See The Super Bowl Of Civic Action For The People

To have a democratic society that brings out the best in its citizens, people have to show up — to vote, to attend city council meetings, rallies, marches and other serious gatherings that reflect the public interest. They also need to support progressive candidates and run for office.

Showing up is half of democracy. We invite you to attend, in person, our four-day Breaking Through Power conference in Washington, D.C., featuring some of the most accomplished civic leaders and thinkers as well as opportunities for you to become energized and engaged wherever you live or work.

Whether you see yourself as a dissatisfied voter, a civically-minded teacher, a curious student, a fed up consumer, a dismayed taxpayer, or if you are looking for ways to make your community better, you’ll come away with knowledge, tools for action and connections with others who want to make a difference.

Visit breakingthroughpower.org to see the conference speakers — people who long ago decided they were going to dedicate their time and talent to make our country responsive to the necessities and aspirations of its people.

The First Day — September 26th — is about building civic skills and breaking through apathy. You can see David Freeman talk from his experience of advising presidents, governors, and running four big public utilities, including the vast Tennessee Valley Authority, wisely lay out a practical path to economical renewable energy with environmental respect.

Have you been ripped off? Hear Oliver Hall of the Center for Competitive Democracy talk about using small claims court or the people’s courts. They are located everywhere.

Thinking about a community-based business? Listen to the nation’s expert, Neil Seldman, from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, talk about how community business is revolutionary.

Want to engage with the safe, nutritious food movement? You’ll be shown the way by the leading safe food advocate—who has done it for 45 years—Dr. Michael Jacobson.

Whether it is empowering consumers, getting corporate money out of politics, knowing the safeguards for whistleblowing or building public opinion behind your proposals, advocates who are among the best in the country are ready to share their experience and enthusiasm with you at the Breaking Through Power conference.

Let’s say you’re a teacher and you want to convey civic skills to your students and motivate them to overcome their apathy and work for needed change. You couldn’t have a better day’s retreat. There is even a talk on the civic engagement of business leaders by Mitch Rofsky, who founded the delightfully pro-consumer motor club called the Better World Club [www.betterworldclub.com].

The Second Day is a huge eye-opener and brain-filler. Did you know that “We the People” actually own the greatest wealth in our country? I’m referring to the vast public lands, onshore and offshore, the research and development, funded by taxpayers, that enabled today’s new industries, the huge capital amassed in the form of pension and mutual funds and individual shareholdings. But corporations control their uses and reap the profits, abetted by their influence over Congress and government officials in Washington. Imagine if we took back reasonable control over those assets that we already own. A society beyond our optimistic dreams would emerge, assuming that we provided “eternal vigilance.”

Well, that’s what Day Two is all about — our savings, our natural resources, and our other “commons” being shaped to fit your needs and those of your descendants.

Day Three responds to people’s interest in ways to start new citizen groups by the heads of groups each exhibiting a different model. The afternoon is devoted to D.C. statehood—the New Columbia to replace the Washington D.C. colony and abolish the servitude that blocks the residents of our nation’s capital from having voting representatives in Congress.

Day Four, held at historic Constitution Hall, celebrates the two great liberation movements that provide us with self-actuating freedoms to have our day in court and make contracts fair. Naturally, the big corporations are irritated by challenges to their overreaching, so over the decades they have weakened the law of torts — the remedies for wrongful injuries — and perfected the anti-consumer, one-sided, fine-printed contracts that await you when you enter into the marketplace of goods and services. Our rights to fair contracts and to use tort law are under constant attack from the promoters of crony capitalism. Attend the Breaking Through Power Conference and learn what you can do to defend yourself.

You’ll be engrossed by advocates who have represented successfully people like you and scholars who can clearly demonstrate what is at stake when we decide to strengthen the fundamental freedoms to use tort law.

Consider these four days as the Super Bowl of Civic Action that can equip you to seek justice and protect yourself from wrongful impacts on your living condition.

There’s no substitute for attending the events and meeting with similarly motivated citizens like you. Ticket information can be found at breakingthroughpower.org or by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000.

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Federal Regulation Saves Millions Of Lives

Fifty years ago this month (on September 9, 1966), President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety laws that launched a great life-saving program for the American People.

I was there that day at the White House at the invitation of President Johnson who gave me one of the signing pens. In 1966, traffic fatalities reached 50,894 or 5.50 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. By 2014, the loss of life was 32,675 or 1.07 fatalities per hundred million vehicle miles traveled. A huge reduction!

This was an astounding success for a federal safety program that included mandatory vehicle safety standards (seat belts, airbags, better brakes, tires and handling among other advances) and upgrading driver and highway safety standards.

When the crashworthy standards were first proposed in 1967, Henry Ford II warned that they “would shut down the industry.” Ten years later on NBC’s Meet the Press he conceded, “We wouldn’t have the kinds of safety built into automobiles that we have had unless there had been a federal law.”

At the White House signing ceremony, I distributed a brief statement, requested the previous day by the New York Times, which said, “To translate potential into reality will require competent and vigorous administration of the laws and new manufacturing priorities by the auto industry.”

Over the years, the political pressure of the almost always resistant auto industry stalled, slowed and sometimes shut down National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) initiatives. Toady administrators taking orders from the auto companies’ friends in Congress, such as Congressman John Dingell (D, MI) and the White House all slowed auto safety advances. Nonetheless, based on the comparative yardstick of fatalities per motor vehicle miles traveled over the years, the Center for Auto Safety estimated 3.5 million lives saved between 1966 and 2014 in the United States.

Of course, the number of injuries prevented or diminished is even greater. The savings in hundreds of billions of dollars spent on crash consequences – such as property damage, medical expenses, wage losses and less tangible costs such as family anguish and disruption are major additional benefits from rational regulation.

If the auto company bosses had liberated their own engineers and scientists and cooperated with the federal regulators, who early on were physicians and engineers, even more casualties would have been prevented.

Today, the challenges remain in the upgrading of the operational and safety aspects of motor vehicles, especially large trucks, improvements in highway infrastructure and handling drivers distracted by cell phones or under the influence. Much is being written of futuristic self-driving, autonomous vehicles. Don’t be taken in with the hype, or the arrogant reliance on algorithms. It will be many years, if ever, until the entire vehicle fleet is converted into unhackable, driverless machines.

Meanwhile, modest semi-autonomous braking systems, with drivers still at the steering wheel, are here and will improve. There will be other systems inviting the dependency of drivers which will raise questions of ultimate control of a fast-moving vehicle.

Recent disclosures – the GM ignition switch defect crime and the VW criminal manipulation of software regarding toxic emissions – demand the passage of a criminal penalty amendment to the 1966 safety law. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D, CT) and Edward Markey (D, MA) have introduced such a bill – S. 900 – but it is blocked by soft-on-corporate-crime Republicans.

The consumer advocates’ struggle to save lives on the highway, including those of pedestrians and motorcyclists, continues. Despite many innovations (see Rob Cirincione’s report) by the automotive suppliers, the bureaucratic auto companies still have that old “not-invented-here” syndrome bedeviling them.

Can a young person today, writing a book exposing an industry’s chronic abuses, experience such a level of Congressional action and recurrent media attention as was accorded me and my book Unsafe at Any Speed?

Very doubtful, without a brand new Congress. The Congress doesn’t have enough Senators and Representatives like Senators Warren Magnuson, Abraham Ribicoff, Gaylord Nelson and Congressman John Moss, who took on the auto giants and persisted until enactment of the necessary legislation. There is less perceived rumble from the people than in the nineteen sixties.

Also a more corporate media gives us celebrity stories, sports, natural and man-made violent disasters, political horseraces and just plain fluff. News by citizen groups is not a media priority.

Democracy and its result – a more just society – is not a spectator sport. People have to organize to challenge the forces of injustice. As the great abolitionist, Frederick Douglass said for the ages: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. Never has and never will.”

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Breaking Through Power 26-29th September 2016

The Center for Study of Responsive Law announces a four-day conference in Washington, D.C.

The Breaking Through Power gathering commemorates the 50th anniversary year of Unsafe at Any Speed, which unleashed fresh civic energies and sparked the creation of numerous advocacy organizations and led to major consumer, environmental and worker safety protections.

The theme of these “Civic Seminars” will be discovering ways to break through power to secure long-overdue democratic solutions made possible by a new, muscular civic nexus between local communities and Washington, D.C. During these four days, speakers will present innovative ideas and strategies designed to take existing civic groups to higher levels of effectiveness.

Speakers include:

  • Consumer Advocate Ralph Nader
  • John Bogle, the founder and retired CEO of The Vanguard Group
  • Pat Quinn, Former Governor of Illinois
  • Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Delegate to Congress, D.C.
  • Mitchell Garabedian- advocate for hundreds of victims of childhood sexual abuse. Most recently, he has been portrayed by Stanley Tucci in the Academy Award winning film Spotlight
  • Bill McKibben, Founder 350.org
  • Karen Hobert Flynn, President, Common Cause
  • Nell Minow, Vice Chair, ValueEdge Advisors
  • Joan Claybrook, President Emeritus, Public Citizen, and Former Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The complete list of speakers is available at: www.BreakingThroughPower.Org

Themes

Building Civic Skills, Breaking Through Apathy, September 26, 2016 (Carnegie Institution of Washington) will feature presentations by our nation’s leading citizen advocates and scholars to discuss successful strategies and techniques that can strengthen our civic culture and democracy.

Controlling What We Own, Shifting Power, September 27, 2016 (Carnegie Institution of Washington) brings together leaders from business, corporate governance, organized labor, and academia, to discuss initiatives that will make corporations accountable to shareholders and stakeholders.

Citizen Action and D.C. Statehood, September 28, 2016  (DAR Constitution Hall) will showcase national leaders who have pioneered sustainable advocacy models, grassroots citizen activists, and elected officials who are championing the drive for D.C. Statehood.

Celebrating Tort Law and Civil Justice, September  29, 2016 (DAR Constitution Hall) will convene leading practitioners and scholars from around the country who will provide unique insights and practical advice on protecting and expanding Tort Law.

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Wake Up: These Unneeded Instruments Can Wreak Mass Destruction

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has recently advanced a clean energy plan which mandates that New York transition half of its energy needs to renewables by 2030. By regressive contrast, New York’s Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved enormous subsidies for three aging nuclear power plants―Ginna, Nine Mile Point and FitzPatrick―located in Upstate New York. Estimates of the costs of these subsidies range from $59 million to $658 million by 2023, with specialists such as Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group predicting that costs could grow to $8 billion. New York consumers will be covering the tab via their utility bills.

Ginna and Nine Mile Point are owned by the Exelon Corporation, and Exelon has plans to purchase the FitzPatrick plant. You can be sure that Exelon is frothing at the mouth for this huge bailout that was approved without adequate public scrutiny. Approval of this plan gives New York State the not-so-honorable distinction of being one of the first states to bailout the aging nuclear industry in our increasingly green energy age. The long-coddled nuclear industry is hoping that other states will follow suit.

Unfortunately, subsidizing the nuclear industry in the United States is nothing new. Since the first nuclear plants opened back in the 1950’s, taxpayers have assumed nearly all of the financial risk. One of the most telling warning signs about the real cost of investing in nuclear power is that fact that Wall Street will not finance the construction of a nuclear plant without a full loan guarantee from the U.S. government. The reason for such caution by financial wheelers and dealers is the long history of delays, cost overruns and reactors that never came online. Whether the plants open or not, obeisant politicians pass many of the nuclear boondoggle costs to the taxpayers.

Atomic energy is also uninsurable in the private insurance market. Under the Price-Anderson Act of 1957, taxpayers must cover almost all of the costs if a catastrophic nuclear accident should occur. Think of the devastation caused by Chernobyl, Fukushima and Three Mile Island. Three Mile Island, which experienced only a partial meltdown in 1979, cost approximately $1 billion to clean up.

The case to preserve the New York nuclear power plants is that they are an “emissions-free power source.” There are, however, much better, more affordable and safer low carbon options that would replace the need for nuclear energy in New York. These options were not even discussed or evaluated. A more sensible approach would have been for the PSC to present some alternative scenarios, so that citizen taxpayers could compare the risk and costs of a massive nuclear bailout against significant investments in other energy-generating options like wind and solar, in addition to energy conservation measures.

Consider the absurdity of the complex and expensive nuclear fuel cycle itself. It begins with uranium mining which produces radioactive tailings and dust, followed by the fabrication and refinement of fuel rods, the risky transport of these rods to the plant where they are installed, and then firing up the reactor so it goes critical with a huge amount of radioactivity. The end goal? To boil water to generate steam to turn turbines to produce electricity!

What other method of boiling water has to have specific population evacuation plans?

There is also the significant problem of spent fuel rods which are stored in pools at nuclear plants. No permanent storage sites exist for these deadly radioactive wastes, which pose national security risks, and which must be kept for thousands of years.

It’s notable to point out that the Indian Point nuclear plants in New York, which are located near an earthquake fault just thirty miles from Manhattan, were excluded from the PSC proposal. Even cautious Governor Cuomo and Hillary Clinton, when she was a Senator, have acknowledged the imminent danger that Indian Point poses to the Greater New York City area and urged its closing. The 5 PM rush hour in New York’s metropolitan area is bad enough without adding the chaos of a panicked mass evacuation of millions of people.

So what about those who live within the fallout zone of these three upstate plants that will be the recipients of billions of dollars of taxpayer money? Why is Governor Cuomo trying to close Indian Point while saving these other plants? One explanation could be right out of the classic nuclear industry handbook―hold the state hostage by threatening that the lights will go out if they don’t pony up.

The public was given just 14 days to comment on the bailout proposal. Despite pushback from anti-nuclear activists, the nuclear industry prevailed. Is two weeks enough time for a thorough public debate on the merits of bailing out the costly, risky, dirty nuclear power industry? Shame on the indentured PSC and Governor Cuomo!

Rather than prop up deteriorating nuclear plants with a huge hand out, New York officials should be focused on phasing out nuclear energy entirely. Nuclear power has been proven many times over to be unnecessary, uneconomic, uninsurable, unevacuable, unsafe and unfit for use in the unstable modern world.

New Yorkers―don’t take this lying down. Write and call Governor Cuomo’s office and tell them that you oppose the PSC’s huge bailout to the nuclear industry. And, we hope that some citizen groups will challenge the decision in state court.

Have you seen the print, TV and radio ads touting atomic energy by the Nuclear Energy Institute? Its top executives and the CEOs of the nuclear energy corporations have not been willing to debate publically the assertions in these ads about cost, subsidies, evacuation, risk, alternatives and climate change. I’m confident that Peter Bradford, former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and former chairman of the New York PSC would agree to a debate in a neutral forum such as the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. So too would Amory Lovins, physicist, author and energy consultant to agencies from electric utility companies to the Pentagon.

Can you, readers, demand that the Nuclear Energy Institute open themselves up to informed debate? After all, they represent big corporate welfare kings that have taken taxpayers for a ride of hundreds of billions of dollars for the last sixty years. They owe you!

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Join Ralph Nader at the Winsted Book Festival!

Saturday July 30th from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, and Sunday July 31st from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM

Several local authors will be making an appearance to sign their books:

Guilford resident Patricia Klindienst, signing The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans 12:30 PM, Saturday    

Pulitzer Prize winning Columbia University Professor Eric Foner, signing his book, Gateway to Freedom: Hidden History of the Underground Railroad2:00 PM, Saturday

Author, activist and blogger David Bollier – Think Like a Commoner: A Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons 4:00 PM, Saturday

Housatonic Valley Regional High School teacher Peter Vermilyea, signing Hidden History of Litchfield County and Wicked Litchfield County Noon Sunday

Consumer advocate, citizen activist, and presenter of the book festival, Ralph Nader, will be presenting 10AM Saturday and appearing both days to sign his books and discuss his work.

There are many deals that come with buying books…

$10 coupon to Noujaim’s Restaurant (next door) with every $40 purchase
Buy two books in the $5 category, get one free!

Any patrons of the Festival whose combined book purchases and/or charitable contributions to The Law Works equal or exceed $500 will receive an autographed copy, personalized, of the 50th anniversary commemorative edition of Unsafe At Any Speed.

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How Unpatriotic Is Donald Trump?

Samuel Johnson famously considered patriotism “the last refuge of a scoundrel.” His biographer James Boswell, who passed along that judgment, clarified that Johnson “did not mean a real and generous love for our country, but that pretended patriotism which so many, in all ages and countries, have made a cloak for self-interest.”

This could be describing Donald Trump. And yet the Wall Street Journal‘s Peggy Noonan theorized in an April 2016 column that Trump’s major appeal to Republican voters came not from his adherence to any political ideology, but rather from his radiant patriotism which has, in her view, been absent from the political status quo. “What Trump supporters believe, what they perceive as they watch him,” she wrote, “is that he is on America’s side.”

There is little in Trump’s rambling off-the-cuff speeches and media interviews, or in his reactionary stream-of-conscious tweets, that demonstrate his understanding of patriotism. Trump is a snake oil salesman, and he is arguably in the midst of his greatest pitch to date. Smart consumers should do their research to find out the truth about the “product” they are being sold by Mr. Trump.

Here are some examples of where the real estate plutocrat comes up short on patriotism.

  • Peeved by The Washington Post‘s coverage of his presidential campaign and their investigation of the details surrounding his grand claims, Trump has revoked the paper’s press credentials for attending his rallies and political events. He has also banned reporters from Politico, Univision, Mother Jones, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post and others. What’s patriotic about muffling the free press when you are running for the highest office in the land?
  • Despite lofty rhetoric about “bringing jobs home,” Trump has used cheap foreign production in China and Bangladesh for his signature clothing brands. “They don’t even make this stuff here,” the ever-defensive Trump told ABC News‘ George Stephanopoulos when questioned about it. Stephanopoulos informed Trump that Brooks Brothers clothing does, does, in fact, “make this stuff” here. What’s patriotic about making profits on the backs of poorly paid foreign workers who are often suffering under dictatorial rule?
  • Big talker Trump has claimed to have given millions of dollars to many different charities over the years. According to a recent Washington Post investigation, he’s given far, far less than he’s boasted―and far less than other billionaires of his (alleged) comparable wealth. Most of his donations have come through the Trump Foundation, to which he has donated little of his own fortune. All in all, over the past seven years, the Post reports that Trump has personally given less than $10,000 to charities. What’s patriotic about lying about your own philanthropy?
  • One of Trump’s more preposterous statements has been calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Drawing much justified criticism, Trump has been pressured into clarifying and restating his position. He now claims that only immigration from “terrorist countries” would fall under his proposed ban. He also stated last fall that he was “open” to the idea of creating an Orwellian database of all Muslims living in the United States. Is accusatory language of ethnic stereotyping reflective of our patriotic traditions? The inscription on the Statue of Liberty is: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Is repudiating Lady Liberty patriotic?
  • Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency has been based upon the supposed strength of his talent and judgment as a businessman and dealmaker. These skills, however, are not totally verifiable, since Trump refuses to release his tax returns. Trump has managed to avoid any severe blows to his personal wealth by strategically insulating himself from failed corporate business endeavors. He has bragged that he “used, brilliantly,” corporate bankruptcy as a competitive advantage. When Trump fails, only the little guys suffer. Not exactly reflecting the last words of the pledge of allegiance―”with liberty and justice for all.”
  • Last year, Donald Trump shamefully criticized Senator John McCain who spent over five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. The ever-brash Trump dismissed McCain’s extraordinary ordeal, claiming: “He’s not a war hero.” Trump continued, “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Is degrading the suffering of an American veteran patriotic? Unlike McCain, Trump did not serve in the Vietnam War. He has gone on the record, however, for making a different kind of sacrifice. Trump described his romantic escapades in the 1980’s as his “personal Vietnam” due to how he put himself at risk of sexually transmitted diseases. He told Howard Stern that this made him feel “like a great and very brave soldier.”
  • “I believe that Trump University was a fraudulent scheme,” Ronald Schnackenberg, a former employee of the unaccredited Trump University, stated in testimony, “and that it preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money.” Indeed, much of the information that has come to light about Donald Trump’s “university” reveals that it was little more than a scam meant to drain people of their money while promising them success. Cornered by the allegations, Trump resorted to accusing Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, who is scheduled to hear the class action suit in November, of being “a hater” of his due to his Mexican ethnicity. Are these the words of man who loves America or those of a con man caught with his hand in the cookie jar?
  • Since starting his bid for the presidency, Donald Trump has produced a veritable Trump Tower of outrageously false statements. According to the nonpartisan Politifact, nearly 80% of the statements made by Donald Trump fall under the categories of Mostly False, False, or “Pants on Fire.” His campaign won the distinction of 2015 Politifact Lie of the Year for its entire spider web of deceptions. What’s patriotic about chronically lying when you’re running for the presidency of the United States?

So what does it truly mean to be patriotic?

My parents defined it quite simply. They taught my siblings and me that loving one’s country meant working hard to make it more lovable. This means working to end poverty, discrimination, corruption, greed, cheating and other injustices that weaken the promise and potential of America.

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Breaking Through Power update

Thank you to everyone who turned out for the first four days of Breaking Through Power. It was a great success.

Please continue to check breakingthroughpower.org for information of September’s Breaking Through Power events, or email [email protected].

Watch the Breaking Through Power videos.

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The Funny Business of Farm Credit

By Ralph Nader

In May of 1998 we held a conference dedicated to two Government-sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In my statement to that assembly, I noted that both corporations had been enjoying good times, but cautioned that one of the unintended consequences of fat profits over a long period is the tendency of both government and private corporations to start believing in the fantasy of ever-rising profits. GSEs often escape the accountability that Congress or regulatory agencies should impose.

Recent hearings in the U.S. House and Senate have provided some much needed oversight on another GSE―the Farm Credit System (FCS).

The Farm Credit System was the first GSE to be established by the United States in 1916. Unlike Fannie and Freddie, the Farm Credit System can make direct loans to farmers, ranchers and others involved in agriculture. However, as The Wall Street Journal reported back in 1985: “the Farm Credit System would lend money to anyone. Herbert Ashton, an Indiana fruit farmer, recalls being wined and dined at a local country club by bankers from his local [farm credit] system bank who extolled the virtues of inflation and offered to lend him $1 million on the spot. ‘I turned it down,’ he recalls. ‘But they sounded like a soap testimonial. They were giving money to whoever passed their way, and they didn’t ask too many questions.’”

Not surprisingly, The Farm Credit System was also the first GSE to be bailed out by taxpayers at a cost of $4 billion when the farm economy collapsed in 1987.

The Farm Credit System reported a net income of $4.7 billion and assets of $283 billion in 2014. It gets its huge funding capital from the Federal Farm Credit Banks Funding Corporation which sells bonds on securities markets. It receives exemptions from Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform and pays only a small percentage of state and local taxes. With these facts in mind, the FCS has veered off course from the mission Congress originally intended for it to do―“…to make loans for the production and marketing of agricultural products.” The FCS’s lending practices are less focused on serving the credit needs of new farmers and ranchers, but instead lending today focuses on large farmers, agribusinesses, utilities and even businesses having nothing to do with farming!

For example, in 2004 twenty-five percent of new FCS loans went to owners of small farms and ranches while seventy-five percent went to owners of large farms. In 2014, less than 14 percent of new FCS loans went to owners of small farms and ranches, while over 86 percent went to owners of large farms. On their website, FCS addresses the open question of whether or not they exist to just serve farmers and ranchers by elaborating: “The System’s mission is to serve all types of agricultural producers who have a basis for rural credit, as well as others who help ensure that agriculture and rural America are economically successful. This includes farm-related businesses, rural homeowners, rural infrastructure providers, including electric, telecommunications, water and waste, as well as other rural service providers.” This open-ended description leaves a lot of wiggle room about who FCS chooses to lend to―which is problematic.

Providing loans to large corporations, to non-farm enterprises and to wealthy individuals and families for a variety of non-farm investments goes well beyond what the Farm Credit System was set up to do. Some eye-opening examples follow:

    • In October 2013 – CoBank, a93 billion Farm Credit System bank, loaned725 million to Verizon to help finance its acquisition of Vodafone -a London-based telecom giant. At a June 25, 2014 hearing, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) told Jill Long Thompson, Chairman and CEO of the Farm Credit Administration, “I have been a supporter of the Farm Credit System. But, it is pretty hard for me to explain—I can’t explain why you are financing a merger deal with Verizon, or the Farm Credit System is.”
  • In April 2015 – CoBank participated in a300 million unsecured term loan to Black Hills Corp., a vertically integrated energy company with natural gas and electric utility operations in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.
  • In January 2015, Greenstone Farm Credit Services ACA/FLCA joined with several large commercial banks in providing “a five-year750 million revolving line of credit” to Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., a national restaurant chain.
  • In 2007, Farm Credit of the Virginias loaned the Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard34 million to increase the winery’s output and construct luxury homes on the estate.

Former Farm Credit Administration Chairman and CEO Leland A. Strom pointed out that Farm Credit System associations “have developed very efficient marketing programs for farmers and ranchers involved in commodity-type agriculture (from corn and soybean production to livestock, for example) in addition to an “ongoing and impressive” effort at “education and outreach to these farmers and their children.” But he warned, the Farm Credit System was not providing the same level of service to those who “farm and market their products directly to consumers, local restaurants, schools, hospitals, etc., in what many call the Local Foods System.”

The Farm Credit System needs congressional oversight of its operations and lending. In addition to regular congressional oversight―the recent hearings were the first in over a decade―Congress should also consider new legislation that would make the FCS subject to Dodd-Frank, require FCS to increase lending to young, beginning and small farmers and ranchers and limit lending to non-farm corporations and non-farm activities.

Small farmers, let your member of Congress know what you think.

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Breaking Through Power: Join Together to Mobilize Against Wars of Aggression

Did you know that in the nine months leading to the criminal war of aggression against Iraq in March 2003 by the Bush/Cheney administration, at least 300 retired, high-level establishment military, national security and diplomatic officials spoke out against the looming invasion? The list included retired Generals Anthony Zinni and William Odom and Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan. Even Brent Scowcroft and James Baker, two of President George H.W. Bush’s closest advisors, strongly opposed the invasion.

Unprecedented in U.S. history, these individuals and others wrote op-eds and letters to the editor, signed petitions, attended protests, and wrote to their members of Congress. Retired military, national security and diplomatic officials have great moral credibility―much more so than the typical neocon, war hawk talking heads that appear regularly on cable news. No one can question the patriotism or experience of those who have worked their careers in these federal agencies.

But, shockingly, these respected individuals were ignored by the war-drum pounding White House, a mass media mad with hysteria, and an abdicating Congress. We all know now how that three trillion dollar war of aggression turned out. The violent effects were tragically inflicted on millions of Iraqis and tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers and their families. The resulting blowback from the United States’ actions in Iraq are still being felt today with the carnage in Syria and the rise of ISIS.

For those who lived through this runaway insanity and felt their voices were ignored, the question now lingers―how can we avoid such calamity in the future?

To wage an information war, you need ample resources. What if a billionaire who understood the true cost of waging reckless war had funded a “secretariat” that would have provided an avenue for these valiant anti-war voices to multiply and get on the mass media—whether as guests or through ads—and get up on Capitol Hill to rebut the lies, propaganda and cover-ups of the Bush/Cheney war machine?

Mega-billionaire philanthropist George Soros fits the bill for such a role. He was, of course, very outspoken against the Iraq attack during that tumultuous period. Unfortunately, by the time he decided to fund organized demonstrations, it was after the invasion, in July 2003.

A sum of $150 to $250 million from George Soros, for whom $2 billion in profits is only a fair year, could have turned the tide in the lead up to that monumental ongoing disaster―that criminal, unconstitutional war of aggression.

On May 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th 2016 at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. a large gathering of civil society will take place to challenge the entrenched power of the corporate/political complex. The event is called Breaking Through Power. This “Civic Mobilization” will involve thousands of people at Constitution Hall and around the country via web streaming. The overall goal is to connect long-available knowledge to more long-neglected action. We want people to go to breakingthroughpower.org to see how they can attend this Super Bowl of Citizen Action.

On May 25, 2016, the case will be made for forming such a secretariat to George Soros or another enlightened billionaire with similar views. Speakers that day include: journalist Chris Hedges, retired U.S. Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former top-level CIA analyst Paul Pillar, peace activist Medea Benjamin, whistleblower lawyer Jesselyn Radack, military specialist William Hartung, broadcaster and filmmaker Phil Donahue and Michael McPhearson of Veterans for Peace.

The impulsive, unlawful plunge into military attacks has already happened again in Libya with far-reaching chaos and violence into adjoining African regions. It could happen again and again to embroil the United States in illegal quagmire wars and blowbacks unless serious efforts are made to create an outspoken, anti-war secretariat with the experience and the resources to counter the insatiable military-industrial complex and its war-mongering ideologues.

Visit breakingthroughpower.org to see how you can obtain tickets for these four days of historic events at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. or how to participate in other ways. Scholarships are available to help defer the costs.

We can make it happen; you can make it historic!

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