Six years ago, the conservative majority
on the Supreme Court tried to finish it off when they ruled for Big
Money — unlimited amounts of it — in their Citizens United
In his first State of the Union in 2010,
President Obama denounced Citizens United, saying that it
would reverse a century of law and open “the floodgates for special
interests.” He was just as blunt last
year when he declared flatly that Citizens United was
“wrong” and had caused “real harm to our democracy.” Right on all
In fact, this is an excellent
example of the very many times that Obama said one thing to his
audience, while not doing it in practice, or opposing
it in practice, indeed in the same way as he says his
administration is "the most transparent", whereas it is in fact the
Here is another bit on what Obama says versus what Obama does:
Confronted with this [that is: most of
Obama's money came from PACs, corporate interests, and unions - MM], by Tim
Russert on Meet the Press, Obama replied: “I have
said repeatedly that money is the original sin in politics and I am not
Far from sinless, he has in fact been a
serial sinner. From repeated campaigns for the state legislature,
through his one campaign for the US Senate, to his last campaign for
president in 2012, money from organized
interests poured into his coffers. The finance industry,
communications industry, the health industry — they all had a piece of
him, sometimes a very big piece.
Here is Bill Moyers' proposal as to what
Obama should do:
Well, Mr. President, it’s time. You have
no more campaigns to wage. With a little less than 12 months left
in the White House, you have the opportunity to atone for exploiting a
system that you have deplored in words if not deeds. You can restart
the engine of reform and even demonstrate that Citizens United
can be tamed.
Just take out your pen and sign an
executive order compelling federal contractors to disclose their
political spending. In one stroke you can put an end to a blatant
practice of political bribery that would be one small step for you and
one giant leap for democracy.
It’s an open-and-shut case. In fewer than
five minutes, you could face the cameras and announce your decision:
And after this there is the presidential
letter which Bill Moyers wrote for Obama, which I leave to my readers'
Will Obama do it? Given the patterns
of saying progressive things while doing conservative
things, I'd say the chances are about 99 against 1 that he will not
do anything (though he may verbally complain again about the state of
corruption he has embraced).
But we will see.
2. The Post’s Wrong-headed Attack on Bernie Sanders’s Health
is by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows (and is a brief
Yesterday the editorial board of
the Washington Post charged
that Bernie Sanders’s health-care plan rests on “unbelievable
assumptions” about how much it would slash health-care costs without
affecting the care ordinary Americans receive.
I am not sure what these "unbelievable
assumptions" are supposed to be, and also not sure whether the
Washington Post even articulated these "unbelievable
assumptions", but I am sure that the Washington Post is no longer as
much as a shade of the paper that published Woodward and
Bernstein, since it has been bought by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos (<-
In any case, here is Robert Reich on one unstated
assumption of the Washington Post:
We can debate specific numbers, but the Post’s
unstated assumption – that the quality of health care received by
Americans is superior to the quality received by, say, Canadians, from
their single-payer, mostly publicly-funded system – is not borne out by
Despite the fact that Canada spends only
10.4 percent of its GDP on health care in contrast to 16 percent of GDP
in the United States, Canadians enjoy lower
rates of infant mortality and longer
life expectancy than citizens of the United States.
That is: The Canadians - who are
in many ways comparable to the Americans, at least more so than
European nations - pay about one third less in costs (which is
a very large amount of money) while having better care
and a longer life expectancy.
And yes, the Canadians have the single-payer system, that is a lot
better and considerably cheaper than the Romney-type Obama-care.
Corporate Crime Runs Rampant Thanks to 'Rigged' System: Elizabeth Warren
third item is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
"Corporate criminals routinely escape
meaningful prosecution for their misconduct."
This is the damning verdict of Sen.
Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) report released Friday, Rigged
Justice: How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders Off Easy (pdf).
Described as "the first in an annual
series on enforcement," the 12-page booklet "highlights 20 of the most
egregious civil and criminal cases during the past year in which
federal settlements failed to require meaningful accountability to
deter future wrongdoing and to protect taxpayers and families," according
to a press statement from Warren's office.
Yes, they do (think of the American banks,
although their managers are not - not by far - the only type of large
criminals). And the above report, in the first fat link, is well
worth downloading: it is clear, and lists many types of extremely
well-paying crimes by large corporations.
Here is some more on the legal backgrounds:
As in fact I have argued for a long
time, and specifically about American pharmaceutical corporations, who do
get regularly fined for various types of corruption - BUT:
Always less than they made in profits; always without
prosecuting any of the deeply criminal managers; and always without
having to admit any guilt or culpability.
examples raise the disturbing possibility that some giant
corporations—and their executives—have decided that following the law
is merely optional," Warren argues. "For these companies, punishment
for breaking the law is little more than a cost of doing business."
they shed troubling light on the state of the U.S. justice system.
"Justice cannot mean a prison sentence for a teenager who steals a car,
but nothing more than a sideways glance at a C.E.O. who quietly
engineers the theft of billions of dollars," Warren said in the op-ed.
more, Rigged Justice places blame at the feet of federal
agencies and regulators, whose "limp approach to corporate enforcement,
particularly in response to serious misconduct that cost Americans
their jobs, their homes, or, in some cases, their lives, threatens the
safety and security of every American."
In brief, to make a major fraud that makes you a very
great amount of money the present-day recipe for banks' managers and
pharmaceutical corporations seems to be to commit it; to
pocket the enormous profits; to cough part of these up if
they are prosecuted; and then - after nobody got convicted, nobody
got prosecuted, and no admission of any guilt or
culpability - simply go on as before, perhaps after repaying a fairly
small part of the profits one made to the US state.
This article ends as follows:
Indeed, Warren wrote in the Times:
"Legislative agendas matter, but voters should also ask which
presidential candidates they trust with the extraordinary power to
choose who will fight on the front lines to enforce the laws. The next
president can rebuild faith in our institutions by honoring the simple
notion that nobody is above the law, but it will happen only if voters
I'd say that the only presidential
candidate who does fundamentally object to these extremely
corrupting and illegal practices is Bernie Sanders.
4. Hillary’s Corporate
Democrats Taking Down Bernie Sanders
fourth item is by Ralph Nader on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Before announcing for President in the
Democratic Primaries, Bernie Sanders told the people he would not run
as an Independent and be like Nader—invoking the politically-bigoted
words “being a spoiler.” Well, the spoiled corporate Democrats in
Congress and their consultants are mounting a “stop Bernie campaign.”
They believe he’ll “spoil” their election prospects.
Sorry Bernie, because anybody who
challenges the positions of the corporatist, militaristic, Wall
Street-funded Democrats, led by Hillary Clinton, in the House and
Senate—is by their twisted definition, a “spoiler.” It doesn’t matter
how many of Bernie’s positions are representative of what a majority of
the American people want for their country.
I like Ralph
Nader (<- Wikipedia) and those who want to understand some of
the context of his plays on “being a spoiler”
should check out his Wikipedia entry (at least), but I do not
think he told Bernie Sanders anything Sanders did not know.
Also, since I am a European, I'd like to
add that I still look with considerable amazement at US
politics, where there are just two rather ill-defined political
groups with a chance of nominating a president, which is completely
unlike the political system I grew up under, with very many political
parties, many of which do
articulate particular points of view, varying from socialism and social
democracy via green politics and animal rights to conservative,
Christian and several liberal points of view.
And while I know few European or
Dutch politicians I trust, I also insist that having more than
two effective political parties provides considerably more clarity
of principle than the two ill-defined groups of American
Back to Ralph Nader, who says:
Many of the large unions, that Bernie
has championed for decades, have endorsed Hillary, known for her
job-destroying support for NAFTA and the World Trade Organization and
her very late involvement in working toward a minimum wage
National Nurses United, one of the few
unions endorsing Bernie, is not fooled by Hillary’s sudden anti-Wall
Street rhetoric in Iowa. They view Hillary Clinton, the Wall Street
servant (and speechifier at $5000 a minute) with disgust.
Candidate Clinton’s latest preposterous
pledge is to “crack down” on the “greed” of corporations and declare
that Wall Street bosses are opposing her because they realize she will
“come right after them.”
I'd guess that the support of "the unions"
is in fact much more the support of the unions bosses, but I do
not know how much of a difference this makes.
And Ralph Nader ends on a very
fundamental point that is very much pro Sanders:
Yes, precisely: Bernie Sanders has
been telling mostly the same political story
Bernie Sanders, however, does present a
moral risk for the corrupt Democratic Party and the Democratic National
Committee, which are already turning on one of their own leading
candidates. His years in politics so cleanly contrasts with the sordid,
scandalized, cashing-in behavior of the Clintons.
ever since 1970, and that was never a story meant to
make him popular, but one that articulated his own point of view and
his own leftist attitudes - which did get him politically elected time
As to his leftist attitudes: I mostly agree with them, and I do not
know of any
politician anywhere who has been consistent and mostly honest since
1970. Then again, as I have also argued, I don't think he is a
socialist (as I define the term - and I am not one either) and
he hurts his chances of being elected by insisting that he is.
He is a real social democrat (as I define the term), where the
"real" implies both that he is considerably to the left of both Obama
and Clinton, and that he
is far more credible than the many European "social democrats"
know of, for these are mostly personal careerists who adopted the
corrupt Third Way
(<- Wikipedia) lies
to make money in politics for themselves.
5. Flint: Let Them Drink Pollution?
The fifth and last item is by James Boyce
on Naked Capitalism:
In case you don't know: The title is a
play on the words that were very probably falsely attributed to Queen Marie Antoinette
of France, who was supposed to have said to someone who claimed that
many French had no more bread to eat "Let them eat cake".
Here is why governor Snyder is a
criminal poisoner. It comes in two steps, and this is the first:
The Federal Water Pollution Control Act
mandates that water quality standards should “protect the public
health” – period. Its aim, as former EPA administrator Douglas Costle once put it, is
“protection of the health of all Americans.” Under the law, clean water
is a right, not something to be provided only insofar as justified by
the purchasing power of the community in question.
That is quite true, although I like to
remark that under the TTP, the TTIP, the TiSa and the CETA (1) only expected
profits count, also (2) against any moves by a nation's
parliament, a nation's government, a nation's judiciary
and a nation's laws, for which reason I would not be
very soon poisoning of the poor may pass "legally", simply because it
is more profitable than not poisoning the poor.
But this was an aside. Back to Flint and step two:
And this means that governor Snyder and his
menials did intentionally poison the people of Flint, because
that was more profitable than not poisoning the people of Flint.
So it was that Flint – the city with the
second highest poverty rate in the
nation(surpassed only by Youngstown, Ohio), where more than half the population is black
– wound up with lead in its water supply up to 866 times the legal limit.
The levels in some residents’ homes were high enough for the EPA to
classify the water as “toxic waste.”
The contamination was a result of
budget-cutting measures imposed by the city’s “emergency manager,” who
was installed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder with power to override
the elected city council. To save money, the city’s water supply was
switched to the heavily polluted Flint River in 2014. At the same time, officials stopped adding treatment chemicals
to control corrosion in the system’s old lead pipes. When residents
complained about the discolored and foul-smelling water coming out of
their taps, and researchers found evidence of lead contamination, their concerns
were brushed aside by state officials.
Here is James Boyce's conclusion:
It is only a small step from the
emergence of “sacrifice zones” at the losing end
of America’s widening economic and political chasms to the systematic
violation of the right to a clean environment that we see in Flint. It
is not enough to pass legislation to protect the public health of all
Americans. Good laws that are not enforced are no more than good
intentions. For a functioning government – even, it turns out, a
functioning water system – we need a functioning democracy.
I agree - but by now little of a real and functioning democracy is left in the USA, and indeed both
the Democrats and the Republicans are much in favor
of the extremely authoritarian totally anti-democratic TTP, TTIP, TiSa and the CETA, that soon may change
everything in politics.