Ralph sits down with three guests straight out of the latest edition of the Capitol Hill Citizen. First, world-renowned food politics expert and public health advocate Marion Nestle joins Ralph to discuss America's voracious junk food lobby. Then, Ralph speaks to legal expert Bruce Fein about Congressional staffers and the part they can play in making Congress stronger. Finally, Ralph welcomes Vishal Shankar from the Revolving Door Project to explain why President Biden is letting Postmaster General Louis DeJoy continue wrecking the Post Office.
Marion Nestle is the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, Emerita, at New York University. She is the author of a wide range of books about the politics of food, nutrition, health, and the environment, including Eat, Drink Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Food Politics, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat, and Slow Cooked: An Unexpected Life in Food Politics.
If you want to make a profit and grow your profit every 90 days, you have to sell as much food as possible. And what that food does to public health is not your responsibility, because that's the way our system works.
We have a law on the books that says that the Federal Trade Commission can do nothing to restrict the marketing of foods to children on television. They're not allowed to do that. So what we're talking about here is a situation in which Congress is so corrupt that it cannot take on anything that will fight the food industry.
Bruce Fein is a Constitutional scholar and an expert on international law. Mr. Fein was Associate Deputy Attorney General under Ronald Reagan and he is the author of Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for Our Constitution and Democracy, and American Empire: Before the Fall.
You really can't make a career anymore of being in the legislative branch as an employee or as an aide. And so everybody leaves after a couple years to go to K Street and become a lobbyist. And so with this rapid turnover, you have a lobotomized Congress. And what this letter was attempting to do was to say, listen, Congress still—when the architecture of the Constitution is honored—is the primary predominant branch among the three branches. It's simply that you're not exercising it.
Vishal Shankar is a Senior Researcher at the Revolving Door Project, which scrutinizes executive branch appointees to ensure they use their office to serve the broad public interest, rather than to entrench corporate power or seek personal advancement. He has also worked at Inequality Media, as well as several government offices, nonprofits, and policy research projects. His work has appeared in The American Prospect and Common Dreams, and he has been quoted in The New Republic, The Lever, and the Capitol Hill Citizen.
The crisis [with Louis DeJoy] is not as immediate to Biden, his voters, his supporters, and they very wrongly believe—in my opinion—that they can work with this man who has proven to be untrustworthy, a Republican mega-donor and partisan hack, and most importantly a committed privatizer of the United States Postal Service.
DeJoy has been one of the single biggest impediments to piloting or expanding to creative new ideas that can grow out the Postal Service for decades to come…DeJoy has very stubbornly refused to consider these great potential ideas and is doubling down on service cuts and rate hikes as the only way he thinks he can run the agency.
In Case You Haven’t Heard with Francesco DeSantis
1. Democracy Now! Reports the United Autoworkers union has called for a ceasefire in Gaza. They are the largest and most mainstream labor union to publicly come out for a ceasefire, joining the American Postal Workers Union, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, the California Nurses Association and the Chicago Teachers Union. UAW Region 9A Director Brandon Mancilla said "UAW International is calling for an immediate, permanent cease-fire in Israel and Palestine so that we can get to the work of building a lasting peace, building social justice, and building a global community of solidarity," per CBS News. At the same time, UAW is “launching simultaneous, public organizing campaigns at more than a dozen automakers including Toyota… Volkswagen…and Tesla…aiming to organize nearly 150,000 employees…which would double the number of autoworkers in the union,” per Bloomberg. In short, UAW is setting a new standard for labor. We hope other unions follow their lead.
2. A new Gallup poll shows the Israeli campaign against Gaza is underwater among key segments of American public opinion. Some top line numbers: 63% of Democrats oppose Israel’s military actions in Gaza, as do 67% of adults under 35, 64% of people of color, and 52% of women. Moreover, this poll was conducted in the first weeks of November, so it is likely these attitudes have hardened since then.
3. Responding to the protests against Israel’s campaign, the House has passed a resolution classifying anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism, even among American Jews. In a surprising move, high ranking Jewish Democrat Jerrold Nadler took to the floor to decry this resolution, saying “the resolution suggests that ALL anti-Zionism is antisemitism. That is either intellectually disingenuous or just factually wrong. And it unfairly implicates many of my orthodox former constituents in Brooklyn, many of whose families rose from the ashes of the Holocaust…the authors, if they were at all familiar with Jewish history and culture, should know about Jewish anti-Zionism that was, and is, expressly NOT antisemitic.”
4. Semafor reports MSNBC has canceled Mehdi Hasan’s news program. This article implies MSNBC canceled the show because it was a “cult favorite” which never “translated to ratings successes,” though it seems likely that Hasan’s willingness to push back on Israeli talking points during this recent conflict played a role as well. Lest we forget this is the network that canceled Phil Donahue’s blockbuster news program for criticizing the Iraq War.
5. Just Foreign Policy’s Aída Chávez reports “Sen[ator] Rand Paul is forcing a vote this week on getting US troops out of Syria. His Syria War Powers Resolution would remove all US troops – approx. 900 [US military personnel] – from Syria in the next 30 days.” Chávez highlights that “US forces have been targeted with dozens of attacks in Syria [in recent days] over US support for war in Gaza.”
6. From OtherWorlds.org: the Pentagon has failed yet another audit. The mammoth Department of Defense has never passed an audit, and only even completed its first in 2018. In this most recent iteration, “the Pentagon was able to account for just half of its $3.8 trillion in assets (including equipment, facilities, etc)…[leaving] $1.9 trillion…unaccounted for — more than the entire budget Congress agreed to for the current fiscal year.” Congress is now set to allocate an additional $840 billion for the agency.
7. The Intercept is out with a story that could have made headlines during the Populist Era of the 1880s and ‘90s. According to the report, Dan Osborn, a military veteran and labor leader who was a key figure in the 2021 strike against Kellogg’s, is running for Senate as an independent – and leading Republican incumbent Senator Deb Fischer in the polls. Osborn told the Intercept “Nebraskans have had it with Washington. We’ve been starving for honest government that isn’t bought and paid for…This poll shows that Nebraska’s independent streak is alive and well.” The article notes Nebraska Democrats have not yet fielded a candidate in this Senate race and are considering backing Osborn. Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb said many Nebraska voters tired of one-party control in the state, arguing it “Makes politicians lazy…[and] more beholden to corporate interests since they don’t have to answer to voters.”
8. NBC is out with a bombshell report on carbon monoxide deaths among Airbnb renters. According to the report, “NBC News has identified 19 deaths since 2013 that occurred at Airbnb properties and are alleged to have involved carbon monoxide poisoning, according to interviews with family members of victims and a review of news articles, autopsy reports, police records, and court and government documents. The company is currently facing at least three lawsuits pertaining to carbon monoxide deaths or poisonings.” Perhaps most damningly, following one carbon monoxide related death in 2014, the company made a blog post promising “By the end of 2014, we’ll require all Airbnb hosts to confirm that they have [carbon monoxide detectors] installed in their listing.” The company never made good on that promise, and that post has since been deleted.
9. Tesla has released its long awaited Cybertruck, and along with it, videos of the vehicle’s crash testing. These are distressing to say the least. As the American Prospect notes, “the Cybertruck’s body panels…are made of stainless steel…[which] is much stiffer than…ordinary [automobile body materials], which makes it dangerous. Since the 1950s at least, automakers have understood that stiffer cars are more dangerous to people inside and outside the car, because in a crash they deliver energy to other parties rather than absorbing it. In early crash test experiments with more heavily built cars, collisions often did only minor damage to the car but turned the test dummies into paste. Since then, cars have been designed with progressively more sophisticated crumple zones to absorb impact forces. Musk’s boasts of a Cybertruck “exoskeleton,” if true, are a recipe for gruesome carnage.”
10. Finally, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has died at 100 years old. A Rolling Stone obituary, which ran under the headline “Henry Kissinger, War Criminal Beloved by America’s Ruling Class, Finally Dies,” argues that while Kissinger deserves to be remembered as one of “history's worst mass murderers,” he instead has been given a place of honor, even in death, among the American elite. One can only hope that his many, many victims will someday see justice served.
This has been Francesco DeSantis, with In Case You Haven’t Heard.