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Books, Literature & Ideas

Books, Literature & Ideas

Kiss This War Goodbye

  • The one thing no one imagined back then was that four decades later it would be South Asia, not Southeast Asia, that would still be beckoning America into a quagmire.
  • Why Wikileaks’ Doc-Dump Is Such a Big Deal

Frank Rich, New York Times

Barry Britt
It was on a Sunday morning, June 13, 1971, that the Times published its first installment of the Pentagon Papers. Few readers may have been more excited than a circle of aspiring undergraduate journalists who’d worked at the Harvard Crimson. Though the identity of the Times’s source wouldn’t eke out for several days, we knew the whistle-blower had to be Daniel Ellsberg, an intense research fellow at M.I.T. and former Robert McNamara acolyte who’d become an antiwar activist around Boston. We recognized the papers’ contents, as reported in The Times, because we’d heard the war stories from the loquacious Ellsberg himself.

But if we were titillated that Sunday, it wasn’t immediately clear that this internal government history of the war had mass appeal. Tricia Nixon’s wedding in the White House Rose Garden on Saturday received equal play with the Pentagon Papers on The Times’s front page. On “Face the Nation” the guest was the secretary of defense, Melvin Laird, yet the subject of the papers didn’t even come up.

That false calm vanished overnight once Richard Nixon, erupting in characteristic rage and paranoia, directed his attorney general, John Mitchell, to enjoin the Times from publishing any sequels. The high-stakes legal drama riveted the nation for two weeks, culminating in a landmark 6-to-3 Supreme Court decision in favor of the Times and the First Amendment. Ellsberg and the Times were canonized. I sold my first magazine article, an Ellsberg profile, to Esquire, and, for better or worse, cast my lot with journalism. That my various phone conversations with Ellsberg prompted ham-fisted F.B.I. agents to visit me and my parents only added to the allure.

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

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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, Breitbart.com, 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.

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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."

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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, TheAtlantic.com

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.

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

  • 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.  

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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.”

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