Eight New Year’s Resolutions for NPR to Consider Now

By Ralph Nader
January 14, 2022

The reasons Congress created NPR (National Public Radio) under the Nixon Administration was to fill the yawning gaps of commercial radio in local, national, and international news coverage and to give voice to the people, without ads. It was to be publicly funded by taxpayers. Almost 51 years later, NPR is now funded heavily by national corporations, with its local affiliates soliciting local business advertisements.

Resolution One: Apart from excellent features around the country and the world, NPR should give voice to what civic groups are doing to improve our country locally and nationally. NPR is heavy on entertainment and entertainers and needs to fill some of that airtime with news of the bedrock civic community in America. The imbalance is serious from the national to the local.

Resolution Two: NPR features many reports and interviews on Race, but needs far more focus on Class. Class exploitation by the rich and powerful corporate supremacists feeds into racial discrimination. The euphemism used is “inequality,” but corporate-bred crime, fraud, and abuse affects all people indiscriminately, which often disproportionately harms minorities. A result of the gross imbalance of time devoted to race and not to class is that indiscriminate injustice is mostly ignored.

Over sixty million very poor whites in our country, if they even bothered to listen to NPR, might ask: “What About Us?”

Focusing on racial plights, without going to its sources in commercial greed, redlining, exploited tenants, lower pay and poverty, substandard health care, rampant overcharging of the poor (recall the book, The Poor Pay More: Consumer Practices of Low-Income Families by David Caplovitz), greater difficulty getting loans, and discrimination against upward mobility to corporate executive ranks, are some examples of systemic commercialism fueling systemic racism.

NPR’s collateral benefit from this inattention is that business advertisers large and small love NPR and its affiliates. This is especially the case for corporations with bad records. NPR should reject ads from disreputable or criminal corporations.

Resolution Three: Stop mimicking commercial radio. NPR’s three-minute news segments on the hour often don’t even match the quality of CBS Radio’s choice of topics. For example, why is tennis star Novak Djokovic’s visa problems in Australia at the top of NPR news day after day? As for commercials, NPR stretches the envelope, airing, with its affiliates, as many as 30 ads per hour! Imagine the audience irritation. How many times do we have to hear each hour “NPR is supported by this station…”? NPR gives abundant repetitive ad time to the same few advertisers—Progressive Insurance, C3.AI, etc., that one wonders whether they are assured of exclusivity vis-à-vis competitors. Moreover, NPR starts the evening program Marketplace with ads, which the commercial networks do not do.

Your listeners want you to decongest your ads and some may want to know why you have given up on reversing the relative decline of congressional appropriations. You give ample time to loud right-wingers and right-wing causes. Why aren’t you gaining bipartisan support for more congressional funding?

Resolution Four: Compress the weather forecasts. Back in 1970-1971, Congress knew that commercial radio stations gave plenty of time to weather, traffic, sports, and music. That is still true. So why does WAMC in Albany, an NPR local affiliate, have such lengthy forecasts, some starting with the west coast, with ludicrous repetition for adjacent areas? WAMC is above average in covering local and state governments and candidates for public office with full-time staff.

Resolution Five: NPR should re-evaluate its music policy. NPR takes its weekends seriously, so much so that they take off right at 6:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday evenings. “Let them hear music,” for the rest of the time, as if the world stops then. Also, musical intervals are often too long, inappropriate for their context, and foolishly interjected. NPR’s evening program Marketplace, anchored by jumping-jack Kai Ryssdal, illustrates these observations. Even while he is rapidly giving the stock market numbers, there is background music loud enough to be considered foreground.

Resolution Six: Reconsider the uniform formulaics shackling your reporters. They respond to the anchor’s inquiry with a zigzag between their sound bites and corroborating sound bites from consulting firms, think tanks, and academic commentators. This model has a tedious staccato ring to it, especially since the reporters often, by way of their introduction, repeat what the interviewees are going to say.

Resolution Seven: Correct or explain your major faux pas. NPR staff need tutorials on the constitutional authority of Congress. NPR needs to explain to its listeners why, with all that staff in Washington D.C., it took about 90 minutes (or until about 3:30 pm) to start telling its affiliates about the Jan. 6 violent assault on Congress. Commercial CNN and other commercial media started reporting no later than 2:00 pm that fateful day. “And that’s not the only time NPR has messed up,” said one reporter for WAMC (that annually pays NPR a million dollars for NPR programming).

Resolution Eight: Give your Public Editor, Kelly McBride, a regular public time slot to discuss her insights, presently communicated mostly internally, and to address serious feedback from your listeners about NPR’s broadcasting flaws. (Local affiliates invite political opinions, personal development, and ‘how to’ questions on related shows).

Ms. McBride could share the program with NPR’s CEO—a position more remote from the NPR public every decade. Hear ye John Lansing! Among other benefits, you’ll get good suggestions for important, little-told news stories. (See reportersalert.org)

Congress should hold long needed public hearings in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to ascertain whether the original missions accorded public radio and public broadcasting are being pursued both qualitatively and quantitatively, and whether these networks and their affiliates have steadily strayed from those missions, due in part to the absence of mechanisms for public evaluations and congressional oversight.

There is so much to learn about NPR and PBS about their relations with American Public Media, the BBC, and other connections, to make them better and raise the expectations of their listening audience.

It’s hard not to be complacent when you have so little competition from the commercial stations that for decades have debased our publicly owned airwaves, free of charge.

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Think Big to Overcome Losing Big to Corporatism

By Ralph Nader
January 7, 2022

The progressive citizen groups, that in the sixties and seventies, drove through Congress the key environmental, worker, and consumer legislation, since unmatched, must feel nostalgic. Those were the years when legislation throwing cruel companies on the defensive was signed by arch-corporatist, President Richard Nixon, because he read the political tea leaves.

These bills included the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and environmental laws, the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for worker health and safety, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and worker pension protection, among others.

Alas, Richard Nixon was the last Republican president to be afraid of liberals. When grade B actor Ronald Reagan flew into Washington, he opened all doors to Big Business. A cruel man with a smile, Reagan gave an actor’s cover to the greatest collapse into the corporate power pits in American history.

Here is a checklist showing the takeovers of our government at all levels by the corporate supremacists for whom enough is never enough when it came to profits and power.

1. Regulatory agencies curbing corporate ravages were essentially shut down. Reaganites thought companies should regulate themselves when it comes to the health, safety, and economic well-being of the American people; which is to say, the corporate rule took over the rule of law.

2. Labor unions were weakened by timid leadership, anti-labor policies, acceleration of job exports, and the major shift by the Democratic Party to solicit money from rapidly expanding corporate political action committees (PACs).

3. Congress abandoned its role of checks and balances and gave much of its constitutional power to the imperial, autocratic presidency. This concentration of power and secrecy in the White House seriously weakened the power of civic groups that had been able to start their reform drives in Congress.

4. The consequences of corporatizing Congress allowed the tax system to be filled with escapes and lower rates for the super-rich and global corporations. It allowed presidents to get corporatist judges confirmed to dominate the courts. It permitted total inaction on the necessity of strengthening our federal corporate criminal laws, including antitrust enforcement and laws, so out of date that they became out of mind by the supposed enforcers in the Executive Branch.

5. A spineless Congress fell to its knees before the military-industrial complex so much so that the bloated unaudited ‘defense’ budget zoomed over 50% of discretionary spending by the federal government. The military empire grew without congressional oversight.

6. Meanwhile, the corporate giants became dominant in weakening the private pillars of American law. They turned freedom of contracts into fine-print consumer servitude, while coercing consumers into also giving up key rights and remedies under the law of torts should they incur wrongful injuries.

A manipulated credit economy took away consumers’ control over their own money, subjecting them to penalties, ultimatums, and punitive credit scores.

7. Without challenge to their marketing, corporations commercialized childhood, directly selling to kids junk foods and junk drinks that set off the deadly obesity epidemic and its health-damaging results. They sold violent programming and exploited the weaknesses of children, circumventing parental authority and discipline.

In the Internet Age, corporations can be described as raising our children, getting their personal information for free, and selling this collected data to advertisers. They are trapping these youngsters in the peonage of click-on contracts they never see through in their daily screen hours.

Whether in reality or virtual reality, corporations have become electronic child molesters with few pursuing sheriffs.

8. Corporate globalization has erected mechanisms such as corporate-managed trade agreements that operate to pull down our standards for workers, consumers, and the environment to the lower levels of developing countries, many of them under dictatorial regimes.

9. Decades after warnings by scientists of rising global warming, the fossil fuel giants, while on the defensive, still have the economy in their clutches, slowing their substitutes of conservation and renewable energy.

10. Corporate welfare is larger, more varied, and more automatic than ever. Subsidies, handouts, giveaways, and bailouts are now routinely enacted by little-challenged, government-guaranteed capitalism at the federal and state levels!

Big corporations even control the wealth owned by the people such as the public lands, public airwaves, and trillions of dollars in pension and mutual funds.

11. Voting rights and electoral accuracies are being undermined in many states by legislation.

12. Medicare is being corporatized (over 40% of elderly beneficiaries are under corporate plans). Billing fraud is greater than ever (reaching $360 billion in 2021 just in the healthcare industry). Traditional defined benefit pension plans are disappearing, with the unstable 401K as a replacement if workers are lucky enough to have any retirement savings plans at the workplace.

Clearly, the situation in our political economy is getting worse by the year. To be sure, progressive groups have maintained some successes such as the near abolition of most uses of deadly asbestos, lead out of paint and gasoline, safer cars, better labelling, more recalls, removals of unsafe or ineffective drugs, and reduction of air and water pollutants. Civil rights and children protection laws still have some teeth. But civic groups are winning some skirmishes, while losing the battle and the war to the entrenched corporate state. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt told Congress in 1938 – whenever private power takes control of the government, that is fascism.

These citizen groups and their supporters must now step back and develop a ten-year Plan to overpower the corporate state with a democratic state. The people, however passive now, are largely on their side. Originally, in their state chartering days of the early 19th century, corporations were expected to be our servants not our masters. The reverse is now true.

This plan will require thousands of new organizers, lobbyists, strategists, and all the skills used by big corporations. It will also require systematically connecting with enlightened billionaires, already worried about our country’s slide into the abyss, for a budget of at least $10 billion over ten years.

Otherwise, ongoing skirmishes will continue to lower the expectations by progressive civic groups to a point of self-delusion.

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What are Torts? They’re Everywhere!

By Ralph Nader
December 29, 2021

What exposed the Tobacco industry’s carcinogenic cover-up? The lethal asbestos industry cover-up? The General Motors’ deadly ignition switch defect cover-up? The Catholic Church’s pedophile scandal? All kinds of toxic waste poisonings?

Not the state legislatures of our country. Not Congress. Not the regulatory agencies of our federal or state governments. These abuses and other wrongs were exposed by lawsuits brought by individuals or groups of afflicted plaintiffs using the venerable American law of torts.

Almost every day, the media reports on stories of injured parties using our legal system to seek justice for wrongful injuries. Unfortunately, the media almost never mentions that the lawsuits were filed under the law of torts.

Regularly, the media reports someone filing a civil rights lawsuit or a civil liberties lawsuit. When was the last time you read, heard, or saw a journalist start their report by saying…“so and so today filed a tort lawsuit against a reckless manufacturer or a sexual predator, or against the wrongdoers who exposed the people of a town like Flint, Michigan to harmful levels of lead in drinking water? Or lawsuits against Donald Trump for ugly defamations or sexual assaults”?

I was recently discussing this strange omission with Richard Newman, former executive director of the American Museum of Tort Law and a former leading trial attorney in Connecticut. He too was intrigued. He told me that when high school students tour the Museum, their accompanying teachers often admit that they themselves never heard of tort law!

Last fall, a progressive talk show host, who has had many victims of wrongful injuries on her show, visited the museum. While walking through the door, she too declared that she didn’t know what tort law was. She certainly did after spending an hour touring the museum. (See tortmuseum.org).

Public ignorance about tort law should have been taken care of in our high schools. Sadly even some lawyers advised us not to use the word “tort” in the Museum’s name because nobody would know what it meant.

“Tort” comes from the French word for “a wrongful injury.” Millions of torts involving people and property occur every year. Bullies in schools, assaults, negligent drivers, hazardous medicines, defective motor vehicles, toxic chemicals, hospital and medical malpractices, and occupational diseases, and more can all be the sources of a tort claim.

Yes, crimes are almost always torts as well. When police officers use wildly excessive force and innocent people die, families can sue the police department under tort law and have recovered compensation for “wrongful deaths.”

American law runs on the notion that “for every wrong, there should be a remedy.” When Americans get into trouble with the law, they are told by judges that “ignorance of the law is no excuse” and that “you are presumed to know the law.” In that case, why then don’t we teach the rudiments of tort law (or fine print contract law for that matter) in high schools?

After all, youngsters are not exempt from wrongful injuries in their daily street and school lives. Just recently, scores of schools’ drinking water fountains were found to contain dangerous levels of lead. That is a detectable, preventable condition and would be deemed gross negligence invoking tort law.

Most remarkably, the insurance industry has spent billions of dollars over the past fifty years on advertising and demanding “tort reform”, meaning restricting the rights of claimants who go to court and capping the compensation available to injured patients no matter how serious their disability. Still the public’s curiosity was never quickened to learn more about tort law and trial by jury. The right to trial by jury is older than the American Revolution, is protected by the seventh amendment to our Constitution and is available to be used by injured parties to help defend against or deter those who would expose people and their property to wrongful harm or damage.

One way to educate people is to do what a physician friend of mine did at a conference of Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialists. He walked in wearing a Tort Museum T-Shirt, raising eyebrows and provoking discussion.

There are, of course, more systematic ways to inform Americans about tort law. Bring the high school curriculums down to earth and educate students about this great pillar of American freedom. Devote one of the 600 cable channels in America to teaching citizens about the law, and how to use it to improve levels of justice in our country.

From social media to traditional media, the law of torts needs to be illustrated with actual case studies showing its great contribution and even greater potential to provide compensation for or deterrence to all kinds of preventable violence.

Artists and musicians should use their talents to convey many of these David vs. Goliath battles in our courts of law. Oh, for a great song on the delights of having a jury bring a wrongdoer to justice.

The powerless can hold the powerful accountable, with a contingent fee attorney. Tort law remains vastly underutilized—though it is before us in plain sight. The plutocrats must be happy that so few people know about or use the remedies available through tort law.

Hear this practicing plaintiff lawyers—wherever you are: You number 60,000 strong in the U.S. If you each speak to small groups—classes, clubs, reunions, etc.—totaling some 1,000 people a year, that is 60 million people receiving knowledge central to their quality of life and security. Every year! Fascinating human interest stories full of courage, persistence, and vindication of critical rights will captivate and inspire your audiences. What say you, “officers of the court”?

Watch “Litigation and Advocacy to Confront and Survive the Climate Crisis“, a panel discussion presented by the American Museum of Tort Law.

This article first appeared February 20, 2019.

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Ralph Nader’s Holiday Season Top Reading Recommendations

By Ralph Nader
December 22, 2021

The most important books exposing real injustices are often the least read. Nearly all of the hundreds of thousands of neighborhood book clubs insist on only reading and discussing works of fiction. They don’t want hard feelings over disagreements.

Major book awards and prizes rarely select books addressing corporate crimes and what to do about them.

Not surprisingly, you rarely read about these books or see or hear about them on television and radio shows, including PBS and NPR. Corporate funders prefer convenient alternatives such as art, culture, history, and entertainment.

The following recent books connect us to the grim reality, pulling us back from myths and virtual reality escapes to the societal mirror we all must face for the common good of today and tomorrow.

1. Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America by Eyal Press, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021. Someone has to do the dirty work for society’s survival. But these workers get paid too little and are unprotected so they become casualties.

2. The Hidden History of American Oligarchy: Reclaiming Our Democracy from the Ruling Class by Thom Hartmann, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2021. No one presents the forgotten history of evil corporate power more concisely and relevantly than the erudite daily radio talk show host, Thom Hartmann. Try him and see.

3. Power to the People: A Young People’s Guide to Fighting for Our Rights as Citizens and Consumers by Richard Panchyk, Seven Stories Press, 2021. Give an eye-opening gift for teens and for those a little older. Surprise them.

4. The Profit Paradox: How Thriving Firms Threaten the Future of Work by Jan Eeckhout, Princeton University Press, 2021. The author demonstrates how the unbridled market power of giant corporations has “suffocated the world of work,” which could lead to disastrous market corrections and political turmoil.

5. Unsettled: How the Purdue Pharma Bankruptcy Failed the Victims of the American Overdose Crisis by Ryan Hampton, St. Martin’s Press, 2021. Ryan Hampton – a victim himself – shows what must be done to hold these dangerous corporate hucksters accountable and help prevent the human casualties of such avaricious profiteering.

6. Flying Blind: The 737 MAX Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing by Peter Robison, Doubleday, 2021. Robison takes you inside the Boeing company and its decaying monetized culture. He reaches inside the manslaughtering stealth software that took over the planes from their pilots and drove one new 737 MAX on a death trip into the Java Sea and another 737 MAX deep into Ethiopian farmland.

7. First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat by Christopher W. Shaw, City Lights, 2021. Shaw showcases the magnificent historical contributions of Benjamin Franklin’s grand idea as background to the struggle between a people’s post office and the grasping corporate supremacists. Shaw shows ways for the people to prevail.

8. Twelve Ways to Save Democracy in Wisconsin by Matthew Rothschild, University of Wisconsin Press, 2021. Learn practical steps to shift political and electoral power to all the people, not just Wisconsinites, from a long-time progressive activist and writer.

9. 100% Democracy: The Case for Universal Voting by E.J. Dionne Jr., and Miles Rapoport, The New Press, 2022. They make the case for voting as a legal, civic duty which can dissolve all the proliferating obstacles to and the current suppression of voting. Universal voting is a one-stop antidote to massive corruption of our elections and the billions of bigoted, commercial dollars infesting the corrupters with impunity.

10. Un-American: A Soldier’s Reckoning of Our Longest War by Erik Edstrom, a West Point graduate, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020. This galvanizing call to our country makes a broad and deep case against militarism, boomeranging empire, and its devouring of America. You’ll want to read this declaration of conscience, facts, and reason – twice!

11. Our Class: Trauma and Transformation in an American Prison by Chris Hedges, Simon & Schuster, 2021. Hedges exposes the problems that plague our society’s criminal injustice system. He is a truth-teller and thinker who knows our country has to do better.

12. Closing Death’s Door: Legal Innovations to End the Epidemic of Healthcare Harm by Michael J. Saks and Stephan Landsman, Oxford University Press, 2021. The third leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer, is from avoidable errors by the healthcare industry. The authors carefully calculate the loss from health harm is about 400,000 lives every year plus more avoidable injuries and diseases afflicting survivors. Federal and state governments do almost nothing about this preventable toll.

Special Recommendation:

13. Old Growth: The Best Writing About Trees From Orion, Orion Magazine, 2021. Trees will look very different to you after reading this collection of essays about their intelligence, resiliency, offerings, necessity, and adversaries. Don’t be surprised if on your walks soon, you find yourself hugging them.

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Rare Unionizing Opportunity in Big Box and Retail Chains

By Ralph Nader
December 17, 2021

This is the most opportune time for millions of workers in Big Box retail stores and fast-food outlets to form unions. McDonald’s, Walmart, Amazon, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Burger King, and other giant chains are having trouble finding enough workers. Some of these companies are even paying signing bonuses and upping low pay.

Chalk it up to the pandemic’s dislocations when millions of workers left their jobs, and many have not yet returned. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) see the opportunity of a lifetime, but are they putting enough organizing resources into this effort?

For over four decades, unions of all kinds in the corporate economy have been in decline. Only six percent of private sector workers are now in unions. However, polls are showing a high favorability level for unions, following worker heroics on behalf of Covid-19 victims.

The House of Representatives has passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act – opposed by the Republican corporatists – but Senate prospects are dim due to the same GOP corporatists. Why the Senate Democrats are not regularly holding hearings on the plights of non-union working families can only be answered by Majority Leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York.

Since Reagan took office in January 1981, organized labor has been battered by numerous forces. These include (1) the eight years of Ronald Reagan, Union-buster-in-chief, owning the White House, (2) ever greater exportation of jobs propelled by large companies abandoning the U.S. for communist and fascist dictatorships abroad with their legions of serf labor, and (3) growing automations of the workplace. Mediocre leadership of many unions has not helped either.

Younger people in these giant retail outlets have little knowledge of how unions saved the working classes in the 20th century from many of the cruelest treatments by corporate capitalism. Current union educational efforts are filling some of this gap of why, how, and where to form a union – though not with the intensity of the late union leaders Tony Mazzocchi and Harry Kelber. Mr. Kelber was the greatest writer of popular “how to” pamphlets for workers seeking unions. (See: laboreducator.org).

While the big retailers may sporadically fill worker gaps with one-time economic incentives, they are still run by the same old union busting bosses with their union busting, pricey law firms and consultants.

Their mantra – crush any tiny unionizing effort at any store, no matter its costs. A few weeks ago, Dollar General, with over 7,000 stores nationwide, crushed such an effort in a Dollar General store in Winsted, Connecticut. They sent in five “consultants” to stay in the store at a stunning $2700 each a day, according to a long page-one article in the Washington Post. These and other corporate intimidators sometimes outnumbered the six employees during the unionizing drive, until the unionists narrowly lost the vote to the other frightened employees. One employee was dismissed for being pro-union but reinstated for the vote.

There are major strikes by workers at John Deere, Kellogg, and some other large manufacturing firms. Right now, however, the big battle that should be joined is with Big Retail, where the jobs making burgers or coffee cannot be exported.

The takeaway from all this is threefold.

First, the Democratic Party should scale up its enthusiasm and backing of these valiant workers, right down to the local Democratic Party committees.

Second, same is true for the AFL-CIO which can provide stronger backup of the federation’s member unions and press the Biden Administration to strongly enforce labor laws that are routinely, says the AFL-CIO website, violated by companies with impunity.

Third, consumers and their organizations should elevate their support for paid sick leave, adequate healthcare, safe working conditions, and fair wages; if not for solidarity, then for safely served food. Consumers should not want to see hard-pressed, sick workers having to serve them, to pay bills.

For labor, this is a briefly open window in history. Robotics and surplus labor will soon be closing it. Unions need to move at unaccustomed and rapid speeds now!

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For Year End Charitable Giving—Some Worthy Organizations

There are many active, serving citizen groups that further the cause of, by and for the people. Perhaps you may be interested in the following list of groups which we have donated to recently. They are all 501(c)(3) organizations and therefore tax deductible.

If you can, give them a lifting hand.

Best wishes for the coming year,

Ralph Nader

Alternative Radio
Appalachia-Science in the Public Interest
Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest
Beyond Nuclear
Beyond Pesticides
Center for Health, Environment & Justice
Center for Race, Poverty, and the Environment
Children’s Advocacy Institute
Clean Air Campaign Inc. [Send donations to: 307 7th Avenue, New York, NY 10001.]
Doctors Without Borders USA
Earth Island Institute
Family Farm Defenders
Honor the Earth
Indian Law Resource Center
Institute for Nonprofit News
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
Veterans for Peace
Western Organization of Resource Councils Education Project
Whirlwind Wheelchair
Flyers Rights
Solitary Watch

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“Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun: January 6 Was Practice.”

By Ralph Nader
December 13, 2021

“Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun…” is the title of an article in the Atlantic, just out, by Barton Gellman, a Pulitzer Prize winner and author of many groundbreaking exposés. He describes the various maneuvers that Trump-driven Republican operatives and state legislators are developing to overturn elections whose voters elected Democrats from states with Republican governors and state legislatures. Georgia fit that profile in 2020 – electing two Democratic senators in a state with a Republican legislature and governor.

Getting ready for 2024, the Georgia GOP legislature has stripped the election-certifying Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, of his authority to oversee future election certifications. The legislature has also given itself the unbridled authority to fire county election officials. With Trump howling his lies and backing his minion candidates, they created a climate that is intimidating scores of terrified election-precinct volunteers to quit.

Added to this are GOP-passed voter suppression laws and selectively drawn election districts that discriminate against minorities – both before the vote (purges, arbitrary disqualifications), during the vote (diminishing absentee voting, and narrowing dates for their delivery), and after the election in miscounting and falsely declaring fraud.

The ultimate lethal blow to democratic elections, should the GOP lose, is simply to have the partisan GOP majority legislators benefiting from demonically-drawn gerrymandered electoral districts, declare by fiat the elections a fraud, and replace the Democratic Party’s voter chosen electors with GOP chosen electors in the legislature.

Now take this as a pattern demolishing majority voters’ choice to 14 other GOP-controlled states, greased by Trumpian lies and routing money to his chosen candidate’s intent on overturning majority rule, add Fox News bullhorns and talk radio Trumpsters and you have the apparatus for fascistic takeovers. Tragically, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court Justices – three selected by Trump – has no problem with his usurpation of the American Republic. All this and more micro-repression is broadcast by zillions of ugly, vicious, and anonymous rants over the Internet enabled by the profiteering social media corporations like Facebook.

Anonymous, vicious, violent email and Twitter traffic is the most underreported cause of anxiety, fear, and dread undermining honest Americans working, mostly as volunteers, the machinery of local, state, and national elections, with dedicated public servants. These people are not allowed to know the names behind the anonymous cowardly, vitriol slamming against them, their families, and children.

What are the institutions – public and civic – that could roll back this fast-approaching U.S.-style fascism with the snarling visage of serial criminal and constitutional violator, Donald J. Trump?

1. First is the Congress. Democrats impeached Trump over the Ukraine extortion but left on the table eleven other impeachable counts, including those with kitchen-table impacts (See Congressional Record, December 18, 2019).

All that is going on to deal with Trump’s abuses in any focused way on Capitol Hill, controlled by Democrats, is the House’s January 6th investigation. So far as is known, this Select Committee is NOT going to subpoena the star witnesses – Donald Trump and Mike Pence. So far, the Congress is feeble, not a Rock of Gibraltar thwarting the Trumpian dictators.

2. The federal courts? Apart from their terminal delays, it’s Trump’s Supreme Court and his nominees fill many chairs in the federal circuit courts of appeals. The federal judiciary – historically the last resort for constitutional justice – is now lost to such causes.

3. The Democratic Party? We’re still waiting for a grand strategy, with sufficient staff, to counter, at every intersection, the GOP. The Dems do moan and groan well. But where is their big-time ground game for getting out the non-voters in the swing states? Are they provoking recall campaigns of despotic GOP state legislators in GOP states having such citizen-voter power? Why aren’t they adopting the litigation arguments of Harvard Law School’s constitutional expert, Professor Larry Tribe? Where are their messages to appeal to the majority of eligible American voters who believe that the majority rules in elections? Why aren’t they urgently reminding voters of the crimes and other criminogenic behavior by the well-funded Trump and his political terrorists?

Bear in mind, the Democrats are well-funded too.

4. The Legal Profession and their Bar Associations. Aren’t they supposed to represent the rule of law, protect the integrity of elections, and insist on peaceful transitions of power? They are after all, not just private citizens; they are “officers of the court.” Forget it. There are few exceptions, but don’t expect the American Bar Association and its state bar counterparts to be the sentinels and watchdogs against sinister coup d’états under cover of delusional strongarming ideologies.

5. Well, how about the Universities, the faculties, and the students? Weren’t they the hotbeds of action against past illegal wars and violations of civil rights in the Sixties and Seventies? Sure. But that was before the Draft was eliminated, before the non-stop gazing at screens, and before the focus on identity politics absorbed the energy that fueled mobilizations about fundamental pursuits of peace, justice, and equality.

6. How about some enlightened corporate executives of influential companies? Having been given large tax reductions, sleepy law enforcement regulators, and a corporatist-minded federal judiciary, while the war contracts and taxpayer bailouts proliferate, why should they make waves to save the Republic? The union of plutocratic big business with the autocratic government is one classical definition of fascism.

7. The Mass Media. Taken together, they’ve done a much better job exposing Trumpism than has the Congress or litigation and the judiciary. However, their digging up the dirt does not come with the obvious follow-ups from their reporting and editorializing.

Covering the Ukraine impeachment, but not covering at least eleven other documented impeachable offenses, handed to them by credible voices, left them with digging hard but never hitting pay dirt. Trump has escaped all their muckraking as he has escaped all attempts by law enforcers who have their own unexplained hesitancies. If reporters do not dig intensely into just how Trump and his chief cohorts have escaped jail time and other penalties, their usual revelations of wrongdoings appear banal, eliciting “what else is new?” yawns by their public.

What’s left to trust and rely upon? Unorganized people organizing. What else! That’s what the farmers did peacefully in western Massachusetts in 1774 (See: The Revolution Came Early – 1774 – to the Berkshires) against the tyrant King George III and his Boston-based Redcoats? By foot or by horse, they showed up together in huge numbers at key places. These farmers collectively stopped the takeover of local governments and courts by King George’s wealthier Tories. Their actions can teach us the awesome lessons of moral, democratic, and tactical grit – all the while having to deal with nature and their endangered crops.

What are our excuses?

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Critical Exposés Everywhere as the Corporate State Worsens

By Ralph Nader
December 3, 2021

Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his 1938 message to Congress warned that when private power becomes stronger than the democratic state itself, we have Fascism. There are many ways to witness the intensifying domination toward a corporate state. One way is to compare exposé books in the 1960s and the present.

Within a span of five years, there were three books in the sixties that put forces in motion leading to significant reordering of our society’s priorities. They were Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962), my Unsafe at Any Speed (1965), and The Other America by Michael Harrington (1962).

The message of these bestselling books was expanded by authors going on national TV and radio shows. They spoke around the country, before large audiences at colleges/universities and even high schools. An aroused citizenry prompted congressional hearings, legislation, and the establishment of federal agencies to deal with the problems of toxic chemicals, unsafe motor vehicles, and deep poverty in the U.S.

By stark contrast, now the volume of muckraking indictments of corporate crime, fraud, and tyranny is at least ten-fold that of the nineteen sixties. Books and blogs, documentaries and podcasts are pouring out daily with far less impact and in many cases no effect, for change.

Take a look at 65 recent searing books about corporate violence and malfeasance, crushing influence over our electoral and political systems, and expanding immunities from law enforcement and public accountability.

Corporate Crime and Punishment: The Crisis of Underenforcement by John Coffee
Mass Tort Deals: Backroom Bargaining in Multidistrict Litigation by Elizabeth Burch
Why Not Jail? Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance … by Rena Steinzor
Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe
Closing Death’s Door: Legal Innovations to End the Epidemic of Healthcare Harm by Michael J. Saks and Stephan Landsman
Who Poisoned Your Bacon Sandwich?… by Guillaume Coudray
The Monsanto Papers: Deadly Secrets, Corporate Corruption… by Carey Gillam
The Age of Addiction: How Bad Habits Became Big Business by David Courtwright
Frankie: How One Woman Prevented a Pharmaceutical Disaster by James Essinger and Sandra Koutzenko
Killer Airbags by Jerry Cox
Making the World Safe for Coke by Susan Greenhalgh
Big Dirty Money by Jennifer Taub
Business and Human Rights by Ellen Hertz
Industrial-Strength Denial by Barbara Freese
Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act by Nicholson Baker
Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations by Brandon L. Garrett
Capital Offenses: Business Crime and Punishment in America’s Corporate Age by Samuel W. Buell
Profiteering, Corruption and Fraud in U.S. Health Care by John Geyman
Monopolized: Life in the Age of Corporate Power by David Dayen
Global Banks on Trial by Pierre-Hugues Verdier
Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception by David Michaels
Murder, Inc.: How Unregulated Industry Kills or Injures Thousands of Americans Every Year…And What You Can Do About It by Gerald Goldhaber
Paradise Lost at Sea: Rethinking Cruise Vacations by Ross A. Klein
Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy by Matt Stoller
Crisis of Conscience: Whistleblowing in An Age of Fraud by Tom Mueller
Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom by Katherine Eban
GMOs Decoded: A Skeptic’s View of Genetically Modified Foods by Sheldon Krimsky and Marion Nestle
GM: Paint it Red: Inside General Motors’ Culture of Failure by Nicholas Kachman
The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives by Jesse Eisinger
Watchdog: How Protecting Consumers Can Save Our Families, Our Economy, and Our Democracy by Richard Cordray
First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat by Christopher Shaw
Un-American: A Soldier’s Reckoning of Our Longest War by Erik Edstrom
Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War by Samuel Moyn
Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America by Eyal Press
Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College? by Alexander Keyssar
Public Citizens by Paul Sabin
The United States of War by David Vine
The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions by Chuck Collins
Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America by Alec MacGillis
The Case Against George W. Bush by Steven C. Markoff
Tax the Rich: How Lies, Loopholes, and Lobbyists Make the Rich Even Richer by Erica Payne and Morris Pearl
Salt Wars: The Battle Over the Biggest Killer in the American Diet by Dr. Michael Jacobson
Unrig: How to Fix Our Broken Democracy by Daniel G. Newman
Plaintiff in Chief: A Portrait of Donald Trump in 3,500 Lawsuits by James D. Zirin
Stealing Our Democracy by Don Siegelman
Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor by Steven Greenhouse
All the President’s Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator by Monique El-Faizy and Barry Levine
Money, Power, and the People: The American Struggle to Make Banking Democratic by Christopher Shaw
Troubled Water: What’s Wrong with What We Drink by Seth M. Siegel
Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy by Mike German
United States of Distraction: Media Manipulation in Post-Truth America… by Mickey Huff and Nolan Higdon
The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age by Tim Wu
The End of Ice by Dahr Jamail
Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator by Dr. Gregory Jaczko
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff
America, Democracy & You: Where Have All the Citizens Gone? by Ronald R. Fraser
Unsettled (on Purdue Pharma and the Sackler Family) by Ryan Hampton
Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas
China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine by Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Prasad Singh
Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World by Nomi Prins
Attention All Passengers: The Airlines’ Dangerous Descent and What You Can Do To Reclaim Our Skies by William McGee
Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science by Carey Gillam
The CEO Pay Machine: How it Trashes America and How to Stop It by Steven Clifford
World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech by Franklin Foer
The Golden Passport: Harvard Business School, …. and the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite by Duff McDonald
Despite the many books on corporate crooks, there have been no corporate crime law reforms, no additional prosecutions of these CEOs, not even comprehensive congressional or state legislative hearings. The corporate crooks at the top of giant companies still get away with profiting from their corporate crime wave. None of the top Wells Fargo executives or Opioid’s promoters or the sellers of dangerous products and chemicals are facing prosecution. You have to steal a loaf of bread or get caught with a miniscule amount of heroin or cocaine to be incarcerated.

The massive fatality toll annually (about 400,000) from preventable problems in hospitals and clinics gets exposed yet nobody stirs in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, state departments of health, or the state legislatures. That’s almost 8000 Americans losing their lives a week!

Profiteering, corruption, and fraud in the health industry are documented by many specialists, including Dr. John Geyman’s many books, but the exposés do not result in any calls for law and order by the politicians or even hearings in Congress.

Access to justice by victims faces increasingly closed courtroom doors and limits on tort laws for wrongful injury.

Meanwhile, the institutions we are expected to rely on to make a difference, with too few exceptions, are asleep at the wheel. These include the legal, medical, and accounting professions, the law enforcement agencies (there is no corporate crime index in the U.S. Justice Department), the toady legislatures, the corporate-owned media, the timid, often compromised labor unions, college campuses, and the silent corporatized organized religious institutions.

Our democracy is in serious decay. The information is readily available about what to do about it, while citizens argue among themselves, having been divided and ruled by corporate propaganda and politicians indentured to corporate supremacists.

Most active people seem unable to coalesce over their common interests at the community level. Remember, less than one percent of citizens stepping forward can turn the tide! (See breakingthroughpower.org).

For some reflections on our Auto Safety work over the past 55 years later visit https://www.sciencefriday.com/segments/ralph-nader-auto-safety/.

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Thanksgiving Thanks for The Early “Nader Raiders”

By Ralph Nader
November 24, 2021

They didn’t pontificate or boast. They just improved the health, safety, and economic conditions for the American people. The Washington Post called them Nader’s Raiders – law, medical, graduate, undergraduate, and even high school students came to Washington between 1969 and 1973 to join with me in important drives for justice.

The first group came in 1969 to expose and reform the moribund Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that had turned its back on consumers. The Nader Report on the Federal Trade Commission, by Edward F. Cox, Robert C. Fellmeth, and John E. Schulz (Grove Press), prodded the Nixon Administration to invite the American Bar Association (ABA) to examine its findings. The ABA report agreed with them. The FTC was awakened from its slumber with new leadership.

Then came about a dozen law students for what turned out to be an orientation meeting in the summer of 1970 in a spare suite of offices across from the bustling Washington Post headquarters. They sat around me as I offered one subject of injustice after another for their choosing. Some who selected their work that summer and the following summer, stayed at it for 40 to 50 years!

Robert Vaughn picked federal civil service reform. He became a national authority on the rights of governmental employees, including pressing for their protected freedom to whistleblow on fraudulent or coercive conditions at federal agencies flowing from inside corruption or maltreatment and from the outside grip of corporate lobbyists and contractors. Early in his career he wrote “The Spoiled System: A Call for Civil Service Reform” (1975) and continued to advance the cause of public servants and whistleblowers as a law professor at American University in Washington, D.C.

There was David Zwick who chose reducing water pollution as his mission. His book “Water Wasteland” (1972) and the meticulous work on the Clean Water Act legislation of 1972 started his 45-year career as a national leader on water pollution all over the country. His group, Clean Water Action, canvassed tens of millions of homes and worked at all levels – local, state, and national.

There were thoughtful and compassionate high school seniors at the Miss Porter’s School in Connecticut, interested in doing something about nursing home abuses. Led by their intrepid classmate Claire Townsend, and a guiding teacher, they came to Washington, poured through government inspection records, interviewed scores of knowledgeable people, and wrote the book “Old Age: The Last Segregation” (1971). They also testified before the Senate and House, amidst widespread media coverage. Long overdue changes in nursing homes came out of the forces they put into motion.

Clarence Ditlow – the low-key lawyer and engineer, was drawn to auto safety. Chances are you’ve had your defective motor vehicles recalled because of this tenacious auto industry watchdog, who headed the Center for Auto Safety from 1976 to 2016. At his passing, the leading trade journal, Automotive News editorialized about his inimitable contributions to auto safety in their encomium.

Whether it was Sam Simon on the broadcasting TV and radio industry, Tom Stanton on tax and housing policy, Karen Sheldon on the environment, Joseph Page and Gary Sellers on workplace health/safety, Chris White on the FTC, Karen Ferguson on pension rights, Joan Claybrook on Congress and auto safety, Robert Fellmeth on public land policy and corporate law enforcement, Dr. Sid Wolfe on the FDA, Mark Green on Congress and corporate monopolies, Harrison Wellford on pesticides and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, two undergraduate engineering students – James Bruce, and John Draper, (authors of “Crash Safety in General Aviation Aircraft” dealing with improving general aviation aircraft safety, James Fallows (author of “The Water Lords” a book on the Savannah River pollution, John Esposito on air pollution and the Clean Air Act of (1972), changes occurred, public awareness enlarged, reporters drawn to new or enlarged beats and lawmakers placed on alert.

Institutions were also established by these young people around the country. The superb organizer Donald K. Ross helped organize student PIRGs nationwide and then went on to head The New York PIRG. The Children’s Advocacy Center was launched in San Diego with state and national impact by law Professor, litigator, and author Robert Fellmeth. Jonathan Rowe worked on tax policy and then worked on redefining the yardsticks for economic progress as if all people matter, and helped start initiatives in that spreading school of thought.

There were others who also had higher estimates of their own significance and turned down lucrative job offers in order to “do justice.” The sheer stamina over the decades of many of these advocates for a just society should have provoked civic biographies, movies, and documentaries and opened up a motivating practice of civic heroism for younger Americans to wish to emulate.

On further contemplation, one might have asked the question “why in that moment of history were such elevations of civic advocacy so relatively successful?” The fundamental legislation, for example, framing our country’s response to environmental violence and cost, has never been repeated since.

A forthcoming book of recollections by the first two years of some “Nader’s Raiders” – many of them still actively furthering their chosen causes of 1970-1971 – will shed some light on this intriguing and significant history. Large corporations renew themselves for their myopic, avaricious drives. Why can’t the civic community more auspiciously bring the qualities of civic commitment and resourcefulness from today’s youngsters, who seek a better world, but keep saying they do not know what to do?

There are plenty of opportunities to break new ground, to turn Congress around and free it from its corporate paymasters, to define your future work as full-time citizens building a deep democracy resilient against the cruel winds of approaching autocratic storms. If you are interested in this kind of work send your resumes and chosen areas of interest to [email protected] But first read Citizen Action and Other Big Ideas by David Bollier, Public Citizen Sentinel for Democracy, or Civics for Democracy: A Journey for Teachers and Students, by Katherine Isaac about how, together with the valiant civil rights and anti-war movements and corporate justice advocates operated, persevered and, to some lasting degree, prevailed so that you can stand on their shoulders.

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The Corporate Demolition of Our Pillars of Freedom

By Ralph Nader
November 19, 2021

The disposition of the Boeing maslaughtering of 346 trusting passengers and crew in the 737 MAX crashes (Indonesia – 2018 and Ethiopia – 2019) further weakens the system of tort law and individual pursuits of justice after wrongful deaths.

Federal District Court Judge in Chicago, Jorge L. Alonso, couldn’t even wait for the scheduled hearing by Boeing’s law firms and the cooperating plaintiffs’ lawyers. He approved the stipulation a day earlier, without comment, that, among other surrenders, took away the right to argue punitive damages for Boeing’s admitted criminal conduct, stopped the discovery and depositions of the most culpable top executives, and set the stage for mediation to reduce the number of trials for compensatory damage to a very few of the 156 wronged families. These mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers lost their loved ones when a stealth software, unknown to the pilots, seized control of the 737 MAX planes and drove them down at 550 mph into smithereens.

“Consolidated cases” like those of the 737 MAX disasters are not class actions. They are individual lawsuits from around the country brought together in one court for convenience and alleged efficiencies. Before plaintiffs are informed fully, they find themselves swept into one global deal after closed-door negotiations that unite both the corporate defendants and lawyers for the plaintiffs into one settlement framework.

As these cases of corporate violence increase (think the opiates of the Perdue Pharmaceutical Company/Sackler Family and the transvaginal mesh cases), the company executives escape fines, admissions and often are promoted or let go with huge multi-million-dollar severance payments. Meanwhile, the company pays insurable and deductible monetary damages. The great majority of such cases are not tried in court before a jury. All are under a secrecy order covering up all discovered materials, testimonies, ad infinitum. Deterrence and public disclosure – two important purposes of tort law – are lost. While the compensation, according to leading plaintiff lawyer, Shanin Specter, is far less in a global deal than what could be achieved by the pursuit of individual lawsuits. (See article: Plaintiffs lawyer rips colleagues over multidistrict litigation fees, pressure tactics by Daniel Fisher, December 11, 2020).

Year after year, these deteriorating practices, choreographed by law firms such as Perkins Coie and Winston & Strawn, get more dictatorial and more secret. Corporate perpetrators are exonerated and their interests preserved. The plaintiffs’ interests in punishment and public disclosures of the crimes for all the world to see are undermined or destroyed.

Until the nineteen seventies, according to trial lawyer James C. Sturdevant, depositions were publicly filed on completion, and plaintiff attorneys did not enter into overreaching “protective orders” shrouded in extreme secrecy, that often exclude review by the wrongfully injured or next of kin plaintiffs themselves.

This is only one example of the inside shredding of the tort law system that evolved over the centuries from medieval England to serve the just interests of the aggrieved. Our U.S. Constitution’s seventh amendment guarantees a right to trial by jury. In recent decades, notwithstanding millions of wrongfully injured people, there has been a very sharp decline in civil jury trials, leading to articles titled “the vanishing jury trial.” This is just what the scheming corporate attorneys have been promoting with the tempted plaintiff attorneys growing accustomed to “sue and settle,” in the pejorative phrase of the remaining courageous trial lawyers.

The direct assaults on the Tort system since about 1980 have come from state legislators – indentured to corporate campaign cash – passing bills severely restricting plaintiffs’ rights. These include caps on damages for the most severe wrongful injuries (e.g., California’s notorious MICRA [Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act] Law limiting damages for serious medical malpractice to $250,000 for a lifetime of pain and suffering). (See more on MICRA at ConsumerWatchdog.org).

Other destructions of access to justice are limiting tort liabilities for corporations such as those operating atomic power plants and outright immunities for companies favored by Congress (such as the manufacturers of vaccines). The list of obstructions to a wronged plaintiff’s right to his or her day in court is long and cruel. (Visit the Center for Justice and Democracy for more details).

Another assault on the right of people to use tort law affects everybody who signs those fine print contracts that sometimes extend into dozens of pages. Airbnb ties up homeowners with a fine print contract peonage totaling over 160 pages.

This contract servitude keeps getting more brazen by these dictatorial corporations – almost none of whose contract terms and conditions competitively differ from one to another. People are forced to give up charging defendants with liability for wrongdoing and to accept prohibitions on the right to a jury trial. These and other handcuffs herd citizens into private compulsory arbitration, favoring the company, in cases of any dispute.

In short, these “mice print” unilateral contracts (as Senator Elizabeth Warren calls them) are destroying tort law.

Because we don’t study at all in high school and college these two great pillars of freedom – the citizen laws of torts and contracts, most Americans have little idea of what they are being stripped of by autocratic companies and their law firms. Ideally, you should have the right to freely negotiate contracts you enter into with vendors. Ideally, should you be wrongfully injured, you should be free to retain a contingent fee attorney (paying only if there is a recovery) and have your full day in court without all kinds of corporate-bred rules to bend the contest in their favor.

Alas, year after year, these freedoms are taken away piece by piece with little media coverage and no marches or demonstrations. The autocratic corporatization of the law would have shocked our founding fathers and the patriots who defied King George III in 1776.

Can we not rise to the challenge of protecting and advancing these two pillars of tort and contract freedoms being subjected to systematic destruction by corporate predators and their toady politicians? Last heard, “We the People” are constitutionally sovereign, and we far outnumber these insatiable, profit-maximizing corporatists.

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