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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