FDL Book Salon Welcomes Bill Moyers, Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues

Welcome Bill Moyers, and Host Glenn Greenwald.

Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues

Glenn Greenwald, Host:

Bill Moyers easily ranks as one of America’s greatest journalists. For decades, he has covered vital stories most others ignored, fearlessly defying orthodoxies and amplifying viewpoints that were excluded in most establishment venues. His coverage of the 2008 financial crisis provided the earliest look at how reckless and criminal was Wall Street’s conduct and how steadfast was the resolve of the subservient political class to shield it from accountability. His commentary on how the media suppresses dissenting views that fall outside of the bipartisan consensus — as exemplified by this recent interview with Tavis Smiley — makes him one of the most astute media critics in the nation. And his 2007 examination of the media’s role in selling the Iraq War — “Buying the War” — was the first and still-best examination of that largely ignored topic.

The Lifetime Emmy Award winner and former Press Secretary to LBJ — who resigned from that position out of dissatisfaction with the Vietnam War — has also been a prolific author. His latest book, The Conversation Continues, is his 13th, and it offers the best of Moyers’ work over the last several years. Featuring 47 interviews that aired on Bill Moyers Journal from 2007-2010 — along with substantial new commentary on each from the author — it is genuinely difficult to imagine a book that offers more intelligent and engaging discussion on such a wide array of critical political, financial and cultural issues. It is like an in-depth museum exhibit for almost every important social development over the last decade.

Reading this book is akin to sitting down to watch the very best of Moyers’ interviews over the last several years, while sitting next to the interviewer himself as he provides his own analysis of the interviews and the topics they cover. Having been on Moyers show several times, I can personally attest that there is nobody who conducts interviews as well as Moyers did. He prepares extensively for each, develops an expert-level understanding of every topic he covers, purposely seeks out the most difficult and controversial aspects of any issue, and has a truly unique ability to force his guests to think very hard and deeply even about topics they have spent their careers discussing. The format was deliberately designed to avoid the glib, scripted, trite chatter offered daily on cable news, and instead demanded thoughtful commentary. The result on Bill Moyers Journal was the most substantive, serious and engaging series of interviews found anywhere on television, and The Conversation Continues adds all new layers to those segments. Just as was true for each episode his PBS show, you literally feel yourself become smarter and more enriched with each chapter you read.  [cont’d.] (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes David Swanson, Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union

david-swanson-daybreak-_good.thumbnail.JPG[Welcome David Swanson, and Host Glenn Greenwald – bev]

Over the last eight years, David Swanson has been one of the most tenacious and effective activists against the transgressions of the Bush presidency.  As Press Secretary for Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign, Communications Coordinator for ACORN prior to that, a tireless anti-war activist for Democrats.com and, most notably of all, as the indefatigable spearhead behind the campaign to publicize the incriminating "Downing Street memos," Swanson has been a living, breathing illustration of what vibrant citizen activism and independent, adversarial investigative journalism should be.

There have now been many books written which chronicle the imperial, lawless presidency of the Bush era, but Swanson’s superb new book — Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union — is one of the very few to examine how we can recover from it and reverse its pernicious trends. Many Bush books, given the horrific subject matter, have been dark and gloomy, even somewhat depressing.  To be sure, there are parts of Swanson’s book that documents in gruesome detail all of the liberties abridged and damage done during the last eight years.  This book also does not shy away from highlighting those areas in which the Obama presidency has, much to the dismay of many, come to replicate some (though by no means all) of the worst Bush abuses.  But Daybreak is far more uplifting and inspiring that virtually any other book in its genre, as it devotes itself to laying out a detailed plan for how American citizens — through the activism to which he has devoted himself — can bring about a rejuvenation of our political values. (more…)

FDL Book Salon: Bruce Fein

bruce-fein-constitutional-peril.jpgAfter The New York Times, in December, 2005, revealed that the NSA, under George Bush’s directive, had been eavesdropping on Americans citizens for years without the warrants required by law, very few commentators, and even fewer politicians, were willing to state the true meaning of what had been revealed: namely, that this was a flagrantly criminal act — a felony — punishable under FISA by 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each offense. Even more significantly, that revelation, more than any which preceded it, conclusively demonstrated the true face of the Bush presidency: a lawless regime which, in secret, had literally adopted a theory of executive power that vested the President with one of the definitive powers of a tyrant — the right to float above the law and to violate it at will.

For months after the NSA story was published, Beltway Republicans blindly defended the President’s lawbreaking, while Beltway Democrats, with rare exception, were so fearful of challenging the President on "terrorism" issues that, when asked about Bush’s FISA lawbreaking, they spouted babbling incoherence when they bothered to object to it at all. For that reason, the full extent of the Bush administration’s assault on our constitutional framework, to say nothing of the chronic criminality of our highest government officials, was never really conveyed to the public in the aftermath of the FISA scandal, because most political figures of any prominence, in both parties, abdicated their duties to demand that the President to adhere to the law.

One of the very rare exceptions to this craven lack of principle and cowardice was — and remains — Bruce Fein, a Harvard-trained constitutional lawyer, a long-time ideological conservative, and a former official in the Reagan Justice Department. While most of his fellow conservatives were defending anything and everything George Bush did, and most establishment Democrats were running away from these issues as fast as their scared little legs could carry them, Fein became one of the most eloquent and uncompromising defenders of our country’s constitutional values in the face of a coordinated onslaught led by Dick Cheney’s office and the Bush DOJ. Fein, to my knowledge, was the first prominent political figure to declare — in a December 27, 2005 Washington Times column that has aged exceptionally well — that Bush’s FISA lawbreaking was not only a threat to our republican principles, but was an impeachable offense, and he further argued that Congress had not the option, but the Constitutional duty, to impeach the President if the lawbreaking did not cease immediately: (more…)

Arianna Huffington’s Right is Wrong

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Arianna Huffington’s latest book — Right Is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution, and Made Us All Less Safe — thoroughly documents the most influential fact in our political life: namely, that the right-wing faction which has taken over the Republican Party is radical, deeply hostile to America’s core political traditions and values, and incomparably destructive. As she puts it: "they don’t believe in evolution but believe in torture."

But the real value of this book is its examination of the two key culprits in the ascension of this right-wing fringe: the establishment media and the Beltway leaders of the Democratic Party. Huffington’s insights are most piercing and innovative when her targets are the bloated, empty-headed media stars who have done more than anyone else to allow this fringe group to masquerade as part of the mainstream. And she pinpoints the dual afflictions which have rendered the media totally supine, when they aren’t actively complicit, in the face of this falsehood-spewing, extremist movement — the twisted notion of journalistic "balance" which means that they present every claim no matter how objectively false, along with the "self-hating" mentality of "liberal" journalists who have internalized right-wing smears and thus repeat them and seek to accommodate them:

A key to understanding the fanatical Right’s takeover of the Republican Party and how these ideas spread to the rest of the country is looking at the role of the media—not the Fox News pseudo-newsmen or the talk radio blowhards—but the respectable, supposedly liberal media. Without the enabling of the traditional media—with their obsession with “balance” and their pathological devotion to the idea that truth is always found in the (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Charlie Savage

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(Please welcome in the comments Charlie Savage, author of Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his work on Bush’s signing statements — JH)

Ever since The New York Times revealed the illegal NSA warrantless surveillance program in December, 2005, it has been inescapably clear that the Bush administration is a lawless government, grounded in the belief that nothing — certainly not the rule of law — can limit the President’s powers. Despite how extraordinary this revelation was, very few establishment journalists paid any attention to it at all, and when they did, it was to defend this lawlessness and demand that nothing be done to impede it.

In January, 2006, Joe Klein in Time attacked Nancy Pelosi for daring to speak out against Bush’s NSA lawbreaking and said: “these concerns [i.e., that Bush’s eavesdropping is illegal] pale before the importance of the program. It would have been a scandal if the NSA had not been using these tools to track down the bad guys.”

In Newsweek, Eleanor Clift in March, 2006 attacked Russ Feingold for daring to argue that Bush should be censured for his lawbreaking, claiming that Feingold’s efforts to impede Bush’s lawbreaking will doom the Democrats by showing how “unserious” they are with national security: “The broader public sees [Feingold’s efforts] as political extremism. Just when the Republicans looked like they were coming unhinged, the Democrats serve up a refresher course on why they can’t be trusted with the keys to the country.”

The New Republic repeatedly ran articles –and still doesexcusing, justifying and defending Bush’s lawbreaking. And even through today, establishment-worshipping “journalists” such as The Washington Post‘s David Ignatius continue to insist that Democrats must not stand in the way of ever-increasing Presidential powers vested in George Bush — whether that means legalizing more and more warrantless eavesdropping and even providing retroactive liability to lawbreaking telecoms — and that if they do impede any of this, they will be guilty of the Ultimate Beltway Sin: insufficient bipartisanship.

George Bush has been able to pursue an agenda of truly radical executive power theories with impunity because most American journalists have not only stood meekly by and expressed no interest in investigating or exposing any of this conduct, but worse, they have actively defended it. That is why the truly superb and tenacious reporting of The Boston Globe‘s Charlie Savage has stood out so nobly and conspicuously. While most of the political press in this country eagerly served as mindless vessels for White House claims about its conduct, Savage actually scrutinized and investigated those claims, exposed how they were false, and tenaciously documented the lawlessness and radicalism of this administration. Put another way, Savage acted as a political journalist should.

Beginning in early 2006, Savage published a series of probing articles in The Globe documenting the various ways the administration was subverting the law — from signing statements to absurd theories of executive power which administration radicals led by Dick Cheney had long embraced. Savage’s reporting almost single-handedly forced the issue of the President’s signing statements into the public eye, and led to Senate hearings held by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Earlier this year, Savage was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the administration’s executive power abuses. When the Pulitzer was announced, the Globe‘s editor provided this explanation — at once unremarkable and extraordinary — as to why Savage deserved the Pulitzer: (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Charlie Savage

519y8×1kmll_aa240_.jpg

(Please welcome in the comments Charlie Savage, author of Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his work on Bush’s signing statements — JH)

Ever since The New York Times revealed the illegal NSA warrantless surveillance program in December, 2005, it has been inescapably clear that the Bush administration is a lawless government, grounded in the belief that nothing — certainly not the rule of law — can limit the President’s powers. Despite how extraordinary this revelation was, very few establishment journalists paid any attention to it at all, and when they did, it was to defend this lawlessness and demand that nothing be done to impede it.

In January, 2006, Joe Klein in Time attacked Nancy Pelosi for daring to speak out against Bush’s NSA lawbreaking and said: “these concerns [i.e., that Bush’s eavesdropping is illegal] pale before the importance of the program. It would have been a scandal if the NSA had not been using these tools to track down the bad guys.”

In Newsweek, Eleanor Clift in March, 2006 attacked Russ Feingold for daring to argue that Bush should be censured for his lawbreaking, claiming that Feingold’s efforts to impede Bush’s lawbreaking will doom the Democrats by showing how “unserious” they are with national security: “The broader public sees [Feingold’s efforts] as political extremism. Just when the Republicans looked like they were coming unhinged, the Democrats serve up a refresher course on why they can’t be trusted with the keys to the country.”

The New Republic repeatedly ran articles –and still doesexcusing, justifying and defending Bush’s lawbreaking. And even through today, establishment-worshipping “journalists” such as The Washington Post‘s David Ignatius continue to insist that Democrats must not stand in the way of ever-increasing Presidential powers vested in George Bush — whether that means legalizing more and more warrantless eavesdropping and even providing retroactive liability to lawbreaking telecoms — and that if they do impede any of this, they will be guilty of the Ultimate Beltway Sin: insufficient bipartisanship.

George Bush has been able to pursue an agenda of truly radical executive power theories with impunity because most American journalists have not only stood meekly by and expressed no interest in investigating or exposing any of this conduct, but worse, they have actively defended it. That is why the truly superb and tenacious reporting of The Boston Globe‘s Charlie Savage has stood out so nobly and conspicuously. While most of the political press in this country eagerly served as mindless vessels for White House claims about its conduct, Savage actually scrutinized and investigated those claims, exposed how they were false, and tenaciously documented the lawlessness and radicalism of this administration. Put another way, Savage acted as a political journalist should.

Beginning in early 2006, Savage published a series of probing articles in The Globe documenting the various ways the administration was subverting the law — from signing statements to absurd theories of executive power which administration radicals led by Dick Cheney had long embraced. Savage’s reporting almost single-handedly forced the issue of the President’s signing statements into the public eye, and led to Senate hearings held by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Earlier this year, Savage was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the administration’s executive power abuses. When the Pulitzer was announced, the Globe‘s editor provided this explanation — at once unremarkable and extraordinary — as to why Savage deserved the Pulitzer: (more…)

FDL Book Salon — Conservatives Without Conscience, Week 2

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Conservatives Without Conscience

John Dean’s book is one of the most important books of the year.  It has obviously resonated across the country, as it has remained on The New York Times Best-Seller list since the first week it was released, despite receiving only a fraction of the media attention frequently showered on political books which do not perform nearly as well.  My review of Dean’s book is here, and I also wrote about it last week at FDL.

I was very excited when Dean agreed to participate in the FDL Book Salon because I knew this would be an excellent venue for discussing his arguments.  The discussion here last week was genuinely superb, and one of the experts on whose research Dean relies in his book, University of Manitoba Professor of Psychology Robert Altemeyer, unexpectedly showed up and participated.  This is what he said about the FDL Salon discussion:  " I just wanted to say that I have not seen a collection of comments as insightful and intelligent as those that have accumulated here. It seems that almost all of the writers have read John Dean’s book, and understood it, and are deeply concerned about the points he made. Reading what you’ve said made my day."

Dean has written an introduction in preparation for his participation here today.  He sent it by e-mail and I am re-printing it after the fold.

(more…)

FDL Book Salon — Conservatives Without Conscience, Week 2

067003774501_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v63542942_.jpg

Conservatives Without Conscience

John Dean’s book is one of the most important books of the year.  It has obviously resonated across the country, as it has remained on The New York Times Best-Seller list since the first week it was released, despite receiving only a fraction of the media attention frequently showered on political books which do not perform nearly as well.  My review of Dean’s book is here, and I also wrote about it last week at FDL.

I was very excited when Dean agreed to participate in the FDL Book Salon because I knew this would be an excellent venue for discussing his arguments.  The discussion here last week was genuinely superb, and one of the experts on whose research Dean relies in his book, University of Manitoba Professor of Psychology Robert Altemeyer, unexpectedly showed up and participated.  This is what he said about the FDL Salon discussion:  " I just wanted to say that I have not seen a collection of comments as insightful and intelligent as those that have accumulated here. It seems that almost all of the writers have read John Dean’s book, and understood it, and are deeply concerned about the points he made. Reading what you’ve said made my day."

Dean has written an introduction in preparation for his participation here today.  He sent it by e-mail and I am re-printing it after the fold.

(more…)

FDL Book Salon — Conservatives Without Conscience, Week 1

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Conservatives Without Conscience

One of the many paradoxes of the Bush administration is that it is widely perceived as (and itself claims to be) politically "conservative," yet it has expanded the power of the Federal Government to act against U.S. citizens, on U.S. soil, in unprecedented and previously unthinkable ways. The self-proclaimed "conservatives" who cheer on these extremist policies spent the 1990s strenuously objecting to comparatively mild programs such as government eavesdropping with the approval and oversight of the FISA court and anti-encryption proposals designed to ensure federal law enforcement access to terrorists’ computer communications.

Here is but one example of the "conservative" ethos back then — John Ashcroft, in 1997, arguing against expanded Federal Government surveillance powers in the wake of the Oklahoma City terrorist attack:

The Clinton administration wants government to be able to read international computer communications – financial transactions, personal e-mail and proprietary information sent abroad – all in the name of national security . . . .

Granted, the Internet could be used to commit crimes, and advanced encryption could disguise such activity. However, we do not provide the government with phone jacks outside our homes for unlimited wiretaps. Why, then, should we grant government the Orwellian capability to listen at will and in real time to our communications across the Web?

The protections of the Fourth Amendment are clear. The right to protection from unlawful searches is an indivisible American value. . . .

Every medium by which people communicate can be exploited by those with illegal or immoral intentions. Nevertheless, this is no reason to hand Big Brother the keys to unlock our e-mail diaries, open our ATM records or translate our international communications.

Aschroft’s views were emblematic of the political circles which formed weekend militias in the 1990s to guard against what it believed was creeping federal government fascism and snooping black U.N. helicopters.  Yet these same circles now lend full-throated support to the most extremist Bush administration policies, including its indefinite detention of U.S. citizens with no charges, its compiling of a comprehensive data base detailing every call made or received by Americans and its eavesdropping on those calls with no judicial oversight of any kind. The administration now even believes it has the power to banish American citizens from the U.S. without any trial or charges of any kind.

There seems to be no limit, literally, on what Bush supporters are eager to defend when undertaken by the administration in the name of "protecting us." No power is too invasive or extreme, no action is too lawless, to provoke their objections. Even restrictions imposed by law are no impediment, as Bush supporters defend radical policies even when they are expressly prohibited by criminal statute. If anything, the principal criticisms — really, the only criticism — which they voice towards the administration is that it has been too restrained, too mild, that it has not gone far enough in exercising unchecked power, both abroad and domestically, in the name of fighting terrorism.

Explaining this fundamental reversal, along with the dynamic that causes so many Americans to support such blatantly un-American policies, is the core project undertaken by John Dean in his best-selling book, Conservatives Without Conscience. To do so, Dean advances two primary arguments:

(more…)

FDL Book Salon — Conservatives Without Conscience, Week 1

067003774501_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v63542942_.jpg

Conservatives Without Conscience

One of the many paradoxes of the Bush administration is that it is widely perceived as (and itself claims to be) politically "conservative," yet it has expanded the power of the Federal Government to act against U.S. citizens, on U.S. soil, in unprecedented and previously unthinkable ways. The self-proclaimed "conservatives" who cheer on these extremist policies spent the 1990s strenuously objecting to comparatively mild programs such as government eavesdropping with the approval and oversight of the FISA court and anti-encryption proposals designed to ensure federal law enforcement access to terrorists’ computer communications.

Here is but one example of the "conservative" ethos back then — John Ashcroft, in 1997, arguing against expanded Federal Government surveillance powers in the wake of the Oklahoma City terrorist attack:

The Clinton administration wants government to be able to read international computer communications – financial transactions, personal e-mail and proprietary information sent abroad – all in the name of national security . . . .

Granted, the Internet could be used to commit crimes, and advanced encryption could disguise such activity. However, we do not provide the government with phone jacks outside our homes for unlimited wiretaps. Why, then, should we grant government the Orwellian capability to listen at will and in real time to our communications across the Web?

The protections of the Fourth Amendment are clear. The right to protection from unlawful searches is an indivisible American value. . . .

Every medium by which people communicate can be exploited by those with illegal or immoral intentions. Nevertheless, this is no reason to hand Big Brother the keys to unlock our e-mail diaries, open our ATM records or translate our international communications.

Aschroft’s views were emblematic of the political circles which formed weekend militias in the 1990s to guard against what it believed was creeping federal government fascism and snooping black U.N. helicopters.  Yet these same circles now lend full-throated support to the most extremist Bush administration policies, including its indefinite detention of U.S. citizens with no charges, its compiling of a comprehensive data base detailing every call made or received by Americans and its eavesdropping on those calls with no judicial oversight of any kind. The administration now even believes it has the power to banish American citizens from the U.S. without any trial or charges of any kind.

There seems to be no limit, literally, on what Bush supporters are eager to defend when undertaken by the administration in the name of "protecting us." No power is too invasive or extreme, no action is too lawless, to provoke their objections. Even restrictions imposed by law are no impediment, as Bush supporters defend radical policies even when they are expressly prohibited by criminal statute. If anything, the principal criticisms — really, the only criticism — which they voice towards the administration is that it has been too restrained, too mild, that it has not gone far enough in exercising unchecked power, both abroad and domestically, in the name of fighting terrorism.

Explaining this fundamental reversal, along with the dynamic that causes so many Americans to support such blatantly un-American policies, is the core project undertaken by John Dean in his best-selling book, Conservatives Without Conscience. To do so, Dean advances two primary arguments:

(more…)