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)

Digg this Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments:

Read more reviews...