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August 01, 2004
Bushwhacked (Ivins and Dubose)

Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America (By Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose)

Usually, I say, "Read this book. It's all there."

Well, it's not "all" here. Some of it is in their first book, "Shrub" (discussed here.) Everything Bush's gubernatorial administration did in Texas, he's repeating on a national scale with war thrown in for variety. ("If y'all had read the first book, we wouldn't have had to write this one.")

An inherited state surplus that he turned into a four-times-larger and (in 2003) still-growing deficit. (When asked about the growing fiscal crisis he had created in Texas, governor Bush said, "I hope I'm not around to deal with it." Partly that says he hoped to be President, but more tellingly, it said he had no idea how to deal with it and didn't actually have an answer for the question.)

Energy bills written by energy lobbyists. (Hello, Enron.) Elimination of workplace protection regulations. "Tort reform" that makes it all-but impossible for people to sue corporations. (Notably, he appointed a lawyer to the Texas Supreme Court who actually ruled that consulting a lawyer to discuss workplace hazards was grounds for dismissal. Whistleblower protection? Don't make me laugh.)

'The free market can solve all problems, government is generally bad, we should privatize everything we possibly can, there is no such thing as global warming, the environment is unimportant, and worker safety will be protected by benign corporate employers.'

For the record, I may find it difficult to articulate what I believe, but I have no problem at all identifying what I don't believe. The above sentence, paraphrased from the book's introduction, is a prime example of things I don't believe, and it's how the authors characterize a large part of the Bush Administration's agenda. It looks very true when you ignore what Bush & Co say and look at what they do.

Okay, that pretty much deals with the book's introduction, so what is the book, itself, about?

Well, it's about exposing a blundering attempt to apply one-dimensional solutions to four-dimensional problems.

It's about an Administration scurrying around with old-fashioned doctor's bags full of cupping bowls and dirty lancets, trying to "bleed" the country into health. (Then, when parts of the patient start showing signs of gangrene from the treatment, they apply the amputation theory of medicine. Cut it off, quick, before it infects something we do want to save.)

It's about a group of people whose concern for this country begins and ends with the wealthiest class and the corporations that sustain their wealth.

Read the book. It's amusing, educational, and well-researched. Then pass your copy to an "undecided" voter well before 11/2/04.

(I'm proud of this review. Someone recently chided me that a "review" should be about my impressions about what I read and not an extended discussion of the book's actual content, so that's what I've tried to offer here. The good news is that doing it this way saved me an easy five hours of transcribing and editing on a warm, sunny, summer day. The bad news, of course, is that I have fifteen* pages of handwritten opinions that I now can't use.)

(*All statistics are approximate, some are imaginary, and all are included at no extra charge.)

Posted by AnneZook at 11:22 AM


Comments

Actually, when I'm making my students write reviews, I tell them that the purpose of a review is to let the reader know whether they should read the work themselves. In other words, there should be some summary, some discussion of the argument and evidence, and some discussion of the success or failure of the book on its own terms and in terms of the audiences likely to consider reading the book.

http://www.uhh.hawaii.edu/~dresner/japanwomen/reviews.html

I particularly like your line about "apply[ing] one-dimensional solutions to four-dimensional problems."

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at August 2, 2004 12:00 AM

My problem is that when I start talking, I have an astonishing amount of trouble stopping again. :)

Thanks for the link, I'll read it today.

Posted by: Anne at August 2, 2004 09:03 AM

I insist that direct summary be a small component of the article (I say 1/3) and that other points can be raised in discussing the components of the argument and evidence. Ideally, I say, you don't have to summarize separately at all, but build the whole thing into analysis.

But that's my style.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at August 2, 2004 10:45 AM

I shouldn't refer to them as "reviews" at all. Technically I'm not actually trying to compose a serious "review" of a book I read when I elect to talk about it.

My "reviews" are more just babbling on about what the book made me think about.

Maybe I'll find a better word than "review" to use.

Posted by: Anne at August 2, 2004 02:46 PM

There are many styles of review: yours are much more substantive and interesting than the nattering that passes for 'reader reviews' on Amazon, etc., so you have as much right to the term as I or my students do. (actually, your reviews are invariably better than my students at the central question 'is this worth reading and why?', but that's a discussion for another time)

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at August 2, 2004 04:57 PM

Jonathan -

#1 - I'm reading books I want to read, not books that are "assigned" reading.

#2 - I'm not studying six other subjects at the same time.

#3 - With all due respect to my readers, I'm not worried about impressing anyone, conforming to someone else's prejudices, or counting words to reach a specific length.

I'm happy to be educated :) by my readership but since I'm not paying you for grading, I have no sense that "my future" rests on your opinion of my opinion, of you see what I mean.

Posted by: Anne at August 3, 2004 08:04 AM