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Books, Literature & Ideas

Books, Literature & Ideas

From neocons to crazy-cons

  • Once the conservative movement was about finding meaning in private life and public service. But it has undergone a shift toward demagoguery and hucksterism.
  • Homegrown Democrat

David Klinghoffer, Los Angeles Times

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Ken Mitchell

Once, the iconic figures on the political right were urbane visionaries and builders of institutions — like William F. Buckley Jr., Irving Kristol and Father Richard John Neuhaus, all dead now. Today, far more representative is potty-mouthed Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart, whose news and opinion website,, is read by millions. In his most recent triumph, Breitbart got a U.S. Department of Agriculture official pushed out of her job after he released a deceptively edited video clip of her supposedly endorsing racism against white people.

What has become of conservatism? We have reached a point at which nothing could be more important than to stop and recall what brought us here, to the right, in the first place.

Buckley's National Review, where I was the literary editor through the 1990s, remains as vital and interesting as ever. But more characteristic of conservative leadership are figures on TV, radio and the Internet who make their money by stirring fears and resentments. With its descent to baiting blacks, Mexicans and Muslims, its accommodation of conspiracy theories and an increasing nastiness and vulgarity, the conservative movement has undergone a shift toward demagoguery and hucksterism. Once the talk was of "neocons" versus "paleocons." Now we observe the rule of the crazy-cons.



Homegrown Democrat ~ Garrison Keillor, reviewed in Progressive Book Club
A funny, smart, charming reminder that the Right doesn't own the concept of "heartland values."


What's Wrong With the American University System

  • The Best and the Brightest Led America Off a Cliff
  • Higher ed should aspire to higher purpose
  • Teaching to Student's, Not Industry's, Needs

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz,

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Will Shapira

Holt/Times Books

Andrew Hacker, who is professor emeritus at Queens College in New York, recalls the day a young political scientist walked into his department to interview for a job. Everything about the man's resume made him an ideal candidate. He was finishing his dissertation at a top university. His mentors had written effusive recommendations. But when the young superstar sat down with the department chair, he seemed to have only one goal: to land a tenure-track position that involved as many sabbaticals and as little teaching as possible. He was not invited back for a second interview.

Hacker and his coauthor, New York Times writer Claudia Dreifus, use this cautionary tale to launch their new book, a fierce critique of modern academia called Higher Education? "The question mark in our title," they write, "is the key to this book." To their minds, little of what takes place on college campuses today can be considered either "higher" or "education." They blame a system that favors research over teaching and vocational training over liberal arts. Tenure, they argue, does anything but protect intellectual freedom. And they'd like to see graduates worrying less about their careers, even if it means spending a year behind the cash register at Old Navy.



The Best and the Brightest Led America Off a Cliff, Chris Hedges,

  • Those who defy the system—people like Ralph Nader—are branded as irrational and irrelevant. These elite universities have banished self-criticism. They refuse to question a self-justifying system. Organization, technology, self-advancement and information systems are the only things that matter.

Higher ed should aspire to higher purpose, Charles Neerland, StarTribune | MN
Graduates need to calculate and compute. But let's make sure they can ponder and dream, too.

Teaching to Student's, Not Industry's, Needs, Rebecca Bauer, English Teacher, St. Paul Central High School, in Minnesota 2020
How pressures from No Child Left Behind and standardized testing have sapped the exploration and creativity out of teaching.  


Why Wikileaks’ Doc-Dump Is Such a Big Deal (Even if There’s Nothing New Within)

"So, this document dump pushes what a few war-nerds may have grasped from a thousand stories on page B-6 onto the front page, revealing not a series of “unfortunate incidents” but a pattern of disregard for civilian casualties that disproves a central tenet of our COIN strategy — that war can be fought in a kinder, gentler, more progressive way thus helping win the hearts and minds of the local population." --Joshua Holland

Joshua Holland, AlterNet

There is a tendency among People Who Pay Close Attention To Things to think other Americans are also paying attention — to decent information — and are therefore somewhat in the know.

That leads to people trying to get away with ridiculous claims, such as this:

Anyone who has spent the past two days reading through the 92,000 military field reports and other documents made public by the whistle-blower site WikiLeaks may be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about. I’m a researcher who studies Afghanistan and have no regular access to classified information, yet I have seen nothing in the documents that has either surprised me or told me anything of significance. I suspect that’s the case even for someone who reads only a third of the articles on Afghanistan in his local newspaper.

That paragraph was from an op-ed piece by Andrew Exum, a fellow with the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) — a pro-Afghanistan war think-tank — in the New York Times. Exum’s message seems to be, ‘move along, folks, there’s nothing to see here.’ Understandable — CNAS, according to a WaPo report last year, “may emerge as Washington’s go-to think tank on military affairs” in the Obama era. CNAS staff have “filled key posts in the new administration (such as former CNAS president Michele Flournoy, who is now undersecretary of defense for policy), and its top people include John Nagl, who helped draft the Army’s counterinsurgency manual, and David Kilcullen, a former adviser to Gen. David H. Petraeus.”



Sen. Bernie Sanders: No to Oligarchy

One Sane Senator
An old-fashioned debate on tax fairness

Nicolle Bell, Crooks & Liars

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Thomas Sklarski

Thank God there's at least one senator who is speaking sense:

The American people are hurting. As a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, millions of Americans have lost their jobs, homes, life savings and their ability to get a higher education. Today, some 22 percent of our children live in poverty, and millions more have become dependent on food stamps for their food.And while the Great Wall Street Recession has devastated the middle class, the truth is that working families have been experiencing a decline for decades. During the Bush years alone, from 2000-2008, median family income dropped by nearly $2,200 and millions lost their health insurance. Today, because of stagnating wages and higher costs for basic necessities, the average two-wage-earner family has less disposable income than a one-wage-earner family did a generation ago. The average American today is underpaid, overworked and stressed out as to what the future will bring for his or her children. For many, the American dream has become a nightmare.



Go ahead and read the entire article, it's well worth your time.


The truth: Still there, still inconvenient

As 'Climategate' scientists are cleared, no doubt about warming remains.

James P. Lenfestey, Star Tribune | MN

On July 7, the last of three independent British commissions exonerated prominent climate scientists at the University of East Anglia of any wrongdoing in the so-called "Climategate," in which mysterious (and still anonymous) hackers trashed their reputations and confused public understanding of important climate science. Meanwhile, back in America, prominent climatologist Michael Mann, also reviled by critics for his "Climategate" e-mails (and for his solid climate science), was similarly exonerated by a full review panel at Penn State University, where he teaches. Most important, all review panels affirmed the underlying science, and thereby the established scientific consensus that human activity is warming the planet. "The rigor and honesty of the scientists in not in doubt," the British panel concluded.

This should put to rest any remaining public "skepticism" of the scientific facts of climate change. If it doesn't, two new books will.