October 20, 2009

Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us: Chapter 2 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.


To provide a more balanced coverage of the book, we will also be presenting some comments from this book's reviews on Amazon. R.A. Barricklow "Scaramouche" writes:

Ralph Nader is a super-patriot who will never say die to the American way of life. When reality says the Republic is either dead or on it's last legs Nader will dig in and fight. He has always used truth as the weapon. Now he artfully uses fiction to speak these truths in a form that that simply had me smiling from ear to ear. His knowledge in so deep/intricate in the workings of this country's political/economical entanglements that he misses nothing in the telling of this story.


This is the chapter where Nader takes off the training wheels, picks up speed, and rams into a parked car. He steps away from soapbox oratory to show us a cross-section of the working class, but he does it with an economy of language that skillfully fleshes out the scene with our own stereotypes and preconceived notions. For example, “on the outskirts of Oklahoma City, Jack Soaring Eagle walked slowly down the long, dusty drive that led from his trailer to his mailbox”(p.40), so we already know that he’s one of the more downtrodden members of society, a disenfranchised Indian who can’t keep a job.

Things start strong with Nurse Jane Harper entranced by Patriotic Polly and motivated to come up with a plan to make the world a better place. After the parrot’s irresistible commandment, the narrative gets a little less believable when it cuts to Stan Yablonsky and Mike O’Malley drinking in Clancy’s Cave—the bar, not the orifice. First the bartender states that “the Bills’ve been out of contention since December”(p.38), and then Mike the schoolteacher leaves because he has to “do his lesson plan on the Underground Railroad”(p.39). Football timing aside, it’s impossible to believe that a working-class stiff like O’Malley isn’t a burned-out husk of an educator who has been using Xeroxed copies of the same lesson plan for over a decade. If he actually gave a shit about his lesson plan, he wouldn’t be out drinking on a school night in the first place. However, Stan’s greeting of “those little tweakers leave gum on your chair again or steal all the chalk?”(p.38) accurately characterizes public schools as being full of meth addicts.

Unfortunately, after two more “common man” scenes, Nader shifts back to his billionaire’s club and returns to long lists of social injustices that need to be addressed. He does add the occasional literary flourish, such as when Ted Turner’s demonstration alliteratively “splashed a slurpy bucket of bull manure”(p.51) onto some “prevarication screens.” Regrettably, Max Palevsky does some oversharing when he notes that “even after some spirited female-gazing during country club lunches with his friend Warren Beatty, his resurgent libido did not put him in any persistently creative civic mood”(p.54).

I have learned the following in this section:
  • The concept of Schadenfreude is alien to Ralph Nader. He thinks that “Judge Judy was an amazing ratings success because people cared about small injustices between individuals,” (p.52) when in fact it’s a success because people enjoy petty bickering.
  • Ralph Nader wants to see Warren Buffet naked. The Washington Post reports that “internet traffic regarding the rich guys’ activities leaves Britney and Paris in the dust”(p.63), which could only mean that Buffett was photographed getting out of a car with no panties (or maybe that Ted Turner and Phil Donohue made a sex tape full of male strippers and slurpy bull manure).
  • Ralph Nader hates the rainforest, but recognizes the value of its inhabitants. But probably wants them all killed, anyway. Patriotic Polly, the movement’s mascot, performs so well in her commercial that she “would have won an Academy Award in her category, if there were such a category”(p.42). I hope he meant an Emmy Award, because a feature-length film of a parrot screaming at me about the need to change America would be too much to bear. Also, “one unintended side effect was that the price of Amazonian parrots skyrocketed,”(p.42) which means that their shrewd choice of a mobilizing avatar is going to increase illegal trade in exotic animals and probably speed the destruction of the rainforests.
  • Ralph Nader wants you to die. His proxy, Peter Lewis, wants to “manage risks” in the insurance industry, which means that insurance companies should start “scrutinizing risks and trying to make it on premium income,”(p.48) refusing to insure risky propositions like buildings that haven’t been built to fire code specifications or people who have pre-existing conditions. His literal statement that fewer people should be covered by insurance companies seems an ill-considered move to force most Americans into bankruptcy via massive hospital bills, until you realize that the tradeoff is that he has solved global warming by forcing people to stop driving because their auto insurance has been cancelled.

Fortunately, Nader gets back into gear with David Roader’s summary. Describing the Maui group’s work as “stirrings from the very gut of the plutocracy”(p.63) is unexpectedly accurate; from the columnist’s vantage he can’t tell if these windbags are just gas pain or the precursor of a tremendous movement. Nader finishes strong, calling out the K Street “lobbyists and greasers”(p.63) who skulk in the office of Brovar Dorquist, waiting for him to “send his troops forth to carry the banner of the almighty buck”(p.63). After being introduced to Dorquist’s “young Arab-American wife”(p.63) we can only hope that “sinking his teeth slowly into a petite Middle Eastern pastry”(p.64) isn’t some kind of euphemism.


I was worried that Nader hadn't brought his A game at the start of this chapter because triads and BFLs were few and far between, but Nader really picks up steam towards the end of it. The triad tracker score is 23, while there were 8 BFLs counted.

This BFL is noteworthy for the triad nested in it:
On a huge screen, as a familiar-sounding voice provided running commentary, images of injustice appeared one after another: children in Los Angeles, chronically hungry, ill-housed, and deprived of the medical treatment they needed; shrunken workers dying from asbestos-induced mesothelioma; US soldiers dying in Iraq for lack of simple body and vehicle armor while members of the Haliburton board clicked champagne glasses over huge Iraq war contracts; executives sitting in their lavish offices as that familiar voice intoned, “They make an average of $10,000 an hour, while their workers average $9.00 an hour”; young blacks with no prior record, imprisoned at five times the rate of young whites with no record; a powerful montage of the president giving his reasons for invading Iraq, causing more than 650,000 civilian deaths, and the headlines showing that he was lying.(p.55)
It is also worth commenting on the fact that the audience was expecting a rock concert by the cutting edge band, Cool Drool. Warren Beatty’s voice should not be familiar to people who listen to cutting-edge rock groups.

There’s also an instance of Nader cock-blocking a BFL on p.39. Bill Cosby begins a rant about the number of people in America who do receive neither liberty nor justice when he is cut off by ellipsis and the narrative statement that “as Cosby continued his catalogue of the manifold injustices afflicting American society, the camera closed in on his face—that reassuring, genial face welcomed into millions of homes for so many years, now grim with anger”(p.39). You could argue that Nader is trying to keep a brother down, but I think it was because a pissed-off Bill Cosby is so completely unprecedented that Nader had to underscore the gravity of the situation.

The most impressive BFL occurs on the final page of the chapter. Nader really pulls out all the stops to introduce archvillain Brovar Dorquist, and describes him with a BFL bracketed by opening and closing triads:
Most of Brovar’s directives were part of a concerted offensive to secure more tax havens, tax reductions, and deregulation; to expand corporate control over the public’s commonwealth assets; to weaken the government’s enforcement capability; to restrict the right to sue the corporate predators in court; and in general to strengthen the power, privilege, and immunity of the corporations vis-à-vis the multitude of regular people who did the work and paid the bills.(p.64)

What does the next chapter hold in store? Stay Tuned.

Like, "stay tuned" the command, NOT the movie or the book.

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