Bernie’s message on the Koch network

Received this from Bernie’s campaign today (April 9, 2018), and thought it worthy enough to print in full. It fully supports my own campaign to raise awareness on how the Koch network of oligarchs is behind the “stealth fascism” that has taken over American politics:

Rick –

What is the most important issue that the corporate media refuses to seriously discuss? Well, take your pick.

It could be climate change, and the fact that the fossil fuel industry believes that their short-term profits are more important than the future of our planet.

It could be health care, and why it is that the United States is the only major country on Earth not to guarantee health care to all as a right.

It could be the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that we experience, and the rather remarkable reality that three people in our country now own more wealth than the bottom 160,000,000 people.

It could be _ _ _ _. Well, your guess is as good as mine.

But let me tell you what I think. I believe the major issue not being discussed by the corporate media is the power of the Koch brothers and the movement in this country toward oligarchy – a nation where our economic and political life is increasingly controlled by a handful of billionaires. Seen any good programs about that lately on CBS, NBC, ABC or anywhere else? I haven’t.

In case you didn’t know, the Koch brothers, Charles and David, are the second-wealthiest family in the country, worth over $120 billion. This year, according to various media sources, the Koch brothers network plans to spend some $400 million in the midterm elections. Yes. $400 million. That is on top of the $750 million they pledged to spend in 2016, $290 million in 2014 and over $400 million in 2012.

That’s a lot of money, but that’s probably only part of the story. Given the existence of super PACs and the opaque nature of campaign funding, it is quite possible that they spend much more. Further, and importantly, their political spending goes far beyond election campaigns. They make enormous investments in right-wing think tanks and in universities – pushing students and the general population toward their extreme right-wing ideology.

They also fund numerous organizations such as Americans for Prosperity, theAmerican Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), FreedomWorks, Generation Opportunity, 60 Plus Association, Institute for Energy Research, Concerned Veterans of America and many more.

What do the Koch brothers want? What is their ideology? What is their legislative agenda?

Simply stated, they want to repeal virtually every major piece of legislation passed since the 1930s that protects working people, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor. They believe that government should play virtually no role in protecting those in need, and that almost all services now provided by government should be privatized and handed over to large corporations.

Before the Koch brothers began their takeover of the Republican Party, David Koch was active in the Libertarian Party. In fact, in 1980, he ran as the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential candidate.

Here are just a few excerpts of the Libertarian Party platform that David Koch ran on in 1980:

  • “We urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission.”
  • “We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.”
  • “We oppose any compulsory insurance or tax-supported plan to provide health services, including those which finance abortion services.”
  • “We also favor the deregulation of the medical insurance industry.”
  • “We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system. Pending that repeal, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary.”
  • “We propose the abolition of the governmental Postal Service. The present system, in addition to being inefficient, encourages governmental surveillance of private correspondence. Pending abolition, we call for an end to the monopoly system and for allowing free competition in all aspects of postal service.”
  • “We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.”
  • “We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.”
  • “As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.”
  • “We support repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws.”
  • “We advocate the complete separation of education and State. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.”
  • “We condemn compulsory education laws … and we call for the immediate repeal of such laws.”
  • “We support the repeal of all taxes on the income or property of private schools, whether profit or non-profit.”
  • “We support the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency.”
  • “We support abolition of the Department of Energy.”
  • “We call for the dissolution of all government agencies concerned with transportation, including the Department of Transportation.”
  • “We demand the return of America’s railroad system to private ownership. We call for the privatization of the public roads and national highway system.”
  • “We specifically oppose laws requiring an individual to buy or use so-called “self-protection” equipment such as safety belts, air bags, or crash helmets.”
  • “We advocate the abolition of the Federal Aviation Administration.”
  • “We advocate the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration.”
  • “We support an end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children.”
  • “We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs. All these government programs are privacy-invading, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient. The proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.”
  • “We call for the privatization of the inland waterways, and of the distribution system that brings water to industry, agriculture and households.”
  • “We call for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”
  • “We call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
  • “We support the repeal of all state usury laws.”

That was 1980, and the Libertarian Party national ticket received 1 percent of the vote for what most Americans considered a crazy and extremist agenda. Today, in 2018, because of the Koch brothers’ power and influence, many of these ideas have now become mainstream within the increasingly right-wing Republican Party.

In that regard, let me give you an example of what is happening right now with President Trump and the Koch brothers’ plan to privatize health care for millions of our nation’s veterans, and then I am going to ask you to make your voice heard to stop them.

Let’s start with something that we should all be able to agree on:

While serious people can have legitimate differences of opinion about when our country should go to war, there should never be a debate as to whether we fulfill the promises made to the men and women who served this country in the military. Planes and tanks and guns are a cost of war, but so is taking care of the men and women we send to fight them.

Now, last week President Trump made the decision to fire the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Dr. David Shulkin. And what I would strongly suspect is that he made that decision because Dr. Shulkin was not moving fast enough toward privatizing veterans’ health care in this country.

Here is the truth: the VA is the largest integrated health care system in this country. And if you actually listen to the veterans of this country who rely on the VA, what most of them will tell you is that they are quite pleased with the care they receive.

Now, of course we must continually work to improve the VA, but what almost every single major veterans organization in this country says is that we must strengthen the VA, not privatize it.

That is because privatizing the VA would severely underfund the department and leave many veterans without easy access to quality care — oftentimes specialized care required for service-connected injuries that VA centers are better equipped to handle than a local doctor or hospital.

On the other side, you have the Koch brothers, the second-wealthiest family in the United States, who are going to spend $400 million in the coming elections. They have enormous power because of that and what they believe is that we must privatize not just the VA, but Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Not coincidentally, privatizing the VA would also significantly enrich some of the nation’s wealthiest health care executives.

So here is where I ask you to act:

President Trump has nominated his personal physician Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson to replace former Secretary Shulkin. And while he has not said as much, I would strongly suspect that Rear Admiral Jackson’s mission is to carry out the wishes of the Koch brothers, and to oversee the privatization of the VA.

So today, I want to send a message to my colleagues who must give their consent to this nomination, and I need your help to do it:

Sign My Petition: Tell the U.S. Senate to reject the nomination of Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs unless he pledges to support strengthening the VA and opposes privatization. The Senate cannot approve any nominee who prioritizes the profits of a handful of health care executives over the health of our veterans.

The drive to privatize veterans’ health care is part of a broader approach by the Trump administration, fulfilling the agenda of the Koch brothers.

We have a Secretary of Education who doesn’t support public education.

We have an EPA Administrator who doesn’t believe in environmental protection and is pursuing a massive deregulation effort.

We have a Treasury Secretary from Goldman Sachs who worked overtime to pass a massive redistribution of wealth and income from the working class to some of the richest and most powerful people in this country.

We have a Secretary of Health and Human Services who President Trump pulled from the pharmaceutical industry at a time when the United States pays the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, by far.

Now it is likely the president is nominating someone to head the Department of Veterans Affairs whose mission will be to privatize veterans’ health care.

Right now, our job is to improve and strengthen VA health care on what already works reasonably well, and not to dismember it. That is a fear that many veterans service organizations have, and it is one that I share.

If you do as well, I hope that you will make your voice heard:

Sign My Petition: Tell the U.S. Senate to reject the nomination of Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs unless he pledges to support strengthening the VA and opposes privatization. The Senate cannot approve any nominee who prioritizes the profits of a handful of health care executives over the health of our veterans.

How can it be that we have enough money to give tax breaks to billionaires and spend more on defense than the next twelve countries combined, but we don’t have enough to make sure that every veteran who went to war and served this country has the quality health care they need here at home?

Privatizing the VA would be a moral abomination, and one that I will fight to stop. Thanks for lending your name to the fight.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders

 

Nature’s Trust: a new paradigm

[This is a review I posted at Good Reads, March 11, 2018; see here.]

In everyone’s life, there are only a few books that you can reflect on and say it changed your world view, and by doing so, irrevocably changed your life and how you make decisions on the topics it discussed. This is one of those books….

For most of my adult life, I had felt ill at ease with how my white, privileged, technically advanced culture related to the environment. As a young boy, I felt drawn to the Native American relationship to Nature, which seemed like a dream to which the white man could only aspire. I recall a quote that a favorite high school teacher had on his wall: “To the red man, everything is alive; to the white man, everything is dead…and if it tries to live, he kills it.” This black humor is an apt metaphor for the jurisprudential challenge that Professor Wood tackles head on in this paradigm shattering work. For what she is attempting is nothing less than breathing life into the dead culture our current judiciary has produced.

I must confess that I have finished this dense, scholarly book; but such a volume is not to be rushed through, but gradually absorbed for its deep lessons. But even in the first half the author has fully demolished the illusion that our environmental law is protecting us; rather, she proves the regulatory approach to protecting the environment has utterly failed, and a new paradigm must replace it.

That paradigm is one which includes the natural environment where it should be: at the center of our world, and at the center of its protection. In other words, the natural world deserves to hold rights under our legal system, just as much as human beings, rights which must be enforceable in law.

I look forward to finishing reading this remarkable book, and discovering more about the shape of this new paradigm….which, in fact, I am looking forward to helping to bring about for the rest of my adult life. For this kind of paradigm change will take generations…and it is high time we got started on the work.

Rick Casey
instructor in environmental economics,
Front Range Community College

Dear National Cable & Telecommunications Association: Your stance on net neutrality is incorrect…

In reference to this online article,  “Montana Becomes First State To Set Its Own Net Neutrality Rules” it states that “An unidentified spokeswoman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and USTelecom, which represents the broadband industry, complained about the executive order…”

My response in reaction to your response is: GET A CLUE!
Destroying the principle of net neutrality is blatantly wrong, and the informed American public is well aware that this is nothing more than a power grab by a corrupt administration to privatize the Internet, which, in reality, is a public commons.
The Internet was conceived, built and fostered through the use of public funds and academic institutions who freely shared the knowledge and skills to create it. (see Where Wizards Stay Up Late, Simon & Schuster, 1999) It is the greatest commons ever created by humanity. 
This attempt by a captured federal regulatory body, the FCC, to privatize this public commons will be stopped, in time, by the US public as they come to realize the wrong that has been done to them. 
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association would do well to get on the right side of history and call out the FCC for this misguided policy decision — unless you, too, wish to have the pitchforks of public opinion pointed in your direction as well. 
Sincerely, 

— Rick Casey

MS, Telecommunications, University of Colorado-Boulder, 2002

Nature’s Trust: a new paradigm for environmental law…and here’s a great quote…

Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age (click the link for a reference to the book) is my latest discovery on the frontier of research into how we are going to fix our environmental problems. 

What this book shows with authority is how environmental law has failed us, and has no illusions that correcting this will be a tough political battle against the One Percent and the Dark Money network.

But what this book does do with scholarly precision and overwhelming documented research is what an absolute fraud the current pretense is that our regulatory framework is protecting us and the environment.

If I find the time, I would like to examine this book as I am currently doing in my blog Examining Dark Money, because this book is that good…but until then I wanted to share this one description that I found so remarkably accurate about the “Remote Public”, which is one of components of the regulatory framework that is supposedly working.

Some background: the author summarizes the legal basis for how the public is supposed to have input to environmental policy, then describes with uncanny accuracy why this is so unworkable in current times: quoting from pages 113-115:

THE REMOTE PUBLIC

Ultimately, the voting public represents a last bastion against a tyrannical power grab by one branch of government…But daunting logistical hurdles now stand in the way of meaningful citizen involvement. 


Two federal statutes provide processes for public information and citizen input into regulatory decision making. The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) requires all federal agencies to publicize their proposed rules. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) allows the public to comment on federal actions affecting the environment. … One problem involves the tendency of citizens to ignore the prospect of environmental harm until too late in the legal process….


Time presents another significant barrier to citizen participation. Making use of a public process, or lobbying the legislature, or even understanding the issue can devour an enormous amount of personal time….The sheer complexity generated by the agencies through the morass of acronyms and technical jargon…makes this difficult and tedious reading. … 


…As many studies show, personal time in the United States has plummeted since the 1970s (when NEPA was enacted), and economic distress factors force many to work overtime or take on more than one job. This time scarcity sets entirely new game rules in civic involvement….


…On this playing field of [legal] process, industry easily outmatches the public…because the industries have “concentrated” interests in regulation, they devote the resources necessary to gaining favorable permit approvals. They pay lobbyists, consultants, and lawyers to game the process at every turn. Citizens who struggle to squeeze in time from a busy workday to show up at a meeting will often find paid industry representatives already sitting there. 


To imagine that such a system could work well in the face of modern circumstances is little more than a fantasy. Yet [the regulatory] agencies routinely indulge this chimera in a way that prejudices the public. If people fail to show up en masse at a hearing or fail to comment on a proposal, decision makers deem the public silence as an indication of noninterest or general acquiescence on the issue. For all practical purposes, then, the public faces an unspoken default penalty — somewhat like a party to litigation who does not show up at a trial. While public processes remain a vital component of democracy, they scream out for practical reform to reflect these modern pitfalls. 

The fact remains that, despite all of these existing public comment processes, nothing forces agencies to heed public opinion. … quite often, agencies pursue their proposed action even in face of substantial public opposition. Fully captured agencies use the public processes set up by environmental statutes as faux-processes to maintain the facade that they care to hear about citizen concerns. 

  

Letter to the Lafayette City Council

Letter to the Lafayette City Council
January 5, 2018


Re: A community rights legal strategy


Dear Councilors:

After attending the important Council meeting on Tuesday, January 2, 2018, I wanted to send you my public input on the issue of retaining CELDF as legal counsel, as I believe some significant facts and insights were omitted from the public comments. I hope you will find my remarks informative and helpful in the future public forum that was allow further public discussion on this matter of grave concern to our community.

First, I want to thank you all for your service in holding this difficult public office, especially at this time. I have only attended a fraction of the meetings that have interest to me, but I can only imagine what patience and fortitude it must take to endure all the meetings and service which you do as part of your job. Though I sometimes disagree with the decisions reached, I do appreciate the hard work you do in reaching them.

To let you know more about the parts of me that is relevant for this message: I was part of the original founding members of East Boulder County United, and was deeply involved in the selection of CELDF in helping us to draft the Lafayette Community Rights Act. I was part of the defendants in the August 22, 2013 hearing in the Council chambers, when COGA’s lawyers attempted to stop EBCU from collecting signatures to get that measure on the Lafayette ballot. I was part of the founding meeting of the Colorado Community Rights Network (COCRN) meeting in Fort Collins in 2014. I have remained in contact with EBCU, and with COCRN as I believe this is a cause worth fighting for, with a deeply democratic purpose to improve our government at all levels, and to protect our environmental quality at the community level. I am speaking to you as an individual, however, not on behalf of any organization.

I hold an MA in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MS in Telecommunications from the University of Colorado-Boulder. I have taught an online course in environmental economics at Front Range Community College since 2009 as a part-time job; my full time jobs have been in website and database development. I have lived in Lafayette since 2004, and am deeply committed to helping raise awareness of the need for citizen involvement to protect the environment.

What I will share with you in the rest of this message are the compelling reasons why I believe Lafayette should seek CELDF’s help in its legal strategy. This represents not just an opportunity for Lafayette as a community to protect itself from an unwanted and invasive destructive industry, but an opportunity to break new legal ground that is much needed in US environmental law. The most compelling reason is that community rights, as defined in the Lafayette Community Rights Act (which can be read in its entirety on the Lafayette town website) has simply not yet been tried in court, but that is exactly where it needs to go to be truly tested by the judiciary. There were three very significant parts of that Act, namely: (1) we banned oil and gas extraction within the city limits, (2) we gave rights to Nature, and (3) we said that corporations are not people, in the the sense of the infamous Citizens United SCOTUS decision. As you know, Lafayette was promptly sued by COGA, on the very narrow clause of the banning of oil and gas extraction and transport; but they studiously avoided mentioning community rights.

This was clearly the case in the COGA lawsuit, which I discuss in this blog post: Community Rights: Still Waiting for its Day in Court. In a nutshell, the COGA lawsuit simply ignored how the Community Rights Act defines the rights by which it banned oil and gas extraction. If you read the brief by COGA (see the entire brief here) and the judgement issued by the judge (see that judgement here), you will not find community rights mentioned anywhere. Doesn’t that seem strange to you? The Community Rights Act goes to great pains to define these rights, based directly on our constitutional rights, and why the declaration of these rights is necessary. There are nine sections to that act, with eleven subsections under the final section, about a four page document, 1,460 words to be exact, all which was flatly ignored. Since COGA ignored it, the judge in her judgement could ignore it.

This fact — that an important lawsuit against our city does not even mention the basis on which the Act is based — is a huge elephant in the room. It is unconscionable and cries out to be redressed. EBCU tried to appeal that decision, but did not have the resources to do so; and the Lafayette Council at the time decided against making an appeal, unfortunately.

Another compelling reason for the Council to invite CELDF, and force community rights into our legal framework: I strongly suspect that it has been an intentional strategy by COGA to not mention the words “community rights” in a courtroom because they want to avoid this at all costs. Why? Because they are afraid that they will be seen as the aggressors against those rights, which they in fact are, and that the tide of public opinion will begin to shift against them. I would like to see the Lafayette Council challenge COGA to a public debate on the matter, hear their answers, and let the public decide who is right.

Even the decision by the Colorado Supreme Court in May 2016 (such as this article describes, Colorado Supreme Court Rules Against Cities’ Fracking Limits) does not alter my argument here. That case only took up the appeals by Fort Collins and Longmont, but their strategy was not based on community rights such our case in Lafayette. What is really needed is a sincere and open consideration of community rights by the Colorado Supreme Court. The next compelling reason for the Lafayette Council to bring CELDF to the table is that fighting for the environment at the community level is the last hope of the American people to protect their environment. This turnaround in the law must begin at the local levels, because the higher levels of regulatory authorities have all been captured by the industries they regulate — with our own COGCC a poster child in evidence of this.

It may come as a shock to hear me say that the entire edifice of environmental law is a grand facade, a veritable Potemkin village, which has failed to protect the environment from the very day the laws were passed; but these are not my words. This is demonstrably shown in the authoritative work, Nature’s Trust, where Dr Mary Wood demolishes with undeniable and voluminous evidence with all the skill that a judicial scholar can bring to bear on why this is the case. Dr Wood was an invited distinguished lecturer at the CU Law School on September 20, 2017, where I learned about her important work and distinguished career. If you want to see the real plight of US environmental law, I invite you to read her book.

The last compelling reason is global climate change. If we wish to begin to turn our civilization around, and begin the hard work of mitigating and adapting to the changes in our global climate, which are already upon us, then we must start fighting this legal and political fight…here…now. If you would but realize this…that Lafayette has the opportunity to be a real spark of hope in fighting the corporate dominance of our legal system, our regulatory agencies, and indeed of our own communities, forcing their deeds upon us against the will of the people, then take this step: invite CELDF to help us, make this meeting as public as public can be. You will not regret it, and it will make the vast majority of Lafayette citizens, and all US citizens fighting to protect their environment, proud that you did so.

Very Sincerely,
Rick Casey
1118 Centaur Circle, apt D
Lafayette, CO


References:


Lafayette Community Rights Act, passed Nov 5, 2013, from municipal code on city website



Nancy MacLean: a powerful voice calling out the Radical Right

I am listening to Nancy MacLean tonight for the first time, thanks to a broadcast on KGNU, through that great show, Alternative Radio by David Barsamian. 

(By the way, if you’re reading this before January 7, 2018, and live in the Boulder area, David will be speaking at Veterans For Peace this Sunday night, in a small, cozy setting. If you want to go, contact me.)

Nancy MacLean is another powerful voice calling out the Radical Right, and I am glad to discover her own brand of activism, which is well grounded in deep academic knowledge of social movements. She is a history professor at Duke University, and has had a distinguished academic career, specializing in social movements in the US South. 

I admire her courageous talks, and her determination to raise awareness among the public of the danger of the Radical Right’s active hostility to democracy. Though I have only just discovered her, I think she is right on in calling attention to the dangerous ideas behind the Radical Right, which is the dressing up of a savage selfishness by the One Percent, and their self-congratulatory position in dismantling the power of a democratic government to block their selfish ends, in a cloak of pseudo-intellectual  justification of their actions….which I believe describes exactly what has and is happening in the US. 

Here’s a YouTube of one of her talks: 

Origins of the Radical Right & the Crisis of Our Democracy

Her Wikipedia entry, where the section about her latest book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, is particularly informative.