October 26, 2009

Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us: Chapter 3 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.


Pat Choate writes:

Ralph Nader, heretofore, unknown as a talented writer of utopian fiction, spins a tale that is part caper, such as Ocean's Eleven, part technical explanation as in Tom Clancy's Hunt for Red October, and in part a fast-paced narrative adventure story as found in any of W.E.B. Griffin's books.


This chapter makes it clear that Ralph Nader has put a lot of thought into his writing, choosing his words carefully when discussing "the other hoof of the Trojan Horse Strategy"(p.90) and imbuing Ted Turner "with a Turnerian twinkle"(p.72). At the Maui 2 summit, "they all repaired to their rooms, and the star-studded Maui night descended on the slumbering future earthshakers"(p.67). And in a nod to the Bard of Avon, the group talks about how "we've identified a hundred or so born or seasoned organizers" (p.70) as an allusion to the way that some are born great organizers, some achieve organization, and some have organization thrust upon them.

At times, Nader's work can be erotically charged, such as when "on top of that wondrously endowed mountain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Warren's warriors felt giddy with hard-headed hope"(p.75, emphasis added). He may not have had a similar intent behind his statement that "money is the lubricant of incumbency,"(p.81) but it still gave me an erection.

The strongest writing in this chapter appears in its natural, unforced dialogue. Warren Buffett speaks all of the following lines:

"During the month between our last Maui meeting and Punxsutawney Phil's unfortunate sighting of his shadow the other day."(p.67)

"There's a cornucopia of fruit, banana bread, and coconut pudding awaiting you in the dining room."(p.74)

"I see that I'm making a speech here, but I can tell from your faces that you're all satisfied with our Redirections agenda. I think you'll agree that our work here is done, so with your indulgence, I'll go on with my closing remarks."(p.77)

"Let's all remember the importance of replication dynamics and leveraged velocity, as discussed during Maui One."(p.76)

The chapter's greatest weakness is the way some of the Redirections chosen at Maui 2 get dragged out with a lot of hand-wringing and debate over how difficult things are going to be. It got a little tedious, but then the developments at the end made it worthwhile. The following points are worth mentioning:
  • George Soros has bought a hotel in Washington, D.C., and is remodeling it for potentially nefarious purposes. Viator has thoughts on this.
  • The Maui group is setting up congress watchdog groups, but these radicals are carefully screening out the wrong kind of radicals. "A vital part of the organizers' work would be to screen admission to the Watchdog groups through interviews and questionnaires designed to establish common ground at the outset."(p.83)
  • The Maui group redefines the phrase "no strings attached" when they plan to offer congressmen campaign contributions to match the money they currently receive from corporate interests. "Any incumbent who resisted this no-strings buyout, other than by rejecting all private contributions, would be on the A-list for defeat by the Congress watchdogs and their allies"(p.84), so the string attached to accepting the money is forsaking the ability to receive private campaign contributions from any other source, while the consequence of not accepting is being hounded out of office.
  • The Maui group wants to take action against "the putrid lobbying and cash-register politics dominating our national legislature"(p.89) so they decide to "create a one-issue political party with an electoral reform platform at all three levels of government. Upon formation, the Clean Elections Party would announce that it would go out of business once the platform was enacted into law"(p.90). This is their "divide and conquer strategy" to divide votes between the Clean Elections Party and the Congressional-Watchdog-Approved incumbents so that opponents of the Maui group can conquer.
  • The essay contest started by Joe Jamais and Max Palevsky asks "'Which state is the most unjust in the nation?' and 'Which state is the least unjust in the nation?'"(p.92) The contest generously caps the essays at ten thousand words, but I can answer them both with four: Aroused and hung over.
  • "On five successive days, commencing next week, two billionaires a day demand that Wal-Mart change its business model, allow unionization, and pay its workers no less than $11 an hour, with full health insurance."(p.94) This is sure to have an effect because billionaires make up such a large percentage of Wal-Mart's customer base.
  • Yoko Ono draws "a stark representation of knives being hurled at a group of children"(p.100) which will hopefully teach those damn kids to stay off her fucking lawn once and for all.
  • Bill Gates, Sr., is approached by "a very successful retired investment banker" who says that he'll help, but "Only if it's full throttle. I'm not interested in due diligence"(p.69). I had no idea that Joe Cassano was interested in social reform.
  • The Maui group forms a lot of subcommittees, but "keeping the staff slim accords with a managerial philosophy of devolution, which means always pushing the work and energy down to the community or to the best real-life platform"(p.77) I read this as "shit rolls downhill."
  • "Ted was highly thought of in environmental and peace circles, not to mention among the ranks of carnivorous Americans who liked bison meat."(p.93) 'Nuff said.
  • Phil Donahue's entire contribution to this chapter is a scene in which he figuratively wipes his ass with a letter from the president of NBC. "Too late, big suit. The train has left the station"(p.68).

And then there are the pot protests and the solar orgies. The Maui group decides that they should agitate for "the expansion of carbohydrate economy to replace the present hydrocarbon economy"(p.96), and lord knows we've got enough fat people in America to be an unstoppable carbohydrate-based economy, but it's really just a fancy way of writing "LEGALIZE IT." Their big plan is to have a protest where they "stand in front of the White House with fifty farmers and activists, each holding a flowerpot, and all simultaneously planting industrial hemp seeds in their pots [....] We'll call it the Pot Revolution, an ironic twist on the word 'pot' that's sure to generate more controversy"(p.97). If calling them filthy potheads is controversial, then I am no stranger to controversy. Of course, hardcore stoners like Peter Lewis are out of luck because "they'll only distract from what will become a mass-media educational campaign that shows how the carbohydrate economy can strengthen national security by reducing dependence on foreign oil and promoting many additional environmental benefits"(p.97, and yes, that was a line of dialogue that someone is supposed to speak out loud)

As to the solar power promotion, "we'll put a giant magnifying glass over a giant vat of eggplants and tomatoes, and then we'll give out bowls of delicious stew!"(p.98) because lukewarm ketchup really wins over a crowd. Ted Turner wants more bikinis and excitement at the Mayan-themed solar power events, and says that "these festivals will be so graphic that the media won't be able to resist them"(p.98). More importantly, they'll "commission Mesoamerican historians and anthropologists to make them as authentic as possible within the confines of demonstrating modern solar technology in dramatic ways that rebut all the myths and lies about solar energy conversion"(p.98). I hope this means they'll talk to the scriptwriters from Mysterious Cities of Gold, because that solar-powered robotic war galley they had was totally boss. Ultimately, "the sun god festivals will launch a national mission to go to the sun the way we went to the moon,"(p.99) except this time, we'll be burning the astronauts alive after they leave the launchpad.


This chapter contained 46 triads and 8 BFLs. At first, it seemed like the author would be able to restrain himself, but after abstaining for a few pages at a time he would go on a triad frenzy, chaining together ideas and using multiple triads, nested triads, and triads within BFLs all on the same page. Two of the more notable BFLs in the chapter are his description of the "ten Redirections" drawn up by the Maui group:

These ten Redirections were chosen with an eye to their potential for amassing additional human and material assets, arousing the downtrodden, securing positive media attention, provoking reaction from the vested interests, motivating the young, highlighting solutions, cracking the mind-suppressing paradigms of the intellectual classes, enhancing countervailing challenges to the power structure, redefining patriotism in terms of civic duty, and fast-tracking some long overdue practical improvements for millions of Americans(p.75-76)

And this speech given at the end of the chapter:

Let's put some substance on this scaffolding. Give it outstretched arms, give it Yoko's brilliant logo, give it schools that teach students to tell truth to power, give it Youth Clubs for Civic Experience after school, give it neonatal care, caring daycare, nutrition care, give it ways to tap into youth ingenuity, youth questioning of our generation's stagnation, give it a Youth Political Party, give it network television programs by and for college students, high school students, and elementary school students, sit them in circles around hip adults who'll pepper them with questions and guide them out of the cultural cocoons that have devalued their imaginations and expectations for themselves.(pp 100-101)

That's right, The second sentence takes up 11 lines that stretch across two pages, and it's supposed to be spoken aloud.


The Maui group has convinced "Warren Beatty, the progressive but indecisive Hollywood actor"(p.85) to run for office. It's notable that Nader hasn't taken any steps to change the identity of California's governor, keeping Governor Schwarzenegger's name unchanged and explaining that "California's current governor was a former grade-B actor"(p.85) while he gets his characters ready to "evacuate the corporate cyborg"(p.86) from the governor's office. This is an exciting development for several reasons.

First, it looks like Nader is going to keep up the invective and name-calling for the entire race. Second, the explanation that Max Palevsky had "been Warren's close friend for thirty years, and they'd had many a bachelor adventure together"(p.87) promises a juicy sex scandal, possibly involving a dead hooker or two. Finally, Warren Beatty may actually debate Arnold Schwarzenegger. While it's too awesome to fully comprehend, it might go something like this:

The two men appear at their first public debate, and Warren Beatty is given the chance to speak first. He launches into a blistering attack on Schwarzenegger, condemning him politically and personally. He faults Arnold for the sorry state of California's economy. He brings up the harassment lawsuits that have been filed against Schwarzenegger, and the many, many women who have claimed he is a misogynist. He talks about Arnold's infamous remarks about marijuana use captured on film in Pumping Iron, and even alludes to the fact that his father was a Nazi brownshirt, possibly throwing in a "girlie man" insult for good measure. It's a passionate speech, delivered with fervor and outlining all the reasons why Schwarzenegger is unfit to be governor. Almost everyone is stunned into silence by the time Beatty has finished speaking.

That's when Arnold leans forward and says, in a surprisingly quiet voice, "You were in Ishtar."

Warren Beatty runs from the auditorium in tears, never to be seen in public again.

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