Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, by Ralph Nader

When I was 14 years old, I heard Ralph Nader say that box cereal was less nutritious than the box it came in, and you'd get more nutrition out of tearing up the box and pouring sugar and milk over it, and eating that for breakfast. That's the kind of genius that Ralph Nader produces constantly, and why his ideas changed the world for Americans more than perhaps any political thinker of the late 20th century. He remains more relevant than virtually every other political thinker currently on the scene.

Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, by Ralph Nader

Postby admin » Wed Oct 30, 2013 7:40 pm

ONLY THE SUPER-RICH CAN SAVE US!
by Ralph Nader
© 2009 Ralph Nader

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To the Meliorists, their advocates, beneficiaries and all those who follow to broaden and deepen their pioneering footsteps in reality.

Table of Contents:

Inside Cover
Author's Note
Acknowledgments
Dramatis Personae
Prologue
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
About the Author

The Thursday after Maui Four became known nationwide as the day when four hundred thousand Americans announced their incorporation at Bill Gates Sr.'s jamborees. People from all walks of life flocked to parks and stadiums across the country sporting their corporate charters around their necks, and wearing caps and T-shirts printed with the slogan "People Are Corporations Too." To roars of approval, accompanied by the famous Roman Army drumbeats -- boom! boom! boom-boom-boom-boom! -- speakers extolled one privilege and immunity after another that now accrued to these converts to corporate status. "People are fed up being people," declared leading corporate analyst Robert Weissman, at the Pittsburgh jamboree. "They desire upward mobility and power, the power to evade, escape, disappear, reappear, to be in many places at once, to deduct their entertainment and lobbying expenditures and delight in the loopholes and amenities of the tax code and the corporate bankruptcy laws." Charles Cray, a speaker at the Las Vegas event, particularized the benefits unique to Nevada-chartered versus Delaware-chartered corporations. Delicious buffets half a football field long provided free food under banners that read, "Corporations Are Eaters Too."

For the reporters in attendance, the whole scene was so far outside their normal frame of reference that they ran around with their cameras, mikes, and pens as if lost in a labyrinth. "Is this some kind of gag? April Fool's Day has come and gone, you know," said one of them to a woman in a nurse's uniform at the Birmingham jamboree. "I'll thank you to show some respect when addressing Birmingham Can, Unlimited," replied Jane Harper tartly. "You manufacture cans?" asked the bewildered reporter. "I manufacture can-do's," said Jane. Eventually, toward the end of the daylong jamborees, the press began to absorb the message. If the double standard in American law favored corporations over people, then why not have the people become corporations? This wasn't a giant gag, it was a giant demonstration of seriousness about a fundamental inequity.

On Friday, Bill Gates made it a double whammy with a press conference announcing the candidacies of five corporations for five state governorships. The corporations all met state requirements for elective office. They would be running under new names that signified the principal issue for each campaign, and that had been duly filed with the relevant secretaries of state: the Clean Up the Corrupt Texas Legislature Corporation, the Dethrone Corporate Welfare Kings Corporation, the Outsource CEOs Corporation, the Living Wage Corporation, and the Stamp Out Corporate Crime Corporation. Volunteer petitioners, identified by colorful headbands reading "Corporations Are People Too," were already on the streets collecting qualified signatures and were meeting with an enthusiastic response. The first wave of political advertisements for each corporation candidate would roll out over the weekend. When Bill Gates was finished with the formal announcements, the press corps was treated to a hilarious skit depicting the five corporations on the stump and in debates with perplexed opponents.

***

Meanwhile, the right-wing media was tying itself into knots. Even Bush Bimbaugh, the hitherto undisputed king of talk radio, couldn't seem to make his hysterical rants stick anymore. His dittoheads just weren't calling in like they used to, jamming the switchboard and drowning out the voices of the treasonous libs. He was so down he started taking uppers again. The Bimbaugh star was being eclipsed, and he knew it. The more he attacked, the more strident and repetitive he became. Finally he decided that there was only one thing to do: beard the lion in his den. Courage wasn't his strong suit -- he was big on soliloquies and screened callers -- but he knew an approaching freight train when he saw one. Well, okay, so he'd give one of the SROs thirty minutes. The only one he could barely stomach was Ted Turner. Bush popped another pill, placed the call, and extended the invitation. Ted accepted with ill-concealed relish.

On the appointed day, Ted showed up a few minutes early at Bush's elaborate studio. Bush greeted him cordially, although Ted couldn't help noticing his sweaty handshake. They went into the sound booth and began.

"Good day, red-blooded Americans, you're listening to the Truth, and if you abide by it you will be enlightened to the shining heavens. My special guest is Ted Turner, of cable TV, Atlanta Braves, and latifundia notoriety -- hey, look it up, unilinguals. Welcome, Ted, to a Bimbaugh first -- a one-on-one with one of you billionaire subverters of America."

"Well, Bush, that's a nice, impartial, lying piece of cowshit. You know, I've always wanted to be on your show so I could ask you how it feels to be a corporate welfare king, you bulbous freeloader, you! Folks, he's using your property -- the public airwaves -- free of charge to make his twenty million bucks a year."

Bush went ballistic. Reflexively he pushed the Silent button on his aggressive guest so he couldn't be interrupted as he delivered his stinging rebuttal.

"Why, you slimy cur, you wife-swapper, you ... you ... you sucker for the feminazis, the commies, the queers, and the left-wing wackos! How do you feel having your brain so far up your anal cavity?"

Ted grabbed his mike to reply, discovered it was dead, and did what came naturally. He jumped up, grabbed Bush's wheeled chair, spun him into the far corner, and took over his mike, which was very much alive.

"Hey, dittoheads. Bush Bimbaugh is getting rich off you by shilling for the big business tycoons and peddling all kinds of bigotry. Have you ever heard him take on a big company? Have you ever heard him go after big oil, big drug, big auto, big insurance, big bank? Of course not. They own him because they sponsor him. He's a coward, can't take any criticism, though he sure dishes it out. But what do you expect from a draft dodger who thinks it's great to send other people's sons and daughters to fabricated wars? What do you expect from a sponger who insists that five-fifteen an hour is plenty as a minimum wage while he's pulling down a hundred grand a day, or thirty-three thousand three hundred and thirty-three bucks an hour, for slinging his manure? Want more? Just log onto RedirectAmerica.org."

By now, Bush had recovered and was about to assault Ted from behind when he spotted a producer frantically holding up a sign behind the glass partition: "Don't, he'll sue you! Tort!" Bush froze, seething with rage, and swiped his finger across his throat to signal the producer, who pulled the plug just as Ted was saying, "Take it from a recovered redneck -- " The telephone lines were lit up like Times Square on New Year's Eve.

"Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us," by Ralph Nader


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Seven Generations Eyes, by Tara Carreon

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Billionaires Against Bullshit!, by Tara Carreon
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Re: ONLY THE SUPER-RICH CAN SAVE US!, by Ralph Nader

Postby admin » Wed Oct 30, 2013 8:04 pm

INSIDE COVER

"Mr. Nader has produced a wonderful piece of fiction that I'd love to see become nonfiction." -- Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence

"With apologies to Winston Churchill, never in the history of human suffering and economic conflict have so few been in a position to do so much for so many. In this eye-opening and mind-expanding work of 'practical utopia,' Ralph Nader uses his unrivaled imagination to show all of us what a difference a few of us can make." -- William C. Taylor, founding editor, Fast Company, coauthor, Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win

NO ONE BUT AMERICA'S FIRST CITIZEN, presidential candidate, and bestselling author Ralph Nader could have written this entertaining, provocative "practical utopia" in which seventeen real-life billionaires and multi-millionaires decide to use their wealth and savvy to equalize the odds on behalf of working people, the environment, clean elections, and the other pressing issues of our times. A work of the imagination, of course, but as Nader knows so well, if you can picture it, and if it's the right thing to do, it can happen.

Picture a world where those who have benefited the most decide to use their vast resources to help their fellow citizens. It won't be easy. Every attempt to make real change will be matched by counterattacks from reactionary forces committed to maintaining the status quo. Even with seventeen of the super-rich on our side now, the outcome can never be assumed.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES HAS WRITTEN, "What sets Ralph Nader apart is that he has moved beyond social criticism to effective political action." The author who know the most about citizen action here returns us to the literature of American social movements -- to Edward Bellamy, to Upton Sinclair, to John Steinbeck, to Stephen Crane -- reminding us in the process that changing the body politic of America starts with imagination.

Named by The Atlantic as one of the hundred most influential figures in American history, and by Time and Life magazines as one of the hundred most influential Americans of the twentieth century, Ralph Nader and the dozens of citizen groups he has founded have helped us drive safer cars, eat healthier food, breathe better air, drink cleaner water, and work in safer environments for more than four decades.

7 SEVEN STORIES PRESS, http://www.sevenstories.com

"Since the Progressive era, Ralph Nader has done more than anyone else to protect American consumers. With this utopian fantasy, he shows us how good he thinks things could be." -- Warren Beatty

"As inspired a work of the political imagination as Tom Paine's Common Sense ... The book is a joy to read." -- Lewis Lapham

"A high-spirited visionary romp melding the wisdom, humor and imagination of Ralph Nader. May it inspire action." -- Patti Smith

"This tale has a moral substance and political content that is most relevant for our time!" -- Cornel West

"Ralph Nader's stunning masterpiece provides both a sharp critique and measured remedy for our current world ..." -- Nomi Prins, former managing director, Goldman Sachs, author of It Takes a Pillage

"A breakthrough book that sparks the imagination and inspires us to think about the political economy our country deserves." -- Rose Ann Demoro, executive director, California Nurses Association
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Re: ONLY THE SUPER-RICH CAN SAVE US!, by Ralph Nader

Postby admin » Wed Oct 30, 2013 8:05 pm

AUTHOR'S NOTE

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This book is not a novel. Nor is it nonfiction. In the literary world, it might be described as "a practical utopia." I call it a fictional vision that could become a new reality. Some known and not-well-known people appear in fictional roles. I invite your imaginative engagement.

-- Ralph Nader
Washington, DC
July 2009
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Re: ONLY THE SUPER-RICH CAN SAVE US!, by Ralph Nader

Postby admin » Wed Oct 30, 2013 8:06 pm

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The three pillars who helped in similar and different ways to bring this "practical utopia" to the readers are (1) Dr. Claire Nader for her acute observations and suggestions; (2) Joy Johannessen for her joyful and engrossing editorial contributions; and (3) John Richard for his surehanded review and production finess. Stalwarts all.
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Re: ONLY THE SUPER-RICH CAN SAVE US!, by Ralph Nader

Postby admin » Wed Oct 30, 2013 8:06 pm

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

Warren Buffett
Bill Cosby
Barry Diller
Phil Donahue
William Gates Sr.
Joe Jamail
Peter Lewis
Paul Newman
Yoko Ono
Max Palevsky
Jeno Paulucci
Ross Perot
Sol Price
Bernard Rapoport
Leonard Riggio
George Soros
Ted Turner
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Re: ONLY THE SUPER-RICH CAN SAVE US!, by Ralph Nader

Postby admin » Wed Oct 30, 2013 8:07 pm

PROLOGUE

In the cozy den of the large but modest house in Omaha where he had lived since he started on his first billion, Warren Buffett watched the horrors of Hurricane Katrina unfold on television in early September 2005. He saw the furious winds and the avaricious waters breach the levees to cover three quarters of the historic city of New Orleans. He saw helicopter video crews surveying tens of thousands of residents lost, marooned, or fleeing the devastation of the roiling waters. He saw terrified people isolated from their would-be rescuers, too distant and too few.

Deeply affected, he stayed home the next day to watch the nonstop coverage of floating corpses, people stranded on housetops crying for help with outstretched arms, chaos and collapse inside convention and sports arenas overflowing with human despair, human kindness, and human depravity. He saw the exodus of thousands fleeing along the roads to anywhere, mothers and fathers clutching their children's hands, sometimes whole extended families, all of them looking for water, food, medicine, any kind of shelter.

On the fourth day, he beheld in disbelief the paralysis of local, state, and federal authorities unable to commence basic operations of rescue and sustenance, not just in New Orleans, but in towns and villages all along the Gulf Coast.

How could this be happening in the world's wealthiest country, with all the tools of modern engineering and meteorology at its disposal? Where was the Louisiana National Guard? Deployed to Iraq? How could bureaucracies so contagiously prevent each other from performing the tasks for which they existed? Why were the rescuers mostly ad hoc volunteers, propelled to action by care for their neighbors?

Warren was shaken to his core, so much so that he postponed closings on two large corporate acquisitions. He hadn't had a clue about the ineptitude or recklessness or rottenness of the people in power, who couldn't seem to respond to a vast natural disaster after years of assurances that they were ready for any calamity. Even the poorest of countries buried their dead quickly. What must the world think of a supposedly advanced country that left bodies bobbing in swollen waters or rotting in the post-Katrina sunshine?

Warren felt a wave of shame that bored through to his gut, his soul. He had to do something personally, immediately, at least for the refugees on the roadsides. For now, the hardest-hit place of all, the Ninth Ward, was inaccessible. He summoned two assistants, one to drive him nonstop down to New Orleans, the other to arrange for truckloads of food, water, blankets, portable toilets, basic medicines, sturdy tents, and sleeping bags, all to be accompanied by as many public health workers as they could muster.

Twenty-six hours later, he and his convoy arrived at a scene from Goya or Hieronymus Bosch. Some two thousand people lined the roads -- babies, children, parents, grandparents, stunned or crying or dozing fitfully, hungry and homeless and hopeless. Warren's relief workers quickly took charge. The physicians and medics erected temporary structures where they could mend the injured and treat the sick. Life-sustaining supplies were distributed on the spot. Canvas shelters were soon in place.

In the midst of all the activity, Warren was supervising and helping in the distribution up and down the roadside and into the adjoining fields. Word began to spread to the astonished families who thought the world had abandoned them. A megabillionaire from Nebraska had arrived with critical resources and personnel. The refugees watched in wonder as the renowned septuagenarian, in jeans and rolled-up sleeves, moved along the road, clearly in command.

Coming upon a family of a dozen or so adults and children huddled about a crude campfire, Warren reassured them and consoled them. He took their hands, hugged their trembling children, and looked into their eyes. The old-timers noticed that there were no reporters, no photographers, no television crews. A composed elderly grandmother cupped his hands in hers and cried out, "Only the super-rich can save us!"

Three days later, on the drive back to Omaha, straight north, the grandmother's words kept reverberating through Warren's head like a series of thunderclaps, each time eliciting outrage and flooding shame. But by the time the town car turned into his driveway behind the tall shrubbery, the dominant occupation of his mind was a deep, cool resolve.

He knew exactly what he had to do -- now, fast, fundamentally, and unyieldingly!
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Re: ONLY THE SUPER-RICH CAN SAVE US!, by Ralph Nader

Postby admin » Wed Oct 30, 2013 8:09 pm

CHAPTER I

In a high mountain redoubt above the Alenuihaha Channel, seventeen megamillionaires and billionaires sat on a wide balcony overlooking the lush green island of Maui and the far Pacific Ocean. They were alike in only three ways: they were old, very rich, and very unrepresentative of humanity, which they intended to save from itself. The man behind the gathering, the richest of them all, was Warren Buffet, who had rented the entire premises of a small luxury hotel for that January 2006 weekend. All the participants either knew each other or knew of each other, and the canny Warren had made sure that any gaps were filled in by distributing professional and personal biographies beforehand.

As his guests watched the sun set, talking quietly and sipping their drinks of choice, Warren rose. "I hate to take you away from this splendid view, but we have work to do," he said, and led them downstairs to a spacious atrium, inviting them to take their seats at a perfectly sized round table.

Warren's owlish visage assumed a solemn cast as he commenced. "My friends, what brings us here is a common foreboding -- a closing circle of global doom. The world is not doing well. It is spinning out of control. Its inhabitants have allowed greed, power, ignorance, wealth, science, technology, and religion to depreciate reality and deny potential. With our capitalist backgrounds, it's easy for us not to be beguiled by the plutocracy's self-serving manipulation of economic indicators. We know how wealth is being accumulated, defined, concentrated, and stratified. Why, four hundred and fifty of us have wealth equivalent to the combined wealth of the bottom three billion impoverished people on Earth.

"We know of the portentous and manifold risks we face, both now and in the future. The global environment is fragile, under severe assault. It is toxic, eroded, warming, and it's vulnerable to genetic engineering for short-term profit. Viruses and bacteria are subjected to increasing stress that yields deadly mutations, and weapons of all kinds are more widely and easily available than ever. Artificial intelligence is on a fast track to dehumanizing us. As a species, we are learning more and more but are less and less able to keep up with what's happening to us as human beings, and to our world, its land, water, and air. Many solutions have been proposed, yet even at the basic level of abolishing massive poverty and advancing public health, they are applied too slowly and haphazardly to achieve any real human betterment. And this at a time when we have more powerful global tools than ever before, because of the amassing of flexible capital and the proliferation of facilitating technologies. Never in history has there been a greater opportunity to effect change.

"For my own part, I must tell you that I am not the person I was a year ago. I've been thinking hard about what I want to do with my remaining years, with my capital, credibility, and hopes for coming generations. I have been described as the investment world's 'big bang,' and I do not want to go out with a whimper, if you'll pardon the cliche. I had planned to go on increasing the value of my estate and use it to establish a huge posthumous charitable foundation, but now I realize that's just a rationalization for continuing to do what I do best while escaping responsibility for what's done by others. Besides, why rely on the smug foundation world, which has brought forth so few innovations while spending trillions of dollars? Why bequeath to unimaginative people? I want to go out having advanced and implemented a grand design, and I want to do it now with the best talent available. I suspect that similar feelings are stirring in your minds and souls as well, and that's why I put out the call to you."

Warren paused, looked around the table, and raised his glass of Cherry Coke. "It's the beginning of a new year, my friends, and this gathering, I hope, is the beginning of a new direction for our planet. Here's to you all. The floor is open."

"Here's to you too, Warren. It's about damn time!" It was no surprise to anyone that Ted Turner, the "Mouth of the South," was the first to speak. "The world is going to hell in a poverty handbasket," he declared. "For years I've been trying to alert people to environmental disasters and overpopulation and the need to raise awareness of the peril so that nations will rise above their disputes and come together against these impersonal common enemies. Nuclear weapons did some of that between Russia and America in the recent past, and now inspectors on both sides are overseeing the dismantling of thousands of warheads. Maybe on epidemics, famine, natural disasters, and other frightful developments that trample national boundaries, we can overcome the lesser local hostilities that keep countries from cooperating. Lord knows I'm ready to do what I can. I've got plenty of time on my hands now that I don't have Time Warner on my hands," he finished with a grin.

Amidst the laughter that swept the table, Paul Newman lifted his glass of Old Fashioned Roadside Virgin Lemonade to second Ted's toast. "Warren, your call last month gave me a jolt of adrenaline the likes of which I haven't had since I quit racing last year. And I couldn't agree with you more about the whole foundation thing. Newman's Own is doing well, and the money's actually helping kids and their families, but only in the thousands. It doesn't cross the charity-to-justice line-the old palliative versus systematic divide. So I'm with you all the way on that, but I wonder if you and Ted aren't biting off a little more than all of us can chew --"

"Or gum," grumbled Sol Price, the acerbic mass-merchandising pioneer, who at ninety was the oldest of the group. 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."

Paul flashed his famous smile. "Oh, come on, Sol, you've got more on the ball than most men half your age. But listen, what I was going to say was that Warren and Ted were talking about massive problems on a global scale. I'm all for new directions, but the planet is an awfully big place, Warren. Shouldn't we get our own house in order before we talk about projecting globally?"

"I was thinking the same thing," said Bill Cosby, "but national and international distinctions aren't all that clear anymore, whether we're talking about peace or arms control or my tormented ancestral home of Africa or WTO globalization and our loss of sovereignty. Whatever strategies we come up with, we have to remember that some of them may have global consequences, but on the whole I agree with Paul that we ought to focus our efforts here at home. Think global, revolutionize local."

Warren took a sip of his Coke. "Well put, Bill." It was the conclusion he had reached himself, but he wanted his colleagues to come to it on their own. "What does everyone else think? Is it the consensus that we frame our -- what shall I call it? -- our Redirections project to address the vast political and economic inequities of our own country?"

There were nods of assent all around.

"All right, good. Let's move on to the general principles and goals that should guide our enterprise."

"Here's a principle for you," said George Soros, who was a natural for Warren's group as an inveterate exhorter of his wealthy colleagues to be more socially conscious. "Whatever assets we assemble, whatever approaches and structures we decide on, we must advance them within open societies so that they can be deliberated, applied, or revised with the consent of those whom they are meant to aid. History has taught us that well-meaning impositions grafted onto the body politic or the political culture do not take readily and sometimes backfire ferociously. Believe me, as someone who's contributed nearly three billion dollars to further a global vision of open societies, I know what I'm talking about. For every successful movement like Solidarity, there are countless grassroots groups working their hearts out all over the world, but in the end they're crushed by the power of supreme global capitalism allied with subordinate government."

"As we saw for ourselves during the last election, George," said Peter Lewis, progressive founder of Progressive Insurance. "Between us, we gave something like thirty-five million to political groups working for change, and what did we get? Nothing. Whatever we put forward must have a multiplier mechanism attached. In this room we represent a net worth somewhere short of eighty billion dollars. We'll have to multiply ourselves, as we'll have to multiply what George called the assets, approaches, and structures we intend to advance. Otherwise, it will just be more of the same."

"Deja vu all over again," Warren said.

"Oy, you with your baseball references," said Bernard Rapoport, the effervescent "capitalist with a conscience," known to friends and associates simply as B. "I agree with Peter, as may be natural since we both made our fortunes in the insurance game. But I would add a caution: we must challenge bigness wherever we find it, and avoid it in our own efforts. Bigness is a curse. It is too bureaucratic, too autocratic, too top-heavy in making decisions, too remote from the ground, and too ubiquitous in our present state of corporate socialism or state capitalism, as my friend Seymour Melman used to say. Bigness is also too addicted to concentrating power, and too inimical to competition and democratic processes. Our economy is being crippled by all these companies that are 'too big to fail.' Bigness all over the world spells omnicide over time, to my way of thinking."

"Mine too," Phil Donahue joined in. "And not only that, but we mustn't come on as messianic. We need to find the common touch, to be able to go with the flow as we change and redirect the flow. People have to view what we're doing as an opportunity for better days, as alleviation of their pain, anxiety, worry, and fear."

"You are so right, Phil. We must be seen as offering ways of nurturing happiness, children, dreams, peace, fairness, honesty, and public morality. We don't want to be seen as nags." Yoko Ono paused to take a sip of tea. "I have to say that I was very surprised to get your call, Warren. I don't consider myself a power player, and I really couldn't see myself hanging out with a bunch of super-rich old men, but then I got to thinking. For decades I've been preaching peace and the importance of spiritual and artistic values, and what good has it done? Maybe you remember that a couple of years ago I bought a full page in the New York Times and left it blank except for the word 'peace' in the center in small type. I didn't receive a single response. It cost me fifty thousand dollars, but I didn't care about the money. It was the silence that got to me. Really, the New York Times and not one response. So I guess I'm ready for something new, which is why I decided that a bunch of super-rich old men wasn't such a bad idea after all."

"How honored we are," Sol muttered.

Paul cleared his throat. "Speaking of artistic values, let's remember that a little drama and mystique can't harm our efforts. Color, sound, light, excitement, humor, fun, joy, comfort, a sense of striving, the right metaphors from daily life, paradoxes to pique interest, success stories that people can relate to within their own frames so that these frames can then be stretched."

''I'd like to pick up on Yoko's mention of children." The unmistakable voice came from Ross Perot. "My own boy is running my business now, so I have plenty of time for our efforts, and I'd like to suggest a major motivating approach. People tend to care more about their children than themselves, and will often sacrifice anything for them. Children draw out our better instincts and make us take a longer view of matters. Our country is mortgaging its future in many ways, not just with huge debts and deficits on the economic front. The deficits are piling up environmentally too. We are shortchanging our children through the grotesque distortion of public budgets and wasted tax dollars, through the militarization of just about everything that relates to other countries and other peoples."

"As Ross says, we do need to take the long view, but we don't have a long time to take it." This from Max Palevsky, who had made a fortune as a corporate pioneer of the computer age and multiplied it during the dot-com revolution. "It is one rocky voyage on turbulent seas that we're embarking on. We were drawn here by multiple magnets of determined solidarity and purpose, and now we need a hard-core sense of urgency that must prevail over our other commitments. 'There is a continual dying of possible futures,' Juvenal said, and we can't afford any more such deaths. I suggest that we assume a one-year life expectancy for all of us -- that is, we need to do what we're going to do as if there were only one year left on Earth."

A smile flitted across Sol's face. "The world runs: have fun running with it -- that's always been my motto. We won't buy any green bananas, Max."

"I cotton to the idea of speed too," Ross said. "Some people believe in an incremental approach, building support over the years. We don't have that luxury anymore. The country needs a justice jolt! Now! It's in a deepening rut, with lousy leaders. Besides, the faster we move, the less likely we are to lose our momentum and burn out."

"True," said Barry Diller, multimedia dynamo. "I like the one-year timeline. It means a one-year sabbatical from my many business interests, but that fits perfectly with my inclinations right now. It's a move from success to significance. Never was I prouder than when I wrote an op-ed for the Times urging the FCC and Congress to make telecommunications policy as if the people owned the public airwaves -- which they do. If we're looking for assets, the commonwealth assets owned by the American people are a great start. The people own the public lands -- one third of America -- the public airwaves, the trillions in worker pension trusts, the vast research and development budgets the government doles out, yet corporations control what the people own against the people's interests. If we're looking for Redirections, this is one giant Redirection of existing assets toward the common good. It's a matter of what is fundamentally right and fair."

"And when the super-rich emphasize fairness, people stop what they're doing and listen. They begin to trust, to believe in what could be," said Jeno Paulucci, founder of Chun King and other highly successful frozen-food lines. Jeno had started out as a fruit peddler, and knew a lot about fairness and what could be. "One place to start is taxation, where it's for damn sure that those inside and outside Congress who write the tax laws avoid fairness like the plague. Who around this table doesn't know that their net worth would be less than half of what it is today if it weren't for tax inequity?"

Sol roused himself "That's right! For years I've been trying to get someone in Congress to introduce a small tax on wealth that would raise significant tens of billions every year from people like us. I have yet to succeed in getting such a bill introduced, even though I'm obviously not pushing my own financial self-interest. So to hell with Congress. Let's take matters into our own hands. What we need now are grand visions that are practical to achieve, such as the abolition of the raw poverty that afflicts tens of millions of our fellow Americans. It's not as if we don't know what to do. A living wage is the most immediate step, along with health insurance, technical training, decent housing, a reverse income tax, and good public facilities. A longer-range goal is capital ownership for the masses to supplement their wage income. These are all approaches that can in no way be dismissed as utopian schemes."

"On the subject of taxes," said noted attorney William Gates Sr., who was getting just a little tired of hearing himself referred to as the father of the world's richest man, "I'm sure you all remember my drive to preserve the estate tax. I learned a lot from that struggle, and I came away from it with a lesson that applies to all of us here. We can't stay behind the scenes. We've got to project ourselves and what we stand for in public, as public personalities, not through spokespersons or proxies or PR firms. If we're going to communicate our authenticity, we've got to be willing to speak and write, to debate and testify, to be questioned and cross-examined and challenged. An open society cannot be generated by a small 'secret society' meeting in private and pulling strings. If we're to be seen as educators, as possessing moral suasion, we can't cling to anonymity, as much as some of us would like to. To be sure, our affluent peers, in their myopia, may view our venture like they did the estate tax, as conflicting with their interests and our own, but that is part of our strength and credibility."

"I'd like to go back to Barry's notion of commonwealth assets for a minute," Bill Cosby said. "There is another commonwealth -- the family, the neighborhood, the community, the service clubs. They all provide the critical support and reaffirmation of values that get people though their days. They've been hammered by our rampant commercialism -- undermined, displaced, depleted -- yet they're the building blocks for Redirection, already in place but in need of revivification. People find their identification, their comfort level, their rhythm in communities. That's what made my show so successful."

"You know, the DVD of your first season is still a big seller at Barnes and Noble," said Leonard Riggio, chairman of the chain, "and your new book is flying off the shelves. But if you'll allow me a slight redirection of the conversation, let's remember that we're business people striving to plumb new depths, scale new heights, and push new frontiers, and we need something that no one has mentioned yet, something we're all very familiar with -- a capital budget and an operating budget. How much seed corn are we offering before our genius for leverage kicks into action? Obviously we want to be lean -- no bureaucracy, no bigness, as B says -- but we'll need emissaries directly accountable to us, and we'll need to 'project wealth' at the outset in order to secure the mass media when we want it. It was the projection of wealth that brought Ross much of his early and well-deserved attention. Appearances rooted in good causes and strategies do count, after all."

"They do indeed, especially the appearance of material success in this culture. It gives you the benefit of the doubt, it opens ears and eyes." It was unusually sedate language from Joe Jamail, virtuoso lawyer, known far and wide for his bold courtroom style.

"I've been wondering when we'd hear from you," Ted drawled. "Ever since we started, I've been expecting you to light into one of us about one thing or another. What's got into you? And the rest of us, for that matter. Let's face it, we've all got egos the size of Turner Field, but we've been agreeing with each other like Quakers at the meetinghouse. What gives?"

Warren permitted himself a slight self-satisfied smile. "It's true that you're a prize collection of strong-willed, nonconforming successfulists," he said, "but I invited the sixteen of you here for this first Maui roundtable out of hundreds of possible candidates. The choices were anything but random. My staff conducted exhaustive background investigations to determine intangibles such as 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, All of you have also expressed sadness, anger, disgust, fear, and hope for our country. With this kind of preparation, I was confident that our meetings would be characterized by a high degree of harmony and a --" Warren broke off, startled by what might or might not have been a loud snore.

"Yes, Sol, what is it?"

"Jet lag. Warren, please, a man needs his beauty sleep."

Warren consulted his watch, a Timex he'd had since starting on his second billion. "Thanks for the heads-up, Sol. I was so absorbed in our discussion that I lost track of the hour. We've put a lot on the table tonight for thought, response, and decision. If you'll indulge me just a little longer, I'd like to ask that we remain here for another hour in total silence, thinking about what we've heard and said and jotting down any additional reflections and ideas. It's a technique I've learned from some of my business partners in Asia and, like the prospect of hanging, it concentrates the mind wonderfully. I've used it with my executives to great effect, so give it a try, my friends, and then we'll retire for the evening."

Although a period of silence was an alien concept to many in the room, they all had too much respect for Warren to object. Every one of them had been at the edge of despair over the state of their country before his clarion call to action, but now they were galvanized, even Sol, who had been about to scoff and take himself off to bed when he remembered that in 1986 he'd bought stock in Warren's company at $5,000 a share that was now worth close to $100,000 a share. If it was good enough for Warren, it was good enough for Sol.

***

The next morning, after a breakfast of tropical fruits, the collaborators rejoined the dialogue.

"I trust you all had a good rest and are ready to take matters to the next stage, my friends," Warren said. "First, let me ask what reflections and ideas came to you during the period of silence last night. Shall we start with our resident curmudgeon and skeptic? Sol?"

"I'm telling you, Warren, I would never have believed how efficient and productive silence can be. I've got more ideas than I've got candles on my birthday cake, and that's saying something."

"Same here," said Max, "and you know, I think it's sitting together elbow to elbow that makes it work. It's a little like that Buddha-within-you type of group meditation, with one crucial difference. This group has an elaborate secular mission, no ifs, ahs, or oms." He chuckled at his own joke, provoking an impenetrable gaze from Bill Cosby.

Warren popped open a Cherry Coke. "Okay, Sol, let's hear those ideas of yours."

"Well, for starters, it came to me that we can create an entire sub-economy that builds markets and employs solutions kept on the shelf by vested interests. With our circles of influence and persuasion, we have the resources to start or acquire companies that break through in renewable energy, nutritious food, cooperative closed-loop pollution cycling systems, alternatives to toxic materials, housing for the homeless, health co-ops, zero-polluting motor vehicles, recycling, and even television-radio-internet programming to arouse the public and displace bad marketing that depletes family budgets. All this would be driven by a broad strategy for a self-reliant community-based economy sustained by civic and occupational training, capital ownership, and the expansion of commonwealth control of commonwealth property such as public lands and pensions, as Ted was saying yesterday. The various parts of this sub-economy would support each other, convert positive human values into economic delivery systems, and enlarge perceived possibilities for a better, happier life.

"Of course, opponents of the sub-economy will attempt to block it through predatory practices, media freeze-outs, and legislated restrictions of the kind we've seen in our history all too often, but we have the clout to repulse them until the success of the subeconomy drives them out of business or into mimicry. We are business people, we know what leverage and promotion are all about, we know the distortions the giant multinationals use to paint gross waste and destructiveness with a gloss of capitalist efficiency. We have lived in the eye of the lie for decades. Which is why we are ready, more than ready."

Sol's impassioned delivery, coming from a visionary entrepreneur with a compassion for the downtrodden, visibly moved the others, as if they too had taken their particular flights into this imaginative sub-economy. Warren, sitting on $46 billion, found himself physically agitated, but that was nothing compared to the whirring of his neurons alighting on the possibilities. There were a few moments of silence before an animated conversation picked up and one voice, George's, emerged.

"In working for open societies, I've learned a few things that are relevant to Sol's sub-economy and whatever other initiatives we choose to fund. Money can seed democratic institutions that can then fall from their vulnerability to autocratic forces or implode from poor selection of leaders and staff. Open society seeding is not like sowing seeds that turn themselves into sturdy trees with the help of sun, water, and soil. There are too many hurricanes trying to bring these fledgling institutions down. That's why we need a closed-loop strategy in everything we do. Look at efforts to combat global infectious diseases like TB, malaria, and AIDS. Bill's son is trying to do just that with his vast foundation grants, and he's probably feeling frustrated by the lack of delivery systems even for simple vaccination programs or other preventive measures. The science is in place, the material resources are in place, but not the end-point delivery. The US foreign aid program, where it is actually foreign aid, has suffered from this same sequential vacuum down to the community level. How to close the loop? The loop is closed by people on the ground where the needs are to be met, people operating in their own culture with their own local talent. Failure is a high probability without a closed-loop approach."

"That's right," said Peter. "We have to dig the roots deep by promoting the establishment of a whole variety of national and local grassroots groups focused on a range of consumer, taxpayer, community, and labor issues. I'm thinking here of the Citizens' Utility Board model. CUBs represent the largely unrepresented. They're instruments for reducing the enormous disparity of power between big companies and ordinary people. Consumer Advocates have proposed that the government require utilities, industries, the postal service, and so on, to include in their bills and mailings inserts allowing recipients to join such groups by checking off their membership and paying modest dues, an objective vigorously opposed by the companies concerned. But we can do it directly ourselves -- after all, it's only a matter of money, message, medium, and graphics -- and then these groups can start up quickly, with total membership in the tens of millions. Just consider the number of people who for twenty or thirty or fifty dollars will join a group espousing universal healthcare or a living wage or fair taxation or a clean environment or preservation of Social Security or pensions, or whatever priorities arise over the long run. These groups become our base."

"And they can be tremendously effective," Bill Gates said. "A mere thousand or so of us rich folks got together to fight the repeal of the estate tax, and when the Republicans tried to make repeal permanent, I think we made the difference, shoring up the Democrats, educating the public, and puncturing the propaganda that this repeal was intended to save small farmers' inheritances -- a total falsehood. It was actually for the benefit of the top fraction of one percent of estates, including our own."

George nodded. "It's what Richard Parker at Harvard talks about in "Here, the People Rule": facilitating the civic and political energies of the people -- and, I might add, in a deliberate democratic manner, learning from the feedback of an open society."

"Well, as long as we're talking basics," said Max, "let us dig deeper still. Will the people be sufficiently motivated to join these groups, and if so, will they participate? They may join if they're interested in the group's mission, but look at credit unions and food coops -- most of the members barely participate at all. Taxpayers don't show up at town meetings even though they know they'll have to pay more or endure more waste without their say. So we have to address the problem of motivating people, since our schools and our culture don't prepare them for active citizen roles, do they?"

"I've got it!" Ted exclaimed, slapping the table. "We need a mascot. How about a hawk?"

"That's fine for a certain basketball team, Ted," Warren observed wryly, "but not for a political initiative like ours. Everyone will be thinking hawks versus doves, and we don't want that."

"Yeah, you've got a point there. Okay then, maybe a ... a ... hell, I don't know, some critter, something with universal appeal, something that gets people laughing and talking to each other at the diner or the water cooler the next day."

"Great idea, Ted. Maybe you and I can brainstorm on it later," Phil said.

"You know," said Paul, "this reminds me of William James's phrase 'the moral equivalent of war.' He meant something nonmilitaristic that would motivate the citizenry to action as powerfully as war does. Waging peace doesn't quite cut it, does it? Because it's not visceral, it's cranial. Visceral can refer to many levels of the human psyche, though these days it rarely rises to neck level, much less higher, because the cultural marketplace consistently downplays imagination as it tries to confine the visceral to the gonadal. But visceral can also mean savoring debates and contests or absorbing different dimensions of beauty, of aesthetics. It can mean the idea of the heroic, where both physical and moral courage roam. Visceral can mean the arts that take a civilization to new peaks of appreciation and reward. We have to disseminate our ideas viscerally, in a way that embraces all these positive meanings and reaches wide national audiences, something that can be facilitated by ... hmm, let's see. By Barry," he said with a wink.

"Sure, Paul, I'll do some thinking about media strategies. And while I'm at it, why don't I arrange some leveraged buyouts of TV and radio stations so we can establish our own network covering the entire country? I've done so many mergers and acquisitions that it's a matter of routine in my law firm. Piece of cake."

"I second Paul and Barry heartily," said Phil. "Access to mass media outlets is crucial. To take just one random example, if I may, TV talk shows can raise possibilities, what ifs, and prospects of the good life for viewers and their progeny. We have to give people the sense that we're not talking about some utopia but about long-overdue improvements. If we can get people thinking, 'Why not?' and 'Who says we can't?' and 'Let's work together for love of our troubled country,' the launching of our concrete programs and initiatives will fall on more fertile soil."

Yoko looked up from doodling furiously on her notepad. "Along similar lines, I think we should have a symbol of some sort, a design of strength and beauty. We can't underestimate the immense power of the aesthetic impulse. Short of the survival impulse, no other exceeds its depth -- not greed, not lust, not envy, not gluttony. People can do without all these for long periods of time, or even forever. People cannot do without aesthetics. Just ask anyone how much money it would take to get them to agree to a permanent four-inch nose elongation or a threefold enlargement of their ears, even with no loss of function. It's no accident that the words 'truth' and 'beauty' have been joined together in the arts and literature of all cultures."

"One thing's for sure," said Bill Cosby. "We'll need every tool and idea we can muster to reach, inform, and organize the people. And we'll need all the power of the media and arts to immunize them against the anticipated pack of lies and smears and manipulative propaganda from the plutocrats. This is essential, to head off the master foolers who can command large audiences in every medium."

Leonard laughed. "I like that, heading them off at the pass. It reminds me of my father. He was a boxer, you know, loved the sport. He always said his idea of boxing was not getting hit. And speaking of master foolers -- or should I say master fools? -- won't we have to enlist Congress in our efforts at some point, and won't that bring us up against the big campaign contributors? So why not raise the entire net sum spent on congressional elections and make it available to candidates with no strings attached if they forgo all other fundraising, or if they only accept contributions under fifty dollars, or some such formula? That would free the Congress, or a majority of them anyway, to do what's right, short term and long term. Great investment, maybe two billion dollars a cycle."

"An excellent proposal," said Bernard. "I am so tired of writing checks to these cowards in the Democratic Party who keep frittering and flattering their way to political failure. Even when they agree with me on topic after topic, they vote the wrong way or they don't stand and fight for what they truly believe. It's all about money up there on the Hill, more so than at any time in my experience over the past fifty years, and it's getting worse. Just one big ongoing bazaar. But to guarantee campaign funds leaves open the question of how to apportion them among incumbents and challengers, and that's going to be thorny."

"Yes," Warren said. "but let's not get ahead of ourselves. The idea is sterling, and that's enough for now. Are there other general areas we haven't touched on yet, other thoughts you may have had during our period of reflection last night?"

Peter spoke up. "As to my 'silence dividend,' I guess you won't be surprised to hear that it concerns insurance. The industry is all about managing risk, though too often it interprets managing risk as managing liability, which are two different if related phenomena. In our redirections mission, we'll be confronting risks that either materialize by the hour or are looming on the horizon. Already, some European reinsurance companies like Swiss Re have drawn the connection between their profitability and climate change. They want to do something about global warming, a concern that obviously goes beyond conventional actuarial determinations of premiums and loss ratios. It requires a much longer time scale -- let's call it the corporate responsibility time zone. It's a concept we can use in terms of aggregating assets and identifying new approaches. We can expand the insurance function to help redirect markets."

"I agree," said Ross, "and one of the assets we'll have to aggregate to decisive intensity is our credibility. We need to search our nation for people whose performance, image, and strength of numbers enlarge our credibility instantly -- and I emphasize the importance of the word 'instantly.' Momentum is the wheelbase for comprehensive, careful planning. So where do we look? Let's start with the veterans' groups. I know these people and they know me. I know that the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars keep electing leaders who are absorbed with two issues -- protecting veterans' benefits and maintaining a strong military. Have you ever seen a presidential election where the two major candidates aren't clamoring to speak to the Legion and VFW conventions? That gives you an idea of the bipartisan pull of these organizations. It should also give us other ideas, no? I'm sure there are other groups that have the same broad credibility with millions of people and can be persuaded of the need for redirection. And let me add that redirection has to be viewed in patriotic terms, whether through traditional notions or by redefining patriotism acceptably. To me, patriotism is love of country, which means love of its people and its children and its land. It does not mean love of war."

"There's another form of patriotism not much recognized except in courts of law," said Joe, buttoning his suit jacket reflexively. "I mean the jurors. When you give jurors an opportunity to exercise their lawful power to do justice after absorbing detailed arguments and cross-examinations on both sides, and after being instructed by the judge, ordinary people rise to the occasion and take their duties as citizens very seriously. Jurors get a taste of democratic power legitimately exercised in the name of justice, something rarer than a raw steak for most people. Is there a lesson here outside the courtroom arena? You bet. You can bet your house on it. That deep sense of civic responsibility is a tremendous resource we can tap into, especially if we contrast it with the deep civic irresponsibility of our political and economic system as currently constituted. Every day millions of Americans feel that they're being pushed around, underpaid, excluded, uninsured, penalized, disrespected, ignored, and generally put on hold or told to get in line and shut up. We have to start with people's perceived injustices, not just with our ideas of their injustices, because that's how we get their attention so we can move toward causes and remedies, and onward to liberty and justice for all, as we like to say."

"When the truth is that liberty and justice are only available to some of us," Bill Gates observed sadly.

Joe took a long sip of his scotch. "Say that again, Bill."

"Say what? Liberty and justice for some?"

"Hell, yes, that's it!" Joe snapped his fingers. "We'll start a drive to change the end of the Pledge of Allegiance to 'with liberty and justice for some.' We'll get a member of Congress to introduce a Pledge the Truth amendment, like that guy did in the 1950s to get 'under God' inserted, and then we'll stand back and watch the fireworks. Just you wait, especially when the bill receives the kind of grassroots defense that we can generate. We can make sure this will be more than a one-day story about a bizarre bill in the congressional hopper."

"That's brilliant, Joe," said Bill Gates. "The trick will be to connect the uproar intricately with everything else we're doing, to give it legs that will get people thinking, if not marching, to mangle a metaphor or two. The possibilities here are many. For example, hard-pressed teachers in inner-city schools who can't get the most basic supplies can start having their students say the 'for some' Pledge every morning. That ought to rub some nerves raw."

Joe let out a hoot. "Beautiful! Let's run this one past some of our imaginative friends, people who would be geniuses on Madison Avenue if they could stand the place, people who are the right kind of troublemakers. They shouldn't be too hard to find."

"I believe I've got some of them working for me," Ted said. ''I'll check and get back with you. Meanwhile, we've been talking about civic approaches to tipping the balance of power to help the have-nots and the powerless, but let's get back to the economic arena and the marketplace for a minute. The Internet lets buying power and blog power form fast, though it's still pretty crudely organized. You can shop around for the best price, but there's not much collective negotiation or bargaining. Even with sophisticated software and operating systems like Linux, the awesome world of the Internet hasn't shifted much power from sellers to buyers, or from the political parties to the voters, for that matter. We should discuss ways to mobilize constituencies in virtual reality as well as everyday reality, because in both realities, financial companies, service firms, and credit organizations are tilting things more and more in favor of the sellers. Just look at credit scores and all those damn penalties and surcharges that are now simply debited so there's no need for the consumer to make out a check. Some of these charges are way out of line, like the ones for bouncing a check or even depositing a bounced check. Loss of control over our money breeds greedy debit rip-offs and fraud. And don't get me started on the gigantic fraud and billing abuse in healthcare. Our economic system is way, way off balance and getting worse. Look at the genetic testing that discriminates against certain workers --"

"And don't forget the diminishing freedom to sue the bastards, a freedom curtailed under the guise of controlling a phony 'litigation explosion,''' Joe interrupted, sounding more like himself. "Hell, the explosion is the sound of the big companies suing each other's asses. For everyone else, the courtroom doors are slammed shut in all kinds of ways -- loss of rights, costs, caps, delays, compulsory arbitration, et cetera. So if you're going to latch onto redressing imbalances, keep the doors to our courts open."

"I've always believed that the tort system is an excellent form of quality control for my industry," Peter said. "There are abuses on both sides, but the overriding issue here is who can and cannot use the courts or the law itself to redress grievances and keep the big boys honest."

"Is that the sun I see setting in the west over the shimmering Pacific Ocean?" inquired Sol pointedly. "It's not enough we skipped lunch?"

"You have only yourself to blame," Warren said. "You're the one who got us going with your eloquent oration on the sub-economy. However, at this juncture, let us adjourn to an early dinner, a dazzling buffet you can eradicate at your own pace. Then we'll have our period of silence to think about what we've said and heard around this table."

At the sumptuous dinner, in a wraparound glass-encased dining room, the vistas were breathtaking. If this group was seeking new horizons, they'd come to the right place. The Pacific was well named, stretching serenely into an infinite distance -- a perfect metaphor, in both quantity and quality, for the foresight they were striving to achieve.

As they sat down to their repast, Warren wondered what they would choose to discuss. He was used to the chitchat at exclusive dinners for the rich and powerful. He knew that the small talk during breaks in important business meetings usually signified relief from the tension of the meeting or from the participants' sheer concentration on making sure they were at the top of their game. To his pleasant surprise, the conversations that broke out in clusters of two or three around the large dining table extended the topics and concerns of the previous working meetings. There was no rupture, no change of pace, no step down from the significance of why they were there. The diners continued with what they'd had on their minds but hadn't had an opportunity to say.

During the serving of a gigantic Hawaiian dessert, the kind you rationalize eating because of its presumed fruity nutrition, Warren tapped his spoon on his glass. "My friends, I am greatly encouraged by the level of commitment and the vibrancy of the ideas I heard from you during our dinner conversations. With each of you making your contribution, the whole effort begins to take shape, tactical, strategic, philosophical, and anticipatory. There is plenty of material to think over during our silence period, or shall I say, plenty to be silent over."

With that, the collaborators repaired to the conference room and took their places around the table for an hour of silence, after which they wished each other good night and retired.

In the morning, at the final session of this first chapter of their momentous journey, Warren opened the proceedings with his customary directness. "My friends, during our engagement with a hearty breakfast, I want to say a few words by way of a send-off and lay out a series of charges for the next month, before we return here for our second gathering.

"First, you will all receive a transcript of our conversations through a secured system, since we want to keep our work in confidence. Next, I want to reiterate that we are not out to meticulously plan the future, as if we could, but to press for a redirection of major aspects of our political economy, new paths that are life-sustaining, productive, and peaceful in a constantly changing environment. The more we can focus people on positive and creative redirections, the more they will move voluntarily and rationally toward their better futures.

"Now, as to our next meeting here. To summarize and crystallize our deliberations, here's what I believe we must each do on our own during the next month. Our first task is to consolidate our epicenters, by which I mean reaching out to people we trust, people who are on the same wavelength and can do one or more of the following: contribute money and financial leverage, deliver other groups for various tasks, such as unions and veterans' organizations, give intellectual rigor to our proposed redirections, and broaden our access to and acquisition of media. Consolidating the epicenter also means finding unentangling alliances, with no quid pro quos or deals, locating natural economic allies, like the sustainable technology people, enlisting others among the super-rich who are up to our demanding criteria and may be willing to pitch in, thinking deeply about replication dynamics and how to increase the velocity of the events we put in motion, and doing all of the above with the urgency dictated by our presumed one-year life expectancy.

"We'll be in touch during the month, of course, to review progress and roadblocks. Meanwhile, keep in mind that we go public only when we are ready. Our priority at our next gathering should be to prepare a spreadsheet for action in well- meshed sequences that anticipate both serendipities and opposition. Rolling out our initiatives in the right sequence is critical, not just so that each stage furthers the next, but to maintain our own solidarity and cohesion, to stay on the same page, if you will. Dynamics are also key here. At present, the 'bad guys' are forcing the 'good guys' to play defense and fall back on their heels all the time. We intend to reverse that dynamic. In my experience in business, the crucial dynamic is staying on the offensive, setting the agenda, making things happen rather than reacting to them. The energy that flows from being on the offensive is incredible. And we also need an early alert system to pick up signs of a counteroffensive so that we can react accordingly. Your respective successes tell me that in your own areas of activity you have done this well, even intuitively, but clearly we're entering a much bigger game, and we have to scale up and extend our radar."

Warren paused and looked around the table. "Finally, may I propose a toast?"

As one, the assembly raised their mimosas.

"To our own evolution and to our posterity's future on our beloved and only planet Earth as we reach for the stars."
"Hear, hear," said one and all. There was not a smile in the room.

***

The next day, back in Omaha, Warren established a Secretariat headed by four of his most trusted associates, who set up a closed-circuit teleconferencing system for regular communication among the members of the core group. His first message was an afterthought that he wished had occurred to him in Maui, but on the other hand, it was a good opportunity to make sure that the lines were reliable and secure. He suggested to his confreres that they each undertake an initiative with public visibility as a way of probing the country's mood, and perhaps with some coordination, as long as nothing could be traced back to the Maui group. His only stipulation was that the Secretariat be notified of any activity forty-eight hours in advance. He told his colleagues that the purpose of his proposal was to quicken the pace and get some early feedback so they'd have a better idea of what lay in store. Privately, he added to himself that it would give him the measure of each of them.
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Re: ONLY THE SUPER-RICH CAN SAVE US!, by Ralph Nader

Postby admin » Wed Oct 30, 2013 8:13 pm

PART 1 OF 2

CHAPTER 2

Nurse Jane Harper came home from a hard day in the respiratory unit at St. Vincent's, kicked off her thick-soled white shoes, and sank into her favorite armchair. Reaching for the remote, she turned the TV on and tuned to CNN to catch the news. Wolf Blitzer was in the middle of a story about the trial of those two Enron guys, Lay and Skilling. Jane hoped the judge would throw the book at them. She was on her way to the kitchen to make herself a Lean Cuisine when a loud squawk stopped her in her tracks.

There on the screen was a parrot, the most gorgeous bird she'd ever seen, all iridescent reds and blues and yellows, cocking its head and fixing her with its bright eye as it said with uncannily perfect diction, "Get up! Don't let America down!" Under the parrot's feet was a running banner urging viewers to call or e-mail about an improvement they'd like to see in the country, nationally or locally, something they'd be willing to work toward. "Get up'! Don't let America down!" the parrot squawked again.

Jane thought about Lucinda Jackson, a single mother who'd come in today with her two small children, all of them suffering from shortness of breath. Like many of Jane's patients, Lucinda and her kids lived near a bus stop and had to breathe in the acrid pollution the buses spewed every seven minutes or so. Jane knew that some cities were converting to cleaner natural-gas fuels, but not Birmingham, where the bus fleet was aging and poorly maintained for emissions control. She saw the effects firsthand every day. It was a terrible situation, and she'd been angry about it for a long time, especially on behalf of Birmingham's children, but when she'd gone to the mayor's office last year to lodge a complaint, she was told there was no money for conversion.

"Get up! Don't let America down!"

Nurse Jane Harper grabbed her telephone and dialed the toll-free number at the bottom of her screen.

***

Stan Yablonsky pushed open the heavy wooden door of Clancy's Cave, shrugged off his Buffalo Bills jacket, and sat down at the bar next to his friend Mike O'Malley.

"Gimme a double Jack neat, Ernie," he said to the bartender.

"Hard day at the plant?" Mike asked.

"Hell, yeah, with all the lay offs there's half the people doing the same amount of work." Stan sighed. "Could be worse, though. Least I got a job."

Ernie slapped a cardboard coaster down on the bar and set Stan's bourbon on it.

"Thanks, Ernie." Stan turned to Mike. "So how 'bout you, buddy? Those little tweakers leave gum on your chair again or steal all the chalk?"

Mike laughed. "Those kids are a handful, all right, but you know, I feel for them. They're in the sixth grade and half of them still can't read, not that there's enough books to go around. And it's a tough neighborhood, high unemployment, shitty housing, drugs --"

"Hey, lighten up, man. I'm not in the mood for one of your lectures. How 'bout I buy you a beer?" Stan knocked back his bourbon. "Another round over here, Ernie, and turn on ESPN, wouldya?"

"What do you care? The Bills've been out of contention since December," Ernie said, but he reached up and flicked the TV on. As he was about to change the channel, the screen filled with the familiar faces of Paul Newman and Bill Cosby.

"Liberty and justice for all?" Newman was saying. "Don't make me laugh, Bill."

"That's my job, Paul," Cosby replied, "but this is no laughing matter."

"Hang on, Ernie," Mike said. "Let's watch this for a minute."

"Aw, c'mon," Stan grumbled, "put on SportsCenter."

"[T]o expose the lie we tell every time we recite our Pledge of Allegiance. What we have in this country, Bill, is liberty and justice for some."

"Damn right, and the 'some' doesn't include the kids in our crumbling inner-city schools, the retirees defrauded of their pensions by corrupt corporations, the folks in New Orleans' Ninth Ward, the vets who come home to inadequate medical care and no jobs ..."

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 -- and then panned back to reveal a huge blowup of the Pledge of Allegiance with "for all" crossed out and replaced by "for some."

By now, Stan and Ernie were staring at the TV along with Mike.

"And so we urge you today" -- close-up on Newman now, with steel in those blue eyes -- "to take the Pledge pledge, to bring our Pledge of Allegiance in line with reality by saying 'with liberty and justice for some' until the day when we can all truly say 'with liberty and justice for all."

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph," Mike O'Malley said. He had a long night ahead, still had to grade papers and do his lesson plan on the Underground Railroad, but at least he knew how he was going to start his class tomorrow morning.

***

Arlene Jones set a cup of coffee and a slice of apple pie in front of the lone customer in the corner booth of the Treezewood Diner, a truck stop just off I-70 in central Pennsylvania.

"Give a holler if you need anything else, hon," she said as she went back behind the counter.

Normally the Treezewood was packed at all hours, even during the graveyard shift, but tonight there was a blessed lull. Arlene turned on the news to see the latest on that big snowstorm they'd been predicting, but what she saw instead was a shock of silver hair over a puckish face. Was she in a time warp? Hadn't Phil Donahue been off the air for a decade or more? She turned up the sound.

"The always controversial talk-show host has stirred up fresh controversy with his op-ed piece in yesterday's New York Times," the anchorman said. "The piece was titled 'Who Is Denying America Its Future? A Wake-up Call.'"

Arlene didn't know who was denying America's future. She didn't know who was denying her own future. All she knew was that she'd spent thirty years working for tips and what she managed to make on the side mending clothes. According to the anchorman, Phil had said something in his op-ed about vested interests depriving people of their collective power and stripping them of their rights.

Arlene blushed, remembering those male strippers on Phil's show. She'd loved that show, and not just for the beefcake. She'd loved it for the way Phil raised issues no one else was willing to raise, for the way he'd given voice to his vast audience, mostly women who were home to watch him because they were caring for their children or their aged parents, or getting ready for the afternoon shift at some dull, low-paying job.

"Rather mysteriously." the anchorman said, "Mr. Donahue ended his piece with the words 'Stay tuned.'''

Arlene nodded. Yes, she would. She would definitely stay tuned.

***

On the outskirts of Oklahoma City, Jack Soaring Eagle walked slowly down the long, dusty drive that led from his trailer to his mailbox. He was hoping his unemployment check would come today. Up until last year, he'd been making pretty good money as a foreman in a kitchen appliance factory, but then the owners shut the place down and moved to China. Things had been tight ever since.

Jack opened the battered tin box, took out a handful of letters, and shuffled through them, scanning the return addresses as he walked back to the trailer. No check, just junk mail, a couple of bills, something from the local Cherokee council, and -- what was this? He stopped, arrested by a striking image in the upper left corner of the last letter. It was a simple, elegant line drawing of an eye that seemed to be looking far into the future. Under the eye were seven human figures, each extending a hand to the next, and beside it was a name: Yoko Ono.

Jack went inside and sat down at his kitchen table, studying the envelope. A letter from Yoko Ono? Must be some kind of joke. He'd never cared much for the Beatles, didn't like most of their music -- that "yeah, yeah, yeah" was like fingernails on a chalkboard as far as he was concerned -- but he remembered reading about John and Yoko's "Bed-in for Peace" back in '69 when he was stationed in Saigon. He and a lot of his buddies had already turned against the war in Vietnam, sickened by horrors like the My Lai massacre and by the politicians' lies about body counts, and he'd appreciated what John and Yoko were trying to do. Jack opened the envelope.

There was the eye again, at the top, followed by a letter from Yoko explaining its symbolism. She called it "the Seventh- Generation Eye," representing the principle that leaders must weigh all their decisions in terms of their impact on the future as far as the seventh generation to come. Jack didn't have to read on to learn that it was a principle derived from the Great Law of Peace of the Iroquois Confederacy; it was an integral part of the American Indian belief system, and one that guided his own tribe's deliberations.

Yoko went on to say that she wanted to do her part for the seventh generation by sending an energy-saving compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL) free of charge to any household requesting one. All the recipients had to do was provide name and address, along with one sentence explaining why they wanted such a bulb and specifying wattage. "I know a lot of you will think I'm off in the ether again and this is just another one of my wacky ideas," Yoko wrote, "but when you stop to consider that a single CFL can save two thousand times its own weight in greenhouse gases, maybe you'll decide it's not so wacky. Multiply that by millions of people using these bulbs, and it's enough energy to replace dozens of fossil fuel and nuclear power plants. Please join me in this simple act that will help insure the future of our planet. With thanks in advance from myself and your great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren."

Jack sat drumming his fingers on the tabletop for a minute. Then he stood up and got the pad and pen he kept by the phone. "Dear Yoko Ono," he wrote. "I would like one seventy-five watt CFL to read by, and because it will brighten my life just like your letter has." He paused, then added "Gratefully yours" and signed his name with a flourish.

***

In the weeks following the Maui meeting, the activities of Warren's colleagues in the core group had exceeded his wildest expectations. He couldn't turn on the news or read the paper without hearing about an initiative one of them had launched or some controversy they'd stirred up.

As promised, Ted Turner and Phil Donahue had put their heads together to brainstorm about a mascot for the group's efforts. Ted's thoughts naturally ran along avian lines, and it wasn't long before they hit on the idea of a parrot. Phil called a friend of his in the highly regarded veterinary program at the State University of New York in Delhi, and was able to procure a splendid scarlet macaw, along with the services of linguistic trainer Clifton Chirp. Chirp rolled up his sleeves and went to work.

Patriotic Polly hit the airwaves in fifteen-second spots shown on thousands of stations, and was an immediate smash. She would have won an Academy Award in her category, if there were such a category. Amazing what an animal could communicate to humans, Warren thought. Fully 13 million viewers had e-mailed or called in their choice of a change they were willing to work for in their country or state or town, and Patriotic Polly was the talk of the nation for days. Late- night TV comedians joked about what else she might say, and Letterman offered a year's worth of crackers as a prize for the best submission. One unintended side effect was that the price of Amazonian parrots skyrocketed.

Hot on Polly's heels had come the Cosby/Newman telethon, a live three-hour event carried by all the major networks thanks to the behind-the-scenes exertions of Barry Diller. When the three men told the rest of the core group about their plan for the show at the first post-Maui closed-circuit conference, Joe Jamail and Bill Gates Sr. had suggested that the Pledge of Allegiance be one of the segments, which was why Mike O'Malley's class and hundreds of other classes around the country were now starting off the day with "liberty and justice for some." And that was only the first half-hour of the telethon. The rest of it was devoted to demonstrating how the media uses public property -- the airwaves -- to foster complacency, serve power, sell junk, and trivialize or distort or cover up the news. Cosby demanded a giveback of daily hours on the broadcast spectrum to citizens who wished to join together and create their own networks, to be funded by license fees imposed on the airtime that TV and radio had been using for free since their industries began. Newman showed clips from his own collection of independently produced films and documentaries to illustrate the kind of programming that the people, with well-funded studios, producers, and reporters, would put on the air. Then both of them announced an instant poll to be conducted via the toll-free number flashing on the screen, and over the next hour the audience registered an overwhelming desire for such a people's voice. Finally, Cosby and Newman urged viewers to flood the FCC and Congress with demands for legislative and regulatory hearings on such matters as children's television, coverage of civic action, and whatever ideas of their own they wanted to advance.

The next day, the headlines read, to paraphrase, "What the hell were Cosby and Newman doing? Trying to wreck their careers? Are they nuts?" The editors of the Wall Street Journal had a follow-up observation in an editorial titled "Possessed by Marx," wherein they dutifully accused the two men of being closet communists seemingly headed toward senility. Cosby and Newman wrote a letter to the editor in response. Unabridged and printed in full, it read, "Stay tuned."

On the flight home from Maui, Phil Donahue had composed the dazzling op-ed that was published a few days later in the New York Times and covered on some of the nightly news broadcasts, even on small local stations like Arlene Jones's. In his "wake-up call," he didn't beat around the bush about who was denying America its future. He pointed squarely to commercial interests that said no to the well-being of the people, and then he gave a rousing rundown of how the people's power, if awakened, could effect change. The response was tremendous. Not all of it was positive, but to judge by the letters that poured into his office, about 85 percent reacted as if they'd just overcome a long period of constipation: "What can we do?" they wrote, or "Here's what we're doing in our area that should be disseminated," or "Note to rulers: lead or get out of the way!" NBC was bombarded with letters demanding the return of Phil's talk show. Then there were the calls from friends who seemed to have come alive. Two of the wealthiest of them wanted to meet with him in Manhattan "to see how we can get things moving in this country." With his down-to-earth language, Phil had obviously hit a nerve. Lots of people were willing to jump out of the cake for him.

Yoko Ono had returned from Maui and gone straight to her New York studio. She'd been deeply affected by everything she'd heard at Warren's gathering, and particularly by an impassioned conversation she'd had with Bernard Rapoport over dinner, about the universal human obligation to posterity. Dear old B. Yoko fervently believed that the future could be made beautiful. Most people didn't see it, but art could put it right in front of them, give them an unmediated awareness, what she liked to call "a somersault of the mind." It was strange how people could tolerate injustice, brutality, fraudulence, and a host of other wrongs without being moved to act. Maybe they were bored, or maybe just defeated by a combination of the complexity of the world's problems and their own sense of powerlessness. But they did care about their children and grandchildren's future, a future they viewed with anxiety and uncertainty in this fast-changing, perilous world over which they had so little control, except to strive for a modicum of financial security. Art could cut through all that. Art could move them toward action.

Hour after hour, in silence and solitude, Yoko searched for the tao, the way, the path to the image that would crystallize the Maui mission. Finally it came to her, in her own somersault of the mind: the Seventh-Generation Eye. Quickly she sketched it, and then the seven linked generations, a symbol representing the connection between present and future through the most expressive organ of the human body, the window of the soul.

Yoko sat up at her drawing board and stretched. Astonishing how she'd seen it all at once, as if the proverbial lightbulb had dropped down over her head to signal a sudden idea or inspiration. She laughed at the cliche, and was still laughing as she moved to her computer and began typing a letter about lightbulbs. Oh, art was grand!

Over the next few days, Yoko mobilized her extensive network of friends and contacts to help her send out a million letters like the one Jack Soaring Eagle received, and close to 20 million e-mails, all from lists properly rented. She went personally to the main manufacturer of compact fluorescent bulbs and cut a deal to buy them at a wholesale price of $2.50 each, a considerable reduction from the usual wholesale price of $7.50 or more. Attached to each bulb she sent out would be a message estimating the amount of coal, oil, gas, and nuclear fuel wasted because General Electric, through its near monopoly well into the seventies, sold incandescent lightbulbs that burned out quickly and had to be replaced often.

As for Bernard, he'd also been thinking about his conversation with Yoko when he returned home to Texas. Bernard had always had a dream, ever since his father told him that if a society takes care of its children, it will also be taking care of itself. Part of what Papa meant was that people who would otherwise resist change could be persuaded to support it if they thought it was for the benefit of children.

Bernard placed ads on select cable channels saying that he would establish after-school Egalitarian Clubs to teach children civic skills and democratic values like equality of opportunity and the importance of a decent standard of living. Then he unloaded the provocation that brought a torrent of attention and criticism in the following days. He said that the big corporations were on an omnicidal track in the world -- destroying our democracy and the environment, to give just two examples -- and that a new generation of Americans had to learn to control, replace, or displace corporate power, especially since the schools were now instruments of corporate propaganda, both directly and indirectly. He spent hours giving interviews, drawing on his impressive historical knowledge of corporate crimes, abuses, tricks, and treasonous behavior toward the masses. It was as if he had prepared for these interviews all his adult life. A CEO himself, he was accused darkly of being a traitor to his class by at least one prominent business commentator, but Oprah Winfrey had him on her show for an hour with six seventh-graders from the Chicago public schools. It was an interaction for the ages.

Like Bernard, Jeno Paulucci had a long-cherished dream, that of establishing an alternative national chamber of commerce with local and regional chapters. He had had his fill of existing chambers that put corporations ahead of people in what amounted to a master-servant relationship. Jeno was the most naturally gregarious of the core group members. When he called himself "just a peddler from the Iron Range," this Republican wasn't kidding. Starting dirt poor in northern Minnesota as the son of immigrants, he'd built and sold some fifty companies, having a ball all the way. He loved his workers and treated them so well that he welcomed unions. He loved competition so much that he once proposed a price war to a larger competitor, until his lawyers admonished him about the antitrust laws. If there was one thing he knew, it was that commerce had to serve people, not the other way around. He had recently made just that point in his boisterous autobiography, Jeno: The Power of the Peddler.

Jeno drafted a two-page proclamation of the People's Chamber of Commerce, barnstormed with news conferences in ten cities at the rate of two cities a day, and took out ads on business cable channels, all of which led to extensive television and radio interviews. He always sounded the same note, inviting businesses of all sizes to join up by paying initial dues of $50 and signing the declaration of people's business principles and practices that a business ethics friend of his had written back in 1978. Once this first stage was completed, a more comprehensive founding convention would be held to create a chaordic organizational structure on the model originated by Visa founder Dee Hock. Hock coined the term, a blend of "chaos" and "order," in a book published in 2000, Birth of the Chaordic Age -- "chaos" being defined in the context of current chaos theory as elaborated by the Santa Fe group, not in its more familiar dictionary meaning. In accordance with Hock's principles, the People's Chamber of Commerce would feature maximum autonomy on the periphery (the local chapters), which would be loosely linked to a small core group that set obligatory minimum standards. The PCC would be chaordic for optimum creativity.

To the astonishment of everyone but Jeno, 78,000 businesses signed up in two weeks. As he had anticipated, many of them were franchises, large and small, which promised to bring in thousands more members. The PCC, Jeno said, was the beginning of the end for the giant trade associations -- drug, auto, mining, food, energy, banking, insurance, defense, real estate -- that monopolized the voices of business.

This incipient challenge to the sodden hegemony of the Washington-based trade associations became the news and then the speculation of the hour. "Where is it all heading?" one trade group president asked. "How can the people speak for business?" remarked another in a CNN interview, unaware how much he was communicating. After the first round of press, Jeno would only say to the legions of interview requests, "Stay tuned," a comment that was tantalizing to reporters almost beyond their endurance. The news media knew Jeno well from his days as a grand networker with a Rolodex the size of a Ferris wheel, and they knew something big was coming -- but what?

The uproar over the PCC was matched by the uproar Peter Lewis created in the insurance industry. Peter had forged his tumultuous, iconoclastic career in this industry, and he owed his massive, still-growing wealth to it, but he had long wondered about its central hypocrisy. 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. To Peter, that was not risk management. To Peter, risk management meant risk reduction or loss prevention. The insurance companies' dirty little secret was that they would accept more losses as long as they could collect more premiums. Why? So they'd have more dollars to invest. Today investment income was central to the swollen profitability of insurers, in contrast to the situation decades ago, when insurance underwriters were more like engineering firms, scrutinizing risks and trying to make it on premium income. In the nineteenth century, insurance companies would refuse to insure a factory without improvements in boilers to avert then-frequent explosions, but the insurance companies didn't operate that focused way anymore.

Peter took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street journal, disclosing for starters that the fire insurance industry didn't do much about fire prevention because fewer fires would mean less business. Despite lip service to prevention, these companies went out of their way to overlook weak fire codes, lax enforcement, and substandard materials. At the bottom of the ad was Peter's signature and the line "Interviews by the media are invited." Minutes after the paper hit the stands, the phones in his office started ringing off the hook The fireworks, so to speak, began exploding all over as Peter extended his criticism to health, life, worker's compensation, and auto insurers, and then to gigantic reinsurers like Munich Re and Lloyd's of London. He had an easy time with the reporters, who knew little about the subject, and the insurance executives were afraid to debate him. "Human and property tragedies have become the near exclusive inventory of the insurance companies," he declared, "when these companies should be the sentinels of health and safety in every area, from the local hospital operating room to the global environment."

Cascades of controversy erupted in every sector of the society and economy touched by the insurers. The story broke on a Monday, and by Saturday, Peter was satisfied that the dynamics he had generated were multiplying on their own. He settled back in his favorite chair at his Park Avenue duplex and inhaled deeply, Tomorrow he would digest the week. Today it was time for sweet serenity.

Having slept the entire way home from Maui to San Diego, Sol Price awakened the next morning refreshed and rejuvenated, or at least alive, and immediately took out full-page ads in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He also bought a minute to run the ad on Meet the Press. Under a big, bold headline -- "IS THIS THE WAY WE, THE SO-CALLED OLDER HIGH AND MIGHTY, WANT TO LEAVE OUR COUNTRY?" -- was a series of short phrases describing the decay and decline of our nation, all the worsening trends and tragedies. In large type at the bottom was the message "O Rich and Powerful, arise, you have nothing to lose but your country, your world, and your descendants' respect! Let's go to the heights and exit not with a whimper, wallowing in luxurious boredom, despair, and discouragement, but with a bang!"
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Re: ONLY THE SUPER-RICH CAN SAVE US!, by Ralph Nader

Postby admin » Wed Oct 30, 2013 8:13 pm

PART 2 OF 2 (CH. 2 CONT'D.)

The ad was a grand slam. Sol couldn't believe the response. He heard from hundreds of influential people in retirement who had been silent for years. Some wrote letters. Others called him or just showed up at his home or office in their chauffeured Rolls and Mercedes, some with canes, all with fire in their eyes. Sol knew what to say, having thought for years about national Redirections and priority reversals. One by one he met with them, communicating, motivating, taking their addresses, and ending the meetings with, ''I'll be back for you. Get ready."

Within days of returning from Maui, Ross Perot bought thirty minutes' worth of time on the networks coast-to-coast and appeared with charts showing how the American people had lost control of their federal budget. He showed where their taxes were going and how the self-styled tax cutters were just cutting taxes on wealthy people like himself, producing mega-deficits and thereby taxing babies who would be responsible for the huge interest payments on the treasury debt when they grew up. He gave graphic examples of waste and corruption. He said that the Iraq war was "an economic sinkhole" and "a graveyard surrounded by quicksand," and that "we'd better bring our boys home pronto." He took calls from viewers and encouraged e-mails and letters of support. They came in the millions, heartening him with messages like "Great to see you back!" and "You're telling the truth again, Ross!" He was especially gratified by the response from veterans regarding their treatment when they came home from the wars. Many of them agreed with him about Iraq. Among the strongest endorsements he received was a letter from the Boston chapter of Veterans for Peace, which called itself the Smedley Butler Brigade in honor of the highly decorated Marine general (two Congressional Medals of Honor, among many other awards for bravery) who retired in 1935 and then wrote a book asserting that he'd been "a racketeer for capitalism," sent in to make various countries "safe" for US banks, oil companies, and other corporations.

Leonard Riggio came home and took it to the streets. Ever since he was a boy in Brooklyn, he'd had a visceral reaction to the way the working stiffs and the poor were treated on a day-to-day basis. Contacting neighborhood groups and labor leaders he knew, he quickly put together a rally of 25,000 people of little means in front of the New York Stock Exchange. They carried placards bearing slogans like "The Poor Will Be Heard From -- From Now On," "Stay Tuned, Paper Pushers and Speculators, This Is Just the Beginning," and "Tear Down That Wall Street!" Leonard marshaled some great speakers whom no one had heard of, determined as he was to bring out energetic new people who believed in movements, not just rhetoric. From the ghettos and barrios and slums of New York City came fire and brimstone about deeply felt injustices. Leonard supplied sandwiches for lunch and gave out posters, placards, and bumper stickers to the crowd to help spread the word. Exactly what "the word" was he didn't say, heightening the anticipation of dumbfounded reporters by intimating that today's rally was only the tip of the iceberg. When pressed, he pointed to a group of ralliers, each of whom held up a letter to spell out "Abolish poverty! Give us what we've worked for! No ifs, ands, or buts!" Coverage that evening and in the next morning's newspapers was tinged with puzzlement over what this rally foreshadowed. Pictures of wide-eyed stockbrokers gazing from their office windows bespoke trepidation.

A few days after Leonard's rally, Ted Turner uncorked an idea he'd had for years. Quickly he assembled a group of thirty irreverent older billionaires -- Barry, Peter, and George from the core group, the rest from the top of the Forbes 400 list, together representing nearly every line of industry and commerce -- and christened them Billionaires Against Bullshit.

Image

-- Billionaires Against Bullshit!, by Tara Carreon


They were his friends, people who enjoyed his hospitality and showmanship, two of them fellow yachtsmen from his America's Cup days. As a longtime media master, Ted knew that the best way to confront lies was not with the truth. The truth must be accessible, always on the shelf, so to speak, but lies were best confronted with marching feet or easily understood symbols. He was always amazed at how little awareness of this historically rooted point there was among activists bent on improving the human condition. Ever the flamboyant entrepreneur, he staged a huge media extravaganza with a series of giant screens portraying the deceptions and dissembling of those at the top in Washington and Wall Street. One by one, after the lies were sonorously announced, Ted's billionaires splashed a slurpy bucket of bull manure on the prevarication screens. The reporters, nibbling on their canapes, gave up on maintaining their objectivity. They laughed and nodded and wondered to themselves why they couldn't throw tough questions at the bullshitters they had to cover day after day.

The solons and moguls named on the screens were not amused upon learning how they'd been demeaned. Time Warner received several angry and threatening calls from the White House. When one exasperated special assistant was told that Ted was no longer on the board but was merely a large shareholder, he sputtered, "Well then, sell his shares!" The cool Time Warner executive replied, "Capitalist principles would have us leave that decision to Ted."

After the visual event came the news conference, where a crusty veteran reporter asked, "Okay, Ted, you've given us some kicks, but what's to say that Billionaires Against Bullshit isn't bullshit itself?" Ted absorbed this sonic blast and instantly wished that the press would treat the current occupant of the White House with similar forcefulness. Recovering, he replied simply, "Stay tuned."

Joe Jamail was savoring Ted's televised antics in his Houston office when he decided what his initiative would be. This "King of Torts" was always taking on big cases with millions or billions of dollars at stake, and as a result he was always postponing doing something close to his heart, something that would allow regular people to use the justice system and actually get some justice out of it. He believed that the intangible benefits of public confidence in the justice system went way beyond getting people refunds or bringing the big corporations to account.

Joe unveiled his brainchild proposal with fanfare at a well-prepared news conference with live TV hookups, including C- SPAN from Houston. With his well-known talent for the dramatic, he announced that he was putting $15 million of his own money behind the formation of the People's Court Society, a network of law students and law professors who would advise, gratis, any person wanting to use any small claims court case that passed a basic standard of credibility. Existing legal aid services and public defenders did very good work under hampering conditions, he said, but they couldn't begin to reach a majority of the excluded. The PCS would rent space at or near all 174 law schools in the country, and on Main Streets everywhere, so that working people and consumers, tenants and patients, could drop in and receive either representation or clear advice about how to represent themselves if they so wished.

Joe also gave notice that companies guilty of fraud or harm would no longer get off scot-free simply because their victims couldn't afford attorneys and expensive legal proceedings. Judge Judy was an amazing ratings success because people cared about small injustices between individuals. Now, through the accessible PCS, they'd be able to take on the big boys as well, in hundreds of small claims courts all over the country. "For too long," Joe said, "small claims courts have been used as collection agencies by commercial creditors and landlords. Now these courts will be used for the little guy. The corporate crooks have sliced up the class action rights of the people and made it more difficult to file for bankruptcy because of job loss or health expenses. Now they're going to have to face those they've fleeced." Behind him as he spoke was Judge Learned Hand's famous dictum, "If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: Thou shalt not ration justice." The letters were two feet high to make the point.

The next day, the tortfeasors' lobby went berserk. "Joe Jamail is promoting a flood of frivolous litigation," declared the US Chamber of Commerce. "The PCS will undermine our global competitive edge, cost American jobs, raise taxes, and burden the business community unsupportably," roared the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Joe was denounced for his effrontery in hundreds of press releases, business editorials, and tirades by pompous talk show hosts, chief among them Bush Bimbaugh. Laughing all the way, Joe replied, "Access to the law is part of a just society. They're used to having it all to themselves. No more. The floodgates of justice are about to open."

Bill Gates Sr. also made a big splash in the weeks after Maui. In notices placed in labor, consumer, and taxpayer publications, he offered to pay for the Delaware incorporation of anyone who applied over the following twenty-one days. His aim was an egalitarian one, he said, since corporations had just about all the constitutional rights of human beings but enjoyed privileges and immunities far beyond those of lone individuals. Corporations had more freedom to sue, to go bankrupt, to pay lower taxes, to receive welfare; they could create overseas subsidiaries and holding companies, and they could avoid being jailed because they were artificial entities. In dozens of ways they were superior and unequal, under laws largely of their own making. "So if you can't beat 'em, join 'em and receive the blessings of limited liability," Bill's notice concluded. His motto, a twist on Huey Long's "Every man a king," was "Everybody a corporation."

Bill further announced that he was forming a committee to run five corporations for federal and state elective office in the next couple of years. Since corporations were legally deemed to be "persons" and could avail themselves of the equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment, there was no reason they shouldn't be able to run for senator, governor, state legislator, etc., as long as they met age and residency requirements. "Corporations are people too," Bill said at a news conference before befuddled reporters. He added that a six-person advisory committee on constitutional, corporate, and electoral law would be formed to combat challenges to this equality movement, and he pledged a vigorous defense against any lawsuits blocking his project to give more "voices and choices" to American voters.

Max Palevsky came back from Maui with an idea. He was not in the best of health but had a dynamo of a brain and knew more than most denizens of the planet about the enormity of the challenges facing it. Max had been in a funk for years, particularly after funding several important California electoral initiatives, including some on campaign finance reform, all of which lost. 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. Until Maui, he couldn't see a breakthrough for himself.

Max's obsession had always been civic anomie -- the failure of so many citizens to exert even minor efforts to combat or diminish injustices that they themselves perceived as harming them. When he was a child, his family had lived in New England, in three different towns, and his parents would sometimes take him to town meetings. There were always lots of empty seats in the small school auditoriums or the rooms at Town Hall. Over the years, in conversations with liberal activists, Max brandished this memory at them and taunted them about all the union members who voted Republican, directly against their own interests as working families. War, religion, guns, the flag -- whatever -- distracted them from essential matters like pay, pensions, safety, health insurance, public services, and the way big business used government against them. The same held true for poor voters; a quarter or more voted Republican. All this led Max to an iconoclastic thesis; that even if all obstacles to democracy were removed and there was a perfect playing field, most people would not play, would not show up or speak out.

Now he decided to experiment to prove his point. Renting out a six-thousand-seat convention hall in Los Angeles, he offered free tickets to anyone who would agree to attend two presentations on two consecutive nights. He left the content of the presentations deliberately vague, saying only that they were designed to test a sociopolitical hypothesis and that the results would be sent to all attendees within a month. But the real draw was the promise of entertainment by a hot new band, the Cool Drool, plus a surprise celebrity appearance and free fruit, soft drinks, and snacks.

The first night, a Monday, the hall was almost full and anticipation was high. After a sensational performance by the Drool, the lights dimmed and Max gave the signal to start the slideshow he'd commissioned, which used visuals, sound, and light to brilliant effect. 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 Halliburton 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. On they came -- pictures of children abused in juvenile detention camps, of low-income people cheated by economic predators, of young fathers killed on construction sites because of dangerous working conditions, of loyal factory workers brought down by toxin-induced cancers -- with imagery, statistics, and human tragedy all working to engage the minds and emotions of the audience. Then the lights came up and Warren Beatty, the slideshow's narrator, walked on stage. He asked what kind of world we would be leaving our children and grandchildren if we didn't get serious, wake up, and take back our country. He urged his listeners to get involved in organizations working for change -- ushers were passing out flyers listing a hundred of these, along with mission statements and contact information -- and then he thanked the audience for their attention and opened the floor to questions.

For several long minutes, no one spoke. Finally a few people asked questions about the accuracy of this or that part of the presentation. No one asked, "Well, what can we do, when can we start?" Remarkably little anger was expressed, except by an injured carpenter who was cheated by his worker's compensation carrier. No one proposed a future meeting, rally, or march for the environment, or against the war or for any other cause. Afterward, as the audience streamed out of the hall, Max's people stationed at the exits reported that only about 10 percent were talking about the presentation. The other ninety were already into small talk about where they were going or who they were meeting. However, many mentioned how good the food was or how terrific the band was.

The next evening, a slightly smaller crowd showed up. Again the food and music were outstanding. After the opening performance, a silver-haired orator took the stage and unfurled a string of calmly delivered racist, sexist, homophobic, and ethnic slurs. By the third minute, the audience was shouting and throwing fruit and rolled-up newspapers at the stage, but the speaker continued, advantaged by a loudspeaker system that gave him sonic supremacy. Some people jumped up and stormed out of the hall. At no point did the speaker advocate acts of violence or suggest that the objects of his derision should be harassed or run out of the country. He simply unleashed a flurry of bigotry, citing bogus studies and fictitious history as foundations for his opinions. Within thirty minutes the hall was empty. Max's people at the exits reported that nearly everyone had expressed outrage and disgust. The event was page one in the next morning's LA papers, and the second story on the local evening news, right after a hot police pursuit. The sparse media coverage of the first event had focused on the Cool Drool and Warren Beatty.

Max waited three days before presenting his analysis in a full-page ad in the LA Times. He described the two presentations briefly and concluded, "The real deeds of government and business that kill, sicken, deprive, and defraud are far less upsetting to Americans than some nobody's bigoted words. Unless, that is, the deeds happen to touch on a personal injustice inflicted on an individual, in which case it's a horse race as to whether the personal bad deed or the terrible bad word provokes the most anger. A society that can't act to redress bad deeds in a motivated manner is on a downhill race to decay. A society that goes berserk over verbal slurs, however false and offensive, is a society that will distract itself in an escalating war over words." At the bottom of the page was the thought-provoking line "Pick Your Poison."

Max left town early the day the ad appeared, hoping to keep the focus on the issue he'd raised rather than on himself. Initially the outrage and vitriol poured forth as he'd expected, but then the reaction became more thoughtful as some of the talk shows, letters to the editor, and opinion pages began delving beneath the knee-jerk, politically correct rejoinders. Of course Max knew his little experiment was oversimplified, but it did provoke a lot of lively debate and a little introspection -- a key result he'd hoped for. He hired an anthropologist and a psychologist to analyze the whole hubbub before the next meeting in Maui. He had more such tests in mind, much more refined. "Stay tuned," he told one of his editor friends. "Stay tuned."

Among the more interested readers of Max's ad was George Soros, who had been taking in the exploits of his Maui colleagues with no little amazement. A man who had long believed in fundamental change within an open societ -- -his motto was "It is not a revolution until it succeeds" -- George walked his talk, but his unflagging moral and financial support of democratic movements and institutions in authoritarian countries, and lately in the United States, had left him feeling a bit wearied by how difficult change was, how much more powerful the forces of disintegration, habit, and greed seemed to be than the forces of integration, tolerance, and justice. At first, it had been difficult for him to envision what he could do post-Maui that he hadn't done pre-Maui, but he banished the thought. He would do something bold, something out of character for his fairly retiring, almost academic personality ("Soros" would be the antonym for "Trump" if there were ever a celebrity dictionary of antonyms). He would challenge the editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal to a debate at historic Cooper Union in New York City, site of many famous debates over issues like slavery, suffrage, labor, war, and civil rights. The debate resolution would be as follows: "Resolved that the principal threat to democracy in America and around the world is the large multinational corporation." As if that weren't bold enough, George called in some favors from high-ranking contacts at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and the two institutions were persuaded to sponsor the debate. This decision was so discordant with the image of the Bank and the IMF -- both had long been accused of being imperious, antidemocratic, insensitive to the impoverished, and wedded to ruling oligarchies -- that the announcement created a frisson of disbelief in the airy upper circles of global finance and industry. The ruling classes most definitely took notice.

The editor of the Wall Street Journal's editorial page was a man by the name of Reginald Sedgwick. He hated George Soras, who had been slammed by the paper in more than thirty-five editorials. To Sedgwick, Soras was a traitor to his class for making big money out of big money, especially in currency speculation. To have the ultimate successful global capitalist espouse progressive policies, oppose Republicans in elections, and support higher taxes on corporations and the rich was the ultimate apostasy. Unfortunately, no one could call Soros a communist or socialist -- two of the Journal's favorite epithets -- nor could he be dismissed as an armchair philosopher who knew nothing about the real business world. George Soros had played the business game for the highest stakes and had won again and again, for himself and his legions of loyal investors. He would be a formidable opponent, and Sedgwick was tempted to decline the challenge -- he had a bully's cowardliness when it came to someone of his own size -- but the business press and the right-wing commentators and talk show hosts were touting him as their champion, licking their chops and rising as one to proclaim that he was the man to slay the forked-tongued dragon. He had no choice but to accept.

The day of the great debate -- besieged by every media outlet from The Onion to Vanity Fair -- came and went. And so did Sedgwick. He resigned his post the following month. In devastating detail, George demonstrated how hierarchical, monetarily fanatical megacorporations crushed dissent, civic values, and open societies while cozying up to their autocratic or dictatorial counterparts in government. He argued convincingly that the world's hopes and dreams, and even its continued existence, were at stake in the global collision between democracy and myopic corporatism, with its control of capital, labor, technology, media, and government. The great debate left the halls of Cooper Union and started around the country as if the self-censoring media had finally seen the light. When asked what he could possibly do for an encore after such a triumph, George replied, "Stay tuned."

For his own part, Warren Buffett hadn't exactly been twiddling his thumbs in the weeks since Maui. He and his people had been assembling the all-important brain trust that would respond with alacrity in specialized fields, from drafting legislation to assessing the feasibility of solar energy conversion on a wide scale. Among those enlisted were first-class wordsmiths and communications experts, specialists in friendly ultimatums and local mobilization, talented recruiters, and a whole array of people well versed in matters relating to budgets, billings, contracts, science, engineering, public works, healthcare, access to justice, corporate governance -- the list went on. Without disclosing the existence and mission of the core group, Warren told these people that he was in the preliminary stage of launching a project for broad reform and wanted them on board. They responded with a sense of hunger for new directions.

Warren had also been refining the operations of the Secretariat and orchestrating the weekly closed-circuit TV conferences that enabled the core group to keep abreast of each other's initiatives and report on their efforts to consolidate their epicenters. Many of them had gone home and started with selected members of their bemused extended families, who were so astonished by their overachieving older relatives' sudden energy after returning "from some trip" that they immediately agreed to contribute to the cause, again without being told the full dimensions of the cause. Core group members had similar positive results with many of the other billionaires they approached, and they also secured commitments of support from groups that were longtime recipients of their donations or had been galvanized by one of their exuberant initiatives. Warren was impressed by the range of these organizations, which included taxpayer groups worried about huge deficits and wasteful spending -- was it a coincidence that such groups first received national attention on the Phil Donahue Show? -- sustainable economy institutes, local veterans' associations, antipoverty groups, neighborhood associations, several trade unions, media reform and access organizations, consumer groups and consumer cooperatives, nongovernmental organizations representing defrauded patients, tenants, debtors, insurance holders, and car buyers, educational and civic entities, small investor clubs, local environmental leagues, artistic groups responding to Yoko, and groups of wealthy retirees bored out of their minds playing golf or bridge.

As Maui Two approached, Warren felt a growing admiration for the achievements of his colleagues in so short a time, and marveled again at the creativity of their initiatives. As a major owner of a giant reinsurer, he'd had a rough moment when Peter took the industry on, but he told himself that he was being tested, and he met his inner conflict with silence and valorous inaction. The rest of the initiatives filled him with joy, and he was so taken with Patriotic Polly that he'd carved out some time to answer calls to the toll-free number advertised during her spots. His first call was from a respiratory nurse in Birmingham, Alabama, who told a heartfelt story. She said she was ready to act but didn't know what to do. Without revealing his identity, he promised to look into the matter and call her back in a couple of days.

Warren went to his newly formed brain trust -- officially named the Analysis Department -- which was able to provide details and prices for bus conversions to natural gas: overall reduction in pollution tonnage, reduction in illnesses and property damage over time, and so forth. Then he had a hunch. Was the City of Birmingham demanding competitive broker bids for its municipal bond sales? It turned out that the answer was no. Warren called on the Analysis economists, who estimated that if the city insisted on competitive bids, it would save $45 million in bond dealer fees every two years on average. Presto. More than enough to pay for the bus conversions and even purchase some new energy-efficient buses. A call to Ted located two Alabama members of Billionaires Against Bullshit who swung into action. The rest was history. The city government didn't know what hit it -- there was a furor in the papers and on television -- and quickly announced a competitive bidding policy and a natural-gas conversion program. The nonplussed Jane Harper was interviewed so often she became a civic celebrity and received a promotion at her hospital.

Warren smiled to himself at the recollection and popped open a celebratory can of Cherry Coke.

***

A Sunday evening toward the end of January found the eminent political columnist for the Washington Post poring over a pile of clippings. David Roader prided himself on being a modest forecaster, in between covering what he tiredly called "the humdrum of cyclical political nothing campaigns." In his pile he spied a series of developments that suggested a fledgling phenomenon. There was certainly enough there to warrant attention in his twice-weekly syndicated column. He sat down to write, his glasses perched well below the bridge of his nose:

Maybe I'm seeing more than meets the eye, but have you noticed some unusual activity by some unusually rich people in the last month or so? One billionaire starts a fast-growing populist business association to take on the business behemoths in town; another organizes a big demonstration by the working poor in front of the New York Stock Exchange; yet another has taken on the entire insurance industry, of which he is a leading executive. One has placed full-page ads in major newspapers calling on his affluent peers to exercise a higher order of social conscience. Maybe it is to be expected that a cable industry pioneer noted for his maverick views would take it upon himself to launch Billionaires Against Bullshit, and maybe it's not so remarkable that a very rich plaintiffs' attorney has established a litigation network to file zillions of small claims against big companies, and maybe the wizard from Waco wants to climax his career by using his wealth to form after-school civic youth clubs, but it's all happening at once. And that's not all. An erstwhile computer software entrepreneur is sponsoring bizarre back-to-back hoedowns to show that people care more about bigoted words than about harmful deeds. At the same time, according to my sources, the Chief Business Investment Guru of the United States, a major investor in this newspaper, is making calls at a furious pace to round up more billionaires in an effort, as he puts it, "to turn this country around." And remember Soros v. Sedgwick? To top it all off, the well-to-do father of the world's richest man is busily incorporating thousands of individuals in the state of Delaware, and intends to run some corporations for elective office -- all in the name of egalitarianism!

I may have missed other similar eruptions, but I know enough to draw an interim conclusion. All these men are billionaires, most of them are in their seventies, eighties, or early nineties, and many of them end their interviews and press conferences with the same two words, "Stay tuned," all of which points to some sort of connection between them.

Something is bubbling here. Whether that something is heading for a seismic upheaval it is far too early to say, but in my fifty-one years of political journalism, I have never seen such stirrings from the very gut of the plutocracy. And the Internet traffic regarding the rich guys' activities leaves Britney and Paris in the dust.

No one who has read the newspapers for the past six years can have failed to notice the corporate crime wave, the contempt for prudent and self-restrained business behavior, the buying of political favors, and the lack of corporate patriotism in our country. Even leading business publications that rely on corporate advertising revenue -- among them Fortune and Business Week -- have been so taken aback by these unsavory trends that they have run cover stories and editorials denouncing corporate outlaws and their limitless greed. At present it is impossible to tell whether the activist billionaires represent this same resurgence of corporate ethics or something much more revolutionary. I guess we'll just have to stay tuned.


Monday morning, in his comfortable home in the nation's, capital, Brovar Dortwist was sipping hot black coffee with his young Arab-American wife, Halima, as he checked the major newspapers on his laptop. Brovar was a conservative lobbyist -- or rather, the conservative lobbyist. Every Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., in his office on K Street, he brought together more than a hundred of the most aggressive, no-holds-barred lobbyists and greasers in the corporate-occupied territory known as Washington, DC. Sitting at the head of a large table with standing room only around it, Brovar was the commander in chief, using his direct pipeline to the White House and his rapid-fire style to bark the craven missions of the week and send his troops forth to carry the banner of the almighty buck.

To call these sessions corporate pep rallies would be to underestimate the intense preparation and the vast resources in place. Brovar streamed out directives concerning the White House, Congress, the federal agencies, and the courts, all with the objective of consolidating the control of government by private economic power -- what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called "fascism" in a 1938 message to Congress urging the creation of a Temporary National Economic Committee to investigate the abuses of economic concentration. 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-a-vis the multitude of regular people who did the work and paid the bills. There was so little defense to play these days. In the sixties and seventies, those pesky citizen advocacy groups and their congressional allies made life so trying, until the great corporate counterattack launched by the Business Roundtable began harvesting its rewards during the later Carter years and the two terms of Ronald Reagan.

Sinking his teeth slowly into a petite Middle Eastern pastry, Brovar came to Roader's piece and paused in his swift scanning. He read every word and sat frowning at the polished mahogany surface of the dining table for a good five minutes. Then he packed up his laptop, gave his wife a distracted peck on the cheek, and strode off to work.
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Re: ONLY THE SUPER-RICH CAN SAVE US!, by Ralph Nader

Postby admin » Wed Oct 30, 2013 8:21 pm

PART 1 OF 2

CHAPTER 3

A month after their first Maui gathering, the members of the core group journeyed to the mountaintop hotel once again. Warren had arranged for a light supper, during which he suggested that they all retire early to be fresh for an intensive day's work tomorrow. Not a chance. The dining room was abuzz with lively exchanges about the events of the previous month, the diners too engrossed in their conversations to think of sleep.

"Warren, please, a man needs to shmooze," said Sol, and returned his attention to Bernard and Yoko, who were discussing ways of popularizing the Seventh-Generation Eye symbol.

Warren threw up his hands in mock despair and went over to see what Max was talking to Bill Gates about so intently.

At a corner table, Cosby and Newman were deep in thought over nearly untouched plates of lomi salad. They'd been stunned by the response to their telethon, which had been a huge success even though it flew in the face of what an adoring public expected of them. Now the need to take the next step was gnawing at them, but they still hadn't hit on an idea.

Paul speared a chunk of salmon. "Dead money," he said.

"Come again?"

"Don't you play poker, Bill? It's what's in the pot from the guys who fold. Just think of all the vast fortunes lying around in some trust, or in stocks, bonds, money markets. They're dead, inert, going nowhere in terms of the needs of the world, or even worse, passively serving oppression. Dead money is just money making money, instead of making things people need or making things happen. We've got to find a strategy for jolting dead money into live money, something that goes beyond simple charity or donations to political campaigns that get seedier by the year. We've got to resurrect dead money!" Paul finished with a plate-rattling bang on the table.

Bill, a chronic philanthropist who'd put his own money to work funding educational projects and outreach to inner-city youth, had been listening to all this with mounting excitement. "Amen, brother!" he said. "I hear you. I'm with you now. Dead money is like a stagnant pool breeding mosquitoes. Live money is like a gurgling brook full of marine life and on its way to join a river. But you're right, charity isn't enough. Remember those 'I Have a Dream' commitments where wealthy folks pledged to pay for the college educations of seventh graders if they hung in and made it through high school? Okay, that turned dead money into live money for those kids and their futures, but against the needs of millions of children, it was a drop in the bucket, just like the money the two of us give to this or that cause."

"Yes, there's no doubt that live money can make a real difference to individuals, but the challenge is to direct it toward fundamental change. There are some good development models out there, like one I saw from the UN Development Program on the enormous jump-start effect of some forty-five billion dollars on health, nutrition, and drinking water in impoverished areas of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. That's live money on the scale we're going to need here if we're going to succeed. For starters, consider how much it would take to follow through just on Leonard's idea from our last meeting about funding congressional elections."

Across the room, Warren stood up and yawned loudly. "I don't know about the rest of you Maui mastodons, but I'm turning in."

Paul and Bill exchanged a look. "Wait a minute," Paul called as they pulled their guitars from under the table, tuned up, and broke into "This Land Is Your Land.' All joined in on the chorus.

"Great way to end the evening," Warren said. "I only wish I'd brought my ukulele. Good night, everyone. Sleep well so we can get started catapult-style at eight after the best breakfast you'll have had in a month."

With that, they all repaired to their rooms, and the star-studded Maui night descended on the slumbering future earthshakers.

***

The next morning, Joe was awakened by a commotion in the hall. "What the hell?" he said as he jumped out of bed and flung open his door to see Ted grinning like a maniac and shouting, "Get up! Don't let America down."

Sol's door opened. He stood there in his pajamas for a moment, taking in the scene with a scowl. "Everybody's a comedian," he said, slamming the door.

After a buffet breakfast that exceeded Warren's prediction, the group assembled around the table in the conference room.

"Good morning, all," Warren said, "and special thanks to Ted for rendering our alarm clocks unnecessary. I want to begin by saying how impressed I was by the energy and ingenuity each of you displayed during the month between our last Maui meeting and Punxsutawney Phil's unfortunate sighting of his shadow the other day. Our first order of business is a status report on your initiatives so that we're all up to speed on the latest developments. Ross, will you start us off?"

"Sure, Warren, happy to oblige. My TV presentation brought in just over five million calls, letters, and e-mails from old Perotistas -- I have to admit that I always kind of liked people calling themselves that -- and from whistle-blowers and folks with all sorts of utopian schemes, personal complaints, and good solid ideas. I've opened a small office to process them and distill the serious from the whimsical. And I'm glad I denounced the Iraq war and went to bat for POWs and MIAs, because now the veterans' groups, at least most of the ones I've heard from, will go to bat for us." Ross went on to tell his colleagues how his growing distaste for the war had drawn him closer to the Smedley Butler Brigade and their still very timely analysis. "Which reminds me," he said. "Should we consider bringing a military man into our deliberations, for credibility on issues of defense and national security?"

"I've been wondering about that too," said Paul, who'd served as a Navy gunner during World War II.

"Yes, might be a good idea," Warren said. "Someone like Anthony Zinni would be perfect. He's a retired four-star Marine general and an outspoken critic of the war, with a service record and a chestful of medals that make his patriotism unassailable. But let's table this matter for now and take it up when we've all had a chance to think it over. Meanwhile, who's next?"

Phil pulled a letter from his jacket pocket. "This is an offer from the head of NBC. He wants to give me a national talk show, and get this -- he specifically wants me to deal with injustice, hard solutions to the nation's problems, bold doings among ordinary people, and the plight of millions of Americans who get pushed around or shut out while they do the essential, grimy, everyday work that keeps the rich and famous sitting pretty on top. He says NBC wants 'a new Dr. Phil for the new burgeoning civil society.'" Phil smiled as he neatly folded the letter into a paper airplane and sailed it toward Warren. "Too late, big suit. The train has left the station. We've got much bigger fish to fry, including him. Right, Barry?"

"You bet, Phil. I had to pull some strings to get Paul and Bill's telethon on the major networks, but pretty soon we won't need them at all. Remember what A. J. Liebling said? He said the only way to have a free press is to own one. My corporation already owns a bunch of TV, cable, and radio outlets, and my staff is working on buyouts that will give us a national network of stations with strong local and regional loyalties, like WTIC in Hartford and WCCO in Minneapolis. Not that I'm buying these particular stations, but you get the idea."

Sol cleared his throat. "Me, I still prefer a good newspaper, and that ad I took out in the big dailies really paid off. For a while there, my office looked like we were running a bingo tournament," he said, and described the parade of mega- wealthy oldsters who had descended on him in San Diego, earnest men and women who were bored, depressed, resigned to leaving this Earth in an ungodly mess, until they read his message and respected the messenger. Sol was no dot-com tycoon in his forties appealing to the cane-and-wheelchair set to give back. "I've asked my staff to collate their names according to likely areas of action, geographical location, and amount pledged."

"Did you know --"

"Did I know what, Mr. Squawk-Like-a-Parrot-at-the-Crack-of-Dawn?"

"Did you know," Ted said over the laughter that erupted around the table, "that a dozen of your guys joined Billionaires Against Bullshit? We started out with thirty, and now we've got fifty-five. There'd be more, but we screened all the applicants to get rid of the ones who were too compromised by bullshit investments or just wanted to join as an ego trip. We also turned away a few foreign billionaires because they're not US citizens, but we told them to stay tuned."

"It's extraordinary, isn't it," said Bill Gates, "this desire of the older rich to make a difference in the world? I think we're really on to something here. In my own fundraising during the past month, I drew heavily on my longstanding group of wealthy men and women opposed to the repeal of the estate tax. I selected the most likely large contributors, met with them or made a personal call, and explained our undertaking in general terms, indicating that specifics are coming. Then I declared my donation and asked them to do likewise as a pledge. I was pleasantly surprised by their impatience with the stagnation of our country and by their agreement with our judgment that purposeful upheavals and realignments are long overdue. One of them, a very successful retired investment banker, and a prominent advocate of public campaign financing, even said, 'Only if the effort is full throttle, Bill, only if it's full throttle. I'm not interested in due diligence.'"

"I got some good results from friends and associates too," Yoko said, "but I also got some chronic poor-mouthing from very rich people who keep discounting their acquired wealth every year as if they're starting from scratch."

Bill Cosby was nodding in assent. "That's just what Paul and I were talking about at dinner," he said, and recounted their conversation about dead money. "We think it's a vital concept, and we're going to commission an economist to give us some hard numbers."

"Speaking of hard numbers, let's see where we stand with our finances." Warren passed a stack of cards around the table. "Over the last month, the Secretariat has collected the names of the superrich you contacted and the amounts they agreed to contribute contingent on what you yourselves offered to put up. Those contingent pledges, I'm pleased to report, total six billion dollars. Now if you'll all indicate your own contributions on these cards and pass them back, I'll do the math."

Warren collected the cards, jotted some figures on a notepad, and looked up with a broad smile. "Nine billion dollars. That gives us a total of fifteen billion for our first operating budget. Not bad," he said, thinking to himself that if his own contribution was the largest, he was also the richest, and that these people were dead serious. He'd chosen well.

"As to the nuts and bolts," he continued, "all funds donated will be forwarded to a trust escrow account within seven days. The trust will then establish two accounts under proper IRS rules, one for charitable purposes and one for lobbying and political purposes, the former deductible and the latter definitely not. Allocations from the escrow account will be based on the priorities we set as we proceed. So shall we proceed?"

"Let's," said Leonard, self-designated street person. "As you know, twenty-five thousand strong turned out for the Wall Street rally. We had sign-up tables all over for those interested in further action, and we collected about three thousand names. Of those, we've identified a hundred or so born or seasoned organizers for future events. We've analyzed in detail all the feedback from the rally -- the impressions of our people on the ground, the overheard talk in the crowd, the water- cooler reaction of the stockbrokers in their offices, the press coverage and commentary -- and I can tell you that you haven't seen anything yet. We've planted the seeds of mass rolling demonstrations, marches, and rallies across and up and down our country."

"The People's Court Society is on the move too," Joe said. "There's a wonderful flood of litigation underway, and the law schools have really gotten on board. I'd originally thought of this as a nice extracurricular activity for the students, but deans and professors have embraced it as a welcome addition to their for-credit clinical programs. As just a taste of what's in store, two hundred small claims suits have already been filed against major corporations. The law students were already trying to advise their poor clients in other clinical programs, so it was a quick shift from begging to litigation. The legal press has yet to take much notice of the coming shockwaves, but it won't be long."

"Hey, people are corporations too!" Bill Gates said to another wave of laughter. "They've been flooding my office to incorporate themselves under Delaware's generous laws, and in the process, they've learned firsthand about the double standard between corporate status and citizen status. Corporations have all kinds of privileges and immunities. For starters, as nonvoters, they can deduct their expenses when they sue and when they lobby. Citizens who are voters cannot. More on this later. For the time being, thousands of people are having fun naming their corporate selves, and the local press is having a field day covering this 'corporate explosion' in their midst. As for the other project, the one to run five corporations for public office, it's still in the planning stage, with the advisory committee preparing for their third intensive meeting. We've had inquiries about potential candidacies from a number of small corporations, but we haven't yet filtered them to see if they're just practical jokers. Initial commentary on my news conference was rich with satire and ridicule on the issue of 'personhood,' but the media braying has since abated."

"If I can jump in here," Bernard said, "there's been considerable interest from parents and teachers in my Egalitarian Clubs, but what's really engaged people is the whole issue of the public schools as instruments of corporate propaganda and commercialism. That's touched a much more sensitive nerve than corporate abuses involving consumer harms or environmental damage. We've got big companies refusing to pay their fair share of property taxes, demanding and getting abatements, and starving the local school budget; big companies advertising in the schools themselves during the twelve-minute Channel One period, pushing sugar, fat, soda, and junk food; big companies pouring garbage entertainment and violence into the minds of kids after school. There's lots of repressed rage coming from beleaguered parents who realize more and more that big companies are raising their children while they, the fathers and mothers, are at work, putting in longer and longer hours."

"But there are still plenty of kids who haven't been brainwashed," Yoko said. "Some of my favorite letters asking for CFLs were from kids who said that they knew how hard their parents worked and wanted to help them save money, or that they wanted to save energy so there'd be more for kids in other parts of the world, or that they thought the Eye was 'way cool' and loved what it stands for."

"So all in all, Yoko, how many Americans will it take to screw in your lightbulbs?" asked Ted with a Turnerian twinkle.

Yoko smiled. "All in all, Ted, my office has subcontracted for the shipment of more than three million energy-efficient bulbs, and we've got the names and addresses of everyone who requested them. That's a good list to have in terms of our other initiatives, especially those concerning energy and sustainability."

"I hope you've all seen the letter Yoko sent out," Warren said. "Even apart from the brilliance of the Eye design, it's a masterpiece. And so is your letter, Jeno."

"Thanks, Warren. For those who haven't had a chance to read it, I'll try to summarize. I wrote to the tens of thousands of businesses that signed up for the People's Chamber of Commerce, and began by cataloguing one grievance or dissatisfaction after another that many businesses have with their Washington-based trade associations. These associations have a bureaucratic drive of their own. They inflate all the terrible things the government will inflict on the industry if the money doesn't keep flowing into their coffers. They concoct outrageous demands for privileges, subsidies, and tax loopholes from Congress to justify larger budgets. They manufacture hinterland fear and frenzy, as they did with the right to sue in court, despite having no factual basis for their hype. And these trade lobbies never support national interest agendas. Shouldn't they be using their muscle to get the energy industry and the auto companies to refine their products for greater efficiency? Isn't that in their own economic interest? My letter cited example after example of how narrow, craven, and self-seeking these trade associations are, when the interests of the people of the United States should come first and foremost. But in the long run, our history demonstrates that displaying foresight and espousing principles of fairness, justice, and democracy, as the PCC intends to do, lifts all boats."

Peter raised his mug of coffee. "Hear, hear! I read your letter, Jeno, and it's a knockout. With your permission, I'd like to send a copy out to some business associates."

"Same here," came a chorus of voices, Ross describing the letter as "a clarion call," Max as "a prospectus for the future," Sol as "a challenge to the conscience of the merchant class, perfectly tuned to the audience."

"You're a hard act to follow, Jeno," Max said, "especially since I haven't had the time to expand on my experiments with civic arousal, other than to review all the popular and scholarly commentary. The anthropologist and the psychologist aren't getting along because they differ radically on the explanation for the behavior of the two audiences in Los Angeles. I told them to stop arguing and finish their reports ASAP, and then I'll decide on my next move."

Warren turned to Peter. "And what about those verbal thunderbolts you hurled at the insurance industry's tepidness or deliberate inaction on protecting lives, property, and health through loss prevention?"

"Well, after their PR flacks got done denouncing me from pillar to post, a low roar was heard, and now it's beginning to sound like an approaching typhoon of outrage from policyholders, firefighters, employees in the workplace, people all throughout the insured economy. I think I gave them a way to articulate their concerns, and I think they trusted what I said because I criticized my own golden goose. And miracle of miracles, the Senate Commerce Committee has perked up from its well-compensated slumber and announced five days of public hearings, to begin in a month. Maybe it's because the chairman is facing a rare closely contested election this year, but in any case, they've asked me to be the lead witness, and they've assured me that the committee is prepared to use its subpoena powers in abundance. That could lead to a real shake-up, especially if our group takes advantage of the coming thunder and lightning."

"Bravo, Peter." Warren consulted his notepad. "I think we've heard from everyone now, except for you, George. You got global coverage for your debate with Sedgwick, and I'm still seeing clips of it on the news. Had any takers for another debate?"

"Not a one," George said with an expressive arch of his eyebrows. "No news here, except that I'm told Sedgwick bought a spread in New Mexico and is raising ostriches."

"Good, he can put his head in the sand with them," Warren said, "and on that note we'll adjourn for lunch. There's a cornucopia of fruit, banana bread, and coconut pudding awaiting you in the dining room."

''I'll have the pastrami on rye," Sol said.

After lunch, as everyone was settling in for the afternoon meeting, a tall, dapper man in a suit and bow tie strode into the conference room.

"My friends," Warren said, "allow me to introduce Patrick Drummond, director of our Secretariat, a managerial wizard and one of my closest associates for the last twenty-five years. It's Patrick who deserves the credit for the smooth workings of our closed-circuit conferences, and it's Patrick who's been receiving all your communications for the last month. I've asked him to join us this afternoon to take notes on our discussion and collate the results."

After a cordial exchange of greetings, the group got down to hard tacks to set an agenda for action during the coming month. Hour after hour, the roundtablers worked at a furious pace, refining goals, setting priorities, allocating the human and material assets assembled during the past month's work, and deciding who would take primary responsibility in which areas. They interacted like smoothly meshing gears, expressing strong views without acrimony. They had checked their egos at Warren Buffet's door. Already predisposed to action, knowing what they wanted, drawing on their boundless entrepreneurial energy, realizing that collectively they had an unprecedented capacity to effect change, they were determined to get moving, to get the job done -- at least their part of it -- within a year. They knew that if it took longer, the opposition would have more time to mobilize and their chances of success would diminish.

A powerful new human force was being unleashed in that conference room, contrary to all cultural and psychological expectations about the rich, famous, and successful, contrary to the conventional view of human nature as greedy and self-serving. On top of that wondrously endowed mountain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Warren's warriors felt giddy with hard-headed hope. They worked on into the evening, until Warren stood to adjourn the meeting. "I thank you all for your labors, my friends," he said. "And now, supper, silence, and sleep."

***

In the morning the group rose without help from Ted and gathered around the familiar round table for a working breakfast. Warren opened the meeting by passing out agenda sheets that he and Patrick had prepared overnight.

"What you see here," he said, holding up his own sheet, "is a list of the major Redirections distilled from all our previous discussions and exchanges. I continue to use the word 'Redirections' because it connotes flexibility and a sense of learning as we go. It also connotes, however unexciting, the absence of dogma, rigidity, and isms. The excitement will come in other ways, you can be sure. Your names appear next to the Redirections for which you volunteered to assume either primary or secondary responsibility during yesterday's meeting.

"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 in the lot of millions of Americans. As we move on to implementation, let's all remember the importance of replication dynamics and leveraged velocity, as discussed during Maui One."

While Warren was speaking, his colleagues had been studying their agenda sheets with evident approval.

REDIRECTIONS ACTION AGENDA

1. First-Stage Improvements (economic inequality, health, energy, food, housing -- a just society and fair economy): Max, with Jeno, Sol, and Bill C.

2. Congress: Bernard, with Leonard and Peter.

3. Electoral Reform (voters, candidates, parties, shaking up incumbents): Warren, with Bernard and Max.

4. Posterity (children, school budgets, youth clubs): Bernard and Yoko, with Ross, Paul, Bill C., and Warren.

5. Promotions (media buyouts, people's networks, staged events, theater, spectacle): Barry, Ted, and Phil, with Paul, Yoko, Bill C., and Bill G.

6. Credibility Groups (veterans, civic organizations, women's clubs, etc.): Ross, with Paul, Bill C., and Peter.

7. Sustainable Sub-economy (breakthrough companies, progressive business organizations): Sol and Jeno.

8. Access to Justice: Joe and Bill G.

9. Mass Demonstrations (rallies, marches, teach-ins, etc.): Leonard and Barry.

10. Citizens' Utility Boards (massive expansion of dues-paying civic advocacy groups): George, with Jeno and Max.


"I think each Redirection is largely self-explanatory," Warren went on, "but perhaps I should say a few words about two of them. Unlike existing Citizens' Utility Boards, our CUBs won't restrict themselves to the big power companies, but will address a broad range of consumer and public concerns. We're using 'CUB' generically, since these groups will certainly be of utility to our citizens. The Promotions Redirection represents what Patrick and I heard from all you media and performance types who kept harping on the need to dramatize our efforts in ways that will appeal to mass audiences.

"Now let me suggest a few organizational principles. First, each Redirection project will have one manager and one clerk -- that is all. Their function will be to keep things moving, locate glitches, and report any crucial logjams or opposition to the Secretariat for higher-level action. 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. Otherwise we'll end up building a top-heavy apparatus, and we all know where that leads. As for support services, our Secretariat will work out budgets with your single manager and single clerk, and will arrange for task-specific teams to gather data and prepare reports as needed. The Secretariat remains the back-and-forth communications hub.

"Obviously there will be much experimentation in the coming month. Let's hope that exuberance doesn't breed too many blunders. The Redirections are designed for minimal error, with no catechism, no doctrine, just an open source philosophy with intermediate and goal-targeted compasses. Remember too, over the next month, to make waves, not tsunamis. Be very attentive to feedback and subsequent refinements. You won't have much time for this, but you ignore it at your peril. Reflexivity, right, George?

"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.

"Some of these Redirections are bucking broncos, others are slam dunks, and still others are just plain fun. They should all eventually become sheer joy. Some of them are tools for building power, while others are forms of direct pressure for substantive change like a living wage.

"Speaking of joy, I've talked to each of you privately about bringing on board Bill Joy, formerly of Sun Microsystems, which he cofounded. He's the most imaginative technical futurist thinking and writing today, and yet he's completely grounded in reality. He is not an elder like most of us, but he's wealthy enough, and without objection I'll call him to make the invitation. He is the great antidote to these techno-twits who are imperiling us with their contempt for the ethical and legal framework necessary to contain future Frankensteins. We have many skills around this table, but science and technology -- with apologies to computer wiz Max, who now calls himself a Luddite -- are not among them. That is what Joy brings to us, along with impressive foresight and an alert energy.

"One last reminder. I'm sure you all saw David Roader's column in the Post speculating about a possible connection between the recent activities of certain billionaire oldsters. Well, if that's all the astute, well-connected Mr. Roader knows, then I think our secret is safe for now, but be careful. It's fine if people make connections between us as individuals -- in fact, we want them to -- but please safeguard our acting as an entity for the time being. Public disclosure of this group would galvanize our opposition. The time will come when the opposition builds to such a point that we'll step forward in our strength and unity and enter the fray for the showdown. By then we will not be alone."

Whereupon they all drank a toast to their mighty endeavor, took leave of each other, and boarded two business jets supplied by Warren and Ted for the journey back to the mainland. The next day, a short paragraph in the Hollywood Reporter noted a sighting of Paul Newman and Bill Cosby at the Maui airport.

***

Monday morning in New York City, George Soros summoned his three-person action team, which he'd put on high alert well before he landed at JFK. He wanted a meeting within twenty-four hours with the prime advocates of the CUB model, Robert Fellmeth, a dynamic, prolific law professor from San Diego who'd written a report on the subject a few years back, and John Richard, a longtime CUB proponent who knew intimately the kinds of arguments used against them. By noon, George's team had made the invitations and put together a memo on the two main existing CUBs, in Illinois and San Diego, as well as all the CUBs that had been proposed but rejected. They'd also compiled a list of CUB sectors to be rapidly developed: banking, investment, and brokerage; auto, health, home, and life insurance; postal services and utilities; Social Security and income taxation; consumer, tenant, and voter rights; and anticonsumer (as in credit and software) standard form contracts. Attached was a description of the CUB structure: membership, dues, elected boards of directors, staffs of organizers, publicists, attorneys, economists, and other technically skilled people. Those solicited for voluntary participation would be reached through selected mailing lists and demographically targeted mass media, in keeping with the principle of closing the loop on the ground.

George devoured this information and waited impatiently for the four o'clock deadline for his team's report on available mailing lists and the best estimates on costs and rates of return. That's what successful, self-made people of wealth are like -- big on detail while keeping the big picture in mind. They are chronically averse to procrastination -- one definition of an entrepreneur is someone who never does anything today that could have been done yesterday -- and that trait alone gives them a major advantage over their competent but slower-paced peers.

George's team also prepared a report on how the existing CUBs had adjusted to the Supreme Court's split 1986 decision prohibiting laws or regulations that required companies to place invitational inserts in their billing envelopes. At the time, Justice Rehnquist delivered a blistering dissent in defense of the California regulation requiring such inserts, and rejected the narrow majority's ruling that the regulation violated the electric utility monopoly's First Amendment rights, specifically its right to remain silent! The tortured logic here is that if the inserts were allowed, the utility would have to rebut their consumer-oriented content. After the decision, the San Diego CUB had to go to less rewarding cold mailings, but the Illinois CUB secured passage of a law requiring state government mailings above a certain number to enclose such inserts.

On Tuesday morning, Robert and John arrived at George's office promptly at nine. George told them what he needed, fast. First, a draft invitational letter containing the basic message; he'd have his writing experts add the flash. Second, all possible leads for recruiting the best possible directors and staff for each CUB, these positions to pay good upper-middle- class salaries with benefits. Third, a plan to get the CUBs underway immediately, for an interim period of eight months, to allow the structure to get on track before the members took over to elect a board and assume other governance duties as befitted a grassroots association. Fourth, liaison with the tiny existing citizen organizations that had been working for years against various companies' abuses. All these tasks would be budgeted immediately, George said. Both men agreed to take them on.

John foresaw logistical needs that required immediate attention -- offices, legal and promotional services, a whole infrastructure for establishing enduring institutions. George, already on this, said that a three-hundred-room Washington hotel was available to house the national CUB offices. The hotel wasn't doing well, and he knew the CEO of the chain, who would sell for a reasonable price. The rooms would become offices, each with a bath. There were several conference rooms, as well as cooking and exercise facilities for the staff. Perfect. Modest renovation could be accomplished within a month.

On his flight across the country, Robert's encyclopedic mind had outlined a substantive agenda for each of the CUBs, with starting times for the items staggered and backup strategies attached. George was impressed. It wasn't even noon. He ordered lunch and champagne. The material assembled by his team of three the day before now had to be digested in detail.

Working outward, the group discussed the five-year budget line, the websites, the preliminary announcements, the estimated paid memberships over five years, the initial actions -- petitions, lawsuits, agency interventions, public hearings, reports, articles, conferences, rallies, and other kickoff activities -- and the short- and longer-range objectives, hammering out the details with precision. Robert proposed a two-year average membership objective of 1.5 million for each of the fifteen different CUBs -- some would be larger, some smaller -- with average dues coming in at $50 a year. John proposed a central service organization to handle media, accounting, Internet facilities. legal advice. etc., and to be lodged in the hotel so that the CUBs could concentrate on their substantive missions, especially intensifying member activism back home. George said to himself, "These fellows are the kind of talent and experience lying in wait that we can expect to find everywhere -- mature, experienced, short on funds, but hanging in there year after year."

The last question to be resolved was when liftoff should be and whether all the CUBs should launch at once. Everyone agreed that each CUB should have its day, with the announcements spaced two days apart to allow time for media coverage and for the opposition to get their licks in and help make even more news. The millions of letters mailed out for each CUB would be timed so that the bulk of them arrived in the middle of the national news focus and the launch of the website. George expressed hope for a 5 percent return, an unusually good number. As for liftoff, it would be in thirty days sharp, meaning right after Maui Three, though of course George didn't mention that.

Over at the Congress Project, the agenda was nowhere near as self-executing. In their initial huddle, Bernard, Leonard, and Peter tried to reduce this enormously indentured institution to human scale. The 535 men and women of Congress all had offices in DC and in their home districts or states. They had dozens of staffers enabling, scheduling, and shielding them with varying degrees of sycophancy and sincerity. Bernard and his colleagues had many years of contact with members of Congress and their top staff. Not much of it was useful for the task at hand, except to underline the importance of the multibillion-dollar buyout to replace the money of the lobbyists.

But before getting to that blockbuster foray into the real political wars, the three men attended to the infrastructure necessary to change such a mired behemoth. Money is the lubricant of incumbency, in that it helps sitting members to ward off challengers in both primary and general elections, but votes, not money, get politicians to Washington, DC, so it starts with the people back home. What do they need to know in order to elevate their expectations of congressional performance and take matters into their own hands to make it happen? Make what happen? The three agreed on this one: replace all who do not meet a minimum standard of heeding the interests of the people. Bernard estimated that fewer than 15 percent of those in Congress would survive such a cut. But what standard? That started them down a line of thought about standards of performance: standards of empowering the people back home; standards of informing the people back home through studies, website information, oversight hearings on the executive branch, and scores for voting records; standards for judicial confirmation; standards of accessibility. If, for example, more than a third of a legislator's time was spent raising campaign money during an election year, that would fall beneath the standard of accessibility. Admittedly, such standards could not be mathematically quantified, but at least they would shine a nonpartisan and institutionally focused light on Capitol Hill. The men knew that these standards, once written, would be fodder for the numerous citizen groups in Washington that were information sinks. The Congress Project would need special budgetary support for a crash effort. They called the Secretariat. Done.
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