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

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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

By Ralph Nader
November 28, 2018

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 .

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.


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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.

 

About the Author
Ralph Nader is one of America’s most effective social critics. His analyses and advocacy have enhanced public awareness and increased government and corporate accountability. His example has inspired a whole generation of consumer advocates, citizen activists, and public interest lawyers. He first made headlines as a young lawyer in 1965 with his book Unsafe at Any Speed, which led to congressional hearings and the passage of a series of life-saving automobile safety laws in 1966.

In his career as consumer advocate he founded many organizations including the Center for Study of Responsive Law, the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), the Center for Auto Safety, Public Citizen, Clean Water Action Project, the Disability Rights Center, the Pension Rights Center, the Project for Corporate Responsibility and The Multinational Monitor (a monthly magazine).

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A Finger In The Dam

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Try to imagine a world today unaffected by ever-increasing climate change, a world no longer on the precipice of disaster so large that our way of life and that of the entire planet may be terminated by the next decade.

What if policies had been instituted to mitigate climate change and reduce its overall effect on the environment two decades ago. Where would we be today?  The many severe hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, floods and drought, the astronomical financial burden on our national budget and damage to the economy, all could have been arrested and would continue to be reversed, and we as a the nation would have moved towards sustainable, renewable, low cost energy creating millions of jobs in the process.  The involvement of our government in the Middle East, and in all foreign affairs for that matter, would certainly have been severed from oil dependency and foreign policies freed from a compromise of principle in pursuit of our energy interests, unsavory deals with the devil, abroad and at home, a loss of control.

By Michael Caporale

In November 2000, you might not have wondered about such things as the fate of the Gore v. Bush election dangled on the thin thread of Floridian chad and the political relationship between Jeb Bush and the Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who certified Bush as the winner.  Even before the election, Gore was a climate activist, but then he was “ahead of his time,” which simply put means that you and I and the rest of the nation had other concerns and were divided by the many climate deniers in the right-wing media, the political puppets of the energy industry and their “loner donors” who erected a wall of confusion and doubt challenging the science and data of what was then referred to as “global warming.”  But Gore knew better.  Oh, you might say he did not say enough.  He did not fight enough. But wisdom is the better part of valor and it’s safe to assume that even then, he and his advisors knew that this would be a hill to die on.  First item on his agenda was winning.  It was understood that global warming was not a winning issue.

So now, we find ourselves today at the eleventh hour, the very last possibility to stop global warming and begin the reversal process on climate change, a reality but for one man a so-called Democrat, the Senator who opposes climate mitigation legislation. It’s no secret that Joe Manchin represents West Virginia.  Ostensibly he’s protecting a few West Virginia jobs and the economy of the state, but more so, he’s the coal industry’s finger in the dam holding back meaningful change that will allow our society to endure, that we may continue to enjoy the liberties we have all sacrificed for and pay them forward to succeeding generations.

It’s not like West Virginians don’t suffer along with the rest of us.  River floods have decimated entire communities.  The work force employed by the coal industry is only 3%.  Their infrastructure is crumbling.  Education in West Virginia is vastly in need of improvement.  Yet polls and interviews reveal that West Virginians just can’t let go of “coal,” such is their identity so entwined with it. They perceive that any other form of energy is an attack on their sacred tradition, their heritage and their future.  Truth is, it’s just not so.  But there you have it.  The Democratic Senator who represents their state has the equivalent of veto power in a Senate divided 50/50 and continually rattles that saber to obstruct meaningful and effective climate legislation. It is an affront to democracy that this one man, heavily invested in coal energy, can decide the fate of the nation and the planet for his own political and financial interests.  He is a coward.

Current climate policy is based on the concept of attaining Net Zero.  For example, even today I saw an ad for Cisco wherein they touted that they would achieve net zero by 2040, as if this was some kind of meritorious goal.  Poppycock!  How utterly pathetic and hopelessly deceiving when set upon a complacent and largely ignorant public, too busy fighting the reality of rebuilding after a disaster than to understand the finer points of policy speak

Net Zero is a term coined in climate policy negotiations that essentially means the same as the phrase “zero sum game.”  In a net zero equation, as in a zero sum game, losses are balanced against gains to arrive at zero.  The total of +1 and -1 = 0.  Theoretically, as in the game, there are no winners, but again there are no losers as well. However, in the world of climate change net zero means a balancing act that will not affect any change and it allows polluters to continue to pollute in an amount equal to mitigation forces, therefore “net zero.”  In that mathematical climate offset, we are all losers. Only actual zero will stop climate change and reverse the process.  Burning coal to produce energy causes pollution. It will always cause pollution.   “Clean coal” is not clean.  It’s like saying an “honest thief” or a “moral pedophile.”  It’s an oxymoron.  It’s a polluter. Joe Manchin has written the final act assuring that we will be killing ourselves and our children to satisfy his goals.

We can’t fix this problem totally today, but through a concerted effort it can be ameliorated in the next election if we act as we are one.  To assure climate mitigation, we must make Joe Manchin irrelevant.  In short Democrats need to pick up a minimum of two seats and stack the Senate 52/48.  The focus of the party should be to target and work towards the best opportunities in that regard, put all of their energy behind it and then cut Manchin loose. He has no value to the nation as a whole in this regard. Set him float in his own flood waters.  Let him keep his finger in the dam.  Blow up the dam.

 

 

 

 

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The Green Jobs Advantage: How Climate-friendly Investments Are Better Job Creators

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This paper compares job creation per dollar from various types of green investments vs. unsustainable investments. It also explores how to promote good jobs that have fair wages, job security, opportunities for career growth, safe working conditions, and are accessible for all.

Source: World Resource Institute

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of jobs to be lost globally and has exacerbated inequality. At the same time, addressing climate change is an urgent challenge. Too many governments have funneled money to unsustainable sectors as part of their COVID-19 recovery efforts even though this is not the best job creator and will exacerbate climate change.

This analysis of studies from around the world finds that green investments generally create more jobs per US$1 million than unsustainable investments. It compares near-term job creation effects from clean energy vs. fossil fuels, public transportation vs. roads, electric vehicles vs. internal combustion engine vehicles, and nature-based solutions vs. oil and gas production.

For example, on average:

  • Investing in solar PV creates 1.5 times as many jobs as fossil fuels per $1 million.
  • Building efficiency creates 2.8 times as many jobs as fossil fuels per $1 million.
  • Mass transit creates 1.4 times as many jobs as road construction per $1 million.
  • Ecosystem restoration creates 3.7 times as many jobs as oil & gas production per $1 million.

The paper also explores job quality in green sectors. In developing countries, green jobs can offer good wages when they are formal, but too many are informal and temporary, limiting access to work security, safety and social protections. In developed countries, new green jobs can provide avenues to the middle class, but may have wages and benefits that aren’t as high as those in traditional sectors where, in many cases, workers have been able to fight for job quality through decades of collective action.

Government investment should come with conditions that ensure fair wages and benefits, work security, safe working conditions, opportunities for training and advancement, the right to organize, and accessibility to all.

This paper is jointly published by WRI, the International Trade Union Confederation, and New Climate Economy.

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Behind the Lofty SDGs the Reality is People Don’t Trust Governments to Act

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Behind the Lofty SDGs the Reality is People Don’t Trust Governments to Act

By Andrew Cave, Driving Change

Michael Sani is a fervent believer in people casting transformative power with their votes. As chief executive of Bite the Ballot, a program supporting the U.K. Cabinet Office to increase voter registration, he partnered with Starbucks to create “DeCafe” debates, re-invigorating the spirit of the 17th Century coffee shop to inspire participation in elections.

 

The social entrepreneur later took this initiative to France and Colombia to support political engagement in elections and saw its methodology inspire the African Prisons Project, which held events in prisons with key social justice stakeholders.

 

Now CEO of Play Verto, which he says takes a “holistic approach” to accelerating and magnifying social impact through data-led decision-making, Sani’s new target is nothing less than generating the people power to help change the world.

 

The British-born, Egypt-based former business studies teacher recently unveiled The People’s Report, a global poll enabling 17,000 people speaking 43 different languages on the front lines of climate change to submit de-facto annual returns on how it is affecting their daily lives. The aim is for this exercise to act as a flash scorecard on progress toward achieving the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

 

Emanating from discussions in 2019 with Catalyst 2030, a social entrepreneurship policy initiative, and run on a shoestring with a tiny staff reliant on volunteers and funded by friends and supporters, The People’s Report also wants its data to be used to formulate future policies.

 

“Social entrepreneurs want to collaborate in order to achieve the SDGs” says Sani, “but there are many different social entrepreneurs working towards the SDGs in silos across the different thematic areas.

 

“They have the same goals, but collaboration is hard to come by and what often happens is that there’s not enough funding or resources and you end up competing against those you should be working with because of the way the ecosystem has been put together.

 

“A lot of social entrepreneurs are therefore just surviving, rather than thriving, and that’s the piece of the jigsaw that most fascinates me: how do we shift the sector from survive mode and thrive.”

 

A collaboration between Catalyst 2030, the Social Progress Imperative and Play Verto, The People’s Report’s aim is to measure the reality of peoples’ lives in relation to the SDGs. Eleven questions were posed to ordinary people accessed through the partners’ networks. Eleven questions were posed to ordinary people accessed through the networks of Catalyst 2030 and other initiatives including the Social Progress Index.

 

 

 

 

They were answered by people on the world’s front lines: from the townships of South Africa, sex workers in India, Syrians in refugee camps, truck drivers in Australia, rose growers in Bogota, and office workers in Japan.

 

The inaugural survey found nearly two-thirds of respondents stating that they are experiencing the direct effects of climate change in their daily lives. Some 50% said they cannot trust their governmental leaders to address the issue. Asked whether they would choose to raise children in their communities in the current worsening environment, 34% of respondents replied in the negative.

 

The poll found that 34% of respondents under the age of 51 reported worsening mental health since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread evidence that they are living in the climate emergency, with 79% of respondents in the Indian subcontinent and 63% overall saying they had personally witnessed biodiversity loss.

 

The reality of hunger was also evident, with Africa (32%) and the Indian subcontinent (24%) reporting the highest levels, but 15% of North Americans and 14% of Europeans also saying they go to bed hungry. The impact of COVID-19 was clearly seen as 43% of respondents saying they had lost their income.

 

Lack of trust in governments emerged as a real problem, with 57% citing this in the Middle East and North Africa and one-third of all respondents stating that different views were not respected in their communities.

 

Finally, the survey identified a genuine fear for the future, with 42% of people in the Middle East and North Africa expressing little confidence in the future.

 

Sani and his partners are now planning much bigger Peoples Reports over the remaining eight years until the UN’s deadline. “The call to arms was ‘What’s your story?’” he says.

 

“We wanted to get the realities of as many people as possible at a particular point in time, with the goal of taking that back to the UN. It’s not about pointing out where their data is wrong and our data is right, but just to offer up our ideas so we can all work together with fresh and vivid information.

 

“We’ve got nine years to achieve the SDGs and this is the state of our realities according to the people facing them. We hope it can help form a unified voice to help better shape strategies based on need and a better understanding of what’s working and what’s not.

 

“If we’re going to set forth such an ambitious plan as achieving the SDGs, we really need to have our finger on the pulse. Now we have the data to take this forward.”

Source: Driving Change

Andrew Cave

Andrew Cave is a British business journalist who has written for The Daily Telegraph for 24 years in London and New York, rising to be Associate City Editor before switching to freelance writing in 2005. He also penned columns for Forbes Magazine for six years and has written five books on leadership and management.

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Mobilized TV on Free Speech TV  takes a deep look at our world, the consequences of human activity on our planet, and how we can reverse and prevent existing and future crises from occurring. Mobilized reveals life on our planet as a system of systems which all work together for the optimal health of the whole. The show delves into deep conversations with change-makers so people can clearly take concerted actions.

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