come from Medicare, health care subsidies, food stamps and Medicaid?  Are you telling me that there aren’t better ways to “balance the budget” without gutting social safety nets?

What about all of those subsidies that are given to companies like oil and farming?  What about closing the loopholes in the tax code that allow you to hide your money in a foreign country without paying taxes on it?  As big as the government is, there must be places that you can cut that won’t hurt people.

The one thing that they do want to increase in their “blueprint” is defense spending.  The President, in his budget, is already calling for a $38 Billion increase in defense spending.  The Republican hawks want even more money given to DOD.  The biggest difference is that Republicans refuse to increase revenue in order to pay for the increases.  They simply want to hurt the most vulnerable in our society instead.

It has already been shown that if the minimum wage was raised to $10.10, several million people would be lifted out of poverty.  As a result, programs like food stamps would not be spending as much to help working poor make ends meet.  That is a better way to cut food stamps than just letting people go hungry.  Not only that, but if the minimum wage was increased, other wages would increase as well.  History has proven that over-and-over.

I don’t care what you call it.  “Trickle-down” or “Supply-side” economics, it has failed for over 30 years.  Under this economic philosophy, only the top 1% have seen any growth in their income.  The other 99% have either seen their wages stagnated or go down as a result of this failed economic philosophy.

Last November I warned you that if you didn’t get out and vote to stop this insanity we would all suffer the consequences.  Just two months after the Republicans took over, we are already seeing those consequences staring us in the face.   We are beginning to see that the real purpose of Republican economics is to return us to the days of the “robber barons.”

As a result, how much longer will it be before we see the return to the “company” stores, or the elimination of the “child labor” laws?  Actually, we have already seen some Republicans call for the elimination of the child labor laws.  Remember them standing on the floor of the House saying that children who benefit from the school lunch program should be forced to sweep the floors in order to keep their free lunch?

That more than anything should tell you where the Republican economic philosophy is.  They only care about the 1%.  The rest of us should just shut up and die.  I give them some credit.  That is how you represent your constituency.  Too bad the average American isn’t part of that constituency.

It is time I said something about the latest controversy – emails.  Since it came out that Hillary Clinton used a personal email address while Secretary of State, you would think that the entire world was set upside down.  There are some questions that do need to be answered that I believe are valid.  The major one is if the email server Clinton used is really secure.

Look, I know about maintaining classified material and secure communications.  If she used her personal email account and personal server for official business, then it must be made certain that the server has the proper security level necessary.  If not, it is possible that something may have been compromised, and that is not good.

On the other hand, the rest of this new controversy is total bullshit!  This is not defending Clinton.  It is merely making a point.  With the possible exception of Lindsey Graham who claims to never have sent an email, everyone in government uses private emails.  This includes Trey Gowdy who is demanding that Clinton turn over every single email she ever sent or received while Secretary of State.

He isn’t alone either.  The business card for Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who succeeded Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to be head of the House’s Government Oversight committee lists a Gmail address.  Why not his official email address?  It also came out that Secretary of State Colin Powell used a personal email account while in office.

What makes Clinton’s use of personal email such a controversy is the never-ending Benghazi Investigations.  I lost count of how many there have been, but so far none of them came up with anything.  Now the email “scandal” is supposed to be the smoking gun.  Gowdy claims she must be hiding something in her personal email account.

Clinton has already released over 55,000 printed pages of emails.  Gowdy wants every single personal email she sent while Secretary of State in the name of transparency.  There is that word again.  Transparency.  We have seen that word used way too much to justify any witch-hunt someone wants to conduct on both sides of the aisle.

I am all for transparency.  But, everyone doesn’t seem to think like I do, not even Gowdy.  For example, AlterNet asked Gowdy’s press secretary how he segregates work he conducts through his personal domain vs congressional work. They also inquired about where his personal email server is stored and how it is secured.  They even tried to contact Gowdy’s campaign manager George Ramsey but he did not return the phone calls.  As of yet, no response was received to these questions.

I don’t know what the “law” everyone talks about actually says about email accounts.  But, if we are going to constantly talk about transparency, then it is wrong to criticize anyone without following your own words about transparency.

I know that a lot of trolls out there would love to peer into the personal email accounts of public officials.  I find that disgusting and an invasion of privacy.  However, if you are going to make a scandal over emails about one person, you must follow through and release your own personal emails so we can judge if you are as pure as you say you are.  Or, is this another case of Congress exempting themselves from laws they pass about other branches of government?

Hillary Clinton wants to be president.  We know that there are a lot of people who are completely against her even running for the office.  That means anything is fair game as far as they are concerned.  The problem I have with all of this is more about judgment.

You know I ask some questions that others won’t, so I will ask this one.  What the f**k was she thinking?  She should have known that anything that even appeared to be wrong would come back to haunt her.  She was slow in her response to the “scandal” too.

In the meantime, this email scandal will go on forever.  The news media loves covering stories about the Clintons.  Either good stories or bad stories.  But, remember, she is not alone in combining personal emails with business.  Only we won’t know who is and who isn’t doing the same until all personal emails are made public for every elected or appointed official.

Hell, if we are going to be a tabloid news nation, what better way to feed the rags than letting everyone see your emails.  As I said before, I find that totally disgusting.  Then again, I can think of a few people whose email accounts I might be interested in seeing.  I am sure you can too.  What gems might they contain?

 

We have discussed corporate tax codes, special treatment, and tort issues for corporations before.  We know that a company can shut down a factory in the U.S. and then write-off” the moving expenses for moving the equipment overseas.  We have talked about all of the subsidies that the giant oil companies get from the U.S. Government.  We saw that if you are a predatory mortgage lender you won’t spend any time in jail.  You might get fined for your practices, but you won’t go to jail.

But, did you know that if something terrible happens and a corporation is “fined” for the actions, or is ordered to pay the victims, you are subsidizing those fines and penalties?  I bet you didn’t know that.  I bet you also don’t know that if you are a victim and receive compensation that you are subsidizing the company that paid you twice.

Let’s take a look at the biggest disaster recently.  In 2010, BP Corporation caused a massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Their oil rig blew up killing 11 people.  It caused the biggest oil spill in U.S. history and ruined the lives and businesses of millions of people up and down the Gulf Coast.

As a result of that spill, BP was socked with a punishing payout topping $42 billion.  A lot of that money went to people whose livelihood was affected by the spill like shrimpers.  If you were a shrimper that was paid by BP because of the spill, you had to pay taxes on the money as “regular income.”  If you were a hotel owner and paid because the spill caused a severe drop in business, you had to pay taxes on the money as “regular income.”

But, if you were BP Corporation, you were able to deduct up to 80% of that $42 billion from your taxes as the “cost of doing business.”  That’s right, BP Corporation was able to deduct up to 80% of that payout as the “cost of doing business.”  As a result, money that should have been put into the treasury, wasn’t.

But, this problem goes way beyond just the tax code.  We often hear Republicans call for “tort reform.”  That is because they want to put limits on what corporations have to pay if they do something wrong.  Tort cost is blamed for the high cost of doing business.   Some Judges seem to think so too.

In a Montana case, for example, a jury awarded $240 million in punitive damages to the families of three people, including two teenagers, killed in a car crash. The deaths were blamed on a steering defect that South Korean automaker Hyundai was found to have known about and “recklessly” ignored for more than a decade. But a district judge has since supplanted the jury’s ruling with her own. While declaring that Hyundai’s “reprehensibility” certainly warrants a sizeable punishment, she cut the corporation’s punitive payment down to $73 million.

So, the families of the three people killed will have to pay taxes on their share of the $73 million, but Hyundai will be able to deduct up to 80% of that money from their U.S. taxes.  If you are a $79-billion-a-year car giant there is nothing in this case that will force you to change your habits.

As a result of all of this, we are subsidizing criminals to continue their criminal behavior.  As a matter of fact, the U.S. is encouraging them to continue their criminal behavior.  In the case of BP, we are giving them billions in subsidies and still allowing them to deduct penalties from their taxes.  How quaint.

Senator Patrick Leahy is trying to fix the tax problem.  I have my doubts if it will get past the corporation friendly Republican Congress.  These are the types of companies that spend heavily on Republican candidates.  So, I don’t expect them to do anything about it, and we will keep paying the price, both figuratively and literally.

We have heard the Republicans say over-and-over again that the President is “lawless.”  They have argued for years that this President does not recognize laws and is unwilling to execute them.  They have argued that his Executive Order on Immigration is “lawless” and an “overreach” of his power.

Okay, they can say what they want.  But, as the old adage says, “beware of what you say because it may come back to haunt you.”  The other day, 47 Senate Republicans sent an “open letter” to the leaders of Iran.  Funny thing is that this letter may have been “lawless” and even illegal.

See in 1799, Congress passed a law known as the “Logan Law.”  This law explicitly says:

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

Oops!

Okay, the Logan Law is an archaic law that has never been successful in convicting anyone of violating it.  As a matter of fact there has been only one case in our history where this law was actually used to indict someone.  That was in 1803.  The case fell apart long before it got to trial.

But that doesn’t take away the fact that these Senators may have broken the law.  It doesn’t take away from the fact that by sending this “letter” they shouldn’t face possible fine and imprisonment.  After all, they are the “law and order” party.  Or, maybe they really aren’t the “law and order” party.

In his own defense, Tom Cotton, the author of the letter says that any deal must be passed by a two-thirds majority in order to be ratified.  Well, that is partly correct.  Tom Cotton claims to be a Constitution Scholar, but he seems to have missed the Senate’s own web page on Treaties.

See, the Senate advises and consents to treaties.  Or as their own web page says:

The Constitution gives to the Senate the sole power to approve, by a two-thirds vote, treaties negotiated by the executive branch. The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification.

Now I am not a true historian, so I cannot say if a President actually used his power to proceed with ratification if the Senate did not pass a resolution of ratification.  But, I believe this would be another case of open interpretation that the President would have such power.  I cannot find anywhere in the Constitution that prohibits any such action by a President.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t there, I just can’t seem to find it.  I don’t believe it would be right, but I can see where lawyers could argue the case for and against such action by a President.

It would appear that Senator Cotton’s letter to Iran was both illegal and not totally accurate in his interpretation of the Constitution.  And he says he needs to “educate” the Iranian leadership on the American Constitution?  All of this in the name of what, exactly?  Since Tom Cotton is nothing more than a talking robot who regurgitates talking points, he obviously doesn’t know what this whole mess is about.

The sad part is that his leadership in the Senate went along with this stupidity.  And we are supposed to believe they can govern.  Yeah right.

For the first time in recent years, the Republicans have actually dumfounded me today.  I know that I have talked a lot here about their insane ideas before, but what they did today was totally out-of-the-blue and it dumfounded me.  I am talking about that great “open letter” that 47 Senate Republicans, including all of the Republican leadership singed to the Iranian Government.

Apparently, the freshman Senator Tom Cotton decided that the Iranians were too stupid to understand how the American Government works.  Seemingly, Mitch McConnell and the rest of these high thinkers believe the same thing.  So, they decided to give Iran a little American Civics lesson.  I say that in complete sarcasm.

In the letter they said:

“The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen,” they wrote, “and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

They went further stating “We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress.”

By deliberately undermining the negotiations going with Iran over their nuclear program, the Republicans are really bringing us one step closer to war with Iran.   Senator Cotton has announced that he isn’t interested in a nuclear deal with Iran.  What he really wants is a “regime change.”  That is the only thing that will satisfy him.

The only real way to ensure a “regime change” is with a war against Iran to topple the government like the one President Bush conducted against Iraq.  Is that what the Republican Party really wants?  Do they really want another shooting war with another foreign government just because they don’t like it?

What other reason could there be for these Senators to side with the Iranian hardliners in helping to trash the talks?  Think about for a minute.  These 47 Republican Senators just took the side of the very people they hate the most.  The Iranian hardliners.  Do they hate America that much that they are willing to become allies with their hated enemy?

Ever since the President announced the talks, which the U.S. is not engaged with alone, the Republicans have tried their best to derail them.  Why?  They claim that the President is so willing to make a deal, that he will agree to anything.  But, the President has said time and again that if there is no structure for strong verification he would walk away from the deal.

We have seen this movie before.  President Bush assured us that if we didn’t invade Iraq, the proof of their work on weapons of mass destruction would be a mushroom cloud over Manhattan.  The Republicans are trying the same tactic with Iran.  I know that Iran is far more dangerous than Iraq was to world peace.  But since when does the “opposition” party in this country deliberately try to torpedo negotiations with another government?

I cannot think of a single instance when that has happened before.  What happened to the Republican Slogan created by Ronald Reagan of “trust but verify?”  They loved it when their side was doing the negotiating.  They seem to hate it when the President does the negotiating.

This open letter has nothing to do with “teaching” Iran about how our government works.  It has everything to do with starting another foreign war.  Even with negotiations going on and no interference by the Republicans, there has always been the threat of a war with Iran.

However, these 47 Republican Senators just gave Iran the talking points they need to claim that any forthcoming war between the west and Iran is America’s fault.  More importantly, they will brag about how “American Hardliners” forced the war by forcing the collapse of negotiations that Iran was in favor of completing.

We needn’t worry about whether Russia or China would have supported a war with Iran under any circumstances.  But this action could make our European allies think twice about supporting one.

On top of all of this, if you think that terrorists have enough to recruit new terrorists, wait until they start trumpeting the collapse of these talks if it happens.  These Senators just gave the terrorists new ammunition to increase their numbers as well.

Yes, these Republican Senators dumfounded me until I realized that they are trying to start another war.  Either that or they are a lot more stupid than I gave them credit for being.  There can be no other answer to the obvious question of “What the f**k were you thinking?”

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