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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Populist Activist Takes a Look at Life in America and Urges a Course of Action
Jim Hightower has been nudging, no walloping, the consciences of Americans for more than thirty years now. I first heard of him in the mid-1970s when he was working for the presidential campaign of Oklahoma populist senator Fred Harris. He then got involved in Texas politics and was elected the state's commissioner of agriculture in the 1980s where he pushed for organic...
Published on August 22, 2007 by J Scott Morrison

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great idea...poor execution
I chose this book because of the subject matter. Who doesn't want to find out about grassroots movements and small- or mid-town folk that decided they weren't going to rely on corporate America to change their lives for the better? The book is full of inspiring stories of individuals who saw a need, created a vision and followed their hearts to make life better for...
Published on October 17, 2007 by N. Mentor


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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Populist Activist Takes a Look at Life in America and Urges a Course of Action, August 22, 2007
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Jim Hightower has been nudging, no walloping, the consciences of Americans for more than thirty years now. I first heard of him in the mid-1970s when he was working for the presidential campaign of Oklahoma populist senator Fred Harris. He then got involved in Texas politics and was elected the state's commissioner of agriculture in the 1980s where he pushed for organic farming, direct marketing by farmers, and the regulation of pesticides, as well as other progressive notions. Along the way he was always muckraking in print and talking on radio and television in a vein similar to that of his old buddy Molly Ivins and he developed a devoted following (and some powerful enemies). He hasn't been, like some, a bloviating member of the chattering classes but has always been an activist for causes in which he believes.

In 'Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go with the Flow', Hightower, with his life-partner Susan DeMarco, takes a look at and urges actions concerning corrupt big business practices, the tainted political process and even the conduct of our private lives. Much of what he says is disturbing but it is always lightened by his down-home Will Rogers-like humor. It's not often that a book can put your stomach in a knot at the same time that you are laughing until tears roll down your cheeks.

Still, there is much here that is preaching to the choir. I suspect that the people who ought to read the book won't. But among those who do, perhaps it will stimulate some to get off their duffs and get deeply involved in the affairs of their community, state and country. I happen to live in a state, Vermont, where this is the modus operandi of more than the ordinary percentage of the citizenry and I can attest that citizen involvement makes life a helluva lot better than when you 'let someone else do it.'

Scott Morrison
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignore the status quo and rediscover a better life, August 19, 2007
By 
Kyle Tolle (Phoenix, Arizona USA) - See all my reviews
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`Swim Against the Current' takes a bold look at three major and influential topics and examines their impacts on present day society. In a modern world where a nefarious element wants us to think, feel, and act in a predetermined manner, we as individuals and groups owe it to ourselves to resist this and become the catalyst for badly needed change.

Beginning with a look at business in the first section, the dubious history of greed, fraud, and lack of ethics in big corporations is not lost on anyone. In a refreshing change for the better, numerous examples are detailed here of people and organizations that have defied the odds to create successful businesses that are untouched by questionable influences. Cooperation and teamwork are basic fundamentals that reach far and wide in accomplishing so much and their benefits are explored here also.

Turning next to politics, this sometimes repugnant subject really needs no formal introduction. Immoral and unethical behavior of lobbyists and elected officials are firmly etched in our thoughts. Citizens are fed up and valuable changes are in progress. Four impressive programs described in this book are 'Clean Elections', `Democracy School', `Camp Wellstone', and `ACORN` (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). The impacts from these fine efforts have already had a positive political impact across the country. The underlying theme here is that the general public has the capacity to make these things happen. The process can be laborious at times with the gains coming slowly at first but the end results are positive and worth the efforts.

The last and probably most important focus is life itself. It begins with an unpleasant look at our deteriorating food industry but ends up on a positive note in that organic foods and farming are gaining huge popularity in America. The final issue is nature and how mankind is wreaking havoc on the environment. Global warming is a reality, it's not going away or getting better, and the public has to be the voice that facilitates change. The National Association of Evangelicals (NEA) and other groups are spotlighted here in the fight to save America's heritage and homeland.

I found 'Swim Against the Current' to be both educational and inspirational and the messages contained within are vitally important. This is a well written and thought provoking book, in my opinion, and I recommend it to everyone.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Progressive Call to Arms, August 20, 2007
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Kindle Customer "Morgan" (Eastern KY United States) - See all my reviews
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I'm giving this Swim Against the Current 5 stars for the importance of its substance, but in spite of the style in which it is presented. To be fair, I reviewed an unedited draft, so the final product might be fine. For now, the text is a bit schizophrenic. The book is supposed to be written in Jim Hightower's well-known Texan voice, but is a collaboration between him and his long-time partner Susan DeMarco, and it shows. There's a failure to blend the two voices into a consistent presentation. The result is that the text will flow nicely for many pages, then out of nowhere some bit of odd Southern humor is thrown in and it's a bit jarring. I appreciate that Hightower is known first and foremost for his humor and his Texas origins, but his writing partner DeMarco is a Northerner. Hopefully their editor can smooth things out for the final draft. This is a wonderful book with great information, and I'd like to be able to recommend it wholeheartedly.

The theme of the book is that all of us, no matter who we are, can not only make a difference, but have an obligation to do so. We're treated to the stories of several citizen action groups and projects that were started by average people with no connections and not a clue how to begin. In spite ongoing challenges, these groups have made a difference in their own lives and the lives of those they touch.

The book is divided into three sections: Business, Politics and Life. In the Business section, we see workers overcome union-busting tactics in a Wisconsin cab company and a California strip club, both taken over and run successfully by their respective employees. We get a brief but enlightening history of Peace Coffee, a fair trade cooperative that is cutting out the middle men who have been making all the money that should have gone to the farmers growing the beans. A meeting among farmers in someone's kitchen grows to become the Organic Valley Family of Farms, a cooperative that eventually became the first group to say 'no' to Walmart's cost-cutting ways.

The reader is encouraged throughout to break the mold by redefining success in America. Rather than the cycle of fear and consumption that power structure uses to keep the public compulsively acquiring things, Hightower and DeMarco encourage us to look at sustainablity and quality of life, human rights and social justice as integral parts of business. A pharmacist leaves his 100,000 dollar a year job to provide discounts to low income customers with no insurance. He makes less money, but he has breakfast with his kids every day and he's back to helping people rather than turning them away because they can't pay for their medicine. Bankers defy the odds and conventional wisdom by moving into a troubled neighborhood and investing in the people who live there. The result is a thriving community and a profitable bottom line.

Section Two takes on the seedy practice of politics. Influence peddlers like Jack Abramoff are juxtaposed with citizen action groups that used persistence and bus-loads of volunteers to change the balance of power in their state legislatures. There's a very important chapter on Clean Elections, and the success that public funding has had in allowing ordinary people to run for office in six states and two cities. By removing the corporate money from the equation, politics is no longer exclusively for the wealthy and the powerful.

Section Three, Life, encourages everyone, young and even the very old, to get involved. A grandmother walks across the country in 14 months trying to end the war; a group of elderly women try to enlist and protest at a recruiting office; an unlikely alliance is formed between scientists and Evangelical Christians to encourage action to stem global warming.

Some of the statistics in the book are staggering. Only 18 cents of every dollar we spend on groceries goes to the farmers who produced the food. The National Association of Evangelicals represents 30 million activists awakening to "Creation Care" as a part of their beliefs, much to chagrin of Karl Rove. A CEO for Exxon/Mobil was compensated to the tune of $28,000 an HOUR.

There's plenty more to ponder here and a great list of resources to get would-be activists started. This is the kind of book you want to read then pass along to your local politicians. There's a real vision for a better world here, so jump in and get started.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What if YOU Could Make Change Happen?, August 28, 2007
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Imagine for a minute if you could make change happen in the community and world around you. What would the US be like if instead of letting big business run politics, ordinary citizens actually had a say in what went on? What would business be like if the corporation actually put people ahead of profit? What would our healthcare system be like if we focused on diagnosis and cures without attaching a price tag to life?

What could... what would... what if.

Many people ask this question, and in "Swim Against the Current" the author introduces us to the people who asked those questions, and more, and instead of waiting around for an answer they went out and did something -- they swam against the current and in doing so started change in their communities, businesses and homes.

This book could be labeled a lot of things, but the label that fits it best is reform. It's a book that is meant to show you that there is a way to get your voice heard, there is a way to change the status quo, there is a way to do things the right way. Throughout the book the author introduces us to ordinary people who are doing the right thing, and fostering change in their communities. People who realized that putting people ahead of profits can lead to a better company; people who brought healthcare to places that nobody else would even think about; people who took back their local government bodies and did things for the people instead of handing over their towns and communities to the corporations.

This book is meant to inspire, and the author does a terrific job of making sure that throughout you "see" with real-life examples of how things can change. You'll follow people who started out with one person asking "why can't things be different?" and watch as it progresses into movements both large and small. At the end of the book, hopefully, it will have inspired you to take the next step -- to start taking steps to take back your community, schools, businesses and more.

You can go with the flow, or you can stand up and be counted. Use this book as your inspiration to stand-up, be counted and to say to heck with the status quo.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book!, August 22, 2007
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Jim Hightower and Susan DeMarco have written a funny, informative and enlightening book about those of us who are living their lives for the good of all and running businesses with a social conscience.

We've become such a corporate society that it's beyond refreshing to hear the stories of those who are succeeding and yes, even thriving by listening to their hearts and making a difference.

Their are a number of fascinating stories. One that really interested me personally was the story of Organic Valley. I'm a big proponent for organic food and had been reading a chart put out by the Organic Consumers Association, which showed which organic companies are actually owned by corporations. Organic Valley stood out as one that was NOT. Jim and Susan include the story of Organic Valley in this book and how it was started by a group of dairy farmers as a way to stay in business and get a decent price for their organic milk. They are doing such a great job and I was thrilled to be able to read their story

Highly recommended for a very informative and entertaining read
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great idea...poor execution, October 17, 2007
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I chose this book because of the subject matter. Who doesn't want to find out about grassroots movements and small- or mid-town folk that decided they weren't going to rely on corporate America to change their lives for the better? The book is full of inspiring stories of individuals who saw a need, created a vision and followed their hearts to make life better for themselves and their communities, with a devotion to social and environmental responsibility.

But after the reading the fifth chapter, I got bored. Each page was a different inspirational story...but no tie-in to the reader's point of view or to each 'case study' - just story, after story, after story, after story. I had thought that the aim of the authors was to say "Hey! This is what other people are doing, and if you feel the same, here are some tips on how you too can make a difference". But the practical knowledge wasn't there. What exactly did these people do to create social change? Did they take a business class, develop leadership skills, or did they network with more knowledgeable people? These success stories didn't magically happen on their own, and yet there's a certain 'effortless' feel to how the events were portrayed that belied the struggle I'm sure the characters had to deal with.

So although I admire the subject matter greatly, the book failed to keep me personally engaged enough for me to finish reading it. However, I can see such a book being useful for a social studies or activism course, where the case studies would generate group discussion and projects.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars INFORMATIVE BUT NOT A PAGE-TURNER, September 4, 2007
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For Jim Hightower enthusiasts reading this book may be very much like going to a concert by your favorite singer - you've heard it all before but it's so pleasant to listen to again. For those who are not familiar with Mr. Hightower, he's a populist, a passionate one who expresses his ideas succinctly and with humor.

Few bases are left untouched in Mr. Hightower's latest book - banking, farming, health care, elections, politics, etc. In each area he highlights examples of people who have successfully challenged the "big guys," gigantic corporations, those who seem to hold all the cards. They did so by coming up with new ideas, different ways of conducting business. And, according to the author, not only were the challengers successful but they now enjoy fulfilling lives and feel they are being true to themselves.

For this reader Swim Against the Current is simply a series of vignettes, platforms, if you will, for the author to make his points.

Whether you agree with him or not he does introduce interesting and challenging ideas as to ways to change the status quo for what he considers to be the betterment of all. Perhaps most helpful for those in his camp is the listing in the back of progressive businesses, companies, co-ops, networks, complete with addresses and web sites.

"Swim Against the Current" is the kind of book you an pick up and put down, read a few pages at your leisure. It's certainly not a page-turner but it is both thought provoking and informative.

- Gail Cooke
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing and edifying read...., August 23, 2007
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I've never run across Hightower before and wasn't too sure about this book but after reading "Swim Against the Current", I've become a fan. This book is amazing and really touched me personally. This book was eye opening as long as you realize that Hightower's view is skewed (he is anti-business, despite his denials). Even still, this book contains really good sections that made me stop and think. I could not read it fast enough. I'm a fan of business yet the Populist Movement appeals to me. The author's progressive philosophy is engaging, especially the the passage about Dunn, a real estate developer who caters to the struggling, working and real middle class while providing elegant, environmental friendly and AFFORDABLE housing. I never heard of this being accomplished in New York. Why isn't this being covered by the media? Or Yunus (who deservedly won a Nobel Peace Prize), who provides banking to the poor. Or the organic milk farmer co-op? All of the stories in this book shows us how ordinary citizens can band together to fight big corporations, even with their legion of attorneys, lobbyists and wads of cash. I liked the examples of how to buck the system or enrich the quality of your life (some even provide instructions). Haven't you looking around in disguist with politics? corporate greed? and why don't we do something about it? This book encourages us to do just that and it gives me hope that one day..........
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jim Hightower should be an advisor to every President of the United States, October 10, 2007
By 
Wildness (Colorado Plateau) - See all my reviews
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Jim Hightower has always been a grassroots, put up, never shut up activist that tells it like it is, and makes people laugh all along the way. Now in *Swim against the Current*, Hightower along with longtime collaborator Susan DeMarco have traveled the country and found shining examples of people in all walks of life that live by this principle. Doctors, farmers, preachers, politicians, lawyers, and businesspeople among others are highlighted throughout this funny and sharp witted book.

Ever one of us has the potential to buck the system and create a better life for ourselves and our community; collectively, we could change the world. Read *Swim against the Current*, and stop going with the flow of a life created and controlled by corporate interests and greedy politicians.

>>>>>>><<<<<<<

A Guide to my Book Rating System:

1 star = The wood pulp would have been better utilized as toilet paper.
2 stars = Don't bother, clean your bathroom instead.
3 stars = Wasn't a waste of time, but it was time wasted.
4 stars = Good book, but not life altering.
5 stars = This book changed my world in at least some small way.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Obvious Political Message, But So Well Done--And Funny!, August 19, 2007
By 
J. M WILINSKY (teaneck, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
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Jim Hightower is a wonderful political satirist and activist, as the success of his last book shows. This is along similar lines, and the basic message is that we live in a corrupt society and the only way to combat this situation is for more of us to be activists for worthy causes. This is no big shock! All political systems experience these problems--it is the nature of the beast. But there is great benefit in reminding us all of this from time to time. This book is full of remarkable quotes from illustrious people and wonderful humor, the likes of which I have not seen before, and it is hard to surprise me! There does seem to be a certain political bias here, but it is not Hightower's intention to make a political pitch for one side over another. There is plenty of blame to go around.
If you want to get a good laugh in a way you haven't experienced before, give this a shot.
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Swim against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow
Swim against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow by Jim Hightower (Paperback - December 1, 2008)
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