FDL Book Salon – The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized The American Right

david-neiwert-the-eliminationists.thumbnail.jpgI grew up in a right wing household, so I’m not one of those liberals who’ve never spent any time connecting on an intimate basis with conservatives. I spent my early life hearing conservative talk around the kitchen table, drinking right wing philosophy along with my Nestle’s Quick.(Not long ago I came across a letter my mother had written to her parents in 1960 in which she lamented the fact that John F. Kennedy had stolen the election out from under that fine man Richard Nixon!)

Until the last 15 or 20 years, I felt that I understood conservatism quite well, even as I disagreed with virtually every aspect of it. And while I found much of it repugnant, particularly the racist side which the Southern Strategy embraced, I had never actually feared it. Perhaps that’s because the people I knew might have been right wing, but I had never heard them say that all liberals (blacks/gays/feminists) should be killed.  That was new to me.

This rhetoric traveled under the radar through the jungle tom toms of talk radio, which seemed to be using a language I hadn’t heard before — or at least hadn’t heard it used in quite this way.  Sure, the turbulent 60s had spawned “love it or leave it,” but this verbal violence was aimed at entire classes of people and most especially anyone who held liberal political views. It looked like this:

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FDL Book Salon Welcomes Senator Harry Reid: The Good Fight

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“Ours is a time of great political disaffection, and I understand it, because so far in this new century, we have failed the people of this country. We’ve got a lot of damage to repair. There are no magic bullets. Future generations will look back on this period as a very dark one if we fail. But heaven help us if we don’t try.”
Harry Reid, The Good Fight: Hard Lessons From Searchlight To Washington.

No kidding.

I didn’t know much about Harry Reid’s background before I read his memoir other than that he came from a small town, had boxed in his youth and served on the Nevada gaming commission before going into politics. I assumed I wouldn’t be reading the usual up-by-his-Sperry top-siders from Andover to Yale that usually characterizes political biography in this country but I have to say that this wasn’t what I expected either:

I come from a mining town.

But by the time I came along – December 2, 1939 – the leading industry in my hometown of Searchlight, Nevada, was no longer mining, it was prostitution. I don’t exaggerate. There was a local law that said you could not have a house of prostitution or a place that served alcohol within so many feet of a school. Once, when it was determined that one of the clubs was in violation of this law, they moved the school.

As a boy, I learned to swim at a whorehouse. Nobody in town had ever seen such a fancy inground tiled pool in their lives as the pool at the El Rey. Or any pool at all, for that matter. At least nobody that we knew. The El Ray was the main bordello when I was growing up in Searchlight. Every Thursday afternoon, the whoremonger in town, a kindly bear of a man by the name of Willie Martello, would ask the girls who worked the El Rey to clear out, and he’d invite the children in town, usually no more than a dozen or so at a time, to swim in his pool. And we would live the life of Riley for a couple of hours, splashing in the azure blue of that whorehouse pool. This was a rare luxury in a hard town. When I was coming up, there were several other brothels in Searchlight – the Crystal Club, Searchlight Casino, Sandy’s – thirteen in all, and no churches to be found. (more…)

Who Will Tell The People?

(Please send a letter to the editor of your local paper, telling them to get the word out about Bush approving torture — jh)

This ad, which will play in Pennsylvania after the presidential debate tonight, courtesy Condi Must Go

As you well informed blog readers all know by now, last week ABC broke an interesting little story. It was about how Condi Rice, Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, Colin Powell, George Tenent, John Ashcroft and other Bush "Principals" all gathered in regular meetings in the White House to discuss and approve of the various torture methods being used against prisoners held by the United States in the War On Terror. ABC interviewed the president a couple of days later and asked him if he was aware of these meetings and he said he was not only aware of them, but that he’d approved of them. Moreover, he specifically said he had no regrets about what was done to Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who we know was tortured with simulated drowning — also known as "waterboarding" — which is considered by the entire civilized world to be torture.

As I said, we know all this. The blogs have been writing about it non-stop since last week, stunned and appalled at the picture of these high level public officials sitting around watching power point presentations about the efficacy of sexual humiliation and CIA operatives "acting out" various torture techniques for their approval. (According to ABC’s source, they went farther than the Yoo memos and mandated that certain techniques could be used in tandem to make the "enhanced interrogations" even more painful.) At the CIA’s request, they explicitly signed off unanimously on each instance of torture — torture which included many of the techniques described here by former POWs of North Vietnam. POW’s like John McCain.

They were aware that what they were doing was wrong, immoral. Attorney General John Ashcroft warned them that by doing such things, right in the White House, "history would not be kind." But they did it. The president approved it. ABC reported it. And nobody else in the media cares. (more…)

Book Salon Welcomes Greg Anrig and Digby

0470044365.jpg(Welcome in the comments author Greg Anrig, author of The Conservatives Have No Clothes: Why Right-Wing Ideas Keep Failing, and today’s moderator Digby – jh)

A few years back a very smart friend of mine mused over coffee, “I wonder what it’s like to be William F. Buckley today? He got everything he ever wanted.” He sure did. All those years of philosophizing and writing and proselytizing and building a political movement certainly came to full fruition in the Bush years, didn’t it? They had it all — global economic and military dominance, total political control of the US government, domestic prosperity, a budget surplus, a friendly media and a cowed and paralyzed opposition party. There has never been a more fertile time for any political movement to solidify its gains and create a long lasting political consensus.

How profoundly disoriented old Buckley must be today. They had it all — and in the course of 6 short years they managed to completely discredit their philosophy and prove their total ineptitude at running government. How could they have possibly failed so miserably?

Greg Anrig, TPM blogger and VP of programs at The Century Foundation, has written an entertaining and illuminating book explaining step-by-step just how and why it happened. The overarching answer, of course, is that any philosophy that doesn’t believe in government would naturally not be very good at running one. (Indeed, one of the inescapable conclusions is that in many ways they consciously seek to run it badly in order to prove their thesis that government can’t do anything right!)

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Book Salon Welcomes Greg Anrig and Digby

0470044365.jpg(Welcome in the comments author Greg Anrig, author of The Conservatives Have No Clothes: Why Right-Wing Ideas Keep Failing, and today’s moderator Digby – jh)

A few years back a very smart friend of mine mused over coffee, “I wonder what it’s like to be William F. Buckley today? He got everything he ever wanted.” He sure did. All those years of philosophizing and writing and proselytizing and building a political movement certainly came to full fruition in the Bush years, didn’t it? They had it all — global economic and military dominance, total political control of the US government, domestic prosperity, a budget surplus, a friendly media and a cowed and paralyzed opposition party. There has never been a more fertile time for any political movement to solidify its gains and create a long lasting political consensus.

How profoundly disoriented old Buckley must be today. They had it all — and in the course of 6 short years they managed to completely discredit their philosophy and prove their total ineptitude at running government. How could they have possibly failed so miserably?

Greg Anrig, TPM blogger and VP of programs at The Century Foundation, has written an entertaining and illuminating book explaining step-by-step just how and why it happened. The overarching answer, of course, is that any philosophy that doesn’t believe in government would naturally not be very good at running one. (Indeed, one of the inescapable conclusions is that in many ways they consciously seek to run it badly in order to prove their thesis that government can’t do anything right!)

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FDL Book Salon: “Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class”

51xtkw72xxl_aa240_.jpg(Today we welcome Robert Frank, author of “Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class.” Please join us in the comments — jh)


We hear a lot about income inequality these days and if you’re like me, you probably wonder, other than the fundamental unfairness of it all, why this matters. After all, life isn’t fair — get back to work and stop lallygagging.

As it turns out it matters a great deal, and that sense of dissatisfaction and anxiety so many of us feel is a direct result of the conspicuous consumption of the fabulously wealthy overclass trickling down through society and making it necessary for people to constantly buy more, even as they are earning the same. According to Frank, it’s not just keeping up with the Joneses or class envy or any of the other things that people usually attribute to those who live beyond their means. It’s a natural, human response to the context in which they live. Frank makes a compelling case that measuring yourself against your neighbors, co-workers or whatever, isn’t just a matter of “keeping score.” It’s the way we make sense of the world. And that measure is affected every day by what the super-rich are buying.

In a delightfully droll passage, Frank describes going shopping to replace the battered $89.00 bar-b-q he’d used quite happily for years, until all his repairs finally failed and it fell apart. He sees this amazing Viking grill extravaganza with burners for stir frying and rotisseries that practically cook the food itself and deliver it to your table. It costs $5,000. But, boy is it awesome. He reluctantly turns away and contemplates a different model with some of the same features, but now that he’s seen the top of the line, it just isn’t as impressive. But being a responsible consumer he realizes that he can’t be that extravagant and he considers buying this more basic model — for $1,160. It’s so improved from the banged up old $89.00 model on which he’d happily grilled for years they might as well not even be called a bar-b-q, but in spite of that, he feels a vague sense of disappointment at what it doesn’t have compared to the fancy Lamborghini level grill. Buying it would feel positively frugal, even though it’s ridiculously expensive on its own terms. I’m sure you’ve all been there. You have no idea what’s out there, but once you see something with all the bells and whistles you subconsciously compare everything else you see to it. And something that you would have found to be an amazing improvement over what you once had, suddenly becomes a compromise.

For the record, Frank settles on a $250.00 Weber and felt extremely frugal buying it — though it cost three times what his other grill had cost. But you can also tell by the loving detail with which he describes those more expensive models, that they made a lasting impression. He went back a year later to look at them again and the top of the line model was now $13,000.00 — and that $1100.00 model now looks like a worthless piece of junk by comparison.

This is the mechanism by which the extremely wealthy change the context of our everyday lives in ways we aren’t even aware. And in a society that ties such fundamental community functions such as schools and public safety to property values and perceptions of power, it is almost a matter of necessity that the middle class keep reaching for the bigger house and the bigger car in order to maintain a stake in their community. It is perfectly understandable that people want to have their kids educated in good schools and live in safe neighborhoods.

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FDL Book Salon Welcomes Glenn Greenwald

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(Please welcome Salon blogger and author Glenn Greenwald who is here to discuss his book A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency. You can read an excerpt here — JH)

After 9/11, I remember being quite surprised that the US government would so freely use the phrase “good and evil” when our attackers had been extreme religious fanatics. Laden as those words are with religious association, it seemed to me to be fanning the flames when a smarter approach would have been to distance ourselves from such rhetoric and try to redirect the focus to more rational ground. I did a post quite early on in which I compared speeches by George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden in which their frequent references to God and good and evil and satan were nearly indistinguishable. Both speeches could have come right out of the 13th century. (It was one of the creepiest posts I ever did, and I recall that at the time we were in the grip of such paranoia, I wondered if I would gather the attention of the authorities for writing such a thing.)

From very early on Bush used archaic religious verbal constructions like “the evil ones” and “evil-doers.” Perhaps the most startling example is what he reportedly told Palestinian Prime Minister Mamhoud Abbas in 2003: “God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them.” Yikes.

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FDL Book Salon Welcomes Glenn Greenwald

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(Please welcome Salon blogger and author Glenn Greenwald who is here to discuss his book A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency. You can read an excerpt here — JH)

After 9/11, I remember being quite surprised that the US government would so freely use the phrase “good and evil” when our attackers had been extreme religious fanatics. Laden as those words are with religious association, it seemed to me to be fanning the flames when a smarter approach would have been to distance ourselves from such rhetoric and try to redirect the focus to more rational ground. I did a post quite early on in which I compared speeches by George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden in which their frequent references to God and good and evil and satan were nearly indistinguishable. Both speeches could have come right out of the 13th century. (It was one of the creepiest posts I ever did, and I recall that at the time we were in the grip of such paranoia, I wondered if I would gather the attention of the authorities for writing such a thing.)

From very early on Bush used archaic religious verbal constructions like “the evil ones” and “evil-doers.” Perhaps the most startling example is what he reportedly told Palestinian Prime Minister Mamhoud Abbas in 2003: “God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them.” Yikes.

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Welcome To Our World

 welcome to my world

The other night TRex paid me a very nice compliment and I'd like to return the favor by pointing out that this very funny, but important, post of his should be read by one and all. The DC punditocrisy has not just been craven and opportunistic, although they have been that. And they haven't just been servants of power, although they have been that too. Apparently, they have actually been frozen for the last two decades and the blogosphere has caused them to melt. Via TRex, here's Joe Klein:

As a newcomer to this blogging business, I've been interested in the Edwards dust-up. As readers know, I've been critical of the tone of the left-wing blogosphere in the past. But I think that Yglesias raises an important point here and anyone reading the comments section of any Swampland post knows that troglyditic right-wing cavedwellers fester there, in a vomitously vile manner, too. And I'd add this: Radio. I was driving into Springfield, Ill last night for the Obama festivities and caught the ever-vile Sean Hannity "interviewing" the even-more-vile Dick Morris about Hillary. Just disgraceful…and they were mild compared to the crap I've heard from Rush and others over the years.

It's obvious that the current level of vitriol on the left is a reaction to nearly twenty years of sewage emanating from Rush et al. …The intemperance on the left has three other sources (1) justifiable fury over the Bush adminstration (2) justifiable fury over the way the media treated Clinton and, to a certain extent, Bush and (3) ideologues of any sort tend to be obnoxious.

Now I recognize that Klein goes on to make a number of predictable lukewarm water points about playing nice-nice. But, nonetheless, this is a breakthrough. Indeed, it is a sign of an important sea change in the punditocrisy's worldview. For years they have been living in a Republican establishment bubble headed by society mavens pretending to be journalists — people like Cokie Roberts and David Broder. These are people who spent the decade of the 90's aiding and abetting a GOP character smear of epic proportions, either because they felt the need to pretend that they were living in Bedford Falls instead of the ruthless capitol of the most powerful nation on earth — or because they are foolish and shallow people who enjoyed the sophomoric tenor of the rightwing machine. Either way, they were (and are) a symptom of a very sick political culture.

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Clean Break

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Tristero's post over at my place from earlier today about General Peter Pace's divergence from the administration's talking points may illuminate some of the backchannel infighting going on in the Bush administration over Iran.  Here's the nut:

A top U.S. general said Tuesday there was no evidence the Iranian government was supplying Iraqi insurgents with highly lethal roadside bombs, apparently contradicting claims by other U.S. military and administration officials.

Now, we don't know what this really means.  It could be that they are playing some sort of elaborate good cop/bad cop routine. (God help us — these people are not very good at complicated tasks.)  Or it could be a real revolt of the generals.  We can't know for sure. But we do know that as much as a year ago, the administration has been actively planning to attack Iran and the generals have been resisting.  Here's Seymour Hersh from April 2006:

There is a growing conviction among members of the United States military, and in the international community, that President Bush’s ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change. Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has challenged the reality of the Holocaust and said that Israel must be “wiped off the map.” Bush and others in the White House view him as a potential Adolf Hitler, a former senior intelligence official said. “That’s the name they’re using. They say, ‘Will Iran get a strategic weapon and threaten another world war?’ ”

A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was “absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb” if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do “what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.”

One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that “a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.” He added, “I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘What are they smoking?’ ”

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