••can ye pass the acid test?••

ye who enter here be afraid, but do what ye must -- to defeat your fear ye must defy it.

& defeat it ye must, for only then can we begin to realize liberty & justice for all.

time bomb tick tock? nervous tic talk? war on war?

or just a blog crying in the wilderness, trying to make sense of it all, terror-fried by hate radio and FOX, the number of whose name is 666??? (coincidence?)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

just found the following post after only 6 or 7 months. if the writer and self-appointed death panelist, dan riehl, is a typical conservative, then conservatives must be monsters. and if typical conservatives think his post funny, conservatives must be sick, or, at least, not know the difference between satire and viciousness.

Update: Comments closed. I don't have time to mind the idiots and Lefty trolls who need to spew filth of no consequnce. yawn.

I'm not sure I quite understand this, given that cost is so important as a burden to taxpayers when it comes to health care. If Democrats want so badly to abort babies because of it, why are we bothering with someone who has a broken neck and back at 69? It sounds to me like she's pretty well used up and has probably been living off the taxpayers for plenty of years to begin with. Aren't we at least going to get a vote on it?

Sen. Reid's daughter Lana Reid Barringer, 48, who was driving the mini-van, and his wife, Landra G. Reid, 69, a passenger, were both injured. Landra suffered a broken back and a broken neck in the crash; Barringer suffered minor injuries, Sen. Reid's office said Thursday.

I realize her crook of a husband and his pals in Congress have excluded themselves from the mess they're going to compel everyone else to join, but we're still paying the bills, are we not? I don't see that she's worth it at this point, frankly. I can't recall her ever doing anything for me.

Come on, Harry - do your civic duty. The nation's broke and counting on you guy. Pull the plug and get back to work. And don't bill us for a full day today, either. This is no time to be sloughing off. Air freight her home, you can bury her during recess on your own time and dime. Or are you going to bill us for that, too?

Reid has stayed at his wife’s bedside throughout the day Friday and returned to the Capitol in the late afternoon.

Copyright ©2010 National Public Radio®. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

Heard on Fresh Air from WHYY

September 29, 2010 - DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross.

My guest, Robert Reich, isn't surprised at our anemic economic recovery. His new book argues that the economy isn't going to get moving again until we address a fundamental problem: the growing concentration of wealth and income among the richest Americans. Reich says the last time income was so concentrated at the top was before the Great Depression.

Robert Reich is a professor of public policy at the University of California Berkeley. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration. He's a co-founding editor of the American Prospect, a regular contributor to public radio's Marketplace and the author of 12 previous books. His latest is called "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future."

Well, Robert Reich, welcome back to FRESH AIR.

Mr. ROBERT REICH (Former Secretary of Labor; Author, "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future"): Well, thank you, Dave.

DAVIES: You opened your book with the story of a man I'd never heard of, who served in the Roosevelt administration, Mariner Eccles. Am I pronouncing that right?

Mr. REICH: It's Mariner Eccles, and...

DAVIES: Yeah, tell us who he was an how he got involved in the New Deal.

Mr. REICH: I found that he actually foreshadowed much of the New Deal. He testified before Congress in 1933, even before FDR took over, and came up with a lot of the ideas that actually shaped the New Deal.

More interestingly, Mariner Eccles became, from 1934 to 1948, the Federal Reserve chair. He ushered many of the reforms, monetary and financial reforms and economic policymaking reforms, through the New Deal, and his name now adorns the Federal Reserve building in Washington, D.C. It is the Mariner Eccles Building.

DAVIES: But his origin was not as a government bureaucrat. He was a capitalist.

Mr. REICH: Oh, he was not only a capitalist, he was one of the preeminent industrialists and financiers west of the Rocky Mountains up until 1933.

He built a financial empire, and he was sort of such a preeminent industrial and financial character that when the Depression hit, when the crash occurred in 1929, and then the following years, nothing seemed to work, Mariner Eccles had a crisis in confidence. He suddenly doubted that his assumptions about capitalism were correct. You might say that he had an Alan Greenspan moment.

And he began to think in very different terms about what the economy needed. I found him fascinating, Dave, because Mariner Eccles, when he pondered what the cause of the Great Depression was, he said that it was ultimately that the middle class no longer had the purchasing power they needed to keep the economy going because in the 1920s, so much of the income and wealth of America had gone to the very top, leaving the middle class behind. That is, the only way middle class, the middle class in America, could keep on spending in the 1920s was by going deeper and deeper and deeper into debt.

And meanwhile, the top one percent that had accumulated so much of the national income and wealth, they turned around and speculated in stock and also in commodities and in real estate. And those two bubbles, that debt bubble from the middle class and that huge speculative bubble from all of that money concentrated at the top, essentially both bubbles burst, yielding the Great Depression.

And what interested me is the parallel, or the potential parallel, between all of that and what we experienced recently. And then I looked at the research and was amazed to discover there were two years in the 20th century in which income concentrated to such an extent it actually centralized a great deal of the nation's income right at the top.

One year was 2007, when the richest Americans took home, or got, I should say, about 23 and a half of total income. The other year was 1928.

DAVIES: This is interesting. You had this man who made a fortune in industry, and when the Depression first hits, he believes, as many did, that it was a necessary correction, that once all the speculation and debt were washed out of the economy, it would revive.

But when it didn't, he concluded, as you say you have, that it was this concentration of income among the extremely wealthy that had really robbed the middle class of the spending power that it needed to purchase the goods and services.

You broaden that argument and tell us that there are three pretty clear periods of the American industrial economy, which had different trends in terms of concentrations of wealth and income, very concentrated right before the crash, and then tell us what happened after that and bring us up to date.

Mr. REICH: Well, it was almost like a very big pendulum that swings back and forth. You had, from about the 1880s up until 1928, you had the pendulum moving in one direction: huge concentration of income and wealth in the United States brought out largely because that huge mass-production system that Henry Ford pioneered. But Ford was but one member of that gigantic mass-production system, and that system generated an extraordinary amount of profit and productivity. The economy expanded, but it centralized a lot of wealth and income in the hands of a relatively few industrialists.

And so by the time 1928 came along, most middle-class Americans just didn't have enough money to keep the economy going without themselves going deep into debt, which was not sustainable.

And then you had a reversal of the pendulum. Franklin D. Roosevelt didn't know exactly what he was doing. He experimented in many directions. But in 1935, he legalized the creation of unions.

Organized labor was really not legal before 1935. He made collective bargaining a protected activity. He also founded Social Security, a minimum wage, a 40-hour workweek with time and a half for overtime. In other words, all sorts of reorganizations of the economy that had the effect of spreading whatever prosperity that was.

That, combined with World War II, which demanded that nearly everybody in America go to work, even though it generated a huge debt at the end of World War II, that huge mobilization of people, combined with a reorganization of the economy under the New Deal, created a post-war economy and 30 years of what I call the great prosperity, which...

DAVIES: And during that period, what happened to distribution of income? You said it was highly concentrated, the top one percent getting something like 20 percent of the income right before the crash. How did it differ in this period of post-war America?

Mr. REICH: The top one percent had over 23 percent of the income just before the great crash, and then the pendulum reversed, partly because of Franklin D. Roosevelt's reorganization of the economy, including labor unions and many other innovations.

The entire economy was so fundamentally restructured that by the late '70s, instead of the top one percent taking home over 23 percent of national income, the top one percent, by the late 1970s, was getting about nine percent of total national income.

You see, it was a fundamentally more equal society in terms of the shares of income. The middle class had enough of the gains from growth, from economic growth, to turn around and buy what the great American labor force was capable of producing.

DAVIES: So then in 1980, things change, right? I mean...

Mr. REICH: Yes, things begin to change. Actually, they begin to change before 1980. New technologies cargo ships, container ships, satellite communications technologies and then eventually the computer and the Internet all enabled the production process to be parceled out around the world to wherever people could do things most cheaply but also automated many routine jobs.

You know, we used to have bank tellers and telephone operators and service station attendants, and even that old assembly line was very labor intensive. You go into factories today, and you see numerically controlled machine tools and robots. And you see a relatively few technicians handling all of that.

So automation, part of that huge technological wave that begins in the late '70s and '80s, also along with globalization, does change the way income is allocated.

It certainly has an effect on jobs, but the most profound effect is on the allocation of income. If you are very well-educated and very well-connected, if you're at the right place at the right time, if you are in finance, particularly, or if you are a CEO, if you are a top executive of a big company, you are doing marvelously well. By the first decade of this century, you are really raking in a substantial percentage of national income and also national wealth. But everybody else is not doing nearly that well.

DAVIES: We're speaking with Robert Reich. His new book is called "Aftershock." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: If you're just joining us, our guest is former labor secretary and political economist Robert Reich. His new book is called "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future."

You know, your argument in this book is not just that the stagnation of middle-class incomes and concentration of income among the wealthy is unfair. It's not just that it's unfair but that it is debilitating for the economy, that we're not going to get a real recovery until we reverse this trend. Why?

Mr. REICH: That's right because, you see, the vast middle class and working class really are the ones who are going to spend most of their income, if not all of their income. And if most of the American economic gain goes to the top, if the top are taking home almost a quarter of all income that is generated in society, the vast middle class just doesn't have the purchasing power.

They can't go deeper and deeper into debt. They can't work longer hours. They've just, they've exhausted all of their coping mechanisms. And meanwhile, people at the top are taking home so much that they are almost inevitably going to speculate in stocks or in commodities or in whatever the current speculative vehicles are going to be, which causes the economy to become unstable anyway.

And that combination of a kind of unsustainable debt loads for the middle class, in fact, now the middle class can't even go back into debt, there's not nearly enough demand for all the goods and services the American economy could produce and can produce at full employment coupled with a lot of speculation.

And also, much of the income of the very wealthy goes around the world to wherever it can get the highest return. All of that means that this recovery is going to be experiencing a kind of anemic, unusually anemic recovery. It's not even a recovery for most people.

In fact, you tell people that the National Bureau of Economic Research has decided that we've had a recovery since June of '09, and what you get is derisive laughter.

DAVIES: I wanted to focus a bit on the '90s, if I can. If we have, to oversimplify, a situation in which economic trends and government policies hold back incomes for the middle class, the wealthy get lots and lots of money that they can't spend on goods and services, so you don't really have the demand that's there to buy the goods and services that the economy generates, it should have stalled out long before now.

And you say it was maintained because the middle class had these coping mechanisms, among them borrowing. How did the economy keep going?

Mr. REICH: Well, the first coping mechanism, which started in the late '70s and then grew dramatically in the '80s and '90s, was women going into paid work.

Just by contrast, before all this began, in the '60s and '70s, only about 20 percent of women with very young children were in the paid workforce. By the 1990s, over 60 percent of women with very young children were in the paid workforce.

I wish I could tell you that the reason women went into work in such extraordinary numbers was because of the wonderful professional opportunities open to women beginning in the late '70s, but actually, most women went into paid work because they had to in order to prop up declining or stagnating male wages and family incomes.

The second coping mechanism with that kind of that was exhausted, I mean, there's only a limit to how much paid work two parents can take on was for everybody to work longer hours.

And I noticed that by the mid-'90s, when I was labor secretary, the surveys showed, and my kind of informal discussions with people around the country also revealed, that people were working longer than ever before. I mean, the average American was putting in about 350 hours a year more than the typical European, more even than the enormously industrious Japanese.

But this, too, had to come to an end. I mean, you can't people can't work longer hours, even if they can find jobs. And the 1990s was a period where, at least by the late '90s, most people could find jobs if they needed them, but they couldn't work longer hours.

And finally we had the third and final coping mechanism, which was to go deeper and deeper into debt. And the great American middle class, working class, and many poor people, as long as the value of their homes, if they had homes, started going up dramatically, they could borrow against their homes.

We all experienced an enormous increase in our own purchasing power because we used our homes as kind of ATM machines. We used them to refinance, to get home equity loans, and between 2002 and 2007, Americans drew out from their homes about $2.3 trillion of money.

I mean, this kept the middle class purchasing and kept households purchasing, one might say, beyond their means. But until the housing bubble burst, that was the third and final coping mechanism.

DAVIES: You know, if one reads the polls and believes the pundits, it appears that we're headed for a midterm election in which voters are going to blame President Obama for not having gotten America back to work. As you look at that trend, what evidence do you see that policies for reform are getting any traction?

Mr. REICH: I don't think we're going to see a great deal of reform right away. I think that we are going to see two or three or four years of almost economic stagnation, high unemployment, a great deal of economic frustration or worse. But out of all of this, we will begin to understand the causes of our what I call aftershock. We'll understand the causes of our economic stagnation.

People are not going to sit back and say, oh, well, this is the way the economy is necessarily from now on. I think that people will realize that so much of what we are going to be enduring is related to the extraordinary imbalance in our distribution of income, also our failure to invest in our people in terms of education and infrastructure and all of the things that we need to really become a truly broadly prosperous nation.

There will be, inevitably, an opportunity for political leaders. I don't know whether it'll happen by the year 2012, the next presidential election, I hope so, but it is surely going to happen.

People will be asking fundamental questions: Why is this economy not turning around for most of us? Why is the middle class, the working class, the poor, why are we struggling so much? Why are we seeing the gap widen and continue to widen between people at the top and everybody else?

Answers will be demanded. And when answers are demanded by the American people, social learning takes place. They will get it.

DAVIES: Is President Obama missing an opportunity to make that case?

Mr. REICH: I think he is. I'm a great fan of President Obama. I think he has done a wonderful job. But to the extent that I think he could do a better job, it's that he has failed to connect the dots and failed to provide the public with a large and understandable narrative about what's happened, what's happened to the American economy structurally, not cyclically.

Everybody's looking at the business cycle as if its all about the business cycle. I'm talking about the structure of the economy. With so much of the income and wealth going to the top, a record amount, he's got to show that all the things he wants to do, whether it's health care or cap and trade or helping homeowners or whatever, are parts of this large challenge.

DAVIES: To what extent was the reform of Wall Street either derailed or enacted or put off until specific regulations are developed?

Mr. REICH: I think that we have not fundamentally reformed Wall Street. I think that we have reduced the risk that Wall Street is going to go on another rampage and simply create a lot of fancy instruments that ultimately are going to be a big bank's undoing, but we have not done what we needed to do.

Derivatives are still relatively unregulated. There are big, big holes in that Wall Street financial reform act, holes big enough for Wall Street traders to drive their Ferraris through.

We didn't bust up the big banks. I mean, we actually have fewer big banks than we had before the meltdown of Wall Street, which means that those even bigger banks are going to be even too big, even more likely to be too big to fail than they were before.

We have not in any way helped the mortgage market. One of the goals of bailing out Wall Street was to make sure that people could reorganize their mortgage loans and help pay them back and stay in their homes. Very little of that has been done. The bailout did not achieve that.

I think that we're going to be left with a Wall Street that continues to grow more and more powerful and richer relative to the rest of the United States economy. So I don't think that we have done what needed to be done.

DAVIES: You know, coming back to where we started, it almost sounds as if we can expect income to become even more concentrated among the wealthy.

Mr. REICH: I think that we will see, in the next few years, until something is done about it, until Americans recognize that this is one of the roots of our problem, income to be even more concentrated at the top.

I would not be surprised, even though people at the top have taken something of a hit in the stock market, people at the middle and below them have taken a much bigger hit. The value of their homes has dropped to a much greater extent than the stock market has dropped, and also, we have many more people in poverty.

DAVIES: Well, Robert Reich, I want to thank you so much for speaking with us.

Mr. REICH: Well, thank you, Dave.

DAVIES: Robert Reich is a former secretary of labor and professor of public policy at the University of California Berkeley. His new book is called "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future." You can read an excerpt at our website, freshair.npr.org. I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.

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he's absolutely right that income disparity is at the heart of our economic troubles, but i'd like it a bit better if he didn't focus so much on the highest 1%. half of US personal income goes to the top fifth of households [those over $100k per year], and about 73% goes to the top two fifths. that leaves only half for 80% of us, and 60% of us have to divide up just 27% of all income.

it's not a matter of class warfare. the less you make, the more of it you spend, so producers depend on low and middle income folk to buy what they sell. if those who do the most buying have too little disposable income, they buy less, so producers' income falls. if the trend continues it leads to layoffs and/or reduced investment, thus a downward spiral, and the economy stagnates.

check out these census bureau tables, especially IE-1, H-1 (all races), and H-2 (all races). unfortunately, the tables don't go back far enough in time for you to see that the levels of disparity of 1929 were not repeated again till this past decade.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Their pledge

[Last week] Republicans unveiled their plan for governing -- their Pledge to America.

They're pledging to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires.

They're pledging to roll back regulations on big oil and Wall Street.

They're pledging to strike down rules reining in the credit card lenders and the insurance companies.

They're pledging to increase the deficit by trillions of dollars.

Their agenda is a windfall for the folks spending millions to put them back in power -- the lobbyists, the big corporations, and the special interests.
This Republican Pledge to America is nothing new. Even John Boehner said, "We are not going to be any different than we've been."

They're offering up the very same agenda that put us on a path to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

That means they're not prepared to discuss protecting Social Security and Medicare.

They have no plan for education or teachers.

They offer up no solutions to the outsourcing of American jobs.

They lay out no plans to invest in key industries like clean energy and manufacturing.

They don't talk about rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges, and railways.

in the interest of full disclosure, i got the above from a dem e-mail, so it's not the way a gop would put it.

here's a comment from gop pollster david hill:

The length of this document is its single most distinctive characteristic, for good and bad. It’s good in that length suggests earnest thought and concern. “If they care enough to write me a 26-page pledge,” some voters may reason, “they must be thinking deeply about me and our nation.”

The length is bad in that it allows for myriad policy proposals, including some turnoffs. It’s also bad, and good, to be long, because no one will read it.


and here's the gop version.

Monday, September 27, 2010

[check it out]

With his recent criticisms of Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell on Fox News, Karl Rove kicked up a controversy. His critique of O'Donnell was granular and well-informed. Having worked with Karl for a number of years, I know that he is nothing if not detail-oriented. Rove has taken O'Donnell to task for her checkered financial past, her history of litigiousness and paranoia, her misleading statements about her educational background. These facts may not be disqualifying for office, but they indicate a flawed, inexperienced, perennial candidate on the model of Alan Keyes.

While Rove's critique was tough, the reaction in parts of the conservative blogosphere has been unhinged. Michelle Malkin wrote that it "might as well have been Olbermann on MSNBC." Mark Levin pronounced Rove at "war against the Tea Party movement and conservatives." "In terms of the conservative movement," wrote Dan Riehl, "we should not simply ignore him, but proactively work to undermine Rove in whatever ways we can, given his obvious willingness to undermine us."

This reaction is revealing -- and disturbing -- for a number of reasons.

is it too late to post this?

[stolen from sodahead]
no comment on this comment

"Joe Miller, the Tea Party-backed Republican Senate nominee in Alaska, who wants to end the "welfare state" received thousands of dollars in federal agriculture subsidies for land he owned in Kansas over a decade ago."

Your criticism is unfair. Like other Republicans, Joe Miller means he is against welfare for POOR people.
[read the original TPM article]

Sunday, September 26, 2010

...the one advantage I have is that I'm not a politician, and when I go out and talk to public groups and professional groups and do these workshops with them on these kinds of issues, we do not have - we have never had, in all of the hundreds of workshops that I've done, the kind of awful language that has characterized this debate around health reform and the challenges of what's called health care rationing or priority setting.

People can be and will be respectful to one another if you sort of set the stage appropriately, if you make - if you help make clear to them the fact that the problem we're talking about is not a Republican or Democratic problem, it's not a liberal or a conservative problem, it's a problem we all have to struggle with and that affects us all.

And furthermore, it's a problem that we can't really resolve just as individuals. We have to have health insurance, and that's a social-type institutional mechanism. And so we have to come to some kind of rational and fair agreement.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rep. BACHMANN: Link of liberty forged chain by chain, from generation to generation, it has never been easy, it has never been free. And so, now it's ours. Now it's ours.

did she actually say "chain of liberty forged link by link" (as she should have) and get it twisted up by the transcript typist, or didn't she need any help? [hear it here]

The Bush tax cuts have become the central issue of the 2010 midterm elections, yet much of the electorate has a fundamental misunderstanding about what the Bush tax cuts did and what will happen to the tax cuts after 2010. The partial or full extension of the Bush tax cuts will have a dramatic impact on the overall economy, the deficit, and the pocketbooks of nearly every American. Each political party has a very different view on what to do with the Bush tax cuts, and the midterm elections will likely decide what happens to the cuts in 2011. For these reasons, it seems prudent for the American voting population to inform themselves on the basic facts and arguments behind the Bush tax cuts. This article will attempt to provide that basic summary.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Remarkably, of the dozens of Republicans vying for the 37 Senate seats in the 2010 election, no one supports climate action, after climate advocate Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) lost his primary to Christine O’Donnell. Even former climate advocates Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) now toe the science-doubting party line.

Many of the Senate candidates are signatories of the Koch Industries’ Americans For Prosperity No Climate Tax pledge and the FreedomWorks Contract From America.

Oh, and p.s.: just to put that in context, January through June 2010 represented the hottest six months on record for the planet, and barring a total surprise, 2010 will be the hottest year on record following the hottest decade on record.

And p.p.s.: check out this list of Republican climate-change deniers battling for Senate seats, all of whom are ready to take the pose of cartoon ostriches and many of whom may -- heads in the sand and butts up -- actually take their places in the next Senate. Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute suggested that Xtreme weather events should be named for these guys (just as we now name hurricanes for generic human beings). The fact is, though, that such denial -- and so lack of action -- goes way beyond the official deniers which is why, I suspect, future generations will look back on much of the global leadership class as a criminal crew, not just for what they actively did in the world, including the requisite wars and other nightmares they were involved in, but for what they didn’t do, for looking the other way when our planet was in real trouble. We’re talking about the sorts of people who, on hearing the first cries of “fire” in a crowded movie theater, buy another bag of popcorn and search for a better seat.
Boiling Mad:
Inside Tea Party America

“The beauty of Boiling Mad is that it’s room-temperature calm. With fresh and surprising reporting, Kate Zernike cuts through the hype on both sides to show the Tea Party as it really is, not as partisans depict it. It’s a complete, balanced, incisive and important account of a reactionary movement that’s changing the country.”
--Jonathan Alter, author of The Promise: President Obama, Year One

Product Description
A surprising and revealing look inside the Tea Party movement—where it came from, what it stands for, and what it means for the future of American politics

They burst on the scene at the height of the Great Recession—angry voters gathering by the thousands to rail against bailouts and big government. Evoking the Founding Fathers, they called themselves the Tea Party. Within the year, they had changed the terms of debate in Washington, emboldening Republicans and confounding a new administration's ability to get things done.

Boiling Mad is Kate Zernike's eye-opening look inside the Tea Party, introducing us to a cast of unlikely activists and the philosophy that animates them. She shows how the Tea Party movement emerged from an unusual alliance of young Internet-savvy conservatives and older people alarmed at a country they no longer recognize. The movement is the latest manifestation of a long history of conservative discontent in America, breeding on a distrust of government that is older than the nation itself. But the Tea Partiers' grievances are rooted in the present, a response to the election of the nation's first black president and to the far-reaching government intervention that followed the economic crisis of 2008-2009. Though they are better educated and better off than most other Americans, they remain deeply pessimistic about the economy and the direction of the country.

Zernike introduces us to the first Tea Partier, a nose-pierced young teacher who lives in Seattle with her fiancé, an Obama supporter. We listen in on what Tea Partiers learn about the Constitution, which they embrace as the backbone of their political philosophy. We see how young conservatives, who model their organization on the Grateful Dead, mobilize a new set of activists several decades their elder. And we watch as suburban mothers, who draw their inspiration from MoveOn and other icons of the Left, plot to upend the Republican Party in a swing district outside Philadelphia.

The Tea Party movement has energized a lot of voters, but it has polarized the electorate, too. Agree or disagree, we must understand this movement to understand American politics in 2010 and beyond.

About the Author
Kate Zernike is a national correspondent for The New York Times and was a member of the team that shared the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. She has covered education, Congress, and four national elections for the Times and was previously a reporter for The Boston Globe. She lives with her family outside New York City.

Excerpt. © All rights reserved.
Honestly, it was hard not to stop at the spectacle on Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington, where several thousand Americans had gathered to celebrate their anger on a perfect spring day. There was Representative Michele Bachmann, conservative darling and all Minnesota nice, cheerfully raging against "gangster government." "Two years from now, Barack Obama is a one-term president!" she taunted, the words echoing off the surrounding walls. There was the rapper performing a Tea Party anthem, the former Saturday Night Live star singing a song called "A Communist in the White House." It was easy just to scan the now-familiar signs—BARACK HUSSEIN HITLER, GO BACK TO KENYA—and conclude that you had seen all you needed to know.

But to truly understand the Tea Party, to understand how these protesters with goofy hats and "Don't Tread on Me" flags had become a political force powerful enough to confound a new administration and unhinge the Republican Party, you had to cross Pennsylvania Avenue and head down a steep escalator to a small auditorium inside the Ronald Reagan Building. Watch a crowd of a few hundred, dressed mostly in the sneakers-and-Dockers uniform of the typical older tourist, sitting rapt as a panel of conservative activists in their twenties explained how to take over the country. It was Tax Day 2010, and these Tea Partiers young and old were marking it with a seminar that blended modern managerial advice and leftist organizing tactics.

At the podium stood Brendan Steinhauser, a twenty-eight-year-old college football‚Äìloving Texan who had voted for Ron Paul in 2008 and could quote from the classics of Austrian economic theory but included among his heroes Bayard Rustin, the gay black civil rights leader who conceived the 1963 March on Washington most remembered for Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. The Tea Party movement had started out small, Steinhauser told the crowd, in the hundreds, but now, some polls showed that 25 percent of Americans supported it—remarkable growth in just one year. That percentage could reach fifty-one, he said, but he needed the help of the people in this room. "It's got to be a prime focus of what you do," he urged. "If you have twenty-five people there on your first monthly meeting, you should shoot for fifty, ask everyone to bring a friend. Try to set goals for yourself, set out where you want to be at the next meeting. Only if we focus on our numbers, check ourselves against other groups, are we going to get there."

There were two books every person in the room should read, Steinhauser said, repeating the titles twice, because most everyone was taking avid notes: Dedication and Leadership by Douglas Hyde and The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. The first, he explained, outlined how the Communist Party recruited in Great Britain, the second would help them understand the marketing of social phenomena—sneakers, but also ideas. "If you read those two books and apply the lessons and tactics learned in those," Steinhauser said, "I think you're really going to help yourself and really become a true community organizer."

"Uh-oh," someone said loudly. Others groaned.

"Don't reject that label! Embrace that label!" Steinhauser insisted. "True community organizers are what this movement is all made of. We don't like that term because now we have a Community Organizer-in-Chief who got his lessons from Saul Alinsky. I say, let's read Saul Alinsky, let's read Rules for Radicals, and let's use it against them!"

The crowd was his again. "Yeah!" people cheered, sustaining their applause.

"Do we need to do better to reach into new communities? Absolutely," Steinhauser continued, looking out at the sea of faces, almost all of them white. "I encourage all of you: recruit in the cities, the inner cities, in the suburbs, in the rural areas, in the barrios. It doesn't matter, wherever you live, wherever your neighbors are, get them involved and then go to some other part of town and get people involved who maybe you don't know. Maybe they're not in your social circle, they don't go to your church. You need to go and get to know these people and let them know that this is the kind of movement that welcomes everyone, that encourages everyone to participate. Only if we do that can we reach our goals." As the crowd cheered, he pressed on: don't give up on the apathetic, the people who voted for the Democrats. "Maybe they voted for Nancy Pelosi the first time, maybe they've had a little buyer's remorse," he said. "But don't write them off. Go out there, recruit people, bring new blood, new faces into the movement. Focus on that. There is nothing more powerful that we can do for this movement than to go out there and recruit our friends and families and strangers to become a part of it."

The contrast was striking: the panelists on stage were baby-faced despite their suits and stylized stubble, while the people in the audience were "seasoned," as one young panelist gently put it—twice their age or more. When one young speaker mentioned the importance of using social media like YouTube, an older woman with a drugstore disposable camera and a flag brooch wrote down carefully "U2."

But this was how the movement had grown, this mashup of young and old, abhorring the left but learning from it. It was what made it so contradictory, and so combustible.

Loosely assembled and suspicious of anyone claiming to be its leader, the Tea Party had allowed the rallies and the signs to serve as the public face of the movement. But to stop at what you saw there was to miss what the Tea Party was, and how it had swiftly burrowed its way into American life and wiped out the promise of a postpartisan politics that had accompanied the election of President Obama in 2008.

Its critics dismissed the Tea Party as "Astroturf," looking like a grassroots movement but actually fake and manufactured by big interest groups. Puppets of the Republican Party, they said. Cranky old conservatives hung up on abortion and gay marriage, now upset that a black man they didn't think was a citizen was living in the White House. Who could take seriously people who wore tricornered hats and inveighed against the Communist threat twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall? It was all a media creation. Just ignore them; they'll go away.

Certainly the Tea Party had been fertilized by well-connected Washington groups like FreedomWorks, where Steinhauser worked, and also by Glenn Beck, the newest star at the Fox News Channel, who created his own brand of Tea Party by calling for his fans to join "9/12 groups," which were to return the country to the unity of purpose it felt in the days after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. But even aside from these well-connected supporters, the Tea Party was an authentic popular movement, brought on by anger over the economy and distrust of government—at all levels, and in both parties.

It certainly had its fringe elements: the birthers insisting that President Obama was a Kenyan-born Muslim infiltrator, the people carrying posters of Obama as a witch doctor, those who insisted the federal government was going to sequester its citizens in reeducation camps. As some Tea Partiers clamored for states' rights, it was impossible to ignore the echo of the southern segregationists from the 1950s and 1960s—little surprise that the movement had failed to attract nonwhites in proportion to their numbers in the country at large. Still, this fringe did not define the Tea Party.

Nor could you explain it as simple partisan politics. While most Tea Partiers were Republicans, they were fighting hand-to-hand with the party establishment in places like Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Colorado, and Arizona, by mounting primary challenges to establishment candidates once considered sure to win, and seeking to take over the Republican Party in much the way that Barack Obama's presidential campaign had won the 2008 Democratic primaries, by sending supporters out to become captains of their local voting precincts. By the spring of 2010, many of the most active Tea Party organizers regarded the rallies the way casual Protestants do church on Christmas and Easter—the perfunctory appearances. They were too busy operating as a kind of shadow party, hosting candidate forums and meeting with officials—Democrats as well as Republicans—who solicited their opinions and sought their blessing. They were planning not just for the midterm elections that fall, but for the long term. And this wasn't just in off-the-grid Idaho or the Deep South. The Tea Party was everywhere—along the Eastern Seaboard, which Barry Goldwater said in the early 1960s he would saw off because there were no votes for conservatives there, and in swing districts where elections that determined control of Congress were often decided by a thousand or so votes and where presidential candidates fought every four years for the fickle middle ground.

To dismiss the grassroots popularity of the Tea Party movement was to discount the panic set off by the Great Recession, the growing anger about the staggering debt and the bailouts of carmakers, insurance companies, and the banks that had made it possible for people to buy houses they could not afford. It was to ignore the widespread and growing distrust not just of government, but of all the establishments Americans once trusted unquestioningly: doctors, banks, schools, the media. And it was to forget the opposition that had greeted attempts to overhaul the nation's health care system—or really, any ambitious progressive agenda since the 1930s—and the cycling of conservative insurgencies within the Republican Party. The Tea Party was not going away; in one form or another, it had been with us for a long time.

How big was it? In April 2010, fourteen months after the first Tea Party rallies, a New York Times/CBS News poll found that 18 percent of Americans defined themselves as "supporters" of the movement....

The Whites of Their Eyes:
The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle over American History

Jill Lepore is a national treasure. There is no other writer so at home both as a trenchant scholar of American history and as an on-the-scene observer of our present-day follies. She etches the connection between past and present with a wisdom, grace, and sparkle that makes this book even harder to put down--if that's possible--than her previous work.
(Adam Hochschild, author of Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves)

Product Description
Americans have always put the past to political ends. The Union laid claim to the Revolution--so did the Confederacy. Civil rights leaders said they were the true sons of liberty--so did Southern segregationists. This book tells the story of the centuries-long struggle over the meaning of the nation's founding, including the battle waged by the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and evangelical Christians to "take back America."

Jill Lepore, Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer, offers a wry and bemused look at American history according to the far right, from the "rant heard round the world," which launched the Tea Party, to the Texas School Board's adoption of a social-studies curriculum that teaches that the United States was established as a Christian nation. Along the way, she provides rare insight into the eighteenth-century struggle for independence--the real one, that is. Lepore traces the roots of the far right's reactionary history to the bicentennial in the 1970s, when no one could agree on what story a divided nation should tell about its unruly beginnings. Behind the Tea Party's Revolution, she argues, lies a nostalgic and even heartbreaking yearning for an imagined past--a time less troubled by ambiguity, strife, and uncertainty--a yearning for an America that never was.

The Whites of Their Eyes reveals that the far right has embraced a narrative about America's founding that is not only a fable but is also, finally, a variety of fundamentalism--anti-intellectual, antihistorical, and dangerously antipluralist.

About the Author
Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper '41 Professor of American History at Harvard University and a staff writer at the New Yorker. Her books include New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity, winner of the Bancroft Prize.

Invisible Hands:
The Businessmen's Crusade Against the New Deal

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Looking beyond the usual roster of right-wing Christians, anticommunist neo-cons and disgruntled working-class whites, this incisive study examines the unsung role of a political movement of businessmen in leading America's post-1960s rightward turn. Historian Phillips-Fein traces the hidden history of the Reagan revolution to a coterie of business executives, including General Electric official and Reagan mentor Lemuel Boulware, who saw labor unions, government regulation, high taxes and welfare spending as dire threats to their profits and power. From the 1930s onward, the author argues, they provided the money, organization and fervor for a decades-long war against New Deal liberalism—funding campaigns, think tanks, magazines and lobbying groups, and indoctrinating employees in the virtues of unfettered capitalism. Theirs was also a battle of ideas, she contends; the business vanguard nurtured conservative thinkers like economist Friedrich von Hayek and his secretive Mont Pellerin Society associates, who developed a populist free-market ideology that persuaded workers to side with their bosses against the liberal state. Combining piquant profiles of corporate firebrands with a trenchant historical analysis that puts economic conflict at the heart of political change, Phillips-Fein makes an important contribution to our understanding of American conservatism. Photos. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist
Although many books have been written about American conservatism, most concern its cultural or political manifestations, and almost all bring bias to the subject. The contribution of Phillips-Fein to this literature is distinctive in two respects: she maintains neutrality and produces original research on American business executives and public-relations specialists who created conservative organizations from 1933 to 1980. Although scholarly in tone (her work originated as a dissertation), the book is highly readable for its absorbing historical background about contemporary conservative advocacy outfits, such as the American Enterprise Institute. In their variety of characters and degrees of indignation about the iniquities of the New Deal and its descendants, the individuals introduced range from the reasonable to the strange, which enlivens a narrative of free-market conservatism’s incubation in the 1940s and 1950s. Detecting a union-busting agenda behind the liberty-proclaiming rhetoric of business leaders, Phillips-Fein nevertheless allows them a fair hearing about their roles in, ultimately, the electoral victory of Ronald Reagan in 1980. A valuable addition to the history of conservatism. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Starred Review. Combining piquant profiles of corporate firebrands with a trenchant historical analysis...Phillips-Fein makes an important contribution to our understanding of American conservatism. (Publishers Weekly)

Starred Review. Engaging history from a talented new scholarly voice. (Kirkus Reviews)

Product Description
“A compelling and readable story of resistance to the new economic order.”—Boston Globe

Invisible Hands tells the story of how a small group of American businessmen succeeded in building a political movement. Long before the “culture wars” of the 1960s sparked the Republican backlash against cultural liberalism, these high-powered individuals actively resisted New Deal economics and sought to educate and organize their peers. Kim Phillips-Fein recounts the little-known efforts of men such as W. C. Mullendore, Leonard Read, and Jasper Crane, drawing on meticulous research and narrative gifts to craft a compelling history of the role of big and small business in American politics—and a blueprint for anyone who wants insight into the way that money has been used to create political change. 16 black-and-white photos

About the Author
Kim Phillips-Fein won the Bancroft Dissertation Prize for her research on Invisible Hands. She has written for The Nation, The Baffler, and many other publications. She is an assistant professor at the Gallatin School of New York University and lives in New York City.

Washington Rules:
America's Path to Permanent War

From Publishers Weekly
U.S. Army colonel turned academic, Bacevich (The Limits of Power) offers an unsparing, cogent, and important critique of assumptions guiding American military policy. These central tenets, the "Washington rules"--such as the belief that the world order depends on America maintaining a massive military capable of rapid and forceful interventions anywhere in the world--have dominated national security policy since the start of the cold war and have condemned the U.S. to "insolvency and perpetual war." Despite such disasters as America's defeat in Vietnam and the Cuban missile crisis, the self-perpetuating policy is so entrenched that no president or influential critic has been able to alter it. Bacevich argues that while the Washington rules found their most pernicious expression in the Bush doctrine of preventive war, Barack Obama's expansion of the Afghan War is also cause for pessimism: "We should be grateful to him for making at least one thing unmistakably clear: to imagine that Washington will ever tolerate second thoughts about the Washington rules is to engage in willful self-deception. Washington itself has too much to lose."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist
*Starred Review* The U.S. spends more on the military than the entire rest of the world combined and maintains 300,000 troops abroad in an “empire of bases,” all part of a credo of global leadership and a consensus that the U.S. must maintain a state of semiwar. The Washington consensus, across administrations dating back to the cold war, is that the world must be organized in alignment with American principles, even if it means using force. Bacevich, with background in the military at the rank of retired army colonel and the perspective afforded by academia, offers a vivid and critical analysis of the assumptions behind the credo of global leadership and eternal military vigilance that has become increasingly expensive and unsustainable. He details American misadventures from the Bay of Pigs to the invasion in Iraq, and the most prominent figures (“semiwarriors par excellence”) behind the credo, notably Allen Dulles, director of the CIA in the 1950s, and Curtis LeMay, director of the Strategic Air Command during the same period. The credo of global leadership and hyper-militarism is so ingrained and resilient in the U.S. psyche that it survived even the doubts that surfaced after the miserable failure of U.S. military might in Vietnam. Whatever their party or philosophy, all presidents want to project an image of toughness that has made them vulnerable to the credo, at great cost in American dollars and lives. Bacevich challenges Washington (the president, Congress, and the military industrial complex) as well as citizens to rethink the credo that has directed national security for generations. --Vanessa Bush

"Eloquent and, above all, passionate. . . Any serious foreign-policy thinker should heed his call."

"Engaging and insightful. . . A timely analysis and critique of contemporary and historical defense policies. His writing style is anything but wonkish, and he is great at the clever turn of phrase. . . . Thought provoking."
The Washington Times

"Vivid and critical analysis of the assumptions behind the credo of global leadership and eternal military vigilance that has become increasingly expensive and unsustainable. . . . Bacevich challenges Washington (the president, Congress, and the military industrial complex) as well as citizens to rethink the credo that has directed national security for generations."
Booklist (starred review)

"Valiant. . . Discards long-held 'habits of conformity,' rethinking America's mission abroad. . . Welcome thinking by a former military man who has seen the light."

"An unsparing, cogent, and important critique of assumptions guiding American military policy."
Publishers Weekly

“To say that Washington Rules is a breath of fresh air in the debate over U.S. foreign policy would be like comparing a zephyr to a hurricane. Writing with Force-Five fury, Andrew Bacevich lays bare the dogmas and shibboleths that have animated national security doctrine for the last half century and produced an Orwellian nightmare of permanent war in the name of permanent peace. This passionate, often discomforting book brings rare clarity to a subject of urgent importance for all Americans.”
—David M. Kennedy, author of Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945

“Against a national strategy gone astray, Bacevich offers a unique combination of rigorous analysis and emotion-powered protest. May it be widely read, may it disenthrall us from the academic generals, militant academics, and cynical politicians who insist that we must invest blood and treasure in mud-brick Afghan villages, while China invests in advanced technology.”
—Edward N. Luttwak author of The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire

Washington Rules is the author's shorthand for the American conviction that we always represent the good and the pure in international affairs. His powerful book clearly demonstrates how threadbare this idea has become.”
—Chalmers Johnson, author of the Blowback Trilogy and Dismantling the Empire

“The hard-earned insights of this veteran, analyst, insider, and parent will resonate with people across the political spectrum and offer a serious, riveting, and authentically personal critique of U.S. power.”
—Amy Goodman, host and executive producer, Democracy Now!

“Bacevich presents compelling and alarming evidence that our nation is locked into a counterproductive global military presence sustained by power projection and interventionism by military force. A must-read for all those concerned with America’s future.”
—Lt. General (USA, Ret.) Robert G. Gard, Jr., PhD

Washington Rules dissects the convictions that have turned the United States into a warrior nation—a country devoted to military solutions that do little, if anything, to enhance its security or advance the well-being of its citizens or the foreign peoples on whom we inflict our illusory benevolence. A brilliant historian’s analysis of what ails America, this book should be read by every national officeholder and and by all who care about America’s future safety and prosperity.”
—Robert Dallek, author of The Lost Peace: Leadership in a Time of Horror and Hope, 1945-1953

Washington Rules exposes well-entrenched assumptions that for decades have underlain ineffective and costly U.S. policies. Bacevich shines a bright light on the meaning of national security and what it requires, while addressing fundamental but long-ignored questions about America's place in the world and the role of military power.”
—Paul R. Pillar author of Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy

Product Description
The bestselling author of The Limits of Power critically examines the Washington consensus on national security and why it must change

For the last half century, as administrations have come and gone, the fundamental assumptions about America's military policy have remained unchanged: American security requires the United States (and us alone) to maintain a permanent armed presence around the globe, to prepare our forces for military operations in far-flung regions, and to be ready to intervene anywhere at any time. In the Obama era, just as in the Bush years, these beliefs remain unquestioned gospel.

In a vivid, incisive analysis, Andrew J. Bacevich succinctly presents the origins of this consensus, forged at a moment when American power was at its height. He exposes the preconceptions, biases, and habits that underlie our pervasive faith in military might, especially the notion that overwhelming superiority will oblige others to accommodate America's needs and desires—whether for cheap oil, cheap credit, or cheap consumer goods. And he challenges the usefulness of our militarism as it has become both unaffordable and increasingly dangerous.

Though our politicians deny it, American global might is faltering. This is the moment, Bacevich argues, to reconsider the principles which shape American policy in the world—to acknowledge that fixing Afghanistan should not take precedence over fixing Detroit. Replacing this Washington consensus is crucial to America's future, and may yet offer the key to the country's salvation.

About the Author
Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of colonel. He is the author of The Limits of Power and The New American Militarism. His writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, The Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He is the recipient of a Lannan Award and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Excerpt. © All rights reserved.
Introduction: Slow Learner

Worldly ambition inhibits true learning. Ask me. I know. A young man in a hurry is nearly uneducable: He knows what he wants and where he's headed; when it comes to looking back or entertaining heretical thoughts, he has neither the time nor the inclination. All that counts is that he is going somewhere. Only as ambition wanes does education become a possibility.

My own education did not commence until I had reached middle age. I can fix its start date with precision: For me, education began in Berlin, on a winter's evening, at the Brandenburg Gate, not long after the Berlin Wall had fallen.

As an officer in the U.S. Army I had spent considerable time in Germany. Until that moment, however, my family and I had never had occasion to visit this most famous of German cities, still littered with artifacts of a deeply repellent history. At the end of a long day of exploration, we found ourselves in what had, until just months before, been the communist East. It was late and we were hungry, but I insisted on walking the length of the Unter den Linden, from the River Spree to the gate itself. A cold rain was falling and the pavement glistened. The buildings lining the avenue, dating from the era of Prussian kings, were dark, dirty, and pitted. Few people were about. It was hardly a night for sightseeing.

For as long as I could remember, the Brandenburg Gate had been the preeminent symbol of the age and Berlin the epicenter of contemporary history. Yet by the time I made it to the once and future German capital, history was already moving on. The Cold War had abruptly ended. A divided city and a divided nation had re united.

For Americans who had known Berlin only from a distance, the city existed primarily as a metaphor. Pick a date— 1933, 1942, 1945, 1948, 1961, 1989—and Berlin becomes an instructive symbol of power, depravity, tragedy, defiance, endurance, or vindication. For those inclined to view the past as a chronicle of parables, the modern history of Berlin offered an abundance of material. The greatest of those parables emerged from the events of 1933 to 1945, an epic tale of evil ascendant, belatedly confronted, then heroically overthrown. A second narrative, woven from events during the intense period immediately following World War II, saw hopes for peace dashed, yielding bitter antagonism but also great resolve. The ensuing stand-off—the "long twilight struggle," in John Kennedy's memorable phrase— formed the centerpiece of the third parable, its central theme stubborn courage in the face of looming peril. Finally came the exhilarating events of 1989, with freedom ultimately prevailing, not only in Berlin, but throughout Eastern Europe.

What exactly was I looking for at the Brandenburg Gate? Perhaps confirmation that those parables, which I had absorbed and accepted as true, were just that. Whatever I expected, what I actually found was a cluster of shabby- looking young men, not German, hawking badges, medallions, hats, bits of uniforms, and other artifacts of the mighty Red Army. It was all junk, cheaply made and shoddy. For a handful of deutsche marks, I bought a wristwatch emblazoned with the symbol of the Soviet armored corps. Within days, it ceased to work.

Huddling among the scarred columns, those peddlers— almost certainly off-duty Russian soldiers awaiting redeployment home—constituted a subversive presence. They were loose ends of a story that was supposed to have ended neatly when the Berlin Wall came down. As we hurried off to find warmth and a meal, this disconcerting encounter stuck with me, and I began to entertain this possibility: that the truths I had accumulated over the previous twenty years as a professional soldier—especially truths about the Cold War and U.S. foreign policy— might not be entirely true.

By temperament and upbringing, I had always taken comfort in orthodoxy. In a life spent subject to authority, deference had become a deeply ingrained habit. I found assurance in conventional wisdom. Now, I started, however hesitantly, to suspect that orthodoxy might be a sham. I began to appreciate that authentic truth is never simple and that any version of truth handed down from on high— whether by presidents, prime ministers, or archbishops— is inherently suspect. The powerful, I came to see, reveal truth only to the extent that it suits them. Even then, the truths to which they testify come wrapped in a nearly invisible filament of dissembling, deception, and duplicity. The exercise of power necessarily involves manipulation and is antithetical to candor.

I came to these obvious points embarrassingly late in life. "Nothing is so astonishing in education," the historian Henry Adams once wrote, "as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts."1 Until that moment I had too often confused education with accumulating and cataloging facts. In Berlin, at the foot of the Brandenburg Gate, I began to realize that I had been a navØf. And so, at age forty-one, I set out, in a halting and haphazard fashion, to acquire a genuine education.

Twenty years later I've made only modest progress. This book provides an accounting of what I have learned thus far.


In October 1990, I'd gotten a preliminary hint that something might be amiss in my prior education. On October 3, communist East Germany—formally the German Democratic Republic (GDR)—ceased to exist and German reunification was officially secured. That very week I accompanied a group of American military officers to the city of Jena in what had been the GDR. Our purpose was self-consciously educational— to study the famous battle of Jena-Auerstädt in which Napoleon Bonaparte and his marshals had inflicted an epic defeat on Prussian forces commanded by the Duke of Brunswick. (The outcome of that 1806 battle inspired the philosopher Hegel, then residing in Jena, to declare that the "end of history" was at hand. The conclusion of the Cold War had only recently elicited a similarly exuberant judgment from the American scholar Francis Fukuyama.)

On this trip we did learn a lot about the conduct of that battle, although mainly inert facts possessing little real educational value. Inadvertently, we also gained insight into the reality of life on the far side of what Americans had habitually called the Iron Curtain, known in U.S. military vernacular as "the trace." In this regard, the trip proved nothing less than revelatory. The educational content of this excursion would— for me—be difficult to exaggerate.

As soon as our bus crossed the old Inner German Border, we entered a time warp. For U.S. troops garrisoned throughout Bavaria and Hesse, West Germany had for decades served as a sort of theme park—a giant Epcot filled with quaint villages, stunning scenery, and superb highways, along with ample supplies of quite decent food, excellent beer, and accommodating women. Now, we found ourselves face-to-face with an altogether different Germany. Although commonly depicted as the most advanced and successful component of the Soviet Empire, East Germany more closely resembled part of the undeveloped world.

The roads—even the main highways—were narrow and visibly crumbling. Traffic posed little problem. Apart from a few sluggish Trabants and Wartburgs—East German automobiles that tended to a retro primitivism—and an occasional exhaust-spewing truck, the way was clear. The villages through which we passed were forlorn and the small farms down at the heels. For lunch we stopped at a roadside stand. The proprietor happily accepted our D-marks, offering us inedible sausages in exchange. Although the signs assured us that we remained in a land of German speakers, it was a country that had not yet recovered from World War II.

Upon arrival in Jena, we checked into the Hotel Schwarzer Bär, identified by our advance party as the best hostelry in town. It turned out to be a rundown fleabag. As the senior officer present, I was privileged to have a room in which the plumbing functioned. Others were not so lucky.

Jena itself was a midsized university city, with its main academic complex immediately opposite our hotel. A very large bust of Karl Marx, mounted on a granite pedestal and badly in need of cleaning, stood on the edge of the campus.

Briquettes of soft coal used for home heating made the air all but unbreathable and coated everything with soot. In the German cities we knew, pastels predominated—houses and apartment blocks painted pale green, muted salmon, and soft yellow. Here everything was brown and gray.

That evening we set out in search of dinner. The restaurants within walking distance were few and unattractive. We chose badly, a drab establishment in which fresh vegetables were unavailable and the wurst inferior. The adequacy of the local beer provided the sole consolation.

The following morning, on the way to the battlefield, we noted a significant Soviet military presence, mostly in the form of trucks passing by— to judge by their appearance, designs that dated from the 1950s. To our surprise, we discovered that the Soviets had established a small training area adjacent to where Napoleon had vanquished the Prussians. Although we had orders to avoid contact with any Russians, the presence of their armored troops going through their paces riveted us. Here was something of far greater immediacy than Bonaparte and the Duke of Brunswick: "the other," about which we had for so long heard so much but knew so little. Through binoculars, we watched a column of Russian armored vehicles— BMPs, in NATO parlance— traversing what appeared to be a drivers' training course. Suddenly, one of them began spewing smoke. Soon thereafter, it burst into flames.

Here was education, although at the time I had only the vaguest sense of its significance.


These visits to Jena and Berlin offered glimpses of a reality radically at odds with my mos...

Dismantling the Empire:
America's Last Best Hope

Product Description
The author of the bestselling Blowback Trilogy reflects on America's waning power in a masterful collection of essays

In his prophetic book Blowback, published before 9/11, Chalmers Johnson warned that our secret operations in Iraq and elsewhere around the globe would exact a price at home. Now, in a brilliant series of essays written over the last three years, Johnson measures that price and the resulting dangers America faces. Our reliance on Pentagon economics, a global empire of bases, and war without end is, he declares, nothing short of "a suicide option."

Dismantling the Empire explores the subjects for which Johnson is now famous, from the origins of blowback to Barack Obama's Afghanistan conundrum, including our inept spies, our bad behavior in other countries, our ill-fought wars, and our capitulation to a military that has taken ever more control of the federal budget. There is, he proposes, only one way out: President Obama must begin to dismantle the empire before the Pentagon dismantles the American Dream. If we do not learn from the fates of past empires, he suggests, our decline and fall are foreordained. This is Johnson at his best: delivering both a warning and an urgent prescription for a remedy.

About the Author
Chalmers Johnson, president of the Japan Policy Research Institute, is the author of the bestselling books Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis, which make up his Blowback Trilogy. He has written for the Los Angeles Times, the London Review of Books, Harper's Magazine, The Nation, and TomDispatch.com. He lives near San Diego, California.

Excerpt. © All rights reserved.


During the last years of the Clinton administration I was in my mid-sixties, retired from teaching Asian international relations at the University of California and deeply bored by my specialty, Japanese politics. It seemed that Japan would continue forever as a docile satellite of the United States, a safe place to park tens of thousands of American troops, as well as ships and aircraft , all ready to assert American hegemony over the entire Pacific region. I was then in the process of rethinking my research and determining where I should go next.

At the time, one aspect of the Clinton administration especially worried me. In the aftermath of the breakup and disappearance of the Soviet Union, U.S. officials seemed unbearably complacent about America's global ascendancy. They were visibly bathed in a glow of post–Cold War triumphalism. It was hard to avoid their high-decibel assertions that our country was "unique" in history, their insistence that we were now, and for the imaginable future, the "lone superpower" or, in the words of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, "the indispensable nation." The implication was that we would be so for an eternity. If ever there was a self- satisfied country that seemed headed for a rude awakening, it was the United States.

I became concerned as well that we were taking for granted the goodwill of so many nations, even as we incautiously ran up a tab of insults to the rest of the world. What I couldn't quite imagine was that President Clinton's arrogance and his administration's risk taking—the 1998 cruise missile attack on the al- Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, Sudan, for instance, or the 1999 bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Serbia, during the Kosovo war—might presage an existential crisis for the nation. Our stance toward the rest of the world certainly seemed reckless to me, but not in itself of overwhelming significance. We were, after all, the world's richest nation, even if we were delusional in assuming that our wealth would be a permanent condition. We were also finally at peace (more or less) after a long period, covering much of the twentieth century, in which we had been engaged in costly, deadly wars.

As I quietly began to worry, it crossed my mind that we in the United States had long taken all of Asia for granted, despite the fact that we had fought three wars there, only one of which we had won. My fears grew that the imperial tab we were running up would come due sooner than any of us had expected, and that payment might be sought in ways both unexpected and deeply unnerving. In this mood, I began to write a book of analysis that was also meant as a warning, and for a title I drew on a term of CIA tradecraft. I called it Blowback.

The book's reception on publication in 2000 might serve as a reasonable gauge of the overconfident mood of the country. It was generally ignored and, where noted and commented upon, rejected as the oddball thoughts of a formerly eminent Japan specialist. I was therefore less shocked than most when, as the Clinton years ended, we Americans made a serious mistake that helped turn what passed for fringe prophecy into stark reality. We let George W. Bush take the White House.

He was a man superficially well enough qualified to be president. The governor of a populous state, he had also been the recipient of one of the best—or, in any case, most expensive—educations available to an American. Yale College and Harvard Business School might have seemed like a guarantee against a sophomoric ignoramus occupying the highest office in the land, but contrary to most expectations that was precisely what we got. The American public did not actually elect him, of course. He was, in the end, appointed to the highest office in the land by a conservative cabal of Supreme Court justices in what certainly qualified as one of the most bizarre moments in the history of American politics.

During his eight reckless years as president, Bush, his vice president Dick Cheney, his secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, and the other neoconservative and right-wing officials he appointed, war-lovers all, drove the country as close to the precipice as was humanly possible. After the attacks of 9/11, he would have been wise to treat al-Qaeda as the criminal organization it was. Instead, he launched two wars of aggression in close succession against Iraq and Afghanistan. The irony was that had he done absolutely nothing, the political situations in both countries would likely have resolved themselves, given time, in ways tolerable for us and our allies based on the constellation of forces at work in each place. Instead, his policies entrenched Shia Muslims in Iraq, repeated all the mistakes of other foreign invaders—particularly the British and more recently the Russians—in Afghanistan, and enhanced the power of Iran in the Persian Gulf region.

As a result of his ill-informed and bungling strategic moves, President Bush left our armed forces seriously depleted, with worn-out equipment, badly misused human resources, and staggering medical (and thus financial) obligations to thousands of young Americans suffering from disabling wounds, including those inflicted on their minds. Meanwhile, our high command, which went into Afghanistan and Iraq stuck in the land war doctrines of World War II but filled with dreamy, high-tech, "netcentric" fantasies, is now mired in the failed counterinsurgency doctrine of the Vietnam era. That's what evidently passes for progress in the Pentagon these days. Its officials still have hardly a clue as to how to deal with nonstate actors like al-Qaeda.

At the same time, the Bush administration paved the way for, and then presided over, a close to catastrophic economic and financial collapse that skirted national and international insolvency. Fueled by huge tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, profligate spending on two wars (as well as future wars and the weaponry to fight them), the appointment of Republican ideologues to critical positions of trust, and accounting and management practices that exacerbated just about every other problem, the Bush administration plunged us into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

As if these failures weren't bad enough, during Bush's tenure the armed forces were authorized to torture Muslims captured virtually anywhere on earth; the Department of Justice turned a blind eye to the clandestine electronic surveillance of the general public; and the Central Intelligence Agency was given carte blanche to kidnap terror suspects in other countries and transfer them to regimes where they could be interrogated under torture, as well as to assassinate supposed terror suspects just about anywhere on the planet. From Afghanistan and Iraq to Lithuania, Thailand, and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the United States set up an offshore system of (in)justice, including "black sites" (secret CIA prisons) that put many of its most outrageous acts beyond oversight or the reach of the law—any law. In the meantime, the United States also withdrew from many important international treaties, including the one banning the production of antiballistic missiles.

The history books will certainly record that George W. Bush was likely the single worst president in the history of the American republic. Nonetheless, they will also point out that he merely accelerated trends long under way, particularly our devotion to militarism and our dependence on the military-industrial complex.

In 2008, faced with a truly dysfunctional government, the American people unexpectedly demonstrated that they got the message. The presidential candidacy of Barack Obama reignited a long-dormant idealism, particularly among those who believed, on the basis of their own lives, that the political system had been rigged against them. The national outpouring of enthusiasm for this African American presidential candidate led many around the world to believe that the American people were ready to abandon their infatuation with imperialism. They assumed that we were exhibiting a desire for genuine reform before the trends of the Clinton-Bush years became irreversible.

During his campaign Barack Obama promised to close our extrajudicial detention camp at Guantánamo Bay; restore legally sanctioned practices, particularly within the Department of Justice; provide nearly all citizens with health insurance and other life support systems that are routine in most advanced industrial democracies; take global warming seriously; and implement any number of laws that were being honored only in the breach, including those protecting personal privacy. Obama's proposed reform program was massive, long overdue, and popularly welcomed.

Conspicuously absent from this lengthy agenda, however, was one significant sector of American life. Only those of us who had long watched this area noted Obama's silence and were alarmed for what it suggested about his future presidency. This omission concerned the massive apparatus that enables what I have called our global "empire of bases" to exist and function. In the campaign, he said little about the armed forces (other than that he would like to expand the Army and Marines), the military- industrial complex, the Pentagon's failure to account properly for the vast sums it spends, the growing clandestine role of our proliferating intelligence services, or the subcontracting of extremely sensitive national security tasks to the private sector.

Given the degree to which, as this book emphasizes, the Pentagon and the powerful forces that surround it have played such a crucial role in leading this country to the edge, this campaign omission was anything but auspicious. It is undoubtedly true that a presidential candidate determined to take on these forces might have had a difficult time cutting the Pentagon, the "intelligence community," and the military-industrial complex down to size. Unfortunately, Obama did not even try. The ev...

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A major national survey has found that the flow of unauthorized immigrants into the U.S. has slowed dramatically over the past five years, leading to the "first significant reversal" of growth in their population in two decades.

Border security has benefited from an infusion of federal money. Deportations of those in the country illegally are up. FBI statistics point to a consistent drop in violent crime rates in U.S.-Mexico border towns.

And Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer — the high-profile Republican proponent of the state's controversial immigration law — has acknowledged that her incendiary and debunked claim that headless bodies had been found along the border in her state was "an error."

Could it be that the country is moving toward what immigration expert Audrey Singer of the Brookings Institution has hopefully noted could be a "moment of reflection" in the emotional and often fact-free national discussion on illegal border crossings?

Maybe not.
i'm taking the liberty to steal a couple quotes from capt fogg

There are no angels in this dogfight, but the Republicans have an undeniable record of unrestrained, immoderate and rabidly vicious assault on all fronts when they're defeated and more so when that defeat is so clearly merited. They don't like rules except when the rules protect them. They love secrecy but decry it in others. They don't like taking responsibility for their failures, but find fault with anything and everything in their opposition and they don't give a damn if they're right or wrong as long as they gain power.
[read the whole post]


I prefer to think that only the free can be moral, only the mortal can be compassionate and only in our transience can we find glory.
[read the whole post]
one question dems need to answer

tho the prez and his party often state [correctly, in my view] that bush and gop policies caused the recession and current high unemployment, the other side points out that the downward slide didn't begin till after the dems took the congressional majority after the '06 election.

most folk don't know enough about economics to grasp how time lags come between causes and effects. that's why the dems are getting blamed for unemployment.

dems need to respond. they need to show how gop actions led to crises and catastrophes. they need to do it point by point. and they need to do it convincingly.
a couple excerpts from a dem eml:

From the day President Obama took office, Democrats have worked to rebuild our country's economy, put into place the basic financial reforms needed to empower and protect consumers, and lay down a new foundation for growth.

Republicans made a different choice: They locked arms with the special interests and voted to protect the insurance companies, credit card lenders, and bankers on Wall Street.

The GOP embraced a singular goal: opposition to the President's agenda.

Now Republicans are scheming to win back Congress. With a majority, they'll do everything they can to reverse the progress Democrats have made. They'll turn back the clock on behalf of their special interest friends, their big donors, and the extreme right-wing elements that have taken over their party.


Republicans have promised to repeal health insurance reform and roll back new consumer protections -- but it won't stop there. Across the country, the GOP has nominated a set of right-wing ideologues who are vowing to undo the victories won by our parents and grandparents -- the promises those generations made to the future.

Republicans are supporting candidates like Nevada Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle who believe the United States should leave the United Nations and that we should shut down the Department of Education.

They're working to elect conservatives like Alaska Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller who argue that unemployment benefits are "not constitutionally authorized" and that we should end Social Security.

They're fighting for people like Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul who believe that civil rights should be up for debate in this country because they think that businesses should have the right to discriminate based on race, gender, disability, or any other factor.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

this looks good

American Taliban:
How War, Sex, Sin, and Power Bind Jihadists and the Radical Right


“It isn’t possible to understand American politics now without understanding the worldview and arguments of Markos Moulitsas. If you still believe the beltway caricature of the squishy, compromising, conciliatory American left, American Taliban should disabuse you of that notion.”
—Rachel Maddow, The Rachel Maddow Show

“Moulitsas alerts us to a clear and present danger in America: radical zealots who disregard our Constitution and our freedoms and who disguise themselves as patriots.”
—Roger Ebert, film critic

“I can’t remember a time in my life when anti-intellectualism and intolerance—from America’s prejudice against evolutionary science to its reactionary condemnation of a scholarly African American president—has been more pervasive. The time has never been more ripe for a book such as this. American Taliban reminds us that fanaticism isn’t always an import.”
—Brett Gurewitz, Bad Religion

“A thorough compendium of right-wing hypocrisy and selective memory that is either hilarious or tragic, depending on your mood. And it’s all lovingly couched in outrage and profanity.”
—David Cross, I Drink for a Reason

“While not afraid to laugh at the American Taliban, Markos Moulitsas sees the culture warriors for the insidious, dangerous force they present to a free and democratic society.”
—Amanda Marcotte, Executive Editor, Pandagon.net

“Markos writes with a conscience and armed with facts to let you know: no, you’re not crazy. What you suspected all along was true—America’s right wing lives on a myth of self-constructed lies about the Other, with a juvenile disregard for reality, and Obama’s presidency has further radicalized an already radical conservative movement.”
—Janeane Garofalo, comic and actor

“Markos Moulitsas vividly exposes how the radical right and many leaders in the Republican Party , contrary to their incessant claims, actually hate the cherished American values of freedom, justice, tolerance and diversity of thought and expression. With sparkling clarity, American Taliban sounds the alarm on the well-funded, highly-placed authoritarians in this country who work daily to strip away civil liberties and viciously malign gays, women and other groups, and shows why they are treacherous to American democracy. We better listen.”
—Michelangelo Signorile, The Michelangelo Signorile Show, Sirius XM Radio

“American Taliban makes it clear that in a blind taste test the only way you’d be able to tell the difference between the GOP and Taliban philosophies would be beard hair.”
—Sam Seder, author, F.U.B.A.R: America’s Right Wing Nightmare

“Markos Moulitsas exposes Limbaugh, Palin, Beck, O’Reilly, Boehner, Gingrich, the Teabaggers, and the Birthers as mullahs of a modern American Taliban hell-bent on imposing their narrow-minded political jihad on us all.”
—John Aravosis, editor, AMERICAblog.com

“American Taliban shines a blinding light on the conservative right’s dark agenda. Anyone who genuinely cares about America should read this book.”
—David Coverdale, Whitesnake

Product Description
“We all agree with the Taliban.”—Rush Limbaugh, October 9, 2009

America’s primary international enemy—Islamic radicalism—insists on government by theocracy, curtails civil liberties, embraces torture, represses women, wants to eradicate homosexuals from society, and insists on the use of force over diplomacy. Remind you of a certain American political party? In American Taliban, Markos Moulitsas pulls no punches as he compares how the Republican Party and Islamic radicals maintain similar worldviews and tactics. Moutlitsas also challenges the media, fellow progressives, and our elected officials to call the radical right on their jihadist tactics more forcefully for the good of our nation and safety of all citizens.

About the Author

Markos Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos, which gets 2.5 million unique visitors every month. He is a two-time book author, a former Newsweek columnist, a regular guest on national tv and radio news shows, and a weekly columnist at The Hill newspaper. He is also the founder of SportsBlogs, Inc. (SBNation.com), a fellow at the New Policy Institute, and a member of the boards of several progressive organizations.