By JPL, aka GBF
CommonGoodUnited (.org) Update, April 2022
Probably not doing our updates as often as we should, but rest assured, as time marches on, so do we. What has happened the most in the last few months is the emergence of the Putin-Russian unprovoked attack of the sovereign nation of Ukraine. As those genocidal atrocities began, including all the “false red flags of war” that Putin and his Russian sycophants made up as reasons for prompting the war, it clearly reminded US of the parallels in USA with the path of the Republican Party who are steadfastly moving closer to autocracy, as they too are using fake reality and lies as a basis for destroying our democracy. Consequently, we would be remiss in not meshing the two stories together, because both involve the onslaught of democracy: one on the global stage (western liberal world democracies versus autocratic regimes like Russia, China, etc.); and the other being the onslaught of our democratic republic by Trump and the GOP right here in the USA.
The message (e.g., mission/vision) of CommonGoodUnited is very basic and fundamental (strive for betterment of common good of humanity & planet), so viewers may question the need or reasoning for expending the energy in this effort? Our purpose here is not slamming political parties, although there are plenty of reasons to do so for the GOP, but it should be recognized that both of the two major parties in the USA often seem to lose focus of the fundamental purpose of our republic as set forth by our founding fathers in our Constitution. Our democratic republic is capitalism driven, both domestically and globally, and that is not going to change; and government is a part of it, for the primary purpose to assure that the forces of capitalism are executed in a fashion that takes into consideration possible beneficial (& neutral) and adverse impacts of marketplace measures on people and our environment. That really is not asking too much is it? Entrepreneurs, businesses, corporations and individuals can, and should, have incentive based goals as reasonably achievable of increasing their wealth (for themselves, family, community etc.), but coupled with that, is the need for a populous representative government to establish and enforce controls (laws/regulations) so it is done in a manner that is protective of the common good of humanity and planet. The legal and regulatory framework should be done specifically in such a way that it is protective of the environment, and wellbeing & health/safety of the public. Professionals (e.g., engineers, doctors etc.) have to swear to an oath/code to follow those basic principles, so why shouldn’t private business entities?
So you might be thinking that all of this is something you already knew, right? But you must realize, now more than ever, that this is a constant struggle that plays out between what is good for: (A) the expansion of power & greed & wealth of individuals & business entities; and (B) protection, preservation and improvement of society/civilization and our environs (=Earth). Today (& in past), even though maybe not typically saying it out loud, those in group A are pushing for autocracy because by doing so there will be fewer governmental controls protecting people and planet (they want to reduce their bottom line costs with no concern for the detriment to people or environment, and limitless profit margins); and those is group B want to have (or continue to have and improve) a representative democracy to be protective of people and their environment. We have all seen what happens when the direction of our societies move to, or closer to, the principles (or lack thereof) of the autocratic group A. For example, do you think Putin/Russia’s priorities are geared towards the betterment of the Russian people and their environment? (ans = NO). Or are their priorities structured primarily to benefit the oligarch Putin and his fellow Russian oligarchs? (ans = YES). Look at Russian’s economy under the Putin regime: it is heavily dependent on the energy (oil & natural gas) and defense sectors. This narrow source of GNP (gross national product) revenue has worked out quite well for the Russian oligarchs in past couple of decades, but it puts the Russian people and their nation in a highly vulnerable economic situation that could push them into a major economic recession or depression, if one or two parts of this undiversified economy falls apart or decreases significantly, which could easily happen to them in foreseeable future. And Putin, the autocratic oligarch (called a kleptocrat), who is making all these critical decisions in last few months regarding the slaughtering of Ukrainians and destroying their homes and community infrastructure systems (hospitals, schools, power plants, etc.), with no one in the Russian government (parliament, public ministers etc.) daring to discuss or question his judgment on these matters. The Putin’s loyal sycophants (butt kissers, like President Trump had) all refuse to outwardly question Putin’s reckless decisions, because they fear retribution to themselves or families for doing so, such as being poisoned or sent off to Siberia for the rest of their lives. Putin operates much like President Trump did when he was in office (remembers what DJT said: “only he alone has all the answers & solutions for everything”). The consequences of a Russian autocracy are plainly evident on the world stage, as we all see daily how Putin is orchestrating the slaughter and destruction of Ukrainians and their nation, which is exactly what has occurred in past world history (Russia under Stalin, Germany under Hitler, Italy under Mussolini, Japan under Hirohito), and is ongoing in other autocratic nations worldwide, or soon will be, or should be anticipated by those living under an autocratic government. Just don’t ever forget, that Trump was always complimentary of Putin (and still is, calling him “savvy” & a “genius” on how he is handling Ukraine genocide), just as he (Trump) was always cozying up to and aspiring to be in similar authoritarian positions as other members of the ADC group he belonged to (Authoritarian/Dictator Club, including Xi of China, Kim of N Korea, Modi of India, etc.). Could there be another evil world PACT/AXIS in the formation stage right now (Russia-China-India) like in pre-WW2? Maybe you think it is farfetched? India’s possible role in all of this isn’t talked about much, but keep in mind they are a very significant economic world power, and like Trump, Modi is an autocrat pledge for the ADC (like a pledge in a college fraternity: “you have to first prove you can be one of them”).
With Trump as president in 2016-2020, the USA has already got a taste of autocratic/kleptocratic type government. Just as Putin reaps financial gains (for self & other oligarchs) as a Russian oligarch while serving as Russian president, President Trump was doing the same thing for himself, family members and his GOP Crony Crooks. Examples include the Washington DC Trump Hotel, and it was reported recently that his daughter Ivanka & husband Jerod (both serving in Trump Admin w/no qualifications) made up to $640M while in the White House. Granted, that autocratic form of government has not formally been proposed/approved/adopted by the GOP, nor is it flagrantly touted by GOP yet (although it’s obvious they’re going in that direction), but it should be clear to the US citizenry, that the Republican Party (w/ or w/o Trump) is moving towards autocracy. The latter is evident by GOP’s many actions and talk to fulfill their dominance over all three branches of the federal government by any measures (including Insurrection; Jan 6 Capitol Riot/Coup Attempt), and if achieved at this point in our history, it (control of all branches of fed govt) will in essence be the formation of a US autocracy, which will not be easily reversible for decades or centuries. The GOP already has dominant control of the judicial branch (6 to 3 conservative dominance of US Supreme Court), and with all the unConstitutional anti-voting rights laws and election subversion measures passed in GOP controlled states since Jan 6 DJT-GOP Insurrection/Coup Attempt, it is highly probable, that the GOP will likely take control of the legislative branch (US House & Senate) in 2023 (w/Nov ’22 elections), which could very well lead to GOP finagling the system for a presidential win (with Trump or some other autocratic leaning GOP contender, like FL Gov. DeSantis or TX Gov. Abbott) in November 2024.
So it’s fair to say right now on Easter Sunday, that the US is at the “Advent of Autocracy”. There are, however, legitimate reasons and means by which President Biden and the current US Congress can take action in response to the latter described drastic unConstitutional GOP voting suppression/purging & election subversion measures, that would consist of the US Congress calling for a vote against the GOP state public officials who have committed these unConstitutional acts or US insurrection. And in addition to the latter, regardless of whether the US congressional vote passes in favor of denouncing the aforementioned insurrectional actions of state GOP public officials, President Biden may then, having the authority to do so, issue an emergency Executive Order to administer the federal elections in those GOP Constitutional violating states. What it comes down to, is that the violating GOP states (acting like a Confederacy) as members of the union of the United States of America, must abide by the federal Constitution (it supersedes state & local constitutions) as it relates to equal voting rights for all US citizens. See the specific US Constitutional amendments in link below that were immediately drafted and passed after the Civil War for preventing the recurrence of insurrectionists (Confederacy) in any of the union/United States from operating outside of the federal Constitution which supersedes the individual state constitutions, just like the state constitutions supersede the constitutions of the state’s local/county jurisdictions.
It really is important that readers take all of this very seriously! Think about how Putin controls all those in the Russian government with no one there daring to debate or even discuss his decisions and thought process thereof (i.e., parliament, judges, public ministers, military, intelligence, etc.); and if there is any state/provincial or local government within Russian’s boundaries that does anything he objects to, those heading up those state/local governments immediately have a target on their back. And if you were previously in the Soviet Union prior to its dissolution in 1991 (e.g., Ukraine), after which your sovereign nation formed an independent government (democratic republic or other form of govt), it is likely that Putin/Russia will be coming after your nation and people to pull you back under their jurisdiction and control, whether you like it or not (e.g., Ukraine).
So now think of Trump in the US in 2025 as a Putin type GOP autocrat after he gets reelected in November 2024 after all kinds of unConstitutional state GOP shenanigans (state anti-voting rights laws/election subversion). So now Trump will start scheming to grow his oligarch financial account to take over land in Canada, Mexico, Greenland, or maybe he’ll have “HIS” Military and generals go down to oil rich Venezuela, which he said in his previous presidential term, was “right in our backyard, and is RIPE FOR THE TAKING (i.e., having political turmoil, etc.., and was vulnerable)”. Or maybe Trump will prompt his GOP Crony Crook state governors to take over adjacent Democratic states with the US National Guard troops, or bring in a private militia paid for and contracted by the US government (or with DJT’s mega supporter funded oligarch account) as run by his buddy Erik Prince (brother of Betsy DeVos, his former Education Secretary) from W Michigan who owns the Blackwater Company (or whatever it’s called now), who had big contracts with George W Bush & VP Dick Cheney during the fake-WMD-prompted-Iraq-War. So if you think about all of this for a while, maybe you’ll surmise, that the continually downward evolving GOP (w/ or w/o Trump) in their caveman thinking is not going to do the USA any good, and on the contrary, it is going to send US into a state/fate similar to that experienced in Italy (Mussolini/fascism) and Germany (Hitler/Nazism) in the pre-WW2 era, which is very frightening. Many innocent civilians died at the hands of the Fascists and Nazis of that time because they didn’t fit their criteria of religion or race, or they just happened to be rightfully occupying land in sovereign nations that the Germans and Italians wanted to conquer and take over.
If you are my brother or sister (literally – have many), and you are supporting the GOP, with or without Trump, now in 2022, and plan to in 2024, you might as well go spit on your father’s grave, and maybe engrave a stone to put next to his tombstone, telling him that his service in the US Army in Italy in the battle (came to shore in 1943 at beachhead S of Salerno) that rescued the City of Rome from German occupation, and drove the German military out of Italy, which led to the defeat of Germany and the suicidal death of Hitler hiding in a bunker (like Trump did in DC/White House during George Floyd/BLM protests), “was not the patriotic thing to do in your opinion, and had nothing to do with the preservation of freedom and democracies in the US and NATO member countries”. If you could talk to your father/USA immigrant from Commune of San Piero Patti, Messina Province of Sicily, Italy, you could ask him if he was involved with, or observed the killing of any of his native Italian brethren in WW2 who were among the Black Shirt Mussolini followers or in the Italian Fascist military who were the enemies of the USA, NATO, Freedom and worldwide democratic republic nations (that’s small “d”, not Democratic US political party – take a civics and history lesson RAPIDO). Oh, and by the way, did you know that you had a great uncle on your mother’s side from northern Italy (Cismon del Grappa, Province of Vicenza, Italy), brother to your great grandfather, that was murdered by a Black Shirt Mussolini/Fascist supporter because he stated at a local business establishment one night that he was “neutral” on supporting Mussolini and Fascist Party (stabbed and killed on his way home that night).
So besides all of the above, you may wonder if oligarchs/kleptocrats like Putin and his Russian yacht sailing oligarch buddies also exist here in the USA? Yes, of course they do. After seeing Facebook CEO Zuckerberg prance into the White House to have conferences with President Trump when he was in office, is it really too outlandish to say that oligarch Zuckerberg paid the president a visit? And what about other hugely economically powerful individuals located in the USA such as oligarchs Bezos of Amazon, or Musk from Tesla/SpaceX/Neuraling/The Boering Company? The US oligarchs list goes on and on, similar to Russia in many respects, and it includes other BEHEMOTH corporations that affect our daily lives, like Google, and the entertainment/news media corporations that control the airwaves/internet. And of course, included in these mega entertainment/news corporations is FOX News that is in essence a propaganda machine for Trump and the GOP in general. We have anti-trust laws (beginning w/1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act) that have been in existence well over a century, that, as amended can impose penalties of $100M against corporations and $10M against individuals (both are pocket change to mega corps & billionaire individuals involved), along with up to 10 years in prison, but the US DOJ has mostly taken a “hands off” approach in pursuing Anti-Trust prosecution against corporations and individuals for multiple decades, which is true with a lot of white collar crime in the USA (e.g., such as 30-50,000 Leaky CRIMe plants that pollute our drinking water supply sources in violation of 1980s RCRA laws – see www.YouReapWhatYouSow.org or ask US Secretary Granholm, former MI AG & 2-term MI Gov. who plainly saw Whistleblower disclosure in yr 2000 on such a plant, as stated at time “’LACKS’” adequate environmental safeguards”).
Of course the issue of Leaky CRIMe plants, is a big subject in itself, and even after a ½ century of violating this law on hazardous waste conveyance, storage, treatment of highly toxic cancerous substances in huge mega volumes at these Chemically Real Intensive Manufacturing establishments (many CRIMe’s tied to automotive OEM supply chain), it clearly demonstrates that neither political party (GOP or Dems) put much importance on it, and it always takes the back seat decade after decade to other hot issues (now climate change, COVID pandemic, Russian Ukraine slaughter attack, etc.), and besides, the politicians look at it as a kryptonite issue that if brought up in their campaign, they will lose for sure on business/economic/employment grounds because it forces businesses to clean up their act and abide by the law (is that asking too much?), and not exploit people and the environment for financial gain; plus, these politicians are tied into the LOBBYIST GRAVY TRAIN which they ride on along with various appointed government bureaucrats, external professional consultants/contractors to govt, etc. (people move back and forth between being elected and appointed govt public officials, and from public to private sector and visa versa, and so while riding the train, they keep the lie and cover-up going for their own personal financial benefit and career – e.g., in order to buy a new Grand Holme, who wants to investigate and prosecute a flagrant illegal polluter when you’ll be running for a higher office in several months or a year or two? – Give California credit however, because they have recognized the Leaky CRIMe problem, and they have dealt with it properly because they have much higher regard for public health & safety and the environment than all the other states).
Getting back to the prevalence of oligarchs/kleptocrats’ problem – as mentioned, it not only exists in Russia, it also is prevalent in the USA. It’s a case of market based capitalism in our civilized society in the USA being way out of whack. It relates to general makeup of corporations also, and how they operate predominantly with the mindset of maximizing profits at the detriment to almost everything else if they could get away with it. But of course, that’s not entirely possible, because usually they are obligated to deliver a quality product to the customer on time and, of course, within budget. But how they treat employees, the environment, and the surrounding community is a big variable, that is open to exploitation of all of the latter, unless there are some kind of levers or controls that keep the corps in line, either through government laws/regulations, workers’ unions, etc. As time has gone on in the last half century, many workers unions have disappeared or have been weakened, and almost likewise, there have been fewer new environmental laws and regulations, or there has been back-sliding or weakening of these environmental laws & regulations, and the lack of enforcement thereof. And consequently, because of the latter, the surrounding communities to Leaky CRIMe plants have suffered, because unless people are dropping dead (it takes cancer a long time to rear its ugly head), there is no sampling or testing around the CRIMe plant if the neighborhood is served by centralized public water system; however, it is still important that those CRIMe plants are not leaking because in an insidious, gradual, accumulative manner, all those leaky industrial plants are still discharging pollutants to the soil and groundwater below the plant, which finds its way down gradient polluting surface water in ditches, creeks, streams, rivers, and lakes, or just to a nearby groundwater aquifer, which is then being used by a home owner (domestic well) or by a public waterworks system, which has to deal with all the contaminants that combine together (and continually increasing in concentration) with other contributing CRIMe plant violators/ polluters who are doing the same thing. So the point is, it’s a problem that shouldn’t be ignored for a half century or more (& the next half century), when laws/regulations already exist that should be strictly enforced, and not be allowed to be skirted around by slick/slimy lobbyists/attorneys working for greed (their own & that of their clients) and not the common good of society. The public has to deal with all the after effects of the gross negligence by owners/operators of CRIMe plants and elected/appointed public officials who ignore the problem (worker health/safety big issue also), and the bottom-line corporation practices/mentality to solely satisfy shareholders to maximize dividends/profits by minimizing labor and environmental control costs. And the very BIG corporations also are forever increasing consumer prices, especially if they have very little if any competition. The point being made herein, is that capitalism is out of control in many respects, and as a consequence, there are plenty of oligarchs and monopolies & monopsonies gorging themselves on US and world wealth, while causing the US economy to be out of kilter and off the rails, resulting in ever rising inflation, huge income inequality between the top earners and the rest of society, and making modern day life unaffordable for huge swaths of the population (causing huge increases in the cost of living, and drastically increasing the number of people living at or below the poverty level). While a monopoly involves a company that sells a good or service, a monopsony involves one that buys a good or service (including labor). During the past several years, legislation has been drafted and proposed by various lawmakers from both political parties, but no significant changes in the anti-trust laws have been passed yet. The rest of this article covers the discussion of what could and has been proposed by US legislators to improve anti-trust laws and make them more enforceable.
In February 2021, at a time when US companies had engaged in more than $10 trillion worth of mergers and acquisitions since 2008, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) announced a bill, as summarized below, aimed at “making sure those deals don’t harm consumers or halt competition.”
It’s not unusual, especially in the tech industry, for big player to acquire a popular peer (e.g., Facebook buying Instagram, Twitter buying Vine, Uber buying Postmates; or in February 2020, a district judge allowed T-Mobile, with a premerger equity valuation of more than $50 billion, to acquire Sprint for $30 billion and gave control of the national wireless market to just three carriers.).
Government shouldn’t only be wary of monopolies, but monopsonies too. Again, while a monopoly involves a company that sells a good or service, a monopsony involves one that buys a good or service (including labor). Both evoke concerns of predatory pricing (too high if there’s only one seller and too low if there’s only one buyer), stagnating wages and high barriers to entry for fledgling companies.
While competition and vertical integration have been a recurring concerns in the ever-consolidating entertainment industry — the most high-profile example in recent memory being AT&T winning a trial after the DOJ challenged its $85 billion purchase of Time.
The bill submitted by Klobuchar amends the Clayton Act to lower the threshold from forbidding mergers that “substantially lessen competition” to those that merely “create an appreciable risk of materially lessening competition.” In some situations — like mergers valued at more than $5 billion or those that would give a company a market share of more than 50 percent — it shifts the burden from the government needing to prove there is risk of harm to the company needing to prove there isn’t any.
It also establishes the Office of the Competition Advocate within the FTC and proposes civil penalties for antitrust violations of up to 15 percent of the company’s U.S. revenue or 30 percent of revenue of those “affected or targeted” by the unlawful conduct.
In order to enforce the changes, the Antitrust Division of the DOJ would receive $484.5 million and the FTC would receive $651 million.
No attempt will be made here to evaluate the merits thereof, but following the Anti-Trust legislative submittal by Senator Amy Klobuchar and the Democratic Party, GOP US Senator Josh Hawley also proposed an Anti-trust bill to the US Senate in April 2021 as given in link below:
Additionally, given below are excerpts from an article published in The Atlantic, dated 02/25/2021, entitled “ Ban All Big Mergers. Period – A simple law would stop the U.S. government from rubber-stamping corporate consolidation”, By Robert H. Lande and Sandeep Vaheesan ( https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/02/ban-all-big-mergers/618131/ ):
As evidence mounts that corporate consolidation and concentration raise prices to consumers, eliminate jobs, depress wages, marginalize independent businesses, and breed economic and political inequality, Democrats in Congress, possibly in collaboration with some Republican colleagues, appear poised to crack down on monopoly and prevent further consolidation. At the top of this agenda should be a law that simply and unambiguously prevents all megamergers—which we would define as transactions in which the acquirer and the target each has more than $10 billion in assets.
“…the Sherman Act was designed to be a comprehensive charter of economic liberty” that aimed to provide “an environment conducive to the preservation of our democratic political and social institutions.”
The history of consolidation in the oil industry is revealing and suggests that an ExxonMobil-Chevron merger is not far-fetc.hed. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the FTC permitted very large oil and gas corporations to merge on the condition that they sold off gas stations, refineries, and other assets to “preserve competition” in markets where they were head-to-head competitors or in a position to exclude rivals.
The tolerance of mergers has spread corporate concentration and its attendant inequality into virtually every corner of the economy: health care, airlines, cable TV, and now the internet, where Amazon, Facebook, and other sprawling new monopolists reign. A small clique of executives and financiers makes key decisions in our economy. Many figures across the political spectrum are now urging a return to the kind of antitrust enforcement that once helped preserve a variety of independent businesses in every community.
Under the legislation we propose, a future merger between Chevron and ExxonMobil would be plainly illegal. Even if they agreed to sell some assets to a third party—as many merging companies do—the two oil titans would not be able to get their transaction past the antitrust authorities. The companies probably would not even contemplate such a combination in the boardroom.
Senator Elizabeth Warren called for tight merger restrictions for companies that have more than $40 billion in annual revenues. In a fall 2019 presidential-candidate debate, she said: “We need to enforce our antitrust laws, break up these giant companies that are dominating Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Oil; all of them.”