Ralph Nader Radio Hour

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Re: Ralph Nader Radio Hour

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RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR EPISODE 297: Boeing 787 Dreamliner: “Hundreds of Defective Parts”
November 16, 2019


Ralph hears from courageous former Boeing Quality Control Manager, John M. Barnett, who blew the whistle on shoddy production of the 787 Dreamliner, how the FAA has backed off on oversight, and how Boeing “bean counters” have put profits over safety.

John M. Barnett was a Quality Control Manager for Boeing Company for 25 years in its Seattle facility. He transferred in 2011 to manage Boeing’s new plant in South Carolina to build the 787 Dreamliner where he revealed shoddy production as reported on the front-page of the April 20, 2019, New York Times. He retired under pressure in 2017 and assumed the challenge to inform the flying public. His whistleblower complaint to OSHA is pending.

“I haven’t seen a plane out of Charleston yet that I would put my name on saying that it’s safe and air-worthy.”

-- John M. Barnett, former Quality Control Manager on the 787 Dreamliner

“In aircraft production, and working with Boeing all these years, we have a rule of thumb: that it takes eight to ten years for a defect to become an issue on an airplane. So, if you look at the eight to ten-year time frame before a defect becomes an issue and our first plane was delivered in 2012, we’re starting to get into that eight to ten-year window.”

-- John M. Barnett, former Quality Control Manager on the 787 Dreamliner

“Boeing’s number one priority should be the safety of the flying public. And the last six years that I worked with them, that is the last thing on their mind… Because it’s just about kicking airplanes out and making the cash register ring.”

-- John M. Barnett, former Quality Control Manager on the 787 Dreamliner


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

David Feldman: Excited about today's show, of course.

Steve Skrovan: And we also have the man of the hour Ralph Nader. Hello, Ralph.

Ralph Nader: Hello everybody.

Steve Skrovan: And I'm excited about today's show, too. Last week we had Dr. George Luber
on the show. He was being honored with the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage for
blowing the whistle at the Centers for Disease Control when he was ordered to tamp down his
efforts to deal with the climate crisis. Well on the show today, we're going to feature another
courageous Joe A. Callaway Award winner. His name is John M. Barnett. Regular listeners to
this show know the many different ways we have covered the Boeing MAX 8 story. We've
talked about how mergers and management decisions have turned a once great engineering
company into more of a financial company, intent on jacking up its stock price not through
innovation, but through buying back its own stock. We've talked about how the Federal Aviation
Commission dropped the ball and allowed Boeing to essentially regulate itself. And we've talked
about how the marketeers at Boeing have continually overruled the engineers.
Mr. Barnett was a quality control expert at Boeing working not on the MAX 8, but on the 787
Dreamliner at their big production facility in South Carolina. There he blew the whistle on
shoddy engineering and a corporate culture where profits trumped safety. He's got an eye-
opening story to tell and we look forward to hearing that. As always, we will take a moment after
that to find out what's happening in the other dark recesses of the corporate underworld with our
corporate crime reporter Russell Mokhiber and Ralph will also answer some listener questions.
But first, let's meet yet another courageous whistleblower, David.

David Feldman: John M. Barnett was a quality control manager at Boeing for 25 years in its
Seattle facility. He transferred in 2011 to manage Boeing's new plant in South Carolina to build
the 787 Dreamliner where he revealed shoddy production as reported on the front page of the
April 20th 2019 New York Times. He retired under pressure in 2017 and assumed the challenge to
inform the flying public. His whistleblower complaint to OSHA is now pending. Welcome to the
Ralph Nader Radio Hour, John Barnett.

John M. Barnett: Thank you, pleasure to be here.

Ralph Nader: Indeed welcome, John Barnett. Describe the plane that you have been very
concerned about, the Dreamliner and how many of them are up in the air; when was the first one

John M. Barnett: Okay, it's a 787 and the biggest concern came when they opened the
Charleston plant. That's when the issues and shoddy production work really started. And I
believe our first delivery out of there was 2012.

Ralph Nader: And why did they open a plant in North Charleston, South Carolina where there
was a dearth of skilled workers instead of expanding their facility in Seattle where, I understand
the Dreamliner is also produced, in your judgment, at a much higher standard than at South
Carolina. What brought them to South Carolina?

John M. Barnett: Well, I can tell you, Ralph, what the information they shared with us from
Boeing was as they were trying to expand the production facilities and bring other areas into the
mix, but from an internal standpoint, it was more about the union activity that was up in
Washington State and there was the battles with them and the strikes that they were causing, so
they really wanting to get to a non-unionized Right-to-Work State.

Ralph Nader: Did the Governor of South Carolina help them do that? Nikki Haley is now on
the board of the Boeing corporation for a few meetings earning as other board members are, over
$300,000 a year. What was, besides being a nonunion state, did they give them all kinds of

John M. Barnett: Yes, sir. The information we were provided inside of Boeing as employees
were that there were hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks and that type of
thing that Boeing was offered to go to South Carolina. And part of that deal was that we hired
most of the employees locally, so we were not allowed to go to areas that had high experience in
aerospace and airplane building; we had to hire the local people fresh out of college.

Ralph Nader: And I remember Boeing was saying that they were going to have training
facilities so to upgrade untrained workers to the very demanding tasks of assembling an aircraft.
This was really not a manufacturing facility as it was an assembling one; isn't that right bringing
various parts from around the country in the world?

John M. Barnett: Yes, sir, that's correct. The 787 is fabricated from various parts of the world
and they all come together in the final assembly is performed in Charleston and Everett, yes, sir.

Ralph Nader: You were a quality control inspector who received high commendations when
you worked at the Seattle plant.

John M. Barnett: Yes, sir.

Ralph Nader: You volunteered to go to South Carolina. You've once said that the quality
control inspectors at Boeing are the last check, the last safety check before the plane takes off
with passengers.

John M. Barnett: That's correct. The quality control or quality personnel are the last line of
defense. That's correct.

Ralph Nader: Given the importance of this skill, why is it that Boeing is laying off literally
hundreds of quality control people in both their Seattle plant and South Carolina? What's their
reason for that?

John M. Barnett: Well, so they've been preaching for years that quality is non-value added,
doesn't bring any value to the product, so they’ve been trying real hard to eliminate quality. And
in the process of eliminating quality, what they're doing internally is they're telling inspectors not
to document defects, they're telling quality folks to do a visual buy off and not document things
and just way outside the realms of how they should be building airplanes.

Ralph Nader: John, when you use the word quality, I think it's almost a term of art; you don't
mean metallurgical quality or something; you're talking about quality control inspectors, aren’t

John M. Barnett: Yes, sir, that's correct. Yeah, so within Boeing, you have what you call the
quality department and you have manufacturing. And within the quality department, that's where
your inspectors are, your quality managers, your quality assurance investigators, anything having
to do with quality of the product, is under the quality organization.

Ralph Nader: So why they want to eliminate that critical role? Because they know if a plane
goes down because of Boeing's neglect or negligence, it can be all hell for Boeing to pay. Look
what happened after the two MAX crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia and on other crashes in the
past. I mean, how can they dare take a risk like that? Who's going to replace several hundred
Boeing quality control inspectors in Seattle and in South Carolina?

John M. Barnett: So what their plan is--what they call MFPP--it's a multifunction process or
production process. And basically what it allows it to do is the mechanic to buy off his buddies'
work; so mechanics are buying off each other's work saying that it's good to go.

Ralph Nader: We're talking with John Barnett, former quality control inspector for the Boeing
corporation on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. John, aren't they also arguing that automation is
better, more reliable than human quality control inspectors? I heard that reported in the press.

John M. Barnett: Yes, that is correct. However, there's very limited on what can actually be
implemented within the aircraft program. We've had several what I'd call false starts with the
technology where they're promising that it's bigger, better and badder than any inspector when
they go to implement it and it isn’t. So there's a lot of trial and error and there's a lot of
discussion before they've actually implemented things and proven them out.

Ralph Nader: Well your experience, which we'll get to in a moment, the shoddy situation going
on in the North Charleston plant in South Carolina, was so detailed that you were the main
source for the New York Times Sunday page 1 expose of what was going on down there with the
Dreamliner and the sloppiness, carelessness in the Charleston, North Carolina plant. So would
you run us through how it all started? I mean you were one of numerous quality control
inspectors and some of them have followed your courage after you took the first step. But what is
it about the other quality control inspectors, when they see the same things you see, but they
don't protest; they don't write it up?

John M. Barnett: Well and that goes back to the inexperience of the workforce, the people
that's been hired in Charleston are brand new to Boeing, so they're basically doing what they're
told. They're not experienced and knowledgeable enough to know when to push back when it's
not right. They're just doing what's told and following direction. And the management there is
just laying pressure on them big time to get the planes out the door regardless of the condition
just to get them delivered and make the cash register ring.

Ralph Nader: What fascinated me when I read the New York Times article is the sloppiness on
a plane that sells for how much? How much is one Dreamliner sell for?

John M. Barnett: Well they're advertised, they’re listed for 150 million; and they actually sell
for about 150 million.

Ralph Nader: 150 million?

John M. Barnett: Yes, sir.

Ralph Nader: And they're leaving all kinds of junk on the plane after they’ve finished
assembling it. Why don’t you describe how you started seeing things you couldn't believe
compared to the higher standards you left in the Seattle Dreamliner plant?

John M. Barnett: Oh, absolutely, yes.

Ralph Nader: Why don’t you give us that narrative?

John M. Barnett: Okay, so just a real quick background, it's been 25 years in Everett,
Washington building/working on 747, 777, 787 when it first started up there. And the culture in
Everett and actually Washington State, you know, you got to think back, there are several
generations of employees that have been building airplanes, so you have the generational
knowledge transfer of how to build airplanes. And the culture up there and the general
population understands the criticality of following processes and procedures and making sure the
airplane is built correctly whereas you do not have that in Charleston. They don’t understand the
ramifications of what a defect can cause, because they don't have that experience. And what we
found in Charleston or what I've noticed in Charleston is there's a lot more pressure on
mechanics to just buy off their jobs and get them sold. I mean they're measured almost by the
hour and are measured by how many, like we call them "beans" you know, a job when they go to
complete the job and get them inspected by an inspector and bought off. We call it a bean. So
they're all about "bean counts" you know, how many jobs they can get done in a day not
necessarily if it's done correctly. And the pressure from management is just get the airplanes out.
And another part of the Charleston culture that I've noticed is that the leadership here seems to be
more interested in self promotions instead of making sure the product is built correctly, if that
makes sense. So it's more focused on themselves, on how a decision might affect their career,
versus how it's going to affect the airplane, you know what I'm saying?

Ralph Nader: Right, but what did you start to discover?

John M. Barnett: So I think they're really making some poor decisions. And when I first
moved down to Charleston, I was the first quality manager hired to set up Charleston plant and
we had developed training plans from the quality perspective of how to look up procedures, how
to follow drawings, you know--how to do your job. And we were pretty much shut down. None
of the mechanics went through our training. Very few of our inspectors had to go through it.
Manufacturing had set up a training program for their mechanics and it was mandatory for our
inspectors to go through their training, so I sent my inspectors to it and they came back and said
the only thing they're teaching them is how to roller stamp paperwork. They're not teaching them
how to build an airplane. They're not teaching them how to follow processes, just how to roll out
jobs. So that's kind of where it started was right when Charleston first opened up. And just over
the years, it just got worse and worse as far as bypassing procedures, not documenting defects,
not maintaining configuration control of the airplane. And towards the end of my time at Boeing,
the issues that I discovered was we had hundreds of defective parts and what a defective part is is
something that does not meet engineering or quality requirements and should not be used on an
airplane. So we had hundreds upon hundreds of missing nonconforming parts that they didn't
know where they went. So I wanted to make sure that we tracked these parts down, traced them
down [to] figure out where they went; if they'd been installed on airplanes, we needed to get
them corrected. My management shut me down. They basically what we call "pencil-whip" so
when you have a job that you have to perform at Boeing, it's a work order and it's got steps and
each step has the specific instruction of what you need to do or how you need to install a part in
the airplane. Well rather than mechanics actually installing the parts and inspectors verifying it,
they just sit at their desks and roller stamp things. And we find parts all over the place that the
paperwork says it's been installed, but parts are sitting over on a shelf.

Ralph Nader: Good heavens, I could see passengers listening to this and saying, yuck, what is
going on here? This is $150 billion plane and they're engaged in sloppy pencil-whipping as you
say. We're talking with John M. Barnett who is described by the Callaway Award for Civic
Courage as "A defiant trustee for airline passenger and crew safety as veteran quality control
manager for the Boeing corporation on the Boeing 747-767-777, and 787 programs." And you
have been quoted as saying "I haven't seen a plane out of Charleston yet that I’d put my name on
saying it's safe and air worthy." Well, have any of these planes crashed due to the sloppiness and
the misplaced parts at the Charleston plant?

John M. Barnett: No sir, they have not as of yet, but let me throw in a caveat that in
production, in aircraft production and working with Boeing all these years; we have a rule of
thumb--that it takes eight to 10 years for a defect to become an issue on an airplane. So, you
know, if you look at the eight- to 10-year timeframe before a defect becomes an issue and our
first plane which was delivered in 2012, you know, we're starting to get into that eight- to 10-
year window. So you're correct, we have not lost any 787s to date and thank God and I hope that
continues; I'm just really concerned that the way they were produced and delivered that is not
going to be the case in the future.

Ralph Nader: Well when Boeing's managers and higher ups saw your write-ups, your
documented write-ups on misplaced parts, missing parts, parts in the wrong place, shavings here
and there, did they move to correct it? And what are they doing if these planes are already up in
the air? Are they thinking about sending bulletins to the airlines? Apart from what they did to
you, which we'll get to, what are they doing for that? I mean who's in charge here? Doesn't all
this come down from top management?

John M. Barnett: Yes sir, it does. It comes from top down. But in Charleston, you're right, you
know that it's more about profits over safety and quality. And like I say they're really putting the
pressure on the mechanics just to close things down and quality, not document defects, and it's an
ongoing thing, and you hear about the titanium slivers that's all in the flight control wires and the
electronic equipment and that type of thing, you know, that's a major issue. And when I brought
it up, I insisted that the airplanes be cleaned and I told my boss right out I refuse to buy off on
this airplane as is. I was transferred to a different location. He brought in another way less in
experience quality manager than myself and leadership there decided that they weren't going to
take the time to clean the airplanes; they're going to deliver them! And they delivered. I filed my
complaint in January of 2017 with the FAA. And since then the FAA has gone in and did a spot
check. And they inspected ten airplanes in Charleston and they found these metal shavings on all
ten airplanes both locations. And what they did was they issued a DAI, a designated airways
inspection requirement to Boeing and what that DAI does is within the internal workings of
Boeing, it tells them that they have to clean these planes before they can deliver them. But where
they came up short, and I don't know if you caught it on the response that they did to the New
York Times story, that the FAA came back and said Boeing decided that those slivers weren’t a
safety flight issue. And I don't understand how electronic equipment full of slivers, metal
titanium slivers, all over the flight control wires, the electronic equipment, the power panels that
actually run the full-powered airplane; I don't see how that cannot be a safety flight issue with
metal shavings in there.

Ralph Nader: Well, tell us how many of these Dreamliners are up and what routes do they
usually fly?

John M. Barnett: So I'm not sure what the count is up to now. I know when I left, we were up
over 800 airplanes that had already been delivered. And they typically fly overseas, so they fly
over the oceans and the long routes to other countries.

Ralph Nader: And how many pilots?

John M. Barnett: Two, I believe. I believe it takes two to fly the 787.

Ralph Nader: And were there any counterfeit parts, which are not Boeing's fault, they don't
counterfeit parts, but there are reports over the years of counterfeit parts, for example, coming
from East Asia, very, very facsimile similar. Were there any counterfeit parts that you

John M. Barnett: So actually, I was part of that back before when all this came up. I was
actually working on receiving inspection at the time when all the counterfeit parts issue came up.
And we put very specific safety catches in place to make sure that incoming parts were not
counterfeit. Again in Charleston, they’ve eliminated those. So we don't know for sure if there's
counterfeit parts coming or not to be honest with you. They bypassed those safety or those
quality check points.

Ralph Nader: Why weren't there FAA inspectors at the scene? This plant has 7,000 employees
in North Charleston, South Carolina? Why was it just left up to you and others to make these
discoveries? I think people think the FAA is the watchdog here.

John M. Barnett: Well, and that's another issue that really needs to be addressed, Ralph,
because like I say, I've been working for Boeing for 32 years. And over the years, I've seen the
FAA backing off on their oversight and they’ve become more of a partnership than an oversight.
And the FAA representatives there at Charleston, I actually worked real close with them; they
were afraid of Boeing to find too many issues because they would be transferred or kicked out of
the Charleston plant. So there was a very intimidation factor from Boeing to the FAA
representatives at Charleston. They were afraid to make too many waves.

Ralph Nader: Like federal poultry and meat inspectors, that's the same problem they've had
when they tried to be conscientious and do their job for the consumer. I want to ask you, when
these charges come out from you and after you set the standard of speaking out, I understand that
there were other whistleblowing safety complaints filed with federal regulators by Boeing
workers, does Boeing ever feel obliged to respond to these publicly?

John M. Barnett: So Ralph, their response is spun, you know; I mean they have what they call
spin doctors. They'll spin it to; we call it the Boeing switch. So if an employee raises a concern
saying as an example, if I raised a concern saying that people aren't buying off their job or are
not documenting defects, well then Boeing turns it around and accuses me of not documenting
defects. So the person that's complaining, they turn it around and point at them and say they're
the ones doing it wrong. So that's a big problem. So no, they're not willing to have a face-to-face
discussion and discuss it. It's just try to cover up, make it go away, and make the whistleblowers
look bad.

Ralph Nader: John, do you ever find engineering professors who don't have to worry about
Boeing paying them a salary supporting you? Do you ever find anybody outside Boeing in the
engineering and inspection profession taking the stand on your behalf?

John M. Barnett: Not personally other than my legal counsel, which is excellent, but not really.
I know that after the New York Times came out, I think it was CNN had some specialist on there
and they supported what I was saying that, you know, the metal slivers could be catastrophic and
we haven't gotten into the oxygen systems where the emergency oxygen for passengers on a
decompression event, I discovered that 25% of them do not work on the 787s.

Ralph Nader: Why don’t you repeat that because people are told all the time when the oxygen
drops, you know, put in on, every time you take a flight.

John M. Barnett: Put it on, right? And pull the cord.

Ralph Nader: So what you're saying is a quarter of them didn't work?

John M. Barnett: That's correct, yes, sir. A team and myself put together a control sample of
over 300 of them and out of those, 75 of them did not operate as required. They did not release
the oxygen. I elevated this to my management. Again I was removed from the investigation.
They turned it over to . . . I think it was a two-year employee within Boeing and they didn't do
anything with it.

Ralph Nader: What did they do with the 800 Dreamliners that have these oxygen units?

John M. Barnett: They have done nothing to correct it; they've done nothing to identify root
cause. They have done nothing to correct the issue, Ralph.

Ralph Nader: And no airworthiness directive from the FAA and no Boeing warning bulletin to
their customers, the airlines?

John M. Barnett: That's correct, yes.

Ralph Nader: Now tell us if you think there's an increasing danger in air safety from over
automation--from automating your type of job all the way to the kind of automation that
increased the likelihood that those Boeing MAXs would crash the so-called "software fix" that
took control of the plane away from the pilots. Some specialist I talked to called it the "silent
hijacker" and pushed the planes down with 340 human beings into the Java Sea and Ethiopian
farm area. Give us your take on this drive for automation which is, of course, to cut costs and
increase Boeing's bottom line even though, and this was not brought out by the congressional
hearing, John, Boeing has spent over 40 billion with a B dollars on stock buybacks to raise its
stock to increase the stock options of the compensation of Boeing's bosses. And as people are
getting to know, stock buybacks don't create a single job; they don't build a single product.
They're just there to increase the metrics for executive compensation. So here's Boeing cutting
corners that affect the lives of people in the future in these planes and they are, in effect, burning
tens of billions of dollars of stock buybacks.

John M. Barnett: Yes, sir, that's inconceivable to me. I just . . . I can't wrap my head around it
because Boeing's number one priority should be the safety of the flying public. And the last six
years that I worked with them, that is the last thing on their mind is the safety of flying public,
because it's just about checking airplanes out and make the cash register ring.

Ralph Nader: Well, they claimed they've had a great safety record and automation will make it
safety plus. Your response.

John M. Barnett: So going back to my comment earlier, the rule of thumb in aircraft
production is it takes 8 to 10 years for a defect to manifest into an issue. So if you look at the last
20 years, that safety record that Boeing is touting right now is built on the past quality of 747s,
767s, 777s. So the 787 has not been in service long enough to meet the quality level or to prove
that they're at the quality level that the other programs are at, so that's what Boeing is saying that
they're at the highest quality level or they’ve had an excellent safety record. But again, we're just
now getting into that 8-10-year window, so.

Ralph Nader: You're pointing out something that needs elaboration. A lot of people have said
that after the McDonnell-Douglas merger with Boeing where the McDonnell-Douglas culture
took over Boeing, Boeing moved from a prime engineering, high-reputation firm to a financial
get-the- stock-up, stock-option-bonus firm and degraded its engineering priorities. In fact
someone said about the MAX that the Boeing marketeers overruled the Boeing engineers. In
your career, did you see that change firsthand?

John M. Barnett: Yes, sir, I did, unfortunately. It was probably about six months or nine
months after the merger between Boeing and McDonnell-Douglas and we . . . within Boeing on a
production floor had a little . . . and I guess you'd call a little funnier, a little joke to say, you
know, Boeing didn't buy McDonnell-Douglas. McDonnell-Douglas bought Boeing with its own
money. And what I saw was when the merger happened, they brought in the McDonnell-Douglas
leadership to take over the Boeing company and it was like a light switch. It went from quality to
all about shareholder value. It was just amazing. Looking back, it just is so clear that the
direction of the company made a 180 turn at that point in time.

Ralph Nader: Well, how, as we conclude, and I want to get Steve and David in on this, but how
are you holding up professionally and personally? I mean they forced you into retirement.

John M. Barnett: Yes sir, they did. I'm not going to lie; it's been rough on me. It's been rough
on my family. I'm still dealing with issues. I'm still having anxiety attacks, PTSD, but it's been
very rough. It's taken a serious mental and emotional toll on me. But, you know, I want to try
very hard to keep the focus on the safety of the airplane. I mean that's what my story is about is
telling my story enough to where the right people get involved to make sure that these airplanes
are made correctly. Because the 787 carries 288 passengers plus crew. So the last thing I want to
do is wake up in the morning and see a 787 that's going down because titanium slivers caught
fire at 40,000 feet or a defective part broke loose because it wasn’t built correctly or they had a
decompression event and people weren't able to get emergency oxygen. I mean it's just, it keeps
me up at night, Ralph. I just, I can't sleep. It's taken a heck of a toll on me.

Ralph Nader: And for this level of professional concern, you got Boeing is trying to break you,
discredit you, defame you, and probably blackball you from any future employment
opportunities should you seek them.

John M. Barnett: Yes sir, actually that's already happened. I've been blocked; I was
blacklisted; I was blocked from two different positions that I'm aware of that I can prove. There
was probably others that I can't prove. And that's another thing, you know, when you're dealing
with Boeing, you have to have it in documentation because otherwise it's your word against
theirs and they're going to win every time. But I was able to keep my documentation.

Ralph Nader: You know I noticed that at the congressional hearings in the past few days, the
Boeing CEO Muilenburg was very contrite and humble and he paid compassionate attention to
the families holding up the pictures of their deceased relatives, but he knew and the Boeing
lobbyists behind him and the chairs knew that they own the Congress. They give money to over
300 members of Congress. They're saying to Congress, where else is anybody going to go? You
know, we're Boeing and Airbus and you're not going to go after the only domestic manufacturer
of big-body passenger jets. And it's really sickening to watch because the questions coming in
are tough within a narrow framework. They don't go into the fundamental design although
Congressman Steve Cohen from Tennessee laid out how much Muilenburg was being paid. And
asked him why he didn't get a pay cut. He's been paid 30 million bucks even after the crashes and
he didn't ask for a pay cut. And he replied to Congressman Cohen, "Well, it's up to the board of
directors." Well he's the chairman of the board of directors. I calculated in the three hours I was
sitting there listening to him, he made 45,000 bucks.

John M. Barnett: Wow. Unbelievable.

Ralph Nader: So we're dealing with corporate emperors who put on a show for the members of
Congress and they're humble, and they're always address them as congressmen and
congresswomen, but they know who's in charge. And by trying to break you, they're trying to
make you an example to anyone else at the Charleston plant. Well, look what happened to John
Barnett, you better shut up. But I'll tell you, if Boeing has to experience one or two more crashes
due to Boeing faulty inspection or Boeing negligent design, it's going to break Boeing because
it's no longer just two major companies, Airbus and Boeing dominating the world. You've got
now the Chinese, Brazilian, Japanese about ready to offer competitive large-size passenger
planes, number one. And number two, you may not know this, John, but in the 1950s, the British
aerospace industry was one of the leaders in the world and they produced a plane called the
Comet Jet, and three of them crashed and that was the end of the British aerospace industry
leadership in the world. So beware, Boeing, the board of directors of Boeing and the CEO,
digging in their heels on this Dreamliner mess and the disasters with the MAX have now a career
conflict of interest with the future wellbeing of Boeing and its workers, which is why the
families have demanded that there be a mass resignation as would have happened by the way in
Japan right away.

John M. Barnett: Right, absolutely.

Ralph Nader: Yeah, they would have bowed and resigned. David, Steve, any final comments or

John M. Barnett: If I could just touch on one thing . . .

Ralph Nader: Go ahead.

John M. Barnett: . . . you talked about the congressional hearing and unfortunately I'm in the
process of moving and I was able to get bits and pieces of it. And I guess my point is, you know,
I'd love to sit down with the CEO and the decision makers of Boeing and let them take my
concerns seriously and let's have a one-on-one discussion. I don't have a problem talking to any
of them.

Ralph Nader: John, we're demanding at the committees that a technical specialist testify after
Boeing and not let Boeing get away with it stonewalling.

John M. Barnett: That's excellent, that's an excellent plan. Yes, sir.

Ralph Nader: And you will testify I assume.

John M. Barnett: Absolutely. But one of the things I've noticed Dennis Muilenburg keeps
saying over and over is safety and quality is top priority. Well as the quality manager, I have a
perform ...or I don't know if you're familiar with performance management reviews, but it's a
yearly review where you sit down with your boss and they review your work over the year and
they grade you on how well you did. And based on those reviews, it defines your future raises,
your bonuses, your ability to participate in special leadership programs, that type of thing.
During my performance review as a quality manager, I was penalized and basically received no
raises. And he actually put this in writing that I needed to learn to work in the gray areas of the
procedures, that I was knowledgeable almost to a fault, that I needed to stop documenting quality
issues and defects in email, you know, so I guess my question to Dennis is you're sitting up here
saying that safety and quality is top priority, but yet you have quality managers within your
organization that are being penalized for following processes. So how does that make it top

Ralph Nader: Which is exactly why you should testify before Congress.

John M. Barnett: I'm willing anytime, Ralph. I mean like I say, they've done their damage to
me. You know, I was forced to retire and I will deal with what's ahead of me, but it really needs
to be brought to light before we start losing the airplanes. And that's my top concern is the safety
of the flying public. As a quality manager, that's what I swore to protect and I'm going to do
everything I can to.

Ralph Nader: And you put your entire career on the line.

John M. Barnett: Yes, sir, I did. I was put in a position to where I had to choose between the
company I love and the job I love and my career versus the safety of the flying public. And I had
to sacrifice those to protect the flying public or at least try to.

Ralph Nader: Beautifully said. Steve and David?

David Feldman: Well, I certainly don't know how to top that. I'm kind of speechless, sir, at
your courage and completely appalled at the arrogance of Boeing. And boy, it just makes you
want to have that whole company just crash.

John M. Barnett: There's some serious reckoning that needs to happen in there, you know, as
far as following procedures and building the airplane correctly is for sure needs to . . . something
needs to change before it's too late.

Ralph Nader: You know that Boeing is in trouble with their defense contracts, with NASA
contracts. The contractors in NASA and Boeing in the Pentagon are fed up. They’ve often
suspended the contracts that berated Boeing, so Boeing has a multi-faceted management
problem, of great serious proportion.

John M. Barnett: Yes sir, you're correct. And I'm sure you all heard about the KC-46 the Air
Force refused to take because they were finding so much FOD [Foreign Object Debris] You
know, that was just recently.

Ralph Nader: That's right.

David Feldman: Where are the pilots association, the stewardesses in all this?

John M. Barnett: Well, see, that's the thing is all of this is internal to Boeing. So as an
example, the slivers that I found and the 25% failure rate of the emergency oxygen system,
Boeing does not notify the customers that that's an issue. So they keep it under wraps internal to
Boeing and try to cover it up or make it go away so the pilots, the stewardesses, customers don't
know any of that.

Ralph Nader: Well, we're out of time, John M. Barnett, and congratulations on your Joe A.
Callaway Award for Civic Courage. I'm sure you get other awards, too. We hope to see you
before Congress to react to Boeings testimony and full speed ahead for you in the coming
months and years. Thank you.

John M. Barnett: Thank you, Mr. Nader. It's a pleasure talking to you. And I look forward to
meeting you very soon.

Ralph Nader: Certainly.

Steve Skrovan: We have been speaking with John M. Barnett, whistleblower and winner of the
Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage. For more about his story, go to
Ralphnaderradiohour.com. Right now, we're going to take a short break and check in with our
relentless corporate crime reporter Russell Mokhiber. When we come back, Ralph has his own
update about Boeing and will answer more of your questions. You are listening to the Ralph
Nader Radio Hour, back after this.

Russell Mokhiber: From the National Press Building in Washington, D.C., this is your
Corporate Crime Reporter Morning Minute for Friday, November 15, 2019. I'm Russell

A Massachusetts Buffalo Wild Wings is under investigation after a chemical mixture inside the
kitchen killed one employee and left at least 10 staff members and customers hospitalized.
According to Boston’s WHDH-TV, the fire department responded to the restaurant chain, in the
town of Burlington, Massachusetts, just after 5:30 p.m. A team of firefighters wearing hazmat
suits found a male worker suffering from nausea. The fire chief said in a news conference that
the man had been exposed to the chemical, which was being used to clean the floor, after another
individual mixed it and became ill. The man was rushed to a hospital where he later died.
Authorities said that at the time he inhaled the fumes, he was trying to save others from the

For the Corporate Crime Reporter, I'm Russell Mokhiber.

Steve Skrovan: Thank you, Russell. We're going to take your listener questions, but first,
Ralph, you have some update on the Boeing MAX 8 situation. Why don't you tell our listeners
what's going on there?

Ralph Nader: Well Boeing, the FAA, and their friends in Congress are racing to unground
these 737-800 MAX by January or February. Now there aren't that many of them. They'll be in
the US about 70/80 of them immediately and you should not fly them. And when you make a
reservation, just ask the operator what's the equipment. That's the technical term. And if they say
it's the 737-800 MAX, say I'd like to fly on another airline. And the airlines are willing to go
along with this for the time being without charging you a reservation fee change like Delta does,
$200. The second point I want to make is that it's really pretty insidious what's going on. Boeing
has known from the beginning it has the country by the throat. It's the only domestic
manufacturer of all these big passenger jets. It gives money to over 300 members of Congress,
campaign cash, and it knows how to throw its influence around and to turn the FAA into putty
instead of a regulator. And so when David Calhoun, who is the Chairman of the Board of
Boeing; he's been on the board since 2009; he has a full-time job with the Blackstone Financial
giant, says on CNBC a few days ago "From the vantage point of our board, Dennis Muilenburg
has done everything right. Remember, Dennis didn't create this problem.” From the beginning,
he knew that MCAS," that's the software fix, so-called, that boomeranged and led to two
disasters, Boeing 737 MAX crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia with 346 fatalities. He says "From
the beginning, he knew that MCAS could and should have been done better and he's led a
program to rewrite MCAS to alleviate all these conditions that ultimately beset two unfortunate
crews and the families and the victims." That's completely false. Dennis Muilenburg was in on
this problem from the beginning. He represented the Boeing marketeers overruling the Boeing
engineers to get the MAX up as fast as possible to compete with Airbus's 320neo.
He's been CEO well before the Boeing MAX took off. He was in at the founding. And for his
rubber stamp, David Calhoun, the Chairman of the Board of Directors, to say he didn't create the
problem, is totally false. But you see, that's what's going on; the fix is in. The Congress is not
going to do much; they have resisted our demands that they have a panel for the consumer
groups like FlyersRights.org. You should go to it for updates and Consumer's Union and people
like myself who's written on aviation safety. They haven’t announced the hearing on that. They
haven't announced the hearing for the second round for the labor unions who have to deal with
these planes every day. They haven't announced, most crucially, a hearing for the technical
critics--the aerospace experts, the avionics, the aerodynamic experts who are beseeching to
testify and take apart Boeing's nonsense before the congressional committees. And they haven't
allowed the families who are now very, very knowledgeable about what's going on. They’ve met
with all kinds of technicians, the FAA, the National Transportation Safety Board. They haven’t
been scheduled for hearing either in the House under Congressman DeFazio from Oregon or in
the Senate, Senator Wicker from Mississippi. So folks, it's going to be a very touch-and-go
situation in the next few weeks until the early part of 2020. Weigh in on your member of
Congress. They can say slow down Boeing, don't you dare certify FAA and we'll have more time
to get this thing in better shape. FlyersRights.org is your update for any questions you may have.

David Feldman: Well I have a question, Ralph, were you at the hearing where Muilenburg
apologized to the families a few weeks ago?

Ralph Nader: Yes, I was at the hearing. Muilenburg apologized more than once. He was told
by my niece, Nadia Millerron, after the hearing that when he apologizes, he should look the
families in the eye and not do it when he's looking straight ahead at the members of the House
committee at which point he did that. He did that again, but he was raked over the coals because
he was slated for a bonus of 15 million bucks, can you imagine? And he's dropped that. He's no
longer taking that. And he's now making 23 million a year and he was taken to task by some
members of the House committee on that. But what they didn't do is break it down. At the end of
the hearing they said, Mr. Muilenburg, you have now made $75,000 since you walked in this
room at 9:30 and left at 3:30.

David Feldman: So in spite of all of that, you're feeling is that Congress will ultimately not call
them to task in a serious way?

Ralph Nader: Unless there's a new surge of air traveler demands, because they are afraid that
the air travelers will start gumming up the works by saying we're not going to fly the MAX. The
airlines will be perplexed on how to handle this. The Boeing MAX brand will be seriously
tarnished. And so what they're worried about, the air travelers and the labor unions, and above
all, the families of the bereaved who are really, really organized and are getting all kinds of
access to the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration], to the Department of Transportation to the
House to the Senate, and even spent a couple of hours with Dennis Muilenburg, the CEO of
Boeing. So if all these things come together, what will we get? We will get the publicity of the
way Boeing is supposedly going to fix this plane that they have sent in secret to the FAA. We'll
get that out in the open; we'll let the technical critics go over it, have a 60-day comment period,
and then we'll see where we're at. And at the same time, Congress should have the hearings I just
mentioned with the labor unions, the families, the consumer groups, and the aerospace experts,
some of whom work for Boeing, others are subject matter specialists and do they have a story to

David Feldman: So Ralph, in one kind of simple sentence, what is your demand? What are the
demands of the family here that they want from Boeing? Do they want it completely grounded,
build a new plane, what or some other solution?

Ralph Nader: They say the Boeing 737-800 MAX is a new plane. It should have been subject
to a full certification; that's what they're demanding. That would include analyzing the
aerodynamic instability problem as well as the faulty, complicated software fix they call the
MCAS [Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System], full certification, and if the plane is
ever slated to be ungrounded, full simulator training, as Sully, Captain Sullenberger testified for
the House in June, should be required of the pilots by the airlines, and Boeing’s full certification
[and] full simulator training, before that plane is up.

David Feldman: In your opinion, knowing a lot about avionics, do you think this plane would
pass the certification?

Ralph Nader: Well it depends on how stringent the FAA is. They can pass anything. They've
been pretty permissive with Boeing...

David Feldman: Right, because they allowed Boeing to basically certify it themselves.

Ralph Nader: That's right. And they weren’t up to date on the software fix. They weren't even
informed by Boeing that the software strength was increased fourfold. And Boeing didn't even
notify the airlines or the pilots that this stealth hijacker, this software, could take the control of
the plane away from the pilots and nosedive it into the Java Sea or into a farmer's area in
Ethiopia at 550 miles per hour, killing 346 people.

David Feldman: Now, does the FAA have the expertise and the staff to be able to do this?
Because I thought that was the excuse before and that's why they allowed Boeing to do it.

Ralph Nader: Yes, they didn't have adequate staff, but they have adequate resources to hire
consultants and people who can immediately come to grips with this even more profoundly than
what FAA staff can do.

Steve Skrovan: You would think they could have maybe an independent blue-ribbon panel like
what happened after the Challenger disaster, in the space shuttle disaster.

Ralph Nader: Well, they've had these panels, Steve, but the problem is they're all looking
backward properly as to what happened, who knew what-when, who covered up, who didn't
inform, who didn't respond. Now the panels have to address the question, should this plane ever
fly again? And if it does, under what conditions? And that looking-forward panels have not been
brought together, because they don't want to experience the conclusion of some of the findings,
which is that unless that airframe and the injured overload problem that leads to the prone-to-
stall inclination by the 737 MAX is addressed, the plane should never fly. And they're not
willing to burden Boeing with that kind of economic price. So it all comes down to Boeing cash,
Boeing profits.

David Feldman: And for the victims to be satisfied, it's going to take a movement and publicity
and flyers knowing about these problems and potentially not flying on this plane for them to get
their attention.

Ralph Nader: Yeah, and the coordinator is Flyers Rights run by Paul Hudson who lost his
daughter at 16 years old in the Lockerbie collision over Scotland 30 years ago. Go to
FlyersRights.org; he'll say exactly what he thinks you can do vis-a-vis Congress and elsewhere.
We are passing out buttons "Axe the Max" for people to wear; take a picture, put it up on the
internet. What Boeing can't control is a growing consumer boycott. Calls to airlines, even if
you're not flying, just say we don't want you to use this plane. Boeing cannot control that. They
can control the political situation in Washington. They can hammer the airlines and say you’ve
got no choice, but they can't control resistance by the bread and butter of the airlines, the air

Steve Skrovan: All right, well you heard it, listeners, Flyers Rights is your source of updates
and information and it really could be a consumer movement that decides the fate of the Boeing
MAX 8. So let's move to some listener questions now, David.

David Feldman: This is from Paul G. Warrick, Ralph. He says, "I live in a Trump-supporter
region. If you talk to one Trump supporter, you talked to them all. The problem as I see it, they
are fed daily propaganda mostly by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etcetera. I would like to know
who are the big money players supporting this subverted often toxic media? If you control the
people, you control the politicians, right? Shouldn't journalists seek out these big money players
and interview them on their positions on policies and issues? Politicians are puppets. Why waste
time on them when there are deeper sources we should focus on; make them answer for their
manipulations of our government and media out them."

Ralph Nader: All right, the big money players, first of all, are the advertisers on Fox and Rush
Limbaugh. You can just get their name by listening to their ads. They're usually the big
companies [like] General Motors and the Merck drug companies, Bank of America, you name it.
So they're the ones. Without advertising, no Fox News, no Rush Limbaugh, and no Facebook,
and no Google. Though there are consumer groups who focus on the advertisers--they threaten
boycotts, they announce boycotts, they go after the brand, and they're making some progress in
that way. You'll notice that when there is misbehavior by a certain talk show on television and
they start losing ads, that person has either lost his or her job or they tend to reconsider how far
they're going to go with their blathering.

Steve Skrovan: All right. This next question comes from a long-time listener and frequent
questioner, usually asks very good questions, Earl Ammerman IV. And he says, "Why is Joe
Biden ignoring the fact that in order to accomplish his Moonshot to Cure Cancer, there needs to
be healthcare infrastructure such as paid sick leave. In order to make the Moonshot to [Cure]
Cancer work for actual cancer patients who can't afford to miss work, because they lack paid sick
leave, and might lose their house and job if they're hospitalized. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the
Moonshot to Cure Cancer seems to be an Orwellian policy that seems to benefit drug companies
by subsidizing their research and development while cancer patients get the short end of the stick
because they won't benefit because the $100,000 chemo pills would be too expensive and cancer
is not like the common cold. You don't just kick it after a couple of days. Cancer patients miss
work to seek treatment. If they don't have paid sick leave, they won't be able to keep a roof over
their head due to how expensive cancer treatment is."

Ralph Nader: Well, a lot of what you say, Earl, is correct. If the moonshot actually produces
policies to prevent cancer, then I think part of your legitimate complaints are avoided because
people will not get cancer. They won't have to deal with unpaid sick leave, etcetera, etcetera. But
these big moonshot programs do increase the profits enormously of the companies that are in the
arena to make money from cancer treatment or all the other aspects that cancer patients need.
And that's where the profiteering comes in and you know as well as others that these companies
are going to try to get the lion's share of that taxpayer bonanza as they see it. And by the way,
we're one of the few countries in the world that call themselves democracies that don't have paid
sick leave.

Steve Skrovan: This last question is not really a question. I just wanted to share it with our
listeners and with you on the air, Ralph. It comes from a Manal Hamzeh and I don't know if
that's a he or she actually, but it says, "Dear Ralph, I wanted you to know that my father, Dr.
Zaid Hamzeh, has been listening to your radio hour podcasts lately. Today, his weekly column in
the daily Al-Rai, Amman, Jordan, starts with you and the interview you had with Steven
Greenhouse when we talked about unions.” And it says “your impact and reach are critical
locally and globally. Thank you, Manal." I just wanted to share that with you and get a reaction.

Ralph Nader: Well, Thank you very much, Manal. It's really good we've had feedback from
places all over the world and that's one of the benefits of the new technology; it can carry your
program everywhere. And I'm glad that some of the interviews we’ve had have relevance to
conditions and issues of justice in these lands around the world.

Steve Skrovan: Thank you for your questions. Keep them coming on the Ralph Nader Radio
Hour website. Now Ralph and David, before we go, I just want to take a few moments to alert
our listeners that we're going to be releasing a special Ralph Nader Radio Hour on the
impeachment of Donald J. Trump. It's going to be in the form of a series of podcasts and will
feature Ralph and our Resident Constitutional Scholar Bruce Fein. As regular listeners know,
Bruce Fein is no radical lefty. He is a Republican who has worked in the Reagan Administration
as well as for conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise
Institute. As a young lawyer, he was even in the Justice Department during the impeachment
inquiry over Richard Nixon. He also worked with the Republican Floor Manager Bob Barr, not
Bill Barr, Bob Barr, different guy. He worked with Congressman Bob Barr from Georgia on the
impeachment of Bill Clinton about 20 years ago. Bruce is a real stickler for the Constitution and
he's written extensively about that founding document and how we as a country have strayed
from many of its core articles. So this series of podcasts is an effort to take you beyond the
politics of the moment, as perilous as these times are, and offer to our listeners as well as those in
Congress, a constitutional reset of sorts. Bruce has outlined 14, that's 14 impeachable offenses
that could be leveled at this president. Most are exclusively particular to Donald Trump, but
there are others, which could be leveled at the past half dozen presidents as well. Each episode
will dive into each count in the indictment, so to speak. So look for this series of podcasts on our
website, our YouTube channel, Instagram, Twitter, and any other platform from which you
download the Ralph Nader Radio Hour. So look for our special report on the impeachment of
Donald J. Trump. I want to thank our guest again, John M. Barnett. For those of you listening on
the radio, that's our show. For you podcast listeners, stay tuned for some bonus material we call
the Wrap Up. A transcript of this show will appear on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour website soon
after the episode is posted.

David Feldman: Subscribe to us on our Ralph Nader Radio Hour YouTube channel. And for
Ralph's weekly column, it's free, go to nader.org. For more from Russell Mokhiber, go to

Steve Skrovan: And Ralph has got two new books out, the fable, How the Rats Re-Formed the
Congress. To acquire a copy of that, go to ratsreformcongress.org. and To the Ramparts: How
Bush and Obama Paved the Way for the Trump Presidency, and Why It Isn't Too Late to Reverse
Course. We will link to that also.

David Feldman: Join us next week on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour when we speak to
legendary FCC Commissioner Nicholas Johnson. Thank you, Ralph.

Ralph Nader: Thank you everybody. Stay alert.
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Re: Ralph Nader Radio Hour

Postby admin » Fri Dec 20, 2019 2:37 am

November 9, 2019

In our continuing series honoring whistleblowers, Ralph welcomes winner of the Joe A. Calloway Award for Civic Courage, Dr. George Luber, former head of the Centers for Disease Control’s Climate Health program, who despite pressure from the newly-minted Trump Administration, blew the whistle after refusing to cancel a convention on how the climate crisis was affecting public health.

George Luber is an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His research interests include the health impacts of environmental change and biodiversity loss, harmful algal blooms, and the health effects of climate change. Dr. Luber headed the CDC’s climate health program until it was eliminated in 2018 by the Trump White House. The nation’s premier health protection agency continues to retaliate against him for speaking out on the climate crisis and its public health effects. He has since filed for whistleblower status with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and has just received the Joe A. Calloway Award for Civic Courage.

“The most frightening thing, actually, is that somebody would make a decision like this in anticipating the potential blowback from the [Trump] Administration. That to me is frightening, because it’s the most insidious form of power. And when you can get people to do things for you without even asking them, that I think is the most frightening thing. To get people to act on your behalf in ways that they normally wouldn’t merely out of fear of what you might do.”

Dr. George Luber, winner of the Joe A. Calloway Award for Civic Courage

“I was escorted by armed guards when I needed to get some books out of my office [at the CDC]. I had an armed escort and they asked me to come at 11:00am – the height of the day when everybody is around intending to humiliate me – and marched me through our large ten story office building with a large armed guard behind me that even followed me to the bathroom.”

Dr. George Luber, winner of the Joe A. Calloway Award for Civic Courage


Steve Skrovan: Welcome to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour. My name is Steve Skrovan along with my co-host David Feldman. Hello there, David.

David Feldman: Hello everybody. Another important show this morning.

Steve Skrovan: Yes, indeed. And to help us through that is the man of the hour Ralph Nader. Hello there, Ralph.

Ralph Nader: Hello everybody. We're going to show what heroism is really about.

Steve Skrovan: That's correct. Today we continue our series on whistleblowing. On the show, we're going to feature a winner of the Joe A. Callaway Civic Courage Awards. Ralph, why don’t you tell us what the Joe A. Callaway Awards are and how they came about.

Ralph Nader: It's quite a story Joe A. Callaway was an empresario on Broadway and he wanted to leave some of his estate to good works. And he figured out that one would be an annual award for people demonstrating civic courage, not political, not business, not military, [but] civic courage in our country who are unsung, often shoved aside from their employment and mistreated. And so he contacted us by letter and my sister, Claire Nader, has been administering these awards for the last 30 years. This is the 30th anniversary. And Joe Callaway stipulated that he wanted the award to go, not only to people who demonstrated civic courage, but did so at some personal risk like they risked their job; they risked their career; they risked their sustenance, whatever. And that stipulation has brought forth some of the finest people one could ever meet all over the country, taking their conscience to work, blowing the whistle, risking their careers, and trying to save lives, prevent injuries, prevent disease, save taxpayer money, and generally try to keep the country on straight and narrow path of moral probity.

Steve Skrovan: Our guest is George Luber who was in charge of the climate change program at the Centers for Disease Control. In other words, he was studying how a hotter planet will affect human health. But at the dawn of the Trump Administration, not only was the term "climate change" removed from the CDC website, but Dr. Luber was directed to cancel a conference on climate change. He objected and the CDC first attempted to fire him then decided just to send him home on administrative leave and banned him from the building. Eventually he went public with his story and groups from across the world, have begun campaigns to restore the climate change and health program. And as always, we will take a moment to find out what's happening in the dark recesses of the corporate underworld with our corporate crime reporter Russell Mokhiber. And if we have time at the end, Ralph will answer some of your listener questions. But first, let's meet our Callaway Award Winner. David?

David Feldman: Dr. George Luber is an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His research interests include the health impacts of environmental change and biodiversity loss, harmful algal blooms, and the health effects of climate change. Dr. Luber headed the CDC's Climate Health Program until it was downgraded and diluted by the Trump White House in 2018. The nation's premier health protection agency continues to retaliate against him for speaking out on the climate crisis and its public health effects. He has since filed for whistleblower status with the Justice Department's Office of Special Counsel and has just received the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage. Welcome to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour, Dr. George Luber.

George Luber: Thank you. Pleasure to be here.

Ralph Nader: Welcome, yes, Dr. Luber and congratulations on your Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage, supremely deserved. I think before started, please explain what does an epidemiologist do? I don't think there's enough of them in this country and they're desperately needed. What does an epidemiologist do and what different areas of health and safety have they been working on--before we get into your situation?

George Luber: Sure. Well an epidemiologist is somebody that studies the patterns of diseases and the causes of diseases covering almost an infinite amount of exposures and health outcomes. We look for a statistical association between a particular exposure, so bad air quality. And look for what that might do to certain parts of the population or to the population as a whole. We essentially dive through data looking for causes of illness and death. And my expertise covers a wide range of environmental exposures, which include bad water quality, air quality, extreme weather events and the like, and try to build a case for why certain exposures are harmful to people's health.

Ralph Nader: Just to give a specific example from your own experience, epidemiologists such as yourself, make connections. They make causal connections; they make all kinds of relationships that make us understand what's going on. And for example, if a new disease comes up and it's infectious, epidemiologists will try to find where it came from, the causes. They're try to find who's most vulnerable, where the vulnerability is, and maybe find situations where people are not as vulnerable. It's so absolutely critical in a highly technological society and there are just only a few thousand epidemiologists operating in the United States. So let's get to your area, the Centers for Disease Control arguably is the single most important agency in the federal government, because if you're dealing with global pandemics, viral pandemics, bacterial pandemics and the such, you're dealing with potentially tens of millions of fatalities and hundreds of millions of sicknesses. And yet its budget is about seven and a half billion dollars, which is half of what the Pentagon spends on the ballistic missile defense program that has never worked since Reagan opened it with great fanfare. They're now spending about $14 billion a year, that's the kind of priorities. Now, you had an 18-person staff inside the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. I believe the budget was about $10 million and you were supposed to be looking into the connection between global public health and climate disruptions--tornadoes, destruction of habitats, droughts, widespread fires, hurricanes and, for example, if you change the habitats, the malarial carrying mosquitoes will spread malaria beyond its present regions now. That's an example of how epidemiology works. You're working away at this and then the Trump regime opens its doors in January 2017. So explain to our listeners what happened.

George Luber: Well, I'd be happy to. Before I begin though, it's important that I make it clear that what I'm presenting to you today is my own statement. It doesn't represent the federal government or the agency in which I work. These are my own opinions and my own statements and that I'm sitting here talking with you while I am on vacation leave, so I'm not using government time or resources to do so just to make clear to everybody that this is on my own. So, yeah, the election happened in the fall of 2016 and a few weeks later, I got called into the director's office, the director for the center, the National Center for Environmental Health that I work in. And he told me that we've got a problem. I had been working on a large scientific meeting, a 3-day meeting that was going to be held in the CDC headquarters in Atlanta called The Climate & Health Summit. It was a science meeting for three days and it was intended to raise awareness both within CDC and the broader public health community that hey, there are folks working on climate change and health; we're actually kind of an obscure part of public health, but because of recent statements by the World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan, stating that climate change is the single greatest threat to public health in the 21st century, since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] released its 2014 report stating unequivocally that humans are changing the earth climate system and so on, that we wanted to get public health who have their traditional bunkers that they work in that there is groundbreaking work going on in climate change and health. We had organized this meeting, again with a blind eye to politics, which was rather naive considering what had been going on in the country. And in my infinite wisdom, I wanted to get high-level speakers for our meeting and called on Al Gore [to see] if he would like to be our keynote speaker. I thought he's a great advocate for climate change. And apparently that was a mistake because the director said, you know you have this meeting planned for February--this was three weeks after the inauguration. And he said, “You're going to have to cancel meeting.” And I was blown away! We've spent this past six, seven months working on this thing. We got a full agenda. We've got invitees; it’s all paid for. Money's out the door; why are we cancelling this meeting? He said, “the optics aren’t good.” And I said, “Do you think the optics would be good if you cancel the meeting and the news press got ahold of this?” This kind of sounds like scientific censorship and we have a scientific integrity policy that prohibits us from doing this. And they said, “The optics aren’t good. I want you to send out a letter of cancellation.” And I said, “I'm not going to do that. I'm not sending out a letter with my name on it belying my scientific belief that this is an important topic.” And they were surprised that I would be so obstinate, but I said, “No, this is my professional credibility here. If you want to cancel the meeting, well, you're my boss; you can cancel the meeting, but I'm not doing it.” And so they sent out a press release shortly after that meeting was canceled. And I just steeled myself for some difficult times.

Ralph Nader: And this was a very technical agenda here. It wasn't just a celebrity speaker. We have books on the subject. These are really people who've sunk their teeth into the nuances of this whole problem.

George Luber: We had the best scientists . . . what we did was we solicited abstracts or short blurbs on the research they’d like to speak on. We had a panel select the appropriate speakers. We had numerous sessions on very specific topics--changes in hydro-geology and waterborne diseases, and very specific technical topics for public health that we'd organized into sessions of several speakers, and we were aiming to have the biggest and best meeting of this type today. And I think we had it. We had pulled together a fantastic meeting with all kinds of partners, congressional organizations.

Ralph Nader: And it was open to the press, right?

George Luber: Yes.

Ralph Nader: Okay. So I always thought the CDC was about as impervious to partisan political intrusion as a federal agency. I mean in the past, Republican and Democrat administrations would not compete to manipulate politically what the CDC does. They didn't fund it adequately, but it was considered an agency of professional independence. And so I was pretty astonished, even with my minimal regard for the Trump people, that they began moving in. Now how did they move in? Did they appoint a new director who was taking orders? Did they put people at secondary levels under the new director? I mean it's astonishing that an agency that is full of PhDs and MDs, etcetera, suddenly became a political football for Donald Trump who has called climate disruption "a Chinese hoax." So how did this happen and it came down on you like a hammer, we'll talk about that in a moment.

George Luber: Yeah, in my 17 years of the agency, I held the exact same view, that this was a science-driven agency done so for the protection of people's health and that politics had nothing to do with it. And I had operated my program and strategies that we’d employ, including unfortunately inviting Al Gore in a political environment. You know, it's a wonderful organization with incredibly passionate and driven scientists that are so hungry for their mission that we spend inordinate amount of hours working on work that we just have enormous pride in. And I have no direct knowledge of how this happened. The individual that . . . Pat Breysse, the center director that asked me to cancel the meeting was put in place during the Obama Administration. I think at that time we had a director that was on his way out; we knew that. But I don't know who made the decision . . . or the most frightening thing actually, is that somebody would make a decision like this and anticipating the potential blowback for the administration. And that to me is frightening, because it's the most insidious form of power. And when you can get people to do things for you without even asking them, that, I think, is the most frightening thing that people will act on your behalf in ways that they normally wouldn't, merely out of fear of what you might do. So, I suspect that's the case. And it frightens me that we would go down that path.

Ralph Nader: Well one of the ways they kept you down was to reorganize, which is a typical bureaucratic technique. So what they took your 18-person climate and health program and subsumed it under a larger program dedicated to the problems of asthma, and so it was fair to say that your program, while technically not abolished, it was degraded and diluted, and then they pushed you out, forbade you to even talk to your 18-member staff. And I understand that if you wanted to come back to where you worked for a visit, you had to get permission and you were in a state of limbo, suspended but not fired. Could you describe that?

George Luber: In addition, I was escorted by armed guards. When I needed to get some books out of my office and I had an armed escort, they asked me to come at 11:00 a.m., which is the height of the day when everybody's around intending to humiliate me and marched me through our large 10-story office building with a large armed guard behind me that even followed me to the bathroom.

Ralph Nader: Everything but shackles and irons?

George Luber: Correct. And Ralph, in my 17 years at the CDC, I have never been spoken to sideways. I'd never been reprimanded in any way; I'd received outstanding performance reviews and promotions that belie any attempt at making my character unsavory. So they did a number of things to the climate health program, which is appropriated in a discreet line item in the budget, which means Congress appropriated $10 million for climate and health programs at CDC. Since it's a direct line, it cannot be, by law, used in any other way. And I as a manager in charge of that appropriation, am responsible for making sure that the public's money is managed in an appropriate way and that that I'm a good steward of the public's money. And if Congress says work on climate and health, I cannot decide that this needs to be worked on for asthma prevention and management. So what they did was they took the climate health program that was standalone and the asthma program that was standalone, along with a number of other programs, and they blended them together and my program got merged with asthma. And I was made the acting branch chief of the program and immediately my superiors had asked me to dismantle the team that I had built in climate change, which is a highly unique team with unique set of expertise from climatology to geographic information systems. And the team that I’d built, whose sole purpose was to work on this unique set of challenges, they wanted me to move those individuals to other teams in the asthma program. And I said, “Well, you can't do that because they're going to be supervising your supervisors; people are working on different lines, and how are we going to get around that fact that you can't merge the personnel . . . the expenditure of their time between different programs?” And there was a woman, one of my managers above me, refused to answer that question, but she had --her name is Laurie Johnson-- she had two contractors from PricewaterhouseCoopers, which I found highly unusual and odd and I'd never seen this before, work with me on an organizational plan for this new branch, and encouraged me to accept this new organizational plan that would essentially blend the money. And I kept telling the contractors, "You can't do this." They're like, "Well, Laurie says you can." And I said, "Well, you can't. I've taken appropriations classes, I have to, and why isn’t Laurie in this meeting?" "Oh, well, she couldn't come." And this went on for several weeks and I refused. I said, "Listen, unless we can address this topic of the appropriations, which I am responsible for, so I could get in trouble if I allow this to happen because I know that it's illegal." And I said, "Laurie, tell me what the workaround is for this mixing of the money, because I don't see how it could happen and I'm not happy with this." And as we went back and forth, back and forth, never with a response from Laurie about the appropriateness of this, I was called into a meeting with the senior managers in the center. And it was quite odd because I'd gotten a call up to the director's office one day and I sat down and one of the deputy directors for the center, Donna Knutson, said "We have some troubling allegations against you." And I was like, "What? What are you talking about?" And she said, "Did you author a book in 2015?" And I said, "Well, yeah, I authored a textbook on climate change and health." And she said, "Well, we have no records in the ethics approval office." Because this was an activity I did on my own and I got the approval to do it. And since I had to let CDC ethics approval office know, that's what I was working on. She said, "We have no evidence that you actually received ethics approval for it." I said, "Well, I did. I have the form in my office. Let me go get it." She's like, "No, you need to hand me your phone, your badge, and your keys, and we're going to . . . you need to leave campus now."

Ralph Nader: Let me interrupt here. This is, listeners, the kind of top-down inquisition that they impose on people of conscience and competence in the state bureaucracies, federal, state, local and corporate bureaucracies. The larger point that Dr. Luber is making is that he refused to spend money contrary to what was authorized for his program by the US Congress. He refused to spend money. Because if you spend money in an unauthorized way, that is a violation of the Antideficiency Act, which prescribes a felony as a punishment. Now to take an even bigger arc, what Donald Trump was doing was doing this throughout federal regulatory agencies, moving money around for purposes that wasn't authorized such as moving money from the Defense Department for schools and other social services for the children of military families to build his so-called Wall on the Mexican Border; that's a crime! That's not just an impeachable offense; it's a crime under the Antideficiency Law. And the other web you were caught up with--we're talking with Dr. Georgie E. Luber, who was the head of the Climate and Health program at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta; the other aspect of this is that he is aiding and abetting a tremendous threat to our national security, which is climate disruption. It's already blowing apart communities and you see it on TV news. And so it's not just that he's stopping you from trying to head it off in your particular way and stopping others from trying to minimize or mitigate these huge storms and tornadoes and droughts, etcetera, short-term and long-term, he's actually making it worse by unleashing coal-burning pollution and scrapping control standards on greenhouse gases--go oil gas--go coal. He calls coal clean, beautiful coal. So he's aiding and abetting a massive assault from an abused nature against the health and safety and property values of our country and actually making it worse. That should be an impeachable offense that Congress should pay attention to. Anyway, where are you now? I mean you're sitting outside your workplace, outside the Centers for Disease Control, you've given the media interviews; you're very good about communicating with the media. Are they trying to stop you from doing that? Have they suspended your pay?

George Luber: No. Fortunately they had served me charges in October of last year, in '18. And with the help of lawyers from an organization called PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, we were able to have those charges completely removed. They had accused me of all kinds of fabricated and just . . . I mean so poorly done. I mean they . . . I'm also a professor at Emory University, and I teach a class their regularly on climate and health. And they had accused me of having my subordinates teach classes for me and, --which I didn't-- and they said I was having them teach classes that I never even taught. They never bothered to check the class schedule to see if that course even existed. And they said you had somebody teach this class. I'm like, "I never taught that class; that's somebody else." And numbers of just anonymous accusations of something that I was able to concretely show evidence that it wasn’t even true. And it was just remarkably poorly done, which maybe, I think I'm grateful for, the incompetence of the staff at the center. They were not able to put together a credible set of charges. Maybe it was done in order to help me. I'm hoping that some folks on the inside felt some solidarity in this.

Ralph Nader: Talk about trumped-up charges, eh?

George Luber: Yes, um-hum, it was. And they removed all of them.

Ralph Nader: So they suspended you for 120 days to prevent you from speaking to the media?

George Luber: They prevented me from speaking to the media going back before they removed me from my position. This goes back right after the Al Gore debacle they cut off all my media access and travel access. And that dragged on for about a year plus. And then after my absence with not doing their dirty work with the appropriations money, that's when I was removed from campus. And since then, that was March of '18, I have been moved to different assignments around CDC in assignments that are unrelated to frankly anything that I have expertise in and I've been bounced around to . . . I'm on my fourth assignment and I'm still working and I'm prohibited from coming to the campus in which I'm assigned to. I work from home 100% of the time, isolated. And I review now scientific manuscripts on laboratory analysis of environmental exposure, something which I am profoundly unqualified to do. So I'm part of the clearance chain for laboratory manuscripts.

Ralph Nader: Listeners should know that one of the first things Donald Trump did was ordered the banning of the use of the term "climate change" not only to Centers for Disease Control, but at the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies. This is like right out of the Kremlin and Stalinist Russia. And the second thing, they didn't like you appearing with Matt Damon in a show called Years of Living Dangerously.

George Luber: Well that was during the Obama years and actually we got a good bit of support for that. I think perhaps with the current crop of managers at the center don't like the attention the topic is getting, and you know, it is . . . our little unit was one of the most productive in the center and was also the one that they felt gave them the most vulnerability politically. And so anything they could do to . . . and they said to me, we . . . you need to lay low, take a low profile. And I saw this as a tremendous opportunity to raise our profile and I refused to do so. We were in discussions with the National Geographic channel on "Mars" series, which is a very successful show there, for me to be a regular contributor to and I received an email saying "George Luber will never be on that show" (capitals, bolded, underlined). And they did not want me to seek media attention and part of my job is to raise awareness on this issue. It is critically important that we take every opportunity we can to let the public know that this is a real and credible threat to you now in your communities and you should be worried.

Ralph Nader: Well fortunately you're being represented pro bono by this wonderful nonprofit group in Washington and Eugene, Oregon called PEER, which started out to protect the scientific integrity of foresters in US Forest Service who opposed clear cutting on behalf of companies like Weyerhaeuser and were retaliated against. So you're in good hands. You have filed through them a whistleblower retaliation complaint with the Office of Special Counsel, which is in the Justice Department, seeking an investigation and defense of your rights. What are you seeing in terms of your 18 colleagues--are they distancing themselves; are the silently supporting you? How's the personal impact on you?

George Luber: Well, the personal impact was tremendous, but it'd be much worse without the folks up here especially Kevin Bell, one of the most competent and dedicated lawyers that I've ever encountered. And they work tirelessly on this issue. And they remind me of my staff who took this issue of climate change to heart and made it their life's mission, their life's work. These people are driven to work on this topic because they want to contribute. And of the 18 staff, several have left. You know, we're a group that has different skillsets, project managers, etcetera, communicators, and so on and so forth, but the heart of the scientific knowledge base at that group is all gone. Myself, I've been the lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I've written the textbook on this issue. I've been a convening lead author for the Third and Fourth US National Climate Assessment, on and on. And what's left in the program unfortunately is not much expertise. And that is really what loss is--the core knowledge base that we need in order to move this forward. We're left with individuals with not much experience or credentials on this.

And yes, I do keep in contact with some of them, but frankly, it is a culture of fear right now. And many are so . . . they have told me, "George, I support you, I can provide evidence that would exonerate you on this charge undoubtedly. But I cannot do so because I fear that I will be retaliated against." They have been told directly by the new person who took over from me, Josephine Malilay, that if they speak to the press . . . and which is a . . . we have a First Amendment right to be able to do so on our own time and I've been advised of that by CDC general counsel on numerous occasions, that you will get in trouble if you speak to the press. And if you do get contacted by the press, you need to report it to me immediately. That's the typical type of intimidation factors that go along with this. And so we have a group of young, smart, and scared individuals.

Ralph Nader: Well, George, some listeners may be wondering, how can these federal employees over you, do such things to you? What recourse you have against them personally? What lawsuits can be filed against them personally all the way up to the White House level? Are they all immune?

George Luber: I wish I had Kevin here to help me with that question, because I really don't know the answer to that. You know, we're focused on CDC restoring the program as it was intended by Congress to do, having it in hands of managers that are good stewards of the public’s money in order to run this program and care about this topic. There are parts of the CDC that would love to have this program and see it flourish.

Ralph Nader: Well, do you have a patron or two in Congress? When there was a whistleblower, Ernie Fitzgerald in the Pentagon on the C-5A air cargo plane and he showed that the plane had a tendency to lose a wing now and then, he was really pounced on in the Pentagon and he went to Senator Proxmire, William Proxmire from Wisconsin, who became one of his defenders and had hearings on the subject. Do you have any backers by name in the House and Senate, and if not, why not?

George Luber: Well, we do. Actually just about a half an hour ago I recorded a video for social media for Senator Bernie Sanders. And you of course know, that his stance on this topic is very strong and they've been supportive. On the House side, there’ve been a number of efforts to support this. Congresswoman Lauren Underwood from Michigan has proposed legislation to have the climate program restored as an individual unit. And Congressman Shalala as well has expressed tremendous support for this issue and is working, I believe with Appropriations on what can be done about this.

Ralph Nader: Yeah, I may add, Congressman Shalala was a Former Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton Administration and she ran for Congress after being president of a major university in Florida. Why don't you try Senator Edward Markey to back you, too?

George Luber: Again, yes, I believe the legislative affairs folks at PEER and another whistleblower group called the Government Accountability Project are working with Markey as well as a few others, Senator Whitehouse, I believe.

Ralph Nader: Well listen, listeners, this is not just about Dr. George Luber. Let me read you a passage in the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage about Dr. Luber. "His unremitting position on behalf of scientific method, integrity and expertise, presently under attack as never before in history is an unwavering beacon for other federal government climate scientists suffering similar retaliation. Using his many splendored approach in communication skills through academic publications and in popular media, Dr. Luber pledged he will “not go away" tenaciously responding to intensifying climate chaos." I have a little point to make to any Trump voters who are listening to this program. I know that you love Donald Trump. In fact, you may be part of many Trump voters who say when they're asked the following: "People say Trump is crazy, but what he's saying is what I'm thinking. Does that mean I'm crazy?" Well let me tell you, we'll leave that judgment to yourself Trump voters, but what Dr. Luber wants to make sure is that you don't get an infectious disease and infect others because you're under health and safety protection. That's what he's looking for. It doesn't matter whether you're a Republican, Democrat, Conservative, or Liberal, you better pay attention. There's the smasharoos who are breaking up the Centers for Disease Control, politicizing them, favoring the big corporations who don't want certain things done and stifling people like George Luber, who relentlessly were determined to take their conscience to work so they can help save your lives or anticipate and prevent global pandemics and epidemics. David and Steve, jump in here.

David Feldman: I'm confused about the hierarchy over at the CDC. Who are you taking orders from in terms of their education? What kind of degrees do these people have who are giving you these orders? Are these doctors, are these PhDs?

George Luber: Yeah, well the center directors are PhDs and industrial hygienists. But the . . . I believe the real direction of whether the meeting should be canceled was not . . . this is a director that is frequently on travel, unlike, I think this is my fifth center director; this center director spends a tremendous amount of time out of town and is remarkably absent for much of his tenure here and therefore the shop is run by folks without PhDs. These are policy people and that's the trend that I've noticed at CDC over my 17 years and we've always, you know, impressed the fact that science directs policy, right, at this agency. However that's changed, now policy directs science in very prescriptive ways. And so the policy people stepped in and have their wisdom about how to manage the Trump Administration and this is where we're at. I think that a lot of these efforts are just done without care, you know, managing the public's money or being good stewards or being conscious as to our scientific integrity policy, which should drive all of our efforts. The folks that were trying to directly get me to move the money around don't have advanced degrees that I'm aware of. They're budget people and managers of non-science; we have two tracks--a science management and a management side. Irregardless, I would maintain that we should play by the rules and do it the way it was intended and let the science lead the way.

David Feldman: Yeah, I don’t understand why doctors allow themselves to be ordered around by their inferiors. And it seems to happen in the healthcare debate.

George Luber: It's just abdicating the responsibility for that, frankly.

David Feldman: So just to be clear, you said the person who told you the optics would be bad was not a Trump political appointee, just someone feeling the pressure either directly or indirectly that this would be a bad idea to do with the new regime, is that correct?

George Luber: That's my understanding. So he had started during the Obama years. And I don't have any knowledge . . . this was . . . could have been right around the time that the transition teams, Beachhead Crew or something they call it, where the people come to the agency immediately. And I had heard from another source through a Union of Concerned Scientists’ anonymous survey that a senior manager at CDC had said there were five key areas that the Trump Administration wanted to be targeted during this administration. It would be anything under the Affordable Care Act, birth control, gun violence, abortion rights, and climate change. These are the topics that they're interested in. Now I don't know if this advance team had already made these wishes known to my leadership, but it was odd for me to get called in and said going to have to cancel this meeting that we spent a good bit of time. We had already spent the money and a good bit of personnel time to get this going. And it was a solid conference. And plus, I said the optics are terrible on cancelling the meeting and certainly, of course, The Washington Post ran a story critical of CDC on cancelling the meeting. Is this censorship? And it was very odd that they would make that, because their argument for laying low certainly didn't work. Because who would really honestly write a story about a science meeting at CDC about climate change? No one would write a national level media story about a climate meeting at CDC. But now they did write about it because it was canceled.

Ralph Nader: Let me ask you this, would you return to your position with a change of administrations that wanted to reinstate your program?

George Luber: Absolutely. I decided . . . I got my PhD right at 9/11. And sitting there watching those images, I actually turned down an offer at Stanford and decided to pursue a life of public service. I made it my goal to provide a service to this country, and I felt obliged to do it. And sitting there watching those towers come down and two weeks later, I applied to CDC and got a post doc and have dedicated my life to doing that. And I'm not giving up now. And I don't . . . these people come and go. I mean I've watched senior directors come and go, CDC directors and my managers come and go. But the people who do the science, who do the work on the ground, they stay and they're dedicated. And we've gotten used to seeing these people come and go. And I've maintained my . . . I also teach where I mentioned [Emory University], and they have been wanting me to come over there. And I said, "I'm in this fight and I am going to make sure that this comes out well, because if people like me walk away, who's left to care?

Ralph Nader: How has the pressure been on you professionally and personally?

George Luber: Incredible sense of isolation. Many of my colleagues throughout the government have essentially ghosted me. Now that's counterbalanced by a tremendous amount of support from the folks at the Callaway Awards, The Hugh Hefner Foundation [and] from news reporting and colleagues around the world. I received a stack the other day of around 20 postcards that was part of a letter-writing campaign encouraging me to keep on my fight and that really helps keep me going. But my colleagues at CDC are afraid and many of them have disappeared. And I think . . .you know, I tell myself that it's a measure of somebody's character in how they respond in moments like this. And that folks would slink away and ignore it, well that's the measure of their character. And for those who stand up and fight and support me, well then I know a little bit more about.

Ralph Nader: We're talking with Dr. George E. Luber who was formerly the head of the critically important, Climate and Health Program as an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia and a professor adjunct at Emory University. If you were in charge of climate disruption policy, what would you do in terms of the federal government? What kind of resources, what priorities beyond your own program at the CDC?

George Luber: Well, it’s funny you asked that because . . . and that was a question the Hillary campaign asked me four months before the election. And they reached out to me, again my personal email and all that, and we spent the time coming up with the . . . because we've got $10 million. It might sound like a lot of money, but in a federal program, it's really kind of a pilot-type program. You mentioned the difference between the DoD budget and CDC, but ten million for the CDC program is quite small. But what we had developed with the program was directed right at the on-the-ground public health; this is local, city, and state public health. And to deliver to them all the tools and intelligence that they needed in order to identify which threats should be relevant in the area because frankly the threats in climate change in Florida are going to be dramatically different from those in Maine or in Oregon and a whole different set of issues, wildfires versus mosquitos, etcetera. So we had a tailor-made program called the BRACE program, Building Resilience Against Climate Effects, that would work with these high-resolution-type efforts at getting help to the most vulnerable in our state, in our community, and in our country. And our plan with the . . . what I described to the Hillary campaign was that we would scale-up this program and bring it to all . . . we currently work with 16 states and two cities, and we’d bring it to all 50 states, the territories, to tribal governments, and to large cities around the country. And that we would also, along with CDC, that we would need to bring money to NIH [National Institutes of Health] to fund Regional Centers of Excellence. The EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] would need some funding to help support the environmental monitoring aspect of our program that was so critical. The NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] would be required to dedicate some resources to giving us the high-resolution climate models that we would need to project what these risks are. So we detailed the intergovernmental program that had been in the works because I had spent time working with my colleagues around the government in order to kind of make those connections; where is this information; how can we get the resources that we need to attack this on a grand scale? But we had done it in a way that would be scalable, and so for the last seven years had been testing the proof of concept and we're confident that we could scale it up. The first thing in the world actually, national level adaptation program from climate and health, was so successful that the government of England, Public Health England, the governments of Austria, Peru, and Chile and Canada as well, had adopted our framework as the gold standard for preparing public health for climate change.

Ralph Nader: And what would you have Congress do in terms of informing the public? What kind of hearings do you think they're not having they should have? And in that context, how do you expand the number of epidemiologists?

George Luber: Well you have to train the epidemiologists and that was what the shame was, was that I trained a cadre of young professionals that were highly skilled in order to have the skillset and they're very, very unique. It's not like you just hire somebody [or] you go to a job site and you find the skills. You have to train them; you have to nurture them. They’ve all disappeared so we have to start it all over again--the momentum that we've lost. I'm a bit naïve as to the workings of Congress, but the fact that our nation's or the world's leading public health agency is stepping away from its principle of scientific integrity, it's not just troubling for climate change, but if you think about it, the integrity, the respect or the honesty of an agency like CDC is all that it has. If the public can't trust that this is the best science of an agency like that, and we always learned at the CDC . . . that what you do reflects upon the integrity of this agency and that's essentially all we have, so protect it with your life.

Ralph Nader: And you know, listeners should realize that with climatologists and epidemiologists making the connection between the burning of oil, gas and coal and all kinds of diseases and property damage, and affecting flora and fauna, points the way to shifting our economy toward renewable energy like solar energy, wind energy, passive solar, solar voltaic, maybe even geothermal, and in that sense reducing the greenhouse gases and reducing the causal effects of increasing climate disruption. So you see, that's the importance of the kind of work that Dr. Luber and his colleagues are doing. And to literally try to destroy it is a crime against humanity! When you try to destroy someone, let's say who's trying to find the cure for malaria, that would be considered a crime against humanity. So whenever you evaluate what we should expect of presidents of the United States, it's important to crank in these kinds of functions that are not going to be advanced by Exxon/Mobil or Peabody Coal. They're going to be advanced by public servants such as Dr. George Luber. Before we end, any more comments or questions from Steve and David?

Steve Skrovan: Dr. Luber, this is a scientific question. What do you think the biggest threat is as a result of this climate crisis?

George Luber: Well, you know we've always said at the Climate Health program that the effects of climate change are place-specific and past-dependent. And that's kind of a scientific way of saying, “Gosh, it all depends.” The biggest threat in my opinion, ironically, this is the biggest threat overall long-term, is the threat that increased carbon dioxide has on the acidity of the oceans and the impact that that CO2 has on plants. What we are learning is that CO2 in elevated levels, six, seven . . . we're at 415/418 parts-per-million right now. But if we have the atmospheric concentration of around 600 parts-per-million, which we expect by the latter part of the century, what we're realizing is that plants are negatively affected by this elevated CO2, especially C3, C4 photosynthetic plants, which form the kind of core of our food crop--rice, wheat, barley, sorghum, millet. All of the starches that we feed the planet on, show that under elevated CO2 levels that we would expect by the end of this latter part of this century, that the protein levels are reduced by 15 to 20 percent, the crude protein. The plants are actually stressed under these elevated CO2 levels. And they're rising so fast that plants cannot adapt. It’s the rate of change is so fast that the plants cannot adapt to these elevated CO2 and they are stressed, and as a result, not only the crude protein reduces by 15 to 20 percent, the micro-nutrients, vitamins are also reduced as well, so we have a nutritional crisis. Imagine a planet of seven billion people now and crop production stays the same but we're at nine billion people, and we have crops that are 15 to 20 percent less nutritious. That is an impending nutritional crisis! And everybody in public health knows that at the cornerstone of any healthy population is a healthy immune system and undernourished people don't have healthy immune systems.

Ralph Nader: Doctor, expand that to the impact on the ocean and how the boomerang comes back on land.

George Luber: So the ocean also experiences stress at high CO2 levels; it actually absorbs CO2 and becomes more acidic. What we learned is that under high-acidity conditions, which are already occurring now, that the organisms that form the basis of food web of the ocean, the calcareous organisms--these are the phytoplankton and the zooplankton that form hard exoskeleton shells under those elevated acidity levels--cannot form their shells that their shells are weak and dissolved. And under higher CO2 levels, the potential for the collapse of the food base of the oceans is apparent and that we lose the food base to smaller units, that again, feed the rest the food web up. We could have a crash in marine ecosystems, which are tremendously important for human nutrition.

Ralph Nader: And then much more intense hurricanes coming out of warming patterns that are changing in the oceans, can you say a few words about that?

George Luber: Well we do know that most weather events, extreme weather events, are intensifying under climate change; heat waves are of longer duration and more intense, hotter. Hurricanes appear to show a signal of getting more intense; we're not sure if they're getting more frequent. Precipitation is increasingly coming down in heavy short bursts rather than gentle rain. All of those things affect public health. Now those things are things that, given the appropriate attention, we can adapt to. What I was describing earlier with the CO2 problem is intractable. This is a problem that we don't have solutions for. And what's ironic about it is that they are a major problem that have nothing to do with weather or climate. They have to do with a carbon pollution problem. It's related to climate changes that an excess carbon changes weather, but it also changes fundamental parts of our ecosystem that we rely on.

Ralph Nader: But one of the more fearful results are the melting of the glaciers and the building up of sea levels inundating cities with hundreds of millions of people around the globe from India to the United States. Explain that a bit.

George Luber: Well, 80% of the world's population lives near oceans, so there's going to be a major retreat from the coastlines with sea levels depending on the climate model or what we're learning--how quickly that might happen, but it's certainly happening and will happen. Those are our problems that, again, given the amount of resources enough that we can retreat from the oceans. We're going to have to. But there will be a tremendous amount of suffering associated with that. And while we're waiting to retreat or waiting to come to terms with this problem, we will certainly have coastal inundation events that will kill many thousands of people and the time to act on that is now.

Ralph Nader: We learned from an earlier program, Dr. Luber, that Miami Beach in Florida has a plan to evacuate, not just people close to the ocean, but to evacuate Miami Beach. George Luber: Yes. They are already experiencing regular inundation events with high tides. I mean this is a regular occurrence right now. And places that experience these types of events, they get it. They understand the threat in the disruption to life and economy and community that this happens. When people get displaced, they don't just lose their home, they lose their community, they lose their livelihoods and those have consequences as well.

Steve Skrovan: Well I'm sitting here in Southern California right now in Los Angeles area where wild fires are raging and at any moment they're telling me I'm getting notices from Southern California Edison that they're going to turn off the power. Fortunately, they didn't do it during the show, because their fear the high winds will knock down power lines and start another wild fire, so I can personally attest to the effects of what you're talking about. And exactly what you're talking about is exactly what the Trump Administration and his backers don't want anybody to hear and why you were in the situation.

George Luber: One of my colleagues and one of the top people on climate and health, Kirk R. Smith out of U.C. Berkeley, had once said . . . and this is a very important quote, I guess, that you know “in a world of climate change, the rich will find the world to be more polluted, more uncomfortable, colorless, and a bleaker world. The poor will die”.

Ralph Nader: As the poor pay more in our economy as well. You're quite right there. The most vulnerable areas are populated by low-income people. Well, one last thing, I hope we don't hear the word climate change anymore, not because of Trump's censorship, but because it's too benign a phrase created by Frank Luntz, the right-wing Republican wordsmith in 2002 to replace the more alarming global warming phrase. So I hope we all use words like climate crisis, climate disruption, climate catastrophe, global warming, and deprive Frank Luntz of his semantic colonialism. Well, we're out of time. Thank you very much, Dr. George Luber. Congratulations on your Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage. Congratulations to PEER for holding up its defense of your rights as a civil servant. And congratulations to all of you listening who are alert and come to the rescue of courageous people like Dr. George Luber.

George Luber: Thank you so much.

Steve Skrovan: We have been speaking with Dr. George Luber. We will link to more of his story and the Callaway Awards at ralphnaderradiohour.com. Right now we're going to take a short break. When we come back, Ralph is going to answer some of your questions, but first, let's check in with our corporate crime reporter Russell Mokhiber. You're listening to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour, back after this.

Russell Mokhiber: From the National Press Building in Washington, D.C., this is your Corporate Crime Reporter Morning Minute for Friday, November 8, 2019. I'm Russell Mokhiber. Oregon worker safety inspectors found serious workplace safety violations at a Dollar Tree in Portland, Oregon after a rodent infestation. That's according to a report from television station KGW in Portland. Oregon OSHA fined the company $1900. In August, the Dollar Tree store in Portland’s Lloyd District temporarily shut down after a KGW investigation found ripped food packaging, chewed food labels, rodent feces on shelves and a dead mouse in an air vent. The store had since re-opened. Employees complained of nausea, light-headedness and headaches after being exposed to dead mice, rodent urine and droppings. Oregon OSHA records indicate Dollar Tree didn’t do enough to keep rodents out of the store and failed to provide proper safety equipment for employees who were asked to clean up. For the Corporate Crime Reporter, I'm Russell Mokhiber.

Steve Skrovan: Thank you, Russell. Now before we do listener questions, Ralph, John Conyers died recently and I know you had worked closely with him over the years. He was in Congress for almost 60 years, I believe, or more than 60 years. Tell us a little about your relationship . . . about John Conyers and your relationship with him.

Ralph Nader: Well Congressman Conyers was the Dean of the African-American delegation in the House as they called it. And he helped start the Black Caucus. He was extremely responsive. You could get him on the phone. He would return calls. That's a very rare trait today for members of Congress, because if you can't get through to people, you can't get anything underway to begin with; that's how critical it is. And he'd invite you down to his office, a group of civic advocates and leaders and obviously he was great on civil rights. But he also tried to jumpstart a federal intense program on cracking down on corporate crime. It never got anywhere, but at least he introduced the legislation and he proposed it when he was a senior figure on the House Judiciary. He was also a champion of ballot access for third parties even though he was a longstanding member of the Democratic Party and he introduced legislation to that effect. And he's clearly one of the most progressive members of the House of Representatives on numerous fronts including being anti-war in our modern times. He left Congress a couple of years ago under a cloud of personal matters, but that doesn't really take away from what he did over about a half a century of representing portions of Detroit, Michigan in the House of Representatives and taking seriously his title of US Representative, not just Representative from Detroit.

Steve Skrovan: Well, thank you for that, Ralph. Let's do some listener questions now. This next one comes from Jay Goldberg who is a regular listener. I think we did one of his questions a couple of weeks ago and he said, "In the Wrap Up to this week's show, Ralph offered a couple of reasons why Medicare for some is a bad idea. But I think he overlooked the most obvious one, people would have to buy into it, so instead of being funded through progressive taxation, it would be an option only for those who could afford it or whose employers provide it as private insurance is now. I suppose there could be a government subsidy for low-income groups similar to what Obamacare provides, but they would never be as progressive as the taxes Bernie and Liz are proposing and it would never be provided to the majority of working people. Also Medicare for some would have to call for deductibles and co-pays, or no one would opt for private insurance." Is Jay correct there, Ralph?

Ralph Nader: Yeah, he makes a good point and he provokes even further good points. Number one, it's a setup to be taken over the way Medicare Advantage corporate-run is now taken over one out of every three elderly people's Medicare insurance. People don't realize it [that] all these ads they hear about Medicare Advantage is just a euphemism for takeover by companies like United Healthcare and Aetna of Medicare under contract. And as Dr. Fred Hyde said, "It's not what you pay; it's what you get." And there are a lot of trap doors in Medicare Advantage and elderly people should be aware of it and so should people be if there was a Medicare for some or public option. The other thing Medicare for some does not control costs. When you have full Medicare for All, the corollary is restraint on skyrocketing drug prices, restraint on skyrocketing hospital prices, minimizing fraud in the healthcare area. That's the experience in Canada.

Steve Skrovan: It's funny Ralph, I had this discussion after we did that show with a college classmate of mine who I happened to run into. And one of my college classmates is Tom Steyer who's running for president. And this woman, who I also know, said "Hey, you're supporting Tom?" And I said, “Well I like a lot of what Tom says about corporate power, and obviously he's been a leader on the climate crisis, but I'm not sure about his healthcare policy. She says, "But he's talking about choice." And so I ran down basically what we talked about last week, and she kept a smile on her face, but her eyes just went completely dead.

Ralph Nader: [laughter] It's amazing. People make up their minds; permanently they close off the kind of information that I think otherwise they would be more receptive of. Steve Skrovan: Thank you for your questions. Keep them coming on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour website. I want to thank our guest again, George Luber from the CDC. For those of you listening on the radio, that's our show. For you podcast listeners, stay tuned for some bonus material we call the Wrap Up. A transcript of the show will appear on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour website soon after the episode is posted.

David Feldman: Subscribe to us on our Ralph Nader Radio Hour YouTube channel. And for Ralph's weekly column, it's free, go to nader.org. For more from Russell Mokhiber, go to corporatecrimereporter.com.

Steve Skrovan: And Ralph has got two new books out, the fable, How the Rats Re-Formed the Congress. To acquire a copy of that, go to ratsreformcongress.org. And To the Ramparts: How Bush and Obama Paved the Way for the Trump Presidency, and Why It Isn't Too Late to Reverse Course. We will link to that also.

David Feldman: The producers of the Ralph Nader Radio Hour are Jimmy Lee Wirt and Matthew Marran. Our executive producer is Alan Minsky.

Steve Skrovan: Our theme music, "Stand up, Rise Up", was written and performed by Kemp Harris. Our proofreader is Elisabeth Solomon.

David Feldman: Join us next week on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour when we speak to another whistleblower who won his Callaway Prize by taking on Boeing, John Barnett. Thank you, Ralph.

Ralph Nader: Thank you everybody. More stations, more podcast listeners.
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Re: Ralph Nader Radio Hour

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RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR EPISODE 322: Crooked Prosecutors/AWOL Congress
Interview of Don Siegelman by Ralph Nader
May 9, 2020

-- “Stealing Our Democracy: How the Political Assassination of a Governor Threatens Our Nation”.

Former Governor of Alabama, Don Siegelman, who was convicted on dubious corruption charges and spent five years in prison joins us to talk about his chronicle of those events in his book “Stealing Democracy: How the Political Assassination of a Governor Threatens Our Nation.” And old friend and constitutional scholar, Bruce Fein, makes the case that Congress has once again abdicated its responsibility during the Covid-19 crisis.

Don Siegelman was the 51st Governor of Alabama, serving from 1999 to 2003. He is the only politician in Alabama history to hold all of the state’s top constitutional offices: governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. He was the longest-running Democrat in the Southeast. He was convicted in 2006 of federal bribery charges, in what many think was a wrongful conviction brought about by Republican politicians. Mr. Siegelman wrote about this in his soon to be released book “Stealing Our Democracy: How the Political Assassination of a Governor Threatens Our Nation”.

“The heart of my story: It’s not about me. It’s about saving our democracy. And exposing what has been going on in our court system. There’s a reason why the majority of people behind bars are young men and women of color.”

-- Don Siegelman, former Governor of Alabama

“Bill Barr on April third said, ok we got to release these non-violent inmates, who are not a threat to public safety. Well now they’re releasing thousands of inmates, who are not a threat to public safety, which raises the question why in the world are they in there in the first place?”

-- Don Siegelman, former Governor of Alabama

“There’s no deterrent. You steal an election and you get away with it. And even if you’re caught, nobody goes to jail. I mean this happens again and again in this country. It’s like, ‘Oh you know, it’s just politics as usual.’”

-- Ralph Nader

Bruce Fein is a Constitutional scholar, who was Associate Deputy Attorney General under Ronald Reagan. Mr. Fein has been a visiting Fellow for Constitutional Studies at the Heritage Foundation and an adjunct scholar at American Enterprise Institute. He has advised numerous countries on constitutional reform, including South Africa, Hungary and Russia. He is the author of “Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for Our Constitution and Democracy,” and “American Empire: Before the Fall”. Mr. Fein did a special edition show with Ralph where they lay out the articles of impeachment of President Donald Trump.

“Presidents have run virtually hundreds of wars without congressional declarations. Certainly, beginning with Korea and for the ensuing seventy some years, Presidents have just gone to war on their own, and Congress has simply sat there.”

-- Bruce Fein, author of “Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for Our Constitution and Democracy”


Steve Skrovan: It's the Ralph Nader Radio Hour. Welcome to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour. My name is Steve Skrovan along with my cohost, David Feldman. Hello, David.

David Feldman: Hello. Good morning.

Steve Skrovan: And we also have the man of the hour, Ralph Nader. Hello, Ralph.

Ralph Nader: Hello everybody. Fasten your seatbelts. This is going to be quite a show.

Steve Skrovan: Yeah, the gang's all here and today, we're going to talk with former governor of Alabama, Don Siegelman, whose three-decade career in public service ran afoul of Republican opponents who used the Federal judicial system to take him out of contention in Alabama and nationally. This involved Karl Rove, as I understand. Mr. Siegelman spent five years in Alabama prison after being convicted on dubious corruption charges. We will talk about how all of that happened and also how Mr. Siegelman has been drawing attention to poor conditions in prisons, especially in the age of coronavirus where these facilities are becoming the true hotspots. Rikers Island, for instance, in New York City, has a coronavirus infection rate nearly eight times higher than the rest of the city. Mr. Siegelman has been drawing attention to those poor conditions and advocating for inmates to be released.

Our second guest is one of the Ralph's favorite Republicans. He has been on the show nine times. Regular listeners know Bruce Fein is a constitutional scholar; he is here to talk to us about how Congress has gone AWOL during this pandemic. Despite Congress putting its nose to the grindstone for its usual two and a half days a week under normal conditions, during this pandemic, most have not been showing up to work while health care workers, grocery store employees and delivery truck drivers have been endangering their own lives to keep society functioning. Congress has deemed themselves non-essential workers, as true as that may sound, and as tempting a joke as that is. We'll hear from Mr. Fein about how Congress should be conducting themselves during this crisis. And as always, somewhere in between, we'll take a short break and check in with our corporate crime reporter Russell Mokhiber. And if we have some time left over, we'll try to answer some listener questions. But first, let's talk to our first guest about his own imprisonment and the state of our prisons. David?

David Feldman: Don Siegelman was the 51st Governor of Alabama; serving from 1999 to 2003, he is the only politician in Alabama history to hold all of the state's top constitutional offices-- governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. He was the longest running Democrat in the Southeast. He was convicted in 2006 of federal bribery charges in what many think was a wrongful conviction brought about by Republican politicians. Governor Siegelman wrote about this in his soon to be released book, Stealing Our Democracy: How the Political Assassination of a Governor Threatens Our Nation. Welcome to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour, Governor Don Siegelman.

Don Siegelman: Hey David. Thank you. And Ralph, I'm pleased to be with you. I want to say something about your next guest, Bruce. I think I could make an argument that members of Congress are performing a nonessential function and it may be better for our democracy if at least a good part of the US Senate stayed at home.

Ralph Nader: Well, you wait, stick around and listen to what he says. He's testified over 200 times before Congress and he knows what he's talking about. Anyway, welcome. I'm going to call you Don. You were considered one of the most progressive governors in the South. They made comparisons of you with Jimmy Carter in Georgia. You got all kinds of things started, heavy emphasis on education, but I want to tell our listeners what some people think of what happened to you and why. We start with John Lewis, the famous Congressman and he says, “Don Siegelman, Alabama's first progressive governor was elected with a majority of black and white voters. He advanced the cause of justice for African Americans and women appointing more African Americans as judges than had been elected or appointed in Alabama's history. This drove Republicans crazy. The coup de gras was that governor Siegelman was going to give free college education and free early learning to all Alabama children.” And as far as the prosecutorial misconduct, to put it mildly, that they hurled against you because you were thinking of running against George W. Bush in 2004, here is what the premier researcher, Professor Bennett Gershman of Pace University School of Law, said about you; he's the author of Prosecutorial Misconduct: Trial Error and Misconduct in Prosecution Stories. “Of the thousands of prosecutorial misconduct cases I have written about, the government's bad faith described in Stealing Our Democracy,” that’s your new book, “stands out and maybe without parallel. The governor's story,” that’s you, “reveals a continuum of government misconduct, which leaves the reader shaking in disbelief.” And listeners should know that prosecutorial misconduct is almost as American as apple pie. All over the country they have been documented as going after people who are vulnerable, who can't really defend themselves, who don't have the best lawyers and using manufactured evidence, perjured testimony. And the honest prosecutors have been unable to get that message across as it should be. Governor Cuomo said a while back that 70% of the people in New York City prisons didn't even have charges filed against them. They were waiting in prison without any charges being filed against them for what they supposedly did wrong. So you're coming out with a new book, Stealing Our Democracy. You're using your experience only as a forward, I might add, to your broader critique of our criminal injustice system, which seems to be invulnerable to all exposes, whether in the New York Times or Washington Post or Los Angeles Times. But you're going to make another effort to mobilize people. So can you just tell our listeners what was the political motive after you finished your first term as governor of Alabama? What did you do that got them so angry and even involved Karl Rove to getting the [US] Justice Department to be part of this prosecutorial misconduct?

Don Siegelman: Well, Ralph, your introduction evokes several thoughts and I want to start with answering your question. Most people know I brought five automobile plants to Alabama in three and a half years. I started over a thousand new school construction projects; got a lot of people working, building roads and bridges. But I also filed, over the course of my career, more environmental lawsuits than any public official in Alabama's history. I stopped the Army's attempt to dispose of all their nerve gas in Alabama, stopped herbicide spraying, deep-well injections, disposing of hazardous waste in Mobile Bay; stopped Chemical Waste Management's attempt to incinerate hazardous waste in the Gulf of Mexico, and the list goes on. One of the proudest moments was when I was crossing a bridge going over the Mobile Delta and I saw International Paper clearcutting part of our natural forest and I picked up the phone and called my conservation officer and I said, “We've got to put together a group to buy the entire Mobile Delta.” And we raised enough money to buy 150,000 acres and put International Paper company out of business and we stopped the clearcutting of this beautiful, sacred, pristine Delta. I sued Exxon and Shell. I challenged corporations that they could not contribute to campaigns without a vote of their stockholders because it was an ultra-vires activity and they had to go back and amend their articles of incorporation in their purposes.

Ralph Nader: So that one is something for everybody to try to do in state after state. They always want to make workers and labor unions able to step out and step away from having any of their dues being used. But it's okay for corporations to get into politics without getting any affirmation of their shareholders. But you really had a very progressive record. There's no doubt. There was a 60 Minutes program on you in 2018. There's a new documentary on you, and what intrigues me is what went on in the court and who got away with what. Now, the judge in your court was Mark Everett Fuller; remember that name. Judge Mark Everett Fuller, a George W. Bush appointee, is the one who sentenced you to seven years in prison and a $50,000 fine. The main witness against you was someone named Nick Bailey who provided the cornerstone testimony upon which the conviction was based, and he was subsequently convicted of extortion and facing 10 years in prison; Bailey had cooperated with prosecutors to lighten his own sentence. That's another aspect of widespread prosecutorial discretion. So where is the judge right now? Is he still presiding over a court?

Don Siegelman: He was able--after the United States Judicial Conference recommended to John Boehner, Speaker of the House, that Bailey be impeached for perjury and for habitually beating his wife violently--to walk away from the bench with his retirement and he's probably drinking scotch and playing golf with some of his, you know, Southern white buddies down in Montgomery. But the story behind Fuller goes much deeper. He was the owner of a company called DOSS Aviation. It's a military supply company and defense contractor and he was up for a $175 million contract per year renewable for 10 years. After my conviction, he was awarded that contract. He sold the company [now called L3 Doss Aviation] for $2 billion. But I wanted to go back to something you were talking about because the heart of my story is not about me; it's about saving our democracy and exposing what has been going on in our court system. There's a reason why the majority of people behind bars are young men and women of color, but the government gets 99% of the indictments they seek. Roughly 97% plead guilty, many of them, most of them actually, before they even get a lawyer. But there's a reason for this. You know, getting 99% of anything is a pretty high probability. I'd like to have those odds during March Madness or during football season or something. But the reason they get 99% of the indictments they seek is because of the secrecy of a grand jury, where there's no judge and there is no lawyer for the defense or the target or the witness. In 2010, January the 4th, 2010, according to the Los Angeles Times, David Savage, the legal correspondent, reported that President Obama's lawyer argued to the United States Supreme Court and I quote, “US citizens, United States citizens do not have a constitutional right not to be framed.” This is Elena Kagan, her deputy, argues to the US Supreme Court that US citizens can be framed and there's nothing you can do about it.

Ralph Nader: Let me interject here. She is now a justice of the Supreme Court, of course, Elena Kagan.

Don Siegelman: Yes, yes.

Ralph Nader: She was referring to the sanctity of the grand jury system, which under US law, it has been said, prosecutors could indict a ham sandwich and what they mean by that joke is that when a prosecutor impanels a grand jury: A, it's all secret, B, all the witnesses are for the prosecution. The target doesn't get any witnesses in return; it doesn't get any chance to cross examine, doesn't get any chance to have a lawyer. That's why 99% of grand juries end up in indictment, not conviction then it goes to the courts. And Sol Price, who started The Price Club, you might be interested to know, was strongly opposed. He put ads in newspapers to reform the grand jury because he just thinks it's a recipe for prosecutorial abuse and denial of due process of law. Now I know some listeners are saying, but what was Governor Siegelman charged with and convicted? Can you just briefly discuss that and then we can go on to the broader issues here?

Don Siegelman: Well, I'd like to put in for a repeat performance so we can get into a little more depth. But yes, I was charged with bribery for soliciting a campaign contribution to a ballot referendum designed to benefit public education. There was no allegation of any self-enrichment scheme, nor was I accused of benefiting personally by a single penny. The money went to the Alabama Education Lottery Foundation, which was an organization put together to promote a ballot initiative to establish a lottery so that we could give every child in Alabama--regardless of where they're born or the color of their skin, whether they're immigrants or citizens--a chance to get early learning and an opportunity for higher education. So I was indicted for a bribery of receiving a campaign contribution from a CEO of a Fortune 500 company who had actually supported my opponent. But he had been on a state health board for 12 years, appointed by three previous governors and had resigned from the board. I asked him if he would serve again and I've got my right hand raised and I’m asking God to strike me dead if I'm lying. But when I asked him, he said, Oh, governor, do I have to? I just resigned from that board. Can I just give you the name of somebody that—and I said, no. If you leave the board now, it's going to look like you're running away from me as a Democrat. I was interested in building bridges, trying to build political bridges to the other side, to Republicans, to try to get ready for a rerun in 2002. And you know, it would have been a compliment to me to have this CEOs continue to serve on this board. [He] finally agreed to serve for one year, but there was no evidence of a quid pro quo unlike the president's impeachment trial where there was an expressed quid pro quo, as you stated earlier on one of the radio hours. Yet there was no evidence of a quid pro quo, much less an express one or an explicit one. But the judge, Mark Everett Fuller, with whom I had a political conflict back in 2002, when I caught him trying to bilk the state retirement system out of $300,000. So I was prosecuted on the basis of an implied or an inferred quid pro quo. The judge told the jury that they could consider the campaign contribution to the ballot initiative a thing of value to me, because I had supported the ballot initiative. So the judge ordered the jury to bring him a verdict or a partial verdict after we had two hung juries and they brought a partial verdict on a bribery charge. But my purpose in writing this book is not to tell my story, but to tell the story of how our criminal justice system is weighted in favor of prosecutorial power, and it needs to be balanced. You can't allow prosecutors to willfully and intentionally present false evidence as they did in this case that I've mentioned and that was argued before the Supreme Court in 2010. President Obama's lawyer was arguing in favor of protecting the government and the government prosecutors and investigators in a case where two men had served 25 years in prison for a crime they did not commit. The witness against them was promised a light sentence if he would point the finger toward these two black men instead of a white suspect who was a friend of the investigators.

Ralph Nader: That's a pattern of course, that has been repeated throughout American history and continues to this day. When police want to get somebody and prosecutors don't want to prosecute somebody, they go to work to the same office and they just are very, very worried about contradicting the police recommended charges because they have to work with them day after day; there's a great need for criminal justice reform. We're not getting much support, with few exceptions, from law professors and deans of law schools. The law schools should be alive with this travesty of justice that has been institutionalized, especially against minorities and vulnerable people. But the other side is that corporate criminals get away with it! The political criminals like Bush and Cheney, the criminal, unconstitutional invasion of Iraq, which has slaughtered over a million Iraqis and blown apart the country. And here they are getting big speech fees and getting awards and living the life of royalty. And the same time, the heads of Wells Fargo bank that created millions of false accounts, credit card accounts, auto insurance purchases without even getting the consent of the customers; they put their employees under quotas to do that. That's a clear premeditated, planed corporate crime [yet] not one prosecution.

They have to leave their jobs, with all their nice severance pay and golden handshakes, but they got away with it. So this whole mythology that nobody is above the law, I mean, Trump is above the law every day. He's violating laws, statutes, not responding to congressional subpoenas, violating the Constitution, most impeachable president [in history] and there he is, you know, just doubling down and doing more of the same, lying his way until November. When are we going to face up to the fact that injustice/violations of law by the powerful are the norm? They're not the exception; they are the norm. They've institutionalized their immunities and their privileges. And when they do, once in a while get caught by a good prosecutor, and you know, they hire these big law firms and they say to the prosecutor, how many staff do you have? You got other things you got to enforce. Do you want to assign your whole office to this? And so they get out with copping a plea and pretty soon, they're in wealthy retirement. So I think what you need to do, connecting with other people, I know you dealt with good Southern public interest lawyers like Stevenson, Morris Dees, who founded the Southern Poverty Law Center. I think it's a mission that has to become a prime political campaign issue by local, state and national candidates; it's got to be dealt with systemically. Otherwise, you know, you go into one bad case after another and it’s like being on a treadmill; the faster that you run, the more you slip behind. Are you looking at it from that point of view? And listeners should know that Don Siegelman has two stalwart children who are now lawyers and they're on the same wavelength here. Is that correct?

Don Siegelman: Well, one is a lawyer; one is a public advocate. My son is a lawyer; my daughter is the advocate. I wanted to go back to something that shattered my faith in the Obama administration was when he said he was going to look forward not backward, and I thought, so that means we're not going to investigate being led into war under false pretenses; we're not going to hold those people accountable for torture. That means we're not going to repeal the Patriot Act. We're going to give up our rights under the Fourth Amendment. You know, people in America don't want to believe that elections are stolen or that presidents can abuse their power. But if I were asked to prove that presidents can abuse their power, the first person I would call would be Donald J. Trump. He fired James Comey because he wanted to end the Russian investigation. He fired Sally Yates. He fired Andrew McCabe [and] hired is Southern white-boy buddy, Beauregard Sessions, and then fired him when of course Sessions was in a conflict because he had lied before the Senate committee about not meeting with Russians. And then he hired Bill Barr who does everything he can every day to protect the president or to advance his political causes. You know, so it goes on and on.

Ralph Nader: Yeah. Well, let's focus on how they stole your election. This is an amazing story. You were running for re-election, second term, governor of Alabama, and you were declared on election night the winner by all the national networks, by the Associated Press. “The results were in; the votes were counted; the media and poll workers were sent home.” Those are your words. And to continue, you said, “And then in one Southern Republican-controlled county, 6,000 of my votes simply disappeared. I requested a hand count of the precinct, which was in question. The probate judge granted me that. I was headed to that county in South Alabama when I was told that the state attorney general, Bill Pryor, who is now in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, had seized the ballots and had taken everything to Montgomery, the capital, where they certified my opponent, Republican Congressman Bob Riley, as the winner.” You can't challenge the outcome of an election unless you can prove to the judge that there were enough illegal votes cast or enough legal votes not countered to make a difference in the outcome. You couldn't do that because the attorney general had the ballots.

Don Siegelman: The attorney general was Karl Rove’s client, and it was the attorney general that started my investigation. It was kicked into high gear by the US attorney who was married to Karl Rove’s business partner in Alabama, Billy Canary, who used to be president of the American Trucking Association and also part of the Bush machine and was working with Rove in the ‘92 campaign. When they lost that campaign, by the way, they came, both Rove and Canary, to Alabama, married Alabama ladies and Rove moved to Rosemary Beach, on the Gulf Coast and Billy Canary moved to Montgomery where they continued their political operation in Alabama. I ran afoul of them many, many times during the course of the next 10 years. But the investigation was started by Karl Rove’s client. It was kicked into high gear in the federal courts by the US attorney. I was brought to trial one month before my re-election and while the US attorney's husband was running my opponent's campaign. You were talking about the election being stolen in 2002; it was Karl Rove’s client, the attorney general, as you mentioned, who seized the ballots and refused to let anybody see them much less have a recount.

Ralph Nader: There was a House Democratic committee hearing, was there not? Can you tell us briefly about that?

Don Siegelman: Well, the United States House Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of John Conyers and strong Democratic committed members of that committee, held two hearings, one on selective prosecution and one on prosecutorial misconduct. The committee was torpedoed by the Department of Justice that refused to turn over information about my case. Later, the Department of Justice revealed—well, actually, it was revealed by an unknown, anonymous whistleblower from the House Judiciary Committee staff who leaked a letter, which had been sent to John Conyers by the Department of Justice, in which the Department of Justice admitted that the lead prosecutor in my case, who worked for Karl Rove’s client and was also cross designated to work with the Bush-appointed US attorney, was emailing my Republican opponent's campaign manager, giving him updates on the investigation and explaining why both he and a group of likeminded conservative prosecutors were so frustrated they couldn't move my investigation forward fast enough.

Ralph Nader: We're talking with former Governor Don Siegelman of Alabama. This is clearly a political prosecution and it's so well documented and yet you were put in prison. You spent five years there, sometimes solitary confinement; you were in solitary confinement, and you have no remedy. You have no remedy against Karl Rove, no remedy against the people who violated laws in order to get this prosecution. Have you thought of any remedy at all in court?

Don Siegelman: Ralph, if you should find a purpose in every situation in which you find yourself, then I found a purpose here. My purpose is to fight for criminal justice reform. I can't dwell on what happened to me. It's over, but—

Ralph Nader: No, I understand that. But for all the other people who are “railroaded”, as they used to you say into court, people serving time for crimes they didn't commit with subsequent DNA evidence, for example. People in jail for 25 years because they were caught in possession of marijuana. It's not just you in terms of a remedy, as there should be as part of criminal justice reform, remedies against this. I know some of the people who've been in prison and released after decades for crimes they didn't commit, managed to get compensation, so much per year in prison, so that in their post-prison life, they could maintain some kind of livelihood. But I think there needs to be a broader reform here, so that the prosecutors, the political railroaders, the people who get away with it are subjected to justice here. I mean, otherwise there's no deterrence. Like you steal an election and you'll get away with it. And even if you're caught, nobody goes to jail. I mean, this happens again and again in this country. Oh well, you know, it's just politics as usual.

Don Siegelman: Well, Ralph, that's why I was hoping that during the Obama administration, they would hold Karl Rove accountable for the abuse of power, subverting the Department of Justice and subverting our democracy and weaponizing the Department of Justice to go after Democrats and protect Republicans. They didn't hold him accountable for the abuse of power. And now we see it going on again today in this current White House. But there are three practical reforms that I want to mention while I've still got a few minutes.

Ralph Nader: Yeah, go ahead.

Don Siegelman: First of all, Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit, retired now, said that the withholding of exculpatory evidence by prosecutors is epidemic in America. Well, and it is epidemic because you have this shield or umbrella of protection over prosecutors. You have the pronouncement by President Obama that US citizens do not have a constitutional right not to be framed. But then you have the Federal Torts Claims Act, which gives immunity from prosecutors for being sued for willfully and intentionally presenting false evidence or eliciting false testimony or withholding exculpatory evidence so that they are free, with legal impunity. to frame people and it takes place first in a grand jury. So what do we do? First, we repeal the immunity clause in the Federal Torts Claims Act. So prosecutors can be held civilly liable for willfully and intentionally putting somebody in prison for 25 years when they know they didn't commit the crime. Secondly, we need to record every interview with every witness and target so that there is a record of if someone's testimony is morphing over time and changing over time as it did in this case that I referred to in 2010, or in my case where the witness was interviewed 70 times, not seven but 70 times, over a period of four years and made to write and rewrite his answers over and over until he got his testimonies straight, according to Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes [so] that the record would reveal how a person's testimony changed over time. And it would also serve as a deterrent from prosecutors for pressuring, cajoling, and coaching witnesses to lie. In my case, we had a DOJ employee who filed a formal whistleblower complaint saying she was present when this witness against me was pressured and cajoled into remembering things he clearly did not recall.

Ralph Nader: That was devastating testimony to be sure. There's another aspect you might want to add to your list of reforms.

Don Siegelman: I’ve got one.

Ralph Nader: Years ago, a famous professor of administrative law, Kenneth Culp Davis, took note of how prosecutors failed to prosecute the big boys, the corporate criminals, that people have influence in politics. And he thought that prosecutors should always be under a duty to explain why they didn't prosecute, why they didn't further the prosecution. They couldn't just drop it and it's all secret; they’d have to explain to the public. You might want to get that in Lexis [2003].

Don Siegelman: Well, I kind of have that included, because the third element of my package to reform and to balance the scales of justice is to allow the target or the witness to have a lawyer present in the grand jury to object to testimony or evidence. Look, we do this in a civil deposition. You've been in hundreds, probably thousands of them. And you can object to proposed testimony or evidence and a magistrate/a judge decides whether it's admissible or not.

Ralph Nader: Yes, indeed.

Don Siegelman: Surely where monetary damages are at stake, if it's okay there, it ought to be okay when somebody's liberty is at stake. And so when you have cases, for example, when police officers shoot and kill an unarmed black man and it goes to a grand jury and the grand jury “no bills” [when a grand jury does not find probable cause for an arrest], you want an explanation. And if that defendant, in this case, the victim had the right to have a lawyer present, it would help bring some measure of accountability to the grand jury process. And in a way, you know, if there is a charge against a corporate wrongdoer and if it's taken to a grand jury, then there should be some public-interest entity that has the right to have a lawyer present, maybe an inspector general or someone, to be there to report back to the public why this corporate executive was not indicted.

Ralph Nader: For sure. That's exactly what Kenneth Culp Davis meant in this book, Discretionary Justice, which I'm sure you would benefit from if you read it. We're running out of time. We're talking with Don Siegelman, former Governor of Alabama [with a] very progressive record whose career was cut short by a political prosecution that we've been talking about as well documented on 60 Minutes program and also in his forthcoming book. We just have just a few seconds left. How about a question from Dave or Steve?

Steve Skrovan: Yeah, Mr. Siegelman, I have a question. And I just want to move it off to prison conditions. What kind of prison were you in? What was the population, the conditions? And talk a little bit about your advocacy in the age of this pandemic.

Don Siegelman: Well, as everyone probably knows at this point, it is virtually impossible for inmates to socially distance. You can't get away from inmates. We were over double capacity and when you're in a room where beds are stacked three high, not just two high and the aisles are so close, you can reach out and touch one bunk and the other when you're lying down in your bunk. When there's only one door in, one door out, no windows, it's impossible for infections or viruses not to spread rapidly. When you're sharing showers or soap or urinals are only inches apart with no separation, you know, it is going to spread. What I find amazing, the pronouncement by Bill Barr on April 3rd was, that he said, okay, you know, “We've got to release these nonviolent inmates who are not a threat to public safety.” Well now they're releasing thousands of inmates who are not a threat to public safety, which raises the question, why in the world are they in there in the first place? Ralph mentioned a man sentenced to 25 years for marijuana; he was my bunkmate, Juan Garcia. I've got a section in my book about him. A half ounce of marijuana--felony, probation; half a pound s of marijuana--felony, probation. Another conviction, felony for no amount of marijuana charge, no amount charge. And he was careered out, given 25 years. He serves 19. I wrote a petition for commutation for him and he gets out after 19 years, but it's insane. So we've got a lot of work to do in changing our criminal justice system. It is my hope that out of this Covid-19 crisis that has brought attention to the conditions of prisons and also has resulted in innovative ways to make goods and sell goods and provide things and services to the public, that out of this creativity that we're seeing bubble up, I hope we also are willing to accept changes in our criminal justice system that can radically change the way we deal with violations of the law. And we could go on talking about it, but I thank you for the opportunity to be with you today, Ralph. It's a pleasure to meet you.

Ralph Nader: I might add, and those changes have to be made by state legislators and members of Congress. So, any movement that expands its influence for criminal justice reform has got a zero in again on those handful of lawmakers who can turn this around. We've been talking with Don Siegelman, former Governor of Alabama and his forthcoming memoir out next month is called Stealing Our Democracy: How the Political Assassination of a Governor Threatens Our Nation. And it's not just about him, but it's about him speaking from his experience--not a theoretical memoir--from his experience in detail and then telescoping it to the whole criminal injustice system that afflicts so many people unfairly and allows so many other powerful people to escape the rule of law and the embrace of remedial justice. Thank you very much, Don.

Don Siegelman: Thank you Ralph. I appreciate it very much. Thank you, guys.

Steve Skrovan: We've been speaking with former Alabama governor, Don Siegelman. We will link to his book, Stealing Democracy at ralphnaderradiohour.com .Now we're going to take a short break. When we return, we will try to figure out where 535 indispensable lawmakers have been hiding. But first, let's check in with our corporate crime reporter, Russell Mohkiber.

Russell Mohkiber: From the National Press building in Washington, DC, this is your corporate crime report, Morning Minute for Friday, May 8, 2020. I'm Russell Mohkiber. Texas-based ice cream manufacturer Blue Bell Creameries will plead guilty to charges it shipped contaminated products linked to a 2015 listeriosis outbreak, and the company’s former president was charged in connection with a scheme to cover up the incident. Blue Bell will also pay $2.1 million to resolve civil False Claims Act allegations regarding ice cream products manufactured under unsanitary conditions and sold to federal facilities. Blue Bell’s former president, Paul Kruse, also was charged with seven felony counts related to his alleged efforts to conceal from customers what the company knew about the listeria contamination. For the Corporate Crime Reporter, I'm Russell Mohkiber.

Steve Skrovan: Thank you, Russell. Welcome back to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour. I'm Steve Skrovan along with David Feldman and Ralph. We have been doing this program remotely for over six years. It works pretty well, but can Congress function as effectively remotely or should they physically be in the capital to do the people's business? I think I know how our next guest would answer that question. David?

David Feldman: Bruce Fein is a constitutional scholar who was associate deputy attorney general under Ronald Reagan. Mr. Fein has been a visiting fellow for constitutional studies at the Heritage Foundation and an adjunct scholar at American Enterprise Institute. He's advised numerous countries on constitutional reform, including South Africa, Hungary, and Russia. He is the author Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for Our Constitution and Democracy, and American Empire: Before the Fall. Welcome back to the Ralph Nader Radio Hour, Bruce Fein.

Bruce Fein: Thank you for that effusion. I always remind listeners that nothing is said in introducing a guest that's under oath so it’s fine to exaggerate.

Ralph Nader: [Ralph chuckles] Before we talk about the AWOL Congress that must view itself as not essential service like delivery-truck drivers, grocery clerks, healthcare workers, sanitation workers, police and others who are exposing themselves daily to the risk of coronavirus because they're doing their duty, why don't you explain why historically, Congress has held itself in such low regard in so many ways vis-a-vis the Executive Branch under the Constitution and why you call Congress an ongoing inkblot?

Bruce Fein: Yeah. Well, really, Ralph, it goes back almost more than a century and it's been a steady erosion or a disappearance of Congress until it's like the Cheshire cat; it doesn't even have a smile when it's disappeared. And I think in part, it comes from twofold influences, but there are others as well. First, as the partisanship has become greater and greater, and as the government has grown in size, the members view the presidency as everything for their party, and so all they want to do is trust all the power—when their man is in the White House—to the Executive Branch. They escape accountability. They figure that with that person in the White House, they'll get bridges built or hospitals or roads; they’ll get some special grant in their district. And by not making any decisions, they make it more difficult for a challenger to come oust them because they haven't done anything to criticize other than giving away their power.

Ralph Nader: Let's start with war and then we'll go to define subpoenas.

Bruce Fein: All right. The war power. The fact is that every single member of the constitutional convention, every participant in the ratification debate, every president [from] the first--all understood that only Congress could declare war; only with Congress could take us from a state of peace to war. Now I need to underscore this because it's often misunderstood. That doesn't mean, and the ir founders said, if we're in fact subject to a sudden attack or an imminent sudden attack, the president can respond because the aggressor has already broken the peace. But the framers were unanimous. We can never trust the war power to the president who will concoct excuses to go to war to aggrandize power. That's been the history of every republic since the beginning of time. And the Congress did exercise that power up until, you know, after World War I. It was the Treaty of Versailles was defeated in part [by] the League of Nations, because that would have entrusted to the president alone, the authority to go to war without any congressional declaration. But since that time, presidents have run virtually hundreds of wars without congressional declarations. The only one that really wasn't needed [was] after Pearl Harbor; there was a declaration that recognized that we were at a state of war because Japan had attacked. Same thing after Hitler declared war on the United States. But certainly beginning with Korea and for the ensuing 70 some years, presidents have just gone to war on their own and Congress has simply sat there. Occasionally, they've delegated the power to go to war, like the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution even though President Johnson lied about the so-called second torpedo attack on the USS Maddox and Turner Joy. Presidents have repeatedly lied in times of war, even when they've gotten declarations. President Wilson lied about the Lusitania, which was carrying munitions for the allied powers and said it wasn't justified; they sunk because there were only passengers on it, no ammunition. President Polk lied about Mexican forces killing American soldiers on American soil. And we know with Korea, President Truman lied that this was just a police action that he was engaged in; it wasn't really a war even though it involved, you know, millions of soldiers and the threat of nuclear war against China.

Ralph Nader: Well, let's move to defined congressional subpoenas and obstruction of justice. Nixon was about to be impeached and removed for defying one subpoena and one obstruction of justice in the Watergate. Here we have dozen or more obstructions of justice documented by investigators and Mueller Report by Trump, and all kinds of subpoenas he just laughs at and doesn't abide by, coming from Congress.

Bruce Fein: That's correct. And we need to underscore for the listeners, Ralph, the power of subpoena, the power of oversight, is perhaps the most important power that Congress possesses; sunshine is the best disinfectant. The power of information in Washington is enormous, and the only way you can check an executive out of control is by knowing what the executive can do. That's why the framers wrote in the Declaration of Independence; we need to have government by the consent of the governed. You can't consent to something [when] you don't know what's going on. And it has become really epidemic, if you will, maybe pandemic is the word, that the Executive Branch at present simply doesn't show up to testimony or it shows and doesn't ever answer questions. It wouldn't even answer questions as to what the so-called peace accord with Taliban is, to try to remove ourselves from Afghanistan even though Taliban knew what the terms of the peace accord was. I mean that is utterly ridiculous.

Ralph Nader: But of course, I know Trump has said, “With Article II, I can do whatever I want as president.” And he proceeds to do that every day larded with lies. He's breaking the checks and balances like other presidents did, but more forcefully and boastfully. He's breaking the checks and balances in our Constitution and he's breaking the separation of powers. Now why is Congress letting him and prior presidents get away with it and then we'll get to the AWOL Congress in the pandemic.

Bruce Fein: Okay, well, you know we're trying to get a psychology here, Ralph. And you know we both probably have a combined more than a hundred years dealing with Congress and I think there are several factors that are at work. One that the members of Congress now, I say, their loyalty and their oath that they take psychologically is to their party, and so they don't really care if the Constitution assigns them responsibility. If they can get reelected by assigning it to the president, they will sit and give away their power. Secondly, I know the Congress is hyper, hyper risk averse. They really don't want to do anything. And they fear, you know, an adverse tweet by President Trump. It's truly amazing how frightened they are. And also, they're totally unschooled, Ralph, in what their real powers are under the Constitution. I almost—

Ralph Nader: Let’s pause on that. This is the most amazing observation Bruce has. You know, his office is one block from the Congress; he’s in and out of the House and Senate all the time. And you conclude they don't even understand what their duties are under the Constitution, including the staff.

Bruce Fein: Including the staff. The staff after Gingrich, you know, downgraded the pay scale. The staff, don't even remember what the Vietnam War was or what Watergate was or Nixon's Enemies List. I once was asking, why don't you demand that Congress enact statutes that determines what gets classified and not, and don't have to encounter this spurious claims of the Executive Branch that we've called to declassify. And the staff said, “Oh, we don't have any power to decide what's classified or not”. And it's ridiculous. In fact, there are House Resolutions that are currently in place that authorize both the House and Senate to declassify any document they want. It was done a couple of times during the Church Committee hearings in 1975-76. Most of the staff members in Congress wouldn't even know who Senator Frank Church was. And so they're so clueless about how real power is allocated under the Constitution, they feel they're helpless and can't defend themselves, because they're completely ignorant. How you overcome that, I don't know. I've been up there so many times and said, “I'll do seminars for you. We can do staff sessions, whatever.” They just want to raise money and just be lazy is what they want to do. They are not serious people who devote serious time to understanding how the Constitution is supposed to work with checks and balances!

Ralph Nader: Well, you know, as you pointed out, they work two and a half days a week when they're in session before the Covid virus, and part of that time is they leave their office, which they have to under law and go to the nearby office space to raise money, dialing for dollars in little cubicles, both the Democrats and the Republicans. So now we have the trillions of dollars of relief and bailout and they come in and they vote and then they go back home. There are no public hearings on trillions of dollars, no detailed debate on the floor, no requests for information. In fact, you say that the drafts of these bills are actually written by who?

Bruce Fein: They're written either by the Executive Branch or the intelligence community or their subcontractors. The members, to be candid, the staff isn't even competent to write these bills; they don't even know enough. It's like you or I trying to jump into a first-year physics program and understand what equals MC squared is. It is so above their intellectual universe; they don't know what to do. So they get bamboozled and they accept the things that are utterly outrageous. As you pointed out in one of our recent discussions, Ralph, they wrote into these coronavirus relief and aid acts waiver authority for the [US] secretary of treasury. He can just waive all the limitations on declaring dividends and executive compensation wherever he feels it would help to open up the economy. There are no standards. He can do it for his friends and not do it for his enemies. This is utterly, completely unacceptable and ridiculous. This is 2 to 3 trillion dollars; you know, that's a huge amount of money.

Ralph Nader: And that's why so much of it is going into the wrong pockets and the press is saying there's chaos, because they're not drafting these bills tight enough. The corporate lawyers are all over getting exemptions for this and tax breaks for that. The New York Times reported in the 2.2 trillion bill, they got something in there that’s going to let the corporations escape, listen to this, $178 billion over time.

Bruce Fein: That’s right.

Ralph Nader: Now most of the members don't even glance at these bills. They just vote up or down depending on...

Bruce Fein: [Depending on] what the leadership tells them. Yeah, exactly right, and this is... there's a huge, what you would call intellectual imbalance here. The corporate lobbyists and the Executive Branch people who consult with them, you know, they're the Harvard/Yale; they're the Mandarin class. They get paid huge amounts of money. They know this stuff; they're smart. The members of Congress with Newt Gingrich, they pay their staff like $60,0000 to $70,000 a year. These people are 25-26 years old. They're not bad people; they don't have a clue of what's going on. You know, this is like having the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippin playing an amateur basketball team. They don't know, and Congress refuses to increase the salary level. They say, “Well, we don't want to spend any of the money; we just care about who is in the White House; they'll help us out. And it's their own character that's so deficient that makes it almost impossible to get them to do anything constructive. And this is Republicans and Democrats; it's not a party issue. It's an institutional failing that...

Ralph Nader: There are necessary federal workers going to work every day. They don't do it by remote or virtual reality. What's the case for telling the members of Congress they should come back to work? They can take all the personal protections and more, advised by Centers for Disease Control. Some of the staff can work at home, so it isn't as much congestion. What is your argument against Congress working remotely from back home, voting from back home?

Bruce Fein: Well, first of all, there's the Constitution itself. In order to establish a quorum, you actually have to have a majority of members of Congress present and voting. So they have to be here under the Constitution. But putting that aside, Ralph, it's simply the nature of the species that you are able to debate and able to assess truth and falsehood in face-to-face encounters; you can, even if it's less or more than six feet away. That's how the mind works. Well, what do you think about X? What do you think about Y? It develops into esprit; it develops a team complex. No, you really think you would be able to develop esprit for a football team that had discussions by email or by Zoom or something like that? You have to see these people face to face in order to give them an emotional content to this. You have to inspire them with enthusiasm that they're willing to sacrifice; this really is important, and of course they are. I mean, they're superintending a $5 trillion corporation called the Executive Branch. Millions of employees, tens of millions of contractors, trillions of dollars at stake in debt that could destroy the whole country that's now storing past 25 trillion. Going to war that could destroy, create more enemies in another attack like 9/11 by stupidly getting into other people's business. All these are huge things and you have to have people who are there, motivated and who are willing to sacrifice. And to that requires face-to-face meetings in intensity. You can't duplicate the intensity of seeing somebody in the eye over an email or over some kind of remote system. It's like trying to court a woman. You really think you're going to do that successfully, you know, on the telephone or on the email as opposed to in person? Because that's what’s ultimately going to be the salvation of the country. We need people where we are who will fight the Executive Branch overreach, take risks and make it their life's ambition and endeavor. And you're not going to get that inspiration by 50 people or hundreds of people all scattered around, you know, in their home districts.

Ralph Nader: There's a certain lack of courage involved here. I must say. We're running out of time, but there's a certain lack of courage by members of Congress here, given all the people who are putting themselves on the line day after day, providing necessities for the American people in this Covid-19 crisis. We're running out of time, but any comment by Steve or Dave?

Steve Skrovan: Yeah Bruce, Anthony Fauci, who is the head of the CDC taskforce on this, their branch of it. He was asked to testify before the House and the White House said, “No, he can't testify before the House. We'll let him testify before the Senate,” which presumably in Trump world, is a more amenable place. Is that really legal? Is that within their power?

Bruce Fein: No. I mean if I were a member of Congress I’d say to Mr. Fauci, you show up to our subpoena, or we'll impeach and remove you from office. We'll have somebody else who will actually show up. No, you do not have the authority just to decide, oh, I don't want to show up for a hearing, and especially because you think you'll get questions you don't like to hear. Really? Can you imagine you're a witness in a lawsuit and say, Mr. Judge, I don't want to show up and answer questions I don't like, you know, you have to give me somebody who will ask me friendlier question. It is utterly and completely ridiculous. When I came to Washington, you know, years ago, John Dingell was Chairman of the House of Foreign Commerce Committee. If somebody said that his salary would be eliminated the next day and don't worry, there'll be an article of impeachment over his head like a sword of Damocles and then they would respond, and the fact that the House lets this go without any pushback is truly stunning.

Ralph Nader: All right, well, we're out of time. We've been talking with Bruce Fein, author of books on constitutional law, on empire, on the importance of checks and balances and reforms. Thank you very much, Bruce. To be continued as always.

Bruce Fein: Thanks so much, Ralph. I'm always eager to appear on your program.

Steve Skrovan: We've been speaking with constitutional scholar, Bruce Fein. We will link to his work at ralphnaderradiohour.com including the 12-part series he did with Ralph about the impeachable offenses of Donald Trump. Now we have some time for some listener questions. David, why don’t you do the honors?

David Feldman: This comes to us from Juan Gerardo. He says, “Ralph, I'm a ravenous listener to your podcast and I don't think Ralph Nader has responded to Mitch McConnell's attempt at tort reform. 45 already in his executive order to maintain the meat packing industry. Include this in it, to not hold them accountable for Covid-19 related injuries or death. We must keep informing the public about this denial of employees’ right for their day in court.”

Ralph Nader: Fully agree, Juan, and for listeners, his mention of 45 was referring to the 45th president who is Donald Trump. Well, we have responded, if you go to tortmuseum.org, you will see the letter signed by some prominent lawyers and law professors to Trump and the leaders in Congress saying this is not the time to allow recklessness in delivery of healthcare or defective products being sold as nostrums and phony remedies to be escaping from the accountability of tort law or the law of wrong wrongful injuries. The constitutional right of people to file a case in court, and the judges know how to throw out frivolous cases, is in the Seventh Amendment right of trial by jury. And McConnell is trying to take that away during the period of the Covid-19 and perhaps longer and give these corporations immunity from any kind of accountability. And you know what's going on in the marketplace; there's a lot of shoddiness, a lot of untested nostrums and the profiteering is at an epidemic level. So we're doing that. Go to tortmuseum.org and you can see the whole letter.

Steve Skrovan: Very good. Thank you for your question. Keep all of your questions coming on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour website. I want to thank our guests again, Don Siegelman and Bruce Fein. For those of you listening on the radio, that's our show. For you podcasts listeners, stay tuned for some bonus material we call “The Wrap Up”. A transcript of this show will appear on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour website soon after the episode is posted.

David Feldman: Subscribe to us on our Ralph Nader Radio Hour YouTube channel, and for Ralph's weekly column, it's free, go to nader.org. For more from Russell Mohkiber, go to corporatecrimereporter.com.

Steve Skrovan: The producers or the Ralph Nader Radio Hour are Jimmy Lee Wirt and Matthew Marran. Our executive producer is Alan Minsky.

David Feldman: Our theme music, “Stand Up, Rise Up” was written and performed by Kemp Harris. Our proofreader is Elisabeth Solomon; our intern is Michaela Squier. Join us next week on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour. Thank you, Ralph.

Ralph Nader: Thank you everybody. And like so many of our shows, the solution is to focus on Congress and state legislatures. That means all of you.
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