Ralph Nader: The man is a living legend. Come and meet him at the award ceremony on Sunday, April 23 at 4 p.m., at SSS, 1 Prospect St. in New Haven. You’ll even be able to buy his new book “Breaking Through Power” and get him to autograph it.I was astounded the other day when someone told me that I ought to write a piece about Gandhi Peace Award winner Ralph Nader because young people connect him only to politics and especially to the slander that he “spoiled” the 2000 election. OMG #GetItStraight Here’s a little bit about him.
Ralph Nader got national attention in 1965 when he wrote a book called “Unsafe at Any Speed.” The title was a riff on the public service ads of the day to “slow down and save lives.” Nader’s book was a devastating look at the way cars were made explaining that safety was the last thing on car company exec’s minds. No cars had seat belts. A front end collision would send engines right into the laps of passengers. There was no such thing as recalls and on and on. The response from the industry was classic. They hired detectives to find dirt on him. They didn’t and the whole car safety movement was born. A year later Congress passed the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act.
Nader then started work on a whole range of consumer issues. He got together with a number of fellow lawyers and what we call today “activists”. The press called the group “Nader’s Raiders.” He founded a lobbying group called Public Citizen. Currently, its membership is something like 400,000.
Consider water. Back in the 1960’s the Hudson River contained bacteria levels of 170 times the safe limit. In 1969 the Cuyahoga River in Ohio actually caught fire and the Upper Mississippi was in serious decline. The reason for this was raw sewage and industrial waste was routinely dumped into rivers, lakes and coastal waters. Ralph Nader and his raiders went to work and founded Clean Water Action and this group was the key to passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972.
In the 1970’s he became a leader in the fight against the industry that uses nuclear reactions to boil water to power generators (otherwise known as nuclear power). His Critical Mass Energy Project was the umbrella group for anti-nuclear activists which at one time united 200,000 people. Back when Richard Nixon was president he predicted that by the start of this century there would be 1,000 nuclear power plants in the U.S. Thanks to folks like Nader the number of these obsolete, dangerous factories for making power is far less. (Dangerous? Think Chernobyl, Fukushima, and #NuclearWasteIsForever)
Nader will go down in history for his many campaigns to protect the safety of Americans from bad products and practices, but he’s also involved with peace issues. He’s an opponent of militarism, the building of immense standing armies and the rush to use military force as a way to solve problems. Get a flavor of his opinions on this from his recent book review of “Addicted to War.” Back in 2006 he was one of the few nationally known American figures to denounce Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and to flatly say the Israelis had committed war crimes.
He’s recently been talking about Palestine/Israel on his radio show and podcast, first with Israeli dissident Miko Peled and most recently with American-Palestinian comic Amer Zahr. The Ralph Nader Radio Hour is a weekly talk show broadcast on the Pacifica Radio Network and is available as a podcast on iTunes and on its own website. It’s a bit unusual in that Ralph supplements his interviews with comments from two comedians, Steve Skrovan and David Feldman.
I could go on and on, but I want to finish up with Ralph Nader’s Tort Museum. No, this is not a museum devoted to small multi-layered fruit cakes. A tort is a wrongful act that leads to injury to another person, or to their property. Examples? How about selling coffee at super hot temperatures in flimsy cups, marketing substances you burn and inhale that cause lung disease, making cars that are death traps. Lawyers go to court and sue to get compensation for the injuries. They often have startling photos and exhibits they use to make their cases and they sometimes win historic victories. What happens to the exhibits after the cases are over? They’re destroyed or put in some dusty back room. Ralph Nader convinced lawyers to donate some of these exhibits to a now very attractive building in Winsted, CT which is called the American Museum of Tort law.
The man is a living legend. Come and meet him at the award ceremony on Sunday, April 23 at 4 p.m., at SSS, 1 Prospect St. in New Haven. You’ll even be able to buy his new book “Breaking Through Power” and get him to autograph it.
Also: An Israeli judge has agreed to temporarily suspend the travel ban on Omar Barghouti. As a result, he will come to the United States to accept the Gandhi Peace Award from Promoting Enduring Peace in person. Barghouti is the co-winner of the awardalong with Nader.
We’re delighted that Omar Barghouti will be able to come to the United States to accept this well-deserved award for his leadership in the non-violent struggle for Palestinian human rights. It comes at a time when the U.S. Congress is taking up bills to deny Americans the right to boycott Israel’s system of occupation and apartheid as many had done against apartheid South Africa. Barghouti will able to give a first-hand account of life for Palestinians under draconian Israeli government rule and the exact nature of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement which he helped found.
The petition we sponsored calling for the dismissal of charges against Barghouti and for the restoration of his travel rights received nearly 900 signatures. We sent it to Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel earlier this week.
So come to the ceremony at 4 p.m. this Sunday, April 23, 1 Prospect St. in New Haven
We recommend “An Unreasonable Man,” a documentary about Nader. You can sometimes watch the whole movie on Netflix and other websites. Watch at least some of the movie below: