Unsafe at Any Speed Fifty-fifth Anniversary (1965-2020)

November 30, 2020, marks the 55th anniversary of the publication of Ralph Nader’s landmark book Unsafe at Any Speed. The book highlighted the faulty rear suspension system of the General Motors Corvair, This defect could cause the Corvair to skid violently and roll over. The corporate negligence that produced the various Corvair defects, Nader said, was “one of the greatest acts of industrial irresponsibility.” More broadly, Unsafe at Any Speed documented how Detroit habitually subordinated safety to style and marketing concerns. The main immediate cause of automobile occupant injuries, Nader demonstrated, was not the “nut behind the wheel” so often blamed by the auto industry, but the inherent engineering and design deficiencies of motor vehicles that were woefully unsafe, especially in terms of precluding “crashworthiness”—no seat belts, etc. TIME Magazine listed Unsafe at Any Speed as one of the 100 best and most influential books in the English language.

Auto safety-related measures—the 1966 federal laws, federal agency and many preventive measures they created—have averted 4.2 million auto deaths over the past 55 years.

The publication of Unsafe at Any Speed led to GM’s contemptible investigation by private detectives and attempts to smear Nader, GM’s subsequent public apology at a Senate hearing started the legislative process that quickly led to the 1966 auto- and highway- safety laws, which have saved countless lives and profoundly accelerated the pace of auto safety innovation.

On March 22, 1966 at a Senate hearing chaired by Senator Ribicoff, James M. Roche, the President of GM, apologized to Nader saying:

As president of General Motors, I hold myself fully responsible for any action authorized or initiated by any officer of the corporation which may have had any bearing on the incidents related to our investigation of Mr. Nader…. While there can be no disagreement over General Motors’ legal right to ascertain necessary facts preparatory to litigation… I am not here to excuse, condone, or justify in any way our investigating Mr. Nader. To the extent that General Motors bears responsibility, I want to apologize here and now to the members of this subcommittee and Mr. Nader. I sincerely hope that these apologies will be accepted. Certainly I bear Nader no ill will.

This episode catapulted auto safety into the public spotlight, leading to a series of landmark laws that have prevented millions of motor vehicle-related deaths and injuries. In particular, the publication of Unsafe at Any Speed put forces in motion that brought about the passage of the law that created the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in order to assert federal leadership in auto and highway safety. The agency was empowered to set minimum, uniform safety, performance, and fuel-efficiency standards for all motor vehicles, and to require automakers to notify owners and recall cars containing safety-related defects. The episode also established Nader in the public mind as a fierce, incorruptible advocate and watchdog, a reputation that launched one of the most singular and enduring roles in American politics. Nader has used his considerable talents as an organizer, activist, legal analyst, and author to rally public opinion, start many citizen initiatives, and push through hundreds of reforms in business, government, and various professions.

In November of 1966, Ralph Nader’s lawyer, Stuart Speiser, filed suit against GM for its harassment, invasion of privacy, attempted intimidation, and other nefarious actions. In 1970, GM settled with Nader, agreeing to pay him $425,000, which he used to found several public interest organizations. Newsweek Magazine remarked that this settlement will, in effect, serve as “General Motors’ contribution to the consumer movement. They are going to be financing their own ombudsman.”

This prediction proved to be true; Nader went on to found a wide variety of organizations, all aimed at advancing corporate and government accountability. Nader-inspired groups include Public Citizen, Center for Auto Safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Clean Water Action Project, Disability Rights Center, Pension Rights Center, Princeton AlumniCorps, and Appleseed Foundation—a nonprofit network of 16 public interest justice centers.

In addition, Nader helped establish the state-based PIRGs—Public Interest Research Groups— which are consumer organizations that function on college campuses and in communities in 23 states. The PIRGs have published hundreds of groundbreaking reports and guides, lobbied for laws in their state legislatures, and called the media’s attention to consumer, environmental, and energy problems. Many other nonprofit advocacy groups followed in the wake of these Nader- inspired organizations.

Nader also played a pivotal role in advancing and improving several major federal consumer protection laws such as the motor vehicle safety laws, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the landmark Clean Air and Clean Water Act Amendments, and the crucial Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). He worked tirelessly to launch federal regulatory agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

An author, lecturer, attorney, and political activist, Nader’s life-long work and advocacy have led to safer cars, healthier food, safer drugs, cleaner air and drinking water, and safer work environments. In 2006 he was cited by The Atlantic as one of the one hundred most influential figures in American history, TIME Magazine has called him the “U.S.’s toughest customer,” the New York Times has said of him “[w]hat sets Nader apart is that he has moved beyond social criticism to effective political action,” and in 1974, a survey conducted by U.S. News and World Report rated him as the fourth most influential person in the United States.

Nader continues to work relentlessly to advance meaningful civic institutions and citizen participation as an antidote to unaccountable corporate and government officials.

Not only did the publication of Unsafe at Any Speed spur the creation of many necessary organizations, it also provided a fundamental and resilient framework for protecting citizens from corporate malfeasance that can expand to meet old and new injustices.

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Biden Needs To Report Trump’s Wreckage in Executive Branch as Markers

The Biden Transition team is about to connect with the Trumpsters running federal departments and agencies into the ground. The Biden staff should prepare for serial shocks. Biden’s people will be observing the first glimpses of staggering wreckage and corruption. They need to tell the American people what they find.

The Trump regime gave itself lawless license to do whatever it wanted. Trump operatives dismantled or disabled humane program after humane program, health and safety regulations, and economic protections designed to protect working people, children, the elderly, and people living in poverty.

After all, the Trumpsters got the green light from their boss Donald, who when not playing golf, tweeting tantrums, and watching Fox News, believed that “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”

When the Bidenites take over on January 21, they will find hollowed-out government law enforcement and shelved research projects. They’ll see offices empty after government scientists and other civil servants were forced out. Other public servants will be sitting in what the Japanese call “window jobs,” ordered to stop working on vital matters ranging from limiting climate disruption to stopping Wall Street rip-offs. The Trump administration turned important government jobs into do-nothing positions.

Heavily censored federal CDC workers, benumbed from prohibitions on what they can say, and who were ordered not to speak the words “climate change” will receive their rescuers with deep relief. EPA workers who were ordered to repeal or weaken over 100 environmental safeguards – unleashing deadly toxins into people’s air and water – will feel the breaking of the restraints imposed on sound science.

Specialists who were told to weaken or eliminate about 50 occupational health and safety standards and literally shut down enforcement at OSHA will also start to see the early dawn.

Biden’s team will discover destruction or theft of public records, spectacles of looting and plunder of public trust and public property.

They will hear stories of corporate lobbyists coming in and out of the agencies as if they owned the government because they did. Trump turned over the federal government to Big Business, as has never before happened, brazenly, openly, and endlessly. His nominee to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) into nothingness, marauding Mick Mulvaney, openly said the agency’s mission was to protect Wall Street Big Banks and unscrupulous payday lenders!! Mulvaney abandoned tens of millions of defrauded Americans. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Mulvaney proved “he would rather cozy up with payday lenders and industry insiders than listen to consumer advocates who want to make sure hard-working Americans are not cheated by financial scams.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said Mick Mulvaney had “no intention of putting consumers above financial firms that cheat them.”

Much of the Trump Administration corruption started at the despoiled White House, which Trump turned into a family business incubator to enhance his Brand. Trump’s crime spree was aided and abetted by his “personal lawyer,” Attorney General, William Barr who twisted government lawyers into ignoring or overturning the rule of law under orders from the political bosses.

Shoveling out corrupt, crony contracts, grants, subsidies, giveaways, and bailouts in a frenzy of taxpayer torture will occupy many officials in the new Administration as they attempt to unravel, expose, and if possible, claw back ill-gotten gains.

Unlike the entering Obama Administration back in 2009, the Biden Administration must come in with a determined mindset as they begin restoring the rule of law and reversing Trump’s cruel and crazy policies. Biden’s team will also need to start restoring past services and initiating new services for the citizenry.

They must not let the Trumpster outlaws escape and become immune fugitives from justice. If Trump’s wrecking crew escapes the arm of the law, for sure they and their base will return with a vengeance in two and four years.

For Joe Biden, healing America is not incompatible with bringing these self-dealing, law-breaking, constitution-violating, anti-American crooks to justice. In truth, both tasks are complementary with the basic belief that “nobody is above the law,” which escapee Trump has long treated as a laughable cliché.

The way to start this redeeming process is to draw a clear line between what Biden’s appointees find and what they intend to change. They must give cogent reports to the people about Trump’s crumbled and wasted agencies so that Trump’s record of destruction and pillage will not be forgotten because of short public memories. Otherwise, Trump’s mass media will let him leave the public with the truth-denying Orwellian impression that he left the Democrats “a great” federal legacy.

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Trump’s Massive, Lawless, and Immoral Legacy to Our Country Will Continue Unless …

By Ralph Nader
November 20, 2020

Trump has gotten away with almost everything throughout his bankruptcy-driven business career and his corrupt, cruel, and costly political years in the White House. Things changed on November 3, when he was retired by the voters.

Refusing to concede, however, so as to prolong his crazed fantasies, Trump is distracting the mass media from his looting of the Executive Branch departments to the advantage of big business bosses and his failing family enterprises. Expect this to continue until January 20, 2021. (See my op-ed titled: “If Trump loses, expect him to exact revenge on his way out” Boston Globe, August 10, 2020).

Trump and his cronies will get away with their crime sprees unless Joe Biden has a Justice Department team that will follow the law and prosecute any government official who broke the law. In 2009, Barack Obama let law-breaking Wall Streeters and the Bush/Cheney war criminals become successful fugitives from justice.

Trump has inflicted lasting damage to our social morality and to the rule of law. Unfortunately, the destructive and uncontrollable momentum unleashed by Trump will not be easily reversed.

Trump’s unabashed verbal and physical abuses of women were widely publicized. Consider the repulsive example Trump sets for young boys and young men who see the president getting away with menacing machismo.

Trump boasts about paying very little income taxes. With declining corporate tax compliance in the country, exacerbated by his starving of the IRS enforcement budgets. Many of Trump’s supporters think his tax avoidance and evasions are cool and believe his actions are a model for emulation.

Trump’s relentless and baseless charges alleging massive election fraud are inflammatory and dangerous. Trump’s lies seriously undermine the public’s confidence in our vote-counting system, not just by his supporters, but by foes and friends abroad.

Trump’s erosion and subversion of the laws and the Constitution have lowered the bar for future presidents and their regimes. Chronic Presidential violations of the law preceded Trump (the Obama, Bush, and Clinton Administrations and other previous administrations before them), but Donald Trump took this Executive Branch’s lawlessness to new depths – both in open sight and under a cloak of government secrecy. Corruption, obstruction of justice, self-dealing, and mass giveaways to corporate crooks is a way of life at the lying Trump White House.

It is difficult to overestimate the continuing harm to our beleaguered democracy and its people, should Trump and his cohorts not be brought to justice. (See our new book, Wrecking America: How Trump’s Lawbreaking and Lies Betray All)

Trump’s assault on facts and truth is multiplied by his non-stop tweets to 70 million people and a dittohead media. Previous Presidents had a tiny bully-pulpit by comparison. Trump projects an image of getting away with stiffing everyone – his workers, consumers, and creditors, as a failed gambling czar, and the Congress, the IRS, and government investigators as President.

When the leader of the country, headlining the daily mass and social media throughout each day presents such a many-sided decadence and criminality, it can only accelerate a decaying culture and goad his supporters into believing that they too can get away with anything. Remember Trump said, “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”

A country-wide rebound, toward a wholesome, respectful, and steadfast America is more than the responsibility of just the political representatives who replace the Trumpsters. Ultimately, it must come from aroused civic communities that have historically saved and advanced our country.

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Trump’s Crime Wave Continues: Requires Biden Special Prosecutor

By Ralph Nader
November 13, 2020

There are many reasons why loser Trump refuses to concede. Yes, delusion has been the counterfeit coin of his fantasy realm – “I won this election by a lot” he tweeted with all caps last Saturday. In his fevered mind – nourished by a bullying career – all victories are his triumphs, and all losses are fake due to fraud or theft. Unfortunately, for decades he has gotten away with all sorts of abuses, violations, and exaggerations.

Trump is now being told that the courts don’t agree with his desperate lawsuits brought by firms such as Jones Day, whose lawyers can’t resist the lucrative billings that client Trump generates. Trump is also seeing that Republican Senators are starting to distance themselves from their roles as dittohead minions. Even puppet Mike Pence is not parroting Trump’s wild, flailing fictions.

All this bluster is, however, more than the fluster of a failed gambling czar going off the rails. There are lootings to be done. By refusing to concede, Trump is raising millions of dollars from his supporters.  Trump’s defiance also distracts the media from the Executive Branch that is on a rampage of wreckage and revenge garnished by profiteering that will fill the defeated President’s days until January 20, 2021.

The firing of top officials who strayed from Trump fuels his fulminating tweet machine. The first official to go was Secretary of Defense Mark Esper who opposed the use of the U.S. Army against the American people speaking freely in the streets. More officials are being removed and replaced by Trump’s hardliners. Installing “acting” high officials without Senate confirmation is Trump’s latest impeachable offense and should render the authority of these henchmen illegal.  Remember dictator Donald Trump has declared that “With Article II, I can do whatever I want as president.”

Trump and his outlaws can do serious damage before they get the boot in January. Expect that Trump and his cronies will do the following:

  1. Destroy or steal documents, emails, transcripts, fabrications, and alter any incriminating evidence. House Committee Chairs have written a letter warning Trump that violating the Public Records Act is a federal crime. The Trumpsters laugh at Congress knowing that the House Democrats have declined to exercise their full power under the Constitution.
  2. Expand the funneling of unexpended monies and unauthorized funds to favor corporate cronies and other interests pumping up the Trump family businesses.
  3. Continue to defy over one hundred House subpoenas and demands for information. These subpoenas will expire with the new Congressional session in January.
  4. Issue Executive Orders illegally overriding statutory requirements and establishing immediate benefits for his business and political friends.
  5. Expand the repeal of existing regulation of corporations, no matter how administratively unlawful.
  6. Drop pending court cases, and sign sweetheart settlements with corporate crooks without public disclosure. Attorney General Barr specializes in secret settlements. He may even close out grand juries, such as the one now investigating Boeing and its 737 MAX crimes. (See the Democratic House Chairman Letters).
  7. Open further the floodgates of corporate subsidies, handouts, giveaways, and bailouts, including awarding leases and licenses corruptly to commercial interests.
  8. Give contracts to favored companies and cronies and revoke other contracts awarded earlier to people Trump wants to punish.
  9. Order his toady Attorney General to issue subpoenas for bogus, vindictive purposes so as to stigmatize his critics and cause them legal costs.
  10. Pardon or commute the sentences of large numbers of people, some of them worthy, for cover, and others who are Trump cronies wanting to avoid prosecution or prison terms. A seasoned escape artist from the law, Trump will want to pardon loyalists and his family members for any federal crimes and then figure out how to pardon himself. Trump might even resign so Mike Pence can briefly become President and pardon Trump and collaborators.
  11. Give the Presidential Medal of Freedom to odious characters, such as he did to Rush Limbaugh earlier this year, to curry favor and to reap future paybacks.
  12. Make a living hell for Joe Biden’s transition teams to keep them from discovering Trump administration crime scenes and to impair the work of the new administration in a perilous age of Trump’s Covid-19 expanding casualty toll.

To those who shout, “He can’t legally do that,” Trump laughs and says – “So sue me; I’ve been pardoned and, anyhow, I’ve got six votes on the U.S. Supreme Court.” (He can’t, however, escape state criminal prosecutions as those rising in New York).

These Trumpian maneuvers must not deter Biden and his Attorney General from establishing a Special Prosecutor Task Force to bring the Trumpsters to justice and assure that crime does not pay. Conservative columnist Max Boot said, “Trump’s wrongdoing is so pervasive and brazen that he must be prosecuted to uphold the rule of law and deter even greater lawbreaking by future presidents. If elected, Biden should appoint a special counsel of unimpeachable integrity — a widely respected former U.S. attorney or federal judge — with a wide-ranging mandate to investigate Trump and his administration.”

What Trump would like to do, health permitting, is make tons of money from all his presidential favors, continue to control the GOP with mass rallies,  mass media coverage, and his own media company, and run for president in 2024. He knows very well that despite his colossal, dangerous, lying, betraying, and wrecking of America in so many ways, (See our book, Wrecking America: How Trump’s Lawbreaking and Lies Betray All) 70 million voters stayed with him.

Such is the historic default, at both the Congressional and state levels, of the corporatized, cowardly Democratic Party against the overtly worst Republican Party in 166 years!

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Letter to FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson

November 13, 2020

Stephen Dickson, Administrator
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
U.S. Department of Transportation
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591

Dear Mr. Dickson,

It is now abundantly clear that instead of clearing out top Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operatives who have worked to make the FAA safe for Boeing, you have thrown in your lot with Ali Bahrami and Daniel Elwell and unwisely kept aviation industry apologists in positions of authority. You have effectively joined the top corporate culture of the FAA’s management that is infatuated with the Organization Designation Authorization Program (ODA) abdication to Boeing, while too often overruling the agency’s own engineers, just as Boeing has done with their engineers who objected to unsafe decisions down to the shop floor.

Safety advocates have waited in vain for you to address the strip mining of the FAA’s budget over the years and the decline in its technical capacity, even though you have a receptive Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Congressman David Price who can assist you in restoring and rebuilding FAA’s competence and reputation.

The recent House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure staff report on the Boeing 737 MAX released by Chairman Peter DeFazio excoriated the FAA’s secrecy, its symbiotic relations with Boeing, and the specific failures of personnel (singling out Mr. Ali Bahrami – a former aerospace lobbyist in residence at the FAA). You have so far shrugged off this report with a couple of disingenuous sentences. In addition, you have apparently dismissed the two top committee Democrat’s letter of October 1, 2020, insisting, unfortunately without a subpoena, that you “release all documents related to design revisions or evaluations related to the aircraft’s safe return to service. This should include, but not be limited to, system safety assessments, related analysis, assumptions about pilot response times, and key test data concerning the safety of the aircraft.” (See attached letter and report summary).

Your continued refusal to accede to this latest request for crucial safety information indicates your confidence that Senator Roger Wicker, Senator Mitch McConnell, and the Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, will shield your wholesale allegiance to Boeing’s demand for secrecy. Boeing wants to fly the 737 MAX again on Boeing’s proposed conditions.

The FAA keeps alluding to the past safety record of commercial airlines in the U.S. (eleven years – one fatality), but fails to recognize that the two crashes of the 737 MAX killing 346 people were caused by a flawed shortcut called MCAS that has never been used in commercial aviation before. The MCAS applied haphazardly to address a flawed aerodynamic design, which wrongfully positioned an engine on an aircraft fuselage to cause instability in flight, had never been experienced in the industry nor approved by the FAA before on any commercial aircraft. In addition, the increasing domination of software-controlled flying and of automation replacing pilot control and skills, ushers in a new era of aviation safety. These are challenges that the FAA is not presently technically equipped to meet even if it had the will to do so. Concerns about these issues come from independent experts, but also from informed unions, airline executives, and consumer groups such as Flyers Rights and Consumer Reports.

You, however, are privately expressing your opinion that blames the unalerted pilots who were sabotaged by stealth software taking control of their aircraft causing two fatal crashes and the loss of 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Can you not absorb the human factors engineering analysis in the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report, along with other official evaluations? The NTSB concluded: “the assumptions that Boeing used in its functional hazard assessment of uncommanded MCAS function for the 737 MAX did not adequately consider and account for the impact that multiple flight deck alerts and indications could have on pilots’ responses to the hazard.”

The human factors and the unstable aerodynamics of the 737 MAX have made it inherently unsafe. Because you flew the (tweaked) 737 MAX for two hours, do you really think you have covered the range of prudently foreseeable scenarios that thousands of 737 MAX planes will encounter around the world with an inadequate MCAS fix serving as a decoy that will distract the flying public from the other real problems with the 737 MAX known to your agency?

Reliable sources report that you are ready to unground the 737 MAX while ignoring the basic aerodynamic problem of the plane’s “quick and dirty” engine position/fuselage mismatch, the cable/rudder vulnerability, and other non-flight control issues. Both Captain Sullenberger and the Allied Pilots Association (APA) have said “not so fast.” The union for FAA’s safety engineers who work on certifying new aircraft has called for substantial upgrades, including the rescinding of several exceptions granted to Boeing by the FAA. Additionally, more than 340 overwhelmingly negative comments have been filed on the FAA/Boeing proposed MAX, from dozens of top aviation safety experts.

The Seattle Times cited specific safety improvements suggested by Captain Sullenberger that shouldn’t be shelved due to cost, adding, “Is that really something we are comfortable saying out loud to everybody who boards an airplane?” and he stated “I just don’t think that’s defensible. In safety-critical domains, ‘just good enough,’ isn’t.” The captain, based on his lengthy experience with flying conditions noted “Eventually, whatever can happen, will happen.”

When cornered and not open to technical give-and-take, the FAA provides exceptions and allows later fixes, often already installed on other new Boeing planes. This approach is not good enough, Mr. Dickson.

I refer you to the detailed responses by the grieving families and by Flyers Rights to your proposed rulemaking placed in your docket by September 17, 2020. Have you personally read them? Besides making their points, they ask how the FAA can engage in public rulemaking based on secret data, tests, and assessments. The 737 MAX disasters are corporate crimes, due to gross criminal negligence. Federal prosecutors with the Justice Department are reportedly presenting a sitting grand jury with claims that Boeing misled the FAA about the MCAS software. In these grave matters of life and death, involving a potential 5000 737 MAX aircraft in the hands of many airlines flying under varying conditions, you should not fall back on the frivolous claim of protecting Boeing’s so-called trade secrets, blocking the media and the many deeply interested parties and even Congressional panels from vital public scrutiny.

Secrecy perpetrated before and after the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes is a reason why there has been no focus on, in the words of MIT lecturer and aerospace engineer, Javier de Luis Xavier, an “aerodynamic solution to an aerodynamic problem.” (Professor de Luis lost his sister in the Ethiopian crash). This is the ignored, inexcusable generic design failure of this aircraft, which should be recalled for mandated modifications.

It behooves Boeing, during this Covid-19-driven airline industry slowdown, (and the mounting order cancellations), to respond ethically by executing the proper aerodynamic and structural repairs and modifications to the existing 737 MAX population. This involves lengthening the landing gear to accommodate the proper repositioning of the engines under the wings, similar to the Airbus 350 NEO, thus eliminating the need for MCAS and its associated downstream cost ramifications. This correct and proper solution costs more than the band-aid fixes applied to the MCAS, but in the big scheme of things, it should not exceed 3% to 5% of the retail price of a Boeing 737 MAX. In addition, it will allow for the future production of the 737 MAX to have the assured safety that the industry had experienced all along until the MCAS controlled 737 MAX crashed 2 planes and took the lives of 346 people. The U.S. commercial passenger aircraft safety record over the past eleven years (one fatality) has produced smugness at the FAA and its reactive tradition (that critics have called its tombstone mentality). This was grimly illustrated by the FAA’s astounding insistence that the 737 MAX was a safe aircraft before and after each of the new aircraft’s fatal crashes. Not forgotten either is FAA’s resistance to grounding the 737 MAX until it was overwhelmed by grounding orders from the European Union and countries, including China and Canada.

In this new era of automation risks, of software piloting, Boeing chose massive stock buybacks and disinvested in R&D, lunching off its long, past engineering reputation and allowing, in the words of a veteran aviation safety specialist, “Boeing’s marketeers to overrule the Boeing engineers.” According to economist William Lazonick, “research, based on publicly available information, strongly suggests that the dedication of Boeing’s senior executives to increasing their company’s profits and stock yield – which also augmented their own compensation – resulted in management decisions that contributed to the two 737 MAX crashes.” The obsession with stock buybacks is affecting other new Boeing models besides the ill-fated 737 MAX (whose flight-control system design, Captain Sullenberger, called a “deathtrap”) as well as sloppily performed contracts with NASA and the Department of Defense.

With secrecy-based rulemaking, there can be no open examination by proficient analysts and experts representing their own judgment or on behalf of interested parties from Congress to consumer, labor, and the families all of whom fervently wish to protect airline passengers in future years.

If the airlines and suppliers asked for and received Boeing information denied these other parties, what does that do to your blanket dittoheading of Boeing’s outrageous claim of proprietary information to cover its criminal negligence?

Captain Sullenberger, who also called for disclosure of Boeing’s “hazard analysis and … what assumptions were made,” believes that the FAA’s “status as the ‘gold standard’ among aviation regulators is ‘shattered.’” You must know that the FAA’s past obeisance to Boeing executives, before you took the helm, has not been good either for the Boeing company, its workers, and its future market share, with more competitors on the horizon. Recall, what happened to the leading British aerospace industry, following a series of crashes in the nineteen fifties.

End this farce of rulemaking and open the process. Stop withholding critical information that blocks open technical exchanges and critiques. Suspend this “going-through-the-motions” pretense in a regulatory process infected with a preordained conclusion. The FAA will have to defend its secret rulemaking and testing policy in federal court against a legal challenge by Flyers Rights and a host of experts and stakeholders (Flyers Rights v FAA, DDC CV-19-3749). Recent legal precedent by the DC Circuit Court holds that “secret data does not count” when an FAA safety decision is challenged. Do you and Boeing want to risk this outcome in order to defend the FAA secrecy tradition of your predecessors? How can you reconcile the FAA secrecy policy with your and Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun’s often repeated promises of total transparency in ungrounding the 737 MAX?

I am attaching technical commentary about the 737 MAX flaws and how to fundamentally fix these planes aerodynamic and flight control problems with production engineering known and used in prior aircraft by both Boeing and Airbus. These observations from ‘subject matter specialists’ are anonymous due to their concern about retaliation – a well-known inhibition when it comes to the Boeing company and its wide range of economic networks. Imagine what these experts might find if they had had access to data requested by Congress.

As you read these points, ask yourself whether obvious questions come to your mind. Shouldn’t the concerns raised in this brief attached memo be aired with your most conscientious engineers and their outside colleagues and publicly with Congress and the media? Shouldn’t they be part of any recertification regulatory process?

Finally, Mr. Dickson should, heaven forbid, there be another 737 MAX crash or crashes due to causes about which you know and were repeatedly given specific notice of and which you and secretary Elaine Chao should have foreseen and prevented, do not think that responsibility –  moral, political and legal (civil and criminal) will not apply.

If you are sitting on any undisclosed Boeing, et al. violations of Title 18, Sec.1001, and other incriminating materials, do not think that there will be no ethical whistleblowers coming forward or that pending civil action will not reach any horrifying cover-ups presently contained in trade secrecy envelopes. It will only be a matter of time and place.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader

Enclosures:
The Design, Development & Certification Of The Boeing 737 MAX, By The Majority Staff Of The House of Representatives Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, September 2020

Chairman Peter DeFazio and Chairman Rick Larsen Letter – October 1, 2020

737 MAX Memorandum by subject matter specialist – September 3, 2020

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Apart From Defeating Trump, Why Did The Democrats Have A Bad Election Day?

By Ralph Nader
November 6, 2020

Apart from barely squeezing through the swing states to defeat corrupt, incompetent, lying, corporatist Donald Trump, the Democratic Party had a bad election.

Loaded with nearly twice as much money as the Republican Party, the Democratic Party showed that weak candidates with no robust agendas for people where they live, work, and raise their families, is a losing formula. And lose they did against the worst, cruelest, ignorant, lawbreaking, reality-denying GOP in its 166-year history.

The Democrats failed to win the Senate, despite nearly having twice the number of Senators up for re-election than the Republicans. In addition, the Democratic Party lost seats in the House of Representatives. The Democrats did not flip a single Republican state legislature, leaving the GOP to again gerrymander Congressional and state legislative districts for the next decade!

Will all this lead to serious introspection by the Democratic Party? Don’t bet on it. The GOP tried to learn from their losses in 2012, which led to their big rebound. Already, the Democratic Party is looking for scapegoats, like third party candidates.

Will the leaders of these inexcusable defeats – Senator Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – explain how this happened? Will they take some responsibility and tell the American people why they let their profiteering media consultants spend so much money on tepid, low-impact TV ads at the expense of a massive ground game to give voters personal reasons to get themselves out to vote, beyond Trump? A third of all eligible voters stayed home. Could part of the problem be the 15% commission the consultants receive from TV ad revenues as compared to zero commissions from ground game expenditures?

Can the corporate Democratic leaders respond to inquiries by progressives and the sidelined primary voters of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren? Can they respond to why the living wage, the corporate crime wave, and the GOP blocked stimulus/relief package passed by the Democrats in May (including a $600 a week extension for tens of millions of desperate workers and critical aid to local agencies overwhelmed by the Covid-19 pandemic) were not prominently front and center? Also, why did the Democrats refuse to campaign for full Medicare for All, supported by 70 percent of the American people? The Democrats, as pointed out by political media specialist, Bill Hillsman, did not speak directly to white, blue-collar workers who deserted Hillary Clinton for Donald Trump in 2016.

Moreover, the Democratic Party has a long-standing problem with authenticity. Rhetoric for a large infrastructure jobs program paid for by repealing corporate tax cuts and loopholes is seen as a throwaway line by many voters. Democrats should have explained, at the local level, how determination and integrity could shape the upgrading of our schools, clinics, roads, mass transit systems, waterworks, and other public services, with good-paying jobs.

Meanwhile, the Trumpsters showed their ferocious energy for wannabe, ego-obsessed, dictatorial Donald with more rallies, signs, and door-to-door contacts. The Democrats misread the faulty polls again thinking that the projected huge turnouts were primarily their voters and not also the Trump voters who turned out in greater numbers as well.

Too many Democratic operatives treat Trump with derision and mockery, instead of stressing how his daily lawlessness and serial violations of the Constitution have dismantled the protections for the people and turned the government over to big business to do and grab whatever they want.

Trump openly commits federal crimes (e.g. The Hatch Act, the Anti-Deficiency Act) using federal property, including the White House, for his campaign, spending money illegally, while brazenly defying over a hundred investigative subpoenas from the House of Representatives.

Yet, neither Biden and Obama nor the Democratic Party made these corrupt forms of obstruction of justice, front and center issues. They even ignored Trump’s past criminal assaults of women, whom he has repeatedly degraded.

These many missed, obvious opportunities have consequences. Don’t Trump voters and their families also suffer from frozen minimum wages, from the absence of adequate or any health insurance, from those sky-high drug prices that Trump failed to reduce? He put more toxins in the air and water and allowed more dangerous workplaces. Trump calls endangering people and the planet “deregulation” but what he was really doing is rewarding his corporate paymasters.

Trump just pushes many more buttons than do the Democrats. Why don’t the Democrats promote more unions, more consumer cooperatives, more campaign finance reforms, and more known ways to empower the people directly?

Of course, the Democrats would never argue that the American people, not corporations, should CONTROL what they already OWN such as the public lands, the public airwaves, and the shareholding mutual and pension funds investing their money. The Democrats never even think to demand that U.S. taxpayers get a direct return for trillions of dollars of government research and development that have subsidized the growth of modern industries (from aerospace to computers to agribusiness, biotech, pharma, and more).

While Trump incites street violence and then cries loudly for “law and order,” the Democrats don’t throwback “law and order” for violent, polluting corporate crooks who cheat and harm children, consumers, workers, and communities, as well as rip off government programs like Medicare. Trump has gotten away with defunding the federal corporate crime police big time. Never will the Democrats go after Trump for the bloated, runaway, unaudited military budget and its boomeranging Empire that are devouring necessities here at home.

The House Democrats refused to keep multiple impeachment pressure (apart from the Ukraine matter) on the Republicans. A national TV audience of the Senate dealing with a dozen of Trump’s impeachable offenses would give even the most ardent Trump supporters pause. (See December 18, 2019, Congressional RecordH-12197).

The Democrats let Trump and his lawless Attorney General William Barr get away with all his corrupt, criminal, and unconstitutional actions, which have turned the White House into an ongoing crime scene. And, despite this “rap sheet” Trump came close to winning the Electoral College for a second term!

Next time, the rulers of the Democratic Party should listen to civic groups and advocates and not be so smug and incommunicado. As an example, I’ll refer you to my Eleven Suggestions for turning out the vote, with popular mandates, available to everyone in whole and in part for weeks (See also my latest op-ed in the Louisville Courier-Journal, October 27, 2020).

Now let’s see how many rollbacks and repeals Biden will quickly institute to stop Trump’s devastations and usher in a truly progressive, majoritarian set of long-overdue policies.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate and author of many public policy books, including the just published, Wrecking America: How Trump’s Lawbreaking and Lies Betray All.

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Statement by Ralph Nader and Bruce Fein on Trump, Hannity and Limbaugh Election Law Violations

Conservative media celebrities Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have flagrantly violated the federal election law prohibition of donating anything of value exceeding $2,800 to a presidential candidate. The ongoing strategic collaboration between Trump, Hannity and Limbaugh is obvious and has been widely documented in newspapers and books. Both Hannity and Limbaugh have collaborated with President Donald Trump to turn their invaluable radio and television programming time into soap-boxes for his 2020 re-election efforts.  Also, Hannity and Limbaugh have made no effort to hide it: they openly boast about it. The in-kind programming contributions Hannity and Limbaugh have made to Trump’s campaign vastly exceed $2,800 in value based on the costs of 60 seconds of advertising on their respective shows.  Trump has violated the Federal Election Campaign Act in neglecting to report the in-kind contributions from Hannity and Limbaugh to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Will the FEC ever enforce its own regulations?   The failure to report these election law violations is also journalistic malpractice.

-Ralph Nader and Bruce Fein

See:

Bruce Fein Letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

Hawkins Files Communications Act Violation with FCC to Order Rush Limbaugh to Provide 2 hours of Equal Time

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For a Two-Week Grace Period So All Voters Can Be Counted

By Ralph Nader
October 26, 2020

In an electoral season replete with unpredicted events, five developing situations are intertwined in ways certain to make for a combustible November 3rd.

First, the Republicans’ detailed criminogenic voter suppression strategy that creates delay, confusion, and discord in the handling of voters and their votes is proceeding with increasing intensity.

Second, the number of election volunteers is likely to be seriously diminished because of Covid-19. Many elderly volunteers who staff voting precincts justifiably fear the potential for exposure to the Covid-19 virus. This problem could lead to closing precinct locations and a reduction in voter turnout.

Third, making matters worse is Senate Majority Leader “Moscow Mitch” McConnell’s opposition to a House-passed four-billion-dollar state-aid package. This grant is to help states with resources needed for accurate and secure processing of the votes.

Fourth, state election officials expect tens of millions of mail ballots by voters avoiding exposure to Covid-19. Some states, such as New York and Kentucky, have already forecast that election results may take a week to be completed after Election Day. States that allow mail ballots to be counted, so long as they are postmarked by Tuesday, Election Day, guarantee that, given the volume, totaling the vote will spill over beyond November 3rd.

Fifth, Donald J. Trump is blaring constantly that the 2020 election will be rigged. Trump has tweeted: “The Democrats are trying to Rig the 2020 Election, plain and simple!”  “Because of MAIL-IN BALLOTS, 2020 will be the most RIGGED Election in our nation’s history – unless that stupidity is ended.” Lies galore, but he likes to repeat them.

Trump will announce victory on election night no matter how many votes he and Biden have. Trump will likely incite street agitations and launch judicial challenges based on wild conspiratorial fantasies even without any evidence of voter fraud by the Democrats.

The way out of this toxic scenario is to build on a large majority of Americans averse to such planned Trumpian chaos and political instability by proposing a two-week grace period after November 3rd. People want every voter to be respected, which means every vote should be counted even if this process requires additional time.

A demand for a grace period needs to start now to build up powerful support from a multi-partisan combination of national, state, and local candidates for public office. Candidates should pledge not to announce their victory or concede defeat until November 17, 2020. Support for this prudent proposal position can be strengthened by retired political leaders, “good government” groups, such as the League of Women Voters, and all varieties of columnists, editorial writers, academic experts, and other opinion leaders.

It is now an undeniable fact that substantial millions of mail-in ballots will not be counted in time. People understand overloaded situations from their own occupations and professions. President Trump is making things worse by generating lawless provocations, with tweets and disruptive actions, and by manipulating the U.S. Postal Service, including sending misleading information about mail balloting to voters. The Washington Post reported: “President Trump …  “does not want to fund the U.S. Postal Service, because Democrats are seeking to expand mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic, making explicit the reason he has declined to approve $25 billion in emergency funding for that cash-strapped agency.” After all, he did bugle a boastful outlawry no previous president ever dared to utter. “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”

The mass media should continue the policy of not projecting winners before the polls close. Premature vote projections can depress voter turnout in states where polls haven’t closed.

A fourteen-day grace period movement will isolate Donald Trump. His bellowings will bounce inside the disbelieved echo chamber of his fabrications. Also, a two-week hiatus will provide time for passions to be cooled and for a restored public confidence that our public servants and volunteers can achieve optimal accuracy for electoral legitimacy.

Candidate Biden should not tarry in declaring that he will not ask for a concession from candidate Trump until at least November 17th. Mr. Trump will not make a reciprocal pledge so long as his documented campaign strategy is to sow doubt from all directions – domestic and abroad – on the integrity of the electoral process. Trump’s unwillingness to play fair and square, against a deep consensus behind a grace period, will further increase the futility of his destructive contrivances.

With such large stakes for our fragile democracy, we cannot afford to bypass such a course of action that will assure a peaceful transition in accord with the rule of law. Providing a decent interval for a full count of all the votes is a critical step for our democracy.

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Wrecking America: How Trump’s Lawbreaking and Lies Betray All

By Mark Green and Ralph Nader
October 22, 2020

Political analysts of all stripes have concluded that President Trump has a base of supporters who are credulous, immovable, and unpersuadable. Allow us to briefly test that hypothesis, but to ignore the skins-shirts labels — Left-Right, Democrat-Republican — that often though not always determine how a person votes.

Instead, we’d like to ask sincere Trump voters whether they’d have a neighbor over for a family dinner who did any or all of the following?

* He has admitted on tape to routinely abusing women as several dozen have publicly accused him of sexual assaults. And he paid substantial hush money to buy the silence of at least two mistresses.

* He has cheated his workers, vendors, customers, and wives, and even cheated on his college entrance exam. Indeed, his only sister and niece have denounced his “dishonesty” and “phony” character. He says he used bankruptcy for his companies as a strategy — one that allows him to run away with responsibility.

* He has paid large civil fines after unlawful conduct, is prohibited from sitting on a charitable board in New York State, and is currently the subject of a grand jury investigation for financial fraud.

* He has been caught in 20,000+ falsehoods or lies in the past four years alone — telling an average of 22 a day — including several that led to thousands of deaths.

* He favors allowing toxic polluters to contaminate your neighborhood’s air and your family’s food because he believes “in the free market.”

* He brags that he is very religious, but doesn’t go to church or show any awareness of the Bible while violating most of the Ten Commandments.

* He frequently makes cruel, dehumanizing remarks about people of color, legal immigrants, and the disabled in your community and never retracts them.

* He rejects public health warnings designed to protect your neighborhood during an ongoing lethal epidemic, substituting his amateur hunches and reckless behavior for those of epidemiologists.

* He often ignores the by-laws of the neighborhood association, saying “so sue me” when challenged. The rules don’t apply to him.

* And he has never apologized for anything above, actually telling a group of 6th-graders, “apologies are for losers.”

Were all this true of a Democrat, say Barack Obama, you wouldn’t hesitate refusing any relationship with him. But if you don’t want such a person as your neighbor, why would you want him as your President where he’d have exponentially more power to harm you and your family?

One answer really can’t be that you heard about someone in another town — or years ago — who is/was supposedly even worse. On the other hand, a respectable response would be to reconsider your vote for President since, as you tell your children and grandchildren, “Honesty is the best policy.” Or as President Kennedy once put it, “sometimes party loyalty demands too much.”

Mark Green and Ralph Nader are consumer advocates and authors of many public policy books, including their just published, Wrecking America: How Trump’s Lawbreaking and Lies Betray AllUnlike other books on Trump, this is a book to be used, not just read, for the coming months.

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Corporatist Judge Barrett – Two More Senate Abstentions Needed to Stop Trump

By Ralph Nader
October 16, 2020

In a 1995 book review published in the University of Chicago Law Review, Elena Kagan (now Justice Kagan) wrote about judicial nominees avoiding disclosing their views on legal issues. She said, “[T]he safest and surest route to the prize lay in alternating platitudinous statement and judicious silence. Who would have done anything different, in the absence of pressure from members of Congress?”

This week, nominee to the High Court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett followed the “say-nothing” playbook, through injudicious and repetitious filibustering, essentially claiming that it was improper for a judge “to opine” on matters outside the judicial process.

Really? Judge Barrett “opined” in lectures, interviews, and articles as a judge as have many sitting Supreme Court Justices. Her mentor, Justice Antonin Scalia regularly made controversial declarations at law school addresses and all kinds of other public appearances.

Judge Barrett’s hours before the Senate Judiciary Committee were consistently defiant. She refused to answer questions about the legality of intimidating voters, or whether all losing presidents should commit to a peaceful transition of power. Judge Barrett even refused to say whether she accepts the science on the climate crisis because she lacks the expertise on this issue and because it is a controversial topic.

Senator Pat Leahy said, “President Trump claims he has an absolute right to pardon himself. Would you agree, first, that nobody is above the law — not the president, not you, not me — is that correct?” Judge Barrett said she agreed no one is above the law but could not answer the question about a president’s pardon powers because “it had never been litigated.”

She would not even say that a President cannot unilaterally change the date of the election. Perhaps Judge Barrett should review Article II of the Constitution which empowers Congress to choose the timing of the general election and a law enacted by Congress that requires the election to be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

The hearings were truly a travesty. Too few hearing days, exclusion of prominent civic and scholarly critics of her record and statements, and remarkably, the defeatist position by the Democrats. Their repetitive political campaign-related focus on Roe v. Wade and access to abortions, Obamacare, and the Second Amendment was directed to the voters back home. The Republicans did their things for the elections too, led by Chair Lindsey Graham. (This is an important reason why nomination hearings should not be conducted close to elections).

It gets worse. Chair Lindsey Graham pronounced victory for the judge in his opening statement and by their behavior the Democrats largely agreed, using the occasion to share their political views without exposing how a Judge’s corporatist ideology can let corporations prevail over workers, consumers, the environment, and the electoral process. Republican Justices on the Supreme Court, most notoriously, in the Citizens United case opened the floodgates to corporate cash further corrupting our elections.

As constitutional law expert, Bruce Fein noted, Judge Barrett maintained no distance between her and her nominator, President Trump, who stunningly has said, “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.” As a presidential tyrant, Trump knew how to choose a judicial nominee who is not likely to reject tyranny.

Except for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), the Democrats, as they have in previous Supreme Court nomination hearings, declined to question Judge Barrett about rampant corporate crime, and corporate personhood harming all Americans. Corporate power and control are scraping the rule of law with worsening brazenness, privileges, and immunities.

A 6 to 3 corporatist Court will install an era of corporate supremacy over real people that has no foundation in our Constitution. There is no mention, whatsoever, of the words “corporation” or “company” in the Constitution, the juridical foundation of our Republic. Treating corporations as artificial entities – as “persons” is based on a headnote in the 1886 Supreme Court case, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Rail Road. The headnote that was not even part of the Court’s opinion. This judicial unfortunate and legally suspect twist has been relied on and expanded by generations of corporatist Supreme Court Justices.

Senator Whitehouse went to the root of the choice of Judge Barrett. It’s about power by the few over the many. The long-driven goal of the Koch Brothers and the Bradley Foundation.

The Democratic Party should have avoided all these losing nomination battles over Trump’s, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and now Amy Barrett. How? By handily winning half a dozen Senate seats in 2016 and 2018 that they botched big time. They even lost seats of sitting Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Bill Nelson (D-FL) the latter to then-Governor Rick Scott.  Rick Scott, prior to being governor, was the CEO of Columbia/HCA which under Scott engaged in one of the largest Medicare frauds in history. The federal government fined Columbia/HCA $1.7 billion for this outrageous behavior.

In their own ways, these Senators tried to be Republican-lite by avoiding front-burner issues such as higher minimum wages, law and order for corporate outlaws, full Medicare for All, and the creation of good community-based jobs to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. These and other much-needed programs could be paid for by restoring corporate taxes to the level they were in the more prosperous nineteen sixties.

Because of the two-party duopoly, our country has been cornered with the “choice of the lesser of two evils” as both parties were dialing for the same corporate/commercial campaign dollars. In 2016, Bernie Sanders showed that big amounts of money can come from many small donors. The Democrats are outspending the Republicans in many races, but more than money is needed to win elections. What’s their excuse for letting the worst Republican Party in history win, again and again, control the Congress with one or both Houses, and entrench their clenched-teeth judges for decades?

Look in the mirror Democrats. Start self-examining why collectively you’ve let the American people down? It’s time for the rising movement of elected and grassroots progressives to take over.

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