April 22nd, 2004

Books!

Another good book!

Parliament of WhoresWell, finished this other P.J. O'Rourke book ... in which he takes a long hard look at American government. As you would expect, it's another fun read ... from his section headings (such as "The Three Branches of Government: Money, Television, And Bullshit" and "Our Government: What The Fuck Do They Do All Day And Why Does It Cost So Goddamn Much Money?") to his hilarious classification of the "Perennially Indignant" (you know, those types that form the reliable mass of any demonstration). Even though the book was written in the early days of the first Bush administration (the initial sections of the book are about the election process, with on-the-scenes reports from the '88 election cycle which sound almost historical at this point), but the points O'Rourke makes are still current. Most of what the government does could be done far more effectively (you should see him "solve" the budget!), and most of the folks who want the government to "DO SOMETHING" rarely want the government to FIX their pet issues, just throw money at it (and them). In case after case, he shows how the beuracracy and special interest groups suck up the tax dollars while rarely, if ever, solving any of the problems (most of which would be easily solved by directly approaches like school vouchers).

Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government looks at how we elect our government, how the various parts of government function (or not), how various policy areas are formulated and shaped, and how various entrenched interest groups operate. O'Rourke walks the corridors of assorted government agencies and interviews the folks responsible for spending our money. He looks at the wide range of what our government does, from the gross inefficiencies of our near-Stalinist farm policies to the efficiency and surprising economy of our military establishment. And, hey, as I mentioned before, it's a cheap read if you get it used from Amazon!

Staying somewhat "within genre", the next book moving into my politics/society reading slot is Hunter S. Thompson's Songs of the Doomed. I have been a "fan at a distance" of HST for years, more for his image than having read much of his stuff. I have some trepidation of coming in on "vol 3" of the Gonzo Papers, but I'm guessing that Thompson's writing is not based on a whole heck of a lot of linearity which would require me to have handy recall of the first two books in this grouping! Once again, like Parliament of Whores, this may suffer a bit in topicality from "shelf burn", but I'm trusting that HST will have enough biting wit in his observations that they will still find bone fourteen years after their writing.


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