Category Archives: Consumer Advocacy

Big Business Lies Taught a Watchful Donald Trump

For avalanche-level lying, deceiving, and misleading, mega-mimic Donald Trump need look no further than the history of the corporate advertising industry and the firms that pay them.

Dissembling is so deeply ingrained in commercial culture that the Federal Trade Commission and the courts don’t challenge exaggerated general claims that they call “puffery.”

Serious corporate deception is a common sales technique. At times it cost consumers more than dollars. It has led to major illness and loss of life.

Take the tobacco industry which used to sell its products in the context of health and facilitating mental concentration. Healthy movie stars and athletes were featured in print and on TV until 1970.

Despite studies showing that sugary soft drinks can damage health, increase obesity, and reduce life expectancy, the industry’s ads still feature healthy, fit families in joyous situations guzzling pop. Fortunately, drinking water has regained its first place position as the most consumed liquid in the U.S.

Whether it is the auto industry’s false inflation of fuel efficiency or the e-cigarette companies deceiving youngsters about vaping, or the food industry selling sugary junk cereals as nutrition for children, or the credit banking companies misleading on interest rates, truth in advertising is oxymoronic.

To counter these “fake ads,” the consumer movement pushed for mandatory labeling on food and other products. The Federal Trade Commission is a chief enforcer against deception in advertising, but it has waxed and waned over the decades. The FTC describes its duties to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive acts or practices as follows:

In advertising and marketing, the law requires that objective claims be truthful and substantiated. The FTC does not pursue subjective claims or puffery — claims like “this is the best hairspray in the world.” But if there is an objective component to the claim — such as “more consumers prefer our hairspray to any other” or “our hairspray lasts longer than the most popular brands” — then you need to be sure that the claim is not deceptive and that you have adequate substantiation before you make the claim.

A few times, companies, caught engaging in false advertising, were compelled by the FTC to announce the correction in their forthcoming ads and apologize. Those days are long gone.

Another way consumers fought back is the spectacular success of Dr. Sidney Wolfe and his associates at Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. They researched hundreds of prescription drugs and over the counter medicines and found they were not effective for the purpose for which they are advertised. Relentless publicity on such dynamic mass media as the Phil Donahue Show led to the withdrawal of many of these products, likely saving consumers billions of dollars and protecting them from harmful side-effects (see Pills that Don’t Work).

When large companies are fighting regulation their lies become “clear and present dangers” to innocent people. I recall at a technical conference in the early nineteen sixties, a General Motors engineer warned that seatbelts in cars would tear away the inner organs of motorists from their moorings in sudden decelerations as in collisions. For the longest time, lead, asbestos, and a whole host of chemicals were featured as safe, not just necessary. All false.

Someone should write a book about all the prevarications by leading spokespersons of industry and commerce justifying the slavery of the “inferior races,” arguing against the abolition of child labor in dungeon factories, and predicting that legislating social security would bring on communism.

Interestingly, corporations can lie vigorously and not lose credibility. Artificial corporate personhood comes with immunity from social sanctions that apply to real human beings.

In 1972, The People’s Lobby in California, led by the impressive Ed and Joyce Koupal, qualified an initiative called “The Clean Environment Act.” Corporations threw millions of dollars and made false claims to defeat the Act. Their public relations firm, Whitaker and Baxter, put out a fact sheet reaching millions of voters. The oil companies declared that “lowering the lead content of gasoline would cause automobile engines to fail, resulting in massive congestion and transit breakdowns.” They also claimed that “reducing sulfur oxide emissions from diesel fuel would cause the state’s transportation industry to grind to a haul,” with huge joblessness and “economic chaos.”

Other companies said a “moratorium on nuclear power plant construction” would lead to “widespread unemployment and darkened city streets.” Banning DDT in California would “confront the farmer with economic ruin and produce critical shortages of fruits and vegetables” and more lurid hypotheticals.

The lies worked. Voters turned down the initiative by nearly two to one. All these reforms have since been advanced nationwide with no such disasters.

The media did not distinguish itself by separating the lies from the truth. Later in 1988, the media, led by the Los Angeles Times, did not let the auto insurance industry get away with lies about Prop 103, pushed by a $70 million television/radio buy. Prop 103 won and has saved California motorists over $100 billion according to leading actuary and consumer advocate J. Robert Hunter (see here).

Corporate fibbing pays monetary rewards. Informed consumers, their champions and regulatory agencies at the national, state, and local level must continue to make these companies pay a price, especially over social media. Madison Avenue calls the effect of such pushback “reputational risk.”

With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now

Two Boeing 737 MAX crashes, one in Indonesia last October and one in Ethiopia this past March, took a combined 346 lives. Steady scrutiny by the media reported internal company leaks and gave voice to sidelined ex-Boeing engineers and aerospace safety specialists. These experts have revealed that Boeing’s executives are responsible because they chose to use an unstable structural design and faulty software. These decisions left the flying public, the pilots, the airlines, and the FAA in the dark, to varying degrees.

Yet Congressional Committees, which announced investigations months ago, still have not called on Dennis Muilenburg, the CEO of Boeing, or any member of Boeing’s Board of Directors to testify.

Given the worldwide emergency grounding of all 400 or so MAX aircraft and the peril to crews and airline passengers, why are the Senate and House Committees holding back? House Committee Chairman, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) wants to carefully prepare for such action after the staff goes through the much delayed transmission of documents from Boeing. Meanwhile, Senate Committee Chair Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) deferred to Boeing’s request to put off their testimony before Congress until the Indonesian government puts out its report on the Lion Air disaster, presumably sometime in October.

Meanwhile, just about everybody in the airline industry, the Department of Transportation, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Justice Department (with its criminal probe), the transport unions, the consumer groups such as Flyers Rights, and the flying public are anxious to see top Boeing officials in the witness chair under oath answering important questions.

It is not as if Boeing lobbyists are absent. The giant company has been everywhere in Washington, D.C. getting its way for years in Congress, with NASA, the Department of Defense, and of course, the hapless, understaffed FAA. Boeing gives campaign donations to about some 330 members of Congress.

Corporate CEOs hate to testify before Congress under oath when they are in hot water. CEOs from the tobacco, drug, auto, banking, insurance, and Silicon Valley industries have all dragged their feet to avoid testifying. Eventually they all had to show up in public on Capitol Hill.

The Boeing case involves a more imminent danger. The company and its “captured” FAA want to unground the MAX as fast as possible and to get more new MAXs, under order, to the airlines.

This haste is all the more reason why Congress has to pick up the pace, regardless of “MAX Mitch” McConnell, the Kentucky dictator of the Senate who is a ward of the Boeing complex and its campaign cash. If the 737 MAX is ever allowed to fly again, with its shaky software fixes, glitches, and stitches, the pressure will build on members of Congress to go soft on the company. They will be told not to alarm millions of passengers and unsettle the airline industry with persistent doubts about the plane’s prone-to-stall and other serious safety hazards from overautomation and sloppy construction, already documented in the New York Times, the Seattle Times, and other solid media reporting.

With investigations underway at civil aviation agencies all over the world, and a grand jury operating in the U.S. looking into criminal negligence, this is no time for Congress to take its time in laying open the fullest truths and facts in public. Bear in mind, apart from the civil tort law suits, all other investigations are not being conducted in public.

There is a growing consensus by impartial specialists that after many iterations of the Boeing 737 series, beginning with the 737-100 in 1967, the much larger, more elaborate Boeing 737 MAX must be seen as a new aircraft requiring full certification. Certainly that is the view of some members of Chairman DeFazio’s committee and Chairman David Price’s House Subcommittee on Appropriations which holds the keys to funding a much larger FAA budget to do its job as a regulator, not as a deregulator that abdicates to Boeing.

Moreover, retired airline Captain Chesley Sullenberger, in his brilliant testimony before DeFazio on June 19th, called for full simulator training for pilots before they fly the MAX on scheduled routes (read Captain Sullenberger’s full statement here).

In a precise letter to the Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao and the acting and incoming heads of the FAA (Daniel Elwell and Stephen Dickson respectively), dozens of families and friends of the victims from many countries asked for full recertification and mandatory simulator training before any decision is made about the 737 MAX. Currently 737 MAX pilots are only given an hour of iPad training—a clearly insufficient measure and an affront to safety (see more here). The letter, which was sent on August 7, 2019, also called for the resignation of Ali Bahrami, the abdicator in charge of safety at the FAA.

Many decisions are coming up for the FAA and Boeing. The FAA would be very foolish to unground the 737 MAX just for U.S. airspace without the counterparts in North America, Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa concurring.

As for Boeing, the company cannot afford another one or two crashes attributed to continued indifference to longstanding aerodynamic standards of stability. The issue for Boeing’s celebrity, minimally experienced Board of Directors is how long it will tolerate Boeing’s management that, over the judgement of its best engineers, has brought the company to its present predicament.

How long before the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Department of Transportation or the Congress and the betrayed airlines themselves call for the resignation of both officers and the Board and, end the career conflict of interest these failed incumbents have with the future well-being of the Boeing Corporation itself?

Big Pharma: Gouges, Casualties, and the Congressional Remedy!

The Congress can overturn the abuses of Big Pharma and its “pay or die,” subsidized business model for its drugs.

Big Pharma’s trail of greed, power, and cruelty gets worse every year. Its products and practices take hundreds of thousands of lives in the U.S. from over-prescriptions, lethal combinations of prescriptions, ineffective or contaminated drugs, and dangerous side-effects.

The biggest drug dealers in the U.S. operate legally. Their names are emblazoned in ads and promotions everywhere. Who hasn’t heard of Eli Lilly, Merck, Pfizer, and Novartis? Big Pharma revenues and profits have skyrocketed. In 2017, the U.S. consumers spent $333.4 billion on prescription drugs.

There are no price controls on drugs in the U.S. as there are in most countries in the world. Senator Bernie Sanders just took a bus tour to a Canadian pharmacy where insulin cost patients one tenth of what it costs them in the U.S. Yet, remarkably, drug companies, charted and operating in the U.S., charge Americans the highest prices in the world. This is despite the freebies our business-indentured government lavishes on Big Pharma. The FDA weakly regulates drugs, which are supposed to be both safe and effective, before they can be sold. Who funds this FDA effort? The drug industry itself— required by a law it has learned to love.

The Big Pharma lobby doesn’t always get what it craves. In the nineteen seventies, Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, produced two paperbacks for a wide television audience (e.g. he appeared on the Phil Donahue Show). They were titled, Pills That Don’t Work and Over-the-Counter Pills that Don’t Work. Because of Dr. Wolfe’s tireless efforts, hundreds of different pills were removed from the market, saving consumers billions of dollars and sparing them the side-effects.

Big Pharma’s greatest strength is its hold over Congress. That is where it gets its huge bundle of subsidies and monopolistic privileges. During the first term of George W. Bush, the drug companies got the Republicans and some spineless Democrats to forbid Medicare from negotiating volume discounts with the drug companies, as the Pentagon and VA have done for years. Big Pharma had over 1,200 lobbyists swarming over Capitol Hill to get these handcuffs on Uncle Sam. Lobbyists combined with campaign cash donated by Pharma industry players sealed the deal.

Your Congressional representatives gave the drug giants much in return: Lucrative tax credits to pay Big Pharma to do what they should do anyway—engage in research and development. Drug companies are profitable recipients of taxpayer-funded government research on developing new drugs – and then given monopolies that enable them to impose sky-high prices, even when the purchaser is the very government that funded the invention of the new drugs in the first place.

The drug industry has also made sure there are no price controls on their drugs—whether gifted to them by NIH or developed by drug companies internally. The absence of price controls accounts for new “blockbuster drugs” going for $100,000, or higher, per patient per year. Many drug prices generally increase faster than inflation.

Greed is infinite for Big Pharma. In addition to tax credits, free drug R&D (compliments of the federal government), and no price restraints, the drug companies have moved much production to China and India. No antibiotics are manufactured in the U.S.—a clear national security risk to which the Pentagon and Trump should pay heed. Two new books, China Rx and Bottle of Poison, document the safety risks of poorly inspected labs in those countries exuding pills into your bodies without your minds being told of “country of origin” on the label.

The great hands-on humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders, operating in 70 countries often under dangerous armed conflicts, lists “Six Things Big Pharma Doesn’t Want You to Know,” in its recent alert letter.

They are:

  1. Costs of developing new medicines are exaggerated tenfold or more.
  2. You’re paying twice for your medicines—first as taxpayers and second as consumers or through your government programs.
  3. Drug companies are not that good at innovation. About two thirds of new drugs (called “me-too drugs”) are no better, and may be riskier, than the ones already in pharmacies. But they are advertised as special.
  4. Monopoly patents are extended by clever lawyers to block more affordable generic versions. This maneuver is called “ever greening.”
  5. Pharma bullies low and middle income countries like South Africa, Thailand, Brazil, Colombia, and Malaysia that try to curb its rapaciousness. These drug companies use trade rules and the U.S. government towards their brutal goals.
    In the nineteen nineties, a small group of consumer advocates led by Jamie Love, Bill Haddad, and Robert Weissman persuaded Cipla, an Indian drug firm, and Ministries of Public Health to lower the price of AIDS medicines from $10,000 per patient per year price down to $300 (now under $100). The U.S. drug companies were quite willing to let millions die because they couldn’t pay.
  6. Big Pharma always says they have to have large profits to pay for R&D and innovation. Really? Why then do they spend far more on stock buybacks (one of the metrics for executive compensation), on marketing and advertising than on R&D? Dr. Wolfe exposed this malarkey years ago.

Yet exposure has not stopped the worsening behavior of Big Pharma. Good books by Katharine Greider (The Big Fix) and Dr. Marcia Angell (The Truth About the Drug Companies) are devastating critiques of Big Pharma’s practices. Despite this, the books reach small audiences and are brushed off by the drug giants. Big Pharma is able to ignore these books because it controls most of Congress—candidates rely heavily on the industry for campaign budgets.

But the American people outnumber the drug companies and only the people can actually vote come election time.  Focused voters mean more to politicians than campaign money. The August recess for Congress means your lawmakers are back home having personal meetings. Visit them and make known your demands against the “pay or die” industry. Tell them your own stories.

Or better yet, make them come to your town meetings. Remember: “It’s your Congress, people!”

One galvanizing move by an enlightened billionaire could establish a 20 person advocacy group on drug pricing, focusing on Congress and mobilizing citizens back home. Its effect would be decisive for taming the drug industry’s gouging. Any takers: if so contact Public Citizen at gro.neziticnull@sseccasdem.

  • Image at top from tarbell.org.
  • Achikha in Hebrew, “your brother,” but where is he now?

    Oh, yeah, it was all planned — I’d write about the 52nd anniversary of the attack on the USS Liberty by Israel, the subsequent cover-up, and alas, half a century of Israel and the Jewish state of Mind holding sway over much of the Western world, certainly here in the USA and Canada. Big impetus to analyze other false flags, yet, life gets in the way. Teaching youth in special education — kids with interventions, behavior plans, learning and retention plans. If only the elites and not so elite knew what is going on in America, in the classrooms, with overtaxed teachers, parents that are checked out and famished for their own self-agency and self-worth.

    Image result for photo of USS Liberty

    Kids in high school, needing mentors, and then, bam, first graders with all sorts of learning blocks. More and more kids with physical ailments. And, well, the beat doesn’t go on, if you know what I mean. High school kids who don’t know the history of Israel, Nakba, and certainly nothing about the Vietnam War, Korea, WWI & II, and, the USS Liberty?

    Emancipation from stupidity, though, is not the purview of the poor and misbegotten and hick and small-town worker. It goes to the top, elite (sic) folk in media, education, board rooms. You won’t hear anything about the murders of those sailors by Israel. No eye for an eye by Yankees or rebels.

    Fifty two years, on June 8, 1967, Israel attacked the American naval vessel USS Liberty in international waters, and tried to sink it.

    After checking the Liberty out for 8 hours – and making 9 overflights with Israeli jets, within 200 feet … close enough for the pilots and the sunbathing Liberty sailors on deck to waive at each other.

    Yet the Israelis attacked it with Mirage fighter jets, torpedoes and napalm. The USS Liberty suffered 70% casualties, with 34 killed and 174 wounded.

    The Israeli attack spanned two hours … as long as the attack on Pearl Harbor. The air attack alone lasted approximately 25 minutes: consisting of more than 30 sorties by approximately 12 separate planes using napalm, cannon, and rockets which left 821 holes in the ship. The Israelis fired 30mm cannons and rockets into the boat.

    Oh, and the media, oh the media, covering up so much about the attack. And a commission, launched in 2003, yet there is nary a word in the Mainstream Media, and we wonder why?

    Liberty

    Capitol Hill, October 2003. It is a historic occasion. An independent, blue-ribbon commission is to release its findings from an investigation into an internationally significant 36-year-old attack on a US Navy ship that left more than 200 American sailors killed or wounded.

    The commission consists of:

    • A former ambassador to one of the US’s most important allies
    • A US Navy rear admiral and former head of the Navy’s legal division
    • A Marine general, America’s highest ranking recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and the former Assistant Commandant of Marines
    • A US Navy four-star admiral, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (the highest military position in the country), former Chief of Naval Operations, a World War II hero, and the only Naval admiral to have commanded both the Pacific and the Atlantic fleets

    The excellent group, If Americans Knew, largely spearheaded by Alison Weir, covers this abomination:

    This extraordinarily high-ranking commission was reporting on the 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. Many analysts believe that the Liberty attack could be Israel’s undoing – at least as far as US support is concerned – if Americans knew the facts about it.

    But they don’t. Here’s why:

    A search of hundreds of the largest news media in this country indexed by Lexis-Nexis does not turn up a single US newspaper that mentioned this commission, a single US television station, a single US radio station, a single US magazine. While it was mentioned in an Associated Press report focusing on one of the commission’s most dramatic revelations, Lexis reveals only a sprinkling of news media printed information from this AP report, and those few that that did failed to mention this commission itself, its extremely star-studded composition, and the entirety of its findings.

    Apart from a few members of the alternative press and the excellent Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (not indexed by Lexis), this commission might as well not have existed as far as most of the US media is concerned – and therefore, the American public.

    For two documentaries on the Israeli illegal attack and murders of US sailors,  go here, and here!

    Then, I was going to riff with some “new” FBI documents released, on the Dancing Israelis, and I am not talking about “I wish I was a rich man” Zero Mostel.

    Newly Released FBI Docs Shed Light on Apparent Mossad Foreknowledge of 9/11 Attacks, by Whitney Webb

    New information released by the FBI has brought fresh scrutiny to the possibility that the “Dancing Israelis,” at least two of whom were known Mossad operatives, had prior knowledge of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

    FBI Docs Shed Light on Apparent Mossad Foreknowledge of 9/11 Attacks

    The USS Liberty all over again, but this time, more than 3,000 killed in the so called September 11, 2001 “attacks,” and then countless millions killed, maimed, imprisoned, starved, renditioned, and sickened through the coalition of the killing, err, willing. Here, read on for this unrecognized commemoration of the death of all those sailors!

    Yet, in either scenario, Sivan Kurzberg had simulated the burning of the World Trade Center the day before the attacks took place. That the FBI concluded that Kurzberg was party to a Mossad surveillance operation at the time of his arrest would then suggest that Israeli intelligence also had foreknowledge of the attacks.

    Notably, the relevant section of the FBI report that asks “1. Did the Israeli nationals have foreknowledge of the events at WTC and were they filming the events prior to and in anticipation of the explosion?” is redacted in its entirety, suggesting that the FBI did not determine the answer to that question to be an emphatic “no.”

    And, Benjamin Netanyahu, knew what would happen ahead of the September 11, 2001 attacks. What an ally, what a great Israel First Nation this place has become the past 70 plus years!

    One of the detained “Dancing Israelis,” Omer Marmari, told police the following about why he viewed the September 11 attacks in a positive light: ” Israel now has hope that the world will now understand us. Americans are naïve and America is easy to get inside. There are not a lot of checks in America. And now America will be tougher about who gets into their country.”

    Then, I got derailed watching the dramatization of what happened during, around, and in the case of the Central Park Jogger and the railroading of 5 innocent youth of color who were tried, prosecuted and found guilty (slammed into prison) through the New York media, through the pigs in the police force, with the assistance of the bigger pigs in the DA’s office, all aided and abetted by the New York Post, dozens of other newspapers, and the biggest pig of them all, Donald Delirium Tremens Trump.

    It’s just disgusting,” sighs Ava DuVernay.

    The Oscar-nominated filmmaker and TV showrunner is discussing the role of President Donald Trump in the Central Park Five case, wherein five teenage boys of color—Korey Wise, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, and Raymond Santana—were falsely convicted of the 1989 rape and vicious assault of Trisha Meili, a white investment banker, and subsequently spent up to 14 years in prison.

    At the time Trump, then a PR-hungry NYC real estate baron who occasionally served as his own publicist, sensed an opportunity for some headlines and inserted himself into the case, inflaming racial tensions with frequent comments to news programs along with newspaper ads, purchased for $85,000, calling the boys “crazed misfits” and urging the state of New York to “bring back to the death penalty,” essentially calling for their pre-trial execution. He concluded: “Maybe hate is what we need if we’re gonna get something done.”

    More shenanigans with elite New York white Jewish culture, the prosecutor in that lying case, Fairstein, who went on to make money with trashy crime novels. To this day, like fourth grade mentally challenged Trump, she too believes the lies, her own:

    And it’s another felon who plays this Fairstein —

    Felicity Huffman and Linda Fairstein, former head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan DA's office.

    And then, the other elite Jewish white woman who also prosecuted the case, Elizabeth Lederer.

    As The Times noted, Lederer has a lengthy legal history of unchallenged cases, despite the fact that she’s largely known for her involvement in the Central Park Five’s case. Lederer is no longer discussing the case in public; she did not comment on the petition in 2013.

    Though Lederer has made virtually no public comments on her role in the case since the trial ended, archived articles show the trial was an emotionally charged affair, for obvious reasons. The Los Angeles Times notes that Korey Wise, one of the Five, said to Lederer after he was given his sentence, “You’re going to pay for this. Jesus is going to get you. You made this . . . up.”

    Elizabeth lederer

    I guess I am on a roll, here, since someone sent me this about another Jewish white elite female, this time with the US Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She first sent me a month ago the Netflix info tag on Ginsburg’s life vis-a-vis a CNN documentary, RBG and then the film, On the Basis of Sex:

    But no amount of swag or hagiography can obscure the fact that, while Ginsburg is responsible for a great number of landmark legal decisions, her legacy may be sorely tarnished by one truly terrible one: refusing to retire when President Barack Obama could have named her replacement. That decision came into stark relief this month when Ginsburg fell and broke three ribs—and half of the nation took a collective gasp. Women took to Twitter to offer the justice a rib.

    The broken ribs must have mushed her here, for sure, as this old lady just put a few million feet in her mouth:

    Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg praised Justice Brett Kavanaugh in her prepared remarks at Friday’s Second Circuit Judicial Conference. She noted that after Kavanaugh was confirmed the number of female Supreme Court clerks reached an all-time high, given his staffing choices.

    Quote: “Justice Kavanaugh made history by bringing on board an all-female law clerk crew. Thanks to his selections, the Court has this Term, for the first time ever, more women than men serving as law clerks. Women did not fare nearly as well as advocate. Only about 21-percent of the attorneys presenting oral argument this Term were female; of the 34 attorneys who appeared more than once, only six were women.”

    Amazing, the death star of American elites, east coast Ivy League Lepers —

    GettyImages-1041759596-1538177880

    Ginsburg, what a work of nothing! And the sad sack demon-crats march her out as some hero!

    MANY OF US who watched Thursday’s Senate hearing spent much of the time cataloguing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s lies. After hours of testimony, during which Christine Blasey Ford answered questions about her alleged sexual assault, the financing behind her lie detector test, and whether she was really afraid of flying, viewers were treated to more hours of testimony from Kavanaugh, a federal judge who struggled to give a single straight answer.

    Kavanaugh strained credulity when he argued before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the “Devil’s Triangle” — a phrase that appeared on his high school yearbook page — referred to a drinking game, a definition which, before Thursday, you’d have a hard time finding anywhere. (It actually refers to a sex act involving two men and a woman). He also unabashedly claimed that the term “boof” is a reference to “flatulence,” rather than other butt stuff, and that “ralph,” which means to vomit —implicitly from the overconsumption of alcohol — was a reference to Kavanaugh’s weak stomach.

    I guess all of this speaks to a bit of sensitivity around white patriarchy/matriarchy and white dominance, eating away at the soul of us, the 80 percent. I guess I have to square how it is that an elite super minority and so many in that tribe are superior to anyone else on the planet, in their own minds at that, has held sway over much of my own life in education, social services, journalism, and publishing.

    This is observation, but in today’s Stephen Miller-Alan Dershowitz  world, with all the backing of the ADL, anyone who dares point out the elitism and the tribalism and the power clique that defines American Judaism, well, the old canard, anti-Semite, comes popping out of clicking tongues.

    Something raw, now that I am working to help a veteran who ended up renting an apartment in Wilsonville, Oregon, at age 70, with an amputation from the knee down, and using a wheelchair. He has major eye problems, which have led to vision and pain in his eyes. He is in an apartment that has two steps that prevent him from using a flat surface to go in and out of the abode. He’s fallen twice on sod, trying to maneuver the wheelchair to the parking lot. He lives alone, doesn’t drive and knows no one at the apartment complex. I got him services while working as his social worker in that nefarious place, the Starvation Army.

    He is virtually at the whim of people to come and help him get out of his apartment landing onto cement. He has medical appointments several times a week, a long trip from Wilsonville to the VA in Portland.

    The apartment complex is being run by the largest multi-family property management company in the USA (self advertised) called Pinnacle Property Management. I have sent letters and emails to upper management, but to no avail. So has he. The discussion about accommodations — putting down a flat walkway from his sliding back door, about 20 feet — has turned into a case of this multi-billion dollar outfit telling him they will do it but at a charge of $5,300. We are being talked down to by the Portland office, some lower ranking person who has zero empathy for the situation, but is clear to cite in reverse logic the state of Oregon’s fair housing laws, which she uses to protect her asinine attitudes.

    He’s on a fixed income and was homeless. The idea that the apartment complex is now managed by this outfit, so the owner(s) can hide behind their skirts, is typical of the American Penury Society. They’ve cited fair housing laws in an Orwellian way — “If we put in the walkway at our expense for your client, that would be unfair to other tenants . . . . Then everyone asking for us to pay for an accommodation we’d have to oblige.”

    I’ve advocated for the veteran since this veteran is non-confrontational and is traumatized at having to be apartment-bound for more than two months with no end in sight. I have told these nefarious folk that, (a) a new concrete pathway for the only ground floor apartment with a two-step situation would be an enhancement to THEIR property in perpetuity. Then, (b) I explained the obvious: Anyone renting the apartment in the future, when my veteran leaves, would have the advantage of having some handicapped accommodation in the case of a wheelchair bound tenant, or an injured tenant or someone in need of a walker or crutch or cane, or even a family with a newborn in a carriage.

    Since I was already stewing around the Dancing Israelis and the Jewish State of Israel’s attack on our own people, sailors; and since the Central Park Five were prosecuted by two Jewish women, well, I was traumatized a bit. I looked up the management of Pinnacle, and alas, the higher ups — many of them — are self-proclaimed practicing Jews:

    Eric Schwabe, Executive Vice President – Western Division

    Woody Stone, Executive Vice President – Eastern Division

    Jason Straub, Systems Training Manager

    Deb Kopolow, Regional Vice President

    Avery Solomon, Vice President – Client Services

    Seth Kaplan, Regional Marketing Director

    You know, none of the above people have replied to my respectful and clear emails or letters asking them to be both ethical and community orientated when thinking about my former client and now my friend.

    I have looked at their internal documents, Propaganda videos and marketing web pages, and hands down, these people parade out a litany of BS about how humane and resident focused they are!

    Pinnacle is a privately held organization that manages multifamily properties nationwide. Established in 1980, we are one of the largest multifamily management companies in the United States with a portfolio of over 172,000 units and 4,300 team members. Our clients include pension funds, private partnerships, international investors, insurance companies, lenders, special servicers, syndicators, government agencies and high net worth individuals.

    I have come to my wits end, in this emotionally and economically cursing society, with the One Percent and the Point Zero One Percent having for too many centuries controlled the destinies of the masses. Having studied some of the Jewish tradition with radical Jewish friends 45 years ago, I am always T-boned by the unfeeling and usury-based prevailing attitudes of the rich, both gentile (goyim) and Jew or Arab Prince!

    Here, some contradictions to the idea that money is the lifeblood of so many, especially the millionaires and billionaires — Mammon was an ancient god who used to be worshiped by pagans for riches, money and wealthy. Counterpoint to that:

    The overarching Jewish attitude toward the poor is best summed up by a single word of the biblical text: achikha (your brother). With this word, the Torah  insists on the dignity of the poor, and it commands us to resist any temptation to view the poor as somehow different from ourselves.

    The concept of human dignity is well-ingrained in Judaism. The book of Genesis describes human beings as created “b’tzelem elokim” in the image of God (1:26). At least one early Rabbi considers one of the verses expressing this idea to be the most important verse in the Torah (Sifra K’dosbim 2:4). The insistence that human beings are creations in the divine image implies that any insult to an individual, by extension, is an affront to God. In reminding us that the poor person is our sibling, the Torah emphasizes that, like us, this person is a manifestation of the divine image and should be treated as such.

    A rabbinic story tells about a group of people traveling in a boat. One passenger takes out a drill and begins drilling a hole under his seat. The other passengers, quite understandably, complain that this action may cause the boat to sink. “Why should this bother you?” this man responds, I am only drilling under my own seat.” The others retort, “But the water will rise up and flood the ship for all of us!” (Vayikra Rabbah 4:6). The moral of this story is clear: one person’s destructive action may literally drown the entire community. But we might add that the inverse is also true: a single positive change may transform an entire community. Thus, the alleviation of poverty, even in the smallest detail, may help the community as a whole to flourish.

    Yet Pinnacle or the Dancing Israelis or the New York prosecutors or any number of thousands of elites and money-grubbing individuals and corporations have zero understanding of the foundation of the golden rule or Gandhi’s sins

    In 590 AD, Pope Gregory I unveiled a list of the Seven Deadly Sins – lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride – as a way to keep the flock from straying into the thorny fields of ungodliness. These days though, for all but the most devout, Pope Gregory’s list seems less like a means to moral behavior than a description of cable TV programming.

    So instead, let’s look to one of the saints of the 20th Century — Mahatma Gandhi. On October 22, 1925, Gandhi published a list he called the Seven Social Sins in his weekly newspaper Young India.

    Politics without principles.
    Wealth without work.
    Pleasure without conscience.
    Knowledge without character.
    Commerce without morality.
    Science without humanity.
    Worship without sacrifice.

    The list sprung from a correspondence that Gandhi had with someone only identified as a “fair friend.” He published the list without commentary save for the following line: “Naturally, the friend does not want the readers to know these things merely through the intellect but to know them through the heart so as to avoid them.”

    Unlike the Catholic Church’s list, Gandhi’s list is expressly focused on the conduct of the individual in society. Gandhi preached non-violence and interdependence and every single one of these sins are examples of selfishness winning out over the common good.

    It’s also a list that, if fully absorbed, will make the folks over at the US Chamber of Commerce and Ayn Rand Institute itch. After all, “Wealth without work,” is a pretty accurate description of America’s 1%. (Investments ain’t work. Ask Thomas Piketty.) “Commerce without morality” sounds a lot like every single oil company out there and “knowledge without character” describes half the hacks on cable news. “Politics without principles” describes the other half.

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    Global rebellion to Save Our Planet

    “The greatest threat to the Earth is thinking someone else will save it.” The responsibility is ours; politicians and governments are complacent, dishonest and buried in the ideology of the past. Despite repeated warnings nothing substantial has been done and time is running out.  No one else is going to Save Our Planet; a global movement of civil disobedience is needed to force governments to take the radical action needed.

    In 1992 the Union of Concerned Scientists (made up of 1,700 of the world’s leading scientists) issued the ‘World Scientist’ Warning to Humanity’. They stated that, “a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.” Their words fell on deaf ears. Decades of inaction and procrastination has allowed the crisis to escalate and escalate, leading to the point where we are now, the very edge of total catastrophe.

    Given the enormous scale of the issue, many people feel overwhelmed, hopeless. Eco-anxiety, defined as “a chronic fear of environmental doom”, is on the rise in many countries triggering feelings of rage, grief, despair and shame. Some people are so worried they are taking the extreme decision not to have children until climate change is dealt with. ‘Birth Strike’, The Guardian reports, is ‘a [UK based global] voluntary organization for women and men who have decided not to have children in response to the coming “climate breakdown and civilization collapse.” … It is a “radical acknowledgment” of how the looming existential threat is already “altering the way we imagine our future”.’

    The aim of BirthStrike is not to discourage people from having children, but to communicate the urgency of the environmental crisis. Many of its members are also involved with the groundbreaking movement, Extinction Rebellion (XR), a UK-based socio-political group using non-violence resistance to create a sense of urgency about tackling the environmental crisis. XR chapters now exist in dozens of countries including the US, the Solomon Islands, Australia, Spain, South Africa and India.

    Extinction Rebellion is calling for an ecological emergency to be declared by governments, the UK to lead the way and reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025 – ambitious certainly, but we need such targets, and for citizens assemblies to be established to devise a plan of action to tackle climate breakdown and biodiversity loss. They want to create ‘peaceful planet-wide mobilization of the scale of World War II’, only such a global response they say, ‘will give us a chance to avoid the worst case scenarios and restore a safe climate.’

    Consistent with other major social movements such as the Suffragettes, the US Civil Rights movement and the Freedom Movement in India led by Mahatma Gandhi, civil disobedience is at the heart of Extinction Rebellion’s methodology. In April this year the group mounted a major non-violent action in central London. Thousands of people occupied public spaces in the capital, closing bridges, causing disruption and staging a spectacle. ‘Dilemma actions’ were designed in which the authorities were faced with a choice – whether to allow the action to take place or not, to arrest and contain people or not. The demonstrations lasted for ten days and were part of an integrated global action with people in over 33 countries across six continents taking part.

    In London more than 1,100 arrests were made as people peacefully asserted their right to demonstrate. The rebellion was substantial and historic. The result was widespread media coverage and a debate in the UK parliament, at the end of which a national ‘climate emergency’ was declared. A positive step, although we are yet to see what it actually means, and what policy action/s will follow.

    Together with School Strike for Climate Change and other groups, XR is part of a worldwide movement the like of which has not been seen before; a diverse united group of environmental activists and concerned citizens, men women and children who care deeply about the environment, recognize that their governments are doing little or nothing to tackle the issues and that radical systemic change is urgently needed.

    Engagement is one of the most positive ways to overcome eco-anxiety and a feeling of disempowerment; engage and discover there are huge numbers of people who feel the same, who are extremely worried, who don’t really know what to do, but are determined to do something. Engagement around shared issues builds strong bonds, creating solidarity and strengthening commitment.

    At the end of the April action Extinction Rebellion said, “we will leave the physical locations but a space for truth-telling has been opened up in the world…in this age of misinformation, there is power in telling the truth.”

    Simplicity of living

    The environmental crisis is universal, existential and exponential and is made up of a number of interconnected issues: ecological collapse, extinction of species, deforestation, air, water and soil pollution and climate change. Manipulating existing systems and making small changes won’t solve the problems; radical systemic and social change is required and urgently. Governments are weak and compromised by their relationship to business and their obsession with the economy; they are deceitful and refuse to take the necessary actions to save the planet, so they must be forced to listen, and to act in accordance with the need, which is immense.

    Unbridled, irresponsible consumerism must be brought to an end; sustainability and simplicity of living must now be the keynote of our lives. Individual and collective commitment is essential, commitment to live in an environmentally responsible way, to be aware of the environmental impact of everything we as individuals do – what we buy, what we eat, how we travel, how we use utilities etc., and commitment to participate and engage; to take part in protests and/or online activism, to pressurize politicians and corporations, and to support radical green movements in any way possible.

    All governments, particularly those in western democracies need to be pushed to make the environment their number one priority. The environmental crisis is the greatest emergency of this or any other time; every area of policy making must now be designed to bring about the most positive environmental impact; short (five years), mid (10 years) and long term (25 years) plans, ambitious but with full commitment, attainable, need to be agreed and implemented, the voice of climate scientists and of environmental activists listened to and major public information programs set up.

    The work of environmental salvage is not separate from the prevailing crisis of democracy and the need to fundamentally change the destructive, unjust socio-economic order. For ecological harmony to be reestablished and healing of the natural world to occur we need to radically change the systems and ways of life that are fueling the crisis, and inculcate new modes of living based on more humane values.

    Consumerism and greed is the poison that is driving ecological collapse, and consumerism is the life-blood of the economic system; endless growth the aim of deluded governments – on a planet with finite resources. It is collective madness, and it must end. Politicians and corporate power, however, will not suddenly wake up to the scale of the emergency and act to bring about the required radical changes. Worldwide acts of coordinated civil disobedience by huge numbers of people, designed to bring about the maximum amount of disruption in a peaceful way are required. When people unite all things are possible; now is the time to come together to Save our Planet.

    Consuming Stuff: The Polluting World of Fashion

    Fashion and the Shrinking Aral Sea

    The interconnected environmental catastrophe is the result of a particular lifestyle; a materialistic way of life relentlessly promoted by mass media and governments throughout the industrialized world and beyond. Consuming stuff, most of which is unnecessary, is the key ingredient; excess is championed, sufficiency scoffed at. Far from addressing need, satisfying desire is the driving impulse; the object of desire changes with every new fad of course, discontent is thereby ensured, unlimited consumerism maintained.

    This pattern of insatiable shopping is evident within the polluting world of fashion perhaps more than any other sector; when we should be buying less, more clothes are produced and sold year on year. Worldwide, almost 100 billion items of clothing are made annually (400% more than twenty years ago), a third of which end up in landfill, increasing at a rate of 7% a year.

    The global fashion industry is a major source of environmental contamination, as well as human exploitation. Every item of clothing that is produced carries with it an environmental cost in terms of energy, water, chemicals and land use. The choice of fabrics – natural or man-made – production methods, transportation, dyeing and printing, customer care, all are areas that cause pollution.

    According to the United Nations Climate Change, “around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions (GGE’s) are churned out by the fashion industry, due to its long supply chains and energy intensive production.” The industry consumes more energy than aviation and shipping combined. In search of greater profits most manufacturing is now undertaken in China and India, where labor costs are lower, coal-fired power plants predominate, GGEs are highest and, in many cases, employee rights are non-existent. By moving production to developing nations, western companies outsourced, jobs, as well as the pollution and environmental impacts, threatening the health of local people.

    The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) relates that textile factories in China, where “over 50%” of the worlds clothing is now made” spew out around three billion tons of soot every year burning coal, contaminating the air leading to respiratory and heart disease. Textile mills are estimated to generate 20% of the world’s industrial water pollution and use 20,000 chemicals, many of them carcinogenic. Textiles are the largest source of synthetic fibers in the oceans, micro-plastics get into the water system every time garments are washed; the UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee on fashion reports that “a single 6kg domestic wash has the potential to release as many as 700,000 fibers.”

    As well as textile production, the manufacture of leather goods has also largely been shipped to China – where most items are made – and India. Leather production is an intensely cruel and poisonous process. The animal welfare charity, PetaUK, reports that globally more than 1 billion animals are killed every year – cows, calves, water buffalo, horses, lambs, goats and pigs –and, in China, dogs and cats. Huge amounts of water are used in highly polluting tanneries; most wastewater and solid waste (hides and skins etc.) are dumped into rivers, riverbeds or farmland, causing contamination of the water and land. In Kanpur India e.g., everyday 50 million liters of highly toxic water is produced, 80% released untreated; the River Ganges receives most of it: holy it may be, clean it is not. The impact on human health is often fatal; chronic conditions such as heart disease, tuberculosis, asthma, mental disabilities, skin discolourations are widespread among people living near leather factories, which are shipping almost all their production to industrialized countries.

    Polluting and poorly made

    Different fabrics have different levels and types of environmental impact; synthetic fibers like polyester are made from crude oil (fossil fuel), producing much higher levels of GGEs compared with natural materials: “A single polyester t-shirt has emissions of 5.5 kg CO2, compared with 2.1 kg CO2 for one made from cotton.” But polyester can be recycled, although not indefinitely, is more stain-resistant, can be washed in cold water and dries quickly. Conventional cotton (non-organic), which is used to make almost half of all clothing, has its own environmental consequences; cotton farming uses 3% of the world’s arable land, causing deforestation and loss of biodiversity, and is responsible for 18% of all pesticides, 25% of insecticides. Some of these are highly toxic and dangerous to human health, e.g. Endosulfan, banned in many countries but widely used in India, is linked to several thousand deaths of cotton farmers and their families. Cotton is also a very thirsty crop: the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that 2,700 liters (715 gallons) of water – on average the amount one person drinks in two and a half years – is used to make a single cotton t-shirt.

    In regions where water is scarce, cotton production has an intensely damaging effect: in Kazakhstan, the Aral Sea, which was the fourth largest lake in the world, has all but dried up because the rivers which fed the lake, were diverted by irrigation projects to supply cotton farmers. The disappearance of the great lake is a man-made environmental tragedy.

    Huge amounts of water are also used in the dyeing process, the World Resources Institute states that globally 5 trillion liters (1.3 trillion gallons) of water are used each year for fabric dyeing, enough they say to “fill 2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.”

    The most polluting area of the apparel industry is ‘fast fashion’. Like all businesses, fashion is about profit: more profit is generated when people buy more clothing, more often. In the 1980s, when any remaining constraints on Neo-liberalism were removed, ‘fast fashion’ was introduced as a way of increasing the profits for clothing companies by making people buy more; the practice is now widespread among high street brands and has been picked up by designer labels.

    Under the fast fashion umbrella up to 50 ‘cycles’ are produced every year; prices are lower, turnarounds quick, and overproduction common. Items are poorly made and so cheap they are sometimes not even worn before being discarded, at best lasting a matter of weeks before being dumped in landfill. The fast fashion fad has increased consumerism, contributed to a ‘throw away’ mentality, leading to huge amounts of waste; it has done enormous environmental damage and should be stopped as a matter of urgency. If companies will not voluntarily halt fast fashion practices governments should force them to do so. The global need is not for the corporate profit, the behavior to be cultivated is not more consumerism, it is saving the planet and encouraging drastic reductions in consumerism.

    The Fashion Industry Charter

    Aware of the widespread and varied environmental destruction that fashion is causing voices within the industry and beyond have been calling for action to change destructive practices for some time. Last year a group of organizations came together, and under the umbrella of the United Nations Climate Change, created the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action (FICCA), launched at COP24 in Katowice, Poland, in December.

    The FICCA commits signatories to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030 and achieving zero emissions by 2050, to phasing out coal-fired boilers, using ‘climate friendly’, sustainable materials and low carbon transport among other measures. The list of 43 founding companies includes Adidas, Burberry, Esprit, Guess, Gap, H&M, Kering, Levis, Puma, PVH and Target; associated NGOs have also pledged to support the initiative and encourage sustainable practices.

    Creating sustainable fashion is a core theme of those working to reduce the catastrophic impact on the environment. This entails looking at production methods and water use, curtailing demand, moving from conventional to organic cotton and from virgin polyester to recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET), collecting and recycling unwanted garments. ‘Sustainable fashion’ needs to be seen as part of sustainable lifestyles, this requires the promotion and adoption of what we might call Sustainable Values, principles that encourage expressions of social/environmental responsibility and cooperation, ideals that promote simpler lifestyles – we must consume less, shop based on need only and, when we do shop or buy services, ensure we do so in an environmentally responsible manner; repair clothes, buy good quality items that last longer and recycle.

    Governments need to introduce public information policies aimed at making people aware of the environmental impact of living a certain way and introduce maintenance classes in schools; all product-based companies should be required to make easily accessible the full environmental impact of their products and methods, as well as the human cost, so people can make well-informed choices. Advertising has an important role to play in this, it needs to be closely regulated and reformed so that it gives out facts about products not propaganda.

    All aspects of life are interconnected; the environmental catastrophe cannot be faced without the socio-economic mayhem being addressed, social justice created and ways of living inculcated that tend towards unity in all areas of life. Competition and conformity need to be expunged from society, particularly within institutionalized education, the focus on image challenged and rejected, the tendency to imitation curtailed.

    If we are to collectively overcome the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced, environmental considerations need to be at the forefront of our daily lives. A shift in living is required, a movement away from lives based on desire and the pursuit of pleasure to simpler lives based on meeting need, cultivating right relationships with others and the natural world and living harmlessly. The responsibility rests with all of us to live well and to pressurize our governments to act to halt the environmental catastrophe before it’s too late.

    Boeing’s Homicide Will Give Way to Safety Reforms if Flyers Organize

    To understand the enormity of the Boeing 737 Max 8 crashes (Lion Air 610 and Ethiopian Airlines 302) that took a combined total of 346 lives, it is useful to look at past events and anticipate future possible problems.

    In 2011, Boeing executives wanted to start a “clean sheet” new narrow body air passenger plane to replace its old 737 design from the nineteen sixties. Shortly thereafter, Boeing’s bosses panicked when American Airlines put in a large order for the competitive Airbus A320neo. Boeing shelved the new design and rushed to put out the 737 Max that, in Business Week’s words, was “pushing an ageing design past its limits.” The company raised the 737 Max landing gear and attached larger, slightly more fuel efficient engines angled higher and more forward on the wings. Such a configuration changed the aerodynamics and made the plane more prone to stall (see attached article.).

    This put Boeing’s management in a quandary. Their sales pitch to the airlines was that the 737 Max only received an “amended” certification from the FAA. That it did not have to be included in more pilot training, simulators, and detailed in the flight manuals. The airlines could save money and would be more likely to buy the Boeing 737 Max.

    Boeing engineers were worried. They knew better. But the managers ordered software to address the stall problem without even telling the pilots or most of the airlines. Using only one operating sensor (Airbus A320neo has three sensors), an optional warning light and indicator, Boeing set the stage for misfiring sensors that overcame pilot efforts to control the planes from their nose-down death dive.

    These fixes or patches would not have been used were the new 737’s aerodynamics the same as the previous 737 models. Step by step, Boeing’s criminal negligence, driven by a race to make profits, worsened. Before and after the fatal crashes, Boeing did not reveal, did not warn, did not train, and did not address the basic defective aerodynamic design. It gagged everyone that it could. Boeing still insists that the 737 Max is safe and is building two a day, while pushing to end the grounding.

    Reacting to all these documented derelictions, a flurry of investigations is underway. The Department of Transportation’s Inspector General, Calvin L. Scovel III, is investigating the hapless, captive FAA that has delegated to Boeing important FAA statutory and regulatory duties. The Justice Department and FBI have opened a criminal probe, with an active grand jury. The National Transportation Safety Board, long the hair shirt of the FAA, is investigating. As are two Senate and House Committees. Foreign governments are investigating, as surely are the giant insurance companies who are on the hook. This all sounds encouraging, but we’ve seen such initiatives pull back before.

    This time, however, the outrageous corner-cutting and suppression of engineering dissent, within both Boeing and the FAA (there were reported “heated discussions”) produced a worst case scenario. So, Boeing is working overtime with its legions of Washington lobbyists, its New York P.R. firm, its continued campaign contributions to some 330 Members of Congress. The airlines and pilots’ union chiefs (but not some angry pilots) are staying mum, scared into silence due to contracts and jobs, waiting for the Boeing 737 Max planes to fly again.

    BUT THE BOEING 737 MAX MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO FLY AGAIN. Pushing new software that will allow Boeing to blame the pilots is a dangerous maneuver. Saying that U.S. pilots, many of whom are ex-Air Force, are more experienced in reacting to a sudden wildly gyrating aircraft (consider the F-16 diving and swooping) than many foreign airline pilots only trained by civil aviation, opens a can of worms from cancellation of 737 Max orders to indignation from foreign airlines and pilots. It also displays an aversion to human-factors engineering with a vast number of avoidable failure modes not properly envisioned by Boeing’s software patches.

    The overriding problem is the basic unstable design of the 737 Max. An aircraft has to be stall proof not stall prone. An aircraft manufacturer like Boeing, notwithstanding its past safety record, is not entitled to more aircraft disasters that are preventable by following long-established aeronautical engineering practices and standards.

    With 5,000 Max orders at stake, the unfolding criminal investigation may move the case from criminal negligence to evidence of knowing and willful behavior amounting to corporate homicide involving Boeing officials. Boeing better cut its losses by going back to the drawing boards. That would mean scrapping the 737 Max 8 designs, with its risk of more software time bombs, safely upgrading the existing 737-800 with amenities and discounts for its airline carrier customers and moving ahead with its early decision to design a new plane to compete with Airbus’s model, which does not have the 737 Max’s design problem.

    Meanwhile, airline passengers should pay attention to Senator Richard Blumenthal’s interest in forthcoming legislation to bring the regulatory power back into the FAA. Senator Blumenthal also intends to reintroduce his legislation to criminalize business concealment of imminent risks that their products and services pose to innocent consumers and workers (the “Hide No Harm Act”).

    What of the near future? Airline passengers should organize a consumer boycott of the Boeing 737 Max 8 to avoid having to fly on these planes in the coming decade. Once Boeing realizes that this brand has a deep marketing stigma, it may move more quickly to the drawing boards, so as to not alienate airline carriers.

    Much more information will come out in the coming months. Much more. The NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), which receives incident reports from pilots, air traffic controllers, dispatchers, cabin crew, maintenance technicians, and others, is buzzing, as is the FlyersRights.org website. Other countries, such as France, have tougher criminal statutes for such corporate crime than the U.S. does. The increasing emergence of whistle-blowers from Boeing, the FAA and, other institutions is inevitable.

    Not to mention, the information that will come out of the civil litigation against this killer mass tort disaster. And of course the relentless reporting of newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Washington Post, and AP, among others will continue to shed light on Boeings misdeeds and the FAA’s deficiencies.

    Boeing executives should reject the advice from the reassuring, monetized minds of Wall Street stock analysts saying you can easily absorb the $2 billion cost and move on. Boeing, let your engineers and scientists be free to exert their “professional options for revisions” to save your company from the ruinous road you are presently upon.

    Respect those who perished at your hand and their grieving families.

    Charter Schools: Competition Makes All Schools Losers

    For most individuals, life without competition is inconceivable. Competition seems to be part of  everything we know and do. It saturates everything. Nothing seems to escape its grip. It directs and conditions people at the conscious and subconscious levels. Competition appears natural, inevitable, and normal, as if it has always existed and can never go away.

    Generations of conditioning tells us that competition is what motivates us, drives us, and makes us want to improve, excel, and achieve. Competition is supposedly intrinsic to us and makes us break through barriers and reach new heights every day.

    Nothing would ever supposedly get done without competition. Everyone would just be lazy and mope around at home all day eating Doritos and playing video games in their pajamas. People would allegedly aspire to nothing without the fear of winning and losing, without a protocol of rewards and punishments to “motivate” them to be productive. Competition is therefore the only way to overcome laziness and lack of productivity so as to get what one earns and deserves. In the final analysis, winning and losing supposedly brings out the best in everyone and everything and is the main way to ensure quality, excellence, and progress.

    The Oxford English Dictionary defines competition as: “The action of endeavouring to gain what another endeavours to gain at the same time’; the striving of two or more for the same object; rivalry.”

    Synonyms for competition include: “contention, conflict, feuding, battling, fighting, struggling, strife, war.”

    Competition, the close cousin of individualism, consumerism, selfishness, greed, and anxiety is based on many long-standing myths. A main one is the myth of scarcity. According to this myth, things acquire their value from being scarce, and when there is not enough to go around, people will necessarily feud, compete, and fight with each other to obtain scarce things.

    But there is no reason to compete for something, especially if it is abundant, as are so many things in the United States, an advanced capitalist economy. Why struggle, fight, battle, and feud for something if there is enough to go around? Why engage in stressful rivalry? For every homeless person in the U.S., for example, there are six vacant homes, proving that what is produced under capitalism is not for social needs, but for narrow private profit. Homelessness is not the product of a scarcity of houses but the direct result of a society based on an outdated economic and political system that embraces competition and does not recognize the rights of humans. No one should have to be homeless in a society overflowing with houses.

    But there is also no automatic reason to compete for something even when it is scarce. There is nothing inherent to the scarcity of something that magically and instantly produces the drive to compete. The drive to compete is specific to the type of social order that prevails, specifically the capitalist social order.

    Competition assumes, accepts, and perpetuates hierarchies, inequalities, privilege distribution systems, winners and losers. And it often brings out the worst, not the best, in everyone and everything. It rejects the idea that all humans have rights that government is duty-bound to guarantee in practice. Rights belong to people by virtue of their very being and cannot be given or taken away. They are not based on competition or merit. One’s rights, including the right to education, cannot be based on the anarchy, chaos, and violence of the “free market,” competition, individualism, and consumerism. Such a way of living is outdated, inefficient, and barbaric.

    Charter school promoters and supporters never tire of reminding everyone that the ideologies of competition and the “free market” are the apex of human achievement and form the bedrock of the charter school movement. Charter schools are “market-driven” schools, they endlessly assert with a straight face. Competition is what schools need according to education privatizers who see everything as a commodity and as a matter of consumerism and individual choices. From the narrow perspective of “free market” fundamentalists, winning and losing, and punishments and rewards, are natural, healthy, normal, and eternal. It is the way things should be done. It is how you get the best. When schools compete, the “bad” ones disappear and the “good” ones prevail, and this way everyone gets to attend the “good” ones. Why, according to charter school supporters, should schools be viewed as being any different from any other commodity like beef jerky and chewing tobacco? The best way to get “good” schools, according to corporate school reformers and neoliberals, is by ruthlessly subjecting them to the same chaos, anarchy, and violence of the “free market.”

    In reality, however, both public schools and charter schools, not to mention society and the economy as a whole, suffer when the ideology and practice of competition frame and drive thinking, ideas, arrangements, relations, institutions, activities, and behaviors in society.

    Public schools, already chronically underfunded, over-tested, and constantly demonized by the rich and their political and media flunkies, lose billions of public dollars each year to privately operated charter schools rife with fraud, an unimpressive academic record, high teacher and student turnover rates, discriminatory student enrollment patterns, little transparency, no regulations, no publicly elected school boards, and no unions. The “free market,” competition, and privatization have successfully increased chaos, anarchy, and violence in the sphere of education and in the lives of many families, especially those families left uprooted, angry, dislocated, and stressed when a charter school closes, often without warning. Families have no recourse when this happens 200-250 times a year. They are left to fend for themselves like animals, just another casualty of the charter school sector organized and promoted by the rich.

    A handful of major owners of capital have gotten vastly richer by creating pay-the-rich schemes like charter schools to expand their private empires, while also working overtime to promote the illusion that charter schools are wonderful, harmless, reasonable, successful, alternative education arrangements for “the kids.” The rich are the only winners when it comes to charter schools and other forms of education commodification and financial parasitism. Charter schools have nothing to do with “empowering parents.”

    Another way charter schools, public schools, students, teachers, parents, and society as a whole lose when competition is imposed on education is through the animosity, anger, resentment, stress, and protests that are generated when schools compete for students and funds. Competing for depleted funds makes both types of schools worse off, especially when economies of scale matter. Charter school supporters’ much-vaunted competition has not generated widespread mutually beneficial cooperation and growth in the sphere of education. Instead, a mean ugly spirit prevails between most public schools and charter schools. They do not see each other as allies and friends. On the contrary, the battle between public schools and charter schools has been intensifying with each passing year.

    With the rise of privatized education arrangements like charter schools, we now have a fractured decaying society plagued by two sets of education arrangements mired in crisis. Charter school owners-operators have helped move society backward. Nothing has been solved. Instead, more divisions, conflicts, and losses have been inflicted on the majority and society. The “achievement gap,” largely a product of harsh class divisions in society, has not improved in any real and lasting way.

    The way out of this deepening crisis is the same as the way out of all the crises society is mired in, namely to work with others to develop modern definitions, thinking, and practical politics that will deprive wealthy private interests of their ability to deprive of us of our power and rights. Supreme decision-making power, sovereignty, must lie with the people, not the financial oligarchy whose only concern is to enrich itself at the expense of the general interests of society. If all major education decisions keep being made by the top one percent of the top one percent, society and education will keep sliding backward. Only the working class and people can usher in a modern human-centered alternative. It is entirely possible and necessary to foster locally-controlled, fully-funded, world-class public schools available to all at all times. People do not need to be treated as narrow selfish consumers who fend for themselves like animals in their anxious quest to secure a great education for their kids in a society that lacks no funds and resources.

    Climate Change, Extreme Weather, Destructive Lifestyles

    Throughout the world heat waves, flooding and uncontrollable wildfires have caused widespread havoc, lives have been lost, homes destroyed, livelihoods ruined.

    Unprecedented levels of heat have been recorded in North America, Europe and Asia, as well as the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. According to The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) record cold May temperatures were registered in “northeastern Canada and the northern Atlantic Ocean, off the southern coast of Greenland.” Global temperatures for the first five months of the year were the highest on record for a La Niña year; higher temperatures, “lead to more frequent and long-lasting heat waves causing adverse environmental impacts.”

    These extreme weather patterns are the ferocious signs and sights of climate change in 2018, and, because so little is being done to tackle the causes, year on year they become more and more intense. Planet Earth is becoming a world in which the extreme becomes the expected, the disastrous the everyday.

    How bad must it get?

    The year began with the coldest first week of January on record for numerous cities in eastern America; freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall swept across Europe in March as the “Beast From the East” hit. Britain was severely affected, with up to three feet of snow in some areas and temperatures down to minus 10ºC.

    Floods have affected East Africa killing dozens of people, tropical cyclones hit Somalia, Djibouti, Yemen and Oman, dust storms killed hundreds in India, and Pakistan had an intense heat wave with temperatures exceeding 40ºC. Heavy rains and 70 mph winds in Bangladesh caused landslides, deaths and injuries. California had the largest wild fires ever recorded, and down under, Australia is becoming the ‘Land of Drought’ according to the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

    A heat wave of unprecedented temperatures scorched Europe and Japan, where 40ºC (104ºF) temperatures were recorded, 30 people died and thousands needed medical treatment for heat related conditions. A month earlier Japan had some of the worst floods in its history, more than 200 people lost their lives and almost 2 million people were evacuated; the Caribbean is bracing itself for this year’s hurricane season, while “still recovering from last year’s devastation,” which, the UNFCC say, was “the costliest on record”.

    The list of extreme weather events across the word is endless; extremes that are increasingly normal as the impact of man-made climate change become more and more apparent, and yet little is being done to address the primary causes. How bad does it have to become before substantive action is taken to reverse the terrible damage we are doing to the natural world?

    The mechanics of climate change

    Climate change is being triggered by global warming; Global warming, described by NASA as “the unusually rapid increase in Earth’s average surface temperature…primarily due to the greenhouse gases released as people burn fossil fuels” occurs, “when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space.” This happens when so-called greenhouse gases (Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O), being the three main culprits) clog the lower levels of Earth’s atmosphere. This leads to a range of effects: The planet overall becomes warmer (average ground temperature rises), causing “extreme weather events and other severe natural and societal impacts” to become more frequent; glaciers in the Arctic region melt sending huge quantities of water into the ocean, which raises the sea level, oceans are made warmer and expand, further contributing to rising levels. As the sea level rises land is flooded, cities, towns and villages are threatened, lives lost, homes destroyed, communities ripped apart, people displaced.

    Man-made greenhouse gases (GGE) are produced by a range of sectors and activities: Animal agriculture produces the largest amount (18% of the total according to the UN, other sources put the figure much higher), followed by electricity and heat production, transportation and industry – all through burning fossil fuels – oil, coal and gas. GGEs have been increasing since the industrial revolution, leading to a rise in global ground temperatures, which to date has reached about 1ºC above pre-industrial levels. Temperatures continue to increase at around 0.17ºC per decade.

    One degree doesn’t sound like much but, as the extreme weather events show, the effect of this modest rise on the climate is huge, the consequences far reaching, potentially catastrophic.

    In 2015 the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was reached and signed by every country in the world; under President Trump America has since pulled out. Hailed as historic, its central aim is to keep global rises in temperature “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” Even if these rather optimistic targets are met, a recent study by an international team of scientists writing in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests, “there is a risk of Earth entering what the scientists call “Hothouse Earth” conditions.” The BBC report that the group believe 2ºC of warming “could turn some of the Earth’s natural forces [forests, oceans and land] – that currently protect us – into our enemies…As the world experiences warming, these carbon sinks could become sources of carbon and make the problems of climate change significantly worse.”

    If this occurs they forecast the climate stabilizing at “a global average of 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures with sea level 10-60 m higher than today.” This would mean that some parts of the Earth would become uninhabitable. In order to avoid this nightmare scenario the authors make clear that “a total re-orientation of human values, equity, behavior and technologies is required. We must all become stewards of the Earth.” This requires a major shift in human attitudes.

    Unhealthy destructive lifestyle

    Climate Change and the environmental disaster in its various colors is the result of human activity and complacency; we have poisoned the oceans, rivers and streams, cleared 85% of the world’s tropical rainforests, mainly for livestock, and are turning healthy land into desert; we are filling the air we breathe with toxins, creating dead zones in the oceans and causing the eradication of species at an unprecedented rate. Collectively we seem to have no respect or love for the natural environment and whilst some people are acting responsibly, the majority fails to see the connection between lifestyle and disaster and appear content to treat the planet like a giant rubbish tip.

    The natural order has been thrown into disarray by the widespread adoption of a selfish, destructive way of life: A particular lifestyle, or collection of related ‘lifestyle choices’, are responsible for the production of man-made greenhouse gases that are triggering the extreme weather patterns we are seeing all around the world.

    Hedonism and consumerism sit at the heart of the unhealthy mode of living that is driving the catastrophe and making us ill; mankind’s relentless consumption of stuff, the vast majority of which is not needed, combined with an animal-based diet (common to 97% of the global population), has created a cocktail of chaos within the natural world, bringing about the greatest crisis in the history of mankind. It is a materialistic lifestyle that the global economy, and by extension the corporate state depends on and ceaselessly promotes. This is why, despite the intense urgency of the environmental issue, we hear little on mainstream media and virtually nothing from governments, who are more concerned with economic growth and petty domestic politics than the stability and health of the planet.

    The harmony of the natural world has been thrown into chaos by the same approach to life that has separated us one from another, and fuelled internal conflict resulting in a global mental health epidemic. In all areas, where there should be unity and right relationship we see enmity, discord and disease. Restoring the planet to health and creating a world in which human beings can live healthy peaceful lives are inextricably linked. Both require a fundamental change in values, a shift away from divisive modes of living built on competition and greed to inclusive ways in which social/environmental responsibility is cultivated and embraced.

    Such ideas are not new and are frequently championed, but the prevailing socio-economic ideology actively works to suppress such principles, and powerfully promotes values of division and selfishness. Despite this widespread conditioning, an unstoppable current of change can be seen sweeping the world; social responsibility is growing apace, and perennial values of goodness – cooperation, tolerance and sharing – are increasingly influencing the minds of men and women everywhere.

    To galvanize this global movement a major public education program should be undertaken by governments and schools to increase awareness of climate change and lifestyle and create a sense of urgency and engagement. Change can be slow, but these are extraordinary times, and there is a growing recognition that if we unite all things are possible. If not, if we continue in the selfish, greedy, divisive ways of the past, the weather patterns will become more extreme and unpredictable, the air and waterways will become more toxic, loss of life will increase and the associated environmental ills will deepen. The choice is ours.