42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2007
"Was you ever bit by a dead bee?" is the question Eddie (Walter Brennan) likes to ask in the Bogart-Bacall movie To Have and Have Not. The answer is "Yes Indeed!" as Molly Ivins shows in her posthumous book. But I don't really think of her as a bee, but maybe a Texas-size horsefly biting the backsides of those who would erode our freedoms, or perhaps a vigilant bulldog protecting the tree of liberty. Perhaps also "The wronging of rights and the righting of wrongs" might be appropriate here.
This is a book of episodes, stories about instances of where the Bill of Rights comes under assault. Many of the basic tales are familiar, but many are not, and putting these stories together helps give a better picture of the whole: we've been seeing a piecemeal erosion of freedoms done in the name of freedom. There has been no sudden assault on the tree of liberty by a dozen men with chainsaws, but rather more subtle attacks--slashes with hatchets done in the night. But Molly was never willing to accept any kind of assault. When you read the stories you realize that many of the instances didn't seem like such a big deal at the time--but they were to Molly. She quotes Niemoller's comment about Hitler: Hitler went after the communists, then the Jews, then the Catholics, and each time he didn't speak up because he wasn't one of them. Then when they came for him there was no one left to speak up for him. The same thing, of course, occurred under Stalin, and Molly reminds us that when we watch others having freedoms eroded and do nothing, we are in danger ourselves--that was her passionate concern, and it's one of her primary concerns in this book.
Molly is outraged by a lot of the things that are happening, but she has always been a writer of charm and humor. She writes of how war protesters in Crawford, Texas, were (are) regarded as essentially being terrorists, and how the police chief said that if someone walked down the street alone with a political button on his or her shirt that he didn't agree with, then he could arrest them for illegal protest. There is also a lengthy piece about a reporter in San Francisco who spent 199 days in jail for refusing to testify and turn over video footage. (This is not a tale I recall ever hearing of). During a disturbance, a taillight on a police cruiser was broken. Police departments get federal grants, and so the Feds got involved. The Feds insisted that the reporter testify about what he had seen and turn over all video footage. It sounds nonsensical, trivial, and a supremely idiotic waste of time for the Feds to get involved over a taillight, but the reporter still spent 6 months in jail, and Molly was outraged.
"We had to destroy it in order to save it" is a phrase we sometimes hear in wars, but even though it isn't being phrased quite that bluntly, it is being said about freedoms. Molly's book is about this: she's been our champion and stalwart defender, our watchdog. We'll miss her insights, her humor, and her outrage at wronged rights.
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2007
Molly Ivins is one of my heroes; I mourned her death. I believe she saw politics clearly, but even if I didn't, her writing was so lively her books could be read for the pleasure of it alone.
Here, she and Lou Dubose write the conclusion to their trilogy of sorts on George W. Bush, the policies of his administration, and the effect they have had upon the lives of everyday Americans.
At worst, American citizens have been imprisoned without just cause, at the least, privacy has been violated. The Supreme Court has been packed with judges who evidentially care little about the rights, or even the opinions, of those who disagree with them.
I knew most if not all of this before I read this last book on which Molly Ivins worked, but it was good of her to remind me.
If "Shrub" was incredulous and "Bushwhacked" was dismayed-and that is how I remember them-then "Bill Of Wrongs" is righteous, angry...and hopeful.
These are stories of stupid, destructive things that placed politics and expediency over and above, really, the freedoms upon which this country was founded. And that's where the righteous anger comes from.
But "Bill Of Wrongs" is also a story of men and women who stand up to bullies. And that's where the hope comes from.
This book is the equivalent of lighting candles rather than cursing the darkness.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2008
This is another volume the recorded version of which I listened to. I guess I should be glad recorded versions exist, or I may not have the time to read 'em all! (Indeed, I'm forced to disagree with another reviewer who didn't like the recorded version. I could just picture Molly reciting the text while I listened to it!)
We'll miss Ms. Ivins. She and DuBose cover in fairly great detail the Bush regime's disregard for the US Constitution, and various other laws based on the law of the land! They start with one who had the audacity to wear an anti-Bush t-shirt, for which he and his spouse were arrested, and she lost her job with FEMA. (They took it to court and won).
It covers other elements of that disregard, some rationalized by the US Patriot Act, one of the more repressive bits of "legislation" since the birth of the Republic. There are elements of religious bias that almost make one laugh. For instance, reputable attorneys who, because they're Muslim converts are relentlessly pursued by the FBI. In the case of one of them, the bureau sends an agent who doesn't speak Spanish, to Madrid to follow up on a lead which the Spanish federal police have already discounted!
You know, now that I think of it, that's the worst thing about a recorded book. I do wish I had a paper copy to refer to some of the other federal blunders. Many are actually beyond comical. The authors refer to them as "Keystone Cop" blunders, and, in one case, the behavior of an agent is referred to as like that of Mel Brooks' "Maxwell Smart."
The portion on torture is devesating. We Americans should hang our collective heads in shame at the way we've treated some people--MANY OF WHOM WERE NEVER EVEN CHARGED WITH ANYTHING! Even if they were charged, there is NO EXCUSE--I repeat NO EXCUSE--for that kind of CRIMINAL behavior. The credibility of the US is in jeopardy after revelations of what's gone on at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, some of which the authors cover. For those who say, "That's the price you pay for freedom," no, it isn't. Any more than it was for the Germans in the 1930s and 40s. (Indeed, one prisoner held--and tortured--at Gitmo was a German citizen. The citizens of Germany, a little sensitive to "cruel and unusual punishment" and holding people indefinitely with no charges, demanded that he be released).
There is some useful historic reference in the book, e.g., to John Adams' Alien and Sedition Act, to Jemmy Madison's role in opposing that sort of repression, and even to Bill Renquist when he, as a US attorney, held up the arrest of some 13,000 in DC in 1971 (a demonstration in which I too part, proudly.)
The content of the book actually threatens conspiracy theorists: Those who believe that 9/11 was a big US government plot are naive enough to think the US government would be competent to pull off such a crime, and cover it up? Naw[...] Just read/listen to this and find just how competent many of our "public servants" really are.
There is a little eulogy for Molly in the book's conclsion; for those who didn't hear, she passed away I think less than two years ago.
I recommend the book to those especially who, first, respect the US Constitution and, next, who respect it. The author's, in the conclusion, optimistically agree that that Republic will continue, but in what shape may depend on who's elected to the presidency in 2008. Yes, indeed...
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2007
Many of the events in "Bill of Wrongs" have been in the news. However, as is normal for news stories today, facts of what happened are rarely presented in enough detail for the average citizen to understand the threat or the benefit of the actions of either side in an issue. In this book, we are given details most of us never read or heard. According to the old saw, an informed citizenry has a better chance of protecting their liberties.
The stories making up this book are frightening to freedom loving peoples of this country. It's easy to sit back and believe nothing like them will ever happen to the average citizen. But that is exactly what has happened. Under the current administration, our liberties are under greater threat than at almost any time in our history. It is easy to believe we can do nothing about these abuses of power, making action seem nearly impossible. Even if individuals take no action, knowing the threats exist must be a step in the right direction of prevention and protection.
As pointed out in these cases, an element of truth, no matter how small, can give many people all the cause they need to abuse people's rights. Exposing the attacks and lies included in these events takes a lot of courage given the current political atmosphere, where anyone who disagrees with the administration's policies can be accused of lacking patriotism. Attempts are constantly made to prevent exposure to the light and silence those who want to tell the rest of the country what is going on behind the curtain of claims of protection from terrorist activities.
Seeing librarians as heroes is probably near to being a fantasy to most people. But those whose actions are documented here behaved as heroically as we can hope we could do ourselves. As Benjamin Franklin said: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2007
Molly Ivins' last book, her third about GW Bush written with Lou Dubose, has all the Ivins trademarks, such as her keen observations, her sense of outrage and disbelief, coupled with her Texas sense of humor. In "Shrub" and "Bushwhacked" the two authors did their best to warn America about Bush and his cronies. In this third outing, it's clear things are going terribly wrong in America and our very system of government is undergoing a radical change. The things Ivins and Dubose write about in this book should not be happening in America, but they are.
In several of the cases presented here, there's a common thread: the victims of harrassment by the Bushies are Muslim. It appears that the Muslims are well on their way to becoming for America what the Jews were to Germany after Hitler took power. And things aren't looking too good for others unwilling to toe the Bush party line either.
This book is powerful. I had to read it a bit at a time so I could give it some thought between sections. We should all thank Lou Dubose and the publishers for continuing with this project and bringing the book to the public.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2007
Molly Ivins has always been an inspiration to me.
She tells the truth about often difficult subjects--being a progressive Texas journalist.
But she brings this forward with a distinctive wit, certainly needed now. Domestic and foregin policy headlines might continue providing late night comedy shows with lots of source material. But they are depressing me and many other citizens, despite our never having voted for the man. We protest honestly because we don't want America to continue being the laughingstock of industrialized nations.
Certainly outshining any 'carnival fortune teller' the horrors she and Dubose forecast have settled on America. Their team was among the first--and remains the best repository--for source material about how dangerous this 'administration' really is in the immediate and long term.
'Anti-terrorism' is still being used as a catch all term to dismantle America itself. Ironically,this permits forces who hate American democracy to win. For when democracy is removed from the daily lives of myself and other Americans, we are then left with the facist theocratic police state they instead prefer all nations to live under.
The only thing which really makes me mad is that Molly is not around to promote this book's release. After all of the hard work which she put into warning Texas and the country, she should have been able to tour for this book. Life is so unfair.
Oh, for the powers of regeneration.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2008
Molly's last book is up to her previous ones, but the audio version was not. I loved to hear Molly's narration in her previous works, and I thought Liz Smith would be a perfect choice to honor Molly's last work. Unfortuneately, Liz has a voice that is annoying. To make things worse, she reads with a constant note of hesitation in her voice, no confidence at all. Molly was all about confidence, writing about the scary and the ridiculous, confident that sane people will prevail in the end. They would have done better having Lou Dubose or Jim Hightower read. If you haven't read "Bill of Wrongs", by all means read the book, but don't listen to it.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Many years ago, Molly Ivins promised a friend that she would give a speech per month, for free, in some small town in America, in defense of free speech. This book, which turned out to be her last book, was going to celebrate those common people who decided to stand up and be counted. Watching what has happened to the Bill of Rights, America's Supreme Law of the Land, due to the "War on Terror," the book's focus changed.
Jeff and Nicole Rank (she works for FEMA) were arrested on the grounds of the West Virginia state capital and thrown in jail, while local, state and capital police discussed who had jurisdiction over them. They were released, and just before their trial was to start, the city of Charleston dropped all charges. Their crime was to wear anti-Bush t-shirts to a Bush campaign rally to which they had gotten legitimate tickets.
Vice President Cheney was working a crowd in a Colorado shopping mall. Steve Howards walked up to him, told Cheney that he thought Cheney's Iraq policy was reprehensible, and walked away. For that, he was handcuffed in front of his young son, and charged with assaulting Cheney. The charges were later dropped.
The authors also look inside the Dover, Pennsylvania school board, where religious fundamentalists attempted to introduce "intelligent design" into the biology curriculum. After a long trial, and a judicial ruling strongly in favor of evolution, the fundamentalists were voted out of office in the next election. Also included is the story of the four librarians from Connecticut, who refused to comply with a National Security letter, demanding records on use of a public library computer on a certain day.
This is a gem of a book. It does a fine job showing the size of the holes that the "war on terror" has put in the Bill of Rights, and it is also a very easy read. It is very highly recommended.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2008
This book is a quick read, and lays out the case of the assault on our First Amendment Rights, and other Bill of Rights attacks.
The book is very up to date, with information updates that had to have been put in just prior to publication. The first part looks at the assault on the First Amendment, with the right to protest peacefully at threat. It then goes into larger issues of the government wrongfully trampling all over the persons Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. Often, the government is portrayed as Keystone Kops in their approach.
Some may dismiss this as being irrelevant, since 'if a person is innocent they have nothing to worry about'. This book shows just how wrong that assumption is.
Besides the assault on the Bill of Rights, the book shows when the government makes a wrong decision, they seem unable to admit it, and dig in and fight even more against the person. There are a few judges who seem to understand the Constitution, and those are our 'firewall'.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2010
Molly Ivins is always an enjoyable read, and this is no exception. Great, laugh out loud humor, but at the same time sad to think about what George W. Bush and his cohorts got away with. Sadder still that Molly is no longer with us -- we could use a few laughs these days.