Ralph Nader Radio Hour

When I was 14 years old, I heard Ralph Nader say that box cereal was less nutritious than the box it came in, and you'd get more nutrition out of tearing up the box and pouring sugar and milk over it, and eating that for breakfast. That's the kind of genius that Ralph Nader produces constantly, and why his ideas changed the world for Americans more than perhaps any political thinker of the late 20th century. He remains more relevant than virtually every other political thinker currently on the scene.

Re: Ralph Nader Radio Hour

Postby admin » Mon Feb 05, 2018 6:01 pm

RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR EPISODE 60: David Helvarg, Ray Rogers
May 10, 2015



This week, Ralph talks sharks to ocean activist David Helvarg of Blue Frontier and talks coke to corporate nemesis Ray Rogers and his Campaign to Stop Killer Coke.
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Re: Ralph Nader Radio Hour

Postby admin » Mon Feb 05, 2018 6:08 pm

RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR EPISODE 59: Steven M. Druker, Charles Slack
May 3, 2015



Ralph talks to Steven M. Druker about the problems with GMOs and Charles Slack, author of Liberty’s First Crisis about the fight to preserve the First Amendment. Plus, more listener questions.
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Re: Ralph Nader Radio Hour

Postby admin » Mon Feb 05, 2018 6:12 pm

RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR EPISODE 47: Bruce Fein, Super Bowl, Geo-Engineering
February 7, 2015


We talk to one of Ralph’s favorite Republicans, attorney Bruce Fein, about the constitution and how Bush, Cheney, Obama, and Hillary Clinton could be tried as war criminals. Ralph actually has some praise for the NFL during the Super Bowl and answers a slew of listener Facebook questions.
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Re: Ralph Nader Radio Hour

Postby admin » Mon Feb 05, 2018 6:21 pm

RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR EPISODE 46: Colman McCarthy, McConnell’s Dems, Falling in Love
February 1, 2015


We could call this the “peace and love” show with our guest Colman McCarthy explaining how he teaches peace and Ralph later quizzing Steve and David about love. In between, we discuss Mitch McConnell courting Democrats, Elizabeth Warren declaring war against Big Pharma; and Ralph wraps it all up with a poem.
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Re: Ralph Nader Radio Hour

Postby admin » Mon Feb 05, 2018 6:23 pm

RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR EPISODE 33: The Commons, Apple, Airbags, Beavers
November 2, 2014


Ralph interviews author and activist, David Bollier who tells us how we need to save our greatest source of wealth. Ralph writes a letter to the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook. We also discuss dangerous airbags, productive beavers and answer more listener questions.
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Re: Ralph Nader Radio Hour

Postby admin » Tue Feb 06, 2018 12:48 am

RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR EPISODE 19: Jerry Brown, Dangerous Microbes, Redskins
July 28, 2014


In this episode, Ralph believes California Governor Jerry Brown still harbors presidential ambitions, tells the FDA how they should store their dangerous microbes, excoriates Big Pharma once again for overpricing, and weighs in on the Washington “Redskins controversy.”
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Re: Ralph Nader Radio Hour

Postby admin » Tue Feb 20, 2018 1:44 am

February 13, 2016


Ralph gives advice to former security workers at an Ohio uranium enrichment plant, Chick Lawson and Jeff Walburn, on how to fight for compensation for their work-related illnesses. And legendary activist, Lois Gibbs, breaks down the Flint water crisis and a looming toxic catastrophe in St. Louis. Plus, Ralph’s latest commentary on the 2016 primaries!

Jeff Walburn


Jeffrey Walburn worked at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant for 31 years and was a member of a highly-trained security unit guarding the most sensitive materials.

Chick Lawson


Charles (Chick) Lawson, an Air Force veteran also part of the security force, was the safety officer assigned to look into Walburn’s injury.

Lois Gibbs


In the spring of 1978, a 27 year-old housewife, Lois Gibbs, discovered that her child was attending an elementary school built next to a 20,000 ton, toxic-chemical dump in Niagara Falls, New York. Desperate to do something about it, she organized her neighbors into the Love Canal Homeowners Association. Her community organizing efforts eventually led President Jimmy Carter to deliver an Emergency Declaration, which moved 833 families from this dangerous area and signified victory for the grassroots community. On the heels of that victory, Lois created the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, an organization that has assisted over 11,000 grassroots groups with organizing, technical, and general information nationwide. She is the winner of numerous environmental awards and was the subject of a CBS TV movie entitled, “Lois Gibbs: The Love Canal Story.”


Steve Skrovan, David Feldman, Ralph Nader; Chick Lawson, Jeff Walburn, Russell Mohkiber, Lois Gibbs

ANNOUNCER: From the KPFK studios in Southern California, it’s the Ralph Nader Radio Hour.

STEVE SKROVAN: Welcome to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour. My name is Steve Skrovan, here with the man of the hour, Ralph Nader. And guess who’s back, Ralph?


STEVE SKROVAN: David is back.

DAVID FELDMAN: It’s good to be back off the campaign trail, Ralph.

STEVE SKROVAN: Yes, and Ralph sounds very excited about that, David.

DAVID FELDMAN: Yeah, we’ll talk about that later.

STEVE SKROVAN: Well, for loyal listeners, you know that David has been on the primary campaign trail. He is rested, he has detoxed, and he’s here for Episode 100. Congratulations, gentlemen, for that nice round numbered milestone. We are also going to talk to famed environmental activist, Lois Gibbs, about the Flint water crisis, and something you may not know that’s going on near St. Louis, Missouri. As usual, we’ll hear from Corporate Crime Reporter Russell Mohkiber. But first, on this program we’ve talked a lot about the importance of the role of the whistleblower, most recently with Anna Myers, head of the Government Accountability Project. And on the line today we have two whistleblowers that come to us from the nuclear industry. David, give us a little background.

DAVID FELDMAN: In the Southern Ohio town of Piketon, just above the Ohio River, is the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant. It’s a facility that processed enriched uranium for nuclear weapons for almost four decades, until 2001. Chick Lawson and Jeff Walburn were part of a highly trained security force hired to guard and protect that plant. They and others were exposed to radiation over the course of their years at that plant, and in Mr. Walburn’s case, he was exposed in a dramatic accident that landed him in the hospital for eleven days. They are both now fighting the U.S. Department of Labor for compensation, not only for themselves but for other workers who have developed illnesses related to radiation exposure. Mr. Lawson, Mr. Walburn, welcome to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour.

JEFF WALBURN: Thank you for having us.

RALPH NADER: Yes, welcome indeed. Let’s start with you, Mr. Walburn. Exactly what did you do at the Gaseous Diffusion Plant for 31 years in Ohio? What was your daily day like?

JEFF WALBURN: Mr. Lawson and I were members of an elite unit there that did anti-terrorism and the SWAT for the nuclear industry, and we also participated in the guarding of high level weapons grade nuclear material that, if it got into the hands of terrorists or persons that would work against the United States could be enjoined to the demise of our country. So we had a high clearance, one of the highest in the United States, and we were given high responsibility to that end.

RALPH NADER: And were there any threats against the plants? Any serious threats to attack the plant or infiltrate the plant during your 31 years?

JEFF WALBURN: All the time. We constantly had threats. We were there at 9/11, can’t talk about all the details with that, but there was a threat and could have very well been there to us at 9/11. We’ve worked with everyone from the Seals to the FBI and Delta Force. We were lucky enough to have had John F. Kennedy’s bomb disposal expert teach us classes at one point.

RALPH NADER: Let’s ask Chick Lawson. What was the nature of Mr. Walburn’s injury and other workers at that plant? I think before you answer that, let me just say that there are about a thousand workers or retired workers every week who die from toxic exposures and particulates, gasses, chemicals in the workplace. Every week in the United States, every week. Just remember that. Over a thousand workers give up their lives for their company and whatever government agency they’re working with, and that this type of gaseous diffusion plant was at Oakridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, there have been hazards of the same kind of exposure in the Hanford Reservation in the State of Washington. This is the price of the Cold War, by the way. I mean, people say well, the price of the Cold War was all the money we spent on arms and what’s happened overseas, but we contaminated a lot of environment and hurt a lot of innocent, patriotic workers in the process here in the United States. And these dumps are still toxic. This plant closed in 2001, but it left behind a deadly legacy of radioactive toxics. So Chick Lawson, describe the kind of injury and how it occurred.

CHICK LAWSON: Basically what happened, when Mr. Walburn was injured along with other workers, this was a multiple day injury, which they don’t like to bring that up. But basically, they were using acids and chemicals to what we call “shoot a cell.” We had a major out-gassing. He and the other workers were engulfed in the fumes of that, which basically eat their lungs on the inside. Now, we also had seals that were leaking, so the UF6 that we were producing, up to 97 percent assay, was leaking out in a gas form, which also had arsenic and beryllium mixed in with it, and we were ingesting, inhaling and absorbing it through our skin.

RALPH NADER: And you had no Hazmat suits on, unlike other workers. You were guards, and you just had your guard clothing on, right?

CHICK LAWSON: Yes, sir. And one point about that, because of the high temperatures in the buildings, we’re talking 130, 140 degrees even during the wintertime. We wore a light t-shirt or like a polo or golf shirt, short sleeved, so with the beryllium and the arsenic, you were being able to absorb that, you have more area to absorb in into your body.

STEVE SKROVAN: I have a question. Steve Skrovan. Was this more of a chemical cocktail, or was this radiation, or was it a combination of both?

CHICK LAWSON: It’s a combination of both. It’s multiple. We had ingestion and inhaling radioactive particles, plus we were receiving what we would call ionizing radiation or penetrating radiation from what was known in the industry as a slow cooker, which NIOSH found out and that basically is now that term is sub-critical reaction.

STEVE SKROVAN: And NIOSH stands for what?

CHICK LAWSON: National Institution of Occupational Safety and Health.


RALPH NADER: We helped start it in 1970, Steve. Got it through Congress, along with the OSHA legislation. Now Jeffrey Walburn, in July 1994, something happened that changed your life forever, when you were unwittingly exposed to a cocktail of unknown chemicals. Can you describe that awful day and what it did to you?

JEFF WALBURN: We, myself and Paul Walton, ex-Vietnam veteran, hell of a guy, good guy, you’d hate to see him now. He’s just a shell of his former self. We were stationed at a place to guard material that if they mopped the floor they had to keep it, because it had material in it and they reclaimed that material, high assay material. We were there guarding these large, what they called poly bottles that had different colored chemicals in them, and they had nuclear materials. And so it had to be co-guarded. It was just a delineated place between I-beams on our floor with chain link fence, but we had M-16’s. There were SWAT groups that were ready to respond to our position at any time. At that point I was working just on the internal part, not on the anti-terror unit. But noticed the atmosphere change all the sudden, like if you can imagine if you pour CO2 into a beaker you can see it fill up, just like water. The atmosphere changed around us, and we were suddenly being stung by bees all over. And we had become hypoxic to oxygen. I’m an LPN now, so that expression means that you’re losing your oxygen. People were becoming angry. We were disoriented. So I told him we’ve got to get out of here. So we stumbled to the entrance, and the last thing I remembered was going to see John Gaine, and one thing lead to another, but I ended up in the clinic and hospital there at the plant burned all over by HF, and they’re trying to ignore it but trying to put me back on the job. They put me back on the job and I’m sitting there in a fog after my former SWAT leader, Calvin Parker, had taken me all through safety, screened out. I would been dunked by HF. There was no emergency called. They had previous information that went clear up to DOE headquarters that they knew these areas were leaking, and it had finally broke. And people over multiple days, the second a man threw up in the floor when the chemicals hit him. People were hit again. Walton was hit again. My friend Paul is a person if you went to pat him he would almost fall apart now, if you see him.

RALPH NADER: Yeah. Let me interrupt. You describe that day when those 26 chemicals were shooting into a cylinder above where you were working. You described that day “spitting out granulated pieces of lung” out of your mouth.


RALPH NADER: Your hair came out. You were burnt clear through. And they wanted to send you back on the job again? JEFF WALBURN: And they left me there all day. They did not check on me, called no emergency through the 300, which would have been the nerve center. The doctor examined me. It was all I could do, I couldn’t even talk when I got off work, I was burnt completely. My wife, who is a nurse, saw me and said, “my God.” Everyone that saw me said, “my God, what happened to your face?” And I said, “I’m burned all over.” So she sent me to the emergency room of the hospital she worked at, where they admitted me immediately. They called poison control and said, “Oh my God, he needs to be in the hospital on oxygen, Prednisone.” I had a pulmonologist. I had an internist. They were doing ear, nose and throat scoping to see that I was burned all through my lungs. Pretty bad scene in the hospital. My lung linings, my lungs bubbled out my nose and mouth late one night with my wife holding me in her arms. Pretty freaky thing. They hid me in the hospital. I was in the women’s center. I should have been in an ICU and I was looking around, I thought “What? Where in the hell am I?” There’s flowers all around me. At one point I was standing up in bed so disoriented, I was screaming out things, and my wife’s going, “Lay down, Jeff, you know. You got to get on oxygen here, you’re going to be OK.” Well, the company called me and they were acting like they didn’t know what was going on. RALPH NADER: Let’s back up here. What’s the name of the private corporation that ran the plant? And who funded the plant, the government?

JEFF WALBURN: The government originally funded it through Goodyear for a long time. It’s been in the Goldsmith buyout in ’86. They went under. Martin Marietta and then Lockheed merged with them. Lockheed used to be Goodyear Airspace, so somehow they circled Goodyear back in because I guess Goodyear had been a good lieutenant for them in their process. So Lockheed Martin was running it. But then there was a march up to the privatization as the USSR was falling apart. Russia was falling apart and the satellite states. The only commodity they had was warheads. So they were selling them to the United States, and they were back blending them through our facility. But our facility was leaking to the point that - I mean it was just killing the workers - but they kept taking the money and kept sending the material through, even though it had been reported to the highest levels that the plant was leaking profusely.

RALPH NADER: OK. This deadly experience occurred in July, 1994, and then you tried to get compensation. Tell our listeners what happened. You had a dosimeter or some sort of badge that was supposed to register your exposure level to radiation? And that’s when you problems start. Why don’t you describe that?

JEFF WALBURN: Well, we wore an external badge that, there’s two types of radiation. Health physics, which is external radiation, and industrial hygiene, which is internal like if you give a urine specimen and it would pick it up. So you’ve got two types of exposure. What happened - Mr. Lawson can really explain this in detail - but they found out that I was going to file a lawsuit so they ordered health physics technicians to zero out my badge. They changed my medical records. They hid the logs where I was injured to hide the system that went above atmosphere and was leaking, and that all our gamma graphs were going off showing the presence of gamma radiation. And I’ll let Charles Lawson tell the rest there, because he was the investigator.

RALPH NADER: Now before you start, Mr. Lawson, let me just tell the listeners that altering records by companies of workers exposed to occupational disease is very widespread. Oftentimes, companies would have two sets of records, one for themselves and their insurers and the other for the government inspectors. So this is not a particularly unusual situation that Mr. Walburn is talking about. You want to pick it up from there, Mr. Lawson, about the basic problem that has prevented these workers from getting adequate compensation? Talk about the badge episode.

CHICK LAWSON: Yes, sir. What happened was they were written, we’d read our badges quarterly. And because they sent me to bioclone school to learn how to run the equipment, I discovered not only were they falsifying our badges, but they weren’t reporting the actual doses. And we were getting a lot of neutron dose that had never been counted since the inception of the plant, along with high gammas. So what they were doing, they would go through, they would read the badge, and when it came out say like 3.2 REM or 3.5 REM in a quarter, well that puts us over the 5 REM. So what they would do then is go back and take two people within our department that did not work in the high RAD areas, and they assigned their dose. They would average it and that became our actual dose. Now the other part of this was, is that when I found out that they were falsifying our dosimeter badges, I contacted OSHA - I was an OSHA certified investigator - and like I legally was supposed to, contacted NOISH through OSHA’s guidance and asked for help, because I’m not a nuclear physicist. And we not only discovered that, but found the false log book that was brought out, was shown to Randy DeBolt (sp?), Dr. Stephen Aronholtz (sp?) was present when we found the false log book, he and John Cardirelli from NOISH. All these things were deleted from the reports. They used what they call a bucket dose. So people that actually were getting a dose got millirem dose instead of a REM dose, and they would take and empty the bucket by going through the back door of the computer and assigning small, miniscule amounts to different people, secretaries, janitors and things that didn’t work in these high RAD areas because they had to get it out of the system.

RALPH NADER: How did you know about this? Were the workers represented by lawyers?

CHICK LAWSON: The workers were not represented. I and Herman Potter - who were the safety officers for both unions - we discovered it by accident, when we were going through bioclone school. One of the workers, who had filed a lawsuit - she was a salaried individual - had been over-passed. And she filed a lawsuit, and in that she had stated in her lawsuit and deposition, “Well, they ordered me to falsify Jeff Walburn’s badge, but we also changed other badges.”

RALPH NADER: And let me ask you this. Did you ever get any media, say between July 1994 and 2014, local, state, national media, public radio? Did you get on any afternoon talk show? Did you get on any local shows to talk about this?

CHICK LAWSON: We have tried. We had a local TV station that filmed almost four hours. They said they were going to do a documentary. They showed a couple news items that then I was told, by one of their directors, they said, “We’re not going to be able to do this show.” When I asked him why, he said, “Well, I can’t go into that, but we were told we can’t show this.” Which goes back to - I think there’s different Senators and Congressmen that know about this. We have given over a thousand documents showing criminality and fraud. We met with the Justice Department, John Cowart, talked to him that there was, I believe, what is racketeering charges that involves this. The media: we had a few newspapers, but they are dissuaded by DOE.

RALPH NADER: Department of Energy.

CHICK LAWSON: And the United States - Yeah, Department of Energy. The United States Enrichment Corporation.

JEFF WALBURN: News blackout.

CHICK LAWSON: They have told them that we are crackpots; and we were just disgruntled employees. Sharrod Brown - when we were in a meeting in Washington DC - he made the comment, he says, “You’re nothing like DOE, United States Enrichment Corporation refer to you.” And I said, “Well, what do you mean, sir?” He says, “Well, they like to tell everybody that you’re the ignorant Appalachian hillbillies, who don’t know how to read.” So we have tried to get this out, but every time we approach people - Sharrod Brown said they have a dossier on Mr. Walburn, it’s almost four inches thick that is horrible to read. But they wouldn’t let him keep the dossier, unfortunately.

RALPH NADER: Well, let’s talk about the diseases. What kind of diseases did these workers come down with? And of course - the big issue always - were the diseases caused by the exposure in the workplace? That’s always a big issue with toxic exposures and workers’ compensation cases. But describe the ailments that have come out after this exposure in July 1994.

CHICK LAWSON: OK. What’s come about is because of our investigation. In 2000, they had a Senate hearing, which started the Energy Employees’ Occupation Illness Program. Originally they had 33 different cancers that they were going to pay employees for, if they came down with one of those cancers. Prostate cancer was one that they took back off, because they said, “That’s an old man’s disease. You’re all going to get that anyway.” We have beryllium illnesses. We have illnesses and cancers from the arsenic that causes brain cancer. We have several guards that have died from that. We have some now that are going through reconstructive surgery where they’ve had to cut their noses off and remove part of their skulls and brains to repair. We have numerous chemical exposure illnesses. And the problem we’re having now is trying to get these through, because the United States Enrichment Corporation - with Department of Energy’s nod - destroyed all the records.

JEFF WALBURN: One thing that Mr. Lawson is saying, when we gave testimony in the United States Senate, I testified there. The USEC, the United States Enrichment Corporation undermined my testimony with a false report changing and altering, marrying words together to create a new report that suggested only my badge had been changed, when the actual report by Linda Smith and Chris Kelly said that thousands of badges were changed, and that the dose database there was virtually unmatchable. But these chemical exposures, we have descending and ascending aortic aneurisms, which has decimated the workforce. There are things there, if you listen to the testimony of Dr. David Manuta, he talks about the mass balance and the fact that they only talk about 97 percent assay, he said, but the other three percent had U234, which is three to ten thousand times more radioactive than U235, and that when you ingest it and you’re hit by a slow neutron, you’re having nuclear fission inside your body just like a nuclear reactor.

RALPH NADER: Let me ask you this. What Senate committee was it? When was it, what year? And does the U.S. Justice Department still have an open investigation? And what about the Ohio Attorney General Office, have they investigated? Let’s go through those questions. When did you go before the Senate?

JEFF WALBURN: In 2000, March 22nd, Fred Thompson - they later found out Fred Thompson, I was accusing Lockheed of criminal. I later found out Fred Thompson, Senator Fred Thompson’s campaign manager worked for Lockheed, they’d given him $17,000 and his son was lobbying for them. But the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs - we’ve since contacted that very committee and given them our documents. They passed our documents that show criminal activity around like a cheap romance novel amongst themselves, and we got the emails to prove that. And we’re saying, we’ve got proof that they lied to the committee that they’re on and the people are not getting their benefits, and that there was criminal activity. And Barry Bonds lied to the Senate and look where he is. And he’s - that was just baseball. We’re talking death of many thousands of workers at the hands of these people. So the Justice Department, I filed a plea calm, and John Kohler, also known as Jack Kohler - he’s in Civil Division - there were many, many, many things jumping off the page that this was criminal. The Civil Division would not put it in the criminal, did not call for a criminal investigation. We have proof that the IG of DOE, that’s the Inspector General, Gregory W. Freedman, used two mechanics - a husband and wife team - to undermine the investigation of the DHA, and that John Kohler had written a memo to his people saying, “Oh, don’t join this suit, there’s nothing there.” Well, whenever my lawyer and I took over the suit and filed it, we got five thousand documents that jumped immediately up to the level of criminal. And we’re going, how is it that DOE doing the investigation for the DOJ can’t find nothing, and here it is in our laps with dates stamps on it and five thousand documents that show high criminality?

RALPH NADER: Yeah, listen, who’s your lawyer right now?

JEFF WALBURN: Steven Edwards from Grove City, Ohio.


JEFF WALBURN: And what we got with the DOE being a perpetrator and not a regulator here: every time the courts would go to them as experts, they’d say, “Well, these people don’t know what they’re talking about. You know, throw this out - these people - there’s nothing to it.”

RALPH NADER: You haven’t had any compensation yet.

JEFF WALBURN: No sir, not one dime.

RALPH NADER: There’s no criminal prosecution underway, state or federal. So what are you left with?


RALPH NADER: What do you want our listeners to know about going into the future?

JEFF WALBURN: Well, what I would like them to know about going into the future, the plant sits there as a derelict talk now. There’s people been shut down too since 2001. There are workers right now being exposed to thirty times the amount of HF in a plant that’s shuttered, that they’re supposed to be not running into this. They’re being exposed to slow cookers, they’re being exposed to arsenic. And NIOSH sends the very same people that covered up documents in my original investigation. And they have signed a death warrant for this new crop of workers since 1995.

RALPH NADER: What are these workers doing? Cleaning up the site? Because the plant is closed. What are they doing, cleaning up the site?

JEFF WALBURN: They’re demolishing the site, but they’re still running into chemicals.

RALPH NADER: Now do they have Hazmat protection? Why didn’t you have Hazmat protection?

CHICK LAWSON: I can answer that.

RALPH NADER: OK, Mr. Lawson.

CHICK LAWSON: Yeah, this is Chick Lawson. When we were working, they did not consider us into the Hazmat configuration on a job. They never contacted any of our police supervision. I tried to start changing that when I got elected to safety officer. We had people that would be in a complete fresh air suit working, and they would put up what we called magic tape, magena tape, and say, “You stand outside of this you’re OK.” Well, we weren’t OK. And the problem you got now with the D&D that’s going on, the pipes that they said were empty, turns out they’re not empty. Those pipes have high assay in them, and that it’s - they’re cutting into it and by using these torches, it’s causing them to take the HF, UF6 and it turns it back into a gas and it’s outgassing on these people. Now there was a report, Mr. Barry Coe - and also if you look back in the same time when this report came out - they also got a fine of $390,000 for willful violation on radiation records, which got negotiated down to like $243,000.

RALPH NADER: We’re running out of time, Mr. Lawson. What’s the name of your Congressman? Has he done anything? And how about the other Senator along with Sharrod Brown, Mr., Senator Portman?

CHICK LAWSON: Bill Johnson, I’ve contacted Mr. Bill Johnson, my Congressman. I spent eight hours going over documents. He said I need to find a lawyer - that he can’t help me - even though he did say that what he saw was criminal and that the people needed to go to prison. I contacted Sharrod Brown and Senator Rob Portman on this. Sharrod Brown said he would - sent me a letter, said he was going to help me but that has never come through yet.

RALPH NADER: Before we get to Senator Portman, did Congressman Johnson say that in writing, that he thinks it’s criminal and these people should be prosecuted and sent to jail? Is he willing to repeat that?

CHICK LAWSON: He would not put it in writing, sir.

RALPH NADER: But you swear he said that in his office?

CHICK LAWSON: He gave that to his assistant and told him to call me. And he said this is what Mr. Johnson said. We had a special meeting in Washington DC. And he said these people should be put in jail. They have committed crimes. It’s criminal action.

RALPH NADER: And you have not received any compensation since you were exposed?

CHICK LAWSON: I have got some compensation. I have beryllium now in my lungs. I have not received any compensation for the beryllium, but I did get some compensation because of the chemicals that I was exposed to caused me to have COPD emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma.

RALPH NADER: And do you still have any hope that you’re going to get compensation, apart from your desire to criminally prosecute the culpable people?

CHICK LAWSON: I seriously doubt that, sir, because of the way they’re handling the cases now with the Department of Labor. They’re using false information, because all the records were destroyed. So they are having to estimate and they can’t recreate what we worked around.

JEFF WALBURN: I might interject something here, I might interject something. Larry Elliott of NIOSH has stated publically that there was a criminal conspiracy. We have that in official text and on tape that there was a criminal conspiracy to alter radiation dose at Piketon, but yet NIOSH still takes public money and they are using falsified data to recreate dose.

RALPH NADER: What was the man’s name at NIOSH?

JEFF WALBURN: Larry Elliott. He is now at the 9/11 Ground Zero group, but Dr. James Neaton and Larry Elliott, head of the Cincinnati NIOSH division, has stated and restated that there was a criminal conspiracy to alter radiation dose at Piketon.

RALPH NADER: Can you send that information to Senator Sharrod Brown and send me a copy of the letter? You can go to Nader.org. Let’s zero in on something that’s pretty tangible, what Mr. Elliott said. And we’ll see what Senator Brown responds. Now how do you want listeners to contact you? Do you have a website? Do you have an email as we close?

JEFF WALBURN: There is a group called “A Call To Actions” that has taken up our plight. Their name is Bobby Vaughn Jr. and Kimberly Schultz, and it is one word, ACallToActions. Any comments anyone would have, we’d be glad for them to go through us. We don’t have a website. We have our individual emails - I don’t know if you want to put that on the radio - but through Franklin T. Gerlach, who was former mayor of Portsmouth, who is an attorney that’s fought a lot of these cases, he would be another person that if they would get word to him, his number’s 740-354-7755. Call them and contact Franklin T. Gerlach, and he would get in contact with us, and we would talk to or answer anyone’s questions.

RALPH NADER: Alright. Repeat that phone number, and then slowly give our listeners the one email that you think they should use to get back to you.

JEFF WALBURN: 740-354-7755 is Franklin T. Gerlach. My email is walburn, walburnn@windstream.net.

RALPH NADER: That’s walburnn@windstream.net.


RALPH NADER: That’s two n’s, right?


RALPH NADER: OK. One last comment. All this work at the Gaseous Diffusion Plant was to basically provide materials for atomic weapons, is that correct?

JEFF WALBURN: That’s correct.

RALPH NADER: OK. Well, we got into a race with the USSR as to who was going to build more atomic bombs. And then we entered into an arms control agreement with them where they sent their inspectors here and we sent our inspectors over to the Soviet Union to supervise the dismantling of thousands of these nuclear warheads in both countries. So --

JEFF WALBURN: That’s correct.

RALPH NADER: So this is what all these workers suffered for, and they get no attention. 130 million people watch the Super Bowl. All the afternoon talk shows on ABC, NBC, CBS never pay any attention to this. Public radio and public TV: they interview corporate executives but they don’t pay attention to these workers. It’s only a thousand workers a week in the United States of America, who die from these toxic exposures, not to mention all who are sick year after year, month after month. And you don’t hear presidential candidates ever mention this epidemic of silent violence that is entirely preventable. Thank you very much, Jeffrey Walburn and Charles Lawson. To be continued.

JEFF WALBURN: Thank you, Mr. Nader.

CHICK LAWSON: Thank you, Mr. Nader.

STEVE SKROVAN: We have been speaking to Chick Lawson and Jeff Walburn, former security officers at the Gaseous Diffusion Plant, a former uranium enrichment facility in Southern Ohio. For more about their story, go to the Center for Public Integrity website at PublicIntegrity.org. We’ll link to that on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour website. You are listening to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour. We’ll be right back after we check in with Russell Mohkiber, the Hercule Poirot of the corporate crime beat. Russell?

RUSSELL MOHKIBER: From the National Press Building in Washington DC, this is your Corporate Crime Reporter morning minute for Thursday, February 11, 2016. I’m Russell Mohkiber. Restaurants serve lobster in rolls, soup, ravioli and even on pizza, and diners are willing to pay a premium for the delicacy. But an “Inside Edition” investigation has found that you might not always be getting the real deal. “Inside Edition” visited 28 restaurants around the country, including local seafood spots and national chains like Nathan’s and Red Lobster. The meat was scooped out from a variety of lobster dishes and sent off to a lab, where DNA tests were carried out to see if there was anything fishy about the lobster. It emerged that in 35 percent of the samples, the lab found cheap substitutes instead of lobster. For the Corporate Crime Reporter, I’m Russell Mohkiber.

STEVE SKROVAN: Thank you, Russell. We’re going to continue on a little bit of a theme here of toxic exposure. Lois Gibbs is a returning guest. As many of you know, she was the activist who brought national attention to the 20,000-ton toxic chemical dump near her home in Niagara Falls, New York. She organized her neighbors into the Love Canal Homeowners’ Association, which eventually led President Jimmy Carter to deliver an emergency declaration, which moved 833 families from that toxic area. And on the heels of that victory, Lois created the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, an organization that has assisted over 11,000 grassroots groups with organizing, technical and general information nationwide. She is the winner of numerous environmental awards and was the subject of a CBS TV movie entitled, “Lois Gibbs, the Love Canal Story.” She is here to talk to us about a couple of things on a returning theme that we had earlier in the show. She’s going to talk to us about the water crisis happening in Flint, Michigan, and also she’s going to talk to us about a radioactive superfund landfill near St. Louis, Missouri. Welcome back to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour, Lois Gibbs.

LOIS GIBBS: Thank you. Thank you for having me, Ralph.

RALPH NADER: Indeed. You once mentioned the story in Michigan, Flint, Michigan, and right outside of St. Louis, as a “Tale of Two Cities.” You’ve been working to deal with the silent violence of toxics for many years, much of it coming from corporate criminal negligence or worse, some of it coming from government operation activities. What do you mean by a Tale of Two Cities? Tell us about the press conference you just held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Lois Gibbs.

LOIS GIBBS: Well, the Tale of Two Cities is really about how our government has gone from bad to worse. There is, and most people already have heard about the Flint, Michigan problem, but in February of 2015, our organization received water samples from some residents in Flint, Michigan, to say “My goodness, it smells, it’s disgusting, it’s cloudy, and here are some samples. What does it mean?” And our science director looked at the sampling, looked at the results, and said, “Don’t drink it. Not only don’t drink it, but get out in the street and start talking to people about they should not drink it either.” And so in the long, it’s a very long story, but the short part of it is, government knew that water was not drinkable. They did not go out in the street and bang on doors and tell mothers and pregnant women, and women mixing formula with this drinking water for their infant children, that it was dangerous. Instead, Melissa Mayes, and she’s one of the local residents, just a mom, a mom of three kids, actually, went and made little notices that hung on the door. You often see them when people go door to door to talk about an upcoming event or something. So they made door hangers, out of her own pocket, out of her own dollars, out of her own craft. I mean she actually wrote it and designed it and everything. And she and her husband walked door to door in as many neighborhoods as they physically can. Now Melissa has a failing liver, so it was really hard for her to do this. And the failing liver, she believes is from the poisoned drinking water. But she went door to door and she raised the flag, and as a result of that, people started asking questions. And all the sudden it begins to unfold, right? The city knew the water was poisoned. Governor Snyder knew the water was poisoned and chose to do nothing. And the EPA administrator from that regional office, Susan Hedman, she knew that that water was poisoned. The result of it is that you have tens of thousands of people who are now directly impacted by this because their local government, their state government, their Governor in particular, who’s never been very friendly to anybody who’s just a common individual or common family.

RALPH NADER: His name? His name?

LOIS GIBBS: Governor Snyder.

RALPH NADER: What’s his name?

LOIS GIBBS: His name is Governor Snyder.


LOIS GIBBS: And so he hasn’t done anything, and as a result these people are poisoned. So when you think about that and how horrible that is, an EPA person was asked to resign. I mean, she could have gotten fired, but she resigned instead. So that’s one story. So here’s people getting poisoned --

RALPH NADER: Wait, wait, Lois. There’s someone else who knew who didn’t sound the alarm. General Motors, that has a plant in Flint. Listen to this story. In the summer of 2014, they noticed that the water was corroding their engine parts. It’s an engine parts factory. And the workers who smelled and tasted the water were complaining. And they realized that they had to do some tests. So they did reverse osmosis tests, and they found that there were high chloride levels that were corroding their engine parts. As one worker said, “If they’re corroding the engine parts, what are they doing to the workers?” And when you do reverse osmosis, you discover all kinds of heavy metals, including lead. So here it is, the summer of 2014, General Motors knew this. They then paid a lot of money to get a different water source. They switched to a cleaner water source, and they never sounded the alarm. So General Motors received a letter from me on February 5th to Mary Barra, the CEO, saying, what happened? Why didn’t you inform local, state and federal authorities publically the moment your testing showed the results in 2014? So add General Motors to your list, Lois. Go ahead.

LOIS GIBBS: Absolutely. I mean, absolutely. The whole idea that all these people knew, all these people knew. And the moms, you talk about General Motors and the corrosiveness, well, the families who live there, the per capita income, by the way, in Flint is about $24,000 a year. It’s really, really poor and very, very black. People who have this water, some of them had to replace their hot water heaters three times for the exact same reason GM did, right?


LOIS GIBBS: Because it just ate through the bottom of their hot water heater, and their basements or their floors, wherever their water was, just flooded, creating yet another damage. So that’s one. So the industry knew, the local government knew, the state government knew, the federal government knew, and people got poisoned. So we travel to Missouri now. In Missouri there is a garbage landfill. It’s an average garbage landfill, I mean I don’t know what you can say about that. And next to it is a radioactive landfill. This radioactive landfill took waste from the Manhattan Project, I mean like really seriously heavy, contaminated radioactive material.

RALPH NADER: That’s the World War II project that led to the building of the first atomic bombs.

LOIS GIBBS: That is correct.

RALPH NADER: It’s called the Manhattan Project, yeah.

LOIS GIBBS: Yeah, the Manhattan Project. And so the garbage landfill, I mean these are literally adjacent to each other, 1,300 feet apart. The garbage landfill has been burning beneath the ground for four years. The fire is moving towards the radioactive material. When the fire reaches the radioactive material, which is anticipated within the next six months, no one has a clue what is going to happen. No one knows. The Attorney General who had some scientists and technical people look at this, said it could be “a Chernobyl-like event.” Horrifying. In this case, you have Governor Nixon also responsible for the mess in Ferguson, right? You have Governor Nixon, who has gone dark. He has nothing to say. The residents took 13,000 signatures up to him, asking him to move the people, move the people who are literally across the street from this landfill, plus a school that is across the street from the landfill.

RALPH NADER: Just time out for a minute, Lois. What is the source of the fire in the garbage dump; and why can’t they put it out?

LOIS GIBBS: Good question. The source of the fire is that when garbage degrades, it creates methane gas. And methane is pretty naturally occurring. And that methane gas caught on fire because Republic Services, who owns both of these sites by the way - both the radioactive site and the garbage site - Republic Services did not manage the site well, and when it caught on fire, instead of trying to put it out when it was just a small little corner, they ignored it. And in fact, they didn’t even tell the fire department that the landfill was on fire for four years after it caught fire. So because it was at one time a quarry, and a quarry is incredibly deep, and so this is really full of, you know, organic and inorganic and chemical - who knows what’s in there - but the methane gas will continue to be produced because of the waste in there. And because of the depth of the site, they can no longer put the fire out. It’s too big. It has engulfed the whole quarry area, and moving – again - moving towards the radioactive material. What happens when it burns, which is even more frightening, is that the surface then collapses into the hole where waste once was but now is ash, and as the surface collapses, big puffs of smoke and radioactive material and who knows what kind of chemicals go right into this community, which is called Spanish Village. Not a surprise, right? And on the other side of it is a mobile park. So in this case, the citizens went and asked Governor Nixon to help. He refuses to even acknowledge that they exist. They went after the Environmental Protection Agency out of the Region 7 office, and like the Michigan story, the Governor didn’t respond, Snyder nor Nixon in Missouri, and the Regional Director, Carl Brooks, who was in control of this, who had the responsibility for this, also was transferred somewhere into the bowels of EPA. Their Superfund person was transferred. Everybody was transferred. The residents there are like told that they’re going to have a Chernobyl-like event and no one will pay attention to them.

RALPH NADER: Wait, wait, time out, time out. How far is this from St. Louis and explain Chernobyl to our listeners.

LOIS GIBBS: It’s a suburb of the downtown city. It’s right across the highway from Ferguson. I mean literally there is a highway between Ferguson and this landfill site. And then the next thing is the airport, the St. Louis airport is right there as well. So it’s pretty close to all of downtown St. Louis. And the Chernobyl-like event, Chernobyl was in Russia where the nuclear power plant blew up and caused this radioactive material in an area that no one can ever live in again. It’s just horrible.

RALPH NADER: Now, Lois, for the first time since I’ve known you - and I helped start your group back in Niagara Falls and brought the press to recognize your heroics in that area that was contaminated, Love Canal - for the first time I find it hard to believe you. Let me tell you why. You have described the Godzilla of toxicity about to hit head on with the King Kong of toxicity, and there is no National Guard? There are no evacuation plans? The St. Louis Post Dispatch writes it up regularly, and you said very accurately, and President Obama is spending time watching the Super Bowl and he’s getting ready for March Madness, the basketball tournament. And we’ve got the 101st Airborne Division sending some troops again to Iraq. And we’ve got all kinds of military safeguards and monitoring equipment over half the world. And we’re supposed to believe Lois Gibbs?

LOIS GIBBS: Yep, you’re supposed to believe me because it is true and you can look in the St. Louis Dispatch or online anytime. There’s a story, literally a story a day about both the St. Louis site and the Flint one. The thing about the Flint is we can fix that problem. We can’t undo the damage, obviously, of the children and the suffering. We can get new pipes. We can get new water. In St. Louis, you can’t fix that. That thing is going to blow up. When - I mean nobody can even describe it. The children who go to school received a notice home from the school administrator. It says: “Dear parents, Please send a supply of medication your children take before and after school to school, because we may have to shelter in place for a duration of time, multiple days, if the Chernobyl-like event occurs.” How does one take their child to school? And you don’t know if the event happens because no one knows when. You may not see your children for three days.

RALPH NADER: Wait a minute.

LOIS GIBBS: Four days.

RALPH NADER: Wait a minute. Why isn’t there evacuation plans ready? We’re going to see here, if you’re to be believed, Lois Gibbs, one of the great catastrophes in American history, if those two dumps, in effect, merge. Who owns them, by the way? Who owns the garbage dump, and who owns the Superfund site?

LOIS GIBBS: They’re both considered one Superfund site, and they’re owned by Republic Services. Now, who is one of the largest shareholders of Republic Services? Bill Gates. Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation took all their money out of Republic Services for the Foundation, but Bill Gates in his personal investment, he is investing and reaping benefits from Republic Services while these children and their families are put at risk on an hourly basis. That means not even a daily basis. We don’t know.

RALPH NADER: But you say about six months before the two moving toxicity dumps start merging with one another. What would you advise our listeners? Just spell it out. What is the email that our listeners should send to Bill Gates in Seattle - Microsoft Corporation - and what’s the email they should send to President Obama?

LOIS GIBBS: The two emails are almost the same. Bill Gates: “Just use the dividends from your investments to buy the people out. They need to be moved. Buy them out. Protect them. Save those families.” And to Obama: “EPA is ignoring this, the Corps of Engineers is ignoring this. The House authorities are ignoring this. It’s now in your lap. You need to do an executive order to buy the families who live within two miles of that facility out immediately, immediately.”

RALPH NADER: OK. Listeners, you can at least do that. And if you’re listening in the Missouri, Illinois area, send the same email to the senators. Last question, Lois Gibbs. You’ve dealt with these toxic wastes all over the country. Nobody has visited more of these. You’ve helped thousands of people, families defending their children from these cancerous and other deadly toxic exposures, and you’ve won a lot of victories. That’s what most people don’t know, that Lois Gibbs’ group and their affiliates and the people she’s worked with have actually won a lot of victories here, grassroots power in action. Tell our listeners, one: what you really think is going to happen in the next six months, and second: if there is a catastrophe, give me the first six people who you think should be prosecuted after they resign their positions.

LOIS GIBBS: Well, what I’m hoping in the next six months, because we’ve had a lot of victories, is that this legislation will pass on the House and Senate side, which is moving this cleanup of the site out of EPA’s hands and into the Corps of Engineers, who knows how to deal with radioactive waste. I’m hoping that in the next six months - and that did pass the Senate, so we’re just waiting, it just moved to the House this week - we’re waiting to see if we can get EPA to evacuate them under Superfund Section 101, they have authority to do it. I’m hoping that they will definitely do that. That’s what we’re working for. And I think the people who need to be fired, the first one to be fired is Gina McCarthy, who has ignored both situations, and we won’t even talk about the Colorado River and so many others that are out there.

RALPH NADER: Who is she? Who’s Gina McCarthy?

LOIS GIBBS: Gina McCarthy is the administrator of EPA, and she has chosen to ignore all of these toxic problems. And I mean: ignore.

RALPH NADER: Give me the next five quickly, and then tell our listeners how they can contact you, Lois Gibbs.

LOIS GIBBS: OK. So the next one is Bill Gates. He should not be saying how he’s going to save everybody while he’s profiting on killing people. Obama should be fired. I mean, my goodness, how can he let this go? Rabbi Talve said in the lighting of the Menorah, “We need help in St. Louis” this past holiday season. In his White House, next to him, next to Michelle Obama. There’s no reason why they can’t do that. And obviously the CEO of Republic Services, which is Mr. Slager. And he needs to be fired as well.

RALPH NADER: How about the Governor?

LOIS GIBBS: Well, the Governor’s lame duck, he’s gone anyhow.

RALPH NADER: Alright. How can people reach you?

LOIS GIBBS: They can reach me by going to our website, which is CHEJ.org, so it’s http://www.chej.org. And there they can find more information about this. They can find information how to contact us by phone or by email. So just chej.org. RALPH NADER: Get involved, folks. Get involved. You don’t want to read about this catastrophe in the papers. You now have the moral burden of knowing what’s going on. We’ve been talking with Lois Gibbs, the indefatigable fighter against toxic violence all over the country. Thank you very much, Lois.

LOIS GIBBS: Thank you, Ralph.

STEVE SKROVAN: We’ve been speaking with Lois Gibbs of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. Go to chej.org for more information. That’s chej.org. Wow, Lois Gibbs, amazing person. I think we have time for one, maybe two listener questions. David, why don’t you bring us on home?

DAVID FELDMAN: This comes from Terry Strong. Ralph, what do you think will happen to Bernie if he doesn’t win the DNC nomination? Should he run as an independent? What would be your advice to him?

RALPH NADER: Bernie has said repeatedly he’ll endorse the Democratic nominee without any conditions as to who that nominee may be. So it’s either going to be Bernie or Hillary Clinton. The Clinton faction and Hillary and Bill are pulling out all stops to stop the Bernie Sanders movement all over the country. So I think he’s going to have to decide whether he’s going to repeat his pledge last year that he’ll support whoever the nominee is by the Democratic Party after the primaries, or whether he’s going to take it all the way to the convention and broker it. He’s not going to run as an independent. There’s no way he’s going to run as an independent.

DAVID FELDMAN: Back in June, you said do not underestimate Donald Trump, and I thought, I don’t know what Ralph’s talking about. What about Bernie Sanders? Should we - I’m still underestimating him. Where do you see this going by June, July?

RALPH NADER: I think he’s going to give her a real run for the money. The Clintons have had a huge head start over the years in states like South Carolina and Nevada and southern states. It’s going to be an uphill fight, but he’s already proved that he can raise more than enough money to run a vigorous national campaign in small contributions. He’s already proved that people are fed up with the corporate Democrats, the voters. And what he needs now to overcome is the most difficult. It’s the rules of the Democratic Party, which give 20 percent of the delegates to elected officials, and Hillary’s already secured pledges from most of them. And also, the rules at the primary level in state after state that are designed to block insurgents like Bernie Sanders. But he’s gone a long way without our advice, and he’s reshaping progressive politics in America. And he’s just begun.

DAVID FELDMAN: Well, speaking of Trump, one of our other listeners, Arlene Carry, has a question. She says, and this is in relation to Bernie, does the extremist candidacy of Trump and his popularity benefit Bernie by providing a clear contrast, especially among Millennials?

RALPH NADER: I think so. I think if it was Bernie Sanders against Donald Trump, I think Bernie would win in the general election. I think he talks, clearly he’s authentic. Trump is full of trapdoors, his own language, his own outbursts, his own excessive emphasis on ripping other people down in an unprovoked manner, and he’s yet to release thousands of pages of his income tax returns over the years so that people can find out really what his business activities were all about.

STEVE SKROVAN: Well, that’s our show.

DAVID FELDMAN: I just have a quick question for Ralph. How do you study Trump? Because he’s an intellectual lightweight, so when you tackle him and read about him, where’s your fascination with Trump?

RALPH NADER: His language is the fascination. He talks in small sentences that do not require second and third step thinking by the listeners. So he won’t say something that requires a sequential process of attention. He will say, “We’re going to win. We’re going to win. We’ve been losing on trade. We’ve been losing with our fine military overseas. We’ve been losing on Wall Street. We’re going to win.” You see how simple it is? Now let’s face it, he’s never gotten more than 30 percent support in the national polls. In fact, Bernie Sanders outpolls him as of now in the national polls. But he does provide a very conclusory type of political language where people don’t have to ponder and wonder. Also, they think he can’t be bought because he’s very rich and funding his own campaign. And also, he’s so lowered the bar in terms of his own character and personality, that no matter what comes out about him, it doesn’t seem to affect his loyal supporters. But it will affect the majority of the voters who haven’t signed on yet. So there’s much more to be known about Donald Trump.

DAVID FELDMAN: I still think it’s a waste of time to listen to him speak and read about him. I feel like I’m reading about the Kardashians. But you do follow him closely?

RALPH NADER: He’s a brilliant communicator to about one-third of the people who have very little patience with matters affecting politics, who have very little patience with details. They know something’s wrong. They’ve felt it in their daily life, and they hear a guy coming on saying, “I, Donald Trump, can get things done. I’ve built buildings. I’ve built casinos. I know how to deal with people. I’m a deal maker. I also have a heart. I don’t want anybody down in the streets if they don’t have health insurance.” And it appeals to people. The impatience of a significant number of the American people makes them very vulnerable to somebody like Donald Trump. But then, look at the alternatives. Ted Cruz? Marco Rubio-bot? Jeb Bushwacker? What’s the alternative? So Trump stands up taller because of the people around him that are rancidly part of what people want to reject.

STEVE SKROVAN: Well, thank you for that analysis, Ralph. That’s our show. I want to thank our guests, Chick Lawson and Jeffrey Walburn, former security officers at the Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Portsmouth, Ohio, and also the indefatigable Lois Gibbs. Thank you for your questions. Keep them coming, either on Ralph’s Facebook page or on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour website. A transcript of this episode will be posted on the RalphNaderRadioHour.com. For Ralph’s weekly blog, go to Nader.org. For more from Russell Mohkiber, go to CorporateCrimeReporter.com.

STEVE SKROVAN: A transcript of this episode will be posted on the RalphNaderRadioHour.com.

DAVID FELDMAN: For Ralph’s weekly blog, go to Nader.org. For more from Russell Mohkiber, go to CorporateCrimeReporter.com.

STEVE SKROVAN: Remember to visit the country’s only law museum, the American Museum of Tort Law in Winstead, Connecticut. Go to TortMuseum.org.

DAVID FELDMAN: Join us next week on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour. Talk to you then. Steve? Ralph?

RALPH NADER: Thank you Steve, thank you David, thank you listeners. By the way, that TortMuseum.org leads you to a store if you want to get some very important books on the law of wrongful injury or other symbols, go to TortMuseum.org, and please heed the requests that we made during this program to take personal action and email Bill Gates and Barack Obama. Thank you very much.
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Re: Ralph Nader Radio Hour

Postby admin » Fri Feb 23, 2018 2:30 am

RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR EPISODE 101: Randall Robinson, Antonin Scalia, William Janssen
February 20, 2016


Author and human rights activist, Randall Robinson, tells us about the Clintons’ ties to the private prison industry, while law professor William Janssen argues that pharmaceutical companies have a “duty” to sell life saving medicines. Plus, Ralph gives us his take on the legacy of late Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia.

Randall Robinson

Randall Robinson is a distinguished author and a political and human rights activist. He is the founder of TransAfrica, the first organization to advocate for the interests of African and Caribbean peoples. Among his many books are the national best sellers Quitting America: The Departure of a Black Man from His Native Land; The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks; The Reckoning: What Blacks Owe to Each Other , and Defending the Spirit: A Black Life in America. Mr. Robinson is also a professor of law at Penn State Law School and is the creator, co-producer, and host of the public television human rights series “World on Trial.”

William Janssen

Professor William M. Janssen has been on the faculty of the Charleston School of Law since 2006 after a lengthy private practice. He concentrated his practice in pharmaceutical, medical device, and mass torts defense and risk containment. In practice, he was involved in several high-profile drug and device cases, including the national diet drug (“fen-phen”) litigations. He has spoken and written extensively on pharmaceutical and medical device law. He has written a paper that argues that pharmaceutical companies have a “duty” to continue selling their life saving medicines, despite economic forces that may induce them to take the drugs off the market.


RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR EPISODE 101 TRANSCRIPT: Randall Robinson, William Janssen, Russell Mohkiber

ANNOUNCER: From the KPFK studios in Southern California, it’s the Ralph Nader Radio Hour.

STEVE SKROVAN: Welcome to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour. My name is Steve Skrovan, along with my cohost, David Feldman. How are you today, David?

DAVID FELDMAN: Very good, thank you.

STEVE SKROVAN: And the man of the hour, Ralph Nader. Hello, Ralph.

RALPH NADER: Hello, David, Steve. This is going to be really a great program.

STEVE SKROVAN: You’re absolutely right. As usual, we have a diverse and informative show for you today, and we’re able to do that every week because, well, frankly Ralph, you read so damn much. If you didn’t read so much, we’d have no show.

RALPH NADER: Our guests are wonderfully accomplished and inexcusably ignored by the mass media.

STEVE SKROVAN: Yes. And in the second half of the show, we’re going to talk drugs. Now don’t get excited, we’re going to talk medicines, to be a little more specific. And potentially deadly medicine shortages that can occur. We’re going to be doing that with Professor William M. Janssen of the Charleston School of Law. We will also, as always, find out what’s happening in the world of white collar crime with Russell Mohkiber, the Phillip Marlowe of the corporate crime beat. And if we have time after all of that, we’ll try to knock out a few more listener questions. But first, we’re going to talk to a man who wants to put the world on trial. David, who might that be?

DAVID FELDMAN: That would be Professor Randall Robinson. Professor Robinson is a distinguished author and a political and human rights activist. He’s the founder of TransAfrica, the first organization to advocate for the interests of African and Caribbean peoples. Among his many books are the national best sellers, Quitting America: The Departure of a Black Man from his Native Land, The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks, The Reckoning: What Blacks Owe to Each Other, and Defending the Spirit: A Black Life in America. Mr. Robinson is also a Professor of Law at Penn State Law School, and is the creator, co-producer and host of the Public Television human rights series, “World on Trial.” He comes to us today from St. Kitts in the West Indies. Welcome to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour, Professor Randall Robinson.

RANDALL ROBINSON: Thank you very much. I’m happy to be here.

RALPH NADER: Wonderful to have you on the show, Randall Robinson. I’ve known Randall for a number of years. And he’s from St. Kitts, which has about 70,000 people and has the same vote for the World Trade Organization as the U.S. One of the few egalitarian references we can point to, Randall.

RANDALL ROBINSON: We have even fewer people than that, Ralph. We’ve got 35,000 on the island of St. Kitts, and then the sister island of Nevis, we have 10,000. So it’s 45,000 max.

RALPH NADER: Oh. I’ll have to correct that. St. Kitts, 45,000.

RANDALL ROBINSON: We couldn’t fill a large football stadium.

RALPH NADER: But it’s probably beautiful weather there. And I want to start by talking about your new public television program, absolutely unique, called “The World on Trial.” You have said billions of people living in the United States and countries around the world have legal rights now that their government may not likely have told them that they have. Can you explain that? And then we’ll get into what your showcasing in “World on Trial” - in a very unique way - using juries.

RANDALL ROBINSON: When the Allies marched into Germany and into the Nazi death camps, and the newsreels broadcast what they found there, the world was horrified. And this spurred the new United Nations meeting in San Francisco in the spring of 1945 to move toward human rights and to move towards starting with the universal declaration of human rights pioneered by Eleanor Roosevelt and W.E.B. DuBois. And it opened up a whole trove of human rights treaties that now bind nations around the world. There are some 23 major human rights multilateral treaties that bind nations. And for the first time in human history, rights were given to individuals. Before World War II, what a nation did behind its own borders, to its own people, was a nation’s own business because of the complete shield of sovereignty. That changed with the war’s end. And the idea was to begin to try to protect individuals in countries around the world from the predatory impulses of the state. And so all of these human rights treaties were put in place, and hundreds of nations ratified these treaties. The problem is that the United Nations was not able to put in place an enforcement mechanism vertically from the top down through the instrumentalities of the United Nations. And nobody wanted enforcement of what is called “horizontal enforcement” of one nation against another. And so these human rights that individuals have in the millions in countries across the world have remained largely unenforced.

RALPH NADER: Randall, give some examples of the names of the treaties, and whether the U.S. was one of the last to sign on. Because a treaty, under our Constitution, has the force of federal law.

RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, the first you had - major treaty - was the Genocide Convention of 1948. Then the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1966, then a treaty to combat racism in ’66, a treaty to foil discrimination against women in 1979, a convention against torture in 1984, a treaty to protect the rights of children in 1989. Twenty-three major United Nations conventions in all are in place and are the law of the international community.

RALPH NADER: U.S. belongs to all of them?

RANDALL ROBINSON: No. The United States remains the only nation in the West - the only industrial democracy in the world - that does not, has not ratified the Women’s Convention. The U.S. has not ratified the Child’s Convention. It has not ratified the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It hasn’t ratified a number of conventions. The U.S. recognizes the jurisdiction of no international human rights court, including the International Criminal Court. The U.S. does not respect the jurisdiction of that. In part, this has to do with the founding of the U.S. inasmuch as its Constitution and laws were said to be self-given. And so the U.S. doesn’t consult other nations, doesn’t regard other nations’ laws. And I think that has hurt us a bit in the world because the U.S. should be a bigger part of the fabric of what has happened than we are.

RALPH NADER: Randall, let me ask you something. This is extraordinary. It’s also a sign of what an empire is all about, above the law. And here you have Hillary Clinton - the Secretary of State for four years with Barack Obama in the White House - didn't she make an issue before the Congress on the inability or unwillingness of the Senate to ratify the treaty to foil discrimination against women and to protect the rights of children? She harkens a lot about her support of women and children. I don’t recall her making a real big issue out of this on the U.S. Senate side.

RANDALL ROBINSON: Look, the problem recently has been with the Senate and ratification. The Senate, you have to have two-third vote in the Senate to get something ratified. Bob Dole went on the floor of the Senate and tried to get the Disabilities Convention ratified, because he was severely injured in World War II. He failed. He couldn’t get two-thirds from a Republican controlled Senate. And President Obama favors the Women’s Convention very strongly. But you can’t get the support in the Senate to get ratification.

RALPH NADER: What could possibly be the argument of people in the Senate against the treaty to protect the rights of children? That includes the rights against human trafficking, one of the most odious crimes in the world involving children. You know, to an outsider on this, Randall, it’s
inconceivable that the Democrats wouldn’t have put the Republicans on the defensive in 2010, 12, 14 elections, and that Hillary Clinton would not have made a trademark stand on this. Can you explain that?

RANDALL ROBINSON: No, I can’t explain it, because the excuse is mysterious. One is that the Children’s Convention would somehow undermine the authority of parents in their own families. And that’s - there’s no foundation to that at all. The same thing about the Women’s Convention: very little foundation. A city like San Francisco has used the Women’s Convention for local law in San Francisco. And the treaty has inspired reform all over the world, but not in the United States.

RALPH NADER: You mentioned the lack of enforcement behind these treaties, even though in most countries that ratified them it has the force of law. Before we get to your great project, “World on Trial,” could you tell our listeners how to get more information about these treaties, and how to contact you? We’re talking with Professor Randall Robinson, Professor of Law at Penn State, graduate of Harvard Law School, author of many books, from St. Kitts in the Caribbean. Could you tell people how to get more information about these treaties, why the United States doesn’t ratify them, and how they can contact you?

RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, I can be written to at rr@rosro.com.

RALPH NADER: Can you repeat that?

RANDALL ROBINSON: rr@rosro.com. My address of course is Penn State Law School, University Park, PA.

RALPH NADER: Very good. Could you now describe this unique communication tool that you have created so imaginatively, called “World on Trial,” and how people can watch it?

RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, you can see the first two episodes online. You would go to “World on Trial” and look for the French headscarf trial. The question in that case was whether France had violated the right to religion in the ICCPR, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
by denying French girls in grade school the right to wear headscarves. France outlawed this - I think in 2004 - with national legislation. And of course we empaneled juries at university law schools all across the world to watch the trial and to render verdicts. And then we asked the public to render verdicts and to vote. But it’s a tremendously effective education tool, because we get both sides of the issue. We get the best lawyers in the world to argue the case, the best judges. In the case of the headscarf trial, it was Mrs. Blair, the wife of Tony Blair. And the second trial was a trial to see if the United States had violated the right to life of the International Covenant on Civil, Political Rights, when we used a drone in Yemen that killed a noncombatant. Drone use is heavy in that part of the world. And what does the law say and how protected are noncombatants, innocent civilians? And have their rights been violated? And the same thing goes. Juries all over the world sit and look at that trial and then they vote. The last trial, the headscarf trial, was well covered by public stations. Seventy-three percent of the country with an available audience of more than 200 million shows aired in 88 percent of the top 25 markets, including New York, L.A., Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, Atlanta. It was well covered in the country. Now all we have to do, Ralph, is to raise the money to conduct more trials. Television is expensive, and that’s a difficult thing to do, but we intend to conduct trials in all countries, rich, poor, east, west, left, right, it doesn’t make any difference. If there’s any suspicion that they may have violated one of the human rights laws - upon ratification these countries pledge to honor - then we intend to put them on trial.

RALPH NADER: How did the verdicts come out in the first two trials?

RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, the verdict in the last trial is still being tabulated. In the first trial, the majority felt that France had violated the law.

RALPH NADER: The treaty.

RANDALL ROBINSON: The treaty, yes.

RALPH NADER: Yes. You’re going to have other issues.

RANDALL ROBINSON: Sometimes it’s better to say “law,” Ralph, because “treaty” becomes too complex. I mean, most people don’t speak treaty. But a treaty is a law, so it’s much more consumable.

RALPH NADER: Yes. You have a lot of other issues considered for future trials. Can you give us a quick list of what’s coming up on “World on Trial?” And I hope some foundations in this country that want to use their money wisely will take a look at Randall Robinson’s innovative global project and support it. At any rate, what are some of the hot button issues?

RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, you have South Korea’s detention and expulsion of Falun Gong political asylum seekers; Nigeria’s despoilment of the Niger River Delta region and the inequitable distribution of oil wealth by Nigeria; Ireland’s discriminatory policy toward non-Catholic children applying for school entry; Paraguay’s destruction of the forest; Australia’s private prisons; The U.S.’s disproportionate execution of blacks and Hispanics. Those are just some of the programs in the tube. There are more subjects than we can deal with all over the world, and it really doesn’t make any difference about the politics of the country.

RALPH NADER: Randall Robinson, the Nigerian show dealing with the inequitable distribution of oil wealth: what international law or treaty does that violate?

RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, the people who live in an area - the Law of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights means that via notions of self-determination - people who live in an area, people who are of a separate language group, have to enjoy the fruits of their soil. Not only did the major oil companies with the central government come in and despoil the area, but there had been maldistribution of income for that as well. So that was the problem in Nigeria.

RALPH NADER: And what is the international law? What’s the name of the treaty?

RANDALL ROBINSON: The International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

RALPH NADER: That’s interesting for people to know. That’s very important.

RANDALL ROBINSON: And many of these treaties, of course, are overlapping. You find some language that joins them, knits them all together. So it could be a number of treaties that would apply to a number of situations.

RALPH NADER: Tell me, Randall Robinson, do you have on your list the Pakistan-India conflict in Kashmir and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as part of the forthcoming programs under “World on Trial?”

RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, we had on the list the eviction of Israeli Arabs from their homes in East Jerusalem. And with respect to India, we had on our list the inability or the lack of freedom to attend school of Indians living on the rice farms in the very poorest area of India. And so we want to look at those two things.

RALPH NADER: And then, how do people - if they miss a show - how do they get the transcript?

RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, we haven’t transcribed the shows yet; but what they can do is simply pull it down from the Internet and watch it. You can watch it at any time. You can see them now. You can pull them down.

RALPH NADER: Listeners may want to go to hlrecord.org in about two weeks, where Randall Robinson has a more detailed article on “World on Trial.” That’s hlrecord, that stands for Harvard Law Record dot org. Can we turn to another article you wrote and has been published in the Harvard Law Record on corporatization of prisons? I want to put this very, very pointedly here. How did we ever constitutionally allow giant commercial prison companies that are listed on the New York Stock Exchange to own prisons that have inmates that were convicted presumably under our criminal laws? And these private prisons can actually punish prisoners? They’re making profit. They can throw them into solitary confinement, which often extends their term and allows the prison companies to make more money. Has there been a Constitutional challenge? And give us the names of these corporate prisons and how many prisons there are in the country, and how many prisoners are under their control.

RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, the major owners are GEO and Corrections Corporation of America. Together, those enjoy - those two corporations with many prisons around the country - enjoy revenues of some $3.3 billion a year. And the Corrections Corporation of America will avoid $70 million in tax payments by becoming a real estate investment trust. And the interesting connection here is that Hillary Clinton had gotten significant contributions from both of these companies. And going back to Bill Clinton’s administration, the sort of pipeline to these prisons was facilitated by the Clinton Administration’s three strikes and you’re out. And so when the legislation on the punishment side laid out that crack cocaine was going to require a punishment a hundred times that of powder cocaine, it meant that you had a disproportionate number of blacks from black communities going to jail for nonviolent offenses.

RALPH NADER: Explain “three strikes and you’re out,” Randall.

RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, if you had three infractions, and Hillary - I think I have something here that Hillary Clinton said… she said - this was in 1994, and she said, “We need more police, we need more and tougher prison sentences for repeat offenders. The three strikes and you’re out for violent offenders has to be part of the plan. We need more prisons to keep violent offenders for as long as it takes to keep them off the streets.” But the reach of the Clinton Administration and President Bill Clinton went much further than that. They were putting people in prison, disproportionately blacks, for minor offenses. And the real authority in America on this is Michelle Alexander, a law professor at Ohio State Law School, who has written The New Jim Crow, a wonderful book. And what is remarkable here is that she’s virtually been excluded from public discussion about this. She is compelling, authoritative, scholarly. And I haven’t seen her on CNN, I haven’t seen her on Fox, I haven’t seen her anywhere, and there should be a demand. She has written a piece saying that Hillary Clinton does not deserve black support for her role in all of this.

RALPH NADER: That was in The Nation magazine very recently. Very powerful.

RANDALL ROBINSON: Yes, that’s exactly right.

RALPH NADER: Yes. Michelle Alexander.

RANDALL ROBINSON: Michelle Alexander of Ohio State, who’s written The New Jim Crow. And she should be everywhere, and she has been nowhere. And one almost has to suspect that this is orchestrated. And I really don’t understand how you could have a panel or discussion without her involvement if there’s any search for truth at all.

RALPH NADER: She should be in South Carolina. She should be in Nevada. She should be everywhere. It’s a wonder to me.

RANDALL ROBINSON: That’s right. Absolutely.

RALPH NADER: The book she wrote, The New Jim Crow, was well reviewed - even in the New York Times - and it was a modest best seller. But suddenly, a curtain of censorship has covered her work.

RANDALL ROBINSON: I really think that listeners to your program have to call the networks and demand that we hear her voice, too. This is a shame. And it’s this side of the Clintons that I think blacks in South Carolina don’t know about.

RALPH NADER: Tell me, Randall Robinson, when did she get the campaign contributions from the two corporate prison corporations? When she was a U.S. senator, or she’s getting it now as a presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton?

RANDALL ROBINSON: She’s getting it now. She was forced, pressured to return some of the contributions, and she “returned,” - and it has to be placed in quotation marks - in the form of contributions of philanthropic contributions for which she got public credit. She did not return the money back to the two major corporations that gave her the money.

RALPH NADER: You say in your article in the Harvard Law Record, now I’m quoting you, quote, “The laws that made the sentences for crack cocaine use literally a hundred times harsher than the sentences for powder cocaine use mock the most basic precepts of equal justice, since the former tends to be used by the urban poor and the latter by suburbanites. And the resultant throwing of more than a million black fathers, mothers, sons and daughters in jail since the 1990’s for the types of infractions for which many whites go free has wreaked havoc with families and communities throughout black America.” End quote. That’s your article in the February 4, 2016 edition of the Harvard Law Record. And the Clintons bear a serious responsibility for this, wouldn’t you say?

RANDALL ROBINSON: A serious responsibility. And she is still receiving money recently from one of the bundlers, who is putting the money together for her. Richard Sullivan of the lobbying firm Capitol Counsel is a bundler for the Clinton campaign, bringing in $44,000 in contributions in a few short months. And he still brings money in that involves money from these private prisons. Now, she was caused to rethink this thing - at least publically - because Sanders introduced legislation to outlaw private prisons to his enormous credit. And now she says she’s against private prisons. But she appears to be still taking money.

RALPH NADER: Randall Robinson, before we conclude, this point on the constitutionality of corporate prisons that the Clintons seem to have favored: how could that possibly be Constitutional? Have there been any cases filed?

RANDALL ROBINSON: Oh, it violates every notion of human rights I know anything about. First of all, these prisons are sheer lock boxes. They have guards, who are less well trained, no nothing about penology. The guards make less money. They run them as cheaply as they possibly can. The idea is to catch and house as many people as possible. The more people that get sent to prison and the longer they stay, the more money these businesspeople make. And the Clintons are connected to this.

RALPH NADER: Have there been any lawsuits filed?

RANDALL ROBINSON: I don’t know. I can’t answer that question, Ralph.

RALPH NADER: We’ve been talking with Professor Randall Robinson, who is the creator of the public television show, “World on Trial,” and has spoken out on many issues affecting the abuse of due process of human beings, and is raising the long overdue public focus on these international treaties which have the force of law in all the countries that have ratified them, and taking note that the United States has not ratified some of them, such as the one affecting discrimination against women and abuse of children. Before we close, Professor Robinson, could you just give our listeners once again the contact number so they can reach you?

RANDALL ROBINSON: I can be reached at rr@rosro.com.

RALPH NADER: And at Penn State Law School, where Professor Robinson teaches law. Thank you very much, Randall Robinson, and good luck on “World on Trial.”

RANDALL ROBINSON: Thank your Ralph, thank you so much. Take care.

RALPH NADER: Goodbye now.

STEVE SKROVAN: We’ve been speaking to distinguished author and human rights activist Randall Robinson, creator, co-producer and host of World on Trial. We will post a link to where you can see this program on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour website. Now we’re going to take a short break to find out who our corporate crime reporter, Russell Mohkiber, has in the crosshairs today. You are listening to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour. Back after this.

RUSSELL MOHKIBER: From the National Press Building in Washington DC, this is your corporate crime reporter morning minute for Friday, February 19, 2016. I’m Russell Mohkiber. In September, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced that to be eligible for cooperation credit, a corporation must identify all individuals involved or responsible for the misconduct at issue. The Yates memo was praised as a step forward in cracking down on corporate crime. In fact, it may be a step
backward. That’s according to two University of California Davis law professors, Elizabeth Joh and Thomas Joo. In some cases, the new cooperation policy’s emphasis on individual prosecutions could itself result in leniency. Prosecutors may award extensively generous credit to corporations in order to build cases against individuals. They write that the all or nothing approach to cooperation may backfire, because it not only allows a corporation to choose nothing, but may encourage that choice. For the Corporate Crime Reporter, I’m Russell Mohkiber.

DAVID FELDMAN: Thank you, Russell. Before we get to our next guest, Ralph, we would be remiss if we didn’t get your take on the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and the fight ahead to fill his vacancy on the Court.

RALPH NADER: There’s no doubt that Antonin Scalia made people think, even though a lot of liberals and progressives think he was wrong on many judicial issues in his opinions, which mostly were dissents. His most prominent work on the Court he couldn’t get a majority on a lot of the cases. But the one where he got a majority, 5-4, selected, unlawfully - in my opinion and in the opinion of a lot of other lawyers - George W. Bush as President in 2000 A.D. out of Florida. That opinion was so blatantly political that it even admitted that it was a unique case, which would have no precedential value in the future. I don’t know any Supreme Court decision that’s ever said that. And it stopped the Florida Supreme Court order to conduct a full voter recount in the contest between Gore and Bush. And here is Justice Scalia saying again and again on CSPAN and elsewhere that he wanted judicial restraint. He did not want nine unelected lawyers on the Supreme Court to flout the will of the people, meaning to overturn statutes that they normatively didn’t like. And yet he was the lead architect of the most extreme display of judicial activism. Somebody once called it a corporate coup d’etat. Someone else called it a judicial coup d’etat that selected George W. Bush as President in a 5-4 decision. Flimsy reasoning. Blatant politics. So blatant that when later Justice Scalia was asked about “Bush versus Gore” on national television, he said in an unlearned manner, “Get over it.” Those were his words, quote, “Get over it.” End quote. He is a jurist that was a very good writer, and he had biting wit. He made people laugh. He went around the country speaking, giving often political opinions. But as Justice Richard Posner of the Federal Circuit Court based in Chicago wrote: he was inconsistent in his judicial thinking.

DAVID FELDMAN: I have one quick stupid question. Is it in the Constitution that you have to have an odd number of justices on the Supreme Court?

RALPH NADER: No, it is not.

DAVID FELDMAN: And there’s no specific number that we have to have on the Supreme Court? I mean theoretically, Barack Obama doesn’t have to name a new Supreme Court justice, right?

RALPH NADER: He’s not required to in terms of any enforceable law. And when Franklin Delano Roosevelt wanted to get the Supreme Court to go his way on some critical Depression-era legislation that he wanted upheld in the 1930’s, he wanted to add several justices to increase the number of justices on the Supreme Court so a majority would vote to uphold the constitutionality of his enacted legislation. So it could be done by legislation. There’s no constitutionally required number of justices.

DAVID FELDMAN: If there were an equal number of justices and they couldn’t gain a consensus, it would go back to the appeals courts or back, depending on what the case was, right?

RALPH NADER: It would simply affirm the Circuit Court of Appeal decision.

STEVE SKROVAN: So Ralph, how do you think this is all going to play out?

RALPH NADER: It’s clear that I would guess in the next three weeks President Obama will send the most likely to be confirmed replacement for Justice Scalia, and then there’s going to be a royal political battle between the Majority Leader Senator McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate and President Obama. I think what’s going to decide it is what kind of polls come out in terms of whether the intransigence and delay of the Senate will harm the reelection prospects of some Republican Senators around the country, and therefore turn the Senate over to Democratic Party hands in 2016.

DAVID FELDMAN: Very quickly, if it becomes Bernie Sanders versus Trump, will Scalia be right that the free market of ideas dictates that Citizens United is overturned just by the force of will of the American people?

RALPH NADER: Well, that would be the case in the proposed victory of Bernie Sanders, because he’s raised tens of millions of dollars not from corporate sources - he refuses to have a corporate-funded PAC - but from ordinary people. And the average contribution is $27, a marvelous example that rebuts the Democrats over the years saying, “Yeah, we’re for campaign finance reform, but this time, in this election, we are not going to unilaterally disarm.” Well, Bernie Sanders has unilaterally disarmed from the corporate plutocracy and is raising tens of millions of dollars to take his campaign all over the country. That alone is a major contribution breakthrough by Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont.

DAVID FELDMAN: And if Trump gets the nomination: that would speak to Citizens United also being irrelevant in the general election?

RALPH NADER: In a quite different way, namely that what Donald Trump would have proved is a multi-billionaire can fund his own campaign. That’s not the kind of demonstration we’re looking for. We’re looking for the smaller contributions in great volume voluntarily given by the voters and citizens of this country to a candidate.

DAVID FELDMAN: So there might be another way of getting money out of politics without a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. That is what Scalia kind of suggested, right?

RALPH NADER: Well, he did, but you know, a Bernie Sanders doesn’t come around very often. And how about all the Senate seats, the House seats, the governor seats, the state legislator seats where you couldn’t pull it off so uniformly and in such a widespread manner to circumvent the impact of Citizens United the way Bernie Sanders has. So we shouldn’t take Bernie Sanders as the wave of the future.

DAVID FELDMAN: Did you ever meet him (Scalia), Ralph? Did you ever talk to him?

RALPH NADER: I’ve talked to him on the phone, yeah. I’m going to write a column on this.

DAVID FELDMAN: Were you humbled by him?

RALPH NADER: Not at all, because he came out wrong in so many ways. So a brilliant light that brings on hell is not a brilliant light to be commended.

STEVE SKROVAN: Well, excellent discussion about Antonin Scalia. Now I’m going to switch gears here. And we’ve talked a lot on this program about access to medicines and the price of medicines from a doctor’s point of view, with Dr. Sid Wolfe and Michael Carome of Public Citizen. Today, we’re going to go at it from a legal point of view. Professor William M. Janssen has been on the faculty of the Charleston School of Law since 2006 after a lengthy private practice, where he concentrated his practice in pharmaceutical, medical device and mass torts defense and risk containment. In practice, he was involved in several high profile drug and device cases, including the national diet drug fen-phen litigations. He has spoken and written extensively on pharmaceutical and medical device law, and he is here to talk to us about a paper he has written for the Social Science Research Network that argues that pharmaceutical companies have a duty to continue selling their life-saving medicines, despite economic forces that may induce them to take the drugs off the market. Welcome to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour, Professor William Janssen.

WILLIAM JANSSEN: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to join you.

RALPH NADER: Thank you very much, Professor Janssen. This affects millions of people, what you’re going to hear in the next fifteen, twenty minutes. Please listen carefully, because it does require a little concentration. Let me just put it in two human-interest cases. Case one is where a drug company is selling you a medicine that’s critical for your survival, and they’re making good profit, and likely they might have benefited from taxpayer funded research and development given to them free by the National Institutes of Health. Then, suddenly there are shortages that appear. And your doctor cannot get the medicines to fulfill your prescription, and your life is endangered. Does the drug company have a duty to continue selling you these medicines? And if they are negligently not doing so and a shortage occurs, should they be exposed to a tort-based lawsuit for damages? The second case has been coming up more frequently. There are a lot of deadly diseases that are inviting the sale of monopolized or patented drugs. So a person has a serious disease. He has been buying a drug under a monopoly patent to help him survive - or help her survive - and suddenly the price of the drug goes from say $13 to $750 per pill. And the person cannot afford it. The insurance cannot cover it. And let’s say, hypothetically, the patient dies. Is there a lawsuit that the estate can bring against the drug company? Because there’s no other drug that the doctor of the hospital or the patient can resort to, because it’s a monopoly patented drug. This is the kind of thoughtful analysis Professor Janssen is engaging in. And so, discuss for our listeners the first issue under your article, “A” quote “Duty” quote “to Continue Selling Medicines.” And if there isn’t a common law duty, what kind of legislation you’re proposing? So make it as clear as possible what’s at stake here. And it’s only going to get worse. This is a problem that’s getting worse. Shortages are increasing in a lot of areas, and monopoly drugs are being hiked to astronomical levels in the U.S., although not in other countries which don’t allow this to happen.
WILLIAM JANSSEN: Well, Ralph, it’s interesting. The data suggest that we’re doing a lot better on shortages and constraining shortages. The RDA was tasked by Congress to give an annual report to the nation on drug shortages that have been identified and those that have been averted. And from 2011 - sort of the high water mark in the data that was reported nationally - the shortages were 251 drugs, and the shortages averted were 191. By 2014, which is the last year that that data has been reported for, the shortage number dropped from 251 during that year to 44. So nationally, that data suggests that the incidents of drug shortages are declining. But to sort of frame the question that you posed, there is a right on behalf of any manufacturer of any product not to enter the market at all. You can choose not to sell a chair, a table, an automobile, what have you. The question this implicates and is very interesting intellectually to me, is do you have a right to exit once you’ve entered? So think about a very traditional, commonplace product, windshield wipers. If there’s a shortage of windshield wipers, and particularly the windshield wipers that fit on my car, and I go out and drive in the rain and I get into an automobile accident, I’m hard pressed under the laws that currently exist to sue the manufacturer for not having a good supply. It’s - it is a shortfall that is significantly impacting me. And were my conduct - my driving -to have injured somebody else or caused other sorts of loss, it wouldn’t be the manufacturer’s responsibility - because it was in a shortfall position - to compensate me or anyone that I’ve injured. The question here is: are drugs, pharmaceuticals, medicines, a different horse entirely? Does that or ought that to command a different answer? In my research, what I’ve discovered is that over the years, there have been ten different candidates for trying to argue that the law ought to impose that duty, that a manufacturer - once it begins the process of making a pharmaceutical - has an obligation to remain in that market. Ten different theories I’ve examined for whether or not it exists. And Ralph, my conclusion is the law simply - no matter how reinvented, how creative, how boundary pressing a lawyer tries to move the needle in that debate - the existing panoply of laws out there don’t do that job. And the question, you know, you think about traditionally products liability asks this question. If you’re - the product manufacturer - is held to account, the plaintiff is suing the product manufacturer, distilled to its essence, that claim is this: “you injured me by selling me a product that was defective, and the defect in your product harmed me.” In this environment, what the plaintiff is saying is, “you injured me by not selling me a good product that could have helped me.” Or maybe a little more precisely, “you injured me by negligently failing to protect your ability to sell me a good product that could have helped me.” And my findings are that the existing body of law out there does not impose that duty on manufacturers. And given the way the law has developed in those ten areas that I examined, it shouldn’t. That law is stable body of law, and it points in the other direction.

RALPH NADER: Let me interrupt you here. It’s good that the shortages are declining, but remember, 80 percent of the ingredients in medicines sold in the United States come from India and China, and you have to be very careful of those country’s bollixing things up for either political or managerial reasons and creating shortages. But I meant to say more specifically that the monopoly patent one, which we will discuss, seems to be increasing, because so far, they’ve gotten away with increases in drugs without adding any innovation. They just buy a company that’s selling a drug - say for ten bucks a pill - and they take it to hundreds of dollars a pill. But let me ask you this. You remember the Good Samaritan laws, Professor Janssen? These are laws


RALPH NADER: Yes. These are laws that basically say, ‘if somebody’s injured and is on the side of the road and a doctor is driving by, and voluntarily gets out of the car to help the injured person, that if that doctor helps in an incompetent and negligent way, he or she should not be held liable under the Good Samaritan laws.” But that took a statute to override a common law duty that if you do volunteer to help somebody and you do it in a dangerously incompetent way, you could be held liable. How do you distinguish the common law prior to the Good Samaritan laws in that case from what you’ve just said about the drug companies?

WILLIAM JANSSEN: Ralph, it’s a wonderful example. And the distinction is here: The common law to which you refer has always held a volunteer liable in those situations, but only if the volunteer made the person worse. It had to have made the person who is the object of the rescue worse off. And what the case law is doing in the area that we are speaking of today, they are examining the person as someone suffering from a disease who presents in that position before he or she is ever encountered by the medicine supplier. So the question then would ask, there would be liability under a negligence theory, if the provider makes the person worse off than they would have been had they never gotten the medicine in the first place. In other words, had the medicine not even been invented, are they worse off? And if you assess the question from that calculus, it leads to the answer that liability is missing.

RALPH NADER: Interesting, because in the Good Samaritan situation, it’s a volunteer. The person rushing to the rescue is not there to make a profit. In your cases, these companies are there to make
a profit. But what about another theory, which is dependence? They sell the drug to an ailing patient year after year, and suddenly there is a negligent shortage and the drug is not available. And the health of the patient deteriorates and there’s no other drug that could replace the drug that is the subject of the shortage. What about induced dependency based on a profit motive?

WILLIAM JANSSEN: Another great example. I think, Ralph, the response that the law, the existing law now is what we’re speaking of. The existing law’s response to that question is the dependency very well may have been induced, but it didn’t change the patient’s perspective had the drug not been available in the first place. So in other words, there may have been a dependency because the manufacturer supplied something that was of value but that wouldn’t compel under the existing law the manufacturer to remain in the business of producing it.

RALPH NADER: So this is why you are proposing legislation, because normatively you think there should be a duty. Explain the legislation you would like to have enacted by Congress or a state legislature.

WILLIAM JANSSEN: Sure. Well, so the frustration that I found in researching this article, Ralph, was this: I don’t like the answer - the answer that says the law provides no remedy. Now, I’m focused less on providing a compensatory remedy than in injunctive one or a prospective one. So it would be a secondary focus of mine to say the injured person - or excuse me - the patient who is treating on the drug or pharmaceutical ought to be compensated for a period of time that the shortage persisted and caused them a challenge or - in terribly serious cases - death. And more - my focus is more on what do we do to remediate the shortage in the first instance? So thinking less about compensation and more from a perspective focal point, how do we stop it from happening in the first place? Or how do we incentivize better behavior in the first place? So my suggestion is: motivate it by achieving a number of different goals. It seems to me that our first goal, our highest goal, is better medicine, better delivery of medical care to patients who desperately need it, and particularly when you’re dealing with the type of shortages that the law has encountered here, you’re dealing with very high end, very sophisticated recombinant DNA manufactured pharmaceuticals. I mean, these are the outer marker, the boundaries of science and medicine at the moment. You’re dealing with really sophisticated things. So the fact that we’re making such remarkable progress in so many of these boundary-pressing medicines to treat calamitous diseases, we ought to be doing what we can to incentivize better and uninterrupted supply paths. Secondly, it seems to me our goal has to be - in whatever choice is made - to not disincentivize innovation. The United States has long been the absolute cauldron for the development of dramatic medical inventions and developments of great new in the treatment of very serious, very confounding illnesses. And what we want to do is never disincentivize with whatever solution we design, a path that causes that development to cease or to migrate away from diseases impacting small population. With the last few pieces, we also want to respect the investment that’s being made. And finally, we want to avoid imposing liability on someone where it doesn’t belong.
So my solution is this, my recommendation is this: First, that the FDA be empowered to install a timetable for a resolution of a shortfall. So they identify a shortfall, and they erect a timetable that says we need to resolve this by this day. Secondly, the incumbent manufacturer has a choice. It can endeavor to resolve that shortfall, or alternatively, it can pass, but it has the right to pass. Third, the FDA then, if the incumbent decides to remediate the shortfall, the incumbent has to do so within a time period set by the FDA, either itself or through a sub-license, and if the incumbent refuses to do it, can’t do it, can’t meet the timeframe, Ralph, I would empower the FDA to alternatively source the product - that they could nominate another source for the production of that medicine. That new provider would be incentivized with a period of exclusivity to do it. And then during that period of exclusivity they would be the sole manufacturer of that product. When the incumbent is ready to return to the market, if they ever do, they become companions with the alternative source. And I think that incentive, that power invested in the FDA to find an alternative source, provides a level of motivation and incentive that doesn’t now exist to remediate shortfalls.

RALPH NADER: We’ve been talking with Professor William Janssen, Professor of Law at Charleston School of Law, and if you want to know more about his proposal and his analysis, go to his article in the American Journal of Law and Medicine. It came out in 2014 at the Boston University School of Law. Let’s conclude in the final minutes, Professor Janssen, with my second. Let’s say you have a relative who has a serious illness. There’s only one drug that can keep that relative alive. That drug is under a 15-year monopoly patent by a drug company. The price of the pill every day is, say, ten dollars. The drug company then sells itself to another company and without any additional improvement or research, the acquiring company raises the price to your relative from ten dollars to a thousand dollars a day pill. You can’t afford it. The insurance won’t cover it. You’re facing death. Is there a duty here under the law of torts incumbent on the drug company?

WILLIAM JANSSEN: Ralph, I think the answer is no.

RALPH NADER: And there’s no other drug that can deal with it in the world.

WILLIAM JANSSEN: There is no current constraint of which I’m aware that says that a drug manufacturer has to be pricing a product like that in any particular way. Obviously, as we saw in the instance that you’re probably inferring (the Martin Shkreli case), the pressures of the market and the pressures of publicity drove that price hike down dramatically. It may also be that the federal government has a role to play there in an informal way, communicating with that drug manufacturer with respect to product supply. But at the end of the day, the price-setting role by the manufacturer remains the province of the manufacturer. And there is no - of which I’m aware - there is no rule in the law of tort that would affix liability there.

RALPH NADER: Well, there’s no rule of reason here, according to what you say. Unfortunately, I don’t have any more time to disagree with you, Professor Janssen. But I hope if you’re up in the New England area you’ll visit the first and only law museum in the world, the American Museum of Tort Law in Winsted, Connecticut. Again, how would our listeners get in touch with you, before we conclude?

WILLIAM JANSSEN: Ralph, I thank you very much for having me. My email address is wjanssen@charlestonlaw.edu.

RALPH NADER: Thank you very much, Professor Janssen.

WILLIAM JANSSEN: It’s been my pleasure, Ralph. Thank you.

RALPH NADER: You’re welcome.

STEVE SKROVAN: We’ve been speaking with Professor of Law William Janssen. His paper is entitled, “The Duty to Continue Selling Medicines.” We’ll post a link on our Ralph Nader Radio website to that. And that’s our show. I’m sorry we didn’t get to listener questions today. We’ll try to do that next week. I want to thank our guests, author and activist Randall Robinson, host of “World on Trial,” and Professor of Law William Janssen, author of “The Duty to Continue Selling Medicines.” We’ll post links to all of the relevant material on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour website. And a transcript of this episode will be posted there too. For Ralph’s weekly blog, go to Nader.org. For more from Russell Mohkiber, go to CorporateCrimeReporter.com. Remember to visit the country’s only law museum, the American Museum of Tort Law in Winsted, Connecticut. Go to TortMuseum.org. The producers of the Ralph Nader Radio Hour are Jimmy Lee Wirt and Matthew Marran. Our Executive Producer is Alan Minsky. Our theme music, “Stand Up, Rise Up” was written and performed by Kemp Harris. On behalf of David Feldman, I’m Steve Skrovan. Join us next week on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour. Talk to you then, Ralph.

RALPH NADER: Thank you very much Steve and David. Thank our listeners. Remember, contact public television in your area about Randall Robinson’s brilliant new program, “World on Trial.”
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Re: Ralph Nader Radio Hour

Postby admin » Fri Feb 23, 2018 2:42 am

Part 1 of 2

RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR EPISODE 102: Denis Hayes, Nicholas Kachman
February 27, 2016


Renowned environmentalist, Denis Hayes, talks to us about how we should reduce our meat consumption for the good of the planet, while former General Motors exec, Nicholas Kachman, tells us the real cause of GM’s 2008 bankruptcy and also discusses with Ralph how GM should have been a good corporate citizen and warned the people of Flint about the lead in the water. Plus, Ralph grills David about – of all things – music.

Denis Hayes

Denis Hayes helped launch the modern environmental movement as national coordinator of the first Earth Day in 1970. Mr. Hayes has been the president of an environmental foundation , an environmental attorney, professor of engineering at Stanford, a grassroots organizer, a national environmental lobbyist, and a senior fellow at the Worldwatch Institute. And that’s just a small sampling of his credits in this field. “Time” magazine selected him as one of its 100 “Heroes for the Planet.” His latest work, written with Gail Boyer Hayes, is Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics and Culture.

Nick Kachman

Nicholas Kachman was an executive at GM from 1957 to 1993, mainly working as a corporate environmental engineer. When General Motors filed for bankruptcy in 2008, there were a lot of excuses given and a lot of fingers pointed at the usual suspects: overwhelming healthcare costs, unreasonable union demands, too much government regulation, and poorly designed cars. Mr. Kachman points to an entirely different reason for the 2008 bankruptcy that led to an enormous taxpayer bailout. He focuses on a long-term strategic decision by corporate management that turned into a financial debacle that still burdens the company today. That decision was called “The Paint Plan.” His book is entitled GM – Paint It Red: Inside General Motors’ Culture of Failure.


RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR EP 102: Denis Hayes; Nicholas Kachman, Russell Mohkiber

ANNOUNCER: From the KPFK studios in Southern California, it’s the Ralph Nader Radio Hour.

STEVE SKROVAN: Welcome to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour. My name is Steve Skrovan, with my cohost, David Feldman. Hello, David. How are you?

DAVID FELDMAN: This is going to be a really interesting show. Really interesting.

STEVE SKROVAN: And the man of the hour, the reason we’re all here, Ralph Nader. Hello, Ralph.

RALPH NADER: Hello Steve and David. Yes, it is going to be a very unique show.

STEVE SKROVAN: And I understand you have a new segment you want to spring on us later in the show.

RALPH NADER: Yeah, I’m going to ask exactly the obvious question that’s never asked, and you don’t know what it is, Steve or David, but we’ll take it from there.

STEVE SKROVAN: That’s correct, OK. But before we do that, I just want to say we could entitle today’s show, Cars and Cows, because that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. In the second half of the show, we’re going to be discussing Ralph’s favorite nemesis, General Motors, the company that never learns, apparently. Author Nicholas Kachman’s expose of the hundred billion dollar boondoggle behind the GM bankruptcy is called GM – Paint It Red: Inside General Motors’ Culture of Failure. And this is inside, behind the scenes stuff that nobody really knows about, and that’s why you listen to this show. We’ll also be checking in as usual with Russell Mohkiber, the Ellery Queen of the corporate crime beat. But before we get to that, we’ve had a number of listener questions recently, ones that we actually haven’t gotten to yet. These listeners want to know about animal, agriculture, meat consumption and the hazards these activities may pose to our environment. And if you’ve written to us about that, listen closely, because our next guest may have some answers for you. David?

DAVID FELDMAN: Steve, this is our what, 102nd show?

STEVE SKROVAN: That is correct, sir.

DAVID FELDMAN: And did you ever think you and I could have the moral high ground above Ralph Nader?


DAVID FELDMAN: Are you a vegetarian, Steve Skrovan?

STEVE SKROVAN: I am a vegetarian, yes.

DAVID FELDMAN: Uh huh. Am I a vegetarian?

STEVE SKROVAN: You are a vegetarian, yes.

DAVID FELDMAN: Our guest today is Denis Hayes. He, along with Gail Boyer Hayes has written a book entitled, “Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics and Culture.” Time Magazine selected him as one of its one hundred heroes for the planet. Denis Hayes helped launch the modern environmental movement as National Coordinator of the first Earth Day in 1970. Mr. Hayes has been the president of an environmental foundation, an environmental attorney, Professor of Engineering at Stanford, a grassroots organizer, a national environmental lobbyist, and a senior fellow at the Worldwatch Institute. Welcome to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour, Denis Hayes.

DENIS HAYES: Well, I’m just delighted to be here.

RALPH NADER: Thank you, Denis. I first met Denis in 1970 after Senator Gaylord Nelson and others proposed Earth Day, and Denis was the main honcho, a tall, lanky, earnest young man who exuded seriousness and had considerable managerial skills. I remember that, Denis. There were fifteen hundred events at fifteen hundred campuses for starters, and as you remember, the Earth Day event made the cover of Time and Newsweek, which was a bigger deal then than now, and put the environmental issue on the map, from which it has never receded. So let’s get to this book that you all wrote. Can you just lay out for our listeners, who are oriented to be active, not just to be informed, the thesis of the book?

DENIS HAYES: Well, the thesis is that we really underestimate the impact of cows on the United States. In fact, we did this little informal poll where we would ask people, other than human beings, what are the most important animals in the United States? And people would say dogs and cats and horses. It just, things that made no sense at all. If you look at the 93 million cows, from the founding of the colonies in North America on through to today, they would be United Van Lines for western expansion, Paul Bunyan had Babe the Blue Ox. In a very un-environmental way, they clearcut all of the forests around the Great Lakes. They plowed our fields, provided milk, provided meat, provided leather, provided all kinds of things. Massive impacts upon our culture and economy, and are pretty much underappreciated. And in the process of that, I guess - and this is awfully long for a thesis - we have been treating them abysmally in vast confined animal feeding operations where they are surrounded by disease and just treated brutally like cogs in a vast industrial machine. Our hope is to create basically a consumer movement around - vegetarian would be fabulous, but America’s vegetarians now are less than five percent of the population. The other 95 percent, if they could really reduce their beef consumption by 50 percent, causing that herd to go down to like 45 million, entirely grass fed, grass finished and organic, it would solve a vast array of environmental problems, boost human health, and make the economy more prosperous.

RALPH NADER: Denis, I don’t think people would be surprised to learn that there are more cows in the U.S. than domesticated dogs. And of course, more cows than domesticated cats.

DENIS HAYES: If you do it pound for pound, there’s very substantially more cow than people. We have more cow than humans.

RALPH NADER: What’s the average weight of an adult cow?

DENIS HAYES: Well, it depends on the breed, but anywhere from 1,200 pounds to 16, 1,700 pounds.

RALPH NADER: There you are. The interesting thing about the way we view cows is with massive urbanization, people grow up knowing very little about cows. I mean, they know that cows - when they drive by cow country - seem to always have their heads downward, eating whatever they can eat and that they moo, and they’re popular in children’s animal books. But now that we are much more aware of the environmental impact of cows - granted their history as you narrated - they were extremely important in the development of what is now called the United States and its economy in many ways. Give us a thumbnail sketch of the environmental impact of cows such as methane and other ways they are inadvertently damaging our ecology at a very serious level. And this occurs worldwide.

DENIS HAYES: Sure. In fact, one of the things that caused us to write the book is when we were young and we would drive through what you characterized as cow country, you saw cows. By and large today, Americans can go on for months and months without ever seeing a cow, because they tend to be off in remote areas in gigantic facilities that have an enormous amount of odor, and they’re pretty ugly to look at, and so they are placed where we don’t encounter cows except in idealized renderings on the outsides of milk cartons and things. The environmental problems associated with them can go throughout the entire cow’s life, from a vast amount of the American Midwest that is devoted to growing number two dent corn for cows, an absolutely terrible food for cows. It’s like putting your children on a 100 percent diet of Halloween candy. And the whole purpose is to fatten them up, because fat beef is the highest rated beef by the Department of Agriculture called “marbled.” That’s from fattening, but that’s what it is on through. Those feedlots have to do something with all of the manure that they generate. And by and large, it is the largest really uncontrolled source of water pollution in the United States, bigger than the amount of human excretive that goes through sewage treatment facilities. And these CAFOs, it’s disrupting to what is poetically called a lagoon. But this is not a tropical South Sea island lagoon, this is an absolutely horrible pit full of cow excretive. And almost all of them eventually leak down into the groundwater. As the poop in the lagoons is digested anaerobically by little microorganisms, it gives off methane, and also the same microorganisms in the cow’s guts give off methane that it releases in a series of belches. And methane is, of course, a hugely powerful greenhouse gas. So the cattle industry has its own negative impacts upon the world’s climate. At the same time, cows are pretty destructive of the soil, the way that we are currently grass feeding them. I mean, there are wonderful ways that have been pioneered by a lot of good people that we write about in the book dealing with intensive locational grazing, which actually increases carbon sequestration and makes the soils much healthier and makes the cows much healthier. But we have an awful lot of people on land that should not be supporting cows, and what it’s doing is causing massive corrosion and then the erosion, the carbon that has been sequestered in the soil is released into the atmosphere.

RALPH NADER: How does this compare to pigs, the damage of, you know, tens of millions of pigs? Did you ever go into that area?

DENIS HAYES: You know, that’s a really interesting question. And when one talks about meat, one shouldn’t ignore pigs and chickens and fish and what have you. But you have reached outside the zone in which I can comment comfortably. I haven’t done a comparative analysis of the pigs versus cows.

RALPH NADER: It does seem, however, that they both have one thing in common, that is, industrial agriculture. That is, they’re kept in very, very close confinement. Give us a description of what life is like for a cow in close confinement, if you could. Because this is an area where empathy really is needed. And you know, when you talk about the way pigs are confined, they can hardly turn around. They literally can hardly turn around, they’re packed so tightly together. Give me a description of cows, and then describe the slaughtering process.

DENIS HAYES: OK. Cows typically are able to turn around. They are not as tightly confined as often chickens are and pigs are, but they are in very unsanitary conditions, often up to their hocks in manure. And they don’t have the ability to go out and do what their ancestors biologically were programmed to do, which is get out and roam over the fields and eat grass. They are in these operations where there’s very little exercise. The whole purpose of it is to fatten them. They are fed prophylactically antibiotics, because there’s so much disease there that they’re trying to make sure that they don’t catch, so they give it to them before they’re sick. But antibiotics for cows, as well as for people, make you fat. So giving them the antibiotics is part of the fattening process. Technically, it’s now illegal to give them antibiotics to fatten them, so everybody says well, we’re giving them to them prophylactically so they can avoid the diseases, but the impact is still the same. And those antibiotics are creating a huge number of antibiotic resistant diseases. Eighty percent of antibiotics are now given prophylactically to farm animals, principally cows, and as a result a lot of things that infect people are not responding to antibiotics anymore.

RALPH NADER: Do you know roughly how much of the antibiotics that people ingest, first through prescriptions but also indirectly by eating beef, for example, is there any data on that, Denis? We’re talking to Denis Hayes now, the author, with his spouse, of a terrific book on cows, the history of cows and the present impact of cows on our environment and on our diet. How about the absorptive capacity of people from eating beef that comes from cows that have been heavily fed, perhaps daily, prophylactically as you said, it’s right in their meal, these antibiotics?

DENIS HAYES: The really big danger is the creation of the antibiotic resistant microorganisms that then get passed from the cows to the people. It’s less of a problem that the antibiotics being in the meat and then being ingested by people. But the problem is just enormous. In the course of researching the book, interestingly, completely unrelated to the research, I contracted MRSA. I had this infection in my arm that just started getting - you know first - the size of a ping pong ball and then a golf ball and then a hardball. And we used an antibiotic. It didn’t work. Another one: didn’t work. Another one: it didn’t work. Another one: it didn’t work. It was my sixth antibiotic that finally cured the disease. By the time that got there, I was starting to get pretty damned concerned. I think there is a very real chance that one of the plagues that is coming toward us in the future will be a completely antibiotic resistant bacterium that could have catastrophic consequences for people. And the thing behind all of that will have been our vast abusive use of antibiotics with livestock.

RALPH NADER: Well, if anybody thinks, in our listening audience, that this is a generalization, the medical literature estimates that at least 100,000 people a year in the United States, that’s 2,000 a week on the average, die from the adverse effects of drugs. And a good part of that is an overdose by doctors’ prescriptions and often patient demand of antibiotics, when they’re not even needed. I mean people have colds, if they have viruses as a source of their colds, antibiotics do nothing for them. It’s only if their cold is bacteria-based. So we’re talking here about extremely serious things that are now occurring, that have occurred in the recent decades, not something that’s totally looming on the horizon.

DENIS HAYES: Commenting on the two topics of your program here, cows and cars, if you look at the trend lines, in very large measure because of the good work that you have been doing for so many decades, cars are getting safer than they were when you started out, and the number of deaths are going down. With antibiotics, it’s going exactly the opposite direction. The number of deaths are going up every year from antibiotic resistant diseases. There are now about half as many people die from an antibiotic resistant disease per year in the United States as cars, and that increases about 2,000 people a year, even as the decrease in cars is about, did I say thousand? Million. No, thousand. Excuse me. So those trend lines are going to be converging unless something changes in the next ten, twelve years, and we’re going to be losing more people to antibiotic resistant diseases.

RALPH NADER: This is a responsibility of the medical profession. They’ve got to get much tougher and don’t say, “Well, the patients come in and they demand, ‘give me an antibiotic, doc.’” That’s not good enough. We’ve known about this problem of antibiotic resistance for over fifty years, and the Food & Drug Administration is finally beginning to do something about it in restricting the amount of antibiotics used. Some processing plants and companies, tell us about that. It seems to be in the last couple years, Denis Hayes, some of these big processing companies are beginning to curtail the use of preventive antibiotics in the food that they feed the chickens and cows. Could you tell us something about that?

DENIS HAYES: Well, it’s coming from the grassroots. There is an increasing awareness on the part of people that the way that our agricultural system has evolved - especially over the last 25, 30 years toward increasing gigantism and concentration of power - is not producing food that is good for us. And so you see this huge movement now toward vegetarianism, toward organic products. Initially, the organic stuff was out there mostly because that was going to be good for the environment, but now we’re learning that organic food after organic food is better for us health-wise. I don’t know if you noticed, a couple weeks ago a big study showed that organic milk had 50 percent more, on average, beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids than non-organic milk. And so all of this stuff is coming up that’s affecting major food chains that are now demanding that their meats, among other things, be organic. And if you are organic, you are antibiotic free. And it’s just bubbling up. One of the great tragedies in all of this was that set of things that hit Chipotle, because it was the prime example of a restaurant that was trying to do everything right and was a huge economic success story.

RALPH NADER: Yes. And there are others that are now waking up to it. Because they know it’s good business, right?

DENIS HAYES: Yeah, exactly. And it’s not just the little elite Whole Foods. I mean, we’re seeing this in Costco, you’re even seeing it in Walmart and Safeway. They’re catering to the demands of the public. And to the extent that programs like this cause people - I mean we have this tendency, and you and I are as guilty of it as anyone - to think that the real answers to many problems are to change politics and move public policy. But we’ve been fighting on the Farm Bill now for 50 years and making relatively little progress. Whereas, this grassroots thing - operating very much like the demands for seatbelts, the demands for getting rid of smoking, the demands for all of these things that have changed because the public absolutely required it - is having that impact on our food system as well.

RALPH NADER: That’s right. When we roused the non-smokers in this country, things started to happen in all kinds of directions, and ended up with what was considered unthinkable, having the Congress give the Food & Drug Administration regulatory authority over tobacco.

DENIS HAYES: It would have been unbelievably rude for my mother not only to ask somebody not to smoke in her house, but to not provide cigarettes and ashtrays on every table.

RALPH NADER: That’s right.

DENIS HAYES: And it’s just a sea change that came. And we’re really asking for people to do the same thing, even to become a little bit obnoxious. If you’re in a restaurant, and they’re offering you beef and you’re a beef-eater, start pursuing it. Find out if it’s organic. Find out if it’s grass finished, not just grass fed. All beef is grass fed at some point in its life, and then grain finished. But if it’s grass finished. Find five or six questions: find out who the ranchers were that they’re getting their meat from and how they know that. Ask if it’s been certified for having been humanely treated by one of the better certification agencies. And if you make those kinds of demands, sooner or later the chefs start responding to that as do the grocery stores.

RALPH NADER: Exactly. It’s called inquiring consumer conversation where they go to buy things. And nobody can stop you from doing that, for heaven’s sake.

STEVE SKROVAN: Well, Mr. Hayes, I’m sorry Ralph.

RALPH NADER: Yeah, go ahead.

STEVE SKROVAN: With that in mind, and knowing all the damage this causes and knowing how personal food is to everybody, how can we morally justify eating meat at all?

DENIS HAYES: Well, that is a terrific question. We evolved as a species eating meat. There’s a fairly well developed literature that says that the human brain developed the way that it did because of the abundance of protein-rich diets. Without weighing into that one way or the other, I think the moral aspects are things that people have different moralities. And we do not eat beef ourselves, but we’re not scorning those that choose to do it. But to eat it in a form that is unhealthy for you and unhealthy for your kids and is wildly destructive of the environment makes no sense at all. So if you are going to be eating beef, reducing it dramatically – the average American now eats a little bit more than a pound a week – if that could just go down to half a pound a week, and it is that stuff that we were just talking about: It is grass finished, it is organic, it’s antibiotic free, then suddenly you’ve sparked a revolution.

STEVE SKROVAN: But isn’t that like saying, “Well, smoke filtered cigarettes,” you know? Or “Cut down to just one pack a day.”

DENIS HAYES: Yeah, it’s a slightly different issue. I mean, with cigarettes you’re saying, “Yeah, and that really didn’t do anything for your health.” With the beef, we’re saying, “Yeah, this really will do something for your health.” There’s a different question though here, about the morality of your interaction with a sentient being that even in the best of circumstances is not treated super well, and at the end of its life is going to be turned into hamburger. And there are a great many people who - again, a small percentage, but still many, many millions of people - who say, “I just do not want to be part of that system.”


RALPH NADER: Not only that, it’s just not healthy. I mean, the studies are starting to pile up that a heavy meat diet is just not good. It’s not good for your cardiovascular system. It’s not good because you’re getting involuntarily a drug prescription like antibiotic residue. And of course, when we got the meat and poultry inspection bill through in the late 60’s in Congress, there’s a lot of filth involved. There’s a lot of sanitation problems, all the way from the feed lots to the supermarkets. Try to give some light on this question. What kind of reactions did you get from the farmers? I mean, you have to feel sorry for the farmers. Dairy farmers are some of the hardest working people in the world, and they don’t make all that much money. And they are threatened with loss of their business. They already have problems in terms of competing with the big guys. What kind of reaction did this book get in farm country generally, Denis Hayes?

DENIS HAYES: Well, there certainly are some folks who have been hyper critical of it, who are - if you will - the Cliven Bundy school of animal agriculture. But what we did in the book, among other things, is profile a great many dairy farmers and cattle ranchers who are doing it right. And you’re right, it’s an awful lot of hard work. But if you do it right, you can make a good, solid middle class, upper middle class living in country where it’s really very good to raise children. People are healthy and robust. And we just got person after person after person that are exemplars of almost the American dream who are making a decent living there. The interesting thing is that the grass finished beef and the organic milk costs a bit more, but they’re worth a lot more. And so if we’re going to be, and one of the questions that comes up is well, this is all fine for the elitists, but what are you going to do about the average Joe? It turns out that if some percentage of your budget is going to be going for protein in your meals, we’re eating way too much of that right now. So if you cut your consumption in half or more, and you’re paying ten percent more for the amount that you have and it’s healthier for you and for your kids, then you’re spending less money on this than you were before and you’re healthier as a consequence. On the question of farmers, we do want to say that there are a great many of them that have become actually fairly close friends of ours, and who are doing everything right. One of the interesting little things on this is that we’ve, it’s almost ironic, you know, when you get to those big feedlots, the cows have tags on their ears with barcodes on them that they literally are processed like something that’s going through an industrial facility. The farmers that were doing it right, almost without exception, gave their cows names. And that seems to have done something really important in a nudging way that changes the relationship and has them treated better and producing better products.

RALPH NADER: And what about the growing taste for bison meat and expanding bison herds? Do you think they have the same damage as cows? They have less fat, I understand.

DENIS HAYES: Bison are absolutely fabulous animals, and we are enormous fans. I will confess a few times a year we do get some bison, and it’s a wonderful meat. It has great texture, very unique kinds of flavors. These are animals that lead pretty wild lives. You do not - bison hanging around in confined animal feedlot operations. There is, even with bison, and tend not to lace them with antibiotics, they are wild critters, incredibly strong and they’ve survived for a very long time with no human intervention in the ecological cycle. Whereas, if you were to take a typical dairy cow out to the farm gate, pat her on the haunches and say, “OK Elsie, you’re on your own,” she’s got a life expectancy measurable in hours. They can’t survive.

RALPH NADER: That’s true. But as you know, Ted Turner has “bison only” restaurants around the country. And the herds - which came close to extinction because of the late 19th century slaughter of the bison by the white man - they were down to about 200 animals at one time. And now they’re in the tens of thousands, are they not?

DENIS HAYES: They are, though a lot of those tens of thousands are hybrids of bison and cows, the so-called beefalo. But Ted has a lot of pure bison in his, a little tiny thing. He’s one of my heroes and I don’t want to say something that’s critical, but in our somewhat maybe purist view, we’d love to have bison as well across the board, and the stuff that we buy is grass finished. There’s a tendency on the part of Americans to want to have a uniform taste where you know what it is that you’re going to be getting. It’s the ultimate beef meal is Black Angus that has been fed for the last couple of years on corn. And you know exactly what that taste is going to be. Whereas with wild buffalo, it’s a little bit like hundreds of different varieties of wine with different soils and different waters and different climates. The taste is different and unique. With bison, the best of them are the ones that are grass finished there as well, as opposed to those that have, some of them are uniform taste because the last several months of their lives they’re fed a corn diet.

RALPH NADER: Denis, before we conclude, give a projection in the future. Where do you think we’re going to be in about 20, 30, 40 years in terms of the consumption of beef? And to what extent is the vegetarian movement making headway by saying you can get very good protein by eating vegetables? You don’t have to eat meat to get protein.

DENIS HAYES: Yeah well, none of us have got really terrific records of projecting 30, 40 years into the future. But if you look at current trend lines, vegetarianism is picking up more and more adherence. There’s stuff going on in laboratories that I find frankly a little bit unsettling, but it’s got a lot of money behind it to grow animal protein in laboratories where you’re culturing it as blocks and you’re feeding nutrients into it, but there are no cows, there’s nothing alive that has consciousness, so there is no animal cruelty. And for some people, that gets you past the moral dimensions of it. Whether that will actually catch on or not is pretty hard to determine, but there’s a lot of academic interest and money floating in that direction. My hunch is that genuine beef consumption from cattle that are out on the range will probably endure, maybe in perpetuity, but certainly for a very long time. It really is deeply embedded in American culture. But if we could do it the way that they did it in the 1940’s, it would be infinitely healthier for people, better for the environment, and vastly better for cows than with the vast agro-industrial complexes that are now treating it like industrial cogs.
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Re: Ralph Nader Radio Hour

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Part 2 of 2

RALPH NADER: How’s it going around the world? I mean, are we seeing a trend in reverse, higher beef consumption in China, for example? What’s going on in South American and India, briefly?

DENIS HAYES: Well, the quick version is that it seems - India being an exception because of the role of cows in the Hindu religion - but in much of the world, as you become wealthier, people will eat more beef. You saw that in particularly stark form as Japan got itself turned into a modern industrial state, and beef consumption just absolutely skyrocketed. And then it gets to the point where the elite begin to understand that this is really not good for them or for the environment, or for their kids, and they start weaning themselves off of it. And there tends to be this sociological pattern that people who are the trendsetters - the celebrities, the wealthy, the what have you - do something and then it becomes inexpensive enough that everybody can do it, and then they move on to something else. And that’s sort of OK, because often initially the Tesla automobiles are so expensive that only the wealthy can have them, and it’s the fourth generation that the rest of us can afford. That’s happening, I think, with regard to beef around the world. And so as countries become somewhat more wealthy, they eat more beef. As they become wealthier still, then they begin to eat less of it.

RALPH NADER: But haven’t there been epidemiological studies showing, for example, as people in Hong Kong and mainland China increase their beef consumption, their cardiovascular diseases started increasing as well?

DENIS HAYES: Absolutely. In fact, China is such a huge part of the enchilada here with regard to almost everything. There was this thing way back in 1970, where we started this interview, Ralph, where there were folks who were saying, “Yeah, there’s no population problem in China. There’s a population problem in the United States, because the Chinese just don’t consume much of anything.” To which I always used to respond, “Well, that’s fine if Chinese peasants are going to be happy to be Chinese peasants for the next ten thousand years.” But can’t we have higher aspirations for them? And man, that has been delivered with a vengeance. And the economic growth there has just been stunning. And along with it, the consumption of just damn near everything on the planet - from endangered species to beef - has been dramatically affected as a consequence. And the health of the Chinese, for all sorts of reasons, I mean air pollution, water pollution, all kinds of toxics that they’re being exposed to in their products, and beef consumption has been making them a much less healthy people than they were when they were agricultural.

RALPH NADER: Well, all I say, Denis, is viva vegetarianism. I don’t think there’s any meal that’s more delicious than a vegetarian meal using all kinds of ingredients.

DENIS HAYES: You’re right. It’s delicious food, it’s healthy food, and we should be doing it.

RALPH NADER: Listen, tell people who are really intrigued by what you’ve been saying in this interview how they can reach you. Is there a movement? Is there a website? And anything you can tell them that would get them engaged. We’re talking with Denis Hayes, who is the CEO of the Bullitt Foundation in Seattle, Washington, a foundation heavily into environmental activities. Go ahead, Denis, tell people how they can connect.

DENIS HAYES: For me, it’s been through the website at bullitt.org. It’s not like the National Rifle Association’s bullet, it’s like the old Steve McQueen movie “Bullitt.” And for activism in this, being involved with the Environmental Working Group, which has been just a fabulous advocacy organization working on these issues on Capitol Hill, and the various kinds of public health organizations across the country all have things that are related to this, as well. And I would be killed by my wife and coauthor if I didn’t put in a plug for - buy Cowed - which really does have a wealth of information on one: what is going on, and two: what you can do about it. But the most important things, frankly, is we’ve just been butting our heads against agribusiness on the farm bill now for decades and decades. There are ways that they can stop us until we get campaign finance reform and a few other changes in the system. But there’s nothing that they can do to force you to eat the stuff you don’t want to eat. So make a decision, the informed decision to eat intelligently. For a great many of us, that’s going to be vegetarian, but if you’re going to eat beef, then eat the right stuff and don’t eat very much of it. You know, it’s interesting, Thomas Jefferson was mostly a vegetarian, but he felt that there was a role for animal protein in his diet. But he used it as a garnish, just a little, almost like bacon crumbles, he would use a little bit of beef crumbles over the top of his meals. That’s probably the right kind of ratio to be healthy.

RALPH NADER: On that historic note, thank you very much Denis Hayes. And we hope that our listeners will connect and informally connect by changing their diet or improving their diet or moderating their diet when it comes to beef and pork products. Thank you very much, Denis.

DENIS HAYES: It was a pleasure, Ralph. Take care.

STEVE SKROVAN: We’ve been speaking with renowned environmentalist, Denis Hayes. His book, written with Gail Boyer Hayes, is Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s
Health, Economy, Politics and Culture. We will link to it at the Ralph Nader Radio Hour website. Ralph, now before we go to Russell Mohkiber, I understand you wanted to turn the tables on your friend David here.

RALPH NADER: I want to ask an obvious question. It’s almost never asked, although it’s preceded by a lot of obvious questions. So let’s go, David. David?


RALPH NADER: Do you like music?


RALPH NADER: What kind of music do you like, David?

DAVID FELDMAN: Jazz, old jazz.

RALPH NADER: Any other kind?

DAVID FELDMAN: Uh, I like big band, swing, 30’s, mostly the 20’s, the 30’s and the 40’s.

RALPH NADER: Calypso, possibly?


RALPH NADER: Do you play any musical instruments, David?


RALPH NADER: When did you learn how to play the piano?

DAVID FELDMAN: From the time I was six until I took til I was 18. I’m horrible.

RALPH NADER: It’s permissible to conclude on this note that you know a lot about music compared to the average Joe who never hit a piano key, correct?

DAVID FELDMAN: I would say I’m tone deaf. No, I was forced to study the piano. But I do understand, I can sight read music.

RALPH NADER: OK. Here’s the obvious unasked question. Are you ready, David?


RALPH NADER: Why do you like music?

DAVID FELDMAN: It feels good.

RALPH NADER: What does that mean?

DAVID FELDMAN: It makes me happy. There’s a purity to it. I don’t understand math but there’s something about it that makes me, the sound, it’s like tapped into the universe.

RALPH NADER: Martial music makes you happy? Military music?

DAVID FELDMAN: [laughs] John Phillip Sousa’s early works, yes. I thought he got a little too commercial near the end. Martial music, no.

RALPH NADER: How about sad, morose, fado music from Portugal. Does that make you happy?

DAVID FELDMAN: I don’t know if I’ve heard, what’s it called?


DAVID FELDMAN: I’ve never heard of fado.

RALPH NADER: Well, there are sad musical pieces, aren’t there?


RALPH NADER: So you can’t say that music makes you happy always. There’s a lot of sad music. There’s music that brings back bad memories. So let me ask you again. Exactly what effect does this have on your behavior and quality of life? You’re too general when you say music makes me happy.

DAVID FELDMAN: Interesting, yes. Sometimes music makes me sad. Sometimes music makes me uncomfortable. Sometimes it makes me cry. Yes.

RALPH NADER: And you know, it’s often said that folk music like Woody Guthrie and Joan Baez during the 60’s movement, that folk music is absolutely essential to get people to engage in social justice efforts. Do you agree with that?

DAVID FELDMAN: Yes, sometimes music makes me angry.

RALPH NADER: But then how long does that anger last? Do you ever have an experience where music actually made you go out and try to register voters, get people to demonstrate in the village square on some important issue, join an anti-war march? You think there’s really any transfer here? Or do you think it’s pretty flighty, this kind of emotion that comes from inspirational music?

DAVID FELDMAN: I do remember Bruce Springsteen on Election Day in 2004 holding a Kerry rally. I believe it was in Wisconsin and he led people to the polls after the song. So yes, it can get people to be civically minded.

RALPH NADER: Can it do the opposite, though? Can it make people feel so good, listening to “This Land is Our Land,” that they don’t actually move from feeling to break their routine and get engaged in social justice action?

DAVID FELDMAN: Yes. I remember going to see The Clash during their Sandinista tour, and they were, it was very political, it was very beautiful. I remember thinking, what am I doing here? I’m hearing about Nicaragua and jumping up and down and getting drunk, but I’m doing nothing for the Sandinistas.

RALPH NADER: Before we conclude, here’s the last obvious unasked question. Why is it, it is obvious but unasked, why do you like music? Have you ever heard anybody ask that question? They always ask, what kind of music do you like? Do you ever hear anybody ask, why do you like music at all?

DAVID FELDMAN: Well, my mind is racing now. What is the question?

RALPH NADER: The question is, why is the question “Why do you like music?” almost never asked, especially since there’s no culture in the world, according to my brief anthropological scan, that has existed without some sort of music. So it’s a universal. So why isn’t the question, instead of just asking what kind of music do you like, the question, why do you like music at all is almost never asked. Why do you think? Before we conclude.

DAVID FELDMAN: I don’t know.

RALPH NADER: On that note, “No say,” says David, “No say.” On that note, we will continue with our forthcoming series of Obvious But Never Asked Questions.

DAVID FELDMAN: Can I, I want to respond to that, because I do believe doing political satire as a comedian - it’s much harder to be a political satirist than it is to be Jackson Browne or Bruce Springsteen, because people don’t always hear the lyrics in music. So that’s why Republicans like Reagan can appropriate “Born in the USA” even though it was an attack on the USA. People thought it was a patriotic anthem. Whereas, a political satirist who uses words - it’s much harder to be political when all you do is speak. Music can obfuscate.

RALPH NADER: Unless you’re George Carlin.

DAVID FELDMAN: Well, what I’m saying is you can hide behind lyrics if you’re a musician. If you’re a politician or a writer or a comedian or a journalist, your words speak for themselves. So I think music is very dangerous. And I don’t, I haven’t read The Republic since it was first published. Wasn’t Plato suspicious, wasn’t Socrates suspicious of poetry and music for those reasons, that you weren’t civically minded, you were able to hide?

RALPH NADER: Well, they thought it was a departure from the pursuit of the rational mind, yes. They had rather deep reservations about music compared to today’s rather superficial discussion. What do you think of this, Steve?

STEVE SKROVAN: I think it’s great. I love David on the witness stand.

RALPH NADER: Next week, you’re next, Steve.

STEVE SKROVAN: OK, well, OK. Yeah, I was going to pronounce him guilty, even without anything presented along those lines, because first of all, I presume him guilty for anything, but the way you were cross examining him I thought, “He’s hiding something.”

RALPH NADER: I think it’s invigorating, don’t you?

DAVID FELDMAN: Oh, I think David or Steve on the witness stand is great.

RALPH NADER: Yeah, this is good.

STEVE SKROVAN: OK, we’re going to take a short break. And when we come back, we’re going to switch to the “cars” portion of the show. That’s after we check in with the Corporate Crime Reporter, Russell Mohkiber. Russell?

RUSSELL MOHKIBER: From the National Press Building in Washington DC, this is your Corporate Crime Reporter morning minute for Wednesday, February 24, 2016. I’m Russell Mohkiber. Theologian and author Sheila Hardy passed away Friday, February 12, 2016, in St. Augustine, Florida. Hardy worked with Ralph Nader’s Center for Study of Responsive Law in Washington DC in the 70’s and 80’s, where she authored Hucksters in the Classroom, a book that won the 1980 George Orwell Award for honesty and clarity in public language. Last year, Nader commissioned Hardy to research and write a paper titled, “The Sin of Greed: How Profit Became a Dirty Word.” “Sheila Hardy had a fiercely independent mind,” Nader said. “She grappled with the fundamental verities of humankind, and she confronted the institutional hypocrisies of our time. Her study of the various major religions of the world was driven by her belief that people should practice what they preach.” For the Corporate Crime Reporter, I’m Russell Mohkiber.

DAVID FELDMAN: Thank you, Russell. When General Motors filed for bankruptcy in 2008, there were a lot of excuses given, and a lot of fingers pointed at the usual suspects -- overwhelming healthcare costs, unreasonable union demands, too much government regulation and poorly designed cars. That was the conventional wisdom. Nicolas Kachman was an executive at GM from 1957 to 1993. He was an insider, a corporate environmental engineer, and he points to an entirely different reason for that 2008 bankruptcy that led to an enormous taxpayer bailout. He focuses on a long term strategic decision by corporate management that turned into a financial debacle that still burdens the company today. That decision was called “The Paint Plan.” His book is entitled, Paint it Red: Inside General Motors’ Culture of Failure. And he’s here to tell us all about it. Welcome to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour, Nicholas Kachman.

NICHOLAS KACHMAN: Glad to be here.

RALPH NADER: A delight to have you on board this program, Nick, if I may call you that.


RALPH NADER: We’re dealing here with an exceptional book by an exceptional person, who’s been with General Motors for many years, had some success in curbing General Motors’ pollution working with good people at the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington DC. Tell us why you called your book, your new book called GM - Paint it Red: Inside General Motors’ Culture of Failure. Tell our listeners about why you called the book Paint it Red, and then we’ll get into the details.

NICHOLAS KACHMAN: Well, it’s about the paint system - a commitment they made, GM executives made - for the first time committing to meet a law and not resist it. Every other environmental law, pollution, safety, emissions, water, all of them, we fought every one of them, protested them, and then finally when the law was passed had to struggle through the mud and commit to them. But this one law came up to reduce the emissions from paint shops. And an executive, Godfrey, decided if he could get enough money, he’d change all the paint systems to the latest technology that he didn’t know anything about. And he would ask the EPA - instead of meeting the law that said within five years you can put on basic controls, RAC, Reasonable Available Controls, which the law required, which are supposed to be reasonable, cost effective but instead of doing that – “If you give GM ten years, they’ll do the very best. They’ll reach for LER, the Lowest Emission Rate systems. And they’ll do it with all their plants. And what they’ll do to force the other companies” - and that was really the scheme: to force Ford and Chrysler to spend the money - “We’ll call it RAC. We won’t call it the Best Available Technology. We’ll call it the Reasonable Control Technology, because we’re going to put it in all the plants. We’re going to do this in ten years, but we won’t decide the paint, because the technology has to be developed in three years.” So it means in seven years you’re going to change 37 plants - when the most you ever did is one or two plants a year - without any consideration of the economic situation, without any consideration the plant is scheduled on a basis of its air quality. So all the plants on the East Coast, in Massachusetts, New York, most blue areas would go first, with no regard to sales. Maybe it’s the one plant that’s making money, and the plant that’s making the least amount of money is the last on the list. And why they did this is - it’s almost ridiculous - it’s something that should be studied. How could management allow that to happen? It should be used by business schools, because as this program took over and got in place, they’re spending billions. They had no war room. They had no - this chart on the wall with the 37 plants saying how it’s progressing. The other thing they did: they didn’t put in a plant or two and then stop and evaluate whether it’s, what they’re doing is right or wrong. The plants are so overbuilt, they had hundreds of computer stations that were never used. They had automatic robots delivering material to the stations that didn’t work. Instead of doing their real engineering approach, they forgot that and went with this commitment. What’s really sad, after it became known, they still didn’t go back at the people and ask them, “How did we get in this program?”- penalize the people. In fact, they promoted them. It’s a study of bad management.

RALPH NADER: Yes. Speaking of that, on the back of the book, your publisher - Mariner Publisher of Buena Vista, Virginia, to those of you who want to get a copy of the book - they say, quote,
“In a devastating indictment of the GM management system, this insider expose outlines the hundred billion dollar fear-driven top down boondoggle that didn’t make the news anywhere. And it was called “The Paint Plan.” Now, for people who are wondering what we’re talking about, over the years I would get complaints from workers about health and safety in GM plants. And some of the worst complaints were the workers who worked in the paint room. We’re talking about painting your cars, folks. You want to describe what life was like breathing and being exposed in the paint area?

NICHOLAS KACHMAN: Bob Phillips and I went to the truck plant in Flint and ran the first test on a booth on emissions from a paint shop. We got up on the roof - and it was a saw-toothed roof - and you could look through the windows and see the painters down below. A truck came in, and it was painted green. There’s a sprayer on each side of the truck. They sprayed each other with green. The next car came in - truck came in - was red. They’re spraying each other with red. The workers in Flint were the most marvelous workers, not complaining, worked in horrible conditions. If it wasn’t the paint, it was oil mist dust and everything else in those bad years. The working conditions were unbelievable, and yet the workers in Flint did a hell of a job. They made GM a lot of money. And I think the water problem now in Flint - to think we ignored that city and the citizens there - I feel really up in arms about how they treated the people in Flint. Anyway, the working conditions and oil mist and dirt in forge and foundries was just unbelievable. I’m an in-plant environmental engineer, more so than out-plant. I think there’s more harm occurring in the plants than there are outside.

RALPH NADER: Again, and to capital the genius of this book, listeners, on the back of the book there’s a comment by John Calgani, Director of Air Quality Management at EPA between 1987 and 1993. Listen to what he says. Quote, “The GM paint program is a gripping case study of how GM’s corporate dysfunction affected people at all levels of the company and beyond. Nick Kachman always addressed GM’s environmental problems in a forthright, honest and informed manner. So it is no surprise that GM: Paint it Red pulls no punches and tells the story the way it happened. After reading “GM: Paint it Red” you do not wonder how GM went bankrupt, but why it took it so long.” End quote. The part of your book that I think is so unique, it’s not only a ground level description of what went on, but you take the responsibility right up to the top, and you say in your Chapter 4: GM Leadership Woes: “Although it was evident at all levels, the problem of pride had its origins in the attitude of the Board of Directors and chief executives. A sense of greatness, quote, ‘We are the very best,’ end quote, ‘Who can tell us how to run the business?’ end quote, reinforced the culture of superiority within management. It engendered the notion that any smaller company cannot possibly give good advice. In different decades, both John DeLorean and Jack Welch – Jack Welch was the CEO of General Electric – spoke out on how this feeling of superiority by GM caused its leadership not to take any outside advice. I could attest to that, huh Nick? Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, was quoted as saying in a 2009 Detroit radio address that, quote, “GM’s problem is that they won’t listen to advice by those outside the corporation.” End quote. Give us your thoughts on today’s GM leadership, headed by the first woman to head GM, Mary Barra. Do you see any change in the corporate culture? I don’t see that much change. They’re still fighting everything in Washington. They’re still not giving their own engineers and scientists enough leeway. And they’re going crazy with electronic transformation of cars into computers on wheels. Give us your contemporary view, Nick.

NICHOLAS KACHMAN: I’m not even an environmentalist, and I look at that end of it, and I’ve seen her do things that thirteen executives before her, all male, didn’t do. I knew that they were doing such terrible things. And the first thing she did on this ignition switch was fire fifteen engineers. But that doesn’t change the culture. You have to get at the lawyers that supported the management through their worst possible decisions. People getting injured, and yet they supported not putting on bags, not doing seatbelts, not doing emission controls. And I knew when she let go of the five attorneys, I knew she was really onto something. I made a prediction. I called some people at GM. There’s two other attorneys that have to go. One, the attorney that became head of energy and environment, a guy named Robertson, I think. He was the attorney, I think, associated with the Cobalt that got promoted with the approval of the head attorney, to be head of the new department that he called Sustainability. They’re now collecting garbage and collecting cardboard and saying they’re doing great things. Instead of taking care of the people in Flint, they spent $40 million in buying prairie grass instead taking care of people. Anyway, that guy should go. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s a lawyer that doesn’t know anything about the firm. The other person was the head of counsel. I had business with him, and I know he should have been there. She forced Robertson out of the corporation, and then got the head counsel out. She’s doing things that no other vice president before her had done, no other CEO has done. I think your letter to her about Flint embarrassed the hell out of her. I’ve given her the doubt that she hasn’t had time to get to it yet, but she has to change their direction. You’re right about what they’re doing with too much electronics.

RALPH NADER: Nick, explain this Flint. You know, everybody has heard about the lead contamination of drinking water in Flint, Michigan, and the thousands of children who have been damaged by that, perhaps for life. In the summer of 2014, the General Motors plant that put out engine parts discovered that the water was corroding the parts. It wasn’t the lead that was doing it. You want to explain that? And then they had a chance to alert everybody, everybody in Flint, as a good corporate citizen. Explain what they did in the plant and what they didn’t do outside the plant.

NICHOLAS KACHMAN: GM for years, before the environmental laws took over, dumped every kind of contaminant you could think in the Flint River and the Tittabawasse River, all the streams in that whole area. We had a plating plant there that we had trouble with and EPA took us on. And now the pollution’s controlled, but when they found out that the water was discolored, we had at one time the best environmental engineers in the world. I had a special group that just went to Virginia Tech and took a special course for five days to be able to test water. Where are they? They didn’t do anything. They should have. GM should have jumped in there first time they found out their own water was contaminated - and I’m sure they tested it - and then gone in to some of their families, workers’ families’ homes, and taken some samples, put a report together and used their political clout, which they had. They can use political clout to get tax breaks for their plants. They should have put pressure on the agency and the EPA to correct that problem. In the meantime, they should have provided clean water to those people. The pipes are coated - the lead pipes are coated with a coating. It looks like heck, but it’s a protective coating. You can’t get to the lead and poison the water. But what they did was not put in an additive, they put in a solution at the Flint River that actually ate away at the corrosion, the protective coating - like a rust - disappeared, got back to the lead on the pipe, and the water became contaminated. GM had coating engineers. We had environmental engineers. We controlled all those pollutions that we put in the river. We should have stepped in there with both feet. Imagine the headlines: “GM is a different company. They stepped in and they’re fighting for the citizens of their workers and their families and the community in Flint.” That’s the cradle of GM. They’re the ones that made GM. They should have gotten in there with both feet. That would have been - not national headlines - but world headlines that the company’s really stepping up.

RALPH NADER: And this is, what they did was they disconnected from the contaminated water that the rest of the people in Flint were getting

NICHOLAS KACHMAN: And went to fresh water.

RALPH NADER: Yeah, and they went for the cleaner water coming from Port Huron, and they still didn’t tell the people of Flint, even though they brought in bottled water for their workers because their workers were saying, “What’s this foul smelling, tasting water?”


RALPH NADER: And so here we are, a new CEO, a woman, she’s an engineer, unlike a lot of the prior CEOs of GM which were financial types. She understood the problem, and still, the GM culture said, “Don’t tell the people. Mum’s the word.”

NICHOLAS KACHMAN: And that’s unbelievable. I cannot give an excuse for that. But it really bothers me to think that they didn’t really fight for their people. They would have been in headlines. They would have done so much good for their good name on the financial page: “GM really cares about their community and the workers, past and present.” It was a golden opportunity. They missed it completely. And they give $50,000 for bottled water, but they spent $40 million for prairie grass to show that they’re concerned about CO2 credits. Imagine what that $40 million would have taken care of. They’d pay the whole water bill for Detroit water, the six and a half million dollars a year to keep them on clean water.

RALPH NADER: We’ve been talking with Nicholas Kachman, who has just had published his book about his experience with General Motors as an environmental engineer, and is a person who made some good progress inside GM working with EPA officials in Washington. The book is called GM - Paint It Red: Inside General Motors’ Culture of Failure. Nick, your voice has got to be heard in the coming weeks. It’s got to be written up in Automotive News. It’s got to get on NPR, PBS. It’s got to get over the mainstream press. I’m going to try everything possible to make that happen. I just want to close on a quote, again by somebody who knew what they were talking about. Her name is Brittany Asaro; she’s a PhD at UCLA in Los Angeles. Quote - about this book by the way - quote: “Honest, thought provoking, and at times very funny. GM: Paint It Red offers a story that is smart enough for readers well versed in the inner workings of the automotive industry, yet accessible to those with little to no knowledge of GM or its history. For all readers, it sheds light on how it was possible that such a colossal American corporation fell to its knees, and how it might yet pick itself up.” End quote. They can get this book either on the Internet book sellers like Barnes & Noble or at Amazon, or they can go straight to Mariner Media in Buena Vista, Virginia. The phone number is 540-264-0021, that’s 540-264-0021. The email is http://www.marinermedia.com. That’s http://www.marinermedia.com. How would they reach you, Nick?

NICHOLAS KACHMAN: I don’t use the computer much. I’m up at 86 now. My son, Robert Kachman, it’s all one word, robertkachman@yahoo.com. And I’ll answer anybody and take any messages if somebody wants to contact me.

RALPH NADER: That’s robertkachman, K-A-C-H-M-A-N, at yahoo.com.

NICHOLAS KACHMAN: Right. Spell out robertkachman all as one word, at yahoo.com.

RALPH NADER: Thank you very much, Nick Kachman. Thank you for a marvelous rendition of your experience inside GM, which is relevant today and will be relevant tomorrow and will illuminate for
our listeners what goes on in a giant corporation that’s strictly controlled top down and doesn’t listen to the people on the shop floor very often, much less from outsiders. Thank you very much, Nick. We’ll be continuing this effort to help get your voice throughout the land.

NICHOLAS KACHMAN: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

STEVE SKROVAN: We’ve been speaking with Nicholas Kachman, former GM executive and author of GM - Paint It Red: Inside General Motors’ Culture of Failure. And that’s our show. I want to thank our guests today, Denis Hayes, coauthor of Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics and Culture, and of course Nicholas Kachman, author of Paint It Red: Inside General Motors’ Culture of Failure.

DAVID FELDMAN: Join us next week on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour. Talk to you then, Ralph.

RALPH NADER: Thank you very much, Steve and David. Spread the word, listeners. Remember, when it comes to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour, we can make it happen, but only you can make it effective.
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