Ralph welcomes back public interest advocate Donald Cohen to discuss the long history of corporate propaganda covering for corporate greed, and his new book Corporate Bullsh*t: Exposing the Lies and Half-Truths That Protect Profit, Power, and Wealth in America. Then Ralph is joined by founder of the Free Law Project, Michael Lissner, to talk about why the American legal system is so hard to use and the ongoing fight to make it more accessible.
Donald Cohen is the founder and executive director of the research and policy center In the Public Interest. He is the co-author of The Privatization of Everything and his latest book, co-authored with Nick Hanauer and Joan Wals, is Corporate Bullshit: Exposing the Lies and Half-Truths That Protect Profit, Power, and Wealth in America.
Every time they say something, our natural instinct is to debunk it, which means we're playing on their playing field. We want to pre-bunk it. We say, “That's bull. You're just playing a game. And listen to how you've done it in the past.” Because many of the quotes in this book are kind of hilarious, actually. We want to make fun of them and we're hoping that this becomes a little bit of a vaccine going forward.
This is more than just lies, falsehoods, off-the-wall predictive phoniness. It's more than that. It's deadly. In other words, it's not just rhetoric. It's not just craziness. It leads to the suppression of the society's response to foresee and forestall hazards, ripoffs, and the like, and to engage in preventive activity— regulations, opening it up for lawsuits under tort law—and deterrence. So we're dealing here with not only malicious patterns of rhetoric, we're dealing here with deadly delays.
Michael Lissner is Executive Director and Chief Technology Officer of the Free Law Project. The Free Law Project is a nonprofit that uses technology, data, and advocacy to make the legal ecosystem more equitable and competitive. They build open-source tools to make legal information more accessible, and they host major open databases of opinions, federal filings, judges, financial disclosures, and oral arguments.
Open information is really how government works… You can imagine if the Supreme Court didn't publish its opinions. Right now you can go to their website, you can find their latest decisions. But you could imagine a system where people went to the Supreme Court, they decided who was right and who was wrong, and they told those people— and that was it, and they didn't explain themselves. It wouldn't work very well, because we wouldn't know how the laws are being interpreted. And I hate to say so, but when you get a little bit away from the Supreme Court…you realize that's kind of the system we have.
In Case You Haven’t Heard with Francesco DeSantis
1. On Saturday November 4th, the largest ever pro-Palestine demonstration was held in Washington. The Real News Network reports over 100,000 demonstrators gathered in Freedom Plaza and marched on the White House, demanding a ceasefire. CNN reports that another 100,000 protesters gathered in London, along with demonstrations throughout the world, including in Paris and Berlin, where authorities have sought to quash or outright ban pro-Palestine protests. These tremendous shows of solidarity underline how much the politics of this issue have changed in the western world.
2. Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian member of Congress, has been censured by the House of Representatives. Defending herself on the floor of the House, Rep. Tlaib said “I will not be silenced, and I will not let you distort my words…Trying to bully or censure me won’t work because this movement for a cease-fire is much bigger than one person. It is growing every single day. There are millions of people across our country who oppose Netanyahu’s extremism and are done watching our government support collective punishment and the use of white phosphorus bombs that melt flesh to the bone. They are done watching our government…supporting cutting off food, water, electricity, and medical care to millions of people with nowhere to go…they don’t believe the answer to war crimes is more war crimes. The refusal of Congress and the administration to acknowledge Palestinian lives is chipping away at my soul. Over 10,000 Palestinians have been killed. The majority were children…The idea that criticizing the Government of Israel is anti-Semitic sets a very dangerous precedent, and it is being used to silence diverse voices speaking up for human rights across our Nation…I can’t believe I have to say this, but Palestinian people are not disposable. We are human beings just like anyone else…Speaking up to save lives…no matter faith, no matter ethnicity, should not be controversial…The cries of Palestinian and Israeli children sound no different to me. What I do not understand is why the cries of Palestinians sound different to you-all…We cannot lose our shared humanity…We will continue to call for a cease-fire…for the immediate delivery of critical humanitarian aid to Gaza, for the release of all hostages and those arbitrarily detained, and for every American to come home. We will continue to work for real, lasting peace that upholds human rights and the dignity of all people and centers peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, censures no one, and ensures that no person, no child, has to suffer or live in fear of violence.” Despite enormous pressure by the Israel lobby, support for a ceasefire in Congress continues to grow – adding powerful new allies like Rep. Maxine Waters and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, who has, incredibly, taken a bolder stance than longtime progressives like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
3. Two recent stories reveal widespread dissent within the State Department regarding the administration’s policy on Gaza. POLITCO is out with a report on a leaked State Department memo calling for the U.S. to support a ceasefire and allow for criticism of Israel’s military tactics, the gag on which “contributes to regional public perceptions that the United States is a biased and dishonest actor,” further arguing that American “tolerance” for wanton civilian death “engenders doubt in the rules-based international order that we have long championed.” Meanwhile, the Huffington Post reports State Department officials feel sidelined by the administration and unable to steer policy at this vital moment. One unnamed official decried the department for using “hollow moves” which “fail to acknowledge the complicity of our decisions and policy in the relentless suffering of Gazans…igno[ing] the fact that we still aren’t pushing for a cease-fire, still not asking Israel to control itself.”
4. The State Department isn’t the only institution dealing with internal dissent over Gaza. Democracy Now! reports that Jazmine Hughes, an award-winning writer for The New York Times Magazine, “resigned after signing an open letter condemning Israel’s genocide in Gaza. The move constituted a violation of newsroom policy. New York Times contributor Jamie Lauren Keiles, who describes himself as a “religiously observant Jew,” also left the publication after signing on to the letter.”
5. Brandeis University has banned their campus’ chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. The group posted on their Instagram that the Student Affairs department at the university “derecognized” the group after they planned a vigil for the dead in Palestine, deeming the demonstration “a genuine threat or harassment.” Brooklyn College Professor Corey Robin wrote “the idea of an institution bearing [the] name [Brandeis], of all names, to investigate student groups exercising their speech rights—in the name of combating alleged danger—is outrageous. "Men feared witches and burnt women," he wrote. Quite.” The ACLU has urged higher education leaders to “Reject calls to investigate, disband, or penalize pro-Palestinian student groups for exercising their free speech rights.”
6. According to the Intercept, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Christine Abizaid is using the October 7th Hamas attack in Israel to argue for reauthorization of section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. Section 702 “enables the U.S. government to gather vast amounts of intelligence — including about U.S. citizens — under the broad category of foreign intelligence information, without first seeking a warrant.” This section of the law is set to expire at the end of this year, though lawmakers are likely to renew it in some form. The Brennan Center for Justice recently published a report documenting how the FBI “has used the 702 authority to spy on U.S. representatives, senators, civil liberties organizations, political campaigns, and activists.”
7. CNN reports that South Africa and Chad have recalled their diplomats from Israel. South African officials also “noted the continuing disparaging remarks of the Israeli ambassador to South Africa about those who are opposing the atrocities and the genocide of the Israeli government,” adding that “A genocide under the watch of the international community cannot be tolerated.” South Africa and Chad now join Turkey, Honduras, Colombia, Chile, Jordan and Bahrain, in withdrawing diplomats from Israel, while Bolivia has opted to cut off diplomatic relations with Israel entirely, citing “crimes against humanity committed against the Palestinian people.”
8. In domestic politics on Israel, Wisconsin Rep. and outspoken progressive Mark Pocan made waves this week for criticizing AIPAC, Israel’s chief lobbying arm in the U.S. In an interview with Slate, Pocan said “I don’t give a fuck about AIPAC—period…I think they’re a cancerous presence on our democracy and politics in general, and if I can be a surgeon, that’s great.” The Slate article goes to say “following Pocan’s lead, a small number of congressional Democrats (and one congressional Republican) have openly accused the organization of spreading falsehoods and misrepresentations in its lobbying efforts.” AIPAC was the top 2022 donor to both Reps. Mike Johnson and Hakeem Jeffries, respectively the Speaker and Minority Leader of the House.
9. Finally, in non-Palestinian news, More Perfect Union reports that “Tens of thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh who make products for brands like Zara, H&M and GAP are on strike. Their minimum wage is $75 a month, and they're demanding it rise to $208. The bosses are only offering $90. They've shut down over 300 factories so far.”
This has been Francesco DeSantis, with In Case You Haven’t Heard.