New Book Shines Ways to Rebound Our Historic Postal Service

By Ralph Nader
November 11, 2021

The preventable plight of the U.S. Postal Service, with its over 30,000 post offices, is an important issue for all Americans.  When President Donald J. Trump’s donor and henchman Louis DeJoy became postmaster general in 2020, he started to dismantle the agency.  Thousands of citizens responded by participating in demonstrations that revealed a deep civic commitment to preserving the people’s post office.

While DeJoy triggered a crisis that threatened the presidential election process, attacks on the Postal Service have been ongoing for decades.  The anti-postal campaigns by corporate interests have remained a continuing source of frustration to those of us who have observed the Postal Service’s decline due to unimaginative management, a deck stacked to favor for-profit rivals such as FedEx and UPS, and unfair financial obligations and delivery prohibitions (for example, on wine and beer) imposed by Congress.

The Postal Service is facing a manufactured financial crisis that is primarily the result of a congressional mandate dating back to 2006 that required the agency to pre-fund the next seventy-five years of retiree health benefits in one decade.  This pre-payment requirement is something that no other federal government agency or private corporation attempts to do—not to mention that there is no actuarial justification for such an accelerated payment schedule.  The pre-funding requirement effectively forces the Postal Service to finance a $72 billion retiree health benefits fund for future employees who have not even been born yet.  Despite these facts, Congress has refused to correct the host of problems resulting from its requirements.

The financial pressure resulting from the burdensome pre-payment schedule has led to negative impacts on service for all postal patrons.  Postmaster General DeJoy’s ten-year plan proposes saving the agency money through cutting service and raising prices, which is a formula for sabotage.  He already introduced service changes that have delayed the delivery of all first-class letters on a permanent basis.  As a result, mail is now being delivered up to two days later than before.

Unlike DeJoy, our first postmaster general, Benjamin Franklin, was known for his can-do verve and his appreciation of efficiency and innovation.  Franklin was eager to find ways to have the mail delivered more quickly.  As a stand-alone structure, he never would have imagined that someday post offices would mutate into a counter or kiosk inside a Staples store—or some other big-box store or shopping mall—as recent postmasters general have urged and widely advertised.

The need for postal reform is not just a matter of endangered post offices, disappearing blue mailboxes, slow mail delivery, or the fight to maintain delivery on Saturday, important as these issues are.  Instead of disabling and eventually dismantling the Postal Service, this is the moment to expand postal services.  Congress especially must act to protect rural communities, small businesses, the elderly, and the disabled, among others, by reasserting its authority over the Postal Service and putting a stop to irresponsible cutbacks.  These policies not only threaten the future of the Postal Service in the long term; in the short term, they harm the ability of small businesses to carry out their operations in a timely manner and inhibit the elderly’s ability to receive essential medications by mail.  They also drive ever more consumers away from the Postal Service and toward commercial delivery corporations such as UPS and FedEx.

Post offices ought to offer an honest notary service (badly needed in an era of robo-signings), sales of fishing and hunting licenses, and an option to have gifts wrapped, among other new services.  The Postal Service should accept wine and beer for delivery as FedEx and UPS do, and start delivering groceries as well.  In addition, there is the widespread need for postal banking, given many millions of Americans are without bank accounts.  This service actually existed until 1966 when the political lobbying of bankers terminated the successful and accessible program in communities throughout our country.  The Postal Service recently started a pilot program to test check-cashing services in four select post offices on the East Coast.  This program needs to be expanded to more post offices and be better publicized.

The future potential of the Postal Service is made clear in the just published book First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat (City Lights Books) by Christopher W. Shaw, which could not be more timely.  Shaw investigates why this essential service is in danger, explains how to fight back against its dismantling, and explores what can be done to improve and expand our postal system and have more consumer representation on the Postal Service Board of Governors.

Ninety Members of Congress have called on the Postal Service Board of Governors to remove Postmaster General DeJoy.  In addition to DeJoy’s ruinous USPS policies, he is under investigation by the FBI over illegal political fundraising tactics, and DeJoy’s family has financial ties with XPO Logistics, a company that in April the Postal Service awarded a multi-million-dollar contract.  With the terms of two Postal Service Board of Governors expiring in one month, it’s time for President Biden to appoint new members who will not behave like rubber stamps for DeJoy and his destructive time in office.

The Postal Service is a fundamental institution that binds our country together.  It can and should be updated and freed from the shackles of corporations.  Showing up is half of democracy, so the question for citizens today is: “Are we going to show up for our post office?”  Shaw’s book lights the path forward for all Americans.

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Lament of a Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio Yankee Fan

By Ralph Nader
November 5, 2021

Another World Series – the twelfth in a row – without the New York Yankees, the richest franchise in the Major Leagues. The reason for this fall of the once formidable Yankee baseball dynasty is not difficult to discern. It is inept, smug management starting with the 23-year reign of General Manager Brian Cashman, to the amiable but overwhelmed manager, Aaron Boone. Against other baseball managers, Mr. Boone is out of his league. Competitors with far less money – think Tampa Bay – have teams that have run circles around the Yankees with better, faster, younger talent and greater drive to win.

Until recently, the Yankees’ management strategy has been self-defeating. For years they traded their minor league talent for over-the-hill, injury-prone MLB stars. Some trades worked out, but most loaded the Yankees’ treasury with huge financial obligations for very little return on the field. The result is that they strip-mined their farm teams and rejected the historic winning formula of growing their own talent that brought them 27 World Series championships until 2009. Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Derek Jeter, and scores of others made their way to the fabled stadium directly from Yankee Triple A teams.

Although recently, the Yankees are respecting the importance of their farm team players – Aaron Judge is an example – their trading acumen is almost non-existent. Just this year, two players on the Boston Red Sox’s – Eovaldi and Whitlock – gave the Yankees fits. These former Yankees were traded to Boston for no talent in return.

Moreover, the Yankees have been hobbled with so many injuries that their radio broadcasters, John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman started a regular Injury Report. True, it included players from other teams, but the Yankees seem to win that dubious race with missing games totals. Our LeagueOfFans.org has vainly tried to seek an explanation of this unprecedented injury epidemic but to no avail. Our letters have gone unanswered. (See: “When It Comes to Injuries MLB Teams Remain Clueless” A League of Fans Special Report).

The Yankees have set another record. No baseball team announcers on radio have to narrate so many advertisements, not even close. Not only are these torrents of commercial pitches between innings and within innings of play, but I’ve heard ads by one announcer stashed inside the description of an ongoing play. Each significant move it seems – homers, calls to the bullpen, double plays, stolen bases are “brought to you” by some corporation. Kia brings you homers; Geico brings you change of pitchers. It is so irritating to listeners that one wonders why the advertisers pay top dollar to irritate the listeners and ruin their potential customers’ enjoyment of play on the field. No comment from the Yankees’ head office when such an inquiry was made.

See our list of some leading irritating advertisers:

  1. Geico Insurance
  2. Barnes Law Firm
  3. Kia Auto Dealers
  4. “Drive-by Jeep”
  5. Mutual of America Financial Group
  6. Spectrum Mobile
  7. Nissan auto mfg.
  8. DuckDuckGo
  9. Centric Brakes
  10. Chock Full o’Nuts coffee
  11. Honda
  12. Hyundai
  13. Wendy’s
  14. Indian Point Nuke
  15. Audi

The sports media seems to fall all over the Yankees. The post-game meeting between Aaron Boone and the reporters exhibits an all-time low in patsy questions. Here’s one: “How did you feel watching Stanton’s home run?” Never any criticism, challenge or revelation by these reporters clutching their pads and wondering why there is reduced coverage in the media of their submissions. (At the least, asking why Boone took out Domingo German, pitching a no-hitter with one out in the 8th inning after giving up a double with a lead of 4-0. German’s successor proceeded to give up five runs in a 5-4 loss. Afterwards, German told a reporter he was feeling stronger in the 8th than earlier in the game).

The New York Times sports editors, infatuated with European soccer and its managerial jostlings off the field, cut back Major League Baseball coverage, with few exceptions, to a column of tiny print conveying scores and upcoming games. Forget the box-scores or the reporting on yesterday’s games. No time for the nation’s pastime for still millions of fans.

What should fans do? Demand a changing of the guard by the Steinbrenner brothers whose father would not have tolerated such unsuitable management, quite apart from his public outbursts. The Yankees are not keeping up with the rising youthful talent on other teams, many of them spectacular Hispanic “super-stars” in their early twenties. Historically, Yankees also have been very tardy recruiting Black players and the team has lost out from that indifference.

The biggest surprise in this saga of a fallen baseball empire has been the reticence and the passivity of the Yankee fans who made the Bronx cheer a mark of their displeasure from the stands. They have been given losing teams shaped by failing management that also overcharges their fans. From their homes, bars and vehicles, they are treated as advertisement bait with the play-by-play of the game as a secondary consideration by the Yankee profiteers.

Gone are the days of Mel Allen when the ads were only between innings, when players suffered very few injuries despite inferior safety equipment and field conditions (as with no helmets, gloves or padding on the walls) and fans were more respected. Sure, there is now free agency for the players, but how about some relief and smart leadership from new management for the Fans, especially those bypassed lower-income aficionados.

Fans of the Yankees, arouse, you have nothing to lose but your team’s losses as far as you can see.

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“On Liberty” – Judge Learned Hand’s Wisdom from 1944 More True Today

By Ralph Nader
October 29, 2021

When I was in Law School, among the most revered legal opinions were those by Judge Learned Hand of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. They were precisely reasoned, not verbose, and reflected a very cultivated sense of justice, in the judgment of my law school professors. We were, nonetheless, encouraged to critique them in class.

What impressed me most about Judge Hand was a brief address he delivered in 1944, in the midst of World War II, to an audience gathered in New York’s Central Park on the occasion of “I Am an American Day.”

There was every temptation to give a “red, white and blue” speech of exuberant patriotic rhetoric. After all, the battles on the European and Pacific fronts were furious and producing mass casualties on all sides. Judge Hand resisted narrating the customary, nationalistic exaltations. Instead, he provided gentle transcendental wisdom for the ages. He spoke of people as being either the progenitors or destroyers of ‘liberty,’ as he broadly and deeply defined that abused word. We give birth or foster the light or darkness of a society. We are responsible, by clear inference, for allowing the concentrations of tyrannical exercises of power by the avaricious, despotic few over the many.

Judge Hand was fallible in his short discourse. Immigrants started to come to settle in America in the 17th century seeking various freedoms from oppression and want.  Unfortunately, these freedoms were collectively exercised at a deadly price to the First Natives of the continent – who bore the brutal brunt of genocide, terror, and armed seizure of their lands.

Read Judge Hand’s entire remarks below and note their prophetic pertinence for addressing today’s entrenched power brokers who put excessive profits over principle as they deepen and expand the ravaging corporate state.

The “Spirit of Liberty”

A speech given by Judge Learned Hand on May 21, 1944, in celebration of I Am an American Day.

We have gathered here to affirm a faith, a faith in a common purpose, a common conviction, a common devotion. Some of us have chosen America as the land of our adoption; the rest have come from those who did the same. For this reason we have some right to consider ourselves a picked group, a group of those who had the courage to break from the past and brave the dangers and the loneliness of a strange land. What was the object that nerved us, or those who went before us, to this choice? We sought liberty; freedoms from oppression, freedom from want, freedom to be ourselves. This we then sought; this we now believe that we are by way of winning.

What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it. And what is this liberty which must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty, and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check upon their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few; as we have learned to our sorrow.

What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the mind of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned but never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest.

And now in that spirit, that spirit of an America which has never been, and which may never be; nay, which never will be except as the conscience and courage of Americans create it; yet in the spirit of that America which lies hidden in some form in the aspirations of us all; in the spirit of that America for which our young men are at this moment fighting and dying; in that spirit of liberty and of America I ask you to rise and with me pledge our faith in the glorious destiny of our beloved country.

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GOP Senators Reduced to McConnell Mush!

By Ralph Nader
October 22, 2021

“Mush” barks McConnell and forty-nine Republican Senators, as if tied to a dog sled obey. The malicious McConnell – easily the most powerfully brutish, corporatist, citizen-blocking, lawless, corrupt Senator in modern American history – doesn’t even bother polling his Senators for their yea or nay on a myriad of votes. The Republican Senators are obedient automations obeying McConnell’s demands.

McConnell is a control freak in the most powerful legislature in the world. He relishes stopping everything for the people while bending over for his corporate paymasters from Wall Street to Houston and to the Koch brothers.

Easily re-elected every six years due to the default of an anemic Kentucky State Democratic Party, McConnell is a daily, snarling obstruction of justice. It is not just political. He has psychological problems. As an elderly, pouting dictator he revels in being called “the Grim Reaper” and “the Guardian of Gridlock.”

The lives and livelihoods of the American people are afflicted, harmed, deprived, undervalued, and disrespected by McConnell, a pasty corporation masquerading as a U.S. Senator. He sits on great personal wealth and dutifully represents the wealthy with a cynical disregard for the abuses of outlaw former President Trump and the attack on our nation’s rule of law.

Nothing matters to the forty-nine Senators whose principal concern is to avoid a primary challenge and the unleashing of Internet vitriol against them and their families. The cowardly Senators rationalize their subservience, believing dissent is futile and goes nowhere, so why suffer the aggravation.

A good number of Senators, to be sure, are pathetic mini-McConnell’s or aspire to be. Others have minds of their own, are educated, and have worldly experience. In the past, led by stalwart leaders such as McConnell’s predecessor, Kentucky Senator John Sherman Cooper, they would seek to get some things done for the country and provide some necessities for the people on Main Street. Alas, the citizenry has no opportunity to have such GOP representation. The great majority of GOP Senators have conceded their role and are narcissistic ditto-heads of their evil leader.

Surprisingly many Republican voters, sometimes a majority of them, favor President Biden’s proposals. These include childcare, paid family leave, expanded Medicare, higher taxes on the super-rich and global corporations, raising a frozen federal minimum wage (now at $7.50 per hour), support for better healthcare for the elderly, lowering gouging “pay or die” drug prices, doing something about student loan rip-offs, cleaner air and water, solar energy, and stronger regulation of the Wall Street Barons.

Granted, none of that matters to mad McConnell. But it should matter to Senator Robert Portman (R-OH) (retiring), Richard Shelby (R-AL) (retiring) a former plaintiff tort attorney, Charles Grassley (R-IA) walking easily into his last successful re-election, even Richard Burr (R-NC) (retiring) and wealthy Mitt Romney (R-UT). What do they have to worry about?

It is not as if the House GOP is much better. There, too, there is no dissent, with a couple of easy vote exceptions, from Bakersfield, California tyrant Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, a Trump toady.

Sometimes more is going on within GOP ranks that is not evident. Some GOP Senators lack self-respect and fail to voice support for legislation that a majority of Republican voters want but that is derided and opposed by “the Grim Reaper.”

Some fear losing campaign money. Some vulnerable Senators, who oppose popular bills that would gain them votes, they fear a primary opponent. But others have no concern with raising campaign money; they come from slam-dunk, safe states and could easily overpower any primary challenger. Remember, it only takes three or four out of the forty-nine to secure passage of these bills, taking into account the opposition of Senators Manchin and Sinema. Senate Democrats do have some dissenters or those who threaten to oppose, unlike the goose-stepping Republicans.

Without mind-readers, penetrating psychologists, psychiatrists or somehow overhearing the lawmakers’ private confessions, we may have to wait for the post-retirement regrets, remorse, and forthright remembrances of these non-profiles in courage to explain this wholesale abdication of responsibility by the GOP Senators.

Mush, mush orders the leader to his dog sled!

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Reporter’s Alert: Part VI

By Ralph Nader
October 14, 2021

Reporters at major newspapers and magazines are hard to reach by telephone. Today it is increasingly hard to converse with them about timely scoops, leads, gaps in coverage, and corrections to published articles.

We started an online webpage: Reporter’s Alert. From time to time, we use Reporter’s Alert to present suggestions for important reporting on topics that are either not covered or not covered thoroughly. Reporting that just nibbles on the periphery won’t attract much public attention or be noticed by decision-makers. Here is the sixth installment of suggestions:

1. Numerous people have been asking me “What’s happened to all those lawsuits against Trump?” Trump has escaped the grips of the law for years, most recently the stalled civil justice (tort law) suits by several women claiming sexual assaults, by prosecutors in New York, Washington, D.C., and Georgia. Trump has even managed to escape, so far, depositions under oath, including one that Robert Mueller should have demanded. This is so remarkable that there should be a seminar at Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown Law Schools about how Trump has escaped, with all the ways his lawyers have shielded this serial outlaw from federal, state, and local laws.

To make his escapes more current, since Trump is a clear-cut violator of criminal statutes, including the Hatch Act and the Anti-Deficiency statute, obstruction of justice, again and again, brazenly and openly, one might expect the Justice Department should be readying some law enforcement. See letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland recounting the DOJ’s avoidance of its duties vis-à-vis Trump’s serial violations, thus demonstrating that Donald J. Trump is indeed repeatedly ABOVE THE LAW.

Also remarkable is that this topic has to be suggested to the Fourth Estate as a major, comprehensive inquiry.

2. More states are recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day, giving rise to the need for a broad report on all the treaties tribal nations signed with the U.S. government that are still intact and that are still violated by the U.S. government. Recall for example, on Thursday July 9, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court had occasion to recognize the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s rights to the land in much of Tulsa and eastern Oklahoma as being part of their reservation. (See, https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/19pdf/18-9526_9okb.pdf). There will be fascinating revelations from a report on this topic.

3. State legislatures and governors in many states are using “pandemic” pretexts to eliminate rights and democratic procedures. In California, which has one of the more liberal legislatures, lawmakers are taking bills to the floor discarding past rules providing every bill have committee staff analysis and a legislative hearing with questions from legislators, and testimony from citizens. Assembly Bill 2167 is one such example, favoring the insurance industry. Imagine what more conservative state legislatures are doing. Also, the California State Assembly voted to allow votes on bills without members being present in the chamber, despite an opinion from the state’s legislative counsel that it likely violates the state Constitution.

Governors, citing the pandemic, have issued dubious executive orders that let vendors in healthcare avoid the tort laws for their negligent (or worse) injuries to innocent persons. For reporters, the quest is to find out how widespread these strictures have become and how permanent.

4. Sports injuries are more prevalent than ever before. Despite, more advanced knowledge, training, and self-care by athletes, professional teams are experiencing so many recurrent injuries that some sports announcers have started a regular “Injury Report” on sports radio. In baseball, injuries have become epidemic, when in the 1950s and 1960s they were quite rare. It is not a candidly discussed subject among the sports media and fans receive few if any explanations. The injury epidemic is so pronounced that the Yankees baseball radio announcer has started a daily Injury Report brought to you by an orthopedic practice ad in New York.

Some reasons suggested are (1) the players are bigger, and (2) the play is more strenuous. In baseball, pitchers’ arms start getting strained in their teenage years, given the dreams about throwing 100 miles per hour fastballs in the major leagues. These days after every pitch announcers note what the mph was. Tommy John operations are numerous every year. With the ever-greater emphasis on home runs, players are becoming muscle-bound with added risks of straining a ligament. Certainly today, baseball professionals have better equipment – helmets, gloves, safer shoes, and they are protected by padded walls in the outfield. These advances prevent injuries, yet today’s players are placed on the injury list far more than those in the past. What with the many years of covering up concussions in football etc., it seems important to look into this broad area. (See, leagueoffans.org). Sports reporters take note!

5. What’s happened to NASA? It has increasingly become an agency that outsources or contracts out, losing the technical and scientific capacity to better pay offers by the contractors. The brain drain is rampant: nearly 80% of NASA’s budget is contracted out. The Old NASA did far more things itself and kept its intellectual property close to the vest. NASA is now a shadow of itself, a trademark on press releases; so much so that it is losing control over policy and other matters to the contractors. A reporter should get copies of these contracts and see the extent of the multiple giveaways, corporate welfare, and undue influence taking the search all the way to congressional committees.

P.S. Next week from October 22-23, 2021, corporate crime specialists from around the world will attend the symposium at Georgetown Law Center titled, Imagining a World Without Corporate Criminal Law (Register for the event here).

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Solar Energy on the Frontlines and Old-Fashioned Clotheslines

By Ralph Nader
October 7, 2021

Solar energy comes to Earthlings in many ways. Ancient Persians used passive solar architecture. East Africans about the same time funneled cool ocean wind through tunnels to cool themselves.

Now at long last, solar energy is outpacing new fossil fuel and nuclear facilities on price, environmental safety, and speed of installation.

One use of solar that has not received enough attention is drying clothes with clotheslines or clothes racks. Before global warming and our climate crisis became a public concern, some local governments banned backyard clotheslines as community eyesores. Fortunately, 20 states have passed “Right to Dry Laws” that allow people to use this simple low-tech and appropriate technology to reduce fuel consumption.

A big booster of hang-drying your laundry is environmentalist Joe Wachunas from Portland, Oregon. Twenty years ago, while traveling as an exchange student in Italy, he learned that only three percent of Italian households owned a dryer. Italians, he noticed, dried their clothes on clotheslines, high-rise balconies, or in open windows catching sun and cross breezes.

Wachunas has competed against dryers, taking only eight minutes longer to hang up a load of clothes than it takes to load a dryer, (not to mention a trip to and from a laundromat). Also, by line-drying, he estimates a savings of $600 a year per family, and your air-dried materials will last longer and shrink less.

As you might think, the great majority of people in the US use a clothes dryer. About 80 percent of Americans use dryers that gobble up more electricity in a household than other appliances (except for refrigerators). These folks will find moving to clean and green drying has many benefits.

Last March, Mary Marlowe Leverette wrote a piece on the Top 10 Reasons to Line Dry Laundry. You can save money, promote energy conservation, give your clothes more freshness, less wear and tear, increase your physical activity, help whiten and disinfect laundry, reduce fire risks (clothes dryer fires number around 15,000 structure fires, 15 deaths, and 400 injuries annually in the U.S. with property losses estimated at $99 million).

There is also the intangible value of peacefulness and harmony with nature when you spend some ten minutes to enjoy the weather. When the weather does not permit, indoor line drying increases humidity in a home during dry winter weather.

Finally, you feel you are making a small difference to protect the environment and set an example in your neighborhood or apartment building. Who knows what good things can spontaneously emerge while chatting with the neighbor or having backyard conversations, uninterrupted by iPhone distractions. The venerable clothesline makes common sense.

Also consider rejecting the crazy leaf blower (See: Shut off the leaf blowers and restore peace to suburbia, by Peter Bahouth) and the noisy gas powered lawn mower – two contributions to pollution and obesity in America. Maybe a gaze at a fluttering clothesline in the sun will persuade some users of these belching technologies on small lawns to pick up a rake and start using the old fuel-free push lawn mower. Such personal choices often lead people to become advocates for broader solar systems.

Rivulets, brooks, and streams make possible the mighty Mississippi River. Billions of people can do their part to usher in the use of more of the sun to help save the Earth from the man-made climate crisis/catastrophe.

Clothespins, anyone?

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How the “Polarized” Political Parties Work Together Against the Public Interest

By Ralph Nader
October 1, 2021

“Polarization” is the word most associated with the positions of the Republicans and Democrats in Congress. The mass media and the commentators never tire of this focus, in part because such clashes create the flashes conducive to daily coverage.

The quiet harmony between the two parties created by the omnipresent power of Big Business and other powerful single-issue lobbyists is often the status quo. That’s why there are so few changes in this country’s politics.

In many cases, the similarities of both major parties are tied to the fundamental concentration of power by the few over the many. In short, the two parties regularly agree on anti-democratic abuses of power. Granted, there are always a few exceptions among the rank & file. Here are some areas of Republican and Democrat concurrence:

1. The Duopoly shares the same stage on a militaristic, imperial foreign policy and massive unaudited military budgets. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Pentagon budget was voted out of a House committee by the Democrats and the GOP with $24 billion MORE than what President Biden asked for from Congress. Neither party does much of anything to curtail the huge waste, fraud, and abuse of corporate military contractors, or the Pentagon’s violation of federal law since 1992 requiring annual auditable data on DOD spending be provided to Congress, the president, and the public.

2. Both Parties allow unconstitutional wars violating federal laws and international treaties that we signed onto long ago, including restrictions on the use of force under the United Nations Charter.

3. Both Parties ignore the burgeoning corporate welfare subsidies, handouts, giveaways, and bailouts turning oceans of inefficient, mismanaged, and coddled profit-glutted companies into tenured corporate welfare Kings.

4. Both Parties decline to crack down on the nationwide corporate crime spree. They don’t even like to use the phrase “corporate crime” or “corporate crime wave.” They prefer to delicately allude to “white-collar crime.”

Trillions of dollars are at stake every year, yet neither party holds corporate crime hearings nor proposes an update of the obsolete, weak federal corporate criminal laws.

In some instances, there is no criminal penalty at all for willful and knowing violations of safety regulatory laws (e.g., the auto safety and aviation safety laws). Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is trying to find just one Republican Senator to co-sponsor the “Hide No Harm Act” that would make it a crime for a corporate officer to knowingly conceal information about a corporate action or product that poses the danger of death or serious physical injury to consumers or workers.

5. Both Parties allow Wall Street’s inexhaustibly greedy CEOs to prey on innocents, including small investors. They also do nothing to curb hundreds of billions of dollars in computerized billing fraud, especially in the health care industry. (See, License to Steal by Malcolm K. Sparrow and a GAO Report about thirty years ago).

6. The third leading cause of death in the U.S. is fatalities from preventable problems in hospitals and clinics. According to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine study in 2015, a conservative estimate is that 250,000 people yearly are dying from preventable conditions. Neither Congress nor the Executive Branch has an effort remotely up to the scale required to reduce this staggering level of mortality and morbidity. Nor is the American Medical Association (AMA) engaging with this avoidable epidemic.

7. Both Parties sped bailout of over $50 billion to the airline industry during Covid-19, after the companies had spent about $45 billion on unproductive stock buybacks over the last few years to raise the metrics used to boost executive pay.

8. Both Parties starve corporate law enforcement budgets in the Justice Department, the regulatory agencies, and such departments as Labor, Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, and Health and Human Services. The Duopoly’s view is that there be no additional federal cops on the corporate crime beat.

9. Both Parties prostrate themselves before the bank-funded Federal Reserve. There are no congressional audits, no congressional oversight of the Fed’s secret, murky operations, and massive printing of money to juice up Wall Street, while keeping interest rates near zero for trillions of dollars held by over one hundred million small to midsize savers in America.

10. Both Parties are wedded to constant and huge bailouts of the risky declining, uncompetitive (with solar and wind energy) nuclear power industry. This is corporate socialism at its worst. Without your taxpayer and ratepayer dollars, nuclear plants would be closing down faster than is now the case. Bipartisan proposals for more nukes come with large subsidies and guarantees by Uncle Sam.

11. Both Parties hate Third Parties and engage in the political bigotry of obstructing their ballot access (See: Richard Winger’s Ballot Access News), with hurdles, harassing lawsuits, and exclusions from public debates. The goal of both parties is to stop a competitive democracy.

12. Both Parties overwhelmingly rubber-stamp whatever the Israeli government wants in the latest U.S. military weaponry, the suppression of Palestinians and illegal occupation of the remaining Palestinian lands, and the periodic slaughter of Gazans with U.S. weapons. The Duopoly also supports the use of the U.S. veto in the UN Security Council to insulate Israel from UN sanctions.

13. Continuing Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich’s debilitating internal deforms of congressional infrastructures, the Democrats have gone along with the GOP’s shrinking of committee and staff budgets, abolition of the crucial Office of Technology Assessment’s (OTA) budget, and concentration of excessive power in the hands of the Speaker and Senate leader. This little noticed immolation reduces further the legislature’s ability to oversee the huge sprawling Executive Branch. The erosion of congressional power is furthered by the three-day work week Congress has reserved for itself.

14. Even on what might seem to be healthy partisan differences, the Democrats and the GOP agree not to replace or ease out Trump’s Director of the Internal Revenue Service, a former corporate loophole tax lawyer, or the head of the U.S. Postal Service, a former profiteer off the Post Office who will shortly curtail service even more than he did in 2020 (See: First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threatby Christopher W Shaw).

Right now, both Parties are readying to give over $50 billion of your tax money to the very profitable under-taxed computer chip industry companies like Intel and Nvidia, so they can make more profit-building plants in the U.S. These companies are loaded with cash. They should invest their own money and stop the stock buyback craze. Isn’t that what capitalism is all about?

Both Parties vote as if the American middle-class taxpayer is a sleeping sucker.  Politicians from both parties exploit voters who don’t do their homework on voting records and let the lawmakers use the people’s sovereign power (remember the Constitution’s “We the People”) against them on behalf of the big corporate bosses.

Sleep on America, you have nothing to lose but your dreams.

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Teach Youngsters About Corporatism’s Harms

By Ralph Nader
September 24, 2021

If you think elementary, middle, and high school students know too little history, geography, and government, try asking them about the corporations that command so many hours of their day, their attention, what they consume, and their personal horizons.

Howard Zinn published A Young People’s History of the United States (2009), to go with his best-selling pioneering work, A People’s History of the United States (1980), but he didn’t do justice to all the modern corporate controls of just about every facet of American life, including educational institutions.

Today, school children are engulfed by corporate apps and software, textbooks biased toward the corporate definitions of an economy, and myths about “free markets.” For years free school materials and videos produced or sponsored by business groups, including the coal and nuclear industries, have flooded elementary classes. Our report: Hucksters in the Classroom: A Review of Industry Propaganda in Schools by Sheila Harty (1979), documented this mercantile assault on education. Students even take tests designed by corporate institutions.

Eleven-year-olds have asked me “What is a corporation?” Teenagers ask, “What’s corporate crime?” or “What’s a company union?” These are the same youngsters who click on the handcuffing fine-print contracts of internet companies that own social media apps such as Instagram and TikTok. These are the same youngsters who are lied to daily by corporations about harmful junk foods and drugs, and whose parents overwhelmingly work in anti-union offices and factories.

Forget about students knowing or learning about “The Commons,” although they listen to music broadcast on the public airwaves and probably have visited a national park. (For more on The Commons see: Think Like a Commoner: A Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons by David Bollier). Students haven’t studied “corporate welfare,” even though taxpaying parents subsidize these government giveaways, handouts, and bailouts to demanding, mismanaged, or criminal corporations with power.

Schools forever have separated students from giant slices of reality – historical and contemporary. Much of this ignored or distorted reality shapes present conditions, such as the various controls of the many by the few. But today’s corporate plutocracy is at a different level of penetration altogether. Shucking past taboos, corporate marketeers hard sell directly to children bypassing or undermining parental authority. What they sell is obesity, diabetes, promiscuity, dangerous addictions and violence in their merciless “entertainment programs” and narratives about armed force, however illegal it may be.

In terms of sheer time, range of exposure, and planned peer group pressures, corporations are raising our children day and night. Big companies do strategic planning about everything affecting our children. There are no longer adequate limits and boundaries on corporatism or protections of commercial-free zones.

It’s getting worse. Eyewear for “augmented reality” from Facebook and rapidly expanding “artificial intelligence” induce dependency and more sedentary living. People from Bill Joy to Stephen Hawking to Elon Musk have strongly warned about these emerging technologies and the consequential loss of freedom and democracy.

I’d like to invite some open-minded educators to consider a six-hour curricula for late middle school through high school students on the modern global corporation. Hour One could be called “Big Corporations are Different from You and Me” illuminating this fast-dominating “artificial person” with all the rights of real humans yet structurally escaping from responsibility, a status of “privileges and immunities” under corporate law[lessness].

Hour Two could be devoted to the history of corporate power so heavily characterized by the costs of their amassing wealth – costs to workers, communities, small businesses, voters, consumers, patients, our governing ways, and, yes, students. Having been told repeatedly about how companies “built America,” students should learn about all the “NOs.” Corporations were operationally entrenched against the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, union organizing, the minimum wage, universal health insurance, early solar energy, mass transit, public campaign financing, and governmental institutions accountable to the citizenry. The most recent big “NOs” are against consumer, labor, and environmental justice and, of course, waging peace instead of forever wars of mayhem and profit have filled volumes of documentation.

Hour Three might run students through all the attempts and reforms by the American people to reign in the destructive, unjust excesses of large companies and their controlling ideology of corporatism. What were the results from all those widespread protests, regulatory actions, prosecutions, and electoral reforms? What are the successes of the peace movement, environmental groups and initiatives by workers, consumers, creators, and defenders of The Commons, (such as the public lands and public airwaves), investors and savers for justice and the common good? What happened to the corporate tax system, the drive for shareholder rights and corporate democracy and, most importantly, the rule of law over corporate power?

Hour FourHour Five, and Hour Six – well, to be continued. That is, if we hear from people interested enough in having this proposal described further.

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What Gives with Newspapers’ Graphic Artists?

By Ralph Nader
September 17, 2021

The old saying that “art follows function” is being reversed by print newspaper editors alarmed over the shorter attention spans of readers who are moving to online news outlets. As a result, newspaper editors have ushered in a golden age for graphic artists giving them huge chunks of newspaper space formerly devoted to reporters and news.

Granted a sea of type from the old pre-TV days won’t work well in today’s visual culture. But there is still the factor of balance to be weighed.

Take, for example, one of our nation’s most serious newspapers – the New York Times. Editors used to value the front-page sections of the Sunday Times and use this space for the most important articles and features. Now editors favor graphic artists and have pushed the articles into reduced space or off the front pages of sections entirely. The readers are losing news content.

To be specific: The Times’s Sunday Business Page on August 15, 2021, devoted 80 percent of its front page to a giant ice cream sundae. That might be one reason the great financial crimes reporter, Gretchen Morgenson, left the Times. She used to regularly be on page one of the Business Page on Sundays giving indigestion to business bosses reading her exposés at breakfast. It didn’t help hearing that the editors wanted to make the section “more business-friendly.”

Long-time popular columnists of the Sunday Business section of the NYT were also dropped perhaps because of this shift in emphasis.

The August 15 NYT’s Sunday Review section, which used to be seen as the most valuable journalistic real estate in the country, offered a page one filled with a black and blue graphic, with an additional huge splash of artistry inside the section straddling the middle of two pages. Imagine the substantive reporting/commentary lost by allowing excessive art to replace function.

The NYT’s Sunday Book Review section devoted three-quarters of the front page to some figurative person in the woods. Ok, I suppose abundant art is more expected almost by definition in the Sunday Styles and the Arts and Leisure Sections, and the artists do not fail the viewing reader who likes newspapers being filled with the equivalent of magazine covers. But real readers want more news and analysis and are willing to leave the displays of modern art to the museums.

Even the photos are often too large, in some cases aspiring to bring a human face to its actual size facing the reader. I would have preferred to read more of Winona LaDuke’s interview and see less of her full-page photo. Some of her most important criticisms of the Tar Sands Pipeline that were left out could have used some of the space used for the photo.

Since graphic arts are replacing content, it seems permissible to have a conversation about such editorial judgments starting with the artists themselves. Do they really think that a full page of graphics, without indicating the stories on the inside of these sections, attracts more readers? Would they think that having just half a page for their visually-conveyed themes would turn off readers? Do they believe art should follow function and not overflow to displace it?

My efforts in the past to reach the NYT’s graphic artists editors on the telephone to discuss more balance when shortchanging readers, who receive less content, have been unsuccessful.

The Sunday Metropolitan Section with plenty of graphics is thin and scarcely tells suburban subscribers what’s going on in the city. Sometimes, bizarre topics take up enormous space with spacious visuals.

The NYT charges about $10 to deliver each Sunday Times to your home (its contractors pay the delivery person, I am told, as little as 35 cents per delivery). Subscribers to the print Sunday Timestend to be older, serious readers wanting content.

Local non-chain weeklies in small towns are only surviving by giving readers real news and features. (Such as the Storm Lake, Iowa paper, Storm Lake Times). Given the price of paper and printing, they cannot afford huge full-page visuals or even many large photographs.

Long ago I started a file titled “Design.” It grew out of the way the auto manufacturers pushed style over safety. They shaped buyers’ tastes with an annual model change heavily defined by visual trivia such as a different grille pattern or fin structure. Year after year, styling pornography displaced engineering integrity, selling vehicles without crucial, available improvements in life-saving safety, fuel efficiency, and pollution control. When art ceases to serve a function, art degrades the latter and debases itself.

Unless that is, art is presented in places plainly reserved to be for “art for art’s sake.”

As artistic displays are allowed to intrude newspapers, with few boundaries, editors are even shrinking the size of the print itself so as often not to be adequately visible. Moreover, using some background colors means some print is unreadable and invites the artists to a tutorial by an optometrist.

More and more the print size and its lightness are sacrificed to graphic layouts which leave readers squinting or leaving.

Can anyone get a NYT graphic arts director to have a conversation on this topic?

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Congress – Collectively Less Than An Inkblot

By Ralph Nader
September 10, 2021

Bruce Fein, constitutional law specialist who has testified before Congress approximately 200 times, calls Congress “an inkblot.” Let’s see if he is exaggerating.

1. Congress has abdicated its duties and constitutional authorities to the president regardless of party affiliation. Presidents start wars, spend unauthorized money recklessly, defy congressional subpoenas, snoop unlawfully on their citizens, and lazily enforce the laws against corporate outlaws flouting the status of an indifferent Congress.

2. Since 1992, Congress has let the Pentagon violate a federal law requiring all federal departments to provide auditable data for its annual budget. By far the DOD has the largest operational budget in Washington and it is ridden with waste and is unauditable, thanks to a weak-willed Congress.

3. To evade its responsibility under the Constitution’s Declare War Clause, Congress resorts to Overseas Contingency Operations, a slush fund for the Pentagon to fight undeclared wars with tens of billions of dollars in discretionary funds. This is abdication big time!

4. Congress doesn’t conduct hearings or broadly investigate “forever” White House wars to determine changes in policies or to stop such wars as it finally did with the Vietnam War. Then, Congress simply cut off the money.

5. Congress is less accessible to citizens’ calls, letters, and emails on policy matters than ever. Yet many members of Congress and Hill staffers become closer to corporate lobbyists who write drafts of legislation before taking members for a wine and dine with campaign cash flowing before and after.

6. Congress starves the IRS budget leaving one trillion dollars a year in uncollected taxes according to IRS chief Charles Rettig. If collected, this money could be used to rebuild our infrastructure needs. The super-rich and giant corporate CEOs laugh all the way to the bank. Tax escapees are feeding at the trough like never before, as Congress aids and abets tax evasion.

7. Members of Congress have allowed, subsidized, and personally benefited from ravaging energy, healthcare, and financial industries. Trillions are wasted annually, with large preventable losses of life and property.

8. Congress has frozen the federal minimum wage at $7.25 per hour, allowed corporations to loot worker pensions, and perpetuated the most anti-labor laws in the western world (e.g., the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947).

9. Congress, repeatedly informed and warned for decades, allows the climate crisis and disruptions to get worse yearly. They’ve long known the future has to be an energy efficient and solarized society. Yet Capitol Hill remains stubbornly fossilized.

10. Perhaps the worst abdication is Congress actively enabling the vast expansion of corporate power over the constitutional sovereignty of the people. Unprecedented immunities and unaccountable harms pose the gravest peril to our posterity. No public hearings, no update of the feeble federal corporate crime laws, and restraining the few federal cops on the corporate crime beat means Congress is overwhelmingly soft on corporate crime.

11. Smug and operating in mostly safe-district silos, members of Congress will not reform our First Branch of government. The debilitating Newt Gingrich changes in 1995 cut committee staff, abolished the critical Office of Technology Assessment, and concentrated power in the hands of the four House and Senate leaders with paralytic effects that were maintained when the Democrats took over and remain in effect to this day.

We used to count on open-minded House and Senate committee chairs to conduct hearings and lay the basis for the enactment of environmental, labor, and consumer laws as well as Freedom of Information and whistleblower rights. No more, committee chairs now have to get permission from the top congressional leaders. The invisible costs to the public need exposure by a large Congressional press corps too occupied with official source journalism.

12. No political institution has gamed public trust into public apathy more skillfully. There are 535 senators and representatives whose names are known. They embody the most powerful legislature in the world and can remedy, diminish, or prevent scores of injustices by lawmaking and oversight of the executive and judicial branches. Yet Congress has so lowered the public’s expectations, by fueling cynicism and always blaming others, that people do not realize how easy it can be to turn Congress around and improve our society. Less than one percent of voters, backed by public opinion can organize such decisive power for change. (See, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think).

People can start with protecting voting rights by organizing small Congress Watchdog groups (call it a hobby) and demand Congress work more than three days a week between long recesses and midweek fundraising.

Of course, I’m referring to Congress collectively. There are some good legislators who are honest and knowledgeable, but they are nowhere near as assertive and networked as they need to be, given the super-serious urgencies of our country and the tormented world around it.

Without adding to this list, it is permissible to charge Attorney Bruce Fein with exaggeration. Congress is less than an inkblot. It’s a streaming vacuum of usurpation that ignores our nation’s basic necessities and jeopardizes our future generations.

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