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Twenty Dollars and Change

Ralph welcomes retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson to discuss the ongoing dispute over Ukraine. Plus, Professor Clarence Lusane joins the program to enlighten us about the legacy of Harriett Tubman and the campaign to replace Andrew Jackson with her image on our most common paper currency, the twenty-dollar bill.

Lawrence Wilkerson is a retired U.S. Army colonel and former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. He is the distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy at the college of William and Mary in Virginia. During the course of his military service, Colonel Wilkerson was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Bronze Star among other awards and decorations. At the Department of State, he earned the Secretary’s Distinguished Service Award, as well as two Superior Honor Awards.

Not for nothing did the New York Times report on some of the CEOs actually talking in meetings about how their shareholders and potential stock buyers ought to pay attention to Ukraine. Because Lockheed, and Raytheon, and all the rest of these guys– their stocks are just going to skyrocket because of what was happening in Ukraine. This is a war industry. And what happened in 1994 and the years following was the war industry got a hold of the process of NATO expansion.

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson


Put yourself in [the Russians’] shoes: wait until you see a Chinese battle fleet, steaming in the Gulf of Mexico, 12 miles and one inch off Corpus Christi, Texas. Wait until you see that. It is China’s every right under international law to do that. They could do that 24/7 all year long. What do you think Washington would say about that?

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson


“An attack on one is an attack on all.” That’s the distinguishing feature of NATO. We have adulterated that, we’ve murdered it, we’re putting NATO all over the world in order to try and give it relevance and to save it. We should let it go.

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson

Clarence Lusane is a professor and former Chairman of Howard University’s Department of Political Science. He is an activist, scholar, journalist, and author. His book The Black History of the White House has been presented on two occasions at the White House. His other books include Hitler’s Black Victims: The Experiences of Afro-Germans, Africans, Afro-Europeans and African Americans During the Nazi Era; Race in the Global Era: African Americans at the Millennium; and Pipe Dream Blues: Racism and the War on Drugs among others. His latest book is coming out in November from City Lights Books–  Twenty Dollars and Change: Harriet Tubman vs. Andrew Jackson, and the Future of American Democracy.


[Harriet Tubman’s] last words before she died in 1913… was to send encouragement to black women who were participating in some of the suffrage efforts. So, her entire life was one where she was dedicated to inclusion, and (what I argue in the book) democracy – with a small “d”. And to me it has always been important to link the struggle for racial justice with the struggle for expanding democracy. And Harriet Tubman embodied that nonstop.

Professor Clarence Lusane, author of Twenty Dollars and Change: Harriet Tubman vs. Andrew Jackson, and the Future of American Democracy


There’s a reason why Donald Trump admires Andrew Jackson– because he was a precursor of violating and challenging the laws of the land, and destroying thousands of Cherokee natives, and other bigoted actions during his era of power.

Ralph Nader

In every single way [Harriet Tubman] could, she saw herself serving the community and doing what she could. And again– someone who never had any formal education, but she knew more about the world than many people who had plenty of education.

Professor Clarence Lusane, author of Twenty Dollars and Change: Harriet Tubman vs. Andrew Jackson, and the Future of American Democracy

I would draw somewhat of a distinction with Andrew Jackson…Not only what he committed in terms of genocide and massacres relative to Native American people and setting the stage for the Trail of Tears. Jackson was also a slave holder and a slave trader, and a brutal one at that. So, when you look at his record, to me, it stands out far more so than some of the others. But 12 out of the first 16 Presidents were slaveholders. Not something we necessarily taught, when we taught American history. But those are the facts… Clearly, all of these individuals are not going to be removed, but some I believe are more egregious and deserve a more critical lens.

Professor Clarence Lusane, author of Twenty Dollars and Change: Harriet Tubman vs. Andrew Jackson, and the Future of American Democracy

Ralph Nader Radio Hour Ep 415 Transcript (Right click to download)


  1. Peter m Stema says:

    Bob Lefsetz bob@lefsetz.comHide

    “Downfall: The Case Against Boeing”:

    You want to watch this. On Netflix.

    I’ve had a fascination with aircraft ever since my first jet flight on a Boeing 720B. We all knew the 707, it substituted for “jet” the same way “Kleenex” substitutes for “tissue.” Hell, ultimately Steve Miller sang a song about it. So what was a 720B?

    I started to pay attention to the jets at the airport. The 727 was the one with the three engines at the back, with the high tailfeather. The DC-9 was similar, but smaller, with only two engines. The DC-10 was like a giant 727, and it had a spotty safety record. You started to worry about flying on a DC-10 towards the end of its service.

    And then came Airbus. AirBUS? It’s not a bus, but a plane! And there’s no way the Europeans could compete with Boeing, NO WAY!

    Only that proved to be untrue. Just like our ability to win in Vietnam. Boomers were brought up in an age where the United States was the undisputed king, we thought there was nothing our country couldn’t achieve, in truth all the boomers were active patriots, waving the flag, until the mid-sixties and Vietnam, when they might be sent to Southeast Asia and get their ass shot off in an unwinnable war.

    That was the human element.

    And that’s what “Downfall” adds to the picture. I knew almost everything in the flick, having followed the story closely, but to see the relatives of the dead? You never recover from that. And I can’t think of a worse way to die than in an airplane. Come on, to this day when something odd happens on the jet you start to contemplate it, especially when the captain comes on and says there’s a problem. I’ve been there, I don’t think my anxiety has ever been higher than the return flight to the airport we’d taken off from.

    But in truth, your odds of dying in the crash of a major airline jet are infinitesimal, your odds of dying in a car are higher. But when it happens, essentially no one survives. I mean dying in an avalanche is bad, but in a matter of minutes you pass out. The plane heading straight down to the land or sea…I don’t even want to contemplate it.

    So there are two stories involved here. The one of the two crashes, the Lion and Ethiopian 737 Maxes, and the corporate greed that ultimately caused the problem.

    You see Boeing was beaten to the punch by Airbus. Boeing was disrupted. By technology. Airbus provided a much more fuel efficient airplane and Boeing had nothing to compete with it, to create a brand new competitor would take nearly a decade. So Boeing gussied up the decades old 737 and sold it as a solution.

    But you can’t continually fix the past, oftentimes you have to start with a blank sheet of paper. Techies are normally good with this. Write off the past for a better future. Which is why I’m against the EU standardizing USB-C as the world’s connector. You want to impede technological innovation? Hell, the Lightning connector in today’s iPhones is far superior to the 30 pin one offered on the original devices, and smaller too.

    But it’s the emphasis on corporate greed that ultimately resonates here.

    Boeing moved its headquarters to Chicago. That would be like Universal Music doing the same, it made no sense, the planes were built in Seattle and the South Carolina.

    But what this documentary does so well is delineate the schism that ultimately led to the crashes. Boeing merged with the fading McDonnell Douglas, which itself was the result of a merger, and ultimately the McDonnell Douglas brass ended up in control. And they had no understanding of the Boeing corporate culture, and only cared about profits. They wanted to make their bonuses!

    And that’s America in a nutshell. Why is it that a corporation’s only duty is to deliver shareholder wealth? I don’t see that in the Bible.

    And forget the 737 Max, if you follow the sphere, you know there are problems with the 787 Dreamliner. I’ll make it simple, they’re built shoddily, and therefore they keep on getting recalled and grounded. Build it once, right, the foundation is key. But the foundation went out the window when CEOs could suddenly end up billionaires solely from their compensation at the company.

    I mean how do you remove metal filings from the wiring?

    In truth all new planes need modifications. Which is why savvy customers never bought a car in the year of its introduction, nor a new tech product. But then Toyota always got it right and so did the tech companies, the products worked, right out of the box, and you expected that. So you expected the 737 Max to not be rotten at its core. But it was.

    And it all came down to efficiency. If they told the airlines and the FAA the plane was significantly different from the original 737, pilots would need simulator training, and that’s very costly.

    But it turned out the pilots ended up needing to be trained anyway. Never mind the planes sitting on the tarmac for all those months, waiting for a software update.

    Yes, welcome to the modern world, where software is king. For those of us conscious before the twenty first century this is hard to fathom. The hardware was king. And if you were savvy, you might be able to fix it yourself. Now you can’t fix your own car. Then again, they break down a lot less. And when there’s a problem, Tesla just sends an update over the air, via the internet, and it’s solved. Meanwhile, Detroit is trying to meld the old with the new and so far it hasn’t worked well. It’s kind of like Apple, building the computer is the easiest part, it can be done in factories by low-paid employees in China. But there’s no way in hell those workers can write the software that makes them work.

    So this story is continuing, not only at Boeing, but Airbus too, Qatar Airways is complaining that its A350s are defective, with the paint peeling. Then again, Airbus admits the flaws, no one other than the Qatar government believes there’s a safety problem, and in truth it’s just about money.

    So, you see the thousands of people building Boeing planes. And you can’t help but see the discrepancy in pay between them and those in the C-Suite. Now we see income inequality everywhere we go. And like in the Amazon warehouses, Boeing workers had goals they had to hit no matter what, and what was sacrificed was safety.

    But you’ll learn all that in “Downfall.” Which is not a big commitment, only an hour and a half. And it holds your interest throughout.

    And in truth the buzz is building, this one film is going to dent Boeing in a way years of news stories has not. But the reason I watched the film was the personal recommendations from my readers. The rest of the hype just flew right by me.

    It shouldn’t fly right by you.

    Watch this.

  2. Don Harris says:

    Col. Wilkerson made many good points but was off the mark on an amendment to overturn Citizens United.

    Big money was a problem before the Citizens United ruling and it was a problem before the legislation that was challenged in Citizens United was passed (otherwise why pass it?). So overturning the decision with an amendment will not solve the problem of big money corrupting our political process.

    Even if it could, how and when could it get done?

    The problem with big money corrupting our political process is that the big money legislators will only pass legislation that primarily benefits the big money interests and the big money interests have no interest in getting the big money out of politics or having an amendment passed. So in order to pass the legislation required for an amendment or any effective legislation to get big money out of politics we would first have to replace the big money legislators with small donor legislators.

    We have to solve the problem before legislation to solve the problem can be passed.

    The best case scenario for getting the big money legislators to pass any campaign finance reform legislation or amendments is twenty plus years from now spending billions to lobby big money legislators to go against the big money interests.

    And the amendments being proposed will not accomplish their stated goal- they will actually make the problem worse.

    For example, the We the People Amendment says that money shall not be construed as speech. This is an important protection for small donors. Without money being considered speech their is no right to make political contributions.

    It gives federal, state and local government the ability to regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures of candidates.for reasons that could easily be interpreted to justify just about anything.

    It states that artificial entities (such as Move to Amend or a candidates campaign organization) have no rights under the Constitution.

    Under this amendment Congress could pass legislation that says that artificial entities can take unlimited contributions from anyone but can only take contributions from say one million people or any amount of people they want. So an artificial entity that was financed by small donor contributions of 200 dollars or less would only be able to raise a maximum 200 million dollars from the 1 million donors.

    The artificial entity would have no rights under the Constitution to challenge that this would not allow many citizens that want to contribute to the entity the ability to contribute because the entity has no rights under the Constitution that includes this amendment so their rights cannot be violated because they have no rights.

    The citizens that would be unable to contribute could not challenge under this amendment because under this amendment money is not speech so they have no right to contribute.

    Rather than wait and work twenty plus years for an amendment that will make the problem worse wasting valuable time and resources on a fools errand why not try an approach that could begin to be effective in 2022, grow to be more effective in 2024 and subsequent elections and will be much less costly?

    This approach is based on the same principle in your theory that politicians want our votes more than big money and the basic principles of democracy that if politicians do not do what we want we will not vote for them.

    Citizens can demand that politicians finance their campaigns only with contributions from small donors (no more than 200 dollars from any one person per campaign- 200primary, 200 general) in order to earn our votes.

    If there are no small donor candidates on the primary or general election ballot most citizens can cast a write in vote to register a vote against the big money candidates on the ballot and to create and demonstrate demand for small donor candidates in future elections.

    Just 10% of voters making this demand and enforcing it with their votes in 2022 would build a base that could inspire more citizens to participate in 2024 and many candidates in 2024 would make the small donor commitment to get the votes and contributions of those citizens.

    Just 10% of the 150 million 2020 voters investing 100 dollars in contributions to small donor candidates would total 1.5 billion dollars and would just be the tip of the iceberg.

    Why not test your theory using the basic principles of democracy?

    We seem to be able to use this approach on many other issues such as not voting for someone that doesn’t acknowledge the War on Habitat or not voting for someone that does acknowledge the War on Habitat.

    So why can’t we do the same thing on the issue of big money corrupting our political process?

    It is just using basic democratic principles the way they were intended to be used.

    If you say this will not work then you are saying democracy will not work, which is the opposite of your theory and what you usually say.

    Please explain why this and democracy will not work or join and help lead this effort.

  3. Jeff Hansen says:

    When will Ralph talk about the new movie about the 737 Max? Or did I miss it? How could they conclude the movie without discussing in greater detail the so-called fix they did to get it approved to fly again?

  4. Burton Raabe says:

    I am seeing news about skepticism on intelligence concerning Russia’s intentions in Ukraine being a result of Colin Powell’s testimony regarding Iraq and WMDs. I clearly remember watching that on TV and thinking it had to be a script handed to him by Cheney.
    I appreciate Wilkerson’s views now, but I wonder why he did not just resign at the time of that fiasco.

    • John Puma says:

      Wilkerson is the quintessential, converted “former right-winger” claiming to now see the light. He and his ilk are very dangerous because, they really haven’t seen any light. However, those to the left of Attila the Hun want so desperately to believe him/them as if the they don’t believe their own analysis of the operation and effects of the pernicious US empire.

      The colonel says a few reassuring things, like “what would the US do if the Chinese navy continually cruised international waters just off the Texas coast” and sees the problem for Russia of nuclear-capable missiles in NATO states within a 5-8 flight to Moscow. What reasonably bright 12-year old would miss those?

      But he blows his cover when he claims that Russia dreams of resurrecting the USSR’s domination over Eastern Europe. This demonstrates the visceral, imperial disdain for Russia that makes it impossible for the US to deal with Russia in good faith. Earth to wise colonel: that disdain and constant intimidation has pushed Russia, along with its massive oil and gas resources AND always cutting-edge military technology, into the waiting arms of China. It does NOT need nor want the economic millstones of Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and least, Ukraine, to bolster its self-esteem! What it wants is for NATO not to march up to its borders … and it wants it in legally binding, written form.

      Re: “Europe should come up with a new system that makes sense.” That won’t happen unless and until the US withdraws its economic, political and military tentacles from Europe that, “if one didn’t know better,” have been used to destroy Europe rather than help it, as is routinely touted. Yes, he did mention that but he certainly didn’t give any ideal of how it might happen, much less the chances that it does happen. Nor does he approach the issue, not recognizing the problem apparently, how Europe, having finally dumped the US, survives without economic interaction with Russia. It is so disgusted and alienated by US/NATO hysteria (from about 4 months after its 1917 revolution) that it will likely concentrate solely on prospects with the approximately 7 billion-person market of the non-Anglo/Europe world.

  5. Beto says:

    This colonel is a typical anti-American leftist. He conveniently failed to mention the 14,000 deaths of mostly Ukrainian civilians caused by the thuggish Russian troops.