Save Us Again

November 20th, 2009

The Miami Herald

November 14th, 2009

Q & A Ralph Nader: Describing his vision for America — and why he uses fiction to explain it

Ralph Nader, 75, has been an outsized figure in American political and civic life for more than four decades. Consumer advocate, lawyer, citizen activist and former presidential candidate — perhaps most notably in 2000, when as a candidate for the Green party, he received nearly 3 percent of the vote — he has also written or co-authored 34 books. Among them: the influential “Unsafe At Any Speed,” the 1965 best-selling indictment of the auto industry and its lax safety standards. In his latest book, “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!” (Seven Stories Press, $27.50), Nader envisions what could happen if some of the country’s richest people pooled their resources and led a drive to get many changes Nader has long sought — curbs on corporate power and big insurance companies, for instance, and third-party victories. In the novel, characters based on real people such as Warren Buffett and Ted Turner in fictional roles mobilize the people for fairness and justice.

Here are excerpts of a question-and-answer session that Monica Hatcher, The Herald’s residential real estate writer, recently had with Nader:

Q: What advantage did you see in using fiction to explain your ideas in Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, and at 733 pages, why is the book as long as it is?

A: Fiction allows one to imagine real possibilities for the future, and the only nonfiction analogy is if you have a wonky-type list of proposals for reforms, which often makes for tedious reading. With fiction, you can drop an exciting imaginative scenario that provides a vision for real possibilities for what our country can become. I had real people in fictional roles, drawing on their background and greatly expanding their impact for good as well as providing humor, and tensions and power collisions with a beginning and an end. You can’t do that in nonfiction.

Why was it this long? It’s this long because I want the reader to be able to say, `This could happen,’ from step to step, March, April, May, June. I didn’t want any magic wands or leaps of disbelief from one action sequence to another. I had to provide a lot of realistic detail which I hope is instructive as well as entertaining

Q: Can America save itself without the super-rich, in other words, without the kind of power money buys in our society?

A: The super-rich in this case are enlightened, older [people], which reduces the percentage of potential advocates from that group of wealthy people quite dramatically. I carefully selected them. What they provide are resources, a catalyst and a shoehorn and the ability to provide opportunities for tens of thousands of people to improve their country. You can’t have organizers unless they can feed themselves; you can’t have them go around the country without transportation, communication, housing, etc. What the super-rich in this book do is fill that last equation which is money and media. I think we have a lot of people in this country who want to work for the same kinds of changes, roughly, — in fairness, equity for workers, taxpayers, consumers — but there is no money to fund them. The book basically reflects changes that were made possible, not just by good strategies and a lot of good people in neighborhoods and communities who came out, and rallied, organized and elected, but it represents a civic investment of $15 billion, which is a fraction of the fortunes of the 17 older super-rich in the book.

Q: In the book, the character Max Palevsky, venture capitalist and computer technology pioneer, has an obsession with what is called civic anomie — or, as you describe, the failure of citizens to exert even minor efforts to combat injustices they perceive as harming them. When and how did Americans become so complacent?

A: Part of it is growing up with many hours of television that empties the sidewalks and the town meetings and city council meetings. Then there are the long commutes, low pay and often having to take a job and a half; people don’t have time. Also there are very few civic skills and civic experiences provided in our schools. If people don’t spend time on their civic responsibilities, they don’t spend time on making a democracy function. They feel powerless. They don’t like what they see — politicians are in low repute, political parties always grubbing for money, major necessities of the country are not addressed, major possibilities like efficient and renewable energy over the years until recently are not addressed and people get frustrated. Many become discouraged and they realize because they haven’t put in the time in organizing the neighborhoods and all that, they don’t have much power with city hall. That turns into apathy and resignation and withdrawal.

Q. In light of the near collapse of the financial system and the scandal involving corporate bailouts and large executive bonuses, if Americans were to ever snap out of this anomie, wouldn’t this be the time? Do you see any signs of significant civic uprising?

A: No, because the money is not there. I keep emphasizing the resources. If 10 multibillionaires of advanced age really want to turn the healthcare system around and they put a billion dollars in meticulously organizing the 435 congressional districts for full Medicare for all and exposing even more the horrors of the present system of so many peopledying who can’t afford health insurance, we would get it. What is a billion dollars for a group of billionaires who together are worth $70 billion? That’s the biggest single message of the book: You have to have smarts, good people, good strategies, good timing — but little happens if there is no money.

As we speak, 2,000 lobbyists are coursing over Congress from the drug industry, the health insurance companies and the hospital chains. They are working full time to try to get their way, and there isn’t one full-time lobbyist for the most popular reform — single-payer, full Medicare for all — on Capitol Hill. So you can multiply that — military budget, preferential taxes for the rich and the powerful, lack of attention to public service repair and modernization of infrastructure. There is almost nobody there, no citizens organized back in the congressional districts.

Q: What do you hope your legacy might be 50 to 100 years from now? From a business perspective and from a political one?

A: [To bring attention] to the need for multiparty systems, for a competitive democracy, instead of a two-party tyranny that works overtime in enacting state laws to exclude independent and third party candidates and ballots. We’ve done our bit on that. To give the voters more choices beyond just the increasingly corporatized Republican and Democratic party choices.

The second is to give people the chance, by example — you know, motivate people — to think they can make a difference in their neighborhoods, communities, state and nation.

Then, the third is to build more and more democratic institutions. I think or civil liberties and civil rights have been hugely protected by the ACLU and NAACP, formed about 100 years ago, and the environmental groups and consumer groups. They’ve done a lot and gotten tough laws enacted through — in my case, auto safety, cleaner air and water, meat and poultry inspection, radiation standards, Freedom of Information Act. But we need far more because as democracy becomes more complex and as power becomes more concentrated in the hands of the corporate and the rich with their influence over Washington and state governments, we have to keep up by creating more civic institutions at all levels. Nanotechnology doesn’t have one nonprofit advocacy group monitoring it, like the Sierra Club does the environment.

Open Source

November 4th, 2009

Ralph Nader’s Flight of Fantasy
An Interview With Chris Lydon

Posted November 2, 2009

Ralph Nader has charted a utopian fictional flight out of the dystopia he sees all around him on the ground. In conversation I’m trying to figure whether Ralph has written a happy ending to his career, or a scream of despair.
Click to listen to Chris’s conversation with Ralph Nader. (39 minutes, 18 mb mp3)

Citizen Nader is feeling isolated and stymied these days in the Age of Obama. It’s been 50 years now of his reform drive for home virtues and people power, and there have been many victories along the way for safer cars and cleaner air and water. Leaving aside the fact that his third-party presidential campaigns have left him a pariah in the Democratic Party (and the Obama White House), the healthcare fight and others tell him that money power rules Congress as never before.

So in a sort of novel, “Only the Super-Rich can Save Us,” Nader has fantasized that the money is in his pocket. It’s a sort of dream that Ralph’s lifelong agenda has been bought out by Warren Buffett, Yoko Ono, Ted Turner, Bill Cosby, Ross Perot and a dozen other patriotic billionaires. With their money, his whole program has been enacted. Ralph speaks (a little disconcertingly, perhaps) as if it’s actually happened. But if it had, would we call it good news or bad? Democracy, or Bloombergism — built like so much else in our world on the charisma of money?

RN: The problem is the nature of power, and the corporate entity controlling government, which Franklin Roosevelt, in 1938, called fascism… The global corporate model is all powerful, has no competition in terms of a model… They have nationalized the savings of the American people. They are too big to fail, so that they are bailed out, as Wall Street is bailed out. They have monetized elections, nullifying effectively people’s votes. They select the politicians, put them in office, and when they retire they hire them and give them a half a million dollars or more a year as lobbyists. It is the most clever, dynamic, creative system of controlling power in the history of the world. And they give people entertainment, and they allow people to confuse personal freedom with civic freedom. So you’ve got a lot of people in this country who say, “what do you mean we don’t live in a free country?” That’s right, you have personal freedom, you can eat what you want, buy whatever clothes you want, date who you want, divorce who you want, choose the friends you want, pick the music you want, get the bicycle you want, get into a five-thousand pound vehicle and go three blocks and buy chiclets if you want. That is personal freedom. It’s not civic freedom. Civic freedom is what’s been shredded. As Cicero said “freedom is participation in power.” What kind of freedom do we have by that standard?

… Right now we have a dystopia on the ground. It’s called the liberal progressive intelligentsia and their flock. They think if they keep writing more books (the way Bill Greider and Bob Kuttner and Jim Hightower and Ralph Nader and others keep writing, exposing, proposing, diagnosing, denouncing and suggesting) that something is going to happen. We have hit a stone wall — one reason I ran for President three times. Congress has shut down. Washington is corporate-occupied territory. That’s the dystopia on the ground… Between that real life dystopia of the progressive liberal intelligentsia and their world, and their least-worst voting for the Democrats over the Republicans and never pulling the Democrats in their direction — between that and my practical utopia I’ll take my proposal as more realistic.

CL: That’s a very serious question you’re talking about. And we all know it intuitively around health care. We all know that what Congress is doing has almost nothing to do with what people want, or even what the wonks say are the best provisions of the best policy. it’s about what the healthcare industry will let us have.

RN: That’s been documented in books from A to Z. Here’s where this book kicks in. Let’s say ten elderly super-billionaries get together and they say look, enough is enough. 45,000 Americans are dying every year because they can’t afford health insurance. Trillions of dollars lost, claims denied, anxiety, grieving, it’s an incredible mess, a pay or die system in the richest country in the world. Suppose these guys get together at the Four Seasons. They’re on their third martini. They say, “you know, I met a couple of great organizers… and they said if they had a billion dollars they could organize every congressional district and move the thirty-percent of congress who’s already privately for single-payer health insurance to a majority. Obama will sign it because he’s for single-payer, but wasn’t willing to take on the drug and health-insurance companies. That’ll happen in eighteen months.”

You wanna argue that with me? A billion dollars organizing the congressional districts the way Donald Ross and others know how to do it. Eighteen months, we’d have single-payer. Eighteen months. No one will die in America because they can’t afford health insurance. Just like no one dies in England, Germany, France, Sweden or Canada because they’re insured from day one when they’re born. That’s what I mean about money. You’ve got people all over the country — the majority support single payer; a majority of doctors support it; even larger majority of nurses support it. And it’s going nowhere because there isn’t one full-time lobbyist on capital hill for single payer, and there are 2000 corporate lobbyists for the drug companies and the Aetnas and the hospital chains. When are we going to face up to the money issue? Money is not enough. You have to have smarts, strategy, determination, humanity, time, diligence — but you can have all those, and if you do not have money it goes nowhere.

Ralph Nader with Chris Lydon in Cambridge, October 30, 2009.


October 23rd, 2009

Novel comparison: Ayn Rand and Ralph Nader
October 23, 2009
By Justin Moyer

Ralph Nader — capital-L Liberal, safety-fetishist, and presidential-election spoiler — might not want to share a bookshelf with Ayn Rand — small-l liberal, objectivist, and all-around mean girl. Yet, both authors felt it necessary to produce lengthy works of fiction to present their fuming ideologies: Rand’s published the 1088-page “Atlas Shrugged” in 1957, and Nader put out the 733-page “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!” this past month. Other than high page counts, do these two novels have anything in common?

Atlas Shrugged: Features John Galt, a fictional, super-rich inventor who organizes a strike among the entrepreneurial class to protest the American government’s burgeoning collectivism.

Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!: Features Warren Buffet, a real-life, super-rich investor who organizes an intervention by the entrepreneurial class to protest the American government’s laissez-faire love affair with capitalism.

Shrugged: Gathers like-minded objectivists in “Galt’s Gulch,” a remote valley, to plot overthrow of the government once “the code of the looters [i.e., the paying and/or benefiting from taxes] has collapsed.”

Super-Rich: Gathers like-minded “strong-willed, nonconforming successfulists” — including Ted Turner, Bill Cosby, and, of course, Yoko Ono – in a “high mountain redoubt” on Maui to plot “an entire sub-economy that builds markets and employs solutions kept on the shelf by vested interests.”

Shrugged: Presents Galt’s objectivist philosophy in a 56-page radio address. Memorable line: “I swear – by my life and my love of it – I will never live my life for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine,” Galt says.

Super-Rich: Presents Nader’s meliorist philosophy in a speech given by Buffet to 16 other “megamillionaires.” Memorable line: “I had planned to go on increasing the value of my estate and use it to establish a huge posthumous charitable foundation, but now I realize that’s just a rationalization for continuing to do what I do best while escaping responsibility for what’s done by others.”

Shrugged: Frets over intervention in the free market. “Your law holds that my life, my work and my property may be disposed of without my consent,” an industrialist who has ignored governmental regulations tells a judge. “Very well, you may now dispose of me without my participation in the matter.”

Super-Rich: Frets over the erosion of judicial review. “And don’t forget the diminishing freedom to sue the bastards, a freedom curtailed under the guise of controlling a phony ‘litigation explosion,’ ” complains “lawyer of the centuy” Joe Jamail.

Shrugged: Looks forward to an objectivist “utopia of greed” where men of ability can freely use their gifts to benefit themselves and, hopefully, everyone. Closing line: ” ‘The road is cleared,’ Galt said. ‘We are going back to the world.’ He raised his hand and over the desolate earth he traced in space the sign of the dollar.”

Super-Rich: Looks forward to a remaking of government where the “rebellious rich take on the reigning rich.” Closing line: “Yoko laughed and gave [insurance magnate] Bernard [Rapoport] a confident hug. ‘It’s time for a little pathos…I’ll just say that wonderful Hawaiian word that means both hello and goodbye, greeting and farewell, gratitude for the past and hope for the future. Aloha.’ “


October 22nd, 2009

October 19, 2009

Nader Adds Novelist to Résumé
His utopian fantasy is flying at author events

By Claire Kirch

Ralph Nader has racked up a long list of achievements as a consumer activist for the past 40-plus years: thanks to his dogged advocacy for citizens against both politicians and corporations, Americans now drive safer cars, eat healthier foods, drink cleaner water, work in safer workplaces and breathe less-polluted air. Already a published author, who’s written or co-written more than a dozen nonfiction books, including the 1965 classic that made him a household name, Unsafe at Any Speed, Nader, at age 75, has just added one more literary accomplishment to his list: novelist.

Nader’s debut novel, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! was crashed by Seven Stories Press with a September 22 laydown. Despite no pre-pub buzz or early reviews in the trade publications, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! already has sold 35,000 copies of its 40,000-copy first print run in hardcover, with no signs of sales slowing down. While Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! has sold steadily into the chains, according to Seven Stories’ distributor, Consortium, it has sold “really well” into the independents and into airport stores as well, where it’s one of the top 10 bestselling books on a per-store basis.

“We sold it on the blurbs,” Jim Nichols, Consortium sales director, explained, citing promotional endorsements of the book from a diversity of well-known public figures, including business management guru Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence), actor Warren Beatty, Prince-ton University professor Cornel West, rock-and-roller Patti Smith and former Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham.

Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! is, in Nader’s words, “practical utopian fiction in the tradition of Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.” Nader weaves a tale of 17 real-life billionaires and other influential social elites, including Yoko Ono, Bill Cosby and Bill Gates Sr., who, led by one of the world’s two wealthiest men, Warren Buffett, respond to the ineptitude of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 by leading the charge to wrest the government of the United States away from out-of-touch politicians and greedy corporate interests and return power to the people.

“This could become the most important work of practical utopian fiction in our history,” Nader insisted. “No one else has done it this way. I use real people who were picked very carefully, and I show how [a progressive, top-down, social movement] develops and emerges. There’s enough in it to be a civics course on power.”

Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! has received much attention in the consumer media this past month, to be expected by a celebrity writing a topical novel about other celebrities. An AP report was followed by articles in the Washington Post, Variety, San Francisco Chronicle and the Nation. Radio and TV interviews include NPR’s Weekend Edition, The Tavis Smiley Show, ABC radio, Fox Business News, Democracy Now! and Minnesota Public Radio’s All Things Considered.

But Seven Stories publisher Dan Simon attributes much of the unexpected success of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! to Nader himself “generating momentum the old-fashioned way, with a lot of shoe leather and travel miles.” This fall, Nader has discussed his book and signed copies at 34 different venues in 14 cities across the country to date, including bookstores, libraries and book festivals, with attendance at each event ranging between 100 and 300, with an average of 65 books sold at each site. Half of all his public appearances are held at independent bookstores (either in-store or off-site), and he’s even had scheduled signings at four Hudson Group airport bookstores (at Baltimore-Washington International, O’Hare, Denver, and Omaha, Neb.).

Leonard Riggio-himself a character in the novel-introduced Nader at the Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! book launch at the Barnes & Noble bookstore on Union Square in New York City on September 23. Riggio insisted to the 600 people attending that he was “not at all like the person that bears my name in Ralph’s far-fetched story.” But he added, “The fact that he respects my interest in social justice is reason enough to thank him.”

Expressing his hope that people with very deep pockets who read Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! will then be inspired to put forward the money to make his vision a reality, Nader declared, “People are looking for something like this. People are discouraged about the state of this country. Even the super-rich are discouraged.”


September 24th, 2009

Nader’s Road to Utopia
By Richard Lingeman

Not content to foment a consumer revolution, to start up policy-action groups like Public Citizen, to write and publish a string of investigative reports and, oh yes, to run for president, Ralph Nader has written a novel–his first. The title is Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!

If you’re thinking the peerless organizer of popular movements has sold out to the big bucks people, well, the book is fiction, see. It’s the story of social upheaval catalyzed by a team of progressive-minded billionaires. As Nader tersely explained to me: “Reform can only happen top down-bottom up. Not bottom up alone. You’ve got to have the big boys to take on the big boys.” You need money to make change.

The protagonists in Nader’s novel are seventeen elderly billionaires who invest their fortunes to bring about a more just and humane America. As you’ve probably guessed, this is a utopian novel. Why utopian? Having seen so many worthy nonfiction muckraking books ignored, Nader says, he decided fiction would be a better way to draw attention to his ideas. He also felt that the honorable tradition of utopian novels (Looking Backward, A Traveler From Altruria, News From Nowhere, Walden Two, Always Coming Home) had fallen into desuetude. In their day, such fictions inspired concerned citizens with powerful alternative visions. But in the 1950s the genre came under attack by conservative academics and ideologues, who charged that socialist utopias were a fast track to totalitarianism (see Russell Jacoby’s The End of Utopia for details). Also, reformers lost confidence in their dreams.

Of course, the right has its utopian novels. Witness the continuing popularity of Ayn Rand’s tracts The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged (the latter has sold 300,000 copies so far this year, presumably to Glenn Beckheads arming themselves to resist Obama “socialism”).

For his progressive purposes Nader finds that the utopian novel allows one’s imagination to forage freely in policy pastures for down-to-earth solutions. “There’s a utopian novel in every civic practitioner,” he says. Meaning: political activists who know a lot about social problems and solutions can fruitfully imagine fictional scenarios of how they would be achieved. In the past Nader might have sat down and written an investigative book. Now he is presenting his ideas as fiction grounded in reality.

Nader’s novel differs from traditional futuristic utopias in that his seems to be set in a vague, pre-Obama present; also, it describes the process of successful change rather than the new world that results (success being utopian for the left). And the seventeen billionaires in the novel are named after real-life superrich folk and their character traits are drawn from the counterpart’s biography. The ring leader is the Daddy Megabucks of them all, Warren Buffett, whom Nader imagines being radicalized by the suffering in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He ships food and medicine to the victims and then travels to the scene to direct rescue efforts. When an old lady cries out, “Only the rich can save us!” he has an epiphany: he will enlist progressive billionaires to rain money on the American desert of indifference.

So he recruits a team of power hitters, including George Soros, Ted Turner, Ross Perot, Barry Diller, Bill Cosby, Yoko Ono and others. At secret meetings at a five-star resort in Maui they plot a host of citizen-action programs to tackle the problems of dirty elections, paid-for politicians, corporate arrogance, dysfunctional schools–and down the list. Then they put their “dead money” to good work, supporting an armada of citizen groups with names like Citizens’ Utility Board, People’s Chamber of Commerce, National Trust for Posterity and Congress Watchdogs, which implement smart reforms. There’s a Clean Elections Party, which runs third-party candidates, and Sun God demos for green energy. Individuals form themselves into Delaware corporations, with all the excessive privileges of corporate personhood. And oh yes, another group unionizes Wal-Mart by setting up competing stores on decaying Main Streets.

Well, as the man says, it’s a utopia. You gotta believe.

About Richard Lingeman
Richard Lingeman is a senior editor of The Nation. His books include Small Town America: A Narrative Hisory, 1620-Present; Don’t You Know There’s a War On? The American Home Front, 1941-1945; An American Journey: Theodore Dreiser (a two-volume biography, now available in one abridged paperback edition from John Wiley & Sons); Sinclair Lewis: Rebel From Main Street (Random House) and, most recently, Double Lives: American Writers’ Friendships (Random House)


September 23rd, 2009

2010 Events

Utica, NY
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
12 noon

Ralph Nader
To discuss his new book, “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!” and “Ways to Empower Ourselves to Make Overdue Changes in Our Communities”
MVCC Theater
Mohawk Valley Community College
1101 Sherman Drive
Utica, NY

Free admission
More info. 315-624-0200

Buffalo, NY
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ralph Nader
“Let’s Come Together to Discuss Ways to Empower Ourselves to Make Overdue Changes in Our Communities, No More of Our Money for War or Wall St.”
Dnipro Ukrainian Cultural Center
562 Genesee St
Buffalo, NY

Free admission – $5 suggested donation at door
More info. 716-479-2351 /

Past Events follow


Walla Walla, WA
Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ralph Nader Presentation
“Going Green: Getting it to the Bottom Line”
Cordiner Hall
345 Boyer Ave
Whitman College
Walla Walla, WA
Tickets required; contact

Yakima, WA
Thursday, May 6, 2010

Book Signing
Media Works at Glenwood Square
5110 Tieton Dr, Suite 330
Yakima, WA

Ellensburg, WA
Thursday, May 6, 2010

45 min. Q&A session and Book Signing
SURC Theatre (Open to the Public)
Central Washington University
401 N Main St
Ellensburg, WA

Seattle, WA
Friday, May 7, 2010

Ralph Nader Presentation & Book Signing
Elliot Bay Books
Town Hall
1119 8th Ave
Seattle, WA
Tickets $5 at
or 800/838-3006

Lake Forest Park, WA
Saturday, May 8, 2010

Book Signing
Third Place Books
17171 Bothell Way NE
Lake Forest Park, WA

Olympia, WA
Saturday, May 8, 2010

Ralph Nader Presentation
“The Truth about Healthcare”
College Recreation Center (CRC)
The Evergreen College
2700 Evergreen Parkway, NW
Olympia, WA
$15.00 advance; $10.00 all students
$20.00 at door; $13.00 all students
Tickets available at

Portland, OR
Saturday, May 8, 2010

Progressive Party of Oregon
Ralph Nader Presentation & Book Signing
“Obama So Far . . . A New Strategy for Progressives”
First Unitarian Church Sanctuary
1211 SW Main Street
Portland, OR
Suggested donation: $5.

Omaha, NE

Friday, April 30, 2010

Book Signing
Hudson’s Bookstore @ the Omaha Airport
Omaha, NE

Friday, April 30, 2010
Book signing (With 17 other authors)
Dairy Queen
404 N. 114th Street
(corner of 114th Street & Dodge)
Omaha, NE

Saturday, May 1, 2010
9:00am -4:00pm

Book Signing
Merchant area of Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Meeting
Qwest Center
Omaha, NE

Saturday, May 1, 2010
Council Bluffs, IA

Book Signing
Barnes and Nobles
Mall of the Bluffs
1751 Madison Ave
Council Bluffs, IA

Omaha, NE
Saturday, May 1, 2010

Book Signing
Barnes and Nobles
Oakview Mall
3333 Oakview Dr
Omaha, NE

Saturday, May 1, 2010
McFosters Natural Kind Cafe
302 South 38th Street
Omaha, NE
Ralph Nader Presentation
“What to do about President Obama and Congress!”
*Book or DVD purchase required for admission.

Sunday May 2, 2010

Book Signing
Hudson’s Bookstore @ the Omaha Airport
Omaha, NE
Sunday, April 25, 2010

Milwaukee, WI
1:30 pm

Milwaukee Public Library
Centennial Hall
733 North 8th Street

Appleton, WI
The Lawrence Memorial Chapel
Lawrence University

Book Signing before and after
Ralph Nader’s Speech:
The Great Conversion: Environmentalism over Corporatism
University Students Did It Once (1970),
Can They Do it Again?

Princeton, NJ
December 5th, Saturday

Labyrinth Books
122 Nassau St.
Princeton, NJ
In conversation with Chris Hedges and book signing

Lincroft, NJ
December 5th, Saturday
7:00 pm

Brookdale Community College, County College of Monmouth
Warner Student Life Center
765 Newman Springs Road
On-stage interview, Q&A and book signing
Lincroft, NJ 07738
You must purchase tickets for $24.99 at the door or in advance at:

Washington, DC
November 24, Tuesday
Borders Bookstore
Talk, Q&A, book signing
1801 L St NW
Washington DC 20009

West Hartford, CT
November 27, Friday
4:00 pm

West Hartford Public Library, Noah Webster Library Branch
Talk, Q&A, book signing*
20 South Main St
West Hartford, CT

* Attendees will have to register at or call 860-561-6990 to attend. While the event starts at 4:00 pm those registered will have to arrive by 3:30 pm for seating.

Norfolk, CT
November 28, Saturday
11:00 am

Norfolk Public Library
Talk, Q & A, book signing
9 Greenwoods Rd. E
Norfolk, CT 06058

Waterbury, CT
November 28, Saturday
2:00 pm

Silas Bronson Public Library
talk, Q&A, book signing
267 Grand St
Waterbury, CT 06702

Stockbridge, Massachusetts
(In the Berkshire Hills)
November 28, Saturday,
7:00 PM

First Congregational Church of Stockbridge
Main Street, Rte 102, west of the Red Lion Inn
Talk, Q&A, book signing
E. F. Schumacher Society,
The Orion Society,
The Bookloft,
Admission Free
Donations in BerkShares welcomed,

Miami, FL
November 15, Sunday
10:00 AM

Miami Book Fair
Chapman Hall, Room 3210
Miami Dade College, Wolfson Campus
300 N.E. Second Ave.

Washington, CT
October 29, Thursday
11-12:30 pm

Gunn Memorial Library with Hickory Stick Bookshop
5 Wykeham Road

Canton, CT
October 29, Thursday

2:00 pm Thursday
Barnes & Noble
110 Albany Tpk

West Hartford, CT
October 29, Thursday
4-5 pm Thursday

968 Farmington Rd

New Haven, CT
October 29, Thursday
7-8:30 pm Thursday

Labyrinth Books
290 York St, behind Beinecke Library

Cambridge, MA
October 30, Friday

Harvard Law School Campus
Austin Hall – Ames Courtroom
Map of Law School Campus

Boston, MA
October 30, Friday

7:00 pm
Jamaica Plain Forum
@First Congregational Church
3 Eliot Street at the monument
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
617-541-0500 x 311

Philadelphia, PA
September 22, Tuesday
Noon-2 pm
Joseph Fox Bookshop @ Philadelphia Free Library
1901 Vine Street

Ridgewood, NJ
September 22, Tuesday
7:00 pm

Bookends Bookstore
232 E. Ridgewood Ave

New York, NY
September 23, Wednesday
7:00 pm

Barnes and Noble
Union Square
33 E. 17th St.

Toronto, Canada
September 24, Thursday

University of Toronto
Hart House

September 25, Friday
11:45-1:30 pm

Economic Club of Toronto
80 Richmond Street West
(416) 306-0899

Baltimore, MD
September 26, Saturday
5:30 pm

Main Literary Stage at the Baltimore Book Festival
@ Literary Salon (East Park, Mt Vernon Square)
14 W. Mount Vernon Place

Madison, WI
September 27, Sunday
12:00 pm

University of Wisconsin
With Rainbow Book Co-op
2650 Humanities Building
University of Wisconsin

Milwaukee, WI
September 27, Sunday
5:00 pm

Boswell Book Company
2559 N. Downer Ave

Chicago, IL
September 28, Monday
11:30-1 pm

Oak Park Library
834 Lake St

6:00 pm
57th St. Books @ International House
1414 E. 59th Street

Omaha, NE
September 29, Tuesday
3:00 pm
McFoster’s Café
302 S. 38th St.

7:00 pm
Borders Bookstore
7201 Dodge Street

Minneapolis, MN
September 30, Wednesday
7:00 pm

Magers & Quinn Bookstore
@ First Universalist Church
3400 Dupont Avenue South

Denver, Co
October 1, Thursday
11-12 noon
Hudson’s Airport Store
@ United Terminal B

7:30 pm
Tattered Cover
1628 16th Street (LoDo store)

Los Angeles, CA
October 2, Friday

Pasadena, CA
October 2, Friday
1:00 pm

Vroman’s Bookstore
695 East Colorado Blvd.

San Francisco, CA
October 3, Saturday

3:00 pm
Modern Times Bookstore
888 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA

Portland, OR
October 4, Sunday
7:30 pm
1005 West Burnside

Clinton, SC
October 6, Tuesday
11:00 am

Presbyterian College
Belk Auditorium
503 South Broad St.

Washington, DC
October 8, Thursday
6:00 pm

Busboys and Poets
2021 14th St.

San Mateo, CA
Oct 16, Friday

Barnes & Noble Book Store

11 West Hillsdale Blvd

Palo Alto, CA
October 16, Friday
7:00 pm

Commonwealth Club
Cubberley Theater
4000 Middlefield Road

October 17, Saturday
Beverly Hills, CA
1:00 pm
Beverly Hills Country Club
3084 Motor Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Books by Book Soup
$25 Purchase of “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!” Required for Entry
(Books Available at the Door)

October 17, Saturday
Anaheim, CA
6:00 pm

Benefit for Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund
Anaheim Hilton
777 Convention Way
$100 a ticket

October 18, Sunday
New York, New York
7:30 pm
92nd Street Y
1395 Lexington Ave
New York, NY

Pittsburgh, PA
October 19, Monday
3-5 pm

Joseph Beth Bookstore
2705 E. Carson St.
Joseph Beth Bookstore

Pittsburgh, PA
October 19, Monday
6:00 pm

Point Park University
George Rowland White Theatre in the University Center
414 Wood Street
Downtown Pittsburgh

Bethesda, MD
October 24, Saturday
7:00 pm

Barnes & Noble
4801 Bethesda Ave


September 23rd, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Ralph Nader, Fiction Writer
By Tim Morrison

Ralph Nader has been many things: lawyer, consumer-rights bulldog, political activist, and perennial third-party Presidential candidate. He’s now added a new title to his business card: fiction writer. His latest book, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! is a 700-page populist fantasy in which a small group of billionaires and media moguls — led by Warren Buffett and including Ted Turner, George Soros, Bill Cosby, Yoko Ono and Phil Donahue — pool their massive resources to reform America. With the help of a $15 billion war chest and a P.R. campaign starring a talking parrot, the group successfully unionizes Walmart, ends corporate influence on Congress, makes Warren Beatty the Governor of California and legalizes industrial hemp. TIME talked to Nader about the origins of his book, its celebrity characters and America’s real-life political battles. (Read TIME’s Fall Preview: 50 things to read, hear, see and do this autumn.)

You say in your Author’s Note that this book is not a novel, but it’s not nonfiction. So what is it?
In the literary world, it’s either called a work of speculation — “What if something happened?” “What if somebody did this?” — or a practical utopia. We haven’t had many practical utopias. Russell Jacoby, a professor out in California, wrote a book called The End of Utopia in 1999, which argues the idea of imagining better futures has diminished, as we wallow more and more in our desperate state of societal and governmental decay. So I tried to revive the genre, so to speak.

Was that your goal in writing the book? To create a practical utopia?
No. As you go through year after year, as many civic advocates do, being overwhelmed by the corporate lobbies and their allies in government, you say to yourself, ‘If we only had more media, if we only had more money, if we only had more field organizers, if we only had better ideas and strategies.’ That’s what produced the book. What if we had a collection of super-rich elderly retired people who are very dismayed at the state of their beloved country, and what if they got together and really poured money in. What would happen? And what would happen is a major power collision with corporate goliaths and their government allies. (See photos from a summer of Tea Party protests.)

You mention your group of the super rich. How did you come up with that idea, with those characters?
First of all, the civil rights movement, contrary to popular impression, was funded in significant part by super rich people. The right wing movement in this country is funded by people like Richard Scaife, who’s put in a quarter of a billion dollars at least. I decided to pick [my characters] because they all brought something to the table: Barry Diller, media; Ted Turner, media; George Soros, the Open Society Institute and institution building; Peter Lewis, insurance; Joe Jamail and Bill Gates Sr. on access to justice. They all brought something to it.

How does Yoko Ono fit into this group?
First of all, I wanted to have more women than I could find who were older and quite well known. She brings moral sentiments and aesthetics. Aesthetics is a very under-stressed dimension of civic action: music song, beauty, posters, logos, all these things.

Have you met the people you based these characters on?
Oh yes. I’ve talked to or met a lot of them: Barry Diller, Phil Donahue, Bernard Rapoport, Leonard Riggio…

Have you said to any of them, “I’m writing this book about you?”
Not until I finished it.

What did they say?
Well I got through to eight of them; they were bemused, but obviously they weren’t going to say much until they saw the book. But some of them were very pleased.

Did you ever consider making yourself a character in the book?
That’s what Warren Beatty wants. He wants to make this a movie, but only if I’m in it.

The jumping-off point for this story is the government’s response to hurricane Katrina. Was that the genesis of the idea for you as well?
It was one of them, yeah. Another of them was how demoralized they were, these super rich older people that I talked to. I said to them, ‘How could you be demoralized? You’re sitting on five, six eight billion dollars. For a billion dollars, with field organizers in every congressional district, you can get a single payer health care system.’ What’s a billion dollars to these people?

The events in the book read like this unstoppable wave of progressivism. Isn’t it kind of a fantasy to expect that to actually happen?
Well, I tried to unleash almost everything short of detonations [on the main characters]. I mean, the other side really unleashed about everything they had, but you see, they weren’t used to being taken on by the big guys or in ways they’d never seen before. They’re used to meat and potatoes lobbying: put the ads on, get the think tanks going, throw more money in the PACs. Very traditional.

And you think that would be their response in real life as well?
Well, if they were caught by surprise, sure.

What do you think about the current fight over health care reform?
Well, it’s going down heavily. Obama’s not going to get a public option. By the time the thousand-page monstrosity of complexity and ambiguity gets to his desk, it’s going to be a shred of what the majority of doctors, nurses and the people in this country want — which is full Medicare for all.

What’s your take on Obama so far?
Weak. Waffling, wavering, ambiguous and overwhelmingly concessionary.

Is any of this enough to get you back into the political arena yourself?
It’s too early to say. One thing is I always want the progressive agenda represented on the ballot, even in a rigged two-party tyranny. I wish other people would do it, but as far as me, it’s too early to say.

Do you think third parties have a shot in the next elections?
Sure. They’ll be called the Bloomberg Party. Some billionaire will come in like Perot and turn it into a three-way race. There’s so many billionaires, and a few of them are quite enlightened. You don’t need a right wing billionaire because they’ve already got the Republican Party.


September 21st, 2009


September 21, 2009
Ralph Nader, Following His Muse

The Reliable Source
By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts

Last May, independent publisher Dan Simon received a manuscript from a first-time novelist. It took two weeks to get through the tome, after which he called the author.

Would the novelist be willing to make any changes? Absolutely not, the man replied.

When did he hope to publish it? In June, the man said.

In June?!? Simon told the writer it would be physically impossible to turn around before September.

All right then, said Ralph Nader: “September is okay.”

Yes, Nader is now a novelist, and his quirky fiction debut — a 733-page “utopian fantasy” starring Warren Buffett and Yoko Ono — is as earnest as his legendary consumer activism and as unpredictable as his presidential runs. “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us” opens with an imaginary meeting of multimillionaires at a Maui resort where Buffett exhorts the likes of Ted Turner, George Soros, Bill Cosby, Barry Diller and Ono to use their collective influence and wisdom to transform the country.

“In this book, they’re all good guys,” Nader told us — and indeed, the cover art has them duded up like superheroes.

“Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us,” a new work of fiction by Ralph Nader.

The bad guys, in Nader’s vision, are corporate CEOs and their allies in Washington, led by Lancelot Lobo (a composite character, Nader says) and sidekick Brover Dortwist (any resemblance to anti-tax activist Grover Norquist is entirely intentional.)

Nader started the book three years ago, but “then I was busy running for president.” Why so long? “This is a very detailed battle-for-justice plan,” he said.

Simon, who runs the independent Seven Stories Press, said he was energized by the big ideas of Nader’s story. “This book reminds me that change really could happen.” Also, he noted, Nader is a dogged book-tour self-promoter, with a history of bestsellers. Seven Stories did an initial printing of 40,000 copies for Tuesday’s release, and it’s already printing an additional 5,000.

Will it help that Len Riggio, chairman of Barnes & Noble, is one of the novel’s beneficent titans? Nader told us he sent copies to all the real-life heroes from the book. No reviews yet, although Turner told him he was delighted to be included.


September 21st, 2009


by Raffi Khatchadourian September 28, 2009

For nearly half a decade, Ralph Nader—lawyer, consumer advocate, winner of five-tenths-and-six-hundredths of one per cent of the popular vote in 2008—has been secretly working on his first novel, writing drafts and making edits on multiple Underwood Standard typewriters. Nader does not feel comfortable referring to the book as a novel, even though everything in it is made up. He says that the work belongs to a new genre, one that he calls “a practical utopia,” and defines as “a fictional vision that could become a new reality.” The book, called “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!,” is seven hundred and thirty-six pages long, and it contains dozens of characters, many of them real people—Warren Buffett, Barry Diller, and Ted Turner, among others—who act out Nader’s political fantasies. By the last page, most of the reforms that Nader has been arguing for all these years end up being enacted. Corporations are neutered. Third parties win. America is reborn.

A few weeks ago, Nader was working the phones in Washington, trying to reach the people he had fictionalized. “I feel that if I am going to do that to people, I want to give them all a heads up,” he said. “It’s been done to me, you know.” In the novel “Still Life with Woodpecker,” by Tom Robbins, published in 1980, Nader appears as the romantic obsession of a mythical princess (“She fell quickly asleep and dreamt of Ralph Nader”). Five years later, the science-fiction writer Greg Bear wrote “Eon,” which portrays Nader as “a saintly figure, a hero in a wasteland,” whose followers win landslide elections in North America and Western Europe (in 2011) and bring down the Soviet Union (in 2012). “You see, thats science-fiction utopia,” Nader said. “Nobody can give that any credibility.”

Nader had reached about half of his characters. “A lot of them are hard to get,” he said. “Barry Diller is in Asia.” One billionaire was “a little snippy,” he said. Others were more amenable. Ted Turner sent a thank-you note. Phil Donahue, a lifelong admirer, was flattered. Yoko Ono, who in the book invents a logo called Seventh-Generation Eye that causes millions of people suddenly to shed their political apathy, sent Nader a brief reply. (“I think it is so sweet of you to write a book about somebody who resembles me. I don’t mind at all, of course. Does she look like a tiny dragon?”) Warren Beatty, whom Nader envisions running for governor against Arnold Schwarzenegger, and winning, with sixty-three per cent of the vote, blurbed the book. Nader, he wrote, was showing the world “how good he thinks things could be.”

Leonard Riggio, the chairman of Barnes & Noble, who is portrayed as an anti-corporate activist, funding protests across the country, was stumped. “I read a bit of it, and I said, ‘My God, what is this?’ ” he said. Robert Price, the son of Sol Price, a founder of Price Club, skimmed the sections of the book in which his father promotes industrial hemp and launches an attack on Wal-Mart that forces the company to unionize. “None of this connects at all,” he said.

A delicate call went to Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform. Nader and Norquist are the political equivalent of matter and anti-matter—Nader’s career has been devoted to strengthening government, Norquist’s to eviscerating it—but the two maintain a friendly rivalry. “I like Ralph, and I have warm fuzzies for him on a number of levels,” Norquist said, recalling how he once invited Nader to one of his Wednesday strategy sessions. (“He was clearly traumatized,” he added.) In the book, Nader refers to those sessions as gatherings for the “greed and power brigades,” and fashions Norquist as the book’s principal villain, a conservative evil genius named Brovar Dortwist, who is defeated by a torrent of progressive campaigns, including a TV ad featuring a squawking parrot.

Norquist had not yet read the book. “He told me that I wouldn’t be too unhappy, because the character was principled,” Norquist said. He seemed to relish the role that Nader had given him in utopia. “I am all in favor of having the left win in fiction,” he said, but he wondered about the odd pseudonym. (“Brovar?” he asked. “Is that even a real name?”) As Norquist learned more about the details of his character, one could sense another budding novelist emerging. Brovar Dortwist owns a Doberman named Get’Em, and Norquist said, “I don’t like dogs. He should have checked. I used to have a six-foot-long red-tailed boa constrictor named Lysander Spooner—after the great nineteenth-century anarchist. We had him for most of the nineties, until my staff decided that he was large enough to eat a child.”