For Year End Charitable Giving—Some Favorites

Here are some of my favorite, frugal, effective non-profit citizen action organizations that you may wish to favor with your tax-deductible generosity. They need your support, because few are doing their kind of important work.

  • Veterans For Peace(VFP): Composed of veterans from World War II to the present, VFP takes strong stands, including peaceful demonstrations and marches, for peace and against a militarized, aggressive foreign policy and wars of choice. Donate here: (1404 North Broadway, St. Louis MO 63102 or https://www.veteransforpeace.org/take-action/donate/).
  • Public Employees For Environmental Responsibility(PEER): A group of U.S. Forest Service professionals started this remarkable group, which has since spread to civil servants in other federal agencies such as the EPA and the Department of the Interior. PEER’s staff is knowledgeable, organized and relentless in protecting federal employees’ right to bring their conscience to work and speak out against unlawful or reckless devastation of our environmental resources and health. (962 Wayne Ave #610, Silver Spring, MD 20910; https://www.peer.org/give/)
  • Appalachia-Science in the Public Interest (ASPI): This lean, dedicated and productive group works tirelessly to find solutions in one of the poorest regions of America through the application of practical science. They teach how to preserve forests, protect drinking water sources, how to cook without electricity or gas, how to grow their own food and build a home without visiting a big box store. (50 Lair St, Mt Vernon, KY 40456; https://donorbox.org/aspi)
  • The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance(OPEPA) opposes the nuclear arms race, seeks enforceable treaties abolishing nuclear weapons (the latter is agreeable to numerous retired cabinet secretaries in both Republican and Democratic administrations) and monitors government arms contracts, radiation hazards and facilities such as the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Their newsletter is a must-read.(P.O. Box 5743, Oak Ridge, TN 37831; http://orepa.org/)
  • The Pension Rights Center, the only national civic organization dedicated to reforming pension policies, unfair regulations and protecting and promoting retirement security. They help individual retirees and propose major retirement programs for all Americans. (1730 M Street, NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20036; www.pensionrights.org)
  • The North American Students of Cooperation(NASCO) works to start and expand consumer and housing cooperatives, especially for young people in colleges and universities. NASCO provides “on-the-ground training for over 79 cooperative organizations…. Living in a co-op means learning that cooperation is not only an alternative solution but also a way to empower our local leaders and communities.” NASCO will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. Their fortune is bright and promising. (1100 West Cermak Road, #514, Chicago, IL 60608; www.nasco.coop)
  • Organization for Competitive Markets: Don’t let the name Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) mislead you. OCM is a ferocious, detail-oriented champion of small family farms in our country against giant agribusinesses squeezing farmers from both the supplying and buying their crops. OCM’s newsletter is unyielding in showing how preserving family farms is also good for consumers and the struggle against monopolization from industry giants like Monsanto. (P.O. Box 6486 Lincoln, NE 68506; www.competitivemarkets.com)
  • The Center for Auto Safety:Without this watchdog group holding accountable the auto industry and its federal regulators, tens of millions of cars would not have been recalled over the past four decades. It has been the guardian angel of American motorists and consumers in other respects as well. (1825 Connecticut Ave, NW, Suite 330, Washington, DC 20009; https://www.autosafety.org/make-donation/)
  • The Indian Law Resource Center, based in Montana generates justice and safety for Indigenous Peoples. Under its brilliant executive director, Robert T. Coulter, the Center seems to be everywhere, protecting American Indian and Alaska Native families, fending off the Trump Administration’s move to undermine long-standing trust relationships, keeping indigenous lands in community ownership and supporting sustainable development in Central and South America. (602 Ewing Street, Helena, MT 59601; www.indianlaw.org)
  • Whirlwind Wheelchair helps people in less developed countries construct sturdy, inexpensive wheelchairs from local materials, building self-reliance and addressing the critical needs of safe mobility. Founder Ralf Hotchkiss has invented many improvements in wheelchairs for free public application. (2703 7th Street, #134, Berkeley, CA 94710; https://whirlwindwheelchair.org/donate/)
  • Solitary Watch, a critically important national watchdog group, investigates, documents, and disseminates information on the use of solitary confinement in the U.S. prison system. This diverse group of experts—lawyers, legal scholars, law enforcement and corrections officers, educators, advocates, and policymakers— provide necessary background information that sheds light on the barbaric, often arbitrary practice that is solitary confinement. (123 7th Avenue, #166, Brooklyn, NY 11215; https://solitarywatch.org/)
  • The Salvation Army: And, of course, the old reliable Salvation Army – quick to the scene of natural disasters anywhere in the world with hands-on assistance, unbureaucratic and frugal. On a daily basis it helps the poor, the destitute and the hungry. Over 140 years old, with 15,409 congregations in 127 countries, 1,150,666 million members and many thrift stores, the Salvation Army is consistently rated near the top of the most popular charities/non-profits in America. As incorruptible as humans can possibly be. (615 Slaters Lane, Alexandria, VA 22313; www.salvationarmyusa.org)

I’ve given donations to all these organizations over the years. Consider their selfless work, in the age of Wall Street profit-glutted greed, and support their activities for the New Year.

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Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out

In November, about 25 progressive Democrats were newly elected to the House of Representatives. How do the citizen groups know whether they are for real or for rhetoric? I suggest this civic yard stick to measure the determination and effectiveness of these members of the House both inside the sprawling, secretive, repressive Congress and back home in their Districts. True progressives must:

Vigorously confront all the devious ways that Congressional bosses have developed to obstruct the orderly, open, accessible avenues for duly elected progressive candidates to be heard and to participate in Congressional deliberations from the subcommittees to the committees to the floor of the House. Otherwise, the constricting Congressional cocoon will quickly envelop and smother their collective energies and force them to get along by going along.
Organize themselves into an effective Caucus (unlike the anemic Progressive Caucus). They will need to constantly be in touch with each other and work to democratize Congress and substantially increase the quality and quantity of its legislative/oversight output.
Connect with the national citizen organizations that have backers all around the country and knowledgeable staff who can help shape policy and mobilize citizen support. This is crucial to backstopping the major initiatives these newbies say they want to advance. Incumbent progressives operate largely on their own and too rarely sponsor civic meetings on Capitol Hill to solicit ideas from civic groups. Incumbent progressives in both the House and the Senate do not like to be pressed beyond their comfort zone to issue public statements, to introduce tough bills or new bills, or to even conduct or demand public hearings.
Develop an empowerment agenda that shifts power from the few to the many – from the plutocrats and corporatists to consumers, workers, patients, small taxpayers, voters, community groups, the wrongfully injured, shareholders, consumer cooperatives, and trade unions. Shift-of-power facilities and rights/remedies cost very little to enact because their implementation is in the direct hands of those empowered – to organize, to advocate, to litigate, to negotiate, and to become self-reliant for food, shelter and services (Citizen Utility Boards provide an example of what can come from empowering citizens).
Encourage citizens back home to have their own town meetings, some of which the new lawmakers would attend. Imagine the benefits of using town meetings to jump-start an empowerment agenda and to promote long over-due advances such as a living wage, universal health care, corporate crime enforcement, accountable government writ large, renewable energy, and real tax reform.
Regularly publicize the horrendously cruel and wasteful Republican votes. This seems obvious but, amazingly, it isn’t something Democratic leaders are inclined to do. Last June, I urged senior Democrats in the House to put out and publicize a list of the most anti-people, pro-Wall Street, and pro-war legislation that the Republicans, often without any hearings, rammed through the House. The senior Democrats never did this, even though the cruel GOP votes (against children, women, health, safety, access to justice, etc.) would be opposed by more than 3 out of 4 voters.
Disclose attempts by pro-corporate, anti-democratic, or anti-human rights and other corrosive lobbies that try to use campaign money or political pressure to advance the interests of the few to the detriment to the many. Doing this publically will deter lobbies from even trying to twist their arms.
Refuse PAC donations and keep building a base of small donations as Bernie Sanders did in 2016. This will relieve new members of receiving undue demands for reciprocity and unseemly attendance at corrupt PAC parties in Washington, DC.
Seek, whenever possible, to build left/right coalitions in Congress and back home that can become politically unstoppable.
Demand wider access to members of Congress by the citizenry. Too few citizen leaders are being allowed to testify before fewer Congressional hearings. Holding hearings is a key way to inform and galvanize public opinion. Citizen group participation in hearings led to saving millions of lives and preventing countless injuries. Authentic Congressional hearings lead to media coverage and help to mobilize the citizenry.

Adopting these suggestions will liberate new members to challenge the taboos entrenched in Congress regarding the corporate crime wave, military budgets, foreign policy, massive corporate welfare giveaways or crony capitalism.

The sovereign power of the people has been excessively delegated to 535 members of Congress. The citizens need to inform and mobilize themselves and hold on to the reins of such sovereign power for a better society. Demanding that Congress uphold its constitutional obligations and not surrender its power to the war-prone, lawless Presidency will resonate with the people.

Measuring up to this civic yardstick is important for the new members of the House of Representatives and for our democracy. See how they score in the coming months. Urge them to forward these markers of a democratic legislature to the rest of the members of Congress, most of whom are in a rut of comfortable incumbency.

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New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!

It’s tough to be an engineering student these days, with so many new developments in modern technology and technological knowledge. The course curricula are more crowded than ever and the impact of emerging technologies is monumental. Some engineering professors worry that their students’ busy course schedules prevents them from adequately exploring the liberal arts. Without exposure to the liberal arts, engineering students will lack the broad context that will help them approach their work as a profession, not just a trade.

Pressed as they are now in their undergraduate and graduate courses, engineering students may not appreciate the pressures and challenges they will face in their work after graduation. More than handling the stress that comes from needing to meet commercial or governmental deadlines and standards, they will need to understand the ethical ramifications of their actions. Existing industry standards rarely measure up to the necessary health, safety and reliability requirements in the workplace, marketplace and the environment. Moreover, the news media and social media create an environment that shines a spotlight on the personal responsibility of the engineering professions and the obligation to blow the whistle on misdeeds.

The core curriculum for engineering students must include courses and seminars that explore the ethical responsibility of engineering. Understanding economic and political pressures and, if necessary, whistleblowing obligations are all important matters for engineers. This is the subject of Ethics, Politics, and Whistleblowing in Engineering (CRC Press), a new book edited by Rania Milleron, Ph.D and Nicholas Sakellariou, Ph.D (Rania, my niece, is a microbiologist at the Texas Department of State Health Services and Nicholas is a lecturer at California Polytechnic State University).

One of the goals of Ethics, Politics and Whistleblowing in Engineering is to make technology inclined students realize at the very beginning of their careers that the best kind of engineering comes from a foundation in the applied sciences and the humanities. This engaging book – which will interest anyone interested in professionally applied ethics, regardless of field, is full of short renditions of individual engineers as heroes or bold advocates of changing hazardous procedures and ways of doing business.

The engineers featured in this book are professionals who cannot abide working in corporations where common candor has to be called courage. They demand the right to take their conscience to work.

There are sections in this book on whistleblowing around the world, and on the too passive standards-setting roles of engineering societies (like the Society of Automotive Engineers or the Society of Mechanical Engineers). Novel interviews with deep thinkers and beloved, creative professors, such as Princeton’s David P. Billington, who combined history and art in his rigorous courses, make a deep imprint on the reader.

Part I, titled “Engineering Leadership,” is meant to stimulate engineering educators to experiment broadly and open-mindedly in liberal education curricula, to promote unpopular but fact-based viewpoints, and to encourage students to learn about the heroic roots of engineering.

Part II recounts stories about engineers having to make excruciating decisions affecting their careers and the public safety when they take on their profit-obsessed corporate bosses or government officials.

Part III – Raising the Bar, “offers creative, concrete, and sustainable engineering solutions. In an age of designs generated by committees or computers… some think that technologists are losing their creativity and imagination.”

The appendix offers abundant resource material for engineering students and teachers. In the 1950s and 1960s, I was pushing the top executives of the auto companies to liberate their engineers to build life-saving, cleaner, and more fuel-efficient motor vehicles. As I learned more about the industry, it became clear that engineering integrity was subordinate to short-term profit goals, frivolous styling, and excessive horsepower.

Providing a climate of conscientious engineering work, instead of the all-too-frequent self-censorship that comes from top-down or myopic dictates, can save corporations from serious trouble – litigation, public anger, and subsequent loss of sales. In the U.S. auto industry, authoritarian corporate bosses presided over technological stagnation that resulted in shrinkage and bankruptcy.

The development of biotechnology, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence industries has occurred without an effective legal or ethical framework. As a result, we are ever reliant on the first-responders. Unfortunately, many engineers working on the front lines have abdicated their role as sentinels. Their long silence must end.

In the coming years, engineers will need a deep wellspring of professional self-respect. And our society will need to expand the laws and institutions to protect engineers when they do step up and do speak out?

This unique book, for which I have written an introduction, argues in many intriguing and compelling ways that we cannot afford to neglect the ethical dimensions of engineering.

The stakes from climate disruption to the military arms race to our public infrastructure to the health and safety of posterity and our planet are so high. So must be the expectations accorded the engineering profession everywhere in our midst.

(There are feasts of abundant references in this book for any reader to dig deeper).

For more information visit: ethicalengineering.org

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First Step Post-Election – Open Up the Closed, Secretive Congress

Following the mid-term elections, progressive citizen groups have to advance an agenda that makes Congress work for all Americans. The first step, however, is to acknowledge that Capitol Hill has walled itself off from the people, on behalf of corporate autocrats.

Currently, Congress is open for avaricious business, not for productive democracy. Congress itself is a concentrated tyranny of self-privilege, secrecy, repressiveness, and exclusive rules and practices. Congress fails to hold public hearings on many important matters and too often abandons oversight of the executive branch, and shuts out citizens who aren’t campaign donors. (See my new book, How the Rats Re-Formed the Congress at ratsreformcongress.org.)

Having sponsored in the nineteen-seventies the bestselling book ever on Congress – Who Runs Congress, I have a frame of reference for the present, staggering institutional narcissism of the Congress as the most powerful, though smallest, branch of our federal government.

It would have been rare in the sixties and seventies for major legislation to have moved to the floor of the House and the Senate without thorough public hearings with witnesses from a diverse array of citizen groups being given a chance to come and testify.

In the past two years, the Republicans sent the tax escape and health care restriction legislations to the floor, without any public hearings at the Committee level. The “tax bonanza for the corporate and wealthy” passed into law, while the “take away health care for millions of people” bill fortunately lost by one vote in the Senate.

Cong. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee sent five bills to the House floor, without public hearings, that were meant to usurp the state courts’ traditional jurisdiction and weaken your rights to have your day in court before a trial by jury were you wrongfully injured. This vicious attack by Goodlatte’s corporatists on vulnerable victims was blocked by the Senate Democrats.

U.S. Supreme Court nominees before the Senate used to face days of public hearings with many valuable witnesses. For three decades, the Senate Judiciary Committee, under both Democratic and Republican control have shortened the hearings and markedly cut back on witnesses permitted to testify. Knowledgeable people with adverse information about the nominees were kept from testifying – their requests often not even acknowledged.

The signs of Congressional closeouts are everywhere. Years ago, Congress excluded itself from the great Freedom of Information Act. This arrogance fostered a breeding ground for abusive secrecy, covered up were such conflicts as members of Congress speculating in stocks with their inside information, corruption inquests before House and senate Ethics Committee. Even using taxpayer money to settle credible accusations of sexual assault against sitting lawmakers were all covered up.

The orgy of self-privilege knows few boundaries – being wined and dined and journeyed on fundraising junkets by lobbyists who donate dollars to their campaigns in return for legislated bonanzas or immunities is normal business practice. The Senators and Representatives give themselves generous pensions, health insurance, life insurance, and other goodies while denying or failing to provide tens of millions of people those protective benefits and coverages.

Members of Congress get special favors from an airline industry that gives you the back of its omnipresent, fee imposing hand (except for Southwest Airlines). Our survey of every member of Congress which aimed to publicize the details of these commercially provided privileges was ignored by every member of Congress. (See my “Letter to Congress re: Airline industry influence”). Also, nobody knows what favors the banks give them, while these subsidized firms gouge their customers with outlandish fess, penalties and ludicrously low interest rates on savings.

If you’ve ever wondered why the nearly $5 billion you pay annually to support 535 offices in Congress does not produce supervision of the sprawling wasteful executive branch Departments such as the Department of Defense, the Department of Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, and State, the FDA and others, it might just be that the corporate donors are in effect paying their recipient solons to look the other way and let their passive Committee staff slumber.

An increasing number of the staff assigned to each member and their well-budgeted Committees are coming from the so-called K Street lobbying business. A little on-the-job experience helps them deliver the goodies to their former corporate employers, before rejoining them for lucrative salaries.

This corruption of the professional Congressional staff motivated Michael Pertschuk, the great chief of staff for Senator Warren Magnuson’s powerful Senate Commerce Committee, to write the recent book titled When the Senate Worked for Us. He chronicled the days in the sixties and seventies, when professional staffers played critical roles in passing consumer, environmental, worker, and other life-saving legislation.

The heavy concentration of power in the top two rulers of the Senate and the House has stripped Committee chairpersons of much of their power to address urgent necessities and diversify and decentralize internal Congressional power and activities.

Then there are the daily irritations. Regular people trying to call members of Congress or Committees find their switchboard increasingly on voice mail during working hours. Substantive letters from constituents are not even acknowledged much less given the respect of a reply. Calls to Senators or Representatives or their top staff are often ignored if you are not a campaign contributor.

These increasing plunges into dictatorial misuses of the sovereign power we have delegated to members of Congress are not universal. There are minorities of good-faith lawmakers objecting, but their power is too little to overcome the Congressional Corporate complex that has seized our Capitol.

As I’ve written many times before, it is not as hard as we think to break the corporate grip on our Congress. Creating a people-driven Congress starts with organizing Congressional Watchdog Groups that represent the broad left/right voter support for long overdue changes and reforms, in every one of the 435 Districts. See my book, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think (especially pp. 144-145), where the civic summons to your Congressional lawmakers is presented for powerful face-to-face series of citizen controlled meetings back home.

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If It Takes the Rats to Wake Up Us and Congress, Bring Them On! This Book Shows How!

Let’s get down to the all-important matter of Congressional performance. No matter how pollsters ask the question – “do you approve of Congress…?” or “do you have confidence in Congress…? – less than twenty percent of people respond positively. Four out of five Americans disapprove of what Congress has been doing and are presumably disappointed about what Congress is not doing. That’s an overwhelming unhappy majority. There are many changes, reforms, and redirections for our country that conservatives and liberals both agree on, (See my book, Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State, Nation Books, 2014). There would be more agreements were we more alert to the divide and rule tactics of our political/corporate rulers and reject such manipulations outright.

For decades, I’ve argued that it is easier than we think to change what comes out of Congress – the smallest yet most powerful branch of government under our Constitution.

Our history demonstrates that if one percent or less of citizens, reflecting majority public opinion, roll up their sleeves and focus together on their two Senators and Representatives, they can prevail. I and other consumer and environmental advocates did just that years ago with far less than one percent of the people actually engaged in moving our agenda (which is about two and a half million adults). Together we championed laws that reigned in the auto industry, the corporate polluters and other industries to save lives and prevent injuries and illnesses. Because, majority public opinion supported us.

Our approach then was to put out factual documentation of these corporate harms and perils and get our research covered by the news media and programs like The Phil Donahue Show. People would feedback their demands and concerns to the Senators and Representatives of Congress, where we were pushing member by member. Reforms followed. I’ve given numerous examples of these citizen endeavors in my book, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think.

It still can happen, even though the news media hardly covers conventional civic activity anymore and great shows like Donahue’s are no longer on the air. We shouldn’t be discouraged, however; we just have to shift strategies and find new ways to get more Americans revved up to feel and focus their own sovereign power exclusively rooted in the Constitution. “Corporations” and “companies” aren’t even mentioned in that storied document. As the Constitution says, “we the people… do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.”

So here comes my new Fable, How the Rats Re-formed the Congress replete with examples of how little it took to change Congress beyond our greatest expectations. Once the rats stormed up the toilet bowls of these smug solons and shook up the place from the bottom up, action followed. When the American people found out how the Congressional biggies tried to cover up their embarrassment – their ineptitude at not even being able to control a rat infestation– massive public derision flooded the televised and radio airwaves and social media.

Suddenly, people all over our country – at home, in the bars and restaurants, at their clubs, snapped to attention and began believing that, “There are only 535 of them on Capitol Hill, many misusing our sovereign power delegated to them, but we’re millions.”

In “civic” waves from the hinterlands, the people move to take control of Congress away from the giant corporations and their greedy lobbyists. You’ll laugh yourselves serious as you turn page after page and start feeling, believing, thinking that “we can do this, let’s go America!”

Enough of not paying hard-working impoverished workers a livable wage, enough of people being denied health insurance, and ripped off by the credit sharks, enough of our children being directly assailed with junk food and violent advertising bypassing parental authority, enough of trillions of our tax dollars not coming back to us for superior public services in our crumbling communities but instead going to corporate welfare (crony capitalism), and the infernal, very profitable corporate war machine in addition to more tax escapes for the wealthy.

Enough of the fossil-fuel industry poisoning our soil, our water, and disrupting our climate. Enough of the corporate bosses and their indentured politicians; enough of the big time crooks and their dirty elections. Enough, enough already!

A few early readers found How the Rats Re-Formed the Congress to be “disgusting,” or “revolting,” to use their words. Reading the back cover presents indictments of the “disgusting” and “revolting” Congress whose majority lets American men, women, and children get sick and die in great numbers from preventable perils in hospitals, in toxic workplaces, and in toxic products and environments.

Other readers have called the book “uplifting,” “optimistic,” and “empowering,” the growing rumble from the people and the leaders they generate break out in rallies and support for progressive agendas nationwide. The huge numbers of people surrounding the Congress night and day, week after week, until the peoples’ pressure becomes unbearable for recalcitrant Members of Congress.

This external pressure permeates the Congress with specific calls for reforms backed by the dramatic demand that the politicians get it done in an election year or else! The faster these long overdue changes come, many long installed in Western European democracies, the more the corporate big boys reel on their heels, unable with their tired bullying and intimidating ways to block the will of the people.

Wall Street and its lobbyists warn about “economic collapse” and “mass layoffs” if the citizenry’s agenda passes Congress. Corporate front groups are created to disrupt the peaceful crowds. These corporate tactics don’t work anymore. The agitated media publishes story after story about the corporate crime wave, the rip-offs of consumers and the wasting away tax monies that Congress allowed.

Backing up the book is a helpful website on organizing Congressional Ratwatchers Groups in every Congressional district. The material is readable, accurate, and relieves your feeling that such an effort is too difficult and won’t produce results.

You can get an autographed copy of How the Rats Re-Formed the Congress, or discounted autographed books in bulk for your circle of friends, by going to ratsreformcongress.org. See how the rats led the way until the people, just like you, entered the fray.

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The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats

The Republican Party lost ground in the Congressional and state elections earlier this month, but they continue to triumph in the all-important contests over words.

Republicans have been winning the “war over words” for years. First, the hard core political right wingers symbolically claimed the Bible and the American flag, turning them upside down. To them the Bible meant anything but the Golden Rule and compassion for the “poor,” so frequently noted in the Scriptures. They brandished the flag as a patriotic symbol to gag dissent, as a bandanna for waging war crimes, and as a fig leaf to hide the shame of their cruel domestic policies in the U.S.

During the late Forties, few Americans chose to call themselves “conservatives.” “Liberals” were ascendant, coming out of the FDR years. Under incessant associational attack on the word “liberal,” few politicians now brandish their beliefs as “liberals,” while many tout some of their views as “conservative.”

Given American history, this is quite a twisted linguistic victory. Tories (the conservatives of the Revolutionary era) sided with King George III against the American Revolution. Conservatives supported slavery, women’s disenfranchisement, and stood against the great progressive reforms by farmers and industrial workers in the late 19th and early 20th century. Conservatives opposed progressive taxation, social security, Medicare, labor union rights, and more recently, the civil rights, consumer rights, and environmental protections. Liberals led in support of these expansions of justice in our country.

Yet liberals are timid about using the liberal label. Instead they either often cite their “conservative” credentials, for example on spending, or use the word “progressive,” as their chosen new label. Liberals are not progressives on issues of war and peace, Wall Street and corporate welfare entitlements—to just name two differences.

When Hillary Clinton accepted her Party’s nomination for President of the U.S. in 2016, she explicitly called herself a “progressive.” Not even close for such a war-monger, who embraced the war outlaw Henry Kissinger, who was also a Wall Streeter, coddling the corporate supremacists with huge crony capitalism (corporate welfare). Clinton accepted huge speaking fees from Goldman Sachs and other mega-corporatists amounting to $200,000 or more for each closed door speech she gave.

Conservatives put “liberals” on the defensive by stigmatizing them as “big spenders” and for “expanding public deficits.” Never mind the conservative mega-deficits. “Liberals,” compromised by their campaign cash paymasters, were reluctant to accurately accuse the conservatives of building the burgeoning “corporate welfare” bonanzas or supporting runaway unaudited military budget waste arising from their 2017 tax cuts for the corporations.

When it came to voting, the Democrats played the same game as the Republicans. In 2017, 60 percent of the Democrats voted for a larger military budget than even Donald Trump requested from Congress.

Over the years, enhanced by Ronald Reagan’s rhetorical repetition, Republicans took away the words “liberty” and “freedom” from the liberals, who were left only with the crucial, bedrock word “justice” that they didn’t often want to hurl against the Republicans. Too bad, because the hardest word for the Republicans to hijack is “justice.” Note its rarity in that Party’s speeches and writings. Without “justice,” of course there is little “freedom” or “liberty.”

More recently, Republican extremists and the media have usurped the word “populist” to misuse it as a pretext to “divide and rule,” while the corporatists laugh all the way to the megabanks that are “too big to fail.” Populism was a political movement against gigantic concentrated corporate power of the banks and railroads over 100 years ago, on behalf of all the people. That is what the farmers and workers were driving their populist revolts to achieve.

The latest verbal usurpation is making “globalism” into a dirty word, as former Wall Streeter, Steve Bannon has done. Notice the absence of any qualifying adjective. There are different types of globalization. The word is used to identify financial/corporate transnational creators of a global world order opposed to nationalism. In reality, the other globalism brings together people who believe in global unity. This includes beneficial global treaties, normal commercial laws, and disaster rescue efforts.

Above all, there is civic globalization where the forces of just democratic societies unite with environmental (eg. climate disruption), worker, consumer, cooperative and charitable missions. Given the interdependencies of the natural environment and the mutual reinforcements of justice initiatives, we should talk much more about civic globalization as a counterweight to globalized corporations strategically planning and advancing their commercial priorities.

Civic globalization recognizes that the nation state remains, economist Herman Daly has noted, the main defense against global corporate predators.

Turning “globalists” and “globalization,” without any adjectives, into pejorative stereotypes fosters other forms of prejudicial propaganda.

The Republican wordsmith, Frank Luntz has scoffed at the Democrats’ verbal ineptitude or indifference. Luntz coined the phrase “death tax” to replace “estate tax”, and with the media’s repetition almost got the Congress to repeal this tax that is overwhelmingly on the wealthy. Fortunately, in 2002 the Democrats blocked this all out Republican effort in the House and the Senate. Once when asked, what would he have called the “estate tax” were he a Democrat, Luntz smiled and immediately said “the billionaires’ tax.” His gift to the Democrats was not adopted as a moniker in this continuing plutocratically-driven struggle over mind-shaping words and phrases that so often serve to obscure contrary deeds.

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Don’t be Flattered, Fooled and Flummoxed in Tomorrow’s Election

Let’s face it. Most politicians use the mass media to obfuscate. Voters who don’t do their homework, who don’t study records of the politicians, and who can’t separate the words from the deeds will easily fall into traps laid by wily politicians.

In 2002, Connecticut Governor John Rowland was running for re-election against his Democratic opponent, William Curry. Again and again, the outspent Curry informed the media and the voters about the corruption inside and around the governor’s office. At the time, the governor’s close associates and ex-associates were under investigation by the U.S. attorney. But to the public, Rowland was all smiles, flooding the television stations with self-serving, manipulative images and slogans. He won handily in November. Within weeks, the U.S. attorney’s investigation intensified as they probed the charges Curry had raised about Rowland. Rowland’s approval rating dropped to record lows, and impeachment initiatives and demands for his resignation grew. He was prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned. Unfortunately, enough voters were flattered, fooled, and flummoxed to cost Bill Curry the race.

In 2004 Tom Frank, a Kansas author, wrote: “The poorest county in America isn’t in Appalachia or the Deep South. It is on the Great Plains, a region of struggling ranchers and dying farm towns, and in the election of 2000, George W. Bush carried it by a majority of greater than 75 percent.” Inattentive voters are vulnerable to voting against their own interests. They are vulnerable to voting for politicians who support big business and ignore their interests as farmers, workers, consumers, patients, and small taxpayers. Big Business will not spur change in a political system that gives the fatcats every advantage. Change must come from the voters, and here’s how:

President Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress are masters at flattering voters and lying about their positions on issues ranging from health care to the minimum wage. Before you vote, rid yourself of all preconceived, hereditary, ideological, and political straitjackets. Use two general yardsticks for candidates for elective office: Are they playing fair and are they doing right?

Stay open-minded. Avoid jumping to conclusions about candidates based solely on their stance on your one or two top issues. Pay attention to where these politicians are on the many other issues that profoundly affect you and your family. If you judge them broadly rather than narrowly, you will increase your influence by increasing your demands and expectation levels for public officials. There are numerous evaluations of their votes, easily available on the Internet.

Know where you stand. A handy way to contrast your views with those of the incumbents and challengers is to make your own checklist of twenty issues, explain where you stand and then compare your positions, the candidates’ votes and declarations. Seeing  how their positions or their actual record matches up to your own positions makes it harder for politicians to play you. Compare candidates with their votes or declarations.

Ask the tough questions. These are many issues that politicians like to avoid. They include questions about whether candidates are willing to debate their opponents and how often, why they avoid talking about and doing something about corporate power and its expanding controls over people’s lives, or how they plan specifically to shift power from these global corporate supremacists to the people. After all, the Constitution starts with “We the People” not “We the Corporations.” The words “corporations” and “company” are never mentioned in our Constitution!!

Ask candidates to speak of Solutions to the major problems confronting our country. Politicians often avoid defining solutions that upset their commercial campaign contributors. Ask about a range of issues, such as energy efficiency, livable wages, lower drug prices, massive government contractor fraud, corporate crimes against consumers, workers and investors, reducing sprawl, safer food, and clean elections.

Ask members of Congress to explain why they keep giving themselves salary increases and generous benefits, and yet turn cold at doing the same for the people’s frozen minimum wage, health insurance, or pension protections.

All in all, it takes a little work and some time to become a super-voter, impervious to manipulation by politicians who intend to flatter, fool, and flummox. But this education can also be fun, and the pursuit of justice can offer great benefits to your pursuit of happiness.

Such civic engagement will help Americans today become better ancestors for tomorrow’s descendants.

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Democrats: Headline “America Needs a Raise” Now Before Elections

The top Republican politicos must be thinking — with adversaries like the Democratic Party, who needs friends? Since 2010 the GOP minority has taken over the majority of state legislatures, Governorships and now the three branches of the federal government.

Polls consistently show most Americans oppose the catastrophic Republican agenda. The American people support raising the frozen federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour; want to protect Obamacare; want law enforcement to punish Wall Street crooks and prevent consumer rip offs; support forming labor unions and protecting labor rights; favor prosecuting the student loan and the for-profit school rackets; want the Republican Party to stop voter suppression and judicial disenfranchisement, and want injured people to have access to the courts. Despite all of these unpopular Republican Party positions, the Republican Party keeps winning.

Even in next month’s elections, which are supposed to produce a blue wave of Democratic victories, the polls are tightening. Trumps polls are edging up, in spite of the belligerent loud mouth’s daily foul and lying invectives.

To see the anemic Democrats, watch the debates between the various candidates. A recent debate between Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill and Republican Josh Hawley, whose office of attorney general is a widely reported mess, is illustrative. Hawley had McCaskill on the defensive regarding the southern border wall. She kept Trumpeting how she has voted for $70 billion for the wall and border security. She did not advance her own immigration policy.

She agreed with Hawley on a GOP ruse, namely a federal reinsurance program for pre-existing conditions, instead of specifically strengthening Obamacare or, better, coming out for a more efficient full Medicare for everyone with free choice of doctor and hospital. She did not challenge Hawley with an explicit minimum wage target or where he stood on lifting poverty and crumbling infrastructure throughout the state. A few Democratic candidates have solidly put forth a “fight for $15 an hour” position. They also need a public works plan and an alternative tax agenda for fairness and job expanding, crucial public investments.

Too often the GOP candidates have the Democratic candidates on the defensive. The Democrats need to respond to the GOP’s cruel and misleading triad of lower taxes (for the super-rich that is), de-regulation (endangering your health and safety) and a strong defense (meaning further bloating the wasteful, redundant military budget and its boomeranging Empire abroad).

The Democrats are always backtracking because they largely have no military or foreign policy differing from the GOP; they have no stand against crony capitalism for corporate welfare, despised by both conservatives and progressives. They will not argue strongly for needed “law and order” regulation to prevent toxics from poisoning your air, water and soil.  They advance no law enforcement plan to protect your consumer dollars and prevent another Wall Street criminal collapse on jobs, savings, and pension funds that would result in another giant taxpayer bailout. Some Congressional Democrats even joined with Republicans this year to weaken the Dodd-Frank law.

In recent months, I have been asking numerous Congressional Democratic groups, such as the House Democratic Caucus and the Democratic National Committee, why the specific, abysmal and cruel Republican votes in Congress are not made into campaign headliners. No response. Why are they not making the stagnant, low wages an emblazoned cause for tens of millions of Americans? Why are they not telling people to go “Vote for a Raise,” –long overdue following years of workers being shortchanged by inflation, being denied raises for productivity advances, and being subjected to wage theft amounting to as much as $50 billion a year?

“America Needs a Raise,” can become a clarion call for getting out the vote and highlighting the vast inequalities of, say Walmart’s CEO making $12,000 an hour, plus perks and benefits, while many of his workers sweat away at little more than $11 an hour.

So compromised by campaign cash are most Democratic candidates, excepting the few progressive insurgents, that they are not even rebutting the exaggerated and defective  Republican boasts about the economy’s low unemployment rates for Hispanic and Black workers. Millions of workers have dropped out of the labor market, record millions are temps or work short weeks, wages are stagnant, rents higher, and at least a third of Americans are poor.

The Republicans are getting away with their phony sing-song of a robust economy in their political TV ads and debates. Again and again, too few Democrats will not stand for explicit policies that reflect majoritarian opinion and contrast with the plutocratic, big business interests of the Republicans.

With all the winning issues waiting for the Democratic Party to show the voters what it stands for, why is there is hesitation, cowardliness, and obsession with raising money from commercial interests? Moreover, four time losers at the Congressional level and their failed political consultants have refused to step aside and be replaced by fresh, young politicians insistent on defending the country from the worst, cruelest, most corrupt iteration of the Republican Party in history.

Imagine what FDR, Harry Truman, and LBJ would have done with this current crop of grim and greedy Republican corporatists such as super-rich Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who just told the country that cuts in Medicare and social security are necessary due to the deficits he and his GOP created with the giant tax escapes for the rich and big corporations. For starters, old style Democrats would be “raising hell” promoting the omnipresent message that America Needs a Raise!

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Cong. Jamie Raskin – “Vote For a Raise, Expose the GOP, Win the Elections”

Decades ago, prominent political analyst Kevin Phillips said that the Republicans go for the jugular while the Democrats go for the capillaries. Today’s national Democratic Party makes Phillips observation seem overly generous.

With the polls tightening for November’s Congressional elections and Trump’s weak approval rating inching up to 47%, there is a sense of déjà vu. Why should we be surprised? Look at the sorry list of national Democratic derelictions:  they utterly failed to landslide the Republicans in the 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 elections for Congressional supremacy. Worse, the Republicans landslided the Democrats taking most state legislatures, governors and all three branches of the Federal government.

The current Republican Party is the worst in history. It is filled with cruel, vicious, corrupt Wall Street toadies, war-mongering wasters, and promoters of immunity and tax escapes for big corporations and the super-wealthy. In return for big campaign donations. The Republicans are very willing to imperil the health, safety, and economic well- being of consumers, workers, and patients.

Let’s start with the frozen federal minimum wage at $7.25 per hour. Some 30 million workers are making beyond that wage but still less than workers made in 1968, adjusted for inflation. Many of them say they are not voting because they feel disempowered. Well, why don’t the Democrats launch a national campaign urging workers to vote and get a long-overdue raise denied to them by corporate political power? Together with the AFL-CIO, the Democrats can bring this simple demand for justice, beyond formal resolutions, front and center before November 7.

For months I have urged Congressional Democrats to publicize a list of the most dangerous and cruel votes of the Congressional Republicans. The Democrats, for some unknown reason, have declined to do so. The Democratic National Committee, with their many occupied cubicles calling for donations, has not responded to my repeated year-long inquiries.

Support for raising the federal minimum wage is overwhelming with both liberal and conservative support among the voters. The Republicans are firmly set against any such raise; many of them want to get rid of the minimum wage law altogether. Why aren’t the national Democrats going beyond lip service and making this a really big election year issue?

Indeed, most people still ask “What does the Democratic Party stand for, other than Obamacare?” Some candidates running for Congress – mostly the insurgent Democrats who won their primaries – are talking up some of the many overdue justice reforms. However, only the Democratic leaders, and their allies, in Washington, D.C., with their hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign cash can make these causes nationally driven reforms.

Finally, one Congressman stepped up. No longer willing to wait, Cong. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a constitutional law professor, put out a list of “20 Outrageous Things the GOP House Majority Did in My First Term.” (See the list at jamieraskin.com). By highlighting and declaring why the House GOP is so crazily anti-people, the Democrats can define what they stand for.

Raskin’s list starts with the obvious. The House Republicans voted to get rid of health insurance coverage for 30 million Americans and subjected many more to the insurance companies’ deadly fine print (eg. deductibles, exclusions, waivers, pre-existing conditions etc.).

The House GOP voted to weaken law and order efforts against Wall Street’s crimes and recklessness, putting trillions of dollars in worker pensions and mutual funds at risk. Prominent specialists are now warning of another financial collapse from the greed of the speculators.

On Raskin’s list are those massive tax escapes given to the richest 1% and corporations, adding more than $1 trillion to the national deficit and leading Republicans, such as Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to demand cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The Democrats attacked the Trump tax legislation – pushed cowardly through without public hearings, but they have not offered their own tax reform plan that would make the big boys pay their fair share. Those monies could be used to repair and upgrade our infrastructure and create good jobs that are not exportable.  Where is the alternative Democratic tax plan?

The Republican Party’s votes against women rights and children’s well-being have become part of the GOP’s ruthless DNA – denying food, health care, housing, and energy assistance. Why aren’t the Democrats labeling the Republicans as the cruel and vicious big corporate toadies that they are? The message would be especially powerful in candidate debates.

Other House Republican votes on the list undermine workers’ rights to overtime pay for overtime work without loopholes, and all Americans right to their day in court with a trial by jury for their wrongful injuries and property damage.

For the GOP and their corporate paymasters, America is all about corporations uber alles. That’s why they push through Congress the nominations of big corporate judges such as Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. The GOP cannot resist favoring more corporate pollution, especially for the mining industry, and giving the banks license to escape reporting requirements about their predatory and discriminatory lending practices.

Raskin’s 20th outrageous vote is a composite of what the House Republicans refused to do: “The GOP did nothing to address the nation’s infrastructure needs, pass the Dream Act, reduce gun violence, address climate change… increase the minimum wage, address the soaring price of prescription drugs, lower the cost of health care, strengthen voting rights and curb the power of foreign and corporate wealth in our elections, or challenge the outrageous corruption of this administration. “

Instead the Republicans are busy doing various things to suppress the vote in state after state. Where are the National Democrats to stop the rapacity and statism of the corporatist Republicans whom authentic conservatives also find repulsive?

Democrats have less than two weeks to show what the Republican Party is doing against the people and, by that message, show the people what the Democratic Party is determined to do for the people.

The Democratic Party has been told all the above for years. It is late but not too late to save the purported “blue wave” from becoming a blue trickle this November. Losing in 2018 will further open the gates to the Trumpsters’ greedy wrecking crew driving America into an authoritarian pit, if not worse.

Don’t think it can’t happen here again, visit jamieraskin.com for starters.

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Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists

Corporatist candidates like to talk up values without getting specific and without drawing attention to how their voting records put the interests of big financial backers against the interest of most voters. This election season is no exception, from Florida to Texas to California to Ohio to Wisconsin. In 2004, I wrote the following article for the Louisville Courier-Journal comparing Kentucky values to the starkly opposing record and behavior of Senator Mitch McConnell.

All current candidates for elective office who stand for “we the people” and believe that big corporations should be our servants, not our masters, may find this list of values applicable in their states. Corporatist opponents’ voting records, positions, and their campaign contributors’ interests can be clearly compared with civic values and any other values voters and candidates wish to highlight. This kind of comparison can only help to turn out larger numbers of voters who want to elect candidates who will champion consumer, worker, children, and small taxpayer causes.

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From my travels throughout Kentucky, starting with the late ‘60s campaign for coal miners’ health and safety laws, I’ve observed that Kentuckians would like their politicians to be driven by Kentucky values. This election season, voters must be wondering: How has Sen. Mitch McConnell lived up to key Bluegrass State commitments?

  1. Rewarding hard work

Kentuckians don’t want handouts — they believe in working for a living. That’s why they believe in a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.

Mitch McConnell is worth more than $27 million, but has blocked efforts to prevent the minimum wage from seriously eroding due to inflation. He would rather allow McDonald’s and Walmart have taxpayers, through the earned income tax credit, pay for their workers’ public assistance than raise their minimum wages to meet workers’ basic needs.

  1. Honoring your elders

Many Kentuckians follow the Fifth Commandment: Honor thy father and thy mother. They believe our elders, after a lifetime of work, deserve a decent living standard.

Mitch McConnell dishonors our fathers and mothers when he says that the government should cut funding for Social Security and Medicare, programs that give Kentucky elders, who paid into these safety nets, much-deserved security in their golden years.

  1. Practicality

Kentuckians want politicians to have the same practical problem-solving spirit that they and their neighbors exhibit in daily life.

Mitch McConnell has called himself a “Proud Guardian of Gridlock” in Washington and, as the Washington Post wrote, has “raised the art of obstructionism to new levels.”

  1. Respecting women

Kentucky women have made sure that respect and equality for women is a pillar of Kentucky culture.

Mitch McConnell has shown where he stands on disrespecting women: He has voted against helping mothers take leave for sick children, domestic violence victims seeking justice, and working women seeking fair pay.

  1. Being forthright

Kentuckians don’t like politicians talking behind their back — saying one thing to them in public and another in closed rooms full of fat cats.

Mitch McConnell does just that, meeting privately with the multi-billionaire Koch brothers and promising even more Senate opposition to raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits and helping students pay for college.

  1. Responsibility

Kentuckians believe people should be held responsible for how they treat others. They believe corporations should be held responsible for the harm they cause to their workers.

Mitch McConnell has helped roll back safety measures that hold corporations responsible for worker safety. At the urging of business groups, he helped pass a resolution declaring that Clinton administration safety rules protecting against repetitive-stress injuries “shall have no force or effect.” The United Mine Workers of America’s legislative director Bill Banig said McConnell has “not done anything to help us with mine safety.”

  1. Love thy neighbor

Kentuckians don’t want their neighbors in hard times dying because they’re struggling to make ends meet. That why they don’t want their neighbors subjected to “pay or die” health care, whether it is because of the staggering prices of drugs, operations, emergency treatments or health insurance.

Mitch McConnell stands opposed to the most efficient health care system, single payer, or full Medicare for all: everybody in, nobody out, with free choice of doctor and hospital. He even campaigned vigorously against Kynect, which has helped hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians sign up for health care.

  1. No one being above the law

Kentuckians do not believe anyone should be above the law. They want Wall Street crooks who crashed our economy and were bailed out by taxpayers to be prosecuted and put in jail.

Mitch McConnell is an avid Wall Street protector in Congress while he takes campaign cash from Wall Street bosses who he works to keep above the law. He has pledged to “go after” Dodd-Frank financial protections and has been a vocal opponent to the law-enforcing Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Wall Street was the No. 1 contributor to McConnell’s campaign committee from 2009-14.

  1. Defending the Constitution

Kentuckians defend the Constitution and especially believe in its first phrase: We the People. They believe that corporations are supposed to be our servants, not our masters.

Mitch McConnell has said that the “worst day” of his political life was when Congress passed the bipartisan McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms aimed at limiting corporate influence on governance. He proudly told a group of billionaires that the Citizens United decision allowing floods of corporate money into elections was a victory for “open discourse.”

  1. Patriotism

Kentuckians love the commonwealth and the nation. They honor our soldiers and the fallen for their loyalty to America.

Mitch McConnell has allied with disloyal, unpatriotic corporations who are abandoning America. He voted against laws that would help stop outsourcing and voted for tax breaks that perversely reward corporations for shipping American jobs overseas.

McConnell also voted in 2003 to defeat an amendment to provide $1 billion in life-saving body armor for the National Guard in Iraq and later in 2005 voted against an amendment to provide $213 million for more protective Humvees from roadside bombs in Iraq.

As Kentuckians head to the polls this November, I hope they keep these facts in mind about how McConnell has opposed these longstanding Kentucky values.

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