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 V.13 No.7 | February 12 - 18, 2004 

Book Review

Newsflash: Bush Sucks

Thieves in High Places: They've Stolen Our Country and It's Time to Take It Back

Jim Hightower
Viking
hardcover
$25

I'm on an airplane and I pull out Thieves in High Places. The guy squashed next to me shrinks away a bit when he spots the title. The guy behind me rhythmically sniffs his drippy nose. I read about how the Bush administration favors allowing airlines to increase the percentage of recirculated air—that is, icky, germy, pre-breathed cabin air—from 50 to 75 percent.

Similar sellouts, large and small, in their hundreds and their thousands, are the subject of Hightower's latest book. Hightower came to public notice 20 years ago when he served as Texas' agricultural commissioner. He's rampaged ever since through talk radio, newspapers, books, magazines and speaking tours.

As indicated by his earlier book title, There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos, Hightower isn't interested in "on the other hand" journalism. He's angry about the growing triumph of corporate control over American democracy and he wants to stop it.

Suppose you stood the better-known Michael Moore, Al Franken and George W. Bush in a circle. (And wouldn't that be fun!) Hightower would fit right in the middle.

Like Moore, Hightower is a populist. Like Franken, he's very funny. And Hightower speaks with the same good-ol'-boy Texas accent that helps enable Dubya Bush to slip so many diseased doggies under the barbed-wire.

Hightower doesn't refrain from whacking Bill Clinton and other Democrats upside the head until their ears ring, but he's appalled on a whole new level by the Bush administration, summarizing, "BushCheneyRumsfeld and the rest are not simply dutiful servants trying to please corporate interests, as previous administrations have been, They are the corporate interests." He recommends conventioneer nametags: "Hi! I'm Dick from Halliburton."

Hightower organizes Thieves into three sections. He begins with "America the Lost (The Bad News)," which surveys BushCo's sellout of American citizens' interests. And he kicks the "Wobblycrats" for not stopping it. The section names and itemizes sins, from a five-page, tiny-print list of the Bushies' environmental crimes to the flamboyant cheesiness that makes gazillionaires like Enron's Ken Lay and Tyco's Dennis Kozlowski as fascinating as watching a booger come to life and dance the macarena.

Moving right along to "America the Possible (The Good News)" and "America the Beautiful (The Best News of All)," Hightower describes incidents when Americans have come together and changed back into citizens instead of consumer units.

But it's always more fun to read about the bad guys, so the two sections are filled with snapshots of industries that have used their power, along with massive tax subsidies, to unravel the fabric of American public life.

Hightower aims chapters at what agribusiness has done to our food, land, water and family farms; the 80 percent of our clothing that's made in foreign and domestic sweatshops; and the booming business of invading our privacy for profit.

Wal-Mart gets a chapter all by itself, and that chapter would be enlightening reading for the folks who're fighting for and against the SuperCenter planned for the Coors and Rio Bravo intersection.

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