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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Microchip, Macro Impact, Micro Vision

By Ralph Nader
September 2, 2021

Let’s say you’re looking to invest some savings in the expanding micro-chip industry and a friend hands you the 2021 Annual Report of the Delaware (chartered) Corporation, Microchip Technology, a firm based in Chandler, Arizona. You’re a studious type and want to know what the company is producing before deciding if becoming a shareholder-owner is for you.

The Annual Report is a weighty 200 pages. You start reading. “This past fiscal year has been a year of remarkable performance and resilience for Microchip” …. “Microchip was able to achieve records for net sales…. It was heartening to see the ‘One World, One Microchip’ spirit of our employees.”

But what does Microchip produce, make, manufacture, innovate, distribute, impact, and for whom in particular? You still can’t find out but there are plenty of pages to go. After telling me briefly about their diversity and sustainability goals, the company zeroes in on the management’s proposals that it wishes shareholders to approve. It is all pretty routine stuff: they include the election of directors, a two-for-one stock split, restatement of its Equity Incentive Plan, ratification of their public accounting firm, Ernst & Young, then on to the “Approval of Executive Compensation.”

All this took the report to page 33 and still nothing about what the company actually does. Then the executives running Microchip get down to THEIR business at hand, which is the money they want to be paid. Thirteen pages are devoted to “Executive Compensation,” 16 pages to “compensation of named executive officers,” another four pages on the “Equity Compensation Plan Information” and “Code of Business Conduct and Ethics.” Still nothing about the company’s reason for being.

Suddenly, the Annual Report moves into the land of mind-numbing appendices totaling about 130 pages so abstruse they cannot be summarily described in the Table of Contents.

I moved through the pages warily. Appendix A covers amending the certification of incorporation, followed by an amendment certificate regarding preferred stock, then thirteen pages on the 2004 Equity Incentive Plan mostly for the top brass. Then comes 58 pages containing the usual Form 10-K mandated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The SEC is supposed to protect investors. The first section of this compulsory Form 10-K finally tells us that “We develop, manufacture and sell smart, connected and secure embedded control solutions used by our customers for a wide variety of applications …. Our broad product portfolio is a Total System Solution (TSS) for our customers that provide a large portion of the silicon requirements in their applications.” Hmmm.

Then suddenly in one long sentence, Microchip slides down its abstraction ladder and exposes itself. “Our synergistic product portfolio empowers disruptive growth trends, including 5G, artificial intelligence and machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving, and electric vehicles, in key end markets such as automotive, aerospace and defense, communications, consumer, data centers and computing, and industrial.”

Whoa! Many questions arise as I read on for elaborations of these “disruptive growth trends.” There is a list of products such as medical devices and smart meters containing Microchip’s chips and some mention of product lines, its outsourcing of much of its wafer fabrications and then it is on to SEC disclosure requirements about all boilerplate risks to their operations, whether real or hypothetical for some 19 additional pages. More pages about risks, micro-financial statements regarding subsidiaries, exhibits, consolidated balance sheets, income statements, and then detailed notes to these Financial Aggregations. The Report’s final pages end with ever more micro-data of interest to accounting specialists and the cautious SEC.

Company annual reports are obviously self-congratulatory. They, of course, claim they care for the environment, are in compliance with laws, and sensitive to their “human resources” otherwise known as their workers. But one would never know of any serious problems affecting their products that “empower disruptive growth,” the downsides of how these products are used in such new forays as little questioned 5G, unreliable autonomous cars and unlawfully launched weapons of mass destruction, plus the onrushing automation of all human life.

Nothing along these downstream lines concerns Microchip’s leaders who seem OK with ‘we’re just following chip orders.’ The SEC goes along by not requiring different qualities of disclosures and greater shareholder rights. After all, Microchip is only a chip and wafer dispensary, just like the earlier manufacturers of screws, nails, and adhesives. It is as if it is all only a difference in degree instead of major differences in kind for the human race and its exploited natural world.

Microchip knows far more than it is telling. Just like other companies in its industry. “Mums” the word. There are no reflections; it is only about dollars. The Annual Report is telling shareholders to just stick to their monetized appetites and watch the stock split, which makes them feel better along with their 1% dividend.

Not all companies leave their shareholders so deprived of their companies’ information and special forebodings. Publicly held firms such as Interface, Ben & Jerry’s, the early Body Shop, and former Midas Muffler, spoke to the wider ranges of corporate obligations beyond the bottom line.

However, most corporations, especially giants like Apple and ExxonMobil, want it both ways. They want to be viewed legally as “persons” to receive all the constitutional rights as do real human beings, in addition to their added immunities and privileges as enormous powerful artificial entities. Yet they then constantly behave as if they are just amoral (some would say immoral) entities sworn to only maximize profits for shareholders. Why then have the bosses stripped their companies’ owners of almost every power except to say yes to management?

Maybe someday, the giant institutional shareholders – Blackrock, Vanguard, Fidelity, and the large pension funds, etc. – may start treating the companies they invest in by standards and expectations accorded to their purported status as “persons.”

The skeptics may reply: “why should they, they’re large top-down corporations too.”

True enough. The change will come from the people through controlling their Congress. It takes one percent or less of voters, organized in congressional districts and reflecting public opinion, to get things accomplished.  Basic corporate reform is difficult but easier than you think. (See, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think).

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A Beacon Rises from Capitol Hill

By Ralph Nader

August 26, 2021

The idea didn’t come from a newly arrived Harvard or Yale Congressional staffer. They mostly feel sufficiently anointed to the ways of Capitol Hill – getting along with style while going along for ambition.

Jacob Wilson, hailing from Pomona College in California, has a different definition of self-respect, and of his own humble significance in the furiously moribund culture of our most constitutionally powerful branch of government. He most certainly doesn’t fit in with the staff on loan from the corporatist canyons of K Street.

Wilson came from the peace movement – Peace Action – to be exact. He pitched practical peace to one Congressional office after another. His important message was not exactly a head turner, he discovered. War, military armaments’ lobbyists signaling campaign donations get the attention at the abdicating war-permissive legislature.

Wilson, 28, and Peace Action opposed the wars of Empire, nuclear proliferation and the giant, wasteful military budget authorized by both the Democratic and Republican Parties in the Congress. Once inside, he started thinking sequentially, observing that the staffers were either uneducated about these and other momentous issues, or they were indentured to corporate lobbyists for whom the doors were open. Corporate lobbyists are experts at cultivating Capitol Hill support with campaign contributions or by wining and dining our public servants. and other convenient facilities.

Wilson wondered why there weren’t more staff from the civic community, from those citizen advocacy groups that, over the decades, provided critiques and proposals for improved, responsive government that proved so accurate.

After joining Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI)’s office as a press secretary, Wilson in his free time began asking chiefs-of-staff and legislative directors about getting progressive employees of members together into what became the Congressional Progressive Staff Association (CPSA). They were very responsive.

Over a year old, CPSA has over 550 staff members, including 175 senior staff from the House and recently some from the Senate. Given its unprecedented nature, this is an impressive number. CPSA has been given formal recognition by the Congressional Administrative Committees so that it can use Capitol Hill rooms rent free for its gatherings.

Hundreds of official source journalists covering the Capitol Hill scene might ask “what’s the big deal?” This informal group has no real power base, hasn’t yet established any substantive agenda and hasn’t been either applauded or condemned by lawmakers. This would be a mistaken appraisal.

A more aware, connected group of staffers in touch with each other occupies a very large vacuum that is not remotely filled by the taciturn Progressive Caucus, composed of several dozen lawmakers in the House that should welcome their conscientious subordinates.

This new association of staffers knows what it doesn’t know. Jacob Wilson and his colleagues want to educate themselves about progressive history, and the contemporary, ignored progressive agenda and civic activities back home. The unexercised duties and authorities of Congress under the Constitution – many of which having been abdicated to the Presidency – will be a subject of increasing interest to the CPSA.

The CPSA wants to find its own voice, wants staff recruited for Congress from working class and civic backgrounds – “class diversity” – and more productive performances by legislative committees. They have launched a virtual lecture series that addresses the many delayed necessities of the American people and the world at large. They’re also aiming to start an educational book club.

Education, networking, and recruitment of Congressional staff from working America are the group’s initial three goals. In the process, the hundreds of national citizen organizations located in Washington, D.C. with millions of members around the country, may finally be able to get through to Congressional offices on current and proposed initiatives that are presently obstructed. The chance to make their case should excite citizen advocates for justice writ large and small.

Perhaps the CPSA will spark openness and more accountability by the members of Congress and their Committees. Senators and Representatives in Congress from both parties have reduced and robotized access to their offices like never before in this occluded Internet Age.  The CPSA might also move some of the 535 members of Congress to engage in some collective introspection about the way they are using the sovereign power given them by “We the People” in the Constitution. It is, after all, delegated to them as a matter of public trust – so often betrayed!

Unless you are a campaign donor, a circle of supporting politicians or a constituent who qualifies for personal “case work,” getting through to your Congress, its offices, committees, and staff has been getting more difficult by the year. The ingenious but devious ways the lawmakers block or impede access is a frontal assault on the people’s First Amendment right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The CPSA might also increase Congressional receptivity to ending the two-party duopoly, embracing the ideas of third parties, and not obstructing independent political competition. Our political system needs more voices and choices!

The CPSA has its historic work cut out for itself. It will take calm dedication, stamina, and wisdom while keeping their eye on the major objective – a functioning democracy where the laws are much more equated with justice than with limitless avarice and entrenched concentrated power.

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The Fall of the House of Cuomo – Lessons Unlearned

By Ralph Nader
August 20, 2021

The resignation of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo invites comparisons, historical context, and proposals for the future.

First, the comparisons: Former President Donald J. Trump must be chuckling. As the worst sexual predator to rule the White House, he must be wondering about the “weak” (his word) loser who quit while protesting his actions were innocent. Trump, the rapacious, super sexual assaulter, physically pushed women around, boasted about his prowess, and bragged about his seizures of women’s private parts. He also paid hush money to prostitutes in violation of campaign laws during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Yet the Democrats, led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), hounded Senator Al Franken out from the Senate before his requested investigations by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics began its inquiry for alleged sexual harassment. Franken’s actions were not Trump-like by any measure and occurred before Franken even ran for office. The women who worked for him, past and present, voluntarily came forward to vouch for Franken as a Senate champion both of women and of consumer rights.

When I presented Senator Gillibrand with a detailed letter indicting Trump and asked for her to take action, she did not reply, nor did nearly one hundred other Democratic women members of Congress in the House and Senate who had this letter personally delivered to their offices. (See letter: https://nader.org/2020/02/25/open-letter-to-the-women-in-congress/). Forget the men there. No one disagreed with the letter. Some staff to whom the letter was personally delivered teared up in frustrated anger. “It’s all up to Nancy Pelosi,” some would say, for any House investigation to commence.

But Trump knew how to intimidate, unleash torrents of vicious internet messages by his backers, and relentlessly go after his opponents by name with wide media coverage. So, for these lawmakers and the #MeToo movement activists, the worst received the least of their relentless demands. Trump got away with his despicable, violent actions while his lawyers are obstructing, with tactics of attrition, several tort lawsuits now underway against him by his victims.

Second, the grim history: Perhaps the greatest regular form of violence between humans has been men beating up on women. For millennia this has been the case, with violence against children a close second. It is still ongoing everywhere, though the lights are starting to shine into this infernal darkness. But in an unusual reversal at long last, on the ladder of accountability, those in positions of visible power – political, economic, and academic as well as those in the media’s eye, are feeling the most ferocious demands to immediately quit their jobs and pay damages to avoid the additional possibility of prosecution.

Top media executives, corporate bosses, leading politicians, prominent sports coaches, and others at or near the top of their institutions, were tossed out for sexual harassment – not punished for any serious violent corporate crimes or for pushing illegal, murderous wars – but for believed allegations of behavior ranging from actual felonies to 1950s type non-consensual flirting with subordinates. From women never being believed over the centuries, if they dared to protest, there are those few who have gone public against “celebrities” with accusations who are now being immediately believed.

Some proposals: Governor Andrew Cuomo fell from favor for doing far less than what many in the New York State Legislature have been doing with impunity forever. Rampant occupational and physical sexism has been brutish and punishing, often connected to deals requested by commercial lobbyists, and overall an accepted part of Albany’s state legislative culture. Behaving lawmakers have not blown the whistle on their seriously misbehaving colleagues. There are simply too many consequences for their doing so, in addition to the penalties confronting the whistle-blowing victims themselves. As one long-time observer commented: “The scene was worse years ago, but it is still ugly and rancid today.”

Cuomo went out with a semi-mea culpa resignation address to the people of the State of New York. He could have brought the whole legislature’s tolerance of violent exploitation against women down with him. Moreover, by demanding due process in any impeachment proceedings in the state legislature, Cuomo also could have helped stem the tide of “conviction by accusation” without having due process such as cross-examination, and other rules of evidence in a judicial-type forum.

What does Governor Cuomo want to hide? What other scores do politicians want to settle with him?

The great civil rights and human rights advocate, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, long argued that giving the worst offender their due process is what confirms the rule of law. Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic were given independent counsel and formal trials even though their known mass slaughters of innocents were legion.

The captured Nazi butchers tried at Nuremberg in 1945 could have been immediately executed. Instead, their trials and convictions expanded international law, along with the principle that saying “I was just following orders,” does not exonerate.

Influential American politicians rarely lose their positions of power over their most destructive decisions. Consider the more than one million plus innocent Iraqi victims of the lying, destructive, criminal war against Iraq, which George W. Bush and Dick Cheney perpetuated with complete immunity to this day.

Presently, Biden, Pelosi, Schumer, Gillibrand, and other Democrats who demanded Cuomo quit, are not demanding the resignations of the dangerous Republican governors of Florida and Texas. These men, facing a surging contagious Covid-19 pandemic, cynically cite “individual freedom” to boastfully oppose or undermine long-proven, life-protective measures. For instance, they oppose local school board mask mandates threatening to sue, defund, and otherwise keep local officials from obeying state laws that override these homicidal politicians’ executive orders.

Flouting CDC standards, Governors DeSantis (Florida) and Abbott (Texas) are knowingly and ideologically increasing preventable fatalities and disease, causing hospitals to fill up and health practitioners to wring their hands over staff shortages and deceit at the top. These governors meet the standard definition of negligent manslaughter. those deadly crimes, remarkably, still do not match the accusations against Cuomo for these Democrats.

Rather, it is almost always some bigoted words, some bullying personal mistreatment, or some minor but personal misuse of funds – not the huge waste and corruption in their administration – that produce expulsion.

The Cuomo ouster was a lost opportunity to start cleaning house in a more lasting manner in the Albany sex pits while sending a message to all state capitols to stop these hothouses of sex-crazed men, away from their homes, and sometimes willing to satisfy their personal lust through craven lobbyists working deviously against the interests of the people.

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“Nobody is Above the Law” – Except The “Big Boys”

By Ralph Nader
August 13, 2021

Law schools should have courses on the expanding immunities of government and corporate officials from criminal prosecution and punishment. Guest lecturers, speaking from their experience, could be Donald J. Trump, George W. Bush (criminal destruction of Iraq), Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, the Sackler Family of opioid infamy, and the top officials at Boeing, led by its CEO Dennis Muilenburg, for the 346 homicides in their deadly 737 MAX aircraft.

They should all be charged in varying degrees with manslaughter. Note how the definition fits the facts on the ground:

“Reckless homicide is a crime in which the perpetrators were aware that their act (or failure to act when there is a legal duty to act) creates significant risk of death or grievous bodily harm in the victim, but ignores the risk and continues to act (or fail to act), and a human death results.”

Trump violated willfully and repeatedly so many laws, including obstruction of justice, that it would take a large well-staffed special prosecutor’s office to handle his offenses. (Biden’s Attorney General, Merrick Garland, has decided to immunize Trump by doing nothing). (See, Letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, June 17, 2021).

War criminal George W. Bush violated the Constitution by invading Iraq without a Congressional declaration of war, lying about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, killing over one million Iraqis, in addition to causing injuries, sicknesses, and devastation of critical public infrastructure. During this process of torture and mayhem, Bush violated federal statutes, international treaties, and returned to Texas immunized in fact, though not in law. He and former Vice President Dick Cheney could still be prosecuted.

New York lawyer and former homicide prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Robert C. Gottlieb, called for the prosecution of Trump over willful, disastrous actions and inactions concerning the Covid-19 pandemic, under the presidential duties to act, which led to many tens of thousands of preventable losses of life. Trump began dismissing the dangers of the fast multiplying virus as soon as it entered the U.S. from China.

Gottlieb gives examples of when the average citizen could not be able to escape criminal prosecution, citing the conviction of the owner (and two others) of a New York City residential and commercial building of homicide. Reckless drivers resulting in the deaths of innocents are often convicted of manslaughter and jailed.

Governor Ron DeSantis, confronting overwhelmed hospitals, and 25,000 new Covid-19 cases just in one day, still is brazenly advocating the maskless, crowd-together-if-you-choose-behavior of ‘live free and die.’ Somehow, he got through Harvard Law School uneducated to become a perilous promoter of opposing mask mandates in schools and hospitals, opposing required vaccinations for hospital workers (though he favors vaccinations generally), and is described politely by contagious disease specialists as being “in a state of denial.” Gritting his teeth, DeSantis, a fervent Trump supplicant, says again and again, “People are going to be free to choose to make their own decisions.” What? Free to infect others with a lethal disease? Does he not know of past public health campaigns against tuberculosis, smallpox, and the 1919 influenza epidemic?

Some Florida school districts, mandating masks to protect their children, have disregarded his ideological orders. Had DeSantis lost the last election, many more Floridians would be living today.

The same situation exists under Texas Governor Greg Abbott. The Dallas, Houston, and Austin school districts are defying his homicidal executive order prohibiting mandates for masks by complying with CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) standards. The Dallas County officials sued Abbott, declaring that the governor’s ban violates Texas law.

The headline in Wednesday’s New York Times tells the story: “Texas Hospitals Are Already Overloaded. Doctors Are ‘Frightened by What is Coming.’” The more contagious Delta variant has spread everywhere, to which Abbott replied, “We must rely on personal responsibility, not government mandates.” Has he spoken to the deadlier Delta variant lately about his delusions?

When it comes to the crimes of large corporations and their bosses, immunity or impunity is what they expect. When, once in a while, they’re caught in the act, the company pays the dollar penalties and the company’s rulers and backers get off with no “personal responsibility.”

In one of the biggest corporate marketing/promotional crimes – over 500,000 opioid deaths so far and accelerating, the Sackler’s company, Purdue Pharma, escaped into bankruptcy while the Sacklers escaped any criminal prosecution. As a part of the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy the Sacklers negotiated for personal immunity from further civil suits, and the wrongdoers only had to fork over $4.5 billion, (spread out over years no less!) of their immense fortune. Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to three felony charges in 2020, but under the settlement with the Justice Department, the Sacklers agreed to pay $225 million but made no admissions of wrongdoing. I once recall a person stealing a donkey in Colorado going to jail for 15 years.

Then there are the criminal Boeing bosses who committed the manslaughter of 346 passengers and crew members in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Boeing’s stealth cockpit software, not provided to the pilots, the airlines, and deceptively conveyed to the FAA, took away control of the two ascending 737 MAX planes from the pilots and drove the aircraft into the sea and ground in 2018 and 2019.

The Trump Justice Department sweetheart-settled a criminal case against Boeing, with the prosecutor subsequently quitting and joining Kirkland & Ellis, the law firm for Boeing. There was no trial or jail for any Boeing bosses, just a modest $2.5 billion exaction, mostly going to the airlines and the government with the rest to the grieving families. The civil tort suits will come under Boeing’s insurance with the rest being mostly deductible against the few federal income taxes Boeing pays.

Next time you hear any prominent person announce that “Nobody is above the law,” you can ask: “Really, with all the corporate and government lawbreaking we read about, tell us just how many of these big-time crooks are in orange suits serving time?”

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Fallacies of Political Labelism

By Ralph Nader
August 6, 2021

Alexander Burns is a leading political affairs analyst for the New York Times.  Unfortunately, even he has accepted the ill-defined political labelism swallowed wholesale by his journalistic colleagues.

Words to describe Democratic politicians as “moderate,” “centrist,” “center-left,” “center-right,” “leftist,” or House Democratic Caucus Chair, Hakeem Jeffries’ recent denunciatory nomenclature of “extreme left” Democratic candidates ‑ are often recklessly bandied about.

Let’s start with the positions that invite journalists to describe politicians as “moderate” Democrats.  Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) is chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. His first statement on taking over as committee chair in January 2019 was that he was not in any way going to take up Donald Trump’s massive giveaway tax cuts to the super-wealthy and the giant corporations. He was OK with no hearings and no agenda to end those $1.7 trillion bonanzas, over ten years, and with revenue losses, which could have been put to good use rebuilding America’s infrastructure.

He also did not move vigorously to expand the budget-starved IRS’s ability to go after hundreds of billions of dollars annually of evaded taxes by the corporate rich. For these reactionary, crypto-Republican stands, Neal, who also has not supported Biden’s modest tax restoration on corporate profits to 28%, is labeled a “moderate.”

The “moderate” and “centrist” label is regularly applied to Democratic members of Congress who oppose full Medicare for All (which has growing majority support in polls), oppose raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour now, oppose legislation for corporate crime enforcement and other corporate reforms espoused by President Biden, labor law reforms to facilitate union organizing, and consumer protections such as cracking down on over $1 trillion a year in consumer billing frauds and other cheatings. These “moderates” are out of step with polls showing liberal and conservative voters want these latter long-overdue actions.

I wouldn’t call these voters anything but progressively supportive of reforms that benefit the communities where they live, work, and raise their families. If the corporate Democrats running the Party keep these and other documented reforms off the table and marginalize the candidates espousing them, they are foreclosing big opportunities to landslide the Trumpian Republicans.

The Trumpsters madcap positions (e.g., “stop the steal,” criminalizing and obstructing voting, claiming that Covid-19, its vaccines, and other protections are conspiracies against liberty) should be jettisoning reckless Republicans out of electoral contention. It is the corporate Democrats strip-mining their progressive base who are letting these Trumpsters remain an electoral challenge. Democrats can’t even find the language to publicly disgrace those reality-denying, southern governors and legislators (the really “extreme,” “fascistic right,”) and throw them on the defensive.

Another greatly neglected subject among Democrats is the biggest unpaid-for welfare system over the decades, which is corporate welfare. Zillions of dollars, directly and indirectly, go for subsidies, handouts, giveaways, bailouts, and inflated government contracts, especially in the military business with the Pentagon. Democrats who support this government guaranteed corporate socialism are called “centrist,” or “moderates,” while progressive lawmakers opposing such raids on the U.S. Treasury are called “the far left.” Really.

Progressive Democratic candidates have their faults. One is they haven’t effectively rebutted the “socialism” charge as double-talking while corporation CEOs are lapping up gigantic checks from Washington. Biden’s human infrastructure proposals are from old Rooseveltian New Deal traditions. Republicans outsourcing enormous numbers of governmental functions to corporate contractors are the real radical fabricators of what Roosevelt warned about in a 1938 message to Congress that:

The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism—ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.

As for the Republican charge against Democrats that they want to “defund the police,” that was the desperation street chant following George Floyd’s homicide. No candidates in congressional races took up that over-general, categorical slogan. On the other hand, the “centrist” Democrats did not move to accuse the Republicans in the last election of “defunding the tax police” at IRS, since 2011, thereby becoming ‘aiders and abettors’ of huge tax evasion, now estimated by the Trump-nominated head of the IRS – Charles Rettig – to be one trillion dollars a year!!!

Alexander Burns writes about Nina Turner’s defeat last Tuesday in the primary race for an open congressional seat in Cleveland. The main reason she lost is that she let her campaign strategists spend big money on useless or even backfiring repetitive television ads, instead of an on-the-ground game to get out the vote – notoriously low in most primary races.

Mr. Jeffries, whose uncle was an authentic American radical decades ago, declared that “the extreme left hasn’t figured … out that Trumpism and the radical right is the real enemy, not us.” Mr. Jeffries, you know who enabled Trump to win in 2016 – the smug Hillary Clinton-dominated Democratic Party. It was not your despised “radical left” who voted for the “New Deal Democrat,” independent Bernie Sanders.

Alexander, you can’t do justice to your analytic mind if you don’t question these labels while not recognizing the exclusion by corporate Democrats of egregious big business abuses that your newspaper writes about regularly.

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Collapsing Federal Corporate Crime Enforcement

By Ralph Nader
July 30, 2021

As the size and severity of the corporate crime wave surges, Congress is asleep at the switch. The mostly captive Capitol Hill Gang has sat on an antiquated federal criminal code, starved the budget of regulatory health, safety, and consumer/labor protection agencies, and let corporate crooks routinely get away with their crimes.

Despite constant exposés in the mainstream media – still only reporting the tip of the iceberg – neither members of Congress nor presidents from the Republican and Democratic parties have raised the banner of tough “law and order” to counter rampaging corporate crime.  Proposals to bring the laws up to date in their penalties and coverage to deter corporate lawbreaking are never a priority for Congress. When was the last time you heard a politician demand “corporate reform”?

Many people still remember how Wall Street, in its greed and power, collapsed the economy in 2008-2009, cost nine million jobs, shredded pension and mutual funds, and insisted on a multi-trillion-dollar bailout. In 2018 Public Citizen found during President Donald Trump’s first year in office, enforcement against corporate crime and wrongdoing plummeted from the final year of the Obama administration (See Corporate Impunity “Tough on Crime” Trump Is Weak on Corporate Crime and Wrongdoing).

None of the big boys and mid-sized big boys were ever prosecuted. Shortly thereafter polls showed 90 percent of Americans (conservatives and liberals) wanted to break up the big banks that were too big to fail. Conservative columnist, George Will, wrote that companies too big to fail should not exist.

But exist they do, and their marauding continues almost unabated. According to fraud expert, Harvard Professor Malcolm Sparrow, year after year, billing fraud and abuse accounts for at least 10% of healthcare expenses. That’s over $350 BILLION this year. Less than two percent is recovered by law enforcement.

As one prosecutor put it, no matter how complex the rip-offs are, no matter how silent or invisible is the violence (e.g., toxics, latent defects, dangerous pharmaceuticals hospital induced infections, etc.), it comes down to lying, cheating, and stealing.

Some corporate crimes are too big to be ignored. Here is a New York Times report: “Over the past two decades, more than 500,000 people in the United States have died from overdoses of prescription and illegal opioids …. Purdue [Pharma], widely believed to have helped ignite the problem by downplaying the addictive potential of OxyContin and aggressively marketing the drug with misleading campaigns, pleaded guilty to two separate investigations by the Justice Department.” The company escaped into bankruptcy. There are all kinds of lawsuits. The bottom line is that the proposed settlement let the Sackler family, mega-billionaire owners, paid out just a small chunk of their immense ill-begotten fortune. Criminal prosecutions of corporate wrongdoers and criminals are almost never pursued.

As the Times wrote: “Neither the company, nor the Sacklers, would admit to wrongdoing in connection with these [about to be settled] lawsuits,” brought by many state attorneys general and the Justice Department.

Welcome folks to the widespread phenomenon of corporate crimes without criminals. Also, the settlement, expected to be signed off by the judge, would release the Sacklers and their company from any personal civil liability. The several billions of dollars that will be paid without any personal prosecutions is the way corporate attorneys succeed in monetizing murder or manslaughter as just a deductible cost of doing business. No clients going to jail. (See Rena Steinzor’s book, Why Not Jail? Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction, 2014).

Boeing’s attorneys are also pushing for their strategy of immunity under existing litigation. They got the Trump Justice Department, (DOJ), days before Trump left office in January 2020, to conclude a corrupt, sweetheart “deferred prosecution” settlement (See Corporate Crime Reporter: Lead Boeing Prosecutor Joins Boeing Corporate Criminal Defense Firm Kirkland & Ellis). Though there was a grand jury in operation, there were no indictments or other charges against any of the culpable company bosses who made the decisions that led to the loss of 346 lives in two 737 MAX crashes. Boeing paid a measly $2.5 billion mostly deductible dollars.

To make the stench worse, DOJ’s Attorney General William Barr chose a faraway federal court in Fort Worth, TX, known for its corporatist judge, with a right-wing prosecutor, who after cutting the deal, quit and took a job with Kirkland Ellis – Boeing’s criminal defense law firm.

In the civil lawsuits against Boeing, brought by the aggrieved families, Perkins Coie, Boeing’s law firm, is going all out to avoid trials and settle all these cases through mediation, which, of course, excludes sworn testimony and punitive damages. The overriding goal is to assure that the culpable Boeing bosses and others are neither charged or put on the witness stand under oath in a public trial open to the media and citizenry. See why big corporate lawyers make so much money? They keep the prisons empty of corporate wrongdoers by having them be above the law.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), now Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Constitution Subcommittee, has spoken out about the absence of any criminal penalties in numerous federal statutes such as the ones covering auto and aviation safety. In 2015 Senator Blumenthal introduced the S.2140 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. As a former longtime Attorney General of Connecticut, he decries weaknesses of existing federal criminal statutes and small budgets. He wants action. It is high time to hold historic hearings that go to the cause of the systemic derelictions of justice regarding corporate abuses. America, besieged by corporate crime, needs corporate crime laws that fit these crimes.

Urge full Judiciary Committee Chair Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) to provide Senator Blumenthal the requisite staff and resources for this historic mission. Senator Durbin’s phone numbers are Washington D.C. office: 202-224-2152 / Chicago office: 312-353-4952.

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Inside Bezos – A Five-Year Old Boy – Outside, A Cunning Extraterrestrial Profiteer

By Ralph Nader
July 23, 2021

Jeff Bezos touched down after his 10 minutes, 10 second vertical 66 mile zoom above Earth. He felt so on top of the Earth that he agreed to one-on-one interviews with a gaggle of salivating reporters. Looking over a list of their names, he spotted journalist Greg Galaxy and picked him first.

Galaxy: “Thank you, Mr. Bezos, for calling on me first. There are still zillions of people who don’t know who you are. May I describe you as the $200 billion man or $200 B-Man, for short?”

Bezos: “Sure, but you better hurry; it may be more than that by noon, ha, ha, ha, ha!”

Galaxy: “You sure have that distinctive laugh. Anyhow, do you think this Blue Origin zip up and back represents your dreams or is this just another high-profile business venture?”

Bezos: “Let’s begin with the dreams, which I had since I was a little five-year old boy. Starting with space tourism we can move toward getting people and heavy industry into space to avert an energy crisis on Earth. We have to build a road to space so that our kids and their kids can build a future.”

Galaxy: “Surely you’re kidding me, $200 B-Man.” “Don’t you realize the cosmic complexities and the length of time involved in fulfilling your dreams?”

Bezos: “That’s what they told me when I proposed to build the world’s biggest business by getting consumers to abandon Main Street, pay me $100 bucks a year to get their stuff later than they could pick it up from the nearby stores, but slightly faster than other companies who only use the mail for deliveries. Ha, ha, ha, ha.”

Galaxy: “There’s no comparison. Space spells infinite danger. Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars, he says, in case we ruin Earth. The environment on Mars can freeze people to death, not to mention many other lethal threats. It’s one thing to dream, another to be delusional, with all due respect.”

Bezos: “Ah, Galaxy, ye of little faith. Your skepticism gets me to the second part of your question. THIS IS AN ENDLESS BUSINESS IN THE WIDE-OPEN UNIVERSE, FUNDED BY AMERICAN TAXPAYERS AND RICH, BORED SUCKERS WHO WANT a ten-minute thrill straight up to give meaning to their empty lives. We’ve already, before printing tickets, got $100 million in ticket sales.”

Galaxy: “You shake me up, sir. May I quote you verbatim?”

Bezos: “Ha, ha, ha, ha, with a bullhorn! The New York Times gets it. They called my Blue Origin ‘The Amazonification of space, with Big Tech taking over from what was once largely the domain of big government.’ This thrust into Space gets free publicity like mad, gets funded by NASA contracts (you should see the fine print), and gives us all the research and development discoveries and benefits. Only in America, Galaxy!”

Galaxy: “I don’t mean to be impolite, $200 B-Man, but don’t you find it a bit ironic that the great Amazon Forest is on fire, its trees being cut down in the millions every month, and having taken its name free, you’re giving up on Earth where you and your family still live?”

Bezos: “Greg, you just don’t understand modern business. It’s about massive profit margins, minimum tax payment, automated workplaces, government-funded basic research, and government guarantees against risks and losses. The rewards are infinite. The solar system can easily support a trillion humans, which means we would have a thousand Einstein’s and a thousand Mozart’s and unlimited, for all practical purposes, resources and solar power.”

Galaxy: “You just said, ‘I also want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this.’ But you’re known to want to replace all your workers with robots. Who are you going to thank when that happens?”

Bezos: “I’ll thank the robots. By that time, they’re able to reply, ‘thank you, master.’  [Greg thought the big guy was getting a little giddy]. After all, my capsule, New Shepard, took me, Mark, my brother, and two passengers up and down without a pilot – just algorithms, Greg babe, just algorithms. No strikes, no whining, no slacking, no crazy worker demands. (Voice rising) That is a key part of my business plan for the stars, then the galaxies, and the universe!”

Galaxy: One last question: $200 billion man; do you believe in God?

Bezos: “You’re looking at him…. for the time being.”

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The Power Structure for Deadly Lag and the Prophetic Work of Unsung Heroes

By Ralph Nader
July 16, 2021

Kicking life-saving solutions endlessly down the road is the mark of the brutish power of the corporations over the innocents.

Fifty years ago, medical research warned about the overuse of antibiotics creating mutations of resistant bacterium, making these drugs less effective. Dr. Sidney Wolfe warned about this criminal negligence again and again, along with other colleagues. But the drug companies kept over-promoting to get physicians to over-prescribe. Today, antibiotic resistance takes over 100,000 lives a year just in the U.S. Some bacterium are mutating beyond the ability of medical science to catch up with new more powerful antibiotics to curb new antibiotic resistance bacterium.

Deadly Lag Time.

For decades, starting in the 1970s, at the very least, both the big oil companies and knowledgeable government officials warned about global warming. Exxon’s own scientists sounded the alarm internally as well. Now with little preparedness to move fast from fossil fuels to renewables and conserve energy, the climate crisis is upon the world. Mega storms, floods, wildfires, and rising sea levels threaten everything and everybody. As James Gustave Speth’s forthcoming book, They Knew: The U.S. Federal Government’s Fifty-Year Role in Causing the Climate Crisis, people knew, including the graphic, forecast report in 1993, now forgotten, authored by Bill Clinton and Al Gore who promptly gave the auto industry an eight-year holiday from the regulatory push on fuel efficiency.

Deadly Lag Time.

Great physicians such as Quentin Young, Arnold Relman, Steffie Woolhandler, and David Himmelstein warned of the avoidable casualties and price gouging if we did not enact single-payer universal health insurance. They were ignored. The delay is costing trillions of dollars and about 100,000 lives a year with many more injuries and illnesses for those unable to afford health insurance to get a timely diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Philip Lee supported a study by Harvard Medical School physicians back in the early 1990s, estimating the huge fatality toll annually from medical malpractice just in hospitals. In 2015, Johns Hopkins medical researchers reported a minimum of 250,000 deaths a year from preventable problems in hospitals excluding clinics and doctors’ offices. The prophets warned, but the power structure, including the media, turned a largely deaf ear.

Deadly Lag Time.

Walter Hang, an environmental scientist, has warned for years about the toxic nature of fluids used in fracking of gas and oil. He and others mobilized people in New York state to persuade Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ban the practice, unlike the increasingly poisoned fracking sites in Pennsylvania and other fracking states. Now we have been told by scientists that a chemical used in the mining breaks down into a toxic giant called PFAS, which they call a “forever” pollutant endangering underground drinking water sources.

Deadly Lag Time.

Over twenty-five years ago, scientists spoke out against the rising epidemic now known as the opioid disaster, promoted by drug companies and their owners like the Sackler family. The government and medical professions dillydallied. Last year, a record 90,000 people died in America from drug overdoses, mostly from opioids.

Deadly Lag Time.

In the 1950s, government scientists reported the connection between cigarette smoking and cancer. In 1964, the annual report by the Surgeon General (launched by Dr. Luther Terry) kept adding to the evidence of diseases from this highly promoted tobacco industry killer. Philip Morris Co., R.J. Reynolds and others kept promoting, denying, deceiving and regularly luring youngsters with free samples near schools. Over 400,000 annual deaths in the U.S. are attributed to smoking-related diseases.

When Congress, the media, and the public health groups started banging the drums in the 1980s, Big Tobacco was put on the defensive year after year. The number of daily smokers declined to under 15% from a high of 42% in 1964. Non-smokers more aggressively demanded smoke-free places and helped mightily to turn the tide. Who remembers the handful of tobacco-use fighters for their courageous and prescient advocacy?

Deadly Lag Time.

Lag time is another phrase for the “democracy gap.” It is the space between what most of the people want and need, and what those same passive people suffer and tolerate.

The same “lag time” bleeds people economically. The federal minimum wage is still frozen by Congress at $7.25 per hour. Many millions of workers are between that number and $15 per hour.

Prof. Malcolm Sparrow of Harvard has led the way in highlighting the many billing frauds in the health care industry that totals $350 billion or more this year alone. His detailed warnings and his classic book, License to Steal: Why Fraud Plagues America’s Health Care System, came out years ago in 1996. Still, a corporate Congress does nothing. The Biden Administration does not ask for necessary money for this area of enforcement, even though $1billion would save over $15 billion from fraudulent billing.

Jake Lewis and Jonathan Brown wrote and spoke about the damaging influence of the Federal Reserve and its Big Bank patrons back in the 60s and 70s. The lag time became worse, especially under Fed Chairman Jerome Powell who studies show has made the super-rich and corporate giants soaked in unearned wealth more rich while expanding the impact of gross inequality against the masses. (See the op-ed by Karen Petrou in the New York Times, July 12, 2021).

New Time Lags are underway. We have been forewarned about Medicare [Dis]Advantage, yet its corporate deceivers continue to devour traditional Medicare (controlling over 40% of Medicare beneficiaries).

Technology seers are warning against the terrible effects on younger people, including children, who will become addicted to Facebook’s rollout of the Oculus or augmented reality goggles. Avaricious Zuckerberg continues to expand his dangerous monopolistic empire.

All those who told us so are largely forgotten, uncelebrated and, if they are still active, hardly getting their calls returned. Is there a more abject sign of a decaying democracy?

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