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

By Ralph Nader
December 13, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are our excuses?

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Critical Exposés Everywhere as the Corporate State Worsens

By Ralph Nader
December 3, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thanksgiving Thanks for The Early “Nader Raiders”

By Ralph Nader
November 24, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Corporate Demolition of Our Pillars of Freedom

By Ralph Nader
November 19, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Book Shines Ways to Rebound Our Historic Postal Service

By Ralph Nader
November 11, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lament of a Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio Yankee Fan

By Ralph Nader
November 5, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

See our list of some leading irritating advertisers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Ralph Nader
October 29, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

The “Spirit of Liberty”

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

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

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

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

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

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GOP Senators Reduced to McConnell Mush!

By Ralph Nader
October 22, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mush, mush orders the leader to his dog sled!

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Reporter’s Alert: Part VI

By Ralph Nader
October 14, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Solar Energy on the Frontlines and Old-Fashioned Clotheslines

By Ralph Nader
October 7, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clothespins, anyone?

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