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Bill of Wrongs

Cover of Bill of Wrongs

Bill of Wrongs

The Executive Branch's Assault on America's Fundamental Rights
Borrow Borrow

Throughout her long career of "afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted," the cause closest to Molly Ivins's heart was working to protect the freedoms we all value. Sadly, today we're living in a time when dissent is equated with giving aid to terrorists, when any of us can be held in prison without even knowing the charges against us, and when our constitutional rights are being interpreted by a president who calls himself "The Decider." Ivins got the idea for BILL OF WRONGS while touring America to honor her promise to speak out, gratis, at least once a month in defense of free speech. In her travels Ivins met ordinary people going to extraordinary measures to safeguard our most precious liberties, and when she first started writing this book, she intended it to be a joyous celebration of those heroes. But during the Bush years, the project's focus changed. Ivins became concerned about threats to our cherished freedoms–among them the Patriot Act and the weakening of habeas corpus–and she observed with anger how dissent in the defense of liberties was being characterized as treason by the Bush administration and its enablers.From illegal wiretaps, the unlawful imprisonment of American citizens, and the undermining of freedom of the press to the creeping influence of religious extremism on our national agenda and the erosion of the checks and balances that prevent a president from seizing unitary powers, Ivins and her longtime collaborator, Lou Dubose, co-author of SHRUB and BUSHWACKED, describe the attack on America's vital constitutional guarantees. With devastating humor and keen eyes for deceit and hypocrisy, they show how severe these incursions have become, and they ask us all to take an active role in protecting the Bill of Rights.In life and on the printed page, Molly Ivins was too cool to offer a posthumous valedictory (or even to take a victory lap for her many triumphs over inane, vainglorious, and addlepated politicos). But in BILL OF WRONGS her final and perhaps greatest book, the irrepressible Molly Ivins really does have the last word.

Throughout her long career of "afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted," the cause closest to Molly Ivins's heart was working to protect the freedoms we all value. Sadly, today we're living in a time when dissent is equated with giving aid to terrorists, when any of us can be held in prison without even knowing the charges against us, and when our constitutional rights are being interpreted by a president who calls himself "The Decider." Ivins got the idea for BILL OF WRONGS while touring America to honor her promise to speak out, gratis, at least once a month in defense of free speech. In her travels Ivins met ordinary people going to extraordinary measures to safeguard our most precious liberties, and when she first started writing this book, she intended it to be a joyous celebration of those heroes. But during the Bush years, the project's focus changed. Ivins became concerned about threats to our cherished freedoms–among them the Patriot Act and the weakening of habeas corpus–and she observed with anger how dissent in the defense of liberties was being characterized as treason by the Bush administration and its enablers.From illegal wiretaps, the unlawful imprisonment of American citizens, and the undermining of freedom of the press to the creeping influence of religious extremism on our national agenda and the erosion of the checks and balances that prevent a president from seizing unitary powers, Ivins and her longtime collaborator, Lou Dubose, co-author of SHRUB and BUSHWACKED, describe the attack on America's vital constitutional guarantees. With devastating humor and keen eyes for deceit and hypocrisy, they show how severe these incursions have become, and they ask us all to take an active role in protecting the Bill of Rights.In life and on the printed page, Molly Ivins was too cool to offer a posthumous valedictory (or even to take a victory lap for her many triumphs over inane, vainglorious, and addlepated politicos). But in BILL OF WRONGS her final and perhaps greatest book, the irrepressible Molly Ivins really does have the last word.

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    Chapter 1
    ONE

    Independence Day

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
    --First Amendment to the United States Constitution

    People should watch what they say. --White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, October 2001

    We were wearing T-shirts, exercising our free-speech rights in the public square. And we were arrested? If you cede this, there's nothing left. --University of Houston law student Jeff Rank, February 2007

    It's July 4, 2004.
    The temperature is in the mid-nineties, the humidity is high, the crowd on the West Virginia capitol grounds numbers three, or four, or six thousand, depending on the media source. George W. Bush is in a tight race with John Kerry. And a growing number of voters have already gone south on Bush's war in Iraq.

    After Representative Shelley Moore Capito introduces the president, he thanks her for serving as his state campaign chair. Then takes ten more minutes to make it through the acknowledgments and howdies in his twenty-five-minute speech. He thanks the Boy Scouts. And the Girl Scouts. He thanks Charleston's Republican mayor, Danny Jones. He thanks country and western singer Aaron Tippin. He thanks the minister of Bible Center megachurch, whose service he missed that morning because of a mechanical problem on Air Force One. He thanks no one in particular for the "coal found in West Virginia." He thanks the Almighty a few times. He even thanks the West Virginia Coal Association president, whom he describes as "my friend," for getting the coal out of the ground and into the nation's power plants. He doesn't thank the coal miners, but the president is doubled over with gratitude.

    The party dignitaries, Bush's state campaign chair, the planned stop at a big-box evangelical church, the Bush T-shirts worn by enthusiastic supporters, all suggest that the Fourth of July visit to Charleston is a campaign event.

    It's not. It's an official visit of the president of the United States, with taxpayers picking up the tab for Air Force One, the president's security detail, and the weeks of work by the White House Advance Team. But political strategist Karl Rove is in charge, the Iraq war in question, and John Kerry slightly ahead in national polls. So the president delivers his well-rehearsed keep-fear-alive campaign stem-winder, written to drive home the message he hopes will close the deal in November: The terrorists who were plotting to attack us again are hard on the run in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Our immediate task in battlefronts like Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere is to capture or kill the terrorists. That's our immediate task. We made a decision. You see. We will engage these enemies in these countries around the world so we do not have to face them at home. (Applause) After the attacks of September the eleventh, 2001, the nation resolved to fight terrorists where they dwell. (Applause) You can't talk sense to them. You can't negotiate with them. You cannot hope for the best with these people. We must be relentless and determined to do our duty. (Applause)

    But it's the Fourth of July, and just as a good country and western song requires the mention of Mama, trains, trucks, prison, and gettin' drunk, there are certain de rigueur requirements of a good Fourth of July speech. Bush touched on most of them: the Founders, George Washington ("I call him George W."), God, the Troops, abstractions like Democracy and...
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine The late Molly Ivins was an outstanding journalist who fearlessly held up a mirror to Washington politicians with her syndicated columns. She and her longtime collaborator, Lou Dubose, offer similarly strong commentary in BILL OF WRONGS, but NEW YORK DAILY NEWS columnist Liz Smith does not do the work justice in translating it to audio. Smith's voice is scratchy, throaty, and unappealing. Her delivery style is singsongy, and she reads the words on the page with little emotion or attempt to make them sound interesting. That's a shame because the stories about monstrous free speech violations are as wonderful as they are important. The reporting and writing are staggeringly good, unforgettable stories that will scare Americans. And rightly so. But the reading diminishes the grandeur of the work. M.S. (c) AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine
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