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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The Need for Progressive Voices

In 1961, President Kennedy’s Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Newton Minow described television as “a vast wasteland.” Perhaps nothing demonstrates that better these days than the rise of Donald J. Trump as a presidential candidate; now the presumptive Republican nominee. Trump’s boisterous carnival barker persona has dominated the airwaves for the entirety of the 2016 election cycle, eclipsing what precious little time remained for the serious issues that affect millions of Americans. CBS president Leslie Moonves recently pulled no punches about the Trump phenomenon, saying it “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

Trump is a symptom of a larger problem — profit-driven commercial television has put a stranglehold on our public discourse, highlighting personalized controversy, street (not greater suite) carnage and celebrity entertainment fare over serious matters. The media industry reshaped our precious public commons into a fortress of exclusion that blocks dissenting, innovative and majoritarian viewpoints on matters that address society’s most basic needs. One thing is clear — something’s gotta give.

Fortunately, we have the power to massively shift how our public airwaves are utilized. After all, the airwaves are owned by the people and are used by these tawdry broadcasters free of charge! (In the past, I’ve referred to bombastic, hyper-wealthy media personalities Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity as “corporate welfare kings” because of how they freely use the public’s property.)

This exclusionary media has obscured the fact that the public could take back some air time and condition over-the-air and cable licenses to provide serious, well-funded, diverse and informative content.

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 and connect long-available knowledge to long-neglected action for the necessities and aspirations of people from all backgrounds.

May 24th will be dedicated solely to challenging mainstream media, bringing together authors, documentary filmmakers, reporters, columnists, musicians, poets and editorial cartoonists who will demonstrate the need for higher standards on television and radio, and in print and on the web . Some participants on that day will be: Phil Donahue, Laura Flanders, Eugene Jarecki, Patti Smith, Mark Green, Matt Wuerker and many others.

The major mobilizing action on May 24th will be to create a new advocacy organization called “Voices.” The purpose of Voices is simple — to push for enlarging and enhancing space for serious content in all forms of media. “Voices” will be staffed by public interest lawyers, writers, and traditional and social media specialists. “Voices” will advance long-neglected standards in the 1934 Communications Act which contains the imperative that broadcasters meet “the public interest, necessity and convenience” and other laws under the jurisdiction of the FCC. The Voices staff will make the case for much more air-time on TV and radio and space in print publications for a multitude of subject matter, issues and activities that are now excluded or censored routinely as a result of a business-model of maximum profit above all else.

Changing the corporate media for the better is easier than you think. The current campaign season has drawn the interest of millions of young people who yearn for a better future. Many have supported Senator Bernie Sanders’ agenda for a more just society. Now, when political excitement is at its peak, is an ideal time to channel civic energy — no matter which candidate for president you support — into real, transformative action that benefits people instead of rejectionist corporations.

Visit breakingthroughpower.org for more information and to register for one or all days of this historic event.

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Breaking Through Power: Historic Civil Mobilization Now

Ever wonder why presidential and Congressional election campaigns fail to meaningfully connect with civil society? Candidate rhetoric is designed to attract voters and campaign contributions. Candidates go out of their way to ingratiate themselves to their corporate paymasters, whose monetized minds want nothing to do with the civil society. Civil society leaders at the national and local levels and their nonprofit citizen groups form the bedrock of democracy. These civic leaders have significant expertise and experience and are meticulous and precise in their written and oral presentations. They do not traffic in false statements that are unfortunately routine for many candidates for federal office. And unlike most major party candidates who receive round-the-clock coverage for every campaign utterance, the civic stalwarts are too often left on the sidelines by the media during the campaign season.

For example, check out the Sunday morning network shows. It’s all about the horserace, the money raised, the tactics and the gaffes or outrageous slanders. Such “content” is the grist for the commercial media’s ratings and profits, especially in the 2016 presidential year. The head of CBS, Leslie Moonves said, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

Well, the civil society is fighting back with four full days (May 23, 24, 25, 26, 2016) at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. with a civic mobilization designed to break through the power of the corporate/political complex.

Breaking through power means securing long-overdue democratic solutions made possible by a new muscular civic nexus connecting local communities and Washington, D.C.

On these four days, speakers will present innovative ideas and strategies designed to take existing civic groups to higher levels of effectiveness.

Day One — May 23, 2016 will feature an unprecedented series of presentations by seventeen successful citizen advocacy groups of long standing.

Day Two – May 24, 2016 brings together a large gathering of authors, documentary filmmakers, reporters, columnists, musicians, poets and editorial cartoonists who will demonstrate the need for wider audiences over the mass media.

Day Three – May 25, 2016 will be dedicated to enhancing the waging of peace over the waging of war. We will assemble leading scholars having military and national security backgrounds such as ret. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State, Colin Powell, veterans groups such as Veterans For Peace, and long-time peace advocacy associations to explain how peace is more powerful than war.

Day Four — May 26, 2016 will unveil a new Civic Agenda (much of which has Left/Right support) that could be advanced by engaged and enraged citizens in each Congressional district. The agenda includes recognized necessities ignored by Congress for decades and will be presented by a veritable brain trust of recognized advocates for the well-being of present and future generations.

The idea on this day is that each speaker presents the substance of each demand for later pickup by citizens back home serving their Senators and Representatives with formal summons to their own town meetings to educate these politicians and instruct their duties on their return to Congress.

Revitalizing the people to assert their sovereignty under our Constitution is critical to the kind of government, economy, environment and culture that will fulfill human potential and respect posterity.

The participating citizens will be asked to support the creation of several new organizations. One will be a Secretariat to facilitate action to stop illegal wars and their quagmires (e.g. the war on Iraq and Libya and their brutal aftermaths) by retired military, national security and diplomatic officials who have great credibility for waging peace and also significant influence, if organized, for the media and the Congress.

These Americans did speak up in unprecedented numbers in 2002-2003 against the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq but had no infrastructure to increase their numbers and reach to the American people and the cowardly politicians in Congress.

It is also vital to return today’s circuses of elections marinated in commercial interest and cash back to deliberative events that invite the best of our people to run for elective office with its public trust.

If the foregoing whets your civic appetites, go to our website, breakingthroughpower.org to see how you can obtain tickets for these four days of events at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. or participate in other ways.

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

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For Republican Survival — Kasich Is Ready

To avoid a historic tumble in the November elections, what should the Republican Party do at its July 18-21 nominating convention, if “Doubtful Donald” Trump and “Terrible Ted” Cruz cancel each other out?

Their best chance is to nominate the remaining man in the race — Ohio Governor, John Kasich — who polls better than Hillary Clinton who, in turn, polls better than both Trump and Cruz. (Bernie Sanders polls better against all the Republicans.)

Many of the Convention delegates may be in high heat and playing with the irresistible, venomous, masochistic fervor. This would be okay with the Democratic Party that would enjoy the televised spectacle of the GOP imploding. But, if cool heads are bent on rescuing the Party from the brink, here is the case they can make for Kasich.

The son of a postal worker, Kasich is a candidate who thinks, but still he is a wily politician. He spent years in the House of Representatives as a close confidante with the insurgent Newt Gingrich who overthrew the Democrats and defeated its Speaker, Tom Foley, in that memorable election of 1994.

I remember seeing Kasich huddling around a lunch table at a nearby Washington restaurant strategizing with Speaker Gingrich. Yet he was not a sycophant. He even publicly suggested that the Pentagon budget may be more than a little bloated.

Kasich became Chairman of the influential House Budget Committee. In that capacity, he responded well to my request for the first Congressional hearing in history on corporate welfare or crony capitalism. The day-long hearing, being of pioneering consequence, received very little press, because the reporters knew that Kasich was not going to follow-through seriously with legislation. See, he is a politician.

As Ohio Governor, he swung into attacking the deficit, neglecting to cut corporate welfare payments or tax abatements as one important way to reduce the deficit. Three letters from me reminding him of his House Budget hearing were not answered. But, he did often reveal his compassion, most notably applying his religious principles by going with Obamacare’s Medicaid program, unlike other Republican Governors who ideologically rejected this health insurance for poor families.

During the presidential debates, Governor Kasich, a decided underdog, became a contrasting voice to the crazed belligerence, insult-soaked, waves of false statements and braggadocios of Trump, Cruz, Christie, Rubio and other early dropouts.

Kasich has won only one state primary — defeating Trump — in his state of Ohio. But, he has been on the modest upswing in recent primaries and receiving more press for being a comparatively sane voice amidst the shouting and overtalking of his fellow candidates.

I saw three versions of Kasich on the debate stage. Kasich, the advocate for reason, negotiation and compromise. Kasich, the presentation of himself — experienced, knowledgeable and steady. And Kasich, pulled down by the madness of the stage to say some “wild and crazy” things, especially about his proposed military policies.

He seems relatively scandal-free, has a fine family and can talk folksy because he is folksy. The biggest operating problem in his campaign is not being able to raise enough money to match his major competitors.

Donald Trump won’t get the necessary 1237 delegates to gain the majority — assuming they all stay with him — at the Convention. Neither will Cruz, even with his machinations amongst the delegates which have outmaneuvered the under-organized Trump to date.

Who is left? House Speaker Paul Ryan seems to mean it when he says he’s not interested in the nomination. Mitt Romney will be seen as a retread with continual plutocratic baggage in a year of progressive resurgence. And Jeb Bush has already been rejected by Republican voters in the primaries, notwithstanding his best known name and massive campaign funds.

Kasich is the remaining, vetted default option.

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Big Union Leaders Betray Sanders and Workers

Around a conference table inside the large Washington headquarters of the AFL-CIO, a furious exchange occurred between labor union presidents. It was late February and up for decision by the Executive Council was whether the country’s principal labor federation was going to make a primary season endorsement of Hillary Clinton as favored by the leaders of the largest unions.

According to insiders, tempers flared when smaller unions challenged the Hillary-endorsing big unions such as AFSCME (public employees), the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the Service Employees (SEIU) and the Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). These large unions came out for Clinton in late 2015 and early 2016 before they sensed the growing rank and file workers’ preference for the lifetime advocate for workers and union backer, Bernie Sanders.

Listening to the nurses union head speak out for Sanders’ strong pro-labor history, Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME, interrupted her, exclaiming: “I will not allow you to do a commercial for Sanders.” She retorted, “You mean for the only candidate who has a 100% labor record?”

A union leader of postal workers charged the unions backing Hillary as being “completely out of touch with their workers.” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka then cut off their microphones.

All over the country, the observation by the postal workers’ leader rings true. Even as Lee Saunders read the names of the Democratic presidential contenders at a large Washington state AFSCME membership meeting last October, “only Sanders’ name brought loud, sustained applause,” according to Bloomberg News.

Few union leaders allow a worker referendum to make the endorsement decisions. The 700,000-member Communications Workers of America (CWA) does, and the result was a “decisive endorsement of Sanders,” reported Rafael Navar, the union’s political director. Whether it is the level of enthusiasm, campaigning to get out the vote or talking up their candidate’s record on such issues as minimum wage increases, abolition of public university and college tuition, full Medicare for all (single-payer system) and credibility in standing up to Wall Street, Hillary’s votes and statements do not come close to respecting the working families of America compared to Bernie’s consistent 30-year record.

Based entirely on her lawless record as a pro-war Senator (Iraq), as a war-making Secretary of State (Libya), and her $5,000-a-minute speeches before closed-door, big-business gatherings (in addition to millions in big-money campaign contributions), Clinton will continue to be the sponsor of War and Wall Street.

The volunteer Labor for Bernie grassroots drive is not just growing rapidly but cutting across all union categories and gaining support with non-union workers. There is a potentially massive pool of American workers supporting Senator Sanders as he wins primary after primary, leading up to the April 19th contest in New York – the adopted state base for the Clintons, who are backed by all their monied interests.

This unaffiliated labor awakening bears watching, especially by the long-entrenched, affluent big union leaders. First, Labor for Bernie is fomenting defections by local unions defying their Hillary-endorsing national organizations. So far, over 80 of these union locals have endorsed Bernie Sanders.

Typical of this exodus is Northern California Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, whose executive board voted 30 to 2 for Sanders, reflecting the views of most of its 28,000 members. Local 5’s Mike Henneberry said “For us it was not a very difficult decision. Compare an individual who’s been supporting workers since he was mayor of Burlington [Vermont] with someone who’s been on the Board of Walmart.”

The Service Employees Local 1984 (SEIU), New Hampshire’s largest public sector union, disagreed with its national union and came out for Sanders in November.

The big union leaders don’t smell revolt yet, but they must be worried. If the Clintons continue to play dirty tricks, with the big unions, as was suspected in Iowa and Nevada against the Sanders campaign, the seeds of challenges within the ranks of these unions will be planted. Should Hillary become president and come out for anti-worker trade treaties, return to her former coolness on a living wage and other labor issues and cater to Wall Street, the insurrection could congeal against the big unions who will have taken credit, of course, for her victory, without having delivered a mandate for a labor agenda.

It is the AFL-CIO’s practice of endorsing Democrats without demanding before and insisting after the election that candidates champion ‘card check’, revision of trade treaties, repeal of anti-union labor laws and stronger job safety regulation. The Democratic Party treats the mostly shrinking labor unions as having nowhere else to go. And most union leaders meekly oblige by their chronic submissiveness.

The man to watch is strategist and former labor union insider Larry Cohen. He was for many years the president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) that has endorsed Sanders. He’s going all over the country helping the Sanders campaign, urging major labor unions, still undecided, like the Steel, Auto, Firefighters and Electrical Workers (IBEW) to come out for Bernie.

But Mr. Cohen is looking beyond the elections to take the energy from the Sanders campaign and politically mobilize tens of millions of non-unionized workers behind a new Congress furthering a new economy as if workers mattered.

Time is of the essence. When will workers again have such a scandal-free, consistent labor champion as Bernie Sanders seriously going for the Presidency inside the Democratic Party? Had Sanders had two more months without this big union opposition, his current momentum could have allowed him to overtake Clinton by now.

Facing a possible four or eight years of the corporatist and militarist Clinton, coupled with U.S. multinational corporations exporting whole industries, not to mention accelerating labor-replacing automation, the hurdles for Americans believing in democracy, justice and peace becomes far, far greater.

So the time for preventive civic and worker engagement with all electoral contests is now!

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Don’t Be a Financial Fool

April is national financial literacy month and April Fools’ Day is April 1st. On this occasion consumers should resolve to avoid being fooled and misled by banks, credit card companies and the financial industry. FoolProofMe.com offers useful information to help you improve your financial skills and to become smarter consumers.

Being “financially literate” means more than knowing the difference between a stock and a bond — it means understanding that businesses go for their bottom line before they watch out for your pocketbook.

Unfortunately, many consumers — especially young consumers — believe the seller rather than question the seller.

One of the shadowy reasons young people aren’t savvy enough about financial matters is that major financial literacy materials offered to teach young people about money are underwritten or produced by the very companies that profit when you make a money mistake.

FoolProofMe.com is different. It offers a steady stream of resources on topics such as car buying, home buying, student loans, and credit cards. None of this clear advice is paid for by the financial industry. FoolProofMe.com offers dozens of informative videos and guest articles by national consumer leaders.

In the past year alone millions of consumers have visited the FoolProofMe.com webpage. You can too. The materials on this webpage are advertising-free and agenda-free.

FoolProofMe’s “Hall of Shame” feature is an example of the tough stance FoolProof takes — it names companies that have not been good for consumers.

Will deHoo, FoolProof’s founder, says: “We hope ‘Hall of Shame’ reminds consumers that even good companies can make very bad decisions. You must always use caution, question sellers, and do research, if you’re going to be a wise spender.”

Here are a few notable Hall of Shame examples.

Ex-Deutsche Bank Analyst Banned Over Rating at Odds With Opinion. “A former Deutsche Bank AG analyst once ranked among the best in the U.S. will pay a100,000 penalty and be banned from the securities industry for a year to settle a regulator’s claims that he issued a buy recommendation at odds with his personal opinion. When research analysts tell clients to buy or sell a particular security, the rules require them to actually mean what they say,’ Andrew J. Ceresney, head of the SEC’s enforcement division, said in the statement. ‘Analysts simply cannot express one view publicly and the opposite view privately.’”

Morgan Stanley to Pay 3.2 Billion Over Flawed Mortgage Bonds. “Morgan Stanley will pay3.2 billion to strike a settlement with state and federal authorities over the Wall Street firm’s creation of mortgage-backed bonds before the financial crisis.”

CFPB Orders CarHop to Pay6.4 Million Penalty for Jeopardizing Consumers’ Credit. “‘Many consumers went to CarHop because they needed transportation and wanted to build up a good record of paying their bills,’ said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. ‘But CarHop and Universal Acceptance Corporation thwarted those expectations by inaccurately furnishing negative credit information. The CFPB will not stand for companies whose sloppy actions jeopardize consumers’ credit.’ ‘We are pleased to have finalized these settlements involving legacy residential mortgage-backed securities matters,’ a spokesman for the firm, Mark Lake, said in a statement.”

Citibank to Pay 700 Million in Consumer Relief for Illegal Credit Card Practices. “‘Millions of consumers harmed by bank’s deceptive marketing and unfair billing of credit card add-on products and services, and other unlawful practices…’ Citibank was found guilty of: Misrepresenting cost and fees for coverage, misrepresenting benefits of some products, illegal practices in the enrollment process, misrepresenting or omitting information about eligibility for coverage, charging consumers for benefits they did not receive, and failure to provide product benefits.”

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles $105 Million Civil Penalty.” Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has acknowledged violations of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act’s requirements to repair vehicles with safety defects. Fiat Chrysler have agreed to a105 million civil penalty, the largest ever imposed by the Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA officials outlined problems with Fiat Chrysler’s execution of 23-vehicle safety recalls covering more than 11 million defective vehicles. Owners of more than half a million vehicles have the opportunity to sell their vehicle back to Fiat Chrysler.”

FoolProofMe.com is worth a visit if your money is worth a little of your time.

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