December 15, 2009

Keep Watching the Skies for the Cops

Confirmation. But mostly speculation.
Confirmation: The Hard Evidence of Aliens among Us

This book was written by: Whitley Strieber, author of The Wolfen. Mr. Strieber’s other books, Warday and The Coming Global Superstorm, have proven that he can provide measured, non-alarmist views that are sorely needed in the field of alien abduction, a subject where "the lack of authoritative answers has meant that hucksters and false experts have been exploiting public ignorance"(p.87). However, as an alien abductee and implant recipient himself, Mr. Strieber is worried that aliens may be controlling his thoughts. He has published other books on alien visitors, but "when I read the books months after writing them, I could see a disturbing difference between what I had written and what I had intended [....] I appeared to have become a propagandist for aliens"(p.221).

What is in this book: An examination of the evidence for the existence of extraterrestrials. If space aliens do not exist, "this would mean that a part of humankind has technology so extraordinary that the rest of us are virtually a different, lesser species, confined to an overcrowded, dying planet while the others traverse the heavens like gods"(p.81). Some of the evidence reviewed by Mr. Strieber could be explained by human involvement, and "if there are aliens here and they have co-opted our own military and intelligence infrastructure, then there could be the very combination of human and apparent alien activities that are being reported"(p.248). That may sound a little paranoid, but "in this society, someone who isn't at least somewhat paranoid probably isn't entirely sane"(p.232) and Mr. Strieber offers exhaustive proof of his own sanity. The government has already been provided with the evidence discussed in this book, but "if—fantastically—the data really have been ignored just as the government claims, then we need to stop doing that"(p.74).

What is not in this book: Probing, anal or otherwise. This book contains zero occurrences of the word "probe," and only one instance of "probing," in a context where it is being done by a human surgeon. Mr. Strieber does not understand the public fixation on purported alien colonoscopies, asking "even if this sort of script were commonplace, which it is not, why would the UFO stories take such a frightening turn?"(p.91)
However, "if our close encounters are indeed with aliens, wouldn't they have an obvious motive for obtaining sexual and genetic material?"(p.93), and the aliens have no aversion to violence, as seen by their involvement in scenarios where "one witness's head explodes, another goes blasting through a windshield, a third is slammed in the chest, [and] a fourth gets attacked with machine guns"(p.100). In fact, "the visitors may be at once tempting us with their theater in the sky and forcing us into action by the outrageous invasion of our bodies represented by the close encounter"(p.259).

It was quite a booger.
Would you recommend this book to a fourth grader? Yes. Like a nostril, "the deeper you mine the close encounter experience—always refusing to submit to the temptation to rush to explanations—the richer and more profound are the questions it returns"(p.171). In fact:

One of the strangest implants ever found was contributed by Dr. John Mack. Expelled from a witness's nose, it is described as an organic, plasticlike, three-lobed fiber with an internal structure organized into intricate layers in a seemingly irregular manner. The specimen was a 'tough,' pinkish-colored, one-inch-long, kinky, wirelike object. A pathologist found it to be about twenty to thirty microns in thickness, and it could be stretched out more than three inches. It was reported to have a gelatinous sheath with bumpy outcroppings; it was clearly not a hair(p.236)

Would you recommend this book to an exotic dancer concerned about losing her job to illegal immigrants who received cut-rate cosmetic surgery from shady overseas clinics? That would be a hell of a reach just for a joke about "alien implants" but it would totally be worth it.

Oh, yeah. Strieber also wrote this book, which you may have seen around.
What was interesting about this book? White spaceman's burden. On Earth, "as technological civilization spread, the native cultures that weren't subjugated and destroyed succumbed to irrelevance and died,"(p.256) which makes it likely that alien visitors have refrained from contacting us directly because they do not want to ruin the developmental purity of our race. This hands-off approach of theirs means that "the visitors are not going to give us anything. But what we can take, we can keep"(p.252), so it's time to get aggressive. "To wrest knowledge from them, we need to be tough and smart and courageous, not passive and secretive and scared"(p.253). In other words, we need to become intergalactic carjackers.

Confirmation: The Hard Evidence of Aliens among Us by Whitley Strieber (St. Martin's Press, 1998, ISBN 0-312-18557-X)

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December 1, 2009

Glow Ball Enlightenment

Not to be confused with bringing society to heel.Healing Society: A Prescription for Global Enlightenment by Dr. Seung Heun Lee (Walsch Books, 2000, ISBN: 1-57174-189-5)

This book was written by: Dr. Seung Heun Lee, creator and grand master of Dahn Hak and Brain Respiration, which is less painful than it sounds. Dr. Lee writes that his work with Ki energy has allowed him "to perform some so-called miraculous feats, such as communing with spirits, curing incurable diseases, helping paralyzed people walk, and calming mentally unstable people"(p.xiii).

What is in this book: A discussion of the mindset and approaches that will be necessary to heal society, relayed via anecdotes from Dr. Lee and metaphors that may be more commonly used in Korea. Some of them translate across cultures, like the statement that "we human beings are like puppets dancing on a stage, unable to look beyond the curtains and realize that we are not dancing to the rhythm of the divine music that's playing in the theater"(p.79). Other references, like Dr. Lee's description of a series of pictures where "the second frame has the now-grown calf with a nose ring and getting a spanking from the farmer for misbehaving"(p.3), may need to be re-interpreted—try replacing "farmer" with "parent" or "teacher," and swap out "calf" for "child" or "hooker." However, some of the references are completely inscrutable, like his statement that "humans insist upon differentiating everything, ever since we ate of the grape in Margo's Castle"(p.74).

Seriously, I googled the hell out of "Margo's Castle" and only came up with some terrible music, a realtor, a bar, and a shopping mall development, which are tough to connect to either enlightenment or grapes.

What is not in this book: Undue weight placed on Christianity as the only path to a healed society. We are caught in a system of constant competition driving us to ruin, and "one or two enlightened people cannot stop this machine. Twelve disciples cannot help us now"(p.79). Did you hear that, Jesus? In your FACE. And that business about God sacrificing his only son for our sins? "Even a porcupine loves its young. Even a lowly rodent knows to die for its offspring"(p.19), so by Dr. Lee's reckoning, God has no more common sense than a porcupine.
This book also doesn't place a lot of importance on our physical shells. "The physical body and mental acuity that you have been born with are not you, but just tools temporarily lent you for you to experience things that will mature you spiritually"(p.xiv). Hopefully, you have borrowed these tools from someone who isn't in a hurry to get them back, but it's a perspective that helps you remember that "you are not a quick-tempered Latino male with a penchant for computer programming who enjoys football games on weekends and good detective stories. You are not a patient, virtuous woman who has good judgment and shrewd mind when it comes to 'too good to be true' offers"(p.10). Also, you are not a robot crimefighter from the steam age, a transgendered Swede who constructs scale models of global landmarks out of earwax, or a dog who solves mysteries with the help of a sassy talking pocket calculator.

This probably won't be the 366th way to change your life.Would you recommend this book to Suzanne Somers? Yes, she seems pretty interested in health programs, so she might like to learn more about Brain Respiration, which "is a training regimen maximized to meet the needs of the twenty-first century"(p.49). "The actual Brain Respiration program consists of five levels"(p.63), which are—in sequential order—Brain Sensitizing, Brain Softening, Brain Cleaning, Brain Reinforming, and Brain Energizing. Ms. Somers may be pretty familiar with the second level already, but she could still learn something new.

Would you recommend this book to an adolescent male? Yes. "All the problems we face now in this world came about because we, as human beings, could not play well with each other. We don't play well with ourselves, first of all"(p.90), so getting them to play well with themselves could solve all the world's problems without being much of a challenge.

What is interesting about this book? Although the title of this book promises a prescription, "Brain Respiration is done by your own hands, through your own choice, for the advancement of your own spiritual awareness, and for the betterment of yourself and all mankind"(p.48) without any of the harmful poisons that the western world calls medication.
Dr. Lee does not think small, stating that he wants "to call upon the world to embark on an Enlightenment Revolution, a massive spiritual awakening that will sweep across the Earth with a thundering speed, bringing the joy of enlightenment to everyone"(p.xii-xiii). It's a bold vision that will yield dramatic results:

I'm just going to tell myself that he means MILON'S Castle.

When these one hundred million people make the choice to reach a collective enlightenment, then we will change the destiny of the Earth itself. The healing vibration of their choices and determination will cure the Earth of the ills that we have caused. Then we will finally be on our way to Margo's Castle again.(p.75)

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November 18, 2009

The Peter Lewis Guide to Soliciting Charitable Donations

Are you trying to raise money for a pet project? Are your billionaire friends a bunch of tightwads who wouldn't donate a dollar bill to save their own kin from a firing squad? Getting them to give until it hurts is easy with the Peter Lewis Guide to Soliciting Charitable Donations, as described in Ralph Nader's Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!

  • STEP 1: Spy on them. "I've got his net-worth details on my desk, and they show he's lying through his teeth."(p.206)

  • STEP 2: Quote Kid Rock lyrics to them. "Bruce, I was born at night but not last night"(p.206, baby).

  • STEP 3: Discuss their interests. "Last year you gave five million just to encourage Jews to marry Jews. What kind of country do you want their children to grow up in?"(p.207) A segregated one, obviously, so tailor your pitch accordingly.

  • STEP 4: Remind them that they can afford to pay. "You've had a bang-up year in commercial real estate, flat out and nonstop."(p.207) Since he's going to keep making money at that pace forever, he'll be more amenable to sharing some of it.

  • STEP 5: Smoothly return the conversation to whatever it was you were talking about. "Now, when do you want to have lunch?"(p.207)

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November 16, 2009

Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us: Chapter 6 Review

Bitterly Books is undertaking a chapter-by-chapter review of Ralph Nader's work, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us. For the complete coverage of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us, click here.

You can read past chapter synopses here. Past reviews can be read here, and Viator's columns can be read here.


Richard T. Kuszmar "Upstartgreen" [his real name] writes on Amazon:

Its an interesting and easy read. It hooks you in from the start. I really liked Nader's fictional assault on Walmart. It started me thinking about ways I could fight Walmart beyond npt shopping at their stores. Maybe Michael Moore can get the screen rights and make it into a Movie.


In this chapter:

"I applaud your revolutionary thrusts"(p.170) That's what she said!

Chapter six spends a lot of time making plans. Action plans, contingency plans, plans of attack, and plans for counterattack. It's frustrating because half of the stuff they discuss isn't likely to happen or can't happen if their other sets of plans actually work. Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! needs to be be more like the A-Team (the noted television show widely regarded by scholars as the spiritual successor to Homer's Odyssey).

Compare and contrast George Peppard's "I love it when a plan comes together" with Peter Lewis' "I suggest that a cluster of us versed in analogous techniques during our most aggressive years prepare an investment-asset-affinity corporate protection plan, one that will also address the profiteering charge, and see about the possibility of acquiring a unique insurance coverage"(p.185).

In the A Team, the bad guys think they have the upper hand until Hannibal Smith reveals that he had planned for it to happen all along. Then Mr. T drives a van through a wall and the day is saved. No one has to sit through Dwight Schultz and Dirk Benedict discussing what to do if there are three guys armed with handguns, and then what to do if there are three guys armed with machine guns, and then what to do if there are five guys with handguns, and then what to do if there are two guys with handguns, a guy with a machine gun, two guys with some hand grenades, and an angry grade schooler with half a brick, etc. Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us would be vastly improved by the removal of a lot of its planning sequences. It may also be improved with the addition of a GMC Vandura.

However, Nader does make a subtle nod to Ian Fleming. At first, when Warren Buffet is talking about his plan for social improvement and says "its genius is such that I found myself wondering why something like it hadn't happened a long time ago. It should have been so obvious, inasmuch as it takes only a tiny fraction of a percent of very wealthy and open-handed protagonists to get a major change underway"(p.169), the reader might think that Ralph Nader is just patting himself on the back. However, when Buffett later says "my revolution of the investor class against tyrannical and greedy top management is rising like healthy yeast"(p.209), it becomes clear that Nader is merely doing a riff on the classic monologues of James Bond supervillains. Or Warren Buffet had always dreamed of becoming a baker. Or a gynecologist.

There are a lot of problems with this chapter. In honor of Bill Joy becoming part of the group and bringing a fresh, youthful slant to the proceedings, they can best be described as "Fails":

  • COMEDY FAIL: "Warren laughed. 'With that analytic mind of yours, have you ever thought of going into value investing? Never mind, just an inside joke between us.'"(p.187). Good job excluding the reader.

  • NARRATIVE FAIL: "What were they thinking during that hour? Were they beginning to feel the pressure from the torrent of Redirectional activity and the steadily expanding corps of people that had to be kept on track? Were they still hewing to their principle of keeping their projects as simple as possible even as they laid the firm foundations for the assault on the corporate citadel?"(p.196) If you don't know what's happening, why bother describing it?

  • DESCRIPTION FAIL: "Pimp tanks" is a phrase that should be reserved exclusively for use to describe armored vehicles that incorporate design elements like leopard print turrets, purple shag interiors, and spinning rims. Instead, Nader applies the term to think tanks "whose mission and budgets are based on spreading alarm through exaggeration and sometimes outright fabrication"(p.172).

  • DIALOGUE FAIL: "'The cypress doctrine?' Sol interrupted. 'Trust funds for trees? What's next?'"(p.191) This is a joke during a discussion of the cy-près doctrine, which sounds nothing like cypress when spoken aloud.

  • TMI FAIL: "Our background check discovered that he doesn't wear underwear"(p.195). No. Just no.

The group also notes that "our smarter opponents will try to turn some portions of 'the people' against us"(p.176), and they are so afraid of "our opponents turning some of 'the people' against us" (p.178) that they discuss possible "efforts to turn some of 'the people' against us"(p.182) for several pages. They grudgingly admit that "as for turning 'the people' against us, our opponents may succeed to some degree"(p.184), but it's odd because all of these lines containing 'sneer quotes' are from spoken dialogue. It means that the super-rich are either repeatedly putting up air quotes around "the people" or subtly voicing contempt, which adds a new and potentially sinister dynamic to their ongoing efforts to "help" "the people." Hopefully, their hands aren't too tired from throwing up air quotes all the time, because they have to remain vigilant. After all, "our enemies—in this case, Wal-Mart—will try to turn a portion of 'the people' against us"(p.208).


This chapter had a restrained 29 triads and 13 big fucking lists.

Warren Buffett isn't talking about going to a legalized Nevada brothel in the triad that mentions "making challengers beg, kneel, and prostitute themselves"(pp.201-202), but he is talking about politics, so it's kind of the same thing. Meanwhile, the group tries to figure out how their opponents will respond:

Let me begin by summarizing your premonitions: libel and slander, old grudges reasserting themselves, attempts to tar us with isms and ideologies, infiltration, baseless personal litigation, accusations of profiteering, attacks on our assets and companies, efforts to turn some of 'the people' against us, claims that we are undermining national security and worsening the business climate, hostage-taking or kidnapping, and finally the possibility that they'll adjust to our demands, at least some of them, and in effect do nothing.(p.182)

Almost all of these would make the book more interesting, and I am keeping my fingers crossed to see the penultimate suggestion come to fruition, but by now I am used to disappointment.

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November 15, 2009

Power Play

Playing with power is apparently trademarked.The Power of Play: How spontaneous, imaginative activities lead to happier, healthier children by David Elkind, PhD (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2007, ISBN: 978-0-7382-1053-7)

This book was written by: David Elkind, professor emeritus of child development at Tufts University. Dr. Elkind grew up without a lot of the newfangled gadgetry surrounding today's children, and:

We were a working-class family and my parents had enough to do keeping a roof over our heads and food on the table to worry much about our daily ups and downs. They were pleased with our achievements but did not play favorites. And because they sacrificed so much to give us a better life, we had a different attitude than many children today. We were less concerned with what our parents could do for us and more with what we could do for our parents(p.70)

Rumors that Dr. Elkind was the inspiration for Dana Carvey's "A Grumpy Old Man" character are completely unfounded.

What is in this book: Dr. Elkind's challenge to modern parenting techniques. These days, "concern, on the surface at least, for children's physical well-being appears to outweigh worries about their innocence"(p.79). It's a problem because "children are not allowed to play on their own to the extent that they once were [....] This robs children of the opportunity to innovate and learn from their risk-taking behavior"(p.80), like the way that the innovative, unsupervised children in Lord of the Flies taught Piggy not to play near falling rocks.
Modern toys take a toll on the imagination of children. "Toys, about which children once spun elaborate personal fables, now engender little more than habits of passive consumerism"(p.ix), and children lose out if they neglect imagination-based forms of play like role playing. "In playacting, the child accepts the fact that she is playing a different role. Play becomes another way in which children further their understanding of rules and the concept that one thing can be two things at the same time" (p.134), like how LARP enthusiasts can simultaneously be pathetic in the real world and slightly less pathetic in their fantasy world.

What is not in this book: Baseless nostalgia. Dr. Elkind offers empirical proof that things were better back in the day because "the majority of toys are now made of plastic. These playthings generally lack the warmth of wood, the texture of natural fabrics such as cotton or wool, or the solidity of metal"(p.15). With the exception of Hot Wheels tracks, they are also less effective at dishing out a beating. "In my childhood a cannonball was made of slices of automobile inner tube tied together to make a huge rubber band. [....] believe me, when you got hit by one of those things, you knew about it"(p.78). The playthings of years past were also more closely connected to nature. This is important because "if young children spend too much of their waking time with playing with chip-embedded toys or computers or watching television programs, they will have less time to interact with the elements and learn the lessons the elements [earth, air, fire, and water] have to teach"(p.132), and that leaves them completely unprepared to discuss the four humours with Hippocrates at the Agora.

Roller Derby chairfights. Why not?Would you recommend this book to fans of WWE wrestling? Sadly, no. Observe how the following sequence takes many of the action components enjoyed by WWE fans, such as flying chairs and trash talking, and ends up with a thoroughly unsatisfying conclusion:

One of the children in the school, Ron, was a bright young man but quick to anger. One day, when another child knocked over his toothpick sculpture, he picked up one of the child-size chairs and charged at the offending youngster. I intervened, put my arms around him and the chair, and said, "Shall we dance?" Ron had to smile, although now he was angry at me for grabbing him and stopping his attack. After we put down the chair I said, "It is okay to get angry, but we have to use words to tell people we are angry at them, not hit them with things." A few days later I stopped by Ron's desk and said, "Ron, I have some good news for you: I have to go to the dentist." Without raising his head, he replied, "I hope you have a thousand cavities." Ron had learned how to express his anger with words(p.181)

Ron may be quite the comedian, but he's no Ric Flair.

Would you recommend this book to fans of social networking and electronic entertainment? Probably not. Dr. Elkind's description of adolescence, where "each adolescent creates his or her own imaginary audience. Every adolescent assumes he or she is an actor, and is more concerned with being observed than with observing"(p.66), might sound uncomfortably familiar.
Meanwhile, "children who have spent a great deal of time watching television may not have the auditory discrimination skills necessary for decoding phonics. With television children follow the law of least effort—get the information as easily as possible"(p.127), which explains the rise of textspeak. Of course, on the other side of the coin, "parents and grandparents are often misled by a young child's verbal precocity and assume that it is an index of intellectual giftedness. Most often it is not"(p.121).
As to other electronic entertainment, "with the exception of computer games tied to curriculum content, there would seem to be little transfer of the skills acquired in playing these games to everyday practical or academic skills"(p.58).

A mole? With sunglasses? HILARIOUS.What was interesting about this book? Dr. Elkind's insights into children's entertainment. It turns out that "what makes children laugh is anything that goes against their expectations, such as a mole wearing sunglasses or a grown-up taking a pratfall"(p.173), but if being an adult no longer means laughing at moles in sunglasses, I never want to grow up.
More importantly, cartoons these days provide children with terrible role models. "Fred Flintstone and George Jetson never let work get in the way of having fun. Bob the Builder and SpongeBob SquarePants, on the other hand, love their jobs. SpongeBob was even named Employee of the Month at the fast food restaurant where he works"(p.ix-x). Just what are they trying to teach our children?

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November 13, 2009

Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us: Chapter 6 Synopsis

Bitterly Books is undertaking a chapter-by-chapter review of Ralph Nader's work, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us. For the complete coverage of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us, click here.

You can read past chapter synopses here. Past reviews can be read here, and Viator's columns can be read here.

The entirety of chapter six is spent chronicling Warren Buffett's Maui Three conference. That's forty-one pages covering three days of discussion, debate, and strategic planning with gripping dialogue like "we would do well to lay all these forces out on clear spreadsheets so we can visualize them"(p.173). The most activity in the entire chapter is when "Warren went to a phone in the corner of the conference room, and a few minutes later the hotel's energetic cook, Ailani, came in with a hearty "Aloha, honored guests!" and a tray of refreshments"(p.196). The action sequence is also noteworthy because now we know who is behind the carefully documented menu from the Maui conferences.

Although there is "no frivolity for this bunch, and no gizmos"(p.182), Buffett's billionaires have decided to bring techno-whiz Bill Joy on board. He announces that "my first step will be to set up a secure website for you, to serve as a kind of cyber bulletin board for posting timely information, and to stream video from the various rallies and so forth"(p.170). Presumably his second step will be finding a way to deal with Peter Lewis bitching about how his videos only got one-star ratings because people have grudges against him.

While the Maui group had previously discussed bringing General Anthony Zinni on board, they now dismiss the idea because "it would becloud the clarity of our domestic focus when we emerge"(p.183). This is a tremendous disappointment to anyone who had hoped that the addition of Zinni would lead to a bloody civil war pitting billionaire against billionaire while Buffett's brigade confronts the evil corporatist menace using a tank charge led by Bill Cosby, withering artillery fire directed by Paul Newman, and an air raid with a B-52 bomber dropping a nuke-riding Ted Turner.

Instead, the group discusses violence of a more personal nature, worrying about the methods that their opponents might employ against them. "What about direct physical action, like taking some of us hostage to stop the rest of us or to smoke us out? Be like bounty hunting. Ransom. The press would love it"(p.177). George Soros thinks that the best defense against physical violence is to play nice, and advises the group that "all of us should start with studied avoidance of excessive rhetoric, slashing personal attacks, or any verbal or physical expression of vindictiveness that can be conveyed over the media"(p.185). If only those strong safeguards of personal security had been available to Natalee Holloway or Elizabeth Smart. The group also wonders if the corporatists are " going to use the CIA and the FBI to infiltrate groups dedicated to clean elections, good health insurance, a living wage, affordable housing, consumer protection, and energy conversion to make our country more self-reliant?"(p.183). Yes, probably.

The Maui mafia rebrands themselves as the “Patriotic Meliorists." “Historically, it's a term that was common in old England and in the works of American pragmatists like William James and John Dewey”(p.192). Attentive linguists will be nonplussed by Nader's assumption that everyone will become aware of—and adhere to—the word's original meaning.

Plans for national improvement are discussed. Their “Blockbuster Challenge” is a special interest group offering to fund candidates who will agree to refuse all money from special interest groups. This has to be done carefully, because it “cannot be seen as a bribe either legally or in public perception"(p.200). They can give their bribery attempt a veneer of respectability if they have it launched by "retired people of unquestioned integrity and worldly experience [.... including] a nonpartisan ex-president"(p.198), which should be easy to find. Meanwhile, Blockbuster Challenge candidates may or may not be running against Clean Election candidates from the third party established by the Meliorists to pursue election reform and dissolve once its goals have been enacted.

While discussing worker reforms, they ask if they will create a hostile business environment that drives out foreign companies. Ted Turner thinks it’s “a debatable proposition, if only because of the size and the profitability of our markets and the ease with which domestic businesses will move in,"(p.188) a valid point since Detroit lies crouched like a panther and ready to spring into action the moment that Japan gives it an opening. (Also, Robocop.)

There is talk of buying a stretch of highway with a view of the Grand Tetons and remaking it into a little slice of heaven. "I'm talking about two miles of closely situated billboards pushing whiskey, cigarettes, junk food, porn videos, and the like"(p.186).

And the billionaires want to reinterpret some laws so that they can start spending "the uncollected deposits and insurance monies that escheat to the states, or the money that's awarded by the courts in cases involving a particular abuse but not distributed for lack of recipients or claimants"(p.191). This will work in the short term, but could get embarrassing when claimants are finally located and have to be told that their money has been spent on porn billboards, rigged elections, and companies forced overseas.

Finally, they look at some of the dangerous excesses of their peers. "I know a tycoon who's providing cheap wheelchairs to people in developing countries with severe disabilities—and the tax laws actually allow him to make money from the scheme"(p.203), says Yoko Ono. Although this should be stopped before it’s allowed to encourage others, the group starts thinking about how many billionaires are currently infesting the country. "There are plenty more billionaires than you'll find in the Forbes 400, but a lot of them are completely unknown"(p.202). If they can start locating these hidden Harrimans, they might be able to boost their efforts. "There are billionaires everywhere, in the most unlikely places—the Ozarks, Catalina Island, a half deserted farm town in Nebraska, country club prisons"(p.203), all locations known for the charity, generosity, and moral probity of their inhabitants. This is capped off by Yoko Ono’s story about a conversation with a billionaire where he "thought for a while, imbibed some Grand Marnier, chewed a handful of walnuts, and said, 'My friend, there are at least a million people in this country who wouldn't even notice if their monthly Social Security checks were assigned to a well-organized assistance program for poor families in our blessed land.'"(p.204).

Every time a bell rings, a billionaire gets his wings.

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November 11, 2009

Viator's Review: OTSRCSU Chapter 5

Bitterly Books is undertaking a chapter-by-chapter review of Ralph Nader's work, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us. For the complete coverage of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us, click here.

You can read past chapter synopses here. Past reviews can be read here, and Viator's columns can be read here.

Ok, I’ve honestly tried to put a religious-hermeneutic gloss on this chapter and I can’t. I’m going to discuss this chapter as 1) a political consultant and 2) an honestly sympathetic reviewer.

Let’s set aside the improbable Wal-Mart meeting or the dullard Sun God festival or even the frankly routine rally of lunatics at the White House. I want to talk about one eye-opening passage:

Bill Hillsman. The maverick. With a touch of mad genius. The one who wants 2.5 million campaigns. Him.

Bill Hillsman? Bill motherfucking look at me I filmed Jesse Ventura naked Hillsman?

Really, Nader? Your number one hero blows off two professors and another two hapless organizers for an ad man.

This is how idealists take over the world. With "mad genius" ads.

There are two things going on here. One is more of a curiosity. It’s the ultimate extension of cognitive dissonance to say that the two party system/corporate interests/Walton family keeps winning because they are better at spin. And moreover spin matters because facts don’t matter. As Ted Turner noted, “the best way to confront lies was not with the truth.” (51) Karl Rove is a genius, and the one thing we need to do is pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. It’s a trick, nay, magic. Once we have that we can finally put everything right.

That may sound insane and megalomaniacal. It’s also incredibly sad, because Nader lays out plainly its end result: falling for snake oil salesmen. Bill Hillsman, you see, is not only real but is probably the only character with verbatim quotes taken from real life. Just look at his sales pitch:

“All I do is win trophies from my peer group of much wealthier East and West Coast political consultants and advertisers, who hate my guts for what I keep saying about them, that they’re dull and unimaginative. Why do I win these trophies? Because my ads are designed to be so eye-opening or controversial that they produce reams of free news coverage, which tremendously multiplies the number of eyeballs that see them. It gets people talking, and word spreads along the grapevine. Result? My candidates, often unknown and not all that well-funded, either win or do much better than expected.” (163)

2006? More like 2000. I can just see Nader’s eyes lighting up, hanging on every word Hillsman fed him, thumping his chest and bragging about his endless string of pollies. (The annual reward by the American Association of Political Consultants, a group that exists literally so Democratic consultants can tell each other how smart they are.)

Nader assures us Buffett isn’t going to buy the Brooklyn Bridge, though, as he says, “This guy seems too good to be true. We have to find out if he isn’t.” (165) We know how the background checks will turn out, though: Hillsman keeps his real name, which is a privilege reserved for the good guys in this book. But more importantly, that’s what happens when you start thinking the process is magic: you get rolled by guys like Bill Hillsman.

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November 9, 2009

Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us: Chapter 5 Review

Bitterly Books is undertaking a chapter-by-chapter review of Ralph Nader's work, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us. For the complete coverage of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us, click here.

You can read past chapter synopses here. Past reviews can be read here, and Viator's columns can be read here.


Branford Snell (his real name), in his review titled "MOVE OVER VONNEGUT, HELLER, CHAYEFSKY: RALPH NADER'S ROLLICKING SATIRICAL MASTERWORK," writes:

Nader's cinematic political novel describes in fascinating insider detail a titanic struggle between the "Meliorists," a team of 17 rebellious real-life retired (or elderly) super-rich billionaires/megamillionaires battling for the people, and the "corporatists," a formidable cabal of entrenched super-rich CEOs battling to retain their control of the federal government. [....]And the galactic battle for America is engaged.


First, I learned in this chapter that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency actually has black helicopters that they use for extralegal activities, as evidenced when they cast aside the limited sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation to drag Jack Soaring Eagle (introduced in Chapter 2!) off in handcuffs for taking part in the “pot protest.” Sadly, the Maui group did not make good on their promise to use solar energy for making “delicious stew!"(p.98), but the Sun God events demonstrated the practical utility of solar energy by featuring “a tall, lithe Goddess training an oversized magnifying glass on the wooden logo of one of the big energy companies until the concentrated power of the sun burned it to a crisp. ‘Who says solar is too diffuse to be practical?’ she asked the audience sweetly.”(p.168). Finally, the American people have a practical use for solar power that can overthrow the wooden company logos that have held us back for too long!

Nader has dedicated this chapter to the art of the tease. We are told that "Two prominent retired CEOs gave tell-all valedictory speeches at the Press Club, leaving the real estate and agribusiness industries reeling"(p.146), but are given no details from their shocking exposés. The CEO of Wal-Mart complains that Sol Price’s "very rich cohorts are all over us with squeeze plays that few besides people like us can understand"(p.150), and we’re left to speculate on the nature of the dark financial wizardry (probably more leveraged buyouts) that they employ. And then there’s Warren Beatty’s speech, written by Dick Goodwin:

[the] address was magisterial, studded with historical allusions that legitimized the fundamental changes in power, wealth, income, and priorities so logically and factually laid out in scintillating paragraph after paragraph. Fundamental democratic values undergirded every sentence and idea as proof against distortions, red-baiting, and right-wing casuistry. Goodwin deployed quotations from America's best political leaders of the past, and from revered conservative economists like Adam Smith, Herbert Simon, Friederich Hayek, and Milton Friedman, to deflect anticipated attacks from the corporations. He made the beauties of California's geography the focus of the announcement and wove otherwise dry facts about the devastating and cruel conditions into vibrant and sonorous rhetoric.(p.144)

We don’t get to read a word of it. What we do get is a solid 3.5-page monologue from Wal-Mart’s CEO bemoaning how you can’t run a chain of megastores selling cheap crap from overseas sweatshops without screwing your domestic workers.

We also get a devastating burn at the expense of the Democrats. "How on earth could the Democrats have failed to enlist Dick Goodwin in their battle for the White House in 2004? Did anyone remember any of John Kerry's speeches or campaign themes that year […]?"(p.144). We know that Goodwin could have saved the election single-handedly because his prodigious talent uses Warren Beatty’s history as “ director of political movies like Reds and Bulworth"(p.144), as a positive selling point.

Nader also spares our delicate sensibilities by declining to provide lurid details of the anti-Wal-Mart attacks from “the websites, those awful blogs with no sense of propriety and no barriers to rudeness”(p.148). And thank god for it. Those assholes always manage to drag a discussion down to its lowest level of discourse.

Some of the information provided in this chapter, especially when it concerns running as a third-party candidate, takes on new levels of meaning when viewed through the lens of Nader’s experiences. Wal-Mart decides not to publicly attack Sol Price as the force behind the assault on their stores because "everyone would marvel at his energy. We'd end up turning him into a sex symbol and watching him promote Viagra on TV"(p.152), and I am convinced that this is a Bob Dole reference. Of Beatty’s gubernatorial campaign, "One columnist wrote that the race was Warren's to lose"(p.145), but I’m not sure if Nader realizes how backhanded that compliment is. And the Maui group found that some of their cause’s applicants "were intensely idealistic but out of touch with the practical demands of the assignments, so Recruitment was engaged in a very large but kind winnowing process"(p.156). If Nader thinks you're out of touch with the practical demands of an assignment, then you’re a complete fucking lunatic.

It’s also worth noting that this chapter describes the press as hapless, incompetent, and easily bribed with a hot meal, as evidenced by the Maui group’s event where "an excellent sit-down breakfast would be served to the men and women of the fourth estate to put them in a receptive frame of mind"(p.159). They’re flummoxed because “they couldn't figure out whether it was just some eccentric rich guys on a justice lark or a bigger, more coordinated movement"(p.145). When they are flat-out lied to at the press conference mentioned above, they don’t bother with any follow-up investigation.

Nader continues to display his lyric mastery in this chapter, using words like “chugalugged”(p.148) in the context of a board of directors gathering before their meeting begins, and employing descriptive phrases like "pompous pitches from political promoters"(p.164). Sol Price’s wholesale superstores aren’t first out of the box, they're "first out of the big box"(p.151, emphasis added). Nader is not above using puns, either, as when describing Warren Buffett’s speech to the National Cattlemen's Convention. “After laying out the red meat of his argument”(p.141), he wins over the crowd by showing them that "the richest man in America was proposing a plan to put wheels on the wheels and 'steer' to victory"(p.142). As always, Ted Turner has some of the best lines in the chapter, calling their Sun God bikini orgy initiative "hotter than a nun's dream"(p.156). However, the best metaphor of the entire chapter is this one:
The radio attack dogs were baffled by the white-hot controversies erupting everywhere over real abuses of power. Their big advertisers kept calling to egg them on—but on to what, or whom? They were like drooling bloodhounds straining at the leash to hunt down their quarry, but they'd lost their sense of smell.(p.147)

The only odd passage was the CEO’s claim that "there are new blasts in the chute"(p.150). Is that a fart joke? Because otherwise I have no idea what it means.


This chapter had 21 triads and 9 big fucking lists.

Before we continue, I’d like to take a moment to note that I love Bill Hillman. Portrayed as a wild-eyed hillbilly from the frozen wasteland of Minnesota, he doesn’t make friends of the hoi polloi with his controversial “throw rocks, but pay attention” approach to advertising. He’s a straight-talking, shoot-from-the-hip type who impressed the Maui group and stole my heart. After delivering the 8th BFL of the chapter, he actually says "sorry for the tedious list"(p.164). After plowing through 164 pages of them, it’s about goddamn time for an apology.

Now, let’s look at the most impressive BFL in the chapter (if not the entire book):

[The news media] couldn't plausibly tar the assorted billionaire elders with the usual labels: fags, atheists, child killers, flag desecrators, feminazis, socialists, communists, anarchists, French, national nannies, cop-haters, peaceniks, disarmers (gun controllers), traitors, the blame-America-first crowd.(p.147)

That’s right. Ralph Nader actually wrote a book that uses the word “French” as an insult. Oh, and “fags,” too.

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November 6, 2009

Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us: Chapter 5 Synopsis

Bitterly Books is undertaking a chapter-by-chapter review of Ralph Nader's work, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us. For the complete coverage of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us, click here.

You can read past chapter synopses here. Past reviews can be read here, and Viator's columns can be read here.


Chapter five is difficult to parse, because it is barely English. It is also difficult to tell how important anything is, as several characters simply forget about what they were doing the previous chapter and pick up older or in some cases entirely new hobbies. With that in mind here are the biggest points, in order of pages devoted to them:

Hand-wringing at Wal-Mart (11 pages, 37.93 percent):

CEO Leighton Clott holds a secret meeting with the executives to get his story straight for the board of directors. Then he holds a secret meeting with the board, making everyone turn off their cell phones and assuring them the room has been swept for bugs. (However, the discussion will not be substantive enough to merit publishing its minutes—as is generally done by publically-held companies—because all they're doing is figuring out how to stomp union organizers). We discover that the entire board of directors seems to have been replaced with Buffett allies, including Alicia del Toro, Sam Sale, “retired CEO of the country’s largest sporting goods chain,” and “Frederick Buck, an emeritus professor of economics.” The Walton family apparently is no longer running the place, as “Ken Keystone” has replaced Rob Walton as chairman. To the astonishment of Clott (if not anyone else) these interlopers are unsympathetic to Clott’s assumption that Wal-Mart will never unionize and demand he give them “information as a broader basis to assess our options.” (153)

Warren Buffett goes to Washington (4 pages, 13.79 percent)

A couple of stuffy political science professors are real downers to Warren Buffett about his suicide pact political party. They begin “by sketching the fifty different state laws, sometimes with county differences” on how to get on the ballot as a third party. Warren is bummed by this, possibly because he just had to sit through a lecture on 3,191 different ways of saying “Ralph Nader lost four presidential elections.” Another egghead chimes in that voters are simpletons: “Voters want to feel that they’re backing a winner. Then there’s the hereditary voter syndrome, which comes from a long family tradition of unswerving support for one of the two parties.” (162) (Also the fact that Warren Beatty is running as a Democrat, the complacent fool) A couple of candyass community organizers timidly suggest that Buffett could maybe toss a few sawbucks at “affecting elections at the margin” or to “target key congressional leaders” while dropping the self-immolating single-issue party. Buffett shoots them down like Ted Turner with his hapless buffalo.

Finally amid all this nonsense we hear from Bill Hillsman,, whose “clothing and facial hair suggested a maverick mind and a touch of mad genius.” (163) Hillsman spends literally half of this passage in an extended monologue proclaiming that he wins lots of pollies, because his “ads are so eye-opening or controversial that they produce reams of free news coverage.” (163) Hillsman suggests, nay, demands that Buffett runs candidates in the “two and a half million electoral offices at the level of local government alone.” (164) His delivery baffles the professors and organizers but astonishes Buffett and Bernard Rapoport, who hire him on the spot provided he can pass Buffett’s rigorous background checks. Buffett stipulates this should be especially thorough, “down to the color of his jagers.” (We are not sure at this point whether “jagers” is another weird fetish or if they want to know if he’s a drinker.)

Miscellania (four pages, 13.79 percent):

“Fifty farmers and activists” are arrested on the White House lawn for waving hemp seeds around while shouting “Energy independence! Great food! Tough clothing! Degradable auto parts! Clean paper! More farmer income, fewer farm subsidies! More trees! More jobs! Less cancer! Less lung disease! A healthy environment!” (165-6, emphasis added) Ted Turner throws his “Sun God extravaganzas,” and it is a truly astonishing feat of writing that Nader managed to make two pages dedicated to a re-enactment of human sacrifice and naked women profoundly boring. The highlight is a “150-foot golden statue of the Sun God” with “prayer rugs so that any worshipers who so wished could express their fealty.” (167) The women spend most of their time throwing solar-powered appliances at the statue. One such appliance appears to be sex toys, as “the Goddesses would demonstrate these uses to the accompaniment of sensual background music”; however even that is ruined with “sound-light shows depicting fossil fuels and atomic power as forces of darkness and destruction, and solar energy as the force of light and life.” (168)

With terrible press conferences for all (3 pages, 10 percent)

Joe Jamail and Bill Gates Sr hold a press conference in which they quote figures such as Cicero and Adlai Stevenson to demand that the Pledge of Allegiance be changed to concluded “…with liberty and justice for some.” They also take questions (First question: “Isn’t this just one gigantic gimmick?” “No. Next question.”) (160)

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November 4, 2009

Viator's Review: OTSRCSU Chapter 4

Bitterly Books is undertaking a chapter-by-chapter review of Ralph Nader's work, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us. You can read past chapter synopses here. Past reviews can be read here, and Viator's columns can be read here.

For the complete coverage of
Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us, click here.

Is Naderocalypse a satire?

We now have an answer to said question, courtesy of chapter four.

Its biggest event is Warren Beatty’s announcement of his campaign against the “calculating cyborg” who is outwardly “Mr. Universe.” In a spirit of fairness before he throws down, Beatty confronts the Austrian movie star over what appears to be the single issue of his potential campaign: raising taxes. He notes the hapless Austrian’s pronunciation of “Caddyfawnyuns.” He engages, as Bitterly noted, in generally hamfisted and outright stupid dialogue.

But what of the Governator? Why is he so darned stubborn, inviting the wrath of Warren Buffet/t and his constituents? Why indeed: "I really dislike taxes philosophically- I meant what I said on the campaign trail. You wouldn’t want me to break my word, would you?” (125)

As passages go, this one is actually pretty moving. Arnold loves his wife, he wants to keep his word, and good lord he meant what he said to get elected. Would that all our politicians were so scummy. So really, why does Warren respond with weasely equivocation and cutesy play-banter, and yet he’s the hero here?

Warren Buffet/t, chapter one: “[The world’s] inhabitants have allowed greed, power, ignorance, wealth, science, technology, and religion to depreciate reality and deny potential.” (15)

Max Palevsky, chapter two: “Insurance companies talked about risk management as if it meant the best way for their computers to get the most profit out of existing risks.” (47)

Warren Buffet/t, chapter three: Sun Microsystems Co-founder Bill Joy is “the antidote to these techno-twits who are imperiling us with their contempt for the ethical and legal framework necessary to contain future Frankensteins.” (78)

Ralph Nader, chapter four: “Arnold personally flung open the door. Outwardly he was Mr. Universe, inwardly he was a calculating cyborg.” (125)

Yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a cyborg. Literally.

This is the point where I was going to include the results of the embarrassing amount of time I spent adding up whether Warren Beatty’s proposed tax hike would fix California’s 2006 budget deficit as Nader claimed, sketching out math demonstrating that he actually believes life in the United States is equivalent to that in Equatorial Guinea. The joke is indeed on me, and Naderocalypse is the mirror. I was calculating with cold, impersonal numbers, trapped in a system that has indeed depreciated reality.

Arnold does not understand why refusing to flip-flop, raise taxes and even love his wife is villainous, because he is programmed that way. And we laugh along at Nader, because that’s how poisonous capitalism is: we calculate instead of acknowledging truths.

And there you have it. The question of whether Naderocalypse is a satire asked the wrong question. It is an allegory.

...but enough about that. Let’s find out what the gods have been up to.

Price-Epimetheus opens with his typical display of incompetence: he proposes telling the Wal-Mart board of directors what they're going to do in advance, along with a strangely dactyllic verse boasting of their strength (with a total budget of $15 billion) and Wal-Mart's feebleness (with assets of $160 billion). He follows up this astonishingly short-sighted threat with a call to Leighton (LEE-ton) Clott, CEO. Later we learn that his entire strategy to take on his corrupt offspring is an elaborate plot to inform Wal-Mart executives of everything he is doing. No wonder Price is a failure at safe-sex practices.

The public relations aspect of the battle confirms an ongoing strain of xenophobia: his cadre of anti-Wal-Mart billionaires are incensed by a “recent memo” from the retail giant to suppliers that “required them to meet the China price either by reducing costs (i.e., cutting wages and benefits) or by actually moving to China.” (131) It is notable that Warren Beatty shares this extreme nativism when he demands that the California Assembly stop “the indenturing of California to New York City’s giant bond creditors.” (125-126) (“O Enlil! What has my city done to you? Why have you turned away from it? The ship of first fruits no longer brings first fruits to the engendering father, no longer goes in to Enlil in Nippur with your bread and food portions!” -Lament for Ur)

Turner-Loki sneakily proposes a return to old-time religion to stick it to the suits, claiming that "not a single religion had approved of such a perverse channeling of peoples lives." (113)

Diller-Marduk indeed closes the chapter ominously. He also enumerates his conquered empire, his but for the niggling matter of the maturing of the leveraging bonds: "twenty-five television stations, two cable channels, thirty AM radio stations, ten FM radio stations, one satellite radio station, and links to associated websites." (138) His army assembled, the god begins to assemble his generals, the "on-air talent and off-air investigative experts."

Back in his lair, Soros-Thoth reviews seven reports on various bits of the economy. (“Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’ But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.” -Revelation 5:1-3) Each report’s “breaking” is powerful, causing him to get “angrier by the hour.” The review has a certain poetry. unfortunately broken up by Nader’s prose: Soros’ mouth goes "dry with astonishment" (food), he is "taken aback" (financial services), he “really wanted to take a shower” (taxes), and he feels "a pang of self-reproach" (elections). Worst of all, Soros discovers that tax loopholes he has been using, his divine prerogative, are being stolen by “the wealthy to shirk their taxpaying responsibilities.” (119) If we go off the biblical inspiration for this passage we note that 144,000 are saved from Soros’ wrath. So far Nader notes that the number is actually 2,000 x 435, or 870,000. We await the reconciliation of this eschatology.

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November 2, 2009

Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us: Chapter 4 Review

Bitterly Books is undertaking a chapter-by-chapter review of Ralph Nader's work, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us. You can read past chapter synopses here. Past reviews can be read here, and Viator's columns can be read here.

For the complete coverage of
Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us, click here.


M. Bromberg "BellemeadeBooks" writes on Amazon:

"Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!" -- the title with its quotation marks and exclamation point included -- is Ralph Nader's 736-page first novel, and he makes no bones about it: the thinly-disguised double of Grover Norquist, anti-tax advocate and central figure in the Bush administration, is about the only real-life figure in Nader's latest assault on the best-seller lists who isn't named outright. Everyone else, from Warren Buffett to Warren Beatty, gets name-checked and suitably prominent roles in Nader's self-described new fictional genre, "the practical utopia."


In this chapter:

"It's pushing it a lot," Leonard said. "And that's what we're going to do!"(p.118)
That's what she said!


Nader continues to display his skill with dialogue in this chapter, and gives Ted Turner some real zingers when he decries "the omnicidal trajectory of unbridled corporatism"(p.113) and "their singularly obsessed drive for profit [that] is so inimical to spiritual and civic values"(p.113). That's right, motherfucker, he said inimical.

Nader has also nailed the voice of Warren Buffett, paraphrasing his sagacity and almost oracular vision with summaries like this one:

He pointed out that when the assault on the citadels of coporate power began in earnest with the implementation of each project's substantive agenda, the resultant controversy and uproar might compromise the establishment of the necessary organizations, and that the substantive agendas would go nowhere without the infrastructure to support them.(p.107)
I have no idea what it means, but it demonstrates that Buffett is so wise that he is completely inscrutable.

And Nader captures the voice of the people, having a construction worker sarcastically qipping, "Yeah, like the rich ever done anything good for my black ass. Or your Mexican culo"(p.110). The comments from him and his friend are particularly acrid because "where politics was concerned, they were died-in-the-wool cynics"(p.110, sic). I'm hoping that they spend most of their time in well-ventilated areas because the stench of decomposition mixed with wet wool must be horrific.

Three developments in this chapter warrant closer scrutiny.

First, there's the Governor of California. Ralph Nader has taken a number of jabs at Arnold Schwarzenegger, like when Warren Beatty tricked Schwarzenegger into talking on the phone and "Arnold had to think fast, faster than in his most desperate movie scenes, and this time with no one to program him"(p.108), so it's natural to expect Arnold to act like a cartoonish villain who delivers movie lines in tortured English, faithfully transcribed with a heavy Austrian accent. Instead, Nader has taken the moral high road, allowing us to see Schwarzenegger as a sympathetic character who is trying to make tough choices for the welfare of his state. Arnold gets a chance to explain himself to Warren Beatty in this chapter:

Warren, in many ways we are quite alike, not in terms of background or style or movies, but both of us like to win, and neither of us is satisfied with being a successful actor. We both believe there's more to life than fiction, than the set, than the accolades, than the swarms of beautiful, willing women and the big bucks. We are at that age, you know, when we want to go nonfiction. When I ran for governor, the most solemn promise I made was that under no circumstances would I raise taxes. Given my polls and my troubles with the legislature, I have little left but my dynamic personality, Maria, and my sacred word.(p.125)
This explanation adds a special poignancy to Arnold's declaration that "I will never go back on my promise to Caddyfawnyuns"(p.125, sic).

Then there's Warren Beatty's People's Revolt of the Rich, a bunch of billionaires on buses. They took a lot of detours through slums on their way to the state legislature, and Beatty "directed his drivers to go through these communities so that his wealthy friends, looking out the windows, could see for themselves what the gross maldistribution of income did to people's lives, to their families, to their immediate surroundings"(p.124), while "some joker rented a camel to trudge alongside the slow procession"(p.109). It's like a circus sideshow, except you can't tell who are the gawkers and who are the exhibits.

People were holding signs cheering the bus on and thanking this or that billionaire known to be aboard. Many of the signs read, "You are not alone!"—a message that touched the bus riders deeply. Imagine ordinary people telling them, with all their wealth and friends in high places, that they were not alone.(p.108)
Just imagine the nerve of some people, addressing their betters directly like that. Ultimately, these billionaires relate their experience to California lawmakers, who "felt cleansed somehow, as if the legislative halls had been fumigated"(p.124).

And Sol Price is going to the mattresses to take on Wal-Mart. The accounts of opening "a Wal-Fart, Wal-Dart, Wal-Cart, Wal-Part, and Wal-Hart, in lettering that bore an ostentatious resemblance to the company's trademarked name"(p.130) would be comical if the plans of attack weren't so elaborately planned. Sol is trying to unionize Wal-Fart Wal-Mart, and he expects the megacorporation to react aggressively and quickly. However, thanks to his "worker intelligence system their maneuvers will be chronicled daily for an equally quick response"(p.106). "Please don't confuse what is about to confront Wal-Mart with the ineffectual maundering of the unions, which haven't managed to organize a single store after eight years of effort"(p.105), warns Sol at the beginning of the chapter. And it's not an empty threat. Wal-Mart deployed SWAT teams to destroy the fledling unions, but the hunter became the hunted as "Sol was deploying SWAT teams of his own to bust the union busters"(p.133). The corporate fascists at Wal-Mart are unaware that they are playing into Sol's hands, because all along "the secret strategy of the Sol-SWATs was to let the opposition in on the secret"(p.133). Let's take a look at the team that is taking point on Sol's anti-SWAT offensive:

Its vital statistics: average age, forty-six; four men, two women; one African American, one Mexican American, one Jewish American, two Anglo Americans, and a Mongolian American. They'd been chosen on merit, not for diversity, and that was how it turned out.(p.133)
That's right, Wal-Fart Wal-Mart is totally fucked. "Sol's Wal-Mart offensive was now on track for victory, but the drama would be intense"(p.134).

Meanwhile, the entire Buffett plan continues to unfold in secret. However, Jeno is worried that "there must be dozens of eager-beaver reporters out there, trying to follow up on [...the] suggestion of connections between us, and they may blow our cover"(p.103), and he's right. "Soon there was a spate of editorials wondering who was behind these lunchtime rallies. Editors set their investigative reporters on the money trail and found that it dead-ended with local billionaires,"(p.134), so their secret is safe for now. George Soros stupidly blabs about the group to his underlings, but smoothly covers it by describing it as "just my nickname for some of the ad guys around the office"(p.120).

This chapter features a punishing 28 triads and 18 BFLs packed into 35 pages. This one is noteworthy because it is describing one of the teabag lunchtime rallies when it ties a yellow onion to its belt and tries to catch the ferry to Shelbyville:

And what a rally it was—the lunchtime regulars, their ranks swelled by thousands of citizens from all walks of life, and at the center the soldiers back from Iraq, some on crutches or in wheelchairs, defiant, articulate, passionate, hugging older veterans from past wars, challenging their smug, cloistered commander in chief, redefining the patriotic course of action as withdrawal from a war based on lies and soaked in blood, a war whose multiplying effect was the recruitment and training of more and more terrorists from more and more countries, as the White House's handpicked director of the CIA himself had told a Senate committee.(p.135)
One of the BFLs is actually justifiable, as Oprah Winfrey has turned out for the grand unveiling of Jeno's PCC, and it can take a lot of convincing to get her to back a project. So Nader needs a convincing BFL:

The PCC manifesto, which used phrases and formulations new to these seasoned luminaries, things like "the corporate destruction of capitalism," "crime in the suites," "high-status slavery," "corporate fascism," "constitutionalizing the corporation," "quo warranto," "dechartering with probation," "environmental bankruptcy," "chaordic restructuring," "the enforceable corporate covenant with society," "the foresight to foresee and forestall," "tort law as protector of the physical integrity of human beings, their property, and the natural environment," "solarizing technology," "the carbohydrate economy," "from greed to need to seed," "respect for taxpayer assets," "the commonwealth economy," "the seizure of leisures," "the commercialization of childhood," "the pornography of style versus the engineering of substance," and "We are the fauna!"(p.112)
Mercifully, Nader spares us from actually having to read the text of the manifesto, but the observant reader may be curious as to why Oprah wasn't included in Warren's original gang of seventeen from the start. We can refer to the previously mentioned BFL from chapter 1 to realize that she must have failed Buffett's omniscient background investigation of:

Temperament, ego control, knowledge, experience, determination, willingness to risk, circles of influence, degree of independence from curtailing loyalties and obligations, capacity to take heat, backlash, ostracism and rejection, absorptive capacity for new directions and subjects outside your range of understanding, track record in keeping confidences, and above all, moral courage.(pp.23-24)

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October 31, 2009

Satanism and Its Malcontents

Said in an Adam West voice: Di-a-bolical!Satanism: The Seduction of America's Youth by Bob Larson (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989, ISBN: 978-0840730343)

This book was written by: Bob Larson, who writes that "as the host of America's most listened-to talk show for more than six years, I've encountered many kids who credit Satan as the inspiration for their outrageous conduct"(p.27). Those experiences are shared in this book because "I want you to understand the roots of this satanic system so you too can effectively combat its lures and lies"(p.31).

Together, we will expose evil from the seamy to the sinister. And we'll see why evil entices rather than repels. Most importantly, we'll understand how to lovingly rescue those who sell themselves to Satan and become the devil's disciples on an altar of sacrifice(p.21).

Bob Larson does NOT mess around.Bob Larson also battles demons on the internet, and he has set up a test you can take to rate whether you are at risk for demonic possession. It evaluates a number of factors, such as whether you have experienced life-changing trauma, whether you have asked Satan to take your life in exchange for something, and whether you are currently being or have ever been incested.

What is in this book: A wealth of information on Satanism and its adherents, like how you can spot them by the way they "dress in black, greet each other with the satanic salute [...], speak and write backwards, or organize secret meetings"(p.29), and one Satanist’s account of how “I identified myself by wearing my left shirtsleeve rolled up and keeping my left pinkie fingernail unclipped and painted black”(p.106). Larson includes “suggestions for parents and counselors who want to help youth resist these influences"(p.30) and alerts you to Satanic dangers you may not have been aware of. "You may meet someone who seems like a super friend who always has drugs available. He may be trying to draw you into Satanism"(p.89), like that Super Friends episode where a Satanist got Robin addicted to meth and tried to sacrifice the Wonder Twins to the dark lord.

That's right, the peace sign and the swastika are Satanic symbols.What is not in this book: Delusional hysteria. Larson describes how Satanism is a very real threat, and confirms it with some of the stories that his callers tell him:

"I'm four months pregnant with my father's child. But it's not the first time," Pat went on. "I've had four other children by him. They were sacrificed in satanic ceremonies!"(p.69)

Pat is not the only one. "Women previously involved in satanic cults tell of becoming brides to Satan. Others claim they were inducted to become baby breeders, to conceive babies for sacrifice without birth or death records"(p.122). While Satanists are deceitful by their very nature, we know that their stories are true because they wouldn't dare violate the sanctity of a radio call-in show, especially when they have little to gain from lying.

Would you recommend this book to Satanists who are fans of Slayer?
Yes, because Larson shares valuable insight from his "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go behind the scenes on a rock 'n' roll tour"(p.11) with Slayer. Slayer's fans seemed genuinely satanic, wearing "metal regalia [that] openly invited evil. There were thousands of jean jackets, backs emblazoned with demonic depictions: horned goat-man (baphomet) symbols of Satan, gruesome images of devils, and more upside-down crosses than a denizen of demons could concoct in a month"(p.13). However, the band was “pampered, bored, and anxious to get home"(p.16), traveling in a "glorified Winnebago [that] was somewhat luxurious, if contemporary K-Mart is your style"(p.15) and paying little obeisance to the Dark Lord when not on stage.

Kids these days, with their metal poseurs and their half-burnt offerings.Would you recommend this book to Al Lewis? Absolutely. "Teenagers today grow up in a world saturated with satanic symbols and suggestions—black metal music, Dungeons & Dragons, horror movies, occult emblems, and diabolical paraphernalia"(p.27), and this is dangerous because "those who worship Satan get the idea through movies, books, music, videos, adult propaganda, or other avenues"(p.117). Grandpa Munster would be one of the first ones to tell you that it used to be different. “Classic fiction” was the inspiration for horror movies from back in the day (the sixties), but “today's movies and videos are more graphically sinister, concentrating on inescapable terror and ghastly revenge. The fixation is not on myth-making and storytelling, but on death and destruction."(p.67) Another one of Larson’s callers gives us a glimpse at what the world could be like if we went back to the classics:

' I saw a Vincent Price film. Some guy discovered another guy didn't like him. So he found some dogs, killed them, and made pudding out of them.[....] When I got home from seeing the movie, I got drunk and killed the family dog.'(p.62)

What was interesting about this book?
Larson’s book is a wake-up call for the forces of darkness because “barring themselves, Satanists believe the world is comprised of bumbling idiots. They develop the attitude that 'we' are the elite, 'they' the chumps"(p.192), but thanks to this book, we can finally prove that they are the chumps!
Additionally, "The devil’s disciples are mostly middle-class and white. [And] a high percentage are male because of the macho posturing required for blood-spilling rituals and acts of desecration"(p.105), but it turns out that Satan is kind of a pussy. "The defilement of children is important to Satanists. The more helpless the victim, the greater proof of their devotion to the devil"(p.125), so either Satan doesn't expect his disciples to actually exert themselves, or he's afraid of receiving sacrifices that might be able to kick his ass.

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October 29, 2009

Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us: Chapter 4 Synopsis

Bitterly Books is undertaking a chapter-by-chapter review of Ralph Nader's work, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us. You can read past chapter synopses here. Past reviews can be read here, and Viator's columns can be read here.

For the complete coverage of
Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us, click here.


Building off their momentum from Chapter 3, Warren Buffett's Maui Mafia decides to create an "attack sub-economy," making plans to "buy some retail franchises and small businesses in just about every line of commerce and manufacturing around the country"(pp.103-104). Then Nader cuts back and forth between a number of developments.

Jeno Paulucci holds a ribbon-cutting ceremony for his PCC's new headquarters. George Soros inexplicably "showed up unscheduled," maybe because he was confused by his own CUB opening a headquarters in Washington around the same time. Given a chance to speak, Soros asks "whether there were any CEOs or trade association heads in the crowd who wanted to make a brief statement or debate him"(p.114), and he is met with "a long silence." This may be because no one can figure out what he's doing there, but it may also be because he was hopped up on junk and acting violent after not realizing that PCP referred to "Perot's Credibility Project"(p.118). Buffett has started up a lot of committees, and they're all using acronyms, so you can't blame George for having a tough time keeping them all straight.

Max Palevski looks to top his stunt from Chapter 2, where he arranged for concertgoers who had expected the band Cool Drool to be tricked into listening to "a silver-haired orator [as he] took the stage and unfurled a string of calmly delivered racist, sexist, homophobic, and ethnic slurs"(p.56). This time, Max has set his sights on addressing "the NCAA's exclusion of minorities from executive positions, [...] the subordination of academics to football, [...] the NCAA's gross negligence in failing to police the use of performance-enhancing drugs or the constant legal gambling on games, [...and] the wholesale commercialization of amateur sports, with the players sweating for nothing on hard artificial turf while the NCAA, the coaches, the universities, and the advertisers raked in the bucks"(p.122). Obviously, the answer is race baiting:

The first ad appeared. It showed photos of Notre Dame's varsity football team over the past four years, rows of headshots of the starting lineup with their names and positions underneath. A majority of the players were black. The headline read, "Funny, They Don't Look Irish!!!"
The next day's ad ran the photos again, this time under the headline "Why Aren't They Called the Fighting Zulus???"
Yoko Ono talks some shit about art, and decides that it would be great if "the government required the infusion of a harmless red dye in all airborne emissions from factories and vehicles,"(p.122) because the cure for air pollution is more chemicals. She decides to comission a team of artists to "earn posterity's respect and gratitude, just as the great art and architecture of past centuries were cherished today," because you can't build the pyramids without slave labor.

Meanwhile, Warren Beatty and his People's Revolt of the Rich advances on Sacramento. It's some billionaires in a couple of buses who are going to demand that the government start taxing them more heavily. Beatty tricks Governor Schwarzenegger into meeting with him face to face, and the two have a showdown over breakfast and "fair trade coffee"(p.125) before Beatty announces his candidacy for governor in the State Legislature.

Sol Price literally declares war on Wal-Mart.

The billionaires organize a "lunchtime rebellion" (read: teabag rally) of "hardworking Americans who choose to exercise their right of free assembly on their lunch break"(p.137). A "discernably pregnant" woman who gets into a violent altercation at one of these rallies is "just the thing to show that the proletariat, long considered moribund by the plutocracy, still had a cutting edge"(p.137), according to Bernard Rapoport, who is watching events unfold from the safety of his home in Waco.

The chapter ended on a cliffhanger as Bonecrushing Barry Diller, sensing the gathering stormclouds of an upcoming corporate counteroffensive, "reached for his rolodex"(p.138).

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October 27, 2009

Viator's Review: OTSRCSU Chapter 3

Bitterly Books is undertaking a chapter-by-chapter review of Ralph Nader's work, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us. You can read past chapter synopses here. Past reviews can be read here, and Viator's columns can be read here.

For the complete coverage of
Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us, click here.

Chapter 3 ups the apocalyptic tension right off the bat, with demands from the Cosby/Newman Judeo-Christian clique to "resurrect dead money," which is "like a stagnant pool breeding mosquitoes." (66) (“They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be an unclean thing. Their silver and gold will not be able to save them in the day of the LORD's wrath. They will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it, for it has made them stumble into sin.” -Ezekiel 7:19) Talk is broached of bringing in a war god- "Should we consider bringing a military man into our deliberations?" asks Perot. Buffett-Zeus replies "Someone like Anthony Zinni would be perfect." (67-68). Buffett, unsatisfied with the group's reported progress, Redirects everyone's timai into the aforementioned new list. Appropriately, the new priorities revolve around increasing the worship of billionaires: they will tear down the government, so the people have nowhere else to turn; they will found numerous cults to their benevolent (or malevolent) power; and they will of course care for those subjects who heed their intonations.

Soros-Thoth seizes the initiative in this regard, building a massive temple in the nation's capitol to his new cult, the CUB. He prudently selects a hotel with sleeping and bathing facilities for his loyal acolytes, and requires a modest sacrifice of $50 a year from worshipers. (Note: while I am nothing but impressed with Soros' efforts so far, I will be carefully watching for signs that he may in fact be L. Ron Hubbard)

This temple will accompany the labors of Rapoport-Osiris, who has apparently been Redirected from his interest in young schoolchildren by Newman’s Christian appeals. Instead, he sets to populating this newly-founded cult, hiring “two hundred full-time organizers” to send “to each congressional find two thousand voters in each congressional district serious about establishing a Congress Watchdog Group.” (82) (“Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.” -Matthew 10:11-16)

Rapoport also establishes a $2 billion fund, to “be administered by twelve trustees in a fair-market value “no-strings” bribe for “each incumbent.” (84) The plan is shrewd: what better way to topple the government than to lure it into prosecuting itself en masse? The plan dovetails nicely with the efforts of Gates-Caesar and Jamail-Themis to goad the nation into suing itself into oblivion. Rounding out this subversive plot is Buffett, who recruits youths to infiltrate Capitol Hill and summons elders who have retired from Congress, presumably as lieutenants in the infiltration scheme.

Diller-Marduk continues his terrifying seizure of the nation’s entire telecommunications infrastructure, “through the magic of leveraged buyouts. He had a law firm that spit them out like extruded plastic,” (84) a clear reference Marduk’s preparation to defeat Tiamat, in which “in his lips he holds a spell.” So also Diller prepares for “the big boys, with their Madison Avenue skillsters and their endless treasuries.” (85) Small wonder Nader calls him a “bone crushing, mercurial boss.” (84)

Yet even Diller succumbs to the trickster wiles of Turner-Loki, who goads Diller into calling Warren Beatty, our first Hero of the story. Diller informs Beatty that he has a “script” for him, “but not the kind of script you mean.” (“Marduk took the tablets of destiny from Kingu and placed them on his own chest to proclaim his power over the gods”, yet Turner can still talk him out of them) The platform they propose to Beatty is equally sneaky: a hostile takeover of the entire state of California by billionaires. (“You are going to donate what the tax cut awarded you to the public treasury, and you want them to do the same as part of the reverse revolt of the rich.") (86)

I should note that I read about Beatty’s entrance onto the campaign trail with interest, hoping for a retelling of Brutus. Alas, Warren Beatty is entirely realistic. Turner follows up with another massive practical joke, the aforementioned “Aztec-type festivals devoted to the Sun God. Without the human sacrifice, of course.” (98) Price-Epimethues takes issues with this last bit, saying he has “a few candidates in mind” for nextlaualli. His chronic lethargy may well be due to insufficient exsanguination.

A half-joking hunger for human blood and internal organs is not the only way Price continues to underwhelm and disappoint. We also learn that Price accidentally created evil with his zipper problem. In chapter one he was “once called the father of the retail model later imitated by Sam’s Club, prompting him to reply, ‘I wish I’d worn a condom’.” (17) Now we learn that Wal-Mart is the ultimate evil, Dortwist merely being a lieutenant or herald. Small wonder the group jumps without segue or transition from a debate over the conflict between federal power and grassroots activism to declaring that Wal-Mart delendum est. Wal-Mart creates conflict, as lord of the material world and everyday low prices. Once again Price lives up to his ignominious heritage, having forgotten to do anything pleasant for mankind and bringing Pandora to the world.

Ono-Uzume continues her dream-state prognostication-persuasion. Her very movement from place to place is surreal: she is “unusually quiet during the conference call” after which she “headed straight for the airport”- but it is unknown where this happens, a notable departure from Nader’s meticulous catalogue of which airport each god-mogul uses. Rather, Ono is summoned by the conference call, and appears when agitated at human ports. In this chapter Ono discovers that words are power, solving a debate over what the new “jolt” should be by simply saying “hemp.” (96) Her discovery leads her to abandon her previously successful graphic artistry, declaring that “the word ‘posterity’ isn’t used anymore as it our eighteenth century forebears” and that the “subtlety of modern art is of little use here.” (99-100)

As we close this chapter, it bears reflection on Nader’s specific actions around this book, for example dedicating it to the god-moguls within and contacting the god-moguls’ real-life personalities to tell them about it. It is clear that Diviciacus-Nader has written a blueprint for billionaires to attract (and compel) worship by the inhabitants of the largest economy in the world. Sensing that this will be our salvation, he has set to attracting the gods to his plan, with flattery and promises of delicious sacrifice. We await the coming chapter-prophecies with fascination and trepidation.

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