This Venture Capitalist Thinks Occupy Wall Street and Nazis Have a Lot in Common

Published: mic (January 28, 2014

Back in 1990, American attorney and author Mike Godwin observed that political discussions (particularly those that occurred online) were oversaturated with Nazi analogies. This gave birth to the expression “Godwin’s Law,” which argues that anyone who compares a political adversary to Nazis without sound reasoning automatically forfeits the debate.

Flash forward to last Friday, when venture capitalist Tom Perkins wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal asserting “I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany [and] its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich.'”

Whaaaaat?

Perkins’ analogy falls apart on every logical level. First, there is the simple fact that Occupy Wall Street and any other perpetrators of this “progressive war on the rich” have displayed none of the physical violence — to say nothing of mass murder — that were staples of Nazi rhetoric and action. It is factually and morally wrong to compare the animus directed toward a powerful elite with the prejudice targeted against a long-persecuted ethnic minority.

He also has no case when arguing that some progressives are in any way the “descendent [sic]” of Nazism. As one of the foremost academic authorities on European fascism explained, fascist ideology opposes “the allegedly bankrupt or degenerate forces of conservatism, individualistic liberalism and materialist socialism” in favor of a “vitalistic nationalism.” This is hardly an apt description of the Occupy Wall Street philosophy.

More important than simply understanding why Perkins is wrong, though, is ascertaining why he drew the comparison in the first place.

Thanks to the horrors wrought by World War II and the Cold War, a stigma has developed around the two ideologies responsible for those catastrophic atrocities — Nazism and Communism. Because the odium attached to each point-of-view is well deserved, it’s easy to win a political argument by saddling one’s opponent with the Nazi and/or Communist label. Not only does this relieve the accuser of such inconveniences as assembling facts and developing a rational case for his or her opinion, but it calls for the complete marginalization of the contending position. When this tactic is employed, the goal is not to stimulate debate, but to shut it down.

While I don’t share Perkins’ conservative economic views, he certainly could have articulated them in a way that would have played to the best rather than the worst of our political instincts. By violating Godwin’s Law, he has discredited himself in the eyes of all intelligent, decent individuals. Not only did he cheapen the suffering of the millions who were victimized by the Nazi regime, but he did so with the goal of silencing an entire social movement.

Shame on you, Tom Perkins.

Nazi Germany via AP

Occupy Wall Street via AP

58 Republicans Supported Increasing the Minimum Wage When Bush Was President

Published: mic (January 28, 2014)

One of the centerpieces of President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address was his executive order that will raise the minimum wage for employees working with federal contractors to $10.10 an hour. The President is taking action on his own because Republicans are deeply set against Democrats’ efforts to raise the federal minimum wage.

In short, many in the GOP are playing politics with the income of millions of Americans.

Although Republicans are more ideologically conservative than Democrats, their lack of support for minimum wage increases can’t be attributed solely to their economic philosophy. Back when George W. Bush was president, 82 of the 202 GOP House members voted for the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007. Many in the Senate did as well (although it was part of a larger package). The Act increased the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour.

While many of the 2007 Congressional Republicans have since been replaced, most of them are still in office today. Of the current members of Congress, 39 House Republicans and 19 Senate Republicans supported the 2007 wage increase under Bush. All are expected to vote against Obama’s minimum wage increase.

The advantages of raising the minimum wage above $10 are myriad. It would inject at least $60 billion into our economy, providing a necessary stimulus for accelerating our sluggish recovery. Because these workers wouldn’t be as dependent on social services like welfare, rent assistance, and food stamps, federal and local taxes would both be lowered. At a time of rising concern over income inequality, a minimum wage increase would demonstrate to ordinary Americans that the government is as concerned about their financial well-being as they are about the interests of the 1%. Finally, and most importantly, a minimum wage increase would provide necessary support for working class individuals and families.

For those whose dogmatic adherence to laissez-faire economic gospels, irrational fear of covert socialist plots, and/or contempt for anything having to do with Obama is rendering them unwilling to aid Americans … they should be called out.

When Obama proposed to raise the minimum wage Tuesday night, he effectively asked Republicans to continue the policies that dozens of them were willing to support when the president was one of their own. If we want an end to the mindless partisanship that has paralyzed our body politic for years, we should encourage Congress to start here.

These are the 39 House Republicans who are flip-flopping on the minimum wage:

Robert Aderholt (R-AL)
Rodney Alexander (R-AL)
Spencer Bachus (R-AL)
Gus Bilirakis (R-FL)
Jo Bonner (R-AL)
John Boozman (R-AR)
Vern Buchanan (R-FL)
Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
Ander Crenshaw (R-FL)
Charles Dent (R-PA)
Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
Jimmy Duncan (R-TN)
Jo Anne Emerson (R-MO)
Randy Forbes (R-VA)
Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)
Jim Gerlach (R-PA)
Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)
Walter Jones Jr. (R-NC)
Peter King (R-NY)
Tom Latham (R-IA)
Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)
Kenny Marchant (R-TX)
Candice Miller (R-MI)
Tom Petri (R-WI)
Ted Poe (R-TX)
Dave Reichert (R-WA)
Hal Rogers (R-KY)
Mike D. Rogers (R-AL)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
John Shimkus (R-IL)
Mike Simpson (R-ID)
Chris Smith (R-NJ)
Lamar S. Smith (R-LA)
Mike Turner (R-OH)
Fred Upton (R-MI)
Greg Walden (R-OR)
Ed Whitfield (R-KY)
Frank Wolf (R-VA)
Don Young (R-AK)

These are the 19 Senate Republicans:

Lamar Alexander (R-LA)
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Susan Collins (R-ME)
Bob Corker (R-TN)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
James Inhofe (R-AK)
John Isakson (R-GA)
John McCain (R-AZ)
Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
John Thune (R-SD)
David Vitter (R-LA)
Mark Kirk (R-IL)

Netflix’s New Mitt Romney Doc, Summed Up in One Dumb GIF

Published: mic (January 27, 2014)

“I think I’m a flawed candidate.”

You pretty much hit the nail on the head there, Mitt Romney.

The central narrative arc in Mitt, the new Netflix documentary chronicling Romney’s two presidential campaigns, is that of a candidate who aims for the highest office in the country only to return, heartbroken, to ordinary life. The film, while failing to reveal anything new about the inner workings of American politics, is reasonably effective at humanizing Romney (which seems to be its primary goal). It does so by applying the Deschanel treatment to its subject: striving to paint him as quirky and loveable.

This approach can be summed up in a single GIF (of a grown man ironing a shirt like he a 3rd grader):

“Ouch!”

One can’t help but empathize with the guy. The film isn’t powerful enough to make us feel like we know him well, but we do know that he was clearly terrified of losing. There is even a prophetic moment near the beginning where he talks about how he doesn’t want to be remembered as a “loser” or a “laughingstock.” If director Greg Whiteley’s goal was to show us that even Mitt Romney can deserve sympathy, he succeeded.

Of course, none of that means we should have voted for him or that it’s wrong to laugh.

Watch the One-Minute Ad That Sparked a Revolution

Published: mic (January 23, 2014)

n case you missed it, Wednesday was the anniversary of a revolution.

Imagine if 30 years ago (only a few years after Al Gore invented the Internet), someone had envisioned a future in which there would be a personal computer in every home. Well, the geniuses at Apple saw it coming, and their iconic “1984” ad was a milestone event in a revolution that would fundamentally change our generation.

Aired during Super Bowl XVIII (when the Los Angeles Raiders blew out the Washington Redskins 38-9), this legendary spot opens in a dystopian metropolis, where swarms of drone-like citizens march to the solemn intonations of a televised Big Brother. As they take their seats, a female athlete wielding a brass-headed hammer springs into the room, trailed by an army of helmeted police officers. Before they can stop her, she throws her hammer at the giant screen on which Big Brother is reciting his speech, resulting in an explosion that snaps the masses out of their spell while the narrator reads:

On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like “1984.”

This clever reference to George Orwell’s classic novel may go over the heads of Americans today, but the main implication resonates as clearly as ever. Indeed, it runs even deeper than what Steve Jobs intended. Although he explained in his speech unveiling the commercial that Big Brother was meant to symbolize how “it appears IBM wants it all,” and “Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money.” Jobs inadvertently unearthed a narrative far more resonant than the tale of one corporate giant’s attempt to dethrone another.

Instead, he discovered how personal computers can turn every citizen into a creator — a disseminator of information, of creative media, of unconventional opinions. The PC revolution ushered in by the “1984” ad has smashed Big Brothers everywhere, whether the authoritarianism in question is manifested in a government concealing information about unethical programs, a production company controlling artistic works or simply the unchallenged consensus of “general public opinion.”

In short, the “1984” spot didn’t merely signal the rise of Apple as America’s premiere computer company. It wasn’t simply the most significant Super Bowl spot ever aired. Its release, and the first popular personal computer shortly thereafter, signaled the dawn of the modern digital age we all inhabit today.

Perhaps nothing better symbolizes that fact that without this era that we’re living in, I would not have been able to write this article — and you wouldn’t have been able to read it, or comment on it, or riff off of it to write your own.

Jobs unlocked the creativity of people with a personal computer. A device that most of us now carry wherever we go. And from the U.S. to the Ukraine, it’s a symbol of our growing power.

On behalf of all of us, who are among the innumerable beneficiaries of the achievement prophesied 30 years ago today, I say thank you, Apple.

Now let’s kick some ass.

Watch As These Conservatives Recycle the World’s Worst Talking Point

Published: mic (January 21, 2014)

You’d think that conservatives, after being repeatedly humiliated for their insensitivity toward rape victims, would have learned to be careful when discussing the plight of the marginalized and oppressed.

For proof that this lesson has yet to take, let’s look at one of the right wing’s most obnoxious, entitled, and ill-informed rhetoric motifs: comparing liberal policies to American slavery.

Slavery is “the state of one bound in servitude as the property of a slaveholder or household.” When used in the specific context of American politics, “slavery” generally conjures up the historical institution of African American slavery, wherein blacks were forced to work without pay for people who claimed to “own” them, bought and sold like chattel, denied all legal rights, and frequently subjected to physical and psychological torture.

Needless to say, analogies to either type of slavery should only be made in the most extreme cases, and even then only after being justified by careful study and reasoning. Certainly they should never be used to score cheap political points.

Unfortunately, right-wingers like Dr. Greg Brannon have yet to learn that. On Jan. 14, the North Carolina Tea Party member, widely considered to be a front-runner for the Republican Senate nomination in his state, was discovered to have made these comments in an October interview:

“… 80% of the farm bill was food stamps. That enslaves people. What you want to do, it’s crazy but it’s true, teach people to fish instead of giving them fish. When you’re at the behest of somebody else, you are actually a slavery to them [sic]. That kind of charity does not make people freer.”

While the platitude about teaching a man to fish instead of giving him fish is valid, it applies to situations in which people can control over how they eat, not ones in which chronic unemployment remains a social epidemic and millions of Americans rely on food stamps either because they can’t find work or their jobs don’t pay them enough. Franklin Roosevelt put it best 80 years ago when he observed that “necessitous men are not free men.” A strong case can be made that dependence on charity diminishes individual agency and autonomy, but it’s quite a leap to argue that this is inherently worse than deprivation of one’s biological necessities. Until the conditions of hopeless poverty are eradicated, only those whose privileged backgrounds have led to moral callousness can honestly believe that relief through charity is more servile than regularly suffering from hunger.

Certainly Brannon isn’t alone in his willful insensitivity, as his “liberal policy X = slavery” rhetoric has been echoed by right-wingers from Rand Paul and Rush Limbaugh to Sarah Palin to this guy — New Hampshire state Rep. Bill O’Brien:

There is nothing that people with a sense of decency can do to stop these individuals from cheapening the horrors chronicled in autobiographies like Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, scholarly works like Walter Johnson’Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, and movies like the recent 12 Years a Slave to advance their polemical agenda. The fact that many of them do this as members of the party that was founded to limit the expansion of slavery is merely a cruel irony.

Indeed, you may even be one of them. In which case, I propose the following wager:

If you truly believe that a left wing program is actually as bad as literal slavery, then sign off to be another person’s slave for the rest of your life. Once you are that person’s property and are denied all semblance of legal human rights, you will be absolved of any kind of obligations to these so-called oppressive government programs you so vociferously detest. At that point, if you can still honestly profess your earlier opinion while languishing in literal chains, I guarantee that liberals like me will take your opinions more seriously. Of course, if you’re understandably reluctant to seriously consider this offer, then maybe instead of weaving elaborate rationales to justify your moral cowardice, you should just admit that some analogies ought to be off limits, even in the realm of partisan hyperbole.

You’d Never Believe What Kind Of Economics MLK Believed In

Published: mic (January 20, 2014)

If he was alive today, Martin Luther King, Jr. would not have been a Republican.

In light of the frequency with which he is cited as a hero and role model, that point cannot be reiterated enough. We often hear about King’s crusades to end legal segregation in the South and de facto segregation in the North, but far less attention is paid to the inextricable link between his views on civil rights and his philosophy on economic matters.

This needs to be corrected.

We can start with a brilliant document King composed less than two months before he died. Expressing dismay at how “the majority of Negroes [are] locked up in an economic underworld of poverty, joblessness, and unemployment,” King spoke for all of America’s poor when he proclaimed, “We do not come here to ask for charity. We demand justice.”

From there he argued that the federal government owed its citizens “an economic and social Bill of Rights.” These would include a guaranteed job for every citizen capable of working, thus eradicating unemployment except for the physically and psychologically debilitated; a guaranteed minimum income (which he emphasized would not be a substitute for the entire welfare state, as many conservatives demanded), one that “should be fixed as to automatically increase along with the cost of living and the rise in the Gross National Product”; the elimination of slums and racialized neighborhoods; full access to quality education for all children; a requirement that all Federal legislation designed to improve the quality of life of citizens (“in education, the labor market, income maintenance, and the like”) that a requirement exist “that the people affected by a program be granted a statutory right to play a significant role in how it shall be designed and administered”; and the right to “the full benefits of modern science in health care.”

King closed this ambitious manifesto by pre-empting conservative claims that this program would be too expensive by pointing out how its funds could be taken from egregious military ventures like the Vietnam War.

While it’s easy for the historically uninformed to mistake King’s ideas for socialism, they were in fact consistent with the ideas regularly propounded by the mainstream liberals of his time. Indeed, both the title and substance of King’s “Economic Bill of Rights” had been advanced 24 years earlier by the founding father of the modern Democratic Party, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a passage from his penultimate State of the Union address. For the three decades between Roosevelt’s inauguration in 1933 and the nomination of Barry Goldwater as the Republican presidential candidate in 1964, majorities in both parties agreed with the gist of these goals, even if they differed as to the ideal means through which they could be implemented. Goldwater’s nomination and the consequent right-wing takeover of the GOP, however, prompted King to distance himself from the political philosophy he saw as nationalistic and bellicose in foreign policy, unconcerned and uncomprehending to the plight of the poor, and — though not always deliberately racist — “gives aid and comfort to the racists.”

These are hardly the only instances in which King parted ways with contemporary conservative ideals. He once labeled racism, materialism, and militarism as a “Triumvirate of Evil,” arguing that “that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation and the problem of war are all tied together.” During his days as a student, King wrote that “any religion which professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the social and economic conditions that scar the soul, is a spiritually moribund religion.” His first bookStride Toward Freedom, advocated “a better distribution of wealth” as a rectificaton for the economic injustices of capitalism, while eight years later he observed to his staff that the biggest obstacle in solving these problems was that “you are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism.” Those words may have been prophetic, as King was assassinated shortly after organizing a multiracial “Poor People’s Campaign” that would engage in nonviolent civil disobedience in Washington until its politicians guaranteed his aforementioned economic bill of rights. Although the world knows that he was shot in Memphis, it is often forgotten that he was there to support black sanitary workers who were at the time striking for higher wages and better working conditions.

As America observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we must be faithful to the full measure of his great legacy. It’s far too easy to water down his ideas, focusing on the ones that are widely accepted (like integrationism) and ignoring anything that might offend large segments of the American community (like economic progressivism). Then again, King didn’t change the world by only saying what his audience wanted to hear. If we are to do justice to this American hero, we must honor all of his message.

Mississippi is Stripping Prisoners of Their Right to Family Visits For Political Reasons

Published: mic (January 17, 2014)

On Friday, family members of those incarcerated in Mississippi prisoners will gather in the state capital in support of their imprisoned loved ones. For the significant others, imprisonment can be especially trying, and it’s about to become even more so.

The state that pioneered the concept of family visits is now taking them away. As of Feb. 1, prison commissioner Christopher B. Epps (pictured above) is no longer allowing Mississippi State Penitentiary inmates to have private time with their loved ones, citing budgetary reasons and “the number of babies being born possibly as a result.” From a historical and humanitarian standpoint, his argument fails miserably.

The practice of family visits, or “conjugal visits” as they used to be know, was initially created to increase worker productivity. When conjugal visits were first implemented in 1918 by James Parchmann, the warden at Mississippi State Penitentiary (also known as Parchmann Farm), the idea was that they could be used as an incentive to make inmates more efficient at the various labor tasks assigned to them by the state.

Similarly, although Epps has expressed concern about unwanted children resulting from conjugal visits, the practice has lingered in states like California, Connecticut, New Mexico, New York and Washington (as well as, until next month, Mississippi) because it was believed that preserving family bonds would diminish the likelihood of recidivism. There is a reason why “Extended Family Visit” was chosen in lieu of the more conventional “conjugal visit” moniker.

Of course, if you look at Epps’ argument through a more political lense, the change looks more like an inevitable, unfortunately.

Back in 1993, 17 states offered conjugal programs to their inmates, and the number has been reduced largely because of concerns about cost. As Epps explained, “There are costs associated with the staff’s time, having to escort inmates to and from the visitation facility, supervising personal hygiene and keeping up the infrastructure of the facility.” (Last year, 155 of Mississippi’s 22,000 inmates were granted conjugal visits.)

As austerity continues to dominate America’s fiscal policy in many red states, enormous political pressure exists against spending this kind of money on a program that seems to primarily benefit prisoners. In the words of a Mississippi state representative who has long pushed for banning conjugal visits, “People are in prison for a reason. It’s like taking a child, putting him in time out and then saying, ‘I don’t want you to be sad while you’re in here so tell me your favorite thing — maybe an Xbox — and I’ll get it for you.”

Naturally, this decision is meeting opposition from prisoners’ families and advocacy groups. While they don’t deny that conjugal programs are costly, these groups observe that there is no evidence of pregnancies tending to result from them. Indeed, a lot of the existing data seems to reinforce the notion that conjugal visits have a positive impact on both prisoners’ lives and the efficiency of penal facilities.

When Yale Law School conducted a comprehensive survey on the prison systems in all 50 states in 2012, it found that in addition to encouraging good behavior, “allowing conjugal visitation may also decrease sexual violence within prisons. Family members and children who visit and thus able to build and sustain more meaningful relationships with their incarcerated parent or family member may benefit tremendously.”

Perhaps Jennifer Rogers, head of Mississippi Advocates for Prisoners, put it best when she explained, “We want to keep them together. [Conjugal visits] are the one privilege that allows the men to help keep the family unit together — to act as a man and a husband. It gives us a sense of closeness, not just on a sexual intimacy level, but in the ability to have a conversation in private and to hug each other without being looked at like we are doing something wrong. It’s a very big deal.”

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending upon your position), the odds are pretty strong that conjugal privileges will be removed in the state that pioneered them. From a historical and humanitarian standpoint, this is regrettable; from a purely political perspective, it was probably inevitable, given the ideological proclivities of early 21st century Mississippi. What matters most, however, is how this affects the lives of the inmates and external society that this policy is meant to help.

While it’s tricky projecting the dollars-and-cents ramifications of measures like these, it’s hard not to foresee prisoners becoming less satisfied with their conditions and less likely to cooperate with their new conditions. Depending on one’s priorities, this could be viewed as a loss far greater than the costs involved in maintaining a century-old practice.

 

15 Corporations With Huge Skeletons in Their Closet

Published: mic (January 14, 2014)

In one of the most famous conservative quotes in American history, President Calvin Coolidge once told a convention of newspaper editors, “The chief business of the American people is business.” This is not only true, but also a rightful source of pride for our country, as our past and present greatness is inextricably linked to the resourcefulness and ingenuity of our business community.

Unfortunately, there are those corporations that have marred the reputation of American free enterprise in the eyes of the world — and not merely the infamous leviathans like Walmart, Goldman Sachs, and Chick-fil-A. Indeed, no American Business Hall of Shame would be complete without such entries as…

1. Chiquita banana sponsored terrorism

Belying the benign image presented by its lithe and cheery mascot, Chiquita Brands International has a particularly dark history. As if its notoriously abysmal labor rights record wasn’t enough, the company pleaded guilty in 2007 to paying various Colombian paramilitary groups to protect its plantations and personnel. The $25 million fine was nothing compared to the suffering that resulted from the havoc that these groups caused during the ongoing conflict in that country, leading many of them to be branded as terrorist organizations.

2. Dole poisoned its own workers

The Dole Food Company joins this list with one of the sketchiest origin stories: its founder, James Dole, was the cousin of Sanford B. Dole, who helped to overthrow the legitimate government of Hawaii to promote the interests of his pineapple company, and eventually helped convince the United States to annex the small island nation.

More than a century later, Dole still hasn’t learned much about respecting the rights of the peoples of the nations whose resources line their pockets. Like many other fruit companies, Dole used a pesticide known as DBCP (dibromochloroproprane) until 1979, which is alleged to have caused sterility in men, miscarriages, birth defects, cancer and other medical issues for its workers.

3. Chevron, Phillips 66 and BP Amoco defrauded Utah taxpayers

If you thought the infamous BP oil spill would convince oil companies to play it straight with the American people, guess again. It was revealed that Chevron, Phillips 66 and BP Amoco used an Utah state fund to clean up the damage caused by leaking fuel storage tanks, after claiming they weren’t insured — an assertion that has since been proven false. Settlements of $2 million and $1.8 million have been reached with Chevron and Phillips 66 respectively, while the lawsuit against BP Amoco is still pending.

4. McDonald’s is accidentally honest with its employees about their food

After reading about fruit companies that may have endangered their workers’ health, one could almost praise McDonald’s for displaying (most likely unintentional) candor toward its employees. To quote an embarrassing passage from the controversial employee resources website that the Golden Arches set up last month (which also offered hilariously out-of-touch advice on matters like tipping pool boys):

“Fast foods are quick, reasonably priced, and readily available alternatives to home cooking. While convenient and economical for a busy lifestyle, fast foods are typically high in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, and salt and may put people at risk for becoming overweight.”

5. Dannon regularly exaggerated the health benefits of its yogurts and dairy drinks

In almost the exact opposite of the McDonald’s faux pas, Dannon has been under fire for exaggerating the health benefits of its yogurt and other dairy products. According to the settlement it reached with the Federal Trade Commission, Dannon “is prohibited from claiming that any yogurt, dairy drink, or probiotic food or drink reduces the likelihood of getting a cold or the flu,” “may not claim that Activia yogurt will relieve temporary irregularity or help with slow intestinal transit time, unless the claim is not misleading and the ad conveys that three servings of Activia yogurt must be eaten each day to obtain these benefits,” and “may not claim that any other yogurt, dairy drink, or probiotic food or drink will relieve temporary irregularity or help with slow intestinal transit time.”

6. Colonel Sanders tried to elect America’s most infamous segregationist to the presidency

While it’s easy to dismiss him as a cartoonish villain today, Alabama Governor George C. Wallace was one of the most formidable political figures in America during the 1960s and early 1970s. After rising to prominence as an outspoken segregationist who defied the Kennedy administration’s desegregation efforts, he shifted gears and ran for president as a third-party candidate in 1968 on a platform that contemporary observers (like these British reporters) agreed used right-wing populist rhetoric as a disguise for a racist and anti-intellectual agenda.

According to those same sources, iconic Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Harland Sanders was “among the names we heard mentioned again and again as major contributors” to Wallace’s campaign, even being “suspected by dyspeptic reporters of having supplied the interminable fried chicken on Wallace campaign planes.” Sanders was reportedly a finalist for the vice presidential slot on Wallace’s ticket, which ultimately won 13.5% of the popular vote and the electoral votes of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina and Arkansas.

7. Disney animated films have a long history of racism and sexism

While Walt Disney’s political views remain a source of debate to this day, there is little dispute that his company is responsible for some of America’s most irresponsibly racist movies. These scandals range from whitewashing the appearances of protagonists in films like The Princess and the Frog and Aladdin to overtly playing on racial stereotypes in movies like Song of the South, The Little Mermaid and Dumbo. That doesn’t even begin to touch the unrealistic body images and conservative gender roles promoted by Disney princesses, which have been criticized by feminist scholars for decades.

8. Henry Ford was a Nazi sympathizer

Even before Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany, automobile entrepreneur Henry Ford was one of America’s most notorious anti-Semites, using his newspaper, the Dearborn Independent to spread conspiracy theories about Jews. After being publicly humiliated for his prejudiced views, he toned down his rhetoric by the 1930s and 1940s, when Hitler rose to power. Nevertheless, he was widely suspected of providing secret support for the Third Reich, as reflected by his being awarded the Grand Service Cross of the Supreme Order of the German Eagle by Hitler himself in 1938.

9. Monsanto controls everything you eat

Thanks to the policies of Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz, corn-based products are present in every sphere of American life, including the high-fructose corn syrup that appears in so many of our foods, the drywall that builds our houses, the chemicals in Febreeze and sanitary napkins. The main beneficiary of this has been Monsanto, which produces the seeds for the corn grown on nearly 80% of American farmland acreage (as well as 93% of American soybean seeds). They even own Roundup, the pesticide on which farmers depend to protect their crops.

10. Diebold, which builds our voting machines, has no idea how to build voting machines

Is it a problem that one company, Diebold, produces as many as one-fourth of the voting machines used in this country? One could have argued against that proposition until 2011, when the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Laboratory found that the machines were ridiculously vulnerable to being corrupted. As Salon reported, Diebold machines “can be hacked with just $10.50 in parts and an eighth grade science education.” Indeed, questions about the security of Diebold’s machines have arisen as early as 2003, when they were the focus of a widely-circulated op-ed by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.

11. Google, Twitter, Microsoft, and Facebook have been helping the NSA spy on you

Although they’ve expressed their displeasure at the situation, the fact remains that America’s leading tech companies — including Google, Twitter, Microsoft, and Facebook — have all provided the National Security Agency (NSA) with direct access to their servers to help it spy on American citizens. The scope of that access remains a subject of speculation, as NSA refuses to reveal the extent of their activity on these servers.

12. IBM helped the Nazis with the Holocaust

As Edwin Black chronicled in his book IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation, IBM provided the Third Reich with the technology necessary to identify and catalogue the Jews who would ultimately be rounded up and systematically murdered during the Holocaust. Black’s website sums it up best: “IBM technology was used to organize nearly everything in Germany and then Nazi Europe, from the identification of the Jews in censuses, registrations, and ancestral tracing programs to the running of railroads and organizing of concentration camp slave labor.”

13. Firestone still uses child labor

As if the squalid living conditions imposed on most of its Liberian workers weren’t heinous enough, the Firestone tire company continues to be one of the most appalling offenders of child exploitation. In the words of Common Dreams, “Children carry heavy loads, come into close contact with toxic pesticides and often work for 12 hours a day.” Although a 2011 court decision exonerated the company of claims made against them by 23 child laborers, it found that American law allows corporations to be held responsible for human rights violations committed in other countries. While their 2000 recall of defective tires didn’t destroy them, hopefully their deplorable use of child labor will eventually be used to bring down Firestone.

14. Pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Merck regularly run sham product testing

In order to get around FDA regulations while still being able to advertise their products as scientifically sound, pharmaceutical companies regularly use a practice known in the industry as “seeding trials.” As the New York Times explains, “a pharmaceutical company will identify several hundred doctors and invite them to take part in a research study. Often the doctors are paid for each subject they recruit. As the trial proceeds, the doctors gradually get to know the drug, making them more likely to prescribe it later.”

While these can be scientifically valid, they are often marred by poor oversight and monitored by inexperienced and/or incompetent investigators. Not surprisingly, the seeding trials for Pfizer’s seizure drug Neurontin caused 11 patient deaths and 73 “serious adverse events,” while during the tests for Merck’s pain reliever Vioxx, three subjects died and five more experienced heart attacks.

15. Tyco International’s CEO used company funds as his personal piggybank

With the decadent excesses of America’s 1% drawing more and more attention these days, special notice should be given to Dennis Kozlowski, the former CEO of Tyco who defrauded his company out of more than $100 million to subsidize his lavish lifestyle. As this Cracked article details, this included a $2 million birthday party for his wife, “orgy-themed team building events with ice sculptures of the Statue of David pissing vodka,” $30 million to purchase and decorate his New York apartment, another $30 million to purchase a second home in Boca Raton, $41 million for a pair of yachts, and various other egregious expenditures that were ultimately picked up by Tyco shareholders. It wasn’t until that he attempted to skip on taxes for $13 million of art acquisitions that Kozlowski was caught and Tyco spared his fiscal pillaging.