January 30, 2016

Crisis: Transparency, Bezos' Post, Elizabeth Warren, Nader on Sanders, Flint
Sections                                                                     crisis index    

A Step Toward Campaign Transparency
2. The Post’s Wrong-headed Attack on Bernie Sanders’s
     Health Plan

Corporate Crime Runs Rampant Thanks to 'Rigged'
     System: Elizabeth Warren

4. Hillary’s Corporate Democrats Taking Down Bernie

Flint: Let Them Drink Pollution?

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, January 30, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: item 1 is about an article by Bill Moyers, that appeals to Obama to sign a law that would force federal contractors to disclose their political spendings (I think he will not); item 2 is about a brief article by Robert Reich on some lies in the Washington Post (presently owned by Amazon billionaire Bezos); item 3 is about a fine argument by Elizabeth Warren about the enormous amounts of tolerated crimes by the very rich corporations; item 4 is about Ralph Nader on the Clintons and Bernie Sanders, and he is quite fair and sensible; and item 5 is about Flint, where very
many people were forced to drink poisonous water by their governor.

1. A Step Toward Campaign Transparency

The first article is by Bill Moyers (<- Wikipedia) on Consortium News:

This is from near the beginning of the article:

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 decision.

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 counts.

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 most hidden.

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 sinless.”

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' interests.

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 Plan

The second item is by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows (and is a brief article):

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 (<- Wikipedia).

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 evidence. 

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.

3. Corporate Crime Runs Rampant Thanks to 'Rigged' System: Elizabeth Warren

The 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:

"The 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."

And 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.

What's 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."

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.

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 demand it."

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

The 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 "Republicans"
and "Democrats".

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 increase.

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:

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.

Yes, precisely: Bernie Sanders has been telling mostly the same political story
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 and again.

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" I 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 surprised if
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:

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.

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.

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.


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