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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Uncontrollable — Pentagon and Corporate Contractors Too Big to Audit

The Reuters report put this colossal dereliction simply: “A law in effect since 1992 requires annual audits of all federal agencies—and the Pentagon alone has never complied.”

All $585 billion and more, e.g., for the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, of your money—not just unaudited, but, in the sober judgment of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of the Congress, this vast military budget is year after year UNAUDITABLE. That means that the Congressional auditors cannot obtain the basic accounting data to do their job on your behalf.

Auditing the Department of Defense receives left/right support, from Senator Bernie Sanders (Dem. VT) to Senator Ted Cruz (Rep. TX).

H.R. 942, the “Audit the Pentagon Act of 2014,” is supported by both Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives. In the statement announcing this legislation, the sponsors declared “The Treasury Department’s Financial Report of the US Government for fiscal year 2012 shows the DOD yet again has nothing to audit—its books are a mess. In the last dozen years, the Pentagon has broken every promise to Congress about when DOD would pass an audit. Meanwhile, Congress doubled Pentagon spending.”

Republican right-winger, Mike Conaway (Rep. TX) used to be a CPA in private life. At a Congressional hearing in 2011, he told Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “I go home to folks in West Texas, and when they find out the Department of Defense can’t be audited, they are stunned.” His constituents may be more stunned to learn that their Congressman also voted for all expanding defense budgets, which is why H.R. 942 is going nowhere unless the people rally to make auditing the Pentagon a presidential election issue.

Secretary Gates and his successor Secretary Panetta agree with Rep. Conway’s observations. Yet it has seemed that the military—this huge expanse of bureaucracy, which owns 25 million acres (over seven times the size of Connecticut) and owns over 500,000 buildings in the U.S. and around the world—is beyond anybody’s control, including that of the Secretaries of Defense, their own internal auditors, the President, tons of GAO audits publically available, and the Congress. How can this be?

Enormous scandal after enormous scandal is reported by newspapers such as Reuters, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal and by news services such as Associated Press and ProPublica. Citizen groups from the left and Right excoriate this runaway budget, including the national Taxpayers Union, POGO, and Taxpayers for Common Sense. TO NO AVAIL!

Have you heard of the $43 million natural gas station in Afghanistan that was supposed to cost $500,000? Do you know about the $150 million villas that were built for corporate contractors in Afghanistan so they could spend another $600 million advising Afghans about starting private businesses in that war-torn country?

Or how about purchase of billions of dollars of spare parts because the Army or Air Force didn’t know the whereabouts of existing spare parts in forgotten warehouses here and there? What about the $9 billion the Pentagon admitted could not be accounted for in Iraq during the first several months of the invasion?

The list goes on, together with massive cost over-runs by the private contractors that are rewarded with more contracts. Soldiers get dirty drinking water, bad food, inadequate equipment, and security breaches by these contractors. No matter.

President Eisenhower’s farewell warning about the “military-industrial complex” becomes ever more of an understatement as it devours over half of the entire federal government’s operating budget.

Mike McCord, the Pentagon’s chief financial officer, has some startling explanations for why the Department is not ready for an audit. It’s not the Department’s “primary mission,” he says, which is “to defend the nation, fight and win wars.” He continues: “We’re too big to just sort of blow up all our systems and go buy one new, gargantuan IT system that runs the entire Department.”

Where are the accounting standards groups when we need them to speak up?

Mr. McCord certainly knows how to enhance his job security. Why no Pentagon audit? Too big to audit? No. Just too many scandals, too much waste, gigantic weapon system redundancies, overlaps between military branches, and many sinecures in bloated, inflexible bureaucracies, so often condemned by commanding generals in the field.

McCord himself has pointed to the areas in which he prefers to cut costs in order to save money: Congressionally-opposed base closures, retiree costs, and consolidating “its Tricare health system.”

In the final analysis, the principal culprits, because they have so much to lose in profits and bonuses, are the giant defense companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and others that lobby Congress, Congressional District by Congressional District, for more, more, more military contracts, grants and subsidies. They routinely hire ex-Pentagon specialists and top brass who know how to negotiate the ways and means inside of the government.

President Eisenhower sure knew what he was talking about. Remember, he warned not just about taxpayer waste, but a Moloch eating away at our liberties and our critical domestic necessities.

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Who Owns American Skies – the People or the Skyjacking Airlines?

That’s a question currently being asked by legislators in the halls of Congress. Without a muscular pushback from the public, the big airlines could claim the American airspace as their own to tax and regulate, without any significant compensation to the American taxpayer and no oversight from elected officials. Talk about getting skyjacked!

An amendment in the 273-page FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) reauthorization bill― H.R. 4441 ―currently moving through Congress means to remove air traffic control from the authority of the FAA and hand it over to a private, not-for-profit corporation. This new corporate-controlled body would be responsible for the over 50,000 flights that take off each day without any input from Congress or the American people. The Washington Post reports: “The House bill to create the federally chartered corporation would transfer about 38,000 federal workers, including 14,000 controllers who now work for the Federal Aviation Administration.” This amounts to a staggering nearly 80 percent of the FAA’s workforce. It would also give away billions of dollars’ worth of air traffic controller equipment to this private body.

Spearheading the charge for air traffic control privatization is House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) who states that his bill, called the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization [AIRR] Act, will lead to the “transformational improvements we need in order to modernize our nation’s aviation system.” Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Rep. Shuster is the top recipient in the House of Representatives of airline industry contributions, and has even admitted to being involved “personally” with a top lobbyist from Airlines for America, a trade association representing most of the major airlines, which is a leading advocate for air traffic control privatization.

This old song and dance routine might sound familiar to those who have paid attention over the years to the corporate-funded propaganda campaign that aims to convince the public that corporations can manage and deliver services more efficiently and at less cost than democratically-controlled governments.

One chief criticism against the current air traffic control system is a $40 billion FAA modernization program known as “NextGen” that is behind schedule. However, implementing a seismic shift in airspace authority is choosing to solve a problem that isn’t causing any major issues for travelers – the air transportation system – as it is not fundamentally broken, and the United States has the safest air travel in the world, which is remarkable when you consider that it is also the most active and most complex system in the world. Under this new plan, air traffic control navigation would shift from a ground-based radar system to a new, satellite-based method.

“Running a science experiment with the most complex airspace in the world comes with a lot of risk, including the uncertain futures of thousands of workers at FAA,” said Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) at a recent House Transportation Committee panel. (The airline-industry dominated panel approved the bill on a 32-26 vote and it will move on to the House floor.)

Most of the major airlines are, not surprisingly, in support of this new measure with one notable holdout — Delta Airlines. Delta released a study that found that “Travelers could have to cover 20-29 percent higher costs if the U.S. moves to a private ATC [air traffic control] organization.” Advocates for privatization often cite the privatized air traffic control systems of Canada and the United Kingdom as models to aspire to. According to Delta’s study however, during the first six years of implementation of the private model, “Canada saw an additional 59 percent increase on ATC-related fees. In the United Kingdom, ATC fees rose 30 percent.”

With potential higher costs to travelers, not to mention the risk of transitioning to a new untried and untested satellite system, what exactly is the American flying public gaining from this deal?

In an op-ed in USA Today, Captain Steve Dickson, senior vice president of flight operations for Delta Airlines, writes: “It just doesn’t make sense to remove the system responsible for the safe operation of our skies from the safety oversight of the FAA. The FAA is the gold standard against which every other nation’s airspace is measured. Do we have more work to do to improve the efficiency of our nation’s airspace? Yes. Is privatizing the answer? No.”

With a March 31st deadline looming to reauthorize funding for the FAA, Congress must either pass a new bill or extend the current legislation. This must-act scenario is like blood in the water to the privatization sharks that see an opportunity to reap even greater profits out of America’s skies.

Call (202-224-3121) and write your member of Congress and let them know that corporatizing America’s air traffic control system is a bad deal for the flying public.

For more information see stopairtrafficprivatization.com.

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What Will Many Bernie Sanders Voters Do After July?

The hard-bitten, corporatist Democrats are moving Hillary Clinton through the presidential primaries. They are using “Republican-speak” to beat down Bernie Sanders as favoring Big Government and more taxes and they may unwittingly be setting the stage for a serious split in the Democratic Party.

What is emerging is the reaction of millions of Sanders supporters who will feel repudiated, not just left behind, as the Clintonites plan to celebrate at the Democratic Convention in July. The political experience gained by the Sanders workers, many of them young, helped Sanders register primary victories over Hillary in Colorado, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Vermont and New Hampshire with their energy and votes. They came close in Nevada and Massachusetts and probably won in Iowa.

Hillary’s rhetoric has outraged Sanders’ supporters. She berates Sanders regularly for not being practical or realistic about his Medicare-for-all, breaking up big banks, a $15 minimum wage, a tax on Wall Street speculation and carbon and getting big money out of politics. Clinton’s putdowns exemplify why so many people who back Sanders want to defeat her. Clinton is the candidate of the status quo, favored over all other candidates from both parties by the Wall Street crowd and quietly adored by the military-industrial complex who see Generalissima Clinton as a militarist who would maintain the warfare state.

Democrat Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, derided this “We Shouldn’t Even Try” attitude common among many frightened Democrats. These are, in Reich’s words, “the establishment Democrats – Washington lobbyists, editorial writers, inside-the-Beltway operatives, party leaders and big contributors who have grown comfortable with the way things are.” These hereditary Democrat opinion-shapers tell their audiences that Hillary personifies experience and electability. They argue it is either Clinton or Trump or some other crazed Republican.

Here we go again. Every four years, the Democratic leaders define the Democratic candidate by how bad the Republicans are. This is designed to panic and mute their followers. Every four years, both parties become more corporatist. Sanders’ voters want to define the Democratic Party by how good it can be for the people. And these Sanders voters may not go back into the Democratic Party fold.

Low turnout for the Democratic Party’s primaries is being compared to a much higher Republican voter turnout for their candidates. Low turnout in November would dim Hillary’s chances in an electoral college, winner-take-all system.

Such Democratic Party misfortune can become more likely should Bernie endorse Hillary at the Democratic Convention without any conditions or her acceptance of his agenda, assuming she is the nominee. Last year he declared that he would endorse “the Democratic nominee.” Certainly, all the Democratic politicos in the Congress who endorsed Hillary set no conditions. The large labor unions that went with Hillary are known for giving their endorsements without receiving any benefits for workers. So, Hillary would have no mandate should she win the election. And you know that Clintons without mandates tend to bend toward Wall Street and rampant militarism.

It is doubtful whether Hillary will credibly adopt any of Bernie’s agenda, considering where her campaign money is coming from and how unwilling she is to alienate her circle of advisers.

Where does this leave the Sanders people who see Hillary as experienced in waging wars, qualified as an entrenched pol, and realistic to suit the plutocracy’s tastes, and not really getting much of anything progressive done (alluding to the ways she has described herself)?

The energetic Sanders supporters, including the Millennials who voted so heavily for Bernie, could form a New Progressive movement to exercise a policy pull on the establishment Democrats before November and to be a growing magnet after November with the objective of taking over the Democratic Party starting with winning local elections. This will have long-term benefits for our country.

To those who point to history throwing water on such a potential breakout, I tell them to look at the 2016 presidential primaries. All bets are off when political debates become big media business with huge ratings, and when a gambling czar and builder of expensive real estate, Donald Trump (a hybrid Rep/Dem), is overturning all the old homilies about presidential politics, and is in a primary contest with two freshmen Senators whose vacuous ambitions are their only achievements.

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The Conundrums of Justice Scalia

The passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin “Nino” Scalia evoked widespread commentary about how outspoken he was both on the Court and at law schools and other forums where he often lectured and sometimes tangled with audiences. Knowing of Justice Scalia’s unusual expressiveness for a jurist, my colleague Robert Weissman and I wrote him a challenging letter in 2006, starting with these words:

We are writing to inquire as to how the application of the Bill of Rights and related constitutional protections to the artificial creations known as corporations can be squared with a constitutional interpretation theory of “originalism.”

We referred to the Supreme Court case which was falsely reported to have decided that a corporation is a person. This was the 1886 case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. This case dealt with a taxation matter and the Court neither decided the personhood issue nor did it even address the issue. Instead, the court reporter (or scribe as he was called), a former railroad company president, simply wrote in the headnotes that, “Corporations are persons within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States…”

Despite this fraudulent representation of the Court’s opinion, subsequent Supreme Court cases started extending Bill of Rights protections to corporations. Nowhere in the Constitution is there any mention of the words “corporation” or “company.” The word “person” meant to the framers, in those early days, a human being; the framers never said a company or corporation is a person. The Preamble of the Constitution, we should remember, starts with, “We the People,” not “We the People and the Corporations.”

This is no minor distinction. Corporations have seized on this equivalence with being a “person,” to escape health and safety regulation, consumer and labor rights, and even strong regulation or prohibition of tobacco advertising that pushes a product known to take 400,000 American lives a year.

Corporate lawyers and judges have continued to use “equal protection of the law” to include corporate behavior. In 1988, I wrote a New York Times op-ed with public interest lawyer Carl Mayer. In this opinion piece titled “Corporations are Not Persons” we argued that:

The corporate drive for constitutional parity with real humans comes at a time when legislatures are awarding these artificial persons superhuman privileges. Besides perpetual life, corporations enjoy limited liability for industrial accidents such as nuclear power disasters, and the use of voluntary bankruptcy and other disappearing acts to dodge financial obligations while remaining in business.

The legal system is thus creating unaccountable Frankensteins that have human powers but are nonetheless constitutionally shielded from much actual and potential law enforcement as well as from accountability to real persons such as workers, consumers and taxpayers.

Justice Scalia espoused the doctrine of “originalism,” which meant that in cases, he interpreted the Constitution by the “original public meaning” of the words written by the framers, as understood nearly 240 years ago. That was, he believed, the only way to insulate the Constitution from the personal values of judges and the political winds of the day. He often derided “nine unelected lawyers” usurping the popular will of the people by Court opinions that were the equivalent of legislative enactments.

Some months after we sent our letter, lo and behold, Justice Scalia telephoned me. After some conversation about a possible event at the American University Washington College of Law, I put the question to him. How can his “originalism” square with giving corporations the rights of personhood? He replied that a clear case of corporate personhood had not come to the Court, so he hadn’t “researched it,” and when such a case did, he would research it and decide.

Then he added that, like Social Security, which he believed to be unconstitutional, the according of corporations the rights of personhood is so deeply embedded in our socio-economic fabric, that it is unlikely the status quo could be reversed. After a few minutes of further discussion, I said that I was looking forward to reading his forthcoming opinions, to which he jocularly replied, “You poor devil,” and said goodbye.

Vintage Scalia, alright! Yet there were other sides to Justice Scalia. He was a major force in Bush v. Gore’s 5-4 majority opinion that stopped the Florida Supreme Court’s ongoing order for a full state recount. In an utterly specious, brazenly-political opinion by the five Republicans on the Court, the recount was stopped and George W. Bush was “selected” as President by five unelected lawyers. When questioned in public about this decision, he replied injudiciously “get over it.”

Justice Scalia recently told C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb that adherence to the text of the Constitution meant that he rendered opinions opposite to what he would have liked to decide. Presumably these include criminal defense opinions where he joined with the liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

By and large, however, Justices bring their political values about power, its distribution and impact, to their work on the Court. Justice Scalia was a corporatist, as displayed by his vote in the Citizens United case in 2010 overruling precedent and giving corporations the power to spend money without dollar limitations to support or denounce candidates for public office. Justice Scalia was inclined, with important exceptions, to defer to executive power against civil liberties. He was also inimical to fuller voting rights and hostile to government regulation of business and allowing class actions by consumers and workers.

Leading conservative thinkers often took him to task. Professor of law, Richard A. Epstein excoriated Justice Scalia’s judicial activism, especially his hostility to taxpayers “standing” to sue the government and Congress “for overstepping their Constitutional authority.” “Justice Scalia,” concludes the University of Chicago scholar, “takes a blatantly anti-originalist position by reading into the Constitution limitations found neither in its text nor its basic structure, nor in the general judicial practice running deep in our history.”

A more startling put-down from the celebrated conservative jurist and former academic colleague of Justice Scalia, Richard A. Posner, came in a lengthy critique of Scalia’s 2012 book, Reading Law: the Interpretation of Legal Texts. Judge Posner’s article was called “The Incoherence of Antonin Scalia.” The late Justice would have enjoyed debating the accusation.

People have strong opinions about Justice Scalia, but most would agree that he did make people think.

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Hillary Clinton Sugarcoating Her Disastrous Record

Bernie Sanders is far too easy on Hillary Clinton in their debates. Clinton flaunts her record and experience in ways that Sanders could use to expose her serious vulnerabilities and disqualifications for becoming president. Sanders responds to Clinton’s points, but without the precision that could demolish her arrogance.

For example, she repeatedly says that Sanders has not levelled with people about the cost of full Medicare for all, or single-payer. Really? In other countries, single-payer is far simpler and more efficient than our present profiteering, wasteful, corporatized healthcare industry. Canada covers all of its citizens, with free choice of doctors and hospitals, for about $4,500 per capita, compared to the over $9,000 per capita cost in the U.S. system that still leaves tens of millions of people uninsured or underinsured.

Detailed studies in the New England Journal of Medicine show big savings from a single-payer system in our country.

It is Hillary Clinton who is not levelling with the people about the costs of maintaining the spiraling U.S. costs of drugs, hospital stays and insurance premiums that are the highest in the world. The costs include: 1) the waste of well over $1 trillion a year; 2) daily denials of coverage by the Aetnas of the corporate world; 3) about forty thousand Americans dying each year, according to a peer-reviewed Harvard Medical School study, because they cannot afford health insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time; and 4) daily agonizing negotiations over insurance company denials, exclusions and bureaucratic paperwork that drive physicians up the wall.

Clinton hasn’t explained why she was once for single-payer until she defined her “being practical” as refusing to take on big pharma, commercial hospital chains and the giant insurance companies. She is very “practical” about taking political contributions and speaking fees from Wall Street and the health care industry.

As one 18 year-old student told the New York Times recently about Clinton, “sometimes you get this feeling that all of her sentences are owned by someone.”

This protector of the status quo and the gross imbalance of power between the few and the many expresses perfectly why Wall Street financiers like her so much and prove it with their large continuing monetary contributions.

Hillary Clinton is not “levelling with the American people,” when she keeps the transcripts (which she requested at the time) of her secret speeches (at $5,000 a minute!) before large Wall Street and trade association conventions. Her speaking contracts mandated secrecy. Clinton still hasn’t told voters what she was telling big bankers and many other industries from automotive to drugs to real estate developers behind closed doors.

She has the gall to accuse Bernie Sanders of not being transparent. Sanders is a presidential candidate who doesn’t take big-fee speeches or big donations from fat cat influence-peddlers, and his record is as clean as the Clintons’ political entanglements are sordid. (See Clinton Cash by Peter Schweizer.)

But it is in the area of foreign and military affairs that “Hillary the hawk” is most vulnerable. As Secretary of State her aggressiveness and poor judgement led her to the White House where, sweeping aside the strong objections of Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, she persuaded President Obama to bomb Libya and topple its dictatorial regime.

Gates had warned about the aftermath. He was right. Libya has descended into a ghastly state of chaotic violence that has spilled into neighboring African nations, such as Mali, and that opened the way for ISIS to establish an expanding base in central Libya. Her fellow hawks in Washington are now calling for U.S. special forces to go to Libya.

Whether as Senator on the Armed Services Committee or as Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton has never met a war or raid she didn’t like, or a redundant, wasteful weapons system she was willing to aggressively challenge. As president, Hillary Clinton would mean more wars, more raids, more blowbacks, more military spending and more profits for the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower so prophetically warned about in his farewell address.

So when Bernie Sanders properly chided her for having as an advisor, Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under Richard Nixon, she bridled and tried to escape by asking Sanders to name his foreign policy advisors.

In fact, Kissinger and Clinton do have much in common about projecting the American Empire to brutal levels. Kissinger was the “butcher of Cambodia,” launching an illegal assault that destabilized that peaceful country into the Pol Pot slaughter of millions of innocents. She was the illegal “butcher of Libya,” an ongoing, unfolding tragedy whose blowbacks of “unintended consequences” are building by the week.

In a devastating recounting of Hillary Clinton’s disastrous war-making, Professor of Sustainable Economies at Columbia University, Jeffrey D. Sachs concludes that Clinton “is the candidate of the War Machine.” In a widely noted article on Huffington Post Professor Sachs, an advisor the United Nations on millennium development goals, called her record a “disaster,” adding that “Perhaps more than any other person, Hillary can lay claim to having stoked the violence that stretches from West Africa to Central Asia and that threatens U.S. security.”

The transformation of Hillary Clinton from a progressive young lawyer to a committed corporatist and militarist brings shame on the recent endorsement of her candidacy by the Congressional Black Caucus PAC.

But then, considering all the years of Clintonite double talk and corporate contributions going to the Black Caucus PAC (according to FEC reports January through December, 2015), and the Black Caucus conventions, why should anybody be surprised that Black Lives Matter and a growing surge of young African Americans are looking for someone in the White House who is not known for the Clintons’ sweet-talking betrayals?

See Michelle Alexander’s recent article in The Nation, “Hillary Clinton Does Not Deserve Black People’s Votes” for more information on this subject.

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