Book Review: Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush



A Fair Trade Book

Title: Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush

Author: Jim Hightower

Date: 2004

Publisher: Viking

ISBN: 0-670-03354-5

Length: 227 pages, plus index

Quote: “The Bushites are—let me put this as politely as I can—NUTS!…and it’s time we stopped beating around the bush about it.”

What’s an anti-Republican campaign book like this doing on this web site? Although the Blogspot members and I believe that, currently, Republican presidential and congressional candidates are the less dangerous kind, we are all about fair hearings for all sides. Facts tend to be arranged in slanted ways by biased writers, so it’s good to read both Republicans’ and Democrats’ books.

In this book, Jim Hightower demonstrates his skill at a specific genre of comedy: Pick a successful politician, find some statistics about what he’s done, and exaggerate the bad effects for which the politician can in some way be blamed. Extrapolate from every statistic the most outrageous ramifications: “If Bush is elected, you’ll soon be able to surf in Asheville.” “American will reach that long-sought utopian ideal of a nation based on 100% pure consumerism.” “You’ll soon be able to eat [B]russels sprouts that not only taste like bonbons but also will have your heartburn medicine and erectile dysfunction pills genetically spliced into every bite.”

It was funny but perhaps frightening when it was new. Now that W Bush’s second term has come and gone, and we still have the same coastline, a few of us are still working, and Brussels sprouts still taste like leafy green vegetables, it’s comedy all the way. Any time people try to project today’s facts into the future, they’re likely to come up with things as absurd as Hightower’s fantasy about Brussels sprouts tasting like bonbons. That’s the nature of the game. So people trying to draw attention to today’s facts can be excused for going all the way into comédie noire. What’s inexcusable is ignoring the facts.

The sad part is, the facts in Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush are still true. “Having blasted off the top third or so of a mountain—along with its forests and animals—the coal companies then bulldoze the rubble (which used to be the mountaintop) into the valleys and streams below, burying them hundreds of feet deep with what the companies call ‘spoil.’” This has happened. It’s still happening. And we’re not seeing any efforts on the part of W Bush’s alleged opposition to reverse this process.

Where I live, Republicans have started displaying messages like “If you think coal is ugly, look at poverty.” I am looking at poverty, and I can say that I would literally starve before I’d strip-mine my land…but then I don’t have children. By and large coal miners do not want to poison us all; the ones I’ve met are human beings who want to earn a decent living in their own communities. To Republicans I say: there must be some alternative that is preferable to either strip-mining or poverty.

Possibly as a reward for buying a real book instead of trying to read Hightower on a computer, we’re told, “Bill Gates, Michael Dell, and the other pooh-bahs of high-techery…brag that theirs is a ‘clean industry.’…They might try selling that…[claim] to the people around Guiya, China. This is one of the low-wage hellholes that America’s high-tech executives use as a dumping ground for their electronics waste, which includes some 45 million computers that are discarded annually…Computers are loaded with toxins…Poor Asians are paid a pittance to scavenge various metals and other resalable compounds out of these machines. Indeed, about 100,000 people, including thousands of children, in Guiya toil in the midst of piles of electronic trash, using acid to extract traces of gold, dumping cathode-ray tubs filled with lead, opening toner cartridges by hand…Guiya’s groundwater is now so polluted that the people have to truck in water for human use.”

Think about this the next time you call the repair shop and they say, “It would be cheaper to buy a new computer.” For you, maybe…but think about the human beings stuck with the horrible job of “recycling” your old computer. Maybe secondhand parts will serve your needs until you can move back to a clean, Green, non-electric and fully recyclable metal typewriter, or until the industry invents a less toxic way to build computers, after all.

And let’s hope none of the male readers of this book is still buying herbicides to give his lawn that Astroturf look that went out of style approximately five minutes after Astroturf was invented. “Atrazine is the most commonly used weed killer…Atrazine residue runs off into our waterways, and it’s now found in our drinking water, groundwater, streams, snow runoff, etc.—even rain…Atrazine causes male frog cells to produce an enzyme that converts their testosterone to estrogen, perverting their sexuality and destroying their reproductivity…The Environmental Protection Agency allows three parts per billion of atrazine in our drinking water. Yet the frog mutation is taking place in water with only one tenth of one part per billion.” And some people are still looking for a genetic cause for homosexuality?

Hightower is a full-time professional Democrat who would probably like to be called his party’s answer to Rush Limbaugh. He wrote this book as a campaign document, a bit of Bush-bashing. The facts are, however, bipartisan. The real enemy is selfish greed, which affects Democrats and Republicans in similar ways. “Just when you start to cheer for these Democrats, their leader gets caught…In 2001, on the night of December 20…Democratic Senate leader Tom Daschle [was] slipping a little ol’ provision into the ‘miscellaneous’ section of the Pentagon’s appropriation bill. Tom’s amendment had been written…on behalf of Barrick Gold…one of the biggest mining corporations in the world…Barrick owns a massive gold mine in Tom’s state of South Dakota…[T]his mine is in line to become another Superfund site, potentially costing the company $40 million to clean up…Daschle’s little ol’ amendment…exempts Barrick Gold from ‘any and all liability relating to the mine’! It exonerates this corporation for all ‘damages to natural resources or the environment.’”

Facts, Gentle Readers. You could read’em and weep. Or, with Hightower’s help, you can read them with a smile…if only the kind of peculiar twisted grin George H.W. Bush wore while declaring the Gulf War. Why agonize when you can strategize? Satire can be a good source of ideas. Fact-packed satires are the best. Check the facts! Use them! Don’t let them be forgotten, merely because the election’s over and the predictions went the way of last week’s weather forecast. Hightower hands us names, and since you’re reading this review on a computer you can type in the names and use the Internet to update the numbers. Thirteen years after the 2004 election, this book is surprisingly relevant.

Hightower is alive and writing at https://www.jimhightower.com/ . So, this and his other vintage books are Fair Trade Books. For $5 per book + $5 per package, payable to either address in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, you get a clean secondhand copy and Hightower or a charity of his choice gets $1. If the Postal Service is still using the same packages they used the last time I shipped books, you could throw in at least There’s Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos and possibly If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates for a total of $20 (all three, paperback), and Hightower or his charity would get $3. He’s written another book; as usual, we recommend buying new books from bookstores, book parties, or authors’ web sites, whenever possible, to encourage writers.

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