Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption

Bill Curry is wondering why corruption is the center of debate or upheaval in every country but ours. He writes that, “Hardly a week goes by without a front-page report of a government toppled or convulsed by corruption scandals.”

Why not our country? Reasons abound. One is that corruption has been institutionalized. It is much more systematic than merely putting cash in an envelope to get a procurement contract from public officials.

Curry, a former Connecticut state Senator, elected state Comptroller, and counsellor to President Bill Clinton, argues that the people hate corruption but are not given its true costs.  Curry says, “As Connecticut Comptroller I learned how to count it. An example: a single corrupt bargain struck with health insurers cost the state $1.5 billion, an amount equal to the record deficit our current governor faced on taking office in 2011. There was never a prosecution.”

The ways private commercial interests corrupt public officials are well known. They come by way of exploding campaign funding, lobbyists with gifts swarming over legislatures, speaking fees, revolving doors for corporatists taking key government positions to thwart law enforcement, and lucrative offers to lawmakers in anticipation of their retirement. All these lures are much more persuasive when the general public is quiet and unorganized.

Legalized corruption is all over Washington, D.C. as trillions of dollars of giveaways, subsidies, bailouts, and no-bid contracts proliferate. Did you know that both domestic and foreign mining companies are allowed to explore your federal public lands for minerals? Under an obsolete 1872 mining law, defended by the American Mining Congress, companies have discovered gold, silver, molybdenum, and other ”hard-rock minerals” on our public lands and pay no more than $5 an acre to mine and sell these valuable minerals, without paying any royalties back to the U.S. Treasury.

For example, according to a 1994 report by the Mineral Policy Institute, American Barrick Resources Corporation of Canada – a Canadian gold company—received “patents” on 1,038 acres. The Mineral Policy Center explains that a “patent” as follows: “A company that discovers a valuable mineral deposit on its claim can “patent,” or gain fee title to, the land for a price not to exceed $5.00 per acre. Upon patent issuance, title to public lands is transferred to private ownership.” Barrick “purchased” the 1,038 acres for $5,190 or $5 per acre. Those acres held mineral reserves valued at more than $10 billion. Quite a return on investment for long-standing institutionalized corruption made possible by campaign cash, wining and dining, and other goodies.  Where is the organized opposition to this robbing of our country’s commonwealth? No other country in the world gives away its hard-rock minerals for free.

Curry maintains that the two major parties are on the same page with corruption. Their political consultants like corporate giveaways because they make most of their money consulting for corporations. The media, he says “is so unattuned to the issue it doesn’t even include it in Election Day exit polls that ask voters to pick their top concerns from a list of 17 issues.” When one pollster put “corruption” on the list in 2009 and 2010, guess what, “it finished first both times, beating out ‘jobs and the economy’ in the teeth of the recession.”

Why is corruption at the top? Because most people know that corruption is the problem that turns government against the people. Corruption affects taxes, waste, health care, drug prices, credit gouging, energy conversion, upgrading public facilities, living wages and cracking down on corporate crime, fraud, and obscene corporate welfare (crony capitalism.) It is behind luscious contracts to the military hardware services industry that President Eisenhower warned about in his 1961 farewell address. Corruption also primes the pump for criminal wars of aggression such as the war in Iraq—by unaccountable politicians like war criminals Bush and Cheney.

It is not a coincidence, Curry relates, that countries like those in western Europe which have less public corruption and more honest procurement contracting practices also have higher standards of living and health than we do.

Curry is fed up, has fire in his belly, and wants action.

Taking off from his past writings and experience over the years and a recent roundtable discussion we had in Washington on massive public and private billing fraud, he has drafted a “call to action” seeking a quantification and analysis of the corruption epidemic, “followed by a strategy for building a movement and influencing media and political elites.”

The next step in mobilizing, he urges, would be “a national conference in Washington this fall to which every institution active in this issue is invited and asked to adopt a declaration to commit to a fight.”

Are any foundations or enlightened people of means committed to this fundamental turnaround in our political economy and its immense, prompt benefits? After all, when so much that is wrong is made “legal” or “plausible” by corrupt lawmakers, the peoples’ focus can be quite efficient—535 members of Congress and 7,383 state lawmakers for one gigantic jumpstart in a key election year!

If you want more information from Bill Curry, please contact him at [email protected].

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The Hour is Late —Speak Out, Stand Tall Ex-Officials

As a failed businessman, saved by business bankruptcies which he called a “competitive advantage,” Donald Trump believed in chaos as a strategy.   Unfortunately, chaos and foreign policy don’t mix.  Chaos may bring war. And tragically, military aggression can explosively boomerang back to the U.S. mainland.

On April 3rd, Trump declared he was going to pull soldiers out of Syria. After the recent alleged chemical attack on Syrian civilians outside of Damascus, Trump threatened his friend, Vladimir Putin, saying he will pay a price, and that the military response will “be very, very tough.”

Being deliberately unpredictable and keeping your adversary off balance may work for real estate deals in New York, but for potentates and armed groups it is a formula for fast accelerating uncontrollable disasters.

This flailing approach—implying the use of military violence—may please super war-hawk, madman John Bolton—Trump’s unconfirmed National Security Advisor yet to receive a top secret security clearance  from the FBI—but it appalls many  retired military, national security, and diplomatic officials who served  in high positions under both Republican and Democratic presidents.

Why don’t more ex-officials speak up? It is simple patriotism to forewarn the American people about the gathering storms of military interventions. We are fortunate that a few patriots — such as retired colonels Larry Wilkerson and Andrew Bacevich— stand tall and speak out about the unwarranted or unwise use of military force. But where are James Baker, Brent Scowcroft, Colin Powell, and a slew of former Obama administration officials who are silently tearing their hair out over the daily news reports?

There is a strange tradition in our country of former public officials shutting up when they shouldn’t.

I call this tradition an indulgence America cannot afford. Our country needs former public officials to stand up and speak out. Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and the dozens of former cabinet and sub-cabinet Senate confirmed government officials need to publicly challenge Trump’s autocratic attacks on proven practices benefiting people under the rule of law. Our country is seeing rollbacks of rights and protections while the rich and powerful play with its seized riches and misappropriated delegated powers, which belong to the sovereign people.

Recently, several former EPA heads from previous Republican and Democratic Administrations have protested against EPA marauder Scott Pruitt’s unleashing toxic pollutants into the bodies of America’s children, women, and men.

Recently David Shulkin, the fired head of the Veterans Administration, took Trump to task on TV and in an op-ed in the New York Times. There have been other modest displays of resistance to some of Trump’s depredations by some ex-officials. By and large, however, the widespread silence among them is shameful. Former leaders should know better. Whether they retire, resign, or are fired from their positions, these experienced and aghast Americans dwell in a self-imposed state of vanguishment.

I call on them—mostly well-off with available time—to return to the fray and band together on the matters related to their knowhow and knowwho. Taxpayers have invested much in their shelved expertise and judgment.

Call them ex-Obamaites and reformed ex-Trumpsters. They can raise funds to open full-time advocacy offices in Washington that reach out to the country.  Trump is wreaking havoc on the American people as workers, consumers, buyers of medicine, breathers of air and drinkers of water, as taxpayers against waste and spreading corruption, and as children in serious need. These outrages must be counteracted by people who can get their calls returned, get on the mass media, and mobilize the caring public into sturdy citizen challengers of our hijacked federal government before the November elections.

This entreaty is to people who need no mind-changing about the Trump regime. They know what is happening, where the destructive trajectories are heading, and dislike it intensely. I’ve heard enough about their expressions of private dread to urge former public servants to stand up for their country’s well-being—nothing less is at stake!

Democracies die in many ways. But in the 19th century, political philosopher John Stuart Mill delivered a warning for the ages, “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

If any retired high officials wish to discuss the above plea on my weekly radio show, please use the contact sheet provided on the website.

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Degrading Newspapers’ Business Sections

It’s alarming that there are far fewer media outlets for consumer protection news and features than there were thirty years ago. Recall the huge Phil Donahue Show, the regional radio show and TV news shows, the television networks and syndicated radio shows that would report and interview consumer advocates about the injustice, rip-offs, and harms done to the consumer by unscrupulous corporations.  These shows are largely gone now. Shows marked by fluff, narcissism, trivia, and sensationalist, frenetic news bits are their replacements.

What is disturbing is that the major newspapers – the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal—are cutting back reporting on the revelations and doings of active consumers, and consumer organizations. Sure, they do occasional features that may gain them big journalism prizes. But the regular coverage of very important consumer struggles with Congress, the White House, the courts, and the state legislatures has vastly shrunken. Moreover, the media, especially TV, is dittoheading itself with the daily “big story”, as with the Trumpian escapades.

Serious readers are left with the New York Times daily Business pages (the Washington Post dropped its separate, daily business section a few years ago). Of late, the editors of the Times business section have been diluting its contents with what two former reporters called a more “business friendly” priority. My attempts to discuss this problem with their news editors have not been answered.

Last Sunday I picked up the weighty Sunday New York Times and went to the business page (business is often defined as stories about sellers, when it should include buyers and consumers).  The cover page featured a huge photograph and article titled: “Tiger Is Back, Will Sponsors Follow?”

This article—straining for justification—proceeded to sprawl over another half page or more inside. Meanwhile, Tiger Woods hasn’t even won a single championship on his asserted comeback. This is not the first time that the business page has attempted to entertain readers with inflated articles that evoke the reader’s quizzical response—“what’s this all about?”

Our country is in a midst of a corporate crime wave against consumers, workers, investors, and small taxpayers. Fraudsters are also annually stealing tens of billions of dollars from Medicare, Medicaid, and other government programs. Massive billing fraud and abuse is rampant in the private marketplace as well.

The Pentagon’s gigantic annual budget (currently at more than $700 billion) has been unauditable for decades and, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of Congress, is in regular violation of a 1992 law requiring all government departments to provide audits to the GAO.

The ongoing destruction of the freedom of contract, through fine print stripping of consumer rights and remedies to use the courts keeps eroding the value of consumer dollars. Consumers don’t deserve this costly irritation.

Courts are restricting consumer access by legislative reductions of court budgets and obstacles presented by what is euphemistically called “tort reform” by the insurance and tort-feasors lobbies.

A trillion dollars of unproductive stock buybacks is coming in the next 18 months so as to increase the stock option value of the corporate bosses’ compensation packages. A trillion dollars that can be used for raising low-pay of workers, such as at Walmart, or shoring up company pension fund reserves or investing in R&D or productive enterprise, not to mention dividends to shareholders (individual, pension and mutual funds).

It is not as if the business pages are lacking top level urgent conditions to report as news and features which can also provide topics for their editorial pages.

Instead, the business pages are filled with constant technology hype, as with the inflated promotions and data-starved claims by the companies working on the eminently hackable self-driving cars.

There is plenty of personal advice to taxpayers, but very little on the crisis brought about by the Republican Congress starving the IRS’s budget where staff is trying to collect a part of the $400 billion in uncollected yearly taxes.

Other trends are disturbing. Their first-class weekly aviation columnist, Joe Sharkey, was dismissed three years ago. Times readers fly a lot and have bushels of complaints about an increasingly tone deaf airline industry— the sensible Southwest Airlines is a luminous exception. Yet the Times editors felt they could not justify Sharkey’s $1000 weekly remuneration for doing a sterling job.

Gone also is The Haggler who dissected real consumer grievances in a most engrossing manner. He has not been replaced. Reader voices do not even have a letter to the editor space in the Times business section in which to react or vent.

It has been several years since the Times stopped using print pages for the stock market tables. This should have opened up space for more serious and compelling articles by the paper’s talented staff and contributors. Instead, they no longer have a place for their former star investigative reporter, Gretchen Morgenson, whose searing, well documented Sunday column sent deterrent shivers through culpable corporatist wheeler-dealers.

If anyone is listening to those readers who know what a “business friendly” atmosphere means for the public’s right to know more, please let us know. Two-way conversations on the telephone between editors/reporters and readers are almost extinct.

I, for one, wanted to tell the New York Times business editors that there is only one New York Times and that stupefying standards by this flagship newspaper is seriously consequential for the country.

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Stopping War Pusher John Bolton, Trump’s Choice for National “Insecurity” Advisor

John Bolton’s career of pushing for bombing countries like Iran and North Korea, and his having played an active role in the Bush/Cheney regime’s criminal war of aggression that destroyed Iraq, makes him a clear and present danger to our country and world peace. He is about to become Donald Trump’s personal national security advisor with a staff of 400 right next to the White House. He must be stopped!

For Bolton, the Constitution, federal law, the Geneva Conventions, and other international laws are pieces of paper to be thrown away with unctuous contempt.  This outlaw – the shame of Yale Law School—should have been cast away as a pariah if not prosecuted and imprisoned. A bully to his subordinates in the government and known as “kiss-ass” to his superiors, Bolton is aggressive, relentless, and consistently wrong, when not prevaricatory.

Under Secretary of State Colin Powell, during the imperial Bush/Cheney presidency, Bolton told the media that Fidel Castro was developing chemical and biological weapons. False. Secretary Powell, who believes Bolton is impetuous and dangerous, overrode his in-house liar and corrected the record. While in Cuba with a group, I heard Fidel Castro say he feared Bolton’s words were a precursor to a U.S. attack until Bolton’s remarks were dismissed by his superiors.

There is a remarkable liberal/conservative dislike and fright about Bolton having Trump’s ear daily. Especially since Trump is susceptible to adopting the positions of the last person who reaches him. The added danger is that Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has privately told people that he, like many who have experienced Bolton in government, cannot work with him. So does that mean that Trump will have to choose between the restraining hand of General Mattis and the recklessness of the draft-avoiding torture advocate John Bolton?

Will Republicans, who refused to confirm Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 2005, assume some responsibility for opposing this sociopath? They could easily pass a joint resolution of Congress demanding withdrawal of the appointment by Trump.

There are many vigorous critics of Bolton’s career and subsequent belligerent stances ; Just last month Bolton wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal demanding the bombing of North Korea. His juvenile, lethal positions avoid considering the consequences, responses, backlash and danger to our country’s own safety. He likes to bet on the world—a Dr. Strangelove on steroids.

A lengthy New York Times editorial (March 23, 2018) declares, “Yes, John Bolton Really is that Dangerous.”  It begins: “there are few people more likely than Mr. Bolton to lead the country into war.” Especially since Trump – mired in domestic scandals, investigations, and personal lawsuits—may wish to wag the dog and start wider, distracting, armed hostilities abroad.

The American Conservative magazine is stirring that segment of the political spectrum with Gareth Porter’s article, “The Untold Story of John Bolton’s Campaign for War with Iran.”  Trump didn’t like General McMaster’s (Trump’s outgoing National Security Advisor) counsel that the U.S. remain in the Iran nuclear accord and not isolate itself from other major country signatories who say Iran is complying with its terms.

Then there is Bolton’s bigotry against Arabs and Muslims and his alliance with Pamela Geller—the notorious Islamophobe. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has elaborated on Bolton’s outrageous falsehoods against Arabs and Muslims (the “other anti-semitism” in the words of James Zogby in 1994 at a conference in Israel).

How does such a deep hatred in the White House connect to Trump’s repeated declaration that he allegedly seeks a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians?

Republican constitutional law analyst, Bruce Fein, presents a strong case that the powerful position of national security advisor to the President must be confirmed by the Senate. In which case, Bolton would be gone.

Fein argues:

The Appointments Clause of the Constitution militates against the National Security Advisor aberration.  It makes Senate confirmation of “officers of the United States” the rule.  But Congress may by statute create exceptions for “inferior officers.”  But it has not done so for the Advisor—even assuming the office qualifies as “inferior.”

The other obstacles to Bolton’s assuming his position is that it will take the FBI many weeks to decide whether he can receive a top security clearance. At age 69, Bolton has a long trail of entanglements and intrigues in and out of government, not to mention his tantrums—some involving female public servants.

Fein recounts Bolton’s “unmasking the names of Americans whose conversation has been intercepted by the National Security Agency under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).” He still defends the catastrophic invasion and occupation of Iraq (for more information see Madea Benjamin’s “10 Reasons to Fear John Bolton“).

How does such a madman like Bolton keep coming back? Two reasons stand out. First, the more aggressive parts of the military-industrial complex, bolstered by the neocons, see him as a useful tool—for bigger military budgets and empire. Second, he is a staunch collaborator with the Israel lobby’s support of Israel’s militaristic, increasingly autocratic regime that regularly works against a two-state solution (The majority of American Jews support a two-state solution).

If President Trump gives Bolton a waiver while he works without a security clearance, as he has done, under wide condemnation, for his family and a few others already, the political firestorm may be enough, with other factors, to cause Trump to have Bolton bolt the White House with only his Trump-irritating walrus mustache intact.

In the immediate meantime, members of congress and aroused citizens must use their influence to block or evict John Bolton from our White House.

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Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear

Polls show that over 125 million adults in our country already favor full Medicare for all, with free choice of doctor and hospital without stifling networks. I say ‘already’ because, as of yet, there is no major national campaign underway showing that an ‘everybody in, nobody out’ system of health insurance costs less, with better outcomes, is simpler, without maddeningly inscrutable or fraudulent  bills, co-pays, deductibles and additional trap doors set by a bunch of greedy corporations. The campaigns that exist today are receiving too little on-the-ground assistance for such a widely-supported issue.

A super-majority of only 535 members of Congress—Senators and Representatives—can make that decision. The bill—H.R. 676, the ‘Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act’—is now supported by 121 House Democrats—two thirds of all the Democrats in the House of Representatives. So that’s a good start.

H.R. 676 has been referred to several, regular, Committees of the House whose Chairs are all Republican corporatists. So there have been no public hearings. The bill, not surprisingly, is not moving at all.

Millions of Americans have had the bitter experience of denials of health care, staggering bills, pay-or-die drug prices and even loved ones dying because they couldn’t afford health insurance (about 35,000 a year based on Harvard Medical School experts).  So, in the next month, imagine what would happen, if just ten million of the 125 million who support full Medicare for all wrote, telephoned or emailed their two Senators and Representative demanding action and a written response by their lawmakers (who don’t pay postage).

Just ten million Americans making the least difficult effort—perhaps ending with a demand for a town meeting back home to educate the negative solons—would strike the Congressional Dome like a thunderbolt. Are there a dozen leaders among you up for launching such an electrifying internet mobilization?

Not to be confused with other lesser health insurance bills, mostly in the Senate, H.R. 676 is the real thing. It covers ‘all individuals in the U.S. with free health care that includes all medically necessary care, such as primary care and prevention, dietary and nutritional therapies, dental services, and vision care.’ No more premiums, co-pays or gaping deductibles.

How does H.R. 676 pay for all these services? Five ways:

(1) from existing sources of government revenues for health care, (2) by increasing personal income taxes on the top 5% of income earners, (3) by instituting a progressive excise tax on payroll and self-employment income, (4) by instituting a tax on unearned income (such as on capital gains), and (5) by instituting a tax on stock and bond transactions. Amounts that would have been appropriated for federal public health care programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (SHIP), are transferred and appropriated to carry out this bill.

Presently, all Canadians are covered at an average per capita cost half of what Americans—insured and uninsured—are having to spend for health care. The system proposed in H.R. 676 is similar to Canadian Medicare. It includes public funding and free choice of private delivery of health care. It also has provisions for better record keeping, prevention and quality control. There is even transition retraining for all those clerical and administrative jobs that would not be necessary after displacement of the present bloated, wasteful, redundant health care sub-economy.

What would happen to the giant health insurance companies such as Aetna and United Healthcare? They would be prohibited from selling insurance that duplicates the benefits provided under H.R. 676. They could only sell benefits that are not deemed ‘medically necessary,’ such as certain cosmetic surgery operations.

Rep. Keith Ellison (Dem.-Minn.), the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), is officially the lead House Democrat on the bill, which indicates that the DNC may be getting a little more interested in endorsing such legislation.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ellison is talking it up everywhere he travels. He says:

One of the consistent applause lines we’re all hearing is: ‘We need Medicare for all.” There’s a lot of folks who feel that it’s time for us to organize around that. It’s a better policy, at a better price. People in labor, people all over the country, they’re going to be driving the public conversation, raising the dialogue about this….What some people think is a really important progressive position is just what the rest of the industrialized world does.

Medicare for all is what the Pentagon does. It is what President Harry Truman wanted from Congress back in the nineteen forties!! It is time.

So will the first ten million Americans step up and be counted by sending messages directly to their Senators and Representatives in the month of April? The amount of time required to send a letter, an email or a telephone call is so brief that activated citizens could be called the modern “Minutemen” for universal health insurance. Just think of all the tasks you do every day that take far more time, like trying to figure out bills, denials, exclusions, from this basic human right.

Go to SinglePayerAction.org to get the details, the motivation and the groups with which to connect. The Congressional telephone switchboard is 202-224-3121. Make sure to give your legislators your name and contacts; they’ll take the call or letter more seriously.

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Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day

Trump Imitation Day will take place online on April 1, this April Fools’ Day, 2018—a day driven by the vast and varied online networks of America with all of their imagination and organizational capability.

Here is the rationale behind this special style of giving Trump a reverse dose of Trumpism. Trump has proven repeatedly that he is a serial prevaricator, bully, cheater, boaster, malicious myth-maker, racist, abuser of women, slanderer, violator of laws and the Constitution and emerging war-monger.

Openly, through his appointees, he is destroying crucial, long-held health, safety and economic protections for consumers, workers and the environment in the service of Big Business. He is dictatorial and loves brutal dictators in numerous foreign countries.

No matter how many serious exposes, critiques, corrections of his hundreds of false statements (fake facts), entreaties to be truthful and connect with reality, along with the heartfelt pleas of aggrieved Americans, Trump doesn’t relent or admit and correct his fictions. He refuses to recognize blatant wrong-doing and continues his foul-mouthed attacks on anyone who arouses his thin-skinned ire. Even more, he doubles down on his deficiencies of character and personality—all relayed by a supine, ratings-driven mass media that mostly denies his targets their rebuttals.

Maybe we can get through to him by giving him a taste of his own medicine, turning his style of aggressive personal attacks against him.

Take, for example his juvenile use of pejorative nicknames. It started with “Low Energy” Jeb Bush, “Lyin” Ted Cruz and “Little Marco” Rubio during his primary campaign in 2015-2016. His repertoire expanded to “Crooked” Hillary in the main campaign, spread as President to “Liddle Bob Corker,” “Cryin’ Chuck” Schumer, “Flaky” Jeff Flake, “Pocahontas” Elizabeth Warren, “Low I.Q.” Rep. Maxine Waters, and “Lamb the Sham” for Pennsylvania House of Representatives winning candidate and Marine veteran Conor Lamb.

He even labelled NBC’s Meet the Press anchor as “Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd” while calling the media the “enemy of the people.” Never in American history has a President of the United States stooped to his gutter level. Why is this so troubling? Because the mass media repeat these outbursts and make these slurs and insults stick in their ditto-heading, day after day “reporting.” It is as if he owns the mass media. This mindless echoing of Trump even includes the otherwise critical New York Times and the Washington Post.

That is why, for Trump Imitation Day, nick-names have to be announced for Trump—say, “Corrupt Donald,” “Cheating Donald,” or “Tall-Tale Trump—until the press recovers its senses and stops being Trump’s nick-name bullhorn.

Wherever Trump brags and boasts about himself in demonstrably false ways he should be countered with truthful monikers. When he talks of being a fabulous businessman, he gets back the moniker, “a failed gambling czar whose companies went bankrupt.” When he says he loves and respects women, he gets back, “female assaulter in chief.”

When he talks about how rich he is, ask him to prove it by finally releasing his tax returns, like all other modern Presidents have done. Is he refusing to disclose because he has evaded taxes?

When he boasts about how academically smart he was, ask him to prove his academic credentials. Fordham University has him listed as “failure to complete.”Also, how does the public really know he was born in the U.S. since he hasn’t released his birth certificate, as he demanded Barack Obama do. Tit for tat.

When he refers the deadly, air-poisoning mineral, as “beautiful clean coal,” demand that he go down into a coal mine, as I did while pushing for the Mine Safety Act of 1969. Tell him to visit coal miners dying in hospital rooms from “black lung” disease. (Hundreds of thousands of miners have lost their lives from this occupational disease since 1900.)

Bring him back to reality by hurling concise, memorable facts and truth against his lies and insults. Be pithy, clever, and unrelenting.  When he repeals or fails to enforce lifesaving, health protecting regulations, don’t just accuse him of “de-regulation” in wonky terms. Tell him he is killing, injuring or sickening consumers and workers, and tell him he is poisoning the water, air and food where children and families are trying to live. Otherwise, Trump—riding on tweets and a sensation-crazed mass media – will dissolve the rationality of our society and intimidate many good people into silence.

Trump knows how to intimidate and play the bully. In 1990, he told Playboy magazine, “When somebody tries to sucker punch me, when they’re after my ass, I push back a hell of a lot harder than I was pushed in the first place….Those people don’t come back for seconds.”

OK America, give him some of his own medicine and watch him flail, bellow and smear until his ugly persona crumbles beyond the sixty percent of the American people who already reject this Electoral College selectee.

Don’t give up. Repetition is key to countering his revolting behavior, like lancing a giant boil. He will either come to his senses or he will check out and retire to Mar-a-Lago. There he can watch the rising ocean and contemplate his repeated description of climate change as a hoax.

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Heritage’s Corporate Lobby Inside Trump’s Government is Not the People’s Heritage

The Heritage Foundation, with an annual budget nearing $90 million a year (including over $1 million for the salary of its president), calls itself conservative, but more often than not it practices the kind of corporatism dear to the impulses of President Trump. The Washington-based “think tank/lobbying firm” has quite a score card with the failed gambling czar who lost the popular vote but won the vestigial Electoral College tally to become head of state. In fact, they’ve given him a checklist, and he seems to be obediently implementing the Heritage Foundation’s agenda.

Immediately after his Electoral College selection, Trump’s transition team was swarmed with Heritage personnel and their 334 “unique policy recommendations” comprising its massive “Mandate for Leadership.” Indeed, seventy former Heritage employees now work for the Trump Administration.

According to Heritage’s Thomas Binion, the Trumpsters have adopted or implemented “64 percent of the 334 policy prescriptions.” This success rate, Heritage says, exceeds even President Ronald Reagan’s first year in office when his administration adopted 49 percent of Heritage’s policy recommendations.

Heritage’s boldness and energy levels tower over its counterpart institutions on the alleged left-of-center political spectrum. It helps that big corporate money bolsters Heritage’s various projects, including one recently created initiative “Heritage Action,” which dives directly into electoral politics. In its 45 years of operation, Heritage has fed off demanding oil tycoon heirs such as Richard Mellon Scaife and Shelby Cullom Davis, the relentless Koch brothers and, recently, the Trump-backing Mercer financial interests.

Mr. Binion proudly lists some of his organization’s successes with Trump, and more “adopted” recommendations can be found in the full list. Here is a small selection for your perusal:

–Leaving the Paris Climate Accord and cutting funding for research on climate disruption

–Shrinking the public lands

–Greatly increasing military spending

–Making the needy work for government assistance

–Opening up the federal lands to off-shore drilling and coal leasing

–Withdrawing from UNESCO—a move strongly urged by the Israeli government

–Eliminating Environmental Justice Programs

–Ending Renewable Energy Mandates in DOD

–Eliminating Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for children

–Eliminating the Labor Department’s Women’s Bureau

–Eliminating Tribal Housing

–Reducing funding for the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights by 50%

–Cutting budgets for all kinds of help to the poor, the disabled and other deprived Americans such as impoverished patients seeking health care

Hand it to Heritage, it deals with both abstract conservative principles and concrete policies.

The problem is that the principles don’t match what Heritage is pressing for in the avaricious arena of Republican corporate politics.

Here are its principles: “free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”

Let’s compare Heritage’s walk to its talk. “Free enterprise?” Rhetoric aside, Heritage is inactive on old and new monopolies, and indeed anything to do with massive corporate welfare for the favored big companies and big money in politics which tilt the playing field and shaft taxpayers.

“Limited government?” What about—to invoke President Eisenhower’s warning words—the big government of the bloated “Military-Industrial Complex?” What about the massive outsourcing of public functions to corporations that consider overcharging taxpayers to be a business strategy? What about the system of “criminal injustice,” in which people can be arrested without being charged with a crime? What about prosecutorial abuses and illegal prison abuses? What about DOJ-promoted for-profit prisons that benefit from social systems that continually perpetuate cycles of incarceration and arrest? Do these qualify as “limited government?”

“Individual freedom?” What about the massive invasion of individual privacy by corporations or the destruction of the freedom of contracts—consumer servitude under unilateral fine print contracts not subject to competition? What about the FCC’s elimination of net neutrality, allowing internet and cable providers to infiltrate, control and monetize every aspect of the internet “commons?”

“Traditional American values?” What about equal protection of the laws in the form of strong enforcement actions against the corporate crime wave that has been documented regularly by the Wall Street Journal and Business Week? Heritage is silent on this obvious, deep American value.

What about compassion values for the poor and preservation of the air, water and soil? Heritage has hooked its reputation onto two of the cruelest of Trump’s henchmen: Scott Pruitt, dismantling the EPA, contrary to his oath of office, and the mad dog of mad dogs—Michael Mulvaney, who heads both the Office of Management and Budget and the Wall Street watchdog, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which he is running through the Wall Street corporate meat grinder.

“A strong national defense?” A wasteful defense is a weak defense and military power in the service of Empire only increases hatred, war and civilian adversaries against the invaders and backers of dictatorships abroad. Heritage is silent on such lessons of history and has sided too often with the neo-con war mongers. The libertarian Cato institute, at least, opposes criminal wars of aggression (as in Iraq) and imperialism.

There are people inside Heritage troubled about this conflict between true conservatives and corporatists masquerading as conservatives. They know that the rhetoric about being against crony capitalism or statism (the corporate state) is not part of Heritage’s muscle on Capitol Hill or at Trump’s White House. But they know where their bread is buttered.

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Experts for the People—Shut Out by the Mass Media

Ever wonder how the television, radio and newspaper people select whom they are going to interview or get quotes from when they are reporting the news or producing a feature? I do. What I’ve learned is that they go to guests that are connected with the established powers—such as think tanks in Washington, D.C. that work on “the military industrial complex” policy (to borrow President Eisenhower’s words) and somehow lean toward more war mongering (e.g. NPR and the U.S.-Iran relationship) or backing more weapon systems (such as a new nuclear bomb arsenal and more F-35s and air craft carriers).

You won’t be hearing from MIT Professor Emeritus Ted Postol on the chronic failures of the anti-ballistic missile program (spending $13 billion this coming year).

Whether it is NPR, PBS, the network news programs, the Sunday news interview shows and too often the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal their interviewees are the defenders of the status quo or those with corporatists’ viewpoints.

These news outlets seem oblivious to the blatant economic conflicts of interest inherent in groups such as the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and professors who moonlight with corporations. These interviewees have economic and ideological axes to grind that are not disclosed to the general viewers, listeners and readers, when they are merely described as “experts.”

There are real experts and specialists, with no axe to grind, who are so ignored by the media that they have almost become nonpersons, despite their past proven records of achievements for the public interest, and for the people’s well-being.

Here are some examples of experienced people whose veracity and honesty you can take to the press and media outlets:

  1. David Freeman, probably the most knowledgeable, experienced authority on energy in the United States. A lawyer and engineer, he was an advisor to Presidents, Governors, ran four major utilities, including the giant Tennessee Valley Authority. He was also the author of key studies on energy policies starting in the nineteen seventies and presently is negotiating the shutdown of California’s last atomic energy plant with its owner, Pacific Gas and Electric Corporation.
  2. Nicholas Johnson, former FCC Commissioner, author of many books and timely commentaries on communications subjects (e.g. “How to Talk Back to Your TV Set”) and has been teaching at the University of Iowa Law School.
  3. Karen Ferguson, head of Pension Rights Center since the mid-seventies, has been involved in Congressional policies, judicial decisions, organizing retirees to assert their rights and generally watchdogging the increasing pension crisis in our country.
  4. Jamie Love, the expert on drug patent abuses, drug industry pricing power, international efforts to counteract these “pay or die” policies. He has been a major figure in bringing down the price of AIDS drugs for developing countries.
  5. Rena Steinzor, law professor, author of books such as Why Not Jail?, organizer of the Center for Progressive Reform and corporate crime specialist.
  6. Janine Jackson, long-time media critic documenting weekly noteworthy bias, censorship and commercial distortion of the news.
  7. Danielle Brian, director of the Project on Government Oversight has had much to say accurately about the massive military budget, redundant weapon systems and their waste, fraud and abuse over three decades.
  8. Jesselyn Radack, former Justice Department lawyer, represents whistleblowers on national security wrongdoing and is an acknowledged legal expert on free speech in these sensitive areas.
  9. Greg LeRoy, directs Good Jobs First and knows a great deal about corporate welfare, giveaways to sports stadiums, Amazon and the whole ‘business development’ subsidies at the local and state level in the U.S. He is the author, among other publications, of The Great American Jobs Scam: Corporate Tax Dodging and the Myth of Job Creation.
  10. Mark Green, one of the nation’s experts on campaign finance rackets and reform, author of over twenty books, including Losing Our Democracy, and experienced as a candidate in New York State elections.
  11. Ralf Hotchkiss, former MacArthur Genius awardee, inventor and founder of Whirlwind Wheelchair and a successful advocate for people with disabilities having mobility without having to pay monopoly prices for shoddy wheelchairs in the U.S. and developing countries.
  12. Lois Gibbs, coming out of the Love Canal tragedies in Niagara Falls, NY, she organized arguably the leading grass roots movements against poisoning of neighborhoods around the country. She is an accomplished author, a speaker and is the director of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, which works with hundreds of local citizen fighters for health and safety.

Some of the above were featured in the mass media years ago; others have been relegated to the shadows of our public news and features for almost their entire careers. The slanted selections by media gatekeepers are getting worse. Increasingly, TV and radio anchors interview their own reporters, not experts like Robert McIntyre, lawyer and founder of the highly regarded Citizens for Tax Justice. Too often the Sunday network TV political shows tap into the same stable of Washington pundits and commentators.

Readers and viewers can make their own lists of media-excluded, knowledgeable persons, be they at the local, state or national levels. On our public airwaves, after the FCC repealed the “Fairness Doctrine” in 1987, bloviators such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, completely dominate our airtime with their corporatist and hate-filled soliloquies. These “champions” of the free market have no problem using the public airwaves free of charge. As owners of the public airwaves and buyers of print journalism, let’s demand higher standards for experts in journalism. Let’s demand that the media seek out people who know their facts and work in the people’s interest and give them airtime.

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Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine

On my weekly radio show, I recently interviewed Liam McCormack, the head of testing for Consumer Reports (CR)—a resource and monthly magazine with seven million print and online  subscribers. It has always been a wonder to me why seventy million people don’t take advantage of this honest, non-profit testing organization that gives you the lowdown on just about every kind of consumer product—and some services—that you buy regularly.

Year after year, month after month, Consumer Reports proves its worth to consumers through money saved, aggravation avoided and safety advanced. Founded in 1936, this venerable  organization takes no advertising and is as incorruptible as  any organization can possibly be.

Here are just a few examples of naming names and suggesting better purchases:

–“AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint or Verizon cost an average of $960 a year. We’ll tell you about the carrier that provides better voice quality and costs $360 a year. You can save $600 a year.”

–Comparing price, selection and service of more than 20 chain retailers, consumer satisfaction scored Costco higher than Walmart.

–You’ve heard the Geico insurance ads—“15 minutes” saving you “15 percent.” CR advises you compare insurance companies every two or three years, adding, “After 20 years with Geico, one of our readers switched to highly-rated Amica insurance companies and saved $793 on her coverage.”

–The most expensive brands, whether cars or mattresses, are not often the best buy, whether it is a specific Mercedes-Benz model or an Apple computer, or a Serta mattress. CR’s own testing results often show other brands—including lesser known ones, are a better deal for a variety of reasons—including price and performance.

To show how much you can save and how you pay for rewarding name-brand advertisers, Consumer Reports tested the “Serta Comfort Smart Support HB300Q,” which costs $2,275, and “had unimpressive back support.” By contrast, the “Denver Mattress Doctor’s Choice” received a CR top-rating with “very good back support” and is priced at $500!

CR’s food testing and advice can save your family hundreds of dollars a year while protecting your health and saving you additional health care expenses.

One of the magazine’s innovations was their Annual Auto Issue. Let’s say you’re thinking about buying a car or selling a car. You’ll receive “detailed ratings, reliability, recommendations, photos and base price ranges for 240+ recently tested cars and trucks.”

CR doesn’t shy away from controversy. It writes that doctors recommending CT scans include many physicians who “underestimate the risk of CT scans,” whose substantial radiation can “increase your risk of cancer.” “Always ask your doctor why the scan is being ordered and if your problem could be managed without it,” urges CR. As with other cautions, CR backs such statements up with hard evidence in its magazine.

With various offerings, the subscription is $30 a year and you should receive the famous CR’s Buying Guide and another book titled, Should I Eat This? which you will find very nutritious.

As someone who has received thousands of complaints from consumers over the years, pardon me if I continue to wonder why so many consumers continue to act against their own perceived self-interests.

If you’re already a CR subscriber and you want to get the attention of friends whom you think can benefit from its comparative ratings and other advice, try a little reverse psychology: to wit, I submit the following:

10 Ways to Shaft Yourself as a Consumer

Buy before you think

Buy before you read

Buy before you ask questions

Buy before you can afford to buy

Buy before you see through the seller’s smile and smooth tongue

Buy before you comparison shop

Buy when you are tired or hungry

Buy when you are rushed

Buy to dote on your child or because your child demands the product

Buy just to keep up with your friends or neighbors

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Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria– Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People

I first heard about William M. Shernoff in the mid-nineteen seventies when he was pioneering a field of law known as insurance bad faith litigation. That ‘bad faith’ occurs is when insurance companies deny legitimate claims or try to use deceptive fine print clauses to escape policy coverage. He was starting to collect both compensation for his clients and large punitive damages when the evidence showed insurance companies were imposing these abuses on many thousands of their customers.

One day I called Attorney Shernoff and said that if he would match my $25,000 donation, we could start the National Insurance Consumer Organization (NICO) headed by the former Federal Insurance Commissioner, J. Robert Hunter, the pro-consumer actuary who served under both Presidents Ford and Carter.

NICO’s Bob Hunter thereafter became the single greatest advocate for consumers against the insurance giants that they have ever encountered. He knew their fraudulent complexities, translated those complexities into plain English, and brought his expertise and pleasing personality to legislatures, courtrooms, and agencies in all fifty states. During the mid-eighties he visited all the states in a little over one year, rebutting the savage industry attack on wrongfully injured persons’ right to have their day in court.  The insurance lobbyists have never seen such a whirlwind for justice who defeated them time and time again.

Bill Shernoff was instrumental in putting Bob Hunter, a force of nature, in motion. But this low-key attorney from Claremont, California was just getting underway. He blazed the trail for rejected insurance consumers and became a feared private regulator of insurers denying claims by winning cases before judges and juries.  He won multimillion dollar verdicts for a roofer whose disability payments were cut off, for a Samoan government involving hurricane damage, and for a paraplegic Marine whose insurance company rejected his physician on the medical necessity of his 109-day hospital stay. He secured a bad faith settlement on behalf of Northridge, California earthquake victims and even a $50 million settlement in 1981 for Southern California Physicians over a malpractice insurance policy that overcharged on premiums.

Not wanting to be a lone ranger, Shernoff went around the country conducting seminars training attorneys to bring insurance bad faith lawsuits. It became a movement of sort, filling in for the notoriously weak state regulation of insurance.

But, Shernoff was interested in more than representing specific aggrieved clients. He was an educational leader who furthered consumer education by writing, lecturing, and appearing in mass media. Besides co-authoring a legal textbook on his specialty, he wrote books like, How to Make Insurance Companies Pay Your Claim: And What to Do If They Don’t , Payment Refused, and Fight Back and Win: How to Get HMOs and Health Insurance to Pay Up.

One day he called me up and said he wanted to start a Consumer Law Clinic at his alma mater—the University of Wisconsin Law School. The Clinic is in its twenty-seventh year and has trained scores of students in consumer advocacy law. Its students represent real clients fighting unfair debt collection, repossession, home improvement fraud, credit fraud, and other unscrupulous business practices. There are also William Shernoff Health and Consumer Law Fellowships to work for health care reform.

This small law firm of Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria welcome their responsibilities as “officers of the court” as well as their broader duties to build institutions of justice that provide powerless people ever more access to justice. They are major contributors to Consumer Watchdog, a leading California advocacy association, and to Public Justice, a large public-interest, non-profit law firm. They are also major contributors to the American Museum of Tort Law, which as a volunteer, I established as an educational institution dedicated to informing the public about the law of wrongful injuries.

Whenever there are insurance industry-indentured legislators—state or federal— pressing for cruel laws to stifle wronged Americans from their day in court or before regulatory agencies, chances are this firm is there either in person or with donations to fight them or over-rule them with statewide referendums. One victory was Prop. 103 in California that regulated the property/casualty insurance companies thirty years ago, which saved California consumers over $100 billion since that voter revolt.

Of course, there are still many obstacles to the exercise of consumer rights and remedies, such as the Federal ERISA pension law’s massive preemption of tort claims. But if there were more firms doing what Shernoff’s firm does, millions of people would be receiving judicial or regulatory justice for their costly injuries or illnesses.

My best guess is that not more than 25 plaintiff personal injury firms are sharing, training and helping to build consumer protection institutions either in their state or nationally. However, proportionate to their relative size, few of them have packed the continual wallop of Shernoff’s law firm.

How does Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria do it? For starters, they have the right sensitive and generous values that are necessary for the work. Moreover, they recognize that they have to be both attorneys for clients and lawyers for the broader institutional advances of justice so that more people can use the laws meant for them.

How do they get underway? They make calls and above all return calls—a practice over ninety percent of their peers have not deigned to do when citizen groups want to initiate ways and means for a more just rule of law, as if people matter first.

Around the country plaintiff lawyers vary in their resolve to push back the corporate predators who want to repeal the American Revolution and its subsequent Bill of Rights for the people, especially the Constitution’s Seventh Amendment securing the right of trial by jury. For instance, the repeated failure of the major Texas trial lawyers to ward off the tort “deformers” contrasts with efforts by their counterparts in New York to hold the fort in Albany.

Years ago Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group published the popular, widely used book, “Worst Pills, Best Pills.” All these drugs were licensed by the Food and Drug Administration, but some had bad side effects and others were much safer. Maybe it is time to have a list of the “Worst Lawyers, Best Lawyers.” All of these lawyers would be licensed to practice, but widely differ in their commitment to defend, preserve, and expand the civil justice system, under relentless attack by the corporate lobbies, that they and their forebears built.

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