Friday, November 27, 2009

Ralph Nader Speaks

We just got back from hearing Ralph Nader talk at the West Hartford public library. He's on a book tour, promoting Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us. I'd already bought it for B for the holidays, and we had it signed. We read the first few pages in lines and waiting for the event to start. All in all, it was a good event. It was cool to meet Mr. Nader and hear him talk. It was pretty much what you'd expect if you've heard him talk in recent years.

The talk was free, but open only to the first 100 people, so we got in line for tickets about an hour before they started handing them out. (The line was inside the library, so it's not like there wasn't anything to do. It was probably much better than any other Black Friday line.) Once armed with our tickets, we got in another line for the book-signing, to which Nader was late because of traffic coming over Talcott Mountain. In the meantime, we posed for the cameras and thought of questions to ask him. B asked if he would run for president again. He didn't seem too interested in that. Others asked if he would run for Dodd's CT senate seat, but he was decidedly non-committal.

His talk focused on the book, which is neither fact nor fiction. It's his imaginary tale of what would happen if 17 super-rich Americans (Ted Turner, Warren Buffet, Bill Cosby, etc.) got together and decided to use their money, power, and knowledge for the greater good. I haven't gotten very far and it's a long book, but it sounds like Nader has fleshed out an outline of all the changes that need to be made to the country (and the world) to solve all the problems. He truly believes this would work, and he talks about this book as "proof" of this. (Of course, the book takes place in his imaginary world, so it's only really proof that it would work in his imagination.) I'll report on the content of the book after I've read it.

When they opened for questions, somebody needed to get the ball rolling and I've had plenty of experience listening to talks and trying to think of a good question, so I asked, "Have you talk to any of your characters? Do they see this as a sort of challenge?" He said he sent them each a copy when it came out, but he doesn't think they've read it yet. Yoko Ono wanted to know if he portrayed her as a "little dragon," whatever that means. He didn't seem to think of it as a challenge to the rich, which is how I saw it. I mean, there are all these super-rich people who want to do good (Bill Gates, for example, made his fortune with the express purpose of philanthropy), and Nader has laid out a step-by-step plan for changing the world. But to him, I think, it's more of a challenge on a smaller scale. After all, he's in West Hartford, and though there aren't a lot of super-rich people, there are some regular-rich people who could probably do a good deal if they tried. He seemed to be speaking to that purpose, to get the rich organized.

And of course, he had that hint of disorganization in his speech that makes him a little less personable than, say, Bill Clinton. You know, how he's always a touch stand-offish and know-it-allish. He spouts off numbers and statistics in a way that makes you think maybe he's making it all up. Because how can all that be true and people aren't up in arms about it? Well, that's his point.

The most entertaining part was when he did a lengthy stand-up routine outlining the modern evening news schedule, focusing on the suspense they try to inject into the weather report.

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