Please, We Need Your Support

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Firedoglake needs your support. FDL has bravely reported on, and supported, political causes, antiwar issues, immigration reform, Unions, environmental issues, KeystoneXL, fracking, Citizen United, Marijuana Legalization, LGBT issues, marriage equality, illegal surveillance, race issues, healthcare reforms, and whistleblowers. The increased security software, server services require your donation to keep FDL online. Please help us modernize the site and stay online

Can you donate $10 to protect Firedoglake?

Before I was invited to join Firedoglake to assist with the FDL Book Salon, I followed FDL, read the posts and found a website that provided an insight to the news and politics that I was looking for. Now as I work with the Book and Movie Night salons, I hear from our guests (authors, filmmakers) how they have followed us for years, or if they didn’t know about FDL, they are surprised by the quality of the coverage and will follow FDL now.

It has been an honor to bring the newsmakers, authors and filmmakers to FDL each week so you can ask questions and to be heard. These are the people making the news, reporting the facts, and organizing protests, brought here to FDL to talk with you. We need your help, thank you.

Please donate $10 so FDL can continue leading the way on political and social issues.

Please, We Need Your Support

http://static1.firedoglake.com/1/files/2014/10/300-justice.jpg
Firedoglake needs your support. FDL has bravely reported on, and supported, political causes, antiwar issues, immigration reform, Unions, environmental issues, KeystoneXL, fracking, Citizen United, Marijuana Legalization, LGBT issues, marriage equality, illegal surveillance, race issues, healthcare reforms, and whistleblowers. The increased security software, server services require your donation to keep FDL online. Please help us modernize the site and stay online

Can you donate $10 to protect Firedoglake?

Before I was invited to join Firedoglake to assist with the FDL Book Salon, I followed FDL, read the posts and found a website that provided an insight to the news and politics that I was looking for. Now as I work with the Book and Movie Night salons, I hear from our guests (authors, filmmakers) how they have followed us for years, or if they didn’t know about FDL, they are surprised by the quality of the coverage and will follow FDL now.

It has been an honor to bring the newsmakers, authors and filmmakers to FDL each week so you can ask questions and to be heard. These are the people making the news, reporting the facts, and organizing protests, brought here to FDL to talk with you. We need your help, thank you.

Please donate $10 so FDL can continue leading the way on political and social issues.

FDL Book Salon – August 23 / 24 – No Salons

I’m sorry, there are no salons this weekend.  But next weekend we have:

 

SaturdayJohn Dean / The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It; Hosted by James Robenalt, author of, The Harding Affair.

 

 

 

 

 

SundayPau LeBlanc, Debby Smith, and Michael Steven Smith / Imagine: Living In A Socialist USA; Hosted by Deena Stryker

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have a great weekend, see you Labor Day Weekend!
Bev

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Rick Perlstein, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan

Welcome Rick Perlstein (bio/books) (Twitter) and Host Kimberly Phillips-Fein (NYU Gallatin) (ThinkBig)

The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan

It’s an honor to moderate today’s discussion of Rick Perlstein’s new book, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan. For American history buffs and scholars alike, Rick’s work needs little introduction. He’s the acclaimed author of three major works on the rise of conservatism in the postwar United States (Before the Storm, Nixonland, and now The Invisible Bridge), whose journalism, criticism and writings on history have appeared in The Nation, Rolling Stone and countless other publications. Not just do his books hit the best-seller lists and make the end-of-year best-book roundups, they have become part of the canon, required reading for aspiring American political historians—appearing on the syllabi for graduate seminars, a necessary part of the rite-of-passage hazing ritual for graduate students known as the comprehensive exam, and thus filtering down into the undergraduate lecture courses that introduce the college students of this country to twentieth-century American history.

Why has he had such impact? Reviewers love to trumpet Rick’s snazzy, vibrant writing style (who else would describe Nixon’s vice-president Spiro Agnew as “that pathetic man a heartbeat away from the presidency”?) as well as his indefatigable ability to dig up exactly the right quote, strange anecdote or vivid example. But more important than that—although intimately connected—is that by showing how political history is inseparable from culture, Rick has been able to make the strange history of conservatism comprehensible to a generation of readers and scholars. He’s able to identify with the passions that drove the right, even to admire the political commitment of the activists who built the movement, while at the same time always retaining a strong sense of the surreal, bizarre and downright destructive aspects of this history. He helps us to understand why the right rose not just through his arguments, but by reminding us—showing us—what it felt like to live through the crazy times he chronicles.

Rick’s first book (Before the Storm) told the story of the failed 1964 presidential bid of Barry Goldwater, the Arizona Senator whose ghost-written book The Conscience of a Conservative sparked the imagination of small-town manufacturers who dreamed of dismantling the New Deal, and who sought to promote Goldwater as a candidate to represent their particular brand of anti-welfare-state conservatism against the moderates in the Republican Party. Goldwater’s campaign, Rick showed, helped to galvanize a generation of conservative activists; it was one of the most successful failures in American history. His second book (Nixonland) looked at Richard Nixon, the sour paranoiac whose politics of melodramatic resentment bequeathed modern conservatism much of its emotional tone. (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Erica Chenoweth, Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict

Welcome Erica Chenoweth (University of Denver) (EricaChenoweth.com) (Twitter), Maria J. Stephan (United States Institute for Peace) (Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council) (Twitter) and Host Lewis C. Perry (Saint Louis University) (Organization of American Historians) (author, Civil Disobedience: An American Tradition)

Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict

In Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan review the scholarly literature on campaigns of popular and usually nonviolent resistance to undemocratic regimes in modern nations, including Iran, Burma, Palestine, and Israel. A table at the end and an online appendix refer to many other instances of nonviolence.

The authors conclude that “civil resistance” campaigns have often been effective (thus perhaps overcoming Malcolm X’s observation that “nonviolence is fine as long as it works,” which the authors quote at the outset). In an exhaustive and very valuable review of the literature on each nation, the authors find that civil resistance often has been successful, and they suggest explanations for why it sometimes has not.

The reasons may look a little different today than when the book appeared, shortly after events across North Africa encouraged optimism about the march of popular democratic change. But it still may be fair to say, as the authors quote Joan Baez,

“Nonviolence is a flop. The only bigger flop is violence.”

In fact, the authors are more optimistic about “nonviolent resistance” as a near-unstoppable force for change in our world, even in the most unlikely circumstances. (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Daniel Schulman, Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty

Welcome Daniel Schulman (DanielSchulman.com) (MotherJones) (Twitter) and Host Connor Gibson (Greenpeace USA) (Stuck in the Elevator with Greenpeace)

Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty

Mainstream political understanding in the United States is increasingly informed by the perception that our elections and lives are being determined by the outsized spending of millionaires and billionaires we will never meet. The poster boys of plutocracy are the subject of this year’s book by Mother Jones senior editor Daniel Schulman in Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty.

With a timely release, considering our current national zeitgeist and upcoming midterm elections, Sons of Wichita has been received and celebrated with a twist: Schulman’s tomb of “Kochology” has been received with surprise for its non-condemning tone. The Daily Show host Jon Stewart joked “these Koch brothers almost seem human,” in an interview with Schulman. The Koch-funded Reason Foundation, of which David Koch is a trustee, notes that Schulman dismisses accusations that the Koch brothers only act in the interest of their company’s profits. And a New York Times book review claimed that Schulman “seems to be almost in awe of Charles [Koch].” Indeed, portions of the book impress upon readers a sense of calculated sophistication from a billionaire whose decisions have led to widespread public backlash against his business-fueled political campaigns.

On the surface Schulman’s descriptions are unexpectedly favorable to Koch in the eyes of, say, this Greenpeace researcher. But the narrative set forth in Sons of Wichita offers some key implicit themes. Despite a reputation for Libertarianism, with David Koch even running as the Libertarian party’s vice presidential candidate in 1980, many of the Koch’s political activities blend with mainstream Republican politics. Charles Koch, while presented as unexpectedly humble, has a longtime habit of creating and then heavy-handing projects not only within Koch Industries, but also across the vast network of political groups he creates and finances.

As told by Schulman, the Koch family history illustrates some psychological underpinnings of Charles Koch’s development.

Charles is one of four brothers (not two), born of Fred C and Mary R Koch after eldest and least-known brother, Frederick “Freddie” Koch. Father Fred Koch’s intense work ethic is something Charles has cited as a major developmental influence; and as Charles grew the family business and fortune far beyond what Fred Koch established, he also adopted his father’s knack for outspoken political activism. Schulman presents objective documentation that patriarch Fred Koch was a racist and quite literally praised Germany, Italy and Japan as the “only sound countries” in 1938, shortly before the United States entered World War II. None of the four Koch brothers have precisely mirrored their father’s extreme views, though Charles did follow his father’s lead not only into the helm of Koch Industries, but also into the anti-Civil Rights, anti-communist John Birch Society.

Charles Koch’s political network, nicknamed the “Kochtopus,” is infamous across political ideologies. It is detested by liberals for consistently pushing the political spectrum rightward and disenfranchising the financially poor–a symbol of everything that is wrong with corporate greed. Among establishment Republicans, the Kochtopus threatens a comfortable status quo as Tea Party ideologies displace longstanding conservative leaders, often at the expense of Republican-championed religious and social issues that Koch isn’t interested in. And even among Libertarians, of which the Kochs are comparable (but not synonymous, as Schulman shows), Charles Koch’s legacy of using his money to micromanage has burned many bridges.

Much is left untouched in Schulman’s book, mainly due to the secrecy the Kochs are known for. Koch Industries is privately held, and finding ex-executives and employees was clearly a challenge for the author, who did succeed in getting interviews with some insiders. The political activities of Charles and David Koch (and at times, David’s twin brother Bill) are only as disclosed as far as the letter of the law, leaving many questions unanswered about the past, current and future political ambitions of so-called “Koch World.”

And since all of us joining today’s Book Salon have questions about the Koch brothers, Daniel Schulman is an ideal person to ask. Enjoy.

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Deena Stryker, Lunch with Fellini, Dinner with Fidel: An Illustrated Personal Journey from the Cold War to the Arab Spring

Welcome Deena Stryker (OtherJones.com)(Photographic Collection) (Twitter) and Host Jeff J Brown (44Days blog) (Facebook) (Twitter)

Lunch with Fellini, Dinner with Fidel: An Illustrated Personal Journey from the Cold War to the Arab Spring

What really struck me about Deena Stryker and her autobiography was her deep attachment to her family, her sense of incredible adventure, in order to separate herself from her parents’ influence and how much her intelligence and determination shine throughout. Very few people get to leave their home country to live on another continent, and this wizened group of humanity is further filtered down when you do so as a middle school child. Deena Stryker did so soon after World War II, moving from the US to France with her family.

Most young adults would have been happy to hang out in the relative comfort of Western Europe, but Ms. Stryker had other more romantic ideas, finding love and then spending many years behind the Iron Curtain, a rare experience for any American during the height of the Cold War, and a story well worth reading.

But Ms. Stryker didn’t stop there. After an amazing life of love and a career in Europe, she heads off to another forbidden land, in the eyes of the Western Princes of Power and their brutally enforced “official narrative,” by spending time in Cuba and “trading with the enemy,” including getting to know Fidel and Raul Castro, as well as Che Guevara.

Ms. Stryker surely has an FBI/CIA/NSA file as thick as a Beijing phone book, and from the perspective of the 1%, deservedly so, which makes her a true modern day heroine in my eyes. Her life story is one of the most fascinating, adventurous, rebellious and romantic ones that I’ve ever vicariously experienced, reading her autobiography Lunch with Fellini, Dinner with Fidel, and one that I will not soon forget.

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Michael Arria, Medium Blue: The Politics of MSNBC

Welcome Michael Arria (CounterPunch) (Twitter) and Host Steve Horn (deSmogBlog) (Twitter)

Medium Blue: The Politics of MSNBC

Michael Arria’s Medium Blue: The Politics of MSNBC — published by CounterPunch Books — was a courageous one to write. It means many doors will now likely be slammed in Arria’s face for places to publish, including those of progressive bastions such as The Nation and Mother Jones, both of which are excoriated in the book.

Using vignettes and case studies, Arria’s book tells the story of many liberal’s favorite cable news network: MSNBC. Chronicling the likes of Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, Melissa Harris-Perry, a bit of Ed Schultz and Keith Olbermann, the book offers the very first critical examination, in book form, of the “Lean Forward” network.

As Arria notes, it is easy to mock and ridicule Fox News and the corporate conservative media. “For years now, Fox News has been beaming out images of people falling into orchestra pits, red meat for its rabid base, as well as liberals who love to hate on it.”

Indeed, an entire “progressive movement” (related: a token of success in said movement is an appearance on MSNBC) echo chamber has been created around bashing media meant for consumption for conservatives.

Look no further than to the work of Media Matters for America as an Exhibit A, whose researchers and founder David Brock also happens to run a Democratic Party Super-PAC called American Bridge PAC. There are of course many Exhibit B’s, C’s, D’s, etc.

Implicit in this right-wing media bashing by groups like Media Matters is what’s missing: any critical examination whatsoever of channels like MSNBC. By definition, they can’t do that because they are mouthpieces of the Democratic Party, which of course is financed by the same elite interests as the Republican Party.

Arria’s book, though, blows the lid off of this taboo and pries open a critical dialogue.

A good short read, certainly, what makes it stand out is lack of sugar-coating and its no-holds-barred approach. He spares no criticism, not even of many liberal Democratic’s big man on-campus: Chris Hayes, who Arria refers to on his chapter covering him as the “exception and the rule.”

Maddow too, who appears to be who Hayes has modeled himself after in style and delivery — though while also sometimes feigning being a radical — is spared no criticism. With her rise to fame and fortune (all MSNBC show hosts are paid egregious salaries, including Maddow) coinciding with the rise to fame and power of Barack Obama in 2008, Maddow’s story says much about MSNBC in the age of Obama.

Arria writes, “The MSNBC brand, ignited by Olbermann and furthered by the election of 2008, had fully taken form with Maddow as its primary representative.”

Of course, that is what makes both Obama, Maddow, Hayes and MSNBC at-large so potent: they are corporate brands, useful mascots if you will, for multinational corporate power. And as Arria points out, what that also means is — by extension — imperial power. MSNBC has been a key driver of promoting regime change in Libya, of pushing for intervention in Syria, and of general silence on the issues of empire in so many other spheres.

Fodder for a follow-up book is how the “progressive media” situates itself as a feeder network of sorts for MSNBC. MSNBC is not just about bloviating talking heads like Maddow, Hayes, Schultz and others offering hollow analyses that do not challenge the fundamental dictates of multinational corporate power. Rather, every show on the 24/7 network has producers that book guests, and as Arria makes clear, guests invited onto the show generally only offer points-of-view within narrow and acceptable confines.

Which brings us to a more troubling question: if Medium Blue colors the politics of MSNBC, what color is the much-ballyhooed “progressive media”?

As the case studies of Adam Serwer, Melissa Harris-Parry and Chris Hayes reveal, another book could be written about this topic in of itself. Perhaps it will be Arria who writes it.

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Joe Burns, Strike Back: Using the Militant Tactics of Labor’s Past to Reignite Public Sector Unionism Today

Welcome Joe Burns (blog / interviews) (PopularResistance) and Host Douglas Williams (TheSouthLawn) (Twitter)

Strike Back: Using the Militant Tactics of Labor’s Past to Reignite Public Sector Unionism Today

Community, community, community.

If you are looking for an overarching theme to Joe Burns’ Strike Back: Using The Militant Tactics of Labor’s Past to Reignite Public Sector Unionism Today, it would be the importance of communities in ensuring that a more militant labor strategy ends in success. I have blogged on this particular topic repeatedly, and I continue to do so because we must conceptualize the labor struggles as a battle between those who produce and those who take. Conservatives have already done this by turning the poor into “takers,” while those who sit on inheritances and use their elite connections in government and industry to amass more capital are somehow “job creators.” The best way to combat this destructive narrative is to engage not just the workers, but also their neighbors, families, and friends, and Burns lays this out in great detail. There’s the 1978 strike in San Francisco’s public housing authority where the workers had an agreement on the table but refused to accept it until the authority also agreed to the demands of the tenants who had gone on a rent strike in solidarity. There’s the sanitation workers’ strike in Atlanta where organizations rooted in the recent victory of the Civil Rights Movement came to the aid of the union and mobilized crucial support for the workers in their successful labor struggle. But as Burns points out, the failure of unions to assess and engage the community in their fight can lead to disastrous consequences. In the private sector, we have the UAW’s recent travails to illustrate that. In the public sector, the failure of teachers’ strikes in Florida and New York highlights the consequences of going it alone.

Resistance, resistance, resistance.

If you needed a second strain in the book, you can find it in the call to resistance that begins on the title page and continues through to the conclusion. Resistance to what, you might ask. There are a couple of things that public employees must resist in their efforts to bring back a more militant ethos to their movement. One is the resistance to privatization, which has decimated public schooling and the administration of social welfare to those Americans who are most in need. Another is the resistance to destructive labor laws, such as “right-to-work” provisions and the recent push to ban collective bargaining for public employees, that has been met with mixed success in the industrial Midwest.

Given those two things I just listed, you would never think that the biggest point of resistance would be to those collective bargaining laws. Why would public sector unionism be opposed to laws that provide a structure for them to negotiate with their employers and receive benefits? Yes, collective bargaining laws do provide this framework, but it often comes at a cost that is usually paid in the forgoing of a right to strike. In Michigan, public sector employees have been barred from striking since 1947; the original law sanctioned workers with immediate termination at the slightest sense that they were not working at 100 percent due to a labor dispute (this was amended drastically in 1965, eliminating the harsh penalties for workers but maintaining the ban on striking all the same). As Burns notes in Chapter 8, this was not an anomaly: every state in the country had bans on public employees striking until Vermont and Hawaii began loosening their restrictions in the 1960s and 1970s, respectively.

One might think that the unions would be greatly opposed to any curbing of their right strike, but as Burns points out throughout the book, one would be wrong. Strikes in the public sector are frequently turned into battles of political ideology by politicians from both parties, with elected officials finding it more politically palatable to bash workers than to come to the table and engage in negotiations. In response to this, which has been a trend for the past 40 years at this point, public sector unions decided to take weapons out of their own arsenal and either play down use of the strike as a bargaining tool or give strikes euphemistic names like “professional sanctions.” Burns rightly points out the wrongheadedness of this approach, and calls for a more defiant unionism that earns back the right to strike by, well, striking. He details the struggle for a right to strike in Hawaii and Minnesota where public employees engaged in waves of illegal strike activity and forced the hand of state lawmakers, who granted them their full complement of labor rights in response. These laws have unexpectedly led to less striking, as the unions would rather engage in arbitration and deal-making rather than risk backlash from the public that could tank the chances of a strike action’s success.

And that is where we come full circle. If we want a stronger public sector labor movement that engages in militant and broad-based social action on behalf of both its members and the people they serve, then a focus on engaging the community is a must. Joe Burns’ book provides some guidance on how we can do that in a way that remains rooted in the values of justice and equality in the workplace that the labor movement has stood for since those textile workers in Lowell, MA walked off the job in the early 19th century. These are values that my father, who came up as a nuclear marine machinist at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, instilled in me as a young boy, and that my grandmother, a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, instilled in him all the same.

It is for that reason that I am honored to host this FDL Book Salon with Joe Burns, labor lawyer and comrade to the working class. If you want to enter the discussion, please leave your comments below.

(This Salon has been canceled) FDL Book Salon: Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America

Journalist Jon Mooallem has watched his little daughter’s world overflow with animals butterfly pajamas, appliquéd owls—while the actual world she’s inheriting slides into a great storm of extinction. Half of all species could disappear by the end of the century, and scientists now concede that most of America’s endangered animals will survive only if conservationists keep rigging the world around them in their favor. So Mooallem ventures into the field, often taking his daughter with him, to move beyond childlike fascination and make those creatures feel more real. Wild Ones is a tour through our environmental moment and the eccentric cultural history of people and wild animals in America that inflects it—from Thomas Jefferson’s celebrations of early abundance to the turn-of the-last-century origins of the teddy bear to the whale-loving hippies of the 1970s. In America, Wild Ones discovers, wildlife has always inhabited the terrain of our imagination as much as the actual land.

The journey is framed by the stories of three modern-day endangered species: the polar bear, victimized by climate change and ogled by tourists outside a remote northern town; the little-known Lange’s metalmark butterfly, foundering on a shred of industrialized land near San Francisco; and the whooping crane as it’s led on a months-long migration by costumed men in ultralight airplanes. The wilderness that Wild Ones navigates is a scrappy, disorderly place where amateur conservationists do grueling, sometimes preposterous-looking work; where a marketer maneuvers to control the polar bear’s image while Martha Stewart turns up to film those beasts for her show on the Hallmark Channel. Our most comforting ideas about nature unravel. In their place, Mooallem forges a new and affirming vision of the human animal and the wild ones as kindred creatures on an imperfect planet.

With propulsive curiosity and searing wit, and without the easy moralizing and nature worship of environmental journalism’s older guard, Wild Ones merges reportage, science, and history into a humane and endearing meditation on what it means to live in, and bring a life into, a broken world.

Jon Mooallem is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and Pop-Up Magazine, a live magazine performed on stage in San Francisco. He has contributed to This American Life, Radiolab, the New Yorker, Harper’s, Wired, and many other radio shows and publications. (Penguin)