December 30, 2008
An interview with Mikal Gilmore author of Stories Done: Writings on the 1960s and Its Discontents.

Gilmore weaves a narrative of the '60s and '70s as he examines the lives of the era's most important cultural icons. Keeping the power of rock & roll at the forefront, Gilmore gathers together stories about major artists from every field — George Harrison, Ken Kesey, Johnny Cash, Allen Ginsberg, to name just a few. Gilmore reveals the truth about this idealized period in history, never shying away from the ugly influences that brought many of rock's most exciting figures to their knees. He examines how Jim Morrison's alcoholism led to the star's death at the age of twenty-seven, how Jerry Garcia's drug problems brought him to the brink of death so many times that his bandmates did not believe the news of his actual demise, how Pink Floyd struggled with the guilt of kicking out founding member Syd Barrett because of his debilitating mental illness. As Gilmore examines the dark side of these complicated figures, he paints a picture of the environment that bred them, taking readers from the rough streets of Liverpool (and its more comfortable suburbs) to the hippie haven of Haight-Ashbury that hosted the infamous Summer of Love. But what resulted from these lives and those times, Gilmore argues, was worth the risk — in fact, it may be inseparable from those hard costs.

The lives of these dynamic and diverse figures are intertwined with Gilmore's exploration of the social, political, and emotional characteristics that defined the era. His insights and examinations combine to create a eulogy for a formative period of American history.

Gilmore is a journalist and music aficionado who has written for Rolling Stone magazine since the 1970s. His first book, Shot in the Heart, is a National Book Critics Circle and L.A. Times Book Prize-winning memoir about his older brother Gary, the first man to be executed in Utah after pleading guilty to murder.


Listen to the Gilmore interview here

December 23, 2008
An interview with Joe Allen author of Vietnam: The (Last) War the U.S. Lost.

As the United States now faces a major defeat in its occupation of Iraq, the history of the Vietnam War, as a historic blunder for US military forces abroad, and the true story of how it was stopped, take on a fresh importance. Unlike most books on the topic, constructed as specialized academic studies, The (Last) War the United States Lost examines the lessons of the Vietnam era with Joe Allen's eye of both a dedicated historian and an engaged participant in today's antiwar movement.

Many damaging myths about the Vietnam era persist, including the accusations that antiwar activists routinely jeered and spat at returning soldiers or that the war finally ended because Congress cut off its funding. Allen reclaims the stories of the courageous GI revolt; its dynamic relationship with the civil rights movement and the peace movement; the development of coffee houses where these groups came to speak out, debate, and organize; and the struggles waged throughout barracks, bases, and military prisons to challenge the rule of military command.

Allen's analysis of the US failure in Vietnam is also the story of the hubris of US imperial overreach, a new chapter of which is unfolding in the Middle East today.

Joe Allen is a regular contributor to the International Socialist Review and a longstanding social justice fighter, involved in the ongoing struggles for labor, the abolition of the death penalty, and to free the political prisoner Gary Tyler.


Listen to the Allen interview here

December 9, 2008
An interview with Ariela J. Gross author of What Blood Won't Tell: A History of Race on Trial in America.

Is race something we know when we see it? In 1857, Alexina Morrison, a slave in Louisiana, ran away from her master and surrendered herself to the parish jail for protection. Blue-eyed and blond, Morrison successfully convinced white society that she was one of them. When she sued for her freedom, witnesses assured the jury that she was white, and that they would have known if she had a drop of African blood. Morrison's court trial-and many others over the last 150 years-involved high stakes: freedom, property, and civil rights. And they all turned on the question of racial identity.

Over the past two centuries, individuals and groups (among them Mexican Americans, Indians, Asian immigrants, and Melungeons) have fought to establish their whiteness in order to lay claim to full citizenship in local courtrooms, administrative and legislative hearings, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Like Morrison's case, these trials have often turned less on legal definitions of race as percentages of blood or ancestry than on the way people presented themselves to society and demonstrated their moral and civic character.

Unearthing the legal history of racial identity, Gross examines the paradoxical and often circular relationship of race and the perceived capacity for citizenship in American society. She reminds us that the imaginary connection between racial identity and fitness for citizenship remains potent today and continues to impede racial justice and equality.

Gross is John B. and Alice R. Sharp Professor of Law and History, University of Southern California.


Listen to the Gross interview here

December 2, 2008
An interview with Sharon Waxman author of Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World — a journey across four continents to the heart of the conflict over who should own the great works of ancient art.

Why are the Elgin Marbles in London and not on the Acropolis? Why do there seem to be as many mummies in France as there are in Egypt? Why are so many Etruscan masterworks in America? For the past two centuries, the West has been plundering the treasures of the ancient world to fill its great museums, but in recent years, the countries where ancient civilizations originated have begun to push back, taking museums to court, prosecuting curators, and threatening to force the return of these priceless objects.

Where do these treasures rightly belong? Sharon Waxman, a former culture reporter for The New York Times and a longtime foreign correspondent, brings us inside this high-stakes conflict, examining the implications for the preservation of the objects themselves and for how we understand our shared cultural heritage. Her journey takes readers from the great cities of Europe and America to Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy, as these countries face down the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum, the British Museum, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. She also introduces a cast of determined and implacable characters whose battles may strip these museums of some of their most cherished treasures.

Waxman was a Hollywood correspondent for The New York Times until January 2008. Before joining the Times, she was a correspondent for the Washington Post based in Los Angeles, from 1995 until 2003.


Listen to the Waxman interview here

November 25, 2008
An interview with Tyler E. Boudreau author of Packing Inferno: The Unmaking of a Marine.

Boudreau is a twelve-year veteran of the Marine Corps infantry. He trained and committed himself physically and intellectually to the military life. Then his intense devotion began to disintegrate, bit by bit, during his final mission in Iraq. After returning home, he discovered a turmoil developing in his mind, estranging him from his loved ones and the bill of goods he eagerly purchased as a marine officer.

Packing Inferno is the story of the ordeal of a marine officer in battle and then coming home. It is the struggle with a society resistant to understand the true nature of war. It is the fight with combat stress and an exploration into the process of recovery. It is the search for conscience, family, and ultimately for one's essential self. Here are the reflections of a man built by the Marine Corps, disassembled by war, and left with no guidance to rebuild himself.

Boudreau, was deployed to Iraq in 2004 as Assistant Operation Officer for an infantry battalion. Following the deployment he was assigned as the Commanding Officer of a rifle company and was preparing to return to Iraq when he resigned his commission because of his growing reservations about the war. Today, he writes and speaks broadly on his experiences, and works with other veterans on many projects related to war. He is also the founder of Collaborative Revolution, a new not-for-profit humanitarian project to assist Iraqi refugees and immigrants resettled in the US.


Listen to the Boudreau interview here

November 18, 2008
An Interview with Chip Jacobs and William Kelly co-authors of Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles.

The smog beast wafted into downtown Los Angeles on July 26, 1943. Nobody knew what it was. Secretaries rubbed their eyes. Traffic cops seemed to disappear in the mysterious haze. Were Japanese saboteurs responsible? A reckless factory? The truth was much worse--it came from within, from Southern California's burgeoning car-addicted, suburban lifestyle.

Smogtown is the story of pollution, progress, and how an optimistic people confronted the epic struggle against airborne poisons barraging their hometowns. With wit, verve, and a fresh look at history, California based journalists Chip Jacobs and William J. Kelly highlight the bold personalities involved, the corporate- tainted science, the terrifying health costs, the attempts at cleanup, and how the smog battle helped mold the modern-day culture of Los Angeles. There are scofflaws aplenty and dirty deals, plus murders, suicides, spiritual despair, and an ever-present paranoia about mass disaster.

Brimming with historic photographs, forgotten anecdotes, and new revelations about our environmentally precarious present, Smogtown is a journalistic classic for the modern age.


Listen to the Jacobs and Kelly interview here

November 11, 2008
An interview with Kevin M. Scott the co-author of The Porning of America: The Rise of Porn Culture, What It Means, and Where We Go from Here.

From the popular Bratz dolls to the infamous photos from Abu Ghraib, Scott reveals that porn has become the mainstream - and the mainstream has become porn. Carmine Sarracino and Kevin Scott argue that porn has seeped into and been absorbed by every defining aspect of our culture: language, entertainment, fashion, advertising, sexual behavior, even politics. Cultural absorption is so complete that we no longer have to purchase pornography to get porn because we increasingly live porn on a daily basis.

In The Porning of America, Scott profiles such "porn exemplars" - those who have been pivotal to the mainstreaming of porn - as Russ Meyer, Snoop Dogg, Jenna Jameson, and Paris Hilton; he documents how mainstream advertising uses porn culture to sell commercial goods now to an even younger, "tween" audience; and he poses crucial questions: How has porn shaped the way we view our own and others' bodies? Scott examined porned advertising of everything from Clinique to Orbit gum to Old Spice. How has porn influenced our relationships and how do current sexual behaviors, such as the "hookup," mimic porn? Scott looks to MySpace and Craigslist for answers. And how does porn shape our identity, as individuals and as a nation? Scott argues that the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib exposed our porned sensibilities.

Not an anti-porn diatribe, The Porning of America is resolutely pro-sex. Scott (with co-author Carmine Sarracino) contends that, to make the most of our hard-won sexual freedom, we must thoughtfully - and honestly - evaluate what might be liberating about porn as well as what might be damaging.

Scott teaches courses in American literature and culture and directs the English education program at Elizabethtown College. His scholarly work covers literature, art, and popular culture.


Listen to the Scott interview here

November 4, 2008
An interview with Martin Garbus the author of The Next 25 Years: The New Supreme Court and What It Means for Americans.

Renowned First Amendment lawyer Martin Garbus examines what will be the impact of the new Supreme Court on the future of our republic.

Drawing on extensive knowledge of Constitutional law and legal procedure, Garbus, one of our most astute legal historians, defrocks the executive branch's grip over the judiciary as an extension of its own executive powers. He warns of the threat of an incoming "textualist" bench that wishes to roll back more than a century's worth of hard-won reforms. And he offers the first clear-eyed account of how the coming bench may imperil our way of life and endanger the liberties you may have thought were our inalienable rights.

Named by Time magazine as "legendary . . . one of the best trial lawyers in the country," Garbus has appeared before the US Supreme Court and the highest courts throughout the nation. Newsweek, the National Law Journal, and others cite Garbus as America's "most prominent First Amendment lawyer."


Listen to the Garbus interview here

October 28, 2008
An interview with Sue Katz the author of Thanks But No Thanks: The Voter's Guide to Sarah Palin.

Who is Sarah Palin and what does she believe in? People around the country — and indeed the world — had more questions than answers when John McCain announced her selection as his running mate on August 29, 2008. Has any national political candidate ever emerged on the American political scene with less scrutiny than Alaska Governor Sarah Palin received prior to her selection? We think not.

Moose hunter or political opportunist? Crony or reformer? Witch hunter or devout Christian? White trash or white hope?

Whether you believe Palin was nominated because of her reputation in Alaska, as a result of a reckless decision by her 'maverick' running mate, or because of the influence of the religious right, you probably want to know more about this hockey mom.


Listen to the Katz interview here

October 21, 2008
An interview with Lew Daly the co-author of Unjust Deserts: How the Rich Are Taking Our Common Inheritance and Why We Should Take It Back.

Warren Buffett is worth nearly $50 billion. Does he “deserve” all this money? Buffett himself will tell you that “society is responsible for a very significant percentage of what I’ve earned.”

Unjust Deserts offers an entirely new approach to the wealth question. In a lively synthesis of modern economic, technological, and cultural research, Daly demonstrates that up to 90 percent (and perhaps more) of current economic output derives not from individual ingenuity, effort, or investment but from our collective inheritance of scientific and technological knowledge: an inheritance we all receive as a “free lunch.”

Daly then pursues the implications of this research, persuasively arguing that there is no reason any one person should be entitled to that inheritance. Recognizing the true dimensions of our unearned inheritance leads inevitably to a new and powerful moral case for wealth redistribution—and to a series of practical policies to achieve it in an era when the disparities have become untenable.

Daly is a senior fellow at Demos and the author of God and the Welfare State.


Listen to the Daly interview here

October 14, 2008
An interview with legendary cartoonist Art Spiegelman author of Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@*!’. Breakdowns was the first collected book of comic art Spiegelman had published. Created between 1972 and 1977, the volume has been reissued with an illustrated 20-page introduction, which – like the works that follow – pretty much redefines what might be considered as a typical comic book narrative.

Spiegelman has almost single-handedly brought comic books out of the toy closet and onto the literature shelves. In 1992 he won the Pulitzer Prize for his masterful Holocaust narrative Maus — which portrayed Jews as mice and Nazis as cats. Maus II continued the remarkable story of his parents’ survival of the Nazi regime and their lives later in America. His comics are best known for their shifting graphic styles, their formal complexity, and controversial content.

His work has been published in many periodicals, including The New Yorker, where he was a staff artist and writer from 1993-2003. In 2004 he completed a two-year cycle of broadsheet-sized color comics pages, In the Shadow of No Towers, first published in a number of European newspapers and magazines including Die Zeit and The London Review of Books. A book version of these highly political works was published by Pantheon in the United States, appeared on many national bestseller lists, and was selected by The New York Times Book Review as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2004.

In 2005, Spiegelman was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France and named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. He was named to the Art Director’s Club Hall of Fame in 2006.


Listen to the Spiegelman interview here

October 7, 2008
An interview with Glenn Greenwald author of Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics.

With less than a month left until the election, the Republican Propaganda machine is running at maximum speed and the hypocrisy is sickening. Obama was criticized for his alleged inexperience and yet McCain chose a first-term governor from a small town in Alaska as his running mate. John McCain claims to believe that the law should only recognize traditional marriages. Yet, he was still married and living with his wife in 1979, while he was aggressively courting a 25-year-old woman. He then divorced his wife, who had raised their three children while he was imprisoned in Vietnam, and launched his political career with his new wife’s family money. Trig Palin’s teenage pregnancy is a testament not of Sarah Palin’s bad parenting but of her resolve to honor human life. OHHHH PLEASE!

Back on Weekly Signals by popular demand, Greenwald will discuss the November Presidential election. Greenwald contends that many Americans have voted in the past based on the manipulative imagery — a kind of a John Wayne mythology — even when they've flat out disagreed with the GOP's positions on key issues.

Greenwald puts this bogus GOP mythology under microscopic critique and successfully argues that none of their candidates are, in fact, a brave, strong moral warriors - far from it. Rather, most have dodged military duty, have strings of broken marriages and affairs, and live decadent, elitist lives, which they so ruthlessly condemn

To prevent this tired marketing scheme from succeeding again, Greenwald takes off the gloves and knocks down the hoaxes and myths, exposing the tactics the right-wing machine uses to drown out both reality and consideration of real issues. But he also calls on Democrats to shake off the defensive posture ("We love America too," "We support the troops too," "We also believe in God") and start attacking the Republican candidates for the hypocrites they, in truth, are.

Greenwald is a former constitutional law attorney and now a contributing writer at Salon. His political reporting and analysis have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the American Conservative, and numerous congressional reports.


Listen to the Greenwald interview here

September 30, 2008
An interview with Jeff Chester author of Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy.

With the explosive growth of the Internet and broadband communications, we now have the potential for a truly democratic media system offering a wide variety of independent sources of news, information, and culture, with control over content in the hands of the many rather than a few select media giants.

But the country’s powerful communications companies have other plans. Assisted by a host of hired political operatives and pro-business policy makers, the big cable, TV, and Internet providers are using their political clout to gain ever greater control over the Internet and other digital communication channels. Instead of a “global information commons,” we’re facing an electronic media system designed principally to sell to rather than serve the public, dominated by commercial forces armed with aggressive digital marketing, interactive advertising, and personal data collection.

Just as Lawrence Lessig translated the mysteries of software and intellectual property for the general reader in Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, Jeff Chester gets beneath the surface of media and telecommunications regulation to explain clearly how our new media system functions, what’s at stake, and what we can do to fight the corporate media’s plans for our “digital destiny”—before it’s too late.

Chester is the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. He has long been on the front lines fighting against the consolidation and commercialization of the U.S. media system.


Listen to the Chester interview here

September 23, 2008
An interview with John R. MacArthur, the author of You Can't Be President: The Outrageous Barriers to Democracy in America.

After the debacle of the 2000 presidential election, many Americans were asking themselves if their vote really counted anymore. Yet does the problem go even deeper than that? Is America really a democracy anymore?

In a rollicking piece of reportage based on years of reporting, Harper's Magazine Publisher John R. MacArthur examines how the system really works-and doesn't work-nowadays. Why is it that all the major candidates seem to be rich Ivy-Leaguers? Why is there so little difference between the Republicans and the Democrats on so many key issues? Does an outsider really have a chance?

Covering the recent candidacies of Ned Lamont and Ralph Nader, reporting on local efforts to effect change, and examining funding and influence in our electoral system in general, MacArthur presents a clarion call to restructure electoral politics.

MacArthur, president and publisher of Harper's Magazine, is an award-winning journalist and author of the acclaimed books The Selling of "Free Trade": NAFTA, Washington, and The Subversion of American Democracy and Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War.


Listen to the MacArthur interview here

September 16, 2008
An interview with Dexter Filkins the author of The Forever War.

Through the eyes of Filkins, the prizewinning New York Times correspondent whose work was hailed by David Halberstam as "reporting of the highest quality imaginable," we witness the remarkable chain of events that began with the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s, continued with the attacks of 9/11, and moved on to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Filkins's narrative moves across a vast and various landscape of amazing characters and astonishing scenes: deserts, mountains, and streets of carnage; a public amputation performed by Taliban; children frolicking in minefields; skies streaked white by the contrails of B-52s; a night's sleep in the rubble of Ground Zero.

We embark on a foot patrol through the shadowy streets of Ramadi, venture into a torture chamber run by Saddam Hussein. We go into the homes of suicide bombers and into street-to-street fighting with a battalion of marines. We meet Iraqi insurgents, an American captain who loses a quarter of his men in eight days, and a young soldier from Georgia on a rooftop at midnight reminiscing about his girlfriend back home. A car bomb explodes, bullets fly, and a mother cradles her blinded son.

Filkins, a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, has covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. Before that, he worked for the Los Angeles Times, where he was chief of the paper's New Delhi bureau, and for The Miami Herald. He has been a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and a winner of a George Polk Award and two Overseas Press Club awards. Most recently, he was a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University.


Listen to the Filkins interview here

September 9, 2008
An interview with Judy Polumbaum author of China Ink: The Changing Face of Chinese Journalism.

Polumbaum explores individual and societal changes in contemporary China through the compelling personal accounts of young Chinese journalists. China's media are central to public life in the most populous nation on earth and have also become increasingly relevant to communication and understanding on a global scale. Through a series of engaging oral histories, Polumbaum puts a human face on vital political and philosophical issues of freedom of expression and information that will shape China's future.

Polumbaum’s extended and frank conversations with journalists from a range of news outlets reveal diversity, passion, humor, and optimism that belie the stereotype of journalists as cogs in a rigidly controlled machine. Neither dissidents nor paragons but rather people working day in and day out within China's existing and evolving media, these talented and ambitious reporters open new windows to understanding Chinese journalism and intellectual life. Some of their tales could happen only in China; others resonate everywhere. As the first book to explore experiences and ideas of everyday journalists who are helping to shape their rapidly changing country, China Ink is a look into China's dynamic society.

Polumbaum is a former newspaper reporter. She is currently professor of journalism and mass communication at The University of Iowa.


Listen to the Polumbaum interview here

September 2, 2008
An interview with Tom Vanderbilt, the author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us).

Would you be surprised that road rage can be good for society? Or that most crashes happen on sunny, dry days? That our minds can trick us into thinking the next lane is moving faster? Or that you can gauge a nation’s driving behavior by its levels of corruption? These are only a few of the remarkable dynamics that Tom Vanderbilt explores in this fascinating tour through the mysteries of the road.

Based on exhaustive research and interviews with driving experts and traffic officials around the globe, Traffic gets under the hood of the everyday activity of driving to uncover the surprisingly complex web of physical, psychological, and technical factors that explain how traffic works, why we drive the way we do, and what our driving says about us.

The car has long been a central part of American life; whether we see it as a symbol of freedom or a symptom of sprawl, we define ourselves by what and how we drive. As Vanderbilt shows, driving is a provocatively revealing prism for examining how our minds work and the ways in which we interact with one another. Ultimately, Traffic is about more than driving: it’s about human nature.

Vanderbilt writes about design, technology, science, and culture for Wired, Slate, The New York Times, and many other publications. He lives in Brooklyn and drives a 2001 Volvo V40.


Listen to the Vanderbilt interview here

August 26, 2008
An interview with Karl E. Meyer the author of Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East.

Kingmakers is the story of how the modern Middle East came to be, told through the lives of the Britons and Americans who shaped it. Some are famous (Lawrence of Arabia and Gertrude Bell); others infamous (Harry St. John Philby, father of Kim); some forgotten (Sir Mark Sykes, Israel's godfather, and A. T. Wilson, the territorial creator of Iraq); some controversial (the CIA's Miles Copeland and the Pentagon's Paul Wolfowitz). All helped enthrone rulers in a region whose very name is an Anglo-American invention.

As a bonus, we meet the British Empire's power couple, Lord and Lady Lugard (Flora Shaw): she named Nigeria, he ruled it; she used the power of the Times of London to attempt a regime change in the gold-rich Transvaal. The narrative is character-driven, and the aim is to restore to life the colorful figures who for good or ill gave us the Middle East in which Americans are enmeshed today.

Meyer has written extensively on foreign affairs as a staff member of the New York Times and the Washington Post. His co-author, Shareen Blair Brysac, formerly a prize-winning documentary producer at CBS News, is the author of Resisting Hitler. Tournament of Shadows was their previous book together. The couple lives in New York and Weston, Connecticut.


Listen to the Meyer interview here

August 19, 2008
An interview with Steven T. Wax author of Kafka Comes to America: Fighting for Justice in the War on Terror: A Public Defender's Inside Account.

"Our government can make you disappear." Those were words Steven T. Wax never imagined he would hear himself say. In his thirty-four years as a lawyer, Wax didn't have to warn a client that he or she might be taken away to a military brig, or worse, a "black site," one of our country's dreaded secret prisons. So how had we come to this? The disappearance of people happens in places ruled by tyrants, military juntas, fascist strongmen-governments with such contempt for the rule of law that they strip their citizens of all rights. But in America?

Under the Bush administration, not only have the civil rights of foreigners been in jeopardy, but also those of U.S. citizens. Wax interweaves the stories of two men he represented who were caught up in our government's post-9/11 counterterrorism measures. Brandon Mayfield, an American-born, small-town lawyer and family man, was arrested as a terrorist suspect in the Madrid train station bombings after a fingerprint was mistakenly traced back to him by the FBI. Adel Hamad, a Sudanese hospital administrator working in Pakistan, was taken from his apartment and flown in chains to the United States military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for no substantiated reason. Kafka Comes to America reveals where and how our civil liberties have been eroded in favor of a false security, and how each of us can make a difference. If these events could happen to Brandon Mayfield and Adel Hamad, they could happen to anyone. They could happen to you.

Wax is in his seventh term as the Federal Public Defender for the District of Oregon. A cum laude graduate of Colgate University and Harvard Law School, he was a key part of the Brooklyn, N.Y. District Attorney's prosecution of David Berkowitz, a.k.a. "Son of Sam." Wax and his team are representing seven men held as "enemy combatants" in Guantánamo. He has taught at the Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College, serves as an ethics prosecutor for the Oregon State Bar, and lectures throughout the country.


Listen to the Wax interview here

August 12, 2008
An interview with Thomas Frank author of The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule.

From the author of the landmark bestseller, a jaw-dropping investigation of the decades of deliberate-and lucrative-conservative misrule

In his previous book - What's the Matter with Kansas? - Frank explained why working America votes for politicians who reserve their favors for the rich. Now, in The Wrecking Crew, Frank examines the blundering and corrupt Washington those politicians have given us.

Casting back to the early days of the conservative revolution, Frank describes the rise of a ruling coalition dedicated to dismantling government. But rather than cutting down the big government they claim to hate, conservatives have simply sold it off, deregulating some industries, defunding others, but always turning public policy into a private-sector bidding war. Washington itself has been remade into a golden landscape of super-wealthy suburbs and gleaming lobbyist headquarters-the wages of government-by-entrepreneurship practiced so outrageously by figures such as Jack Abramoff.

It is no coincidence, Frank argues, that the same politicians who guffaw at the idea of effective government have installed a regime in which incompetence is the rule. Nor will the country easily shake off the consequences of deliberate misgovernment through the usual election remedies. Obsessed with achieving a lasting victory, conservatives have taken pains to enshrine the free market as the permanent creed of state.

Frank is the founding editor of The Baffler and a contributing editor at Harper's.


Listen to the Frank interview here

August 5, 2008
An interview with James Galbraith author of The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too.

The cult of the free market has dominated economic policy-talk since the Reagan revolution of nearly thirty years ago. Tax cuts and small government, monetarism, balanced budgets, deregulation, and free trade are the core elements of this dogma, a dogma so successful that even many liberals accept it. But a funny thing happened on the bridge to the twenty-first century. While liberals continue to bow before the free-market altar, conservatives in the style of George W. Bush have abandoned it altogether. That is why principled conservatives - the Reagan true believers - long ago abandoned Bush.

Galbraith first dissects the stale remains of Reaganism and shows how Bush and company had no choice except to dump them into the trash. He then explores the true nature of the Bush regime: a "corporate republic," bringing the methods and mentality of big business to public life; a coalition of lobbies, doing the bidding of clients in the oil, mining, military, pharmaceutical, agribusiness, insurance, and media industries; and a predator state, intent not on reducing government but rather on diverting public cash into private hands. In plain English, the Republican Party has been hijacked by political leaders who long since stopped caring if reality conformed to their message.

Galbraith follows with an impertinent question: if conservatives no longer take free markets seriously, why should liberals?

The real economy is not a free-market economy. It is a complex combination of private and public institutions, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, higher education, the housing finance system, and a vast federal research establishment. The real problems and challenges -- inequality, climate change, the infrastructure deficit, the subprime crisis, and the future of the dollar -- are problems that cannot be solved by incantations about the market. They will be solved only with planning, with standards and other policies that transcend and even transform markets.

Galbraith teaches economics and a variety of other subjects at the Lyndon Johnson School of Public Affairs. He directs the University of Texas Inequality Project, an informal research group at the LBJ School, is a Senior Scholar of the Levy Economics Institute, and is chair of Economists for Peace and Security, a global professional association.


Listen to the Galbraith interview here

July 29, 2008
An interview with Jane Mayer author of The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals.

In the days immediately following September 11th, the most powerful people in the country were panic-stricken. The radical decisions about how to combat terrorists and strengthen national security were made in a state of utter chaos and fear, but the key players, Vice President Dick Cheney and his powerful, secretive adviser David Addington, used the crisis to further a long held agenda to enhance Presidential powers to a degree never known in U.S. history, and obliterate Constitutional protections that define the very essence of the American experiment.

Mayer chronicles how the United States made terrible decisions in the pursuit of terrorists around the world —decisions that not only violated the Constitution to which White House officials took an oath to uphold, but also hampered the pursuit of Al Qaeda. Mayer relates the impact of these decisions-U.S.-held prisoners, some of them completely innocent, were subjected to treatment more reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition than the twenty-first century.

Mayer is the co-author of two bestselling and critically acclaimed narrative nonfiction books, Landslide: The Unmaking of the President, 1984-1988 and Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas, the latter of which was a finalist for the National Book Award. She is currently a Washington-based staff writer for The New Yorker, specializing in political and investigative reporting. Before that, she was a senior writer and front-page editor for The Wall Street Journal, as well as the Journal's first female White House correspondent.


Listen to the Mayer interview here

July 22, 2008
An interview with Walter Nugent author of Habits of Empire: A History of American Expansion.

Discussions abound today about the state of the union, its place in the world, and the founding fathers’ intentions. Did they want the United States to become a republic or an empire? Thomas Jefferson, after all, called the young nation an “empire for liberty.” Later words through two centuries all evoked empire: “manifest destiny” in the 1840s, “benevolent assimilation” in 1898, and “our responsibility to lead” in 2002.

Indeed, since Jefferson’s day, Americans have proudly proclaimed liberty and cherished democracy even as they have often behaved imperially. Nugent documents this expansionist behavior by examining each of the nation’s territorial acquisitions since the first in 1782 — how the land was acquired, how its previous occupants were removed or reduced, and how it was then settled and stabilized. By 1853, when the continental United States was fully established from sea to shining sea, the nation’s habit of empire-building had become firmly formed.

Nugent has taught history at the University of Notre Dame since 1984 and, before that, was Professor of History at Indiana University for twenty-one years. As a visiting professor he has also taught and lived in England, Israel, Germany, Poland, and Ireland. He has published eight previous books and well over a hundred essays and reviews on American and comparative history.


Listen to the Nugent interview here

July 15, 2008
An interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Barry Siegel author of Claim of Privilege: A Mysterious Plane Crash, a Landmark Supreme Court Case, and the Rise of State Secrets.

Siegel unfolds the shocking true story behind the Supreme Court case that forever changed the balance of power in America.

On October 6, 1948, a trio of civilian engineers joined a U.S. Air Force crew on a B-29 Superfortress, whose mission was to test secret navigational equipment. Shortly after takeoff the plane crashed, killing all three engineers and six others. In June 1949, the widows of the engineers filed suit against the government. What had happened to their men? they asked. Why had these civilians been aboard an Air Force plane in the first place?

But the Air Force, at the dawn of the Cold War, refused to hand over the accident reports and witness statements, claiming the documents contained classified information that would threaten national security. The case made its way up to the Supreme Court, which in 1953 sided with the Air Force in United States v. Reynolds. This landmark decision formally recognized the "state secrets" privilege, a legal precedent that has since been used to conceal conduct, withhold documents, block troublesome litigation, and, most recently, detain terror suspects without due-process protections.

Siegel, a Pulitzer Prize winning former national correspondent for Los Angeles Times, directs the literary journalism program at UC Irvine where he is a professor of English. He is the author of six books, including three volumes of narrative nonfiction and three novels set in imaginary Chumash County on the central coast of California.


Listen to the Siegel interview here

July 8, 2008
An interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges co-author of Collateral Damage: America's War Against Iraqi Civilians.

Hedges and journalist Laila Al-Arian spent the past year interviewing over fifty veterans to expose the patterns of the occupation in Iraq. The testimonies of these soldiers—many of who remain deeply traumatized by their experiences—uncover how the very conduct of the war and occupation have turned the American forces into agents of terror for most Iraqis.

Collateral Damage is organized around key military operations — Convoys, Checkpoints, Detentions, Raids, Suppressive Fire, and “Hearts and Minds.” Military convoys traveling at tremendous speeds through towns have become trains of death. Civilians are routinely run over or shot to death. Soldiers fire upon Iraqi vehicles with impunity at checkpoints. Late-night detentions based on shoddy intelligence terrify women, traumatize children, and radicalize the young men caught in their dragnet.

These soldiers have found the moral courage to speak out about the true nature of a war that has become one long, unchecked atrocity, and has given rise to the instability, sectarian violence and chaos that we witness today in Iraq.

Hedges, currently a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and a Lecturer in the Council of the Humanities and the Anschutz Distinguished Fellow at Princeton University, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries, worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, where he spent fifteen years. Hedges is also the author of the best selling War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, which draws on his experiences in various conflicts to describe the patterns and behavior of nations and individuals in wartime.


Listen to the Hedges interview here

July 1, 2008
An Interview with Bill Bishop author of The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart.

America may be more diverse than ever coast to coast, but the places where we live are becoming increasingly crowded with people who live, think, and vote like we do. This social transformation didn't happen by accident. We've built a country where we can all choose the neighborhood and church and news show — most compatible with our lifestyle and beliefs. And we are living with the consequences of this way-of-life segregation. Our country has become so polarized, so ideologically inbred, that people don't know and can't understand those who live just a few miles away. The reason for this situation, and the dire implications for our country, is the subject of Bishop's ground-breaking work.

In 2004, journalist Bill Bishop made national news in a series of articles when he first described "the big sort." Armed with original and startling demographic data, he showed how Americans have been sorting themselves over the past three decades into homogeneous communities — not at the regional level, or the red-state/blue-state level, but at the micro level of city and neighborhood. In The Big Sort, Bishop deepens his analysis in a brilliantly reported book that makes its case from the ground up, starting with stories about how we live today, and then drawing on history, economics, and our changing political landscape to create one of the most compelling big-picture accounts of America in recent memory.

Bishop wrote The Big Sort with retired University of Texas sociologist Robert G. Cushing. Bishop has worked as a reporter at The Mountain Eagle, in Whitesburg (Ky.); a columnist at the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader and on the special projects staff of the Austin (Tx.) American-Statesman. Bishop and his wife, Julie Ardery, owned and operated The Bastrop County Times, a weekly newspaper in Smithville, Texas. They now co-edit The Daily Yonder, a web-based publication covering rural America.


Listen to the Bishop interview here

June 24, 2008
An interview with Terry J. Aladjem, author of The Culture of Vengeance and the Fate of American Justice.

America is driven by vengeance in Aladjem’s provocative account — a reactive, public anger that is a threat to democratic justice itself. From the return of the death penalty to the wars on terror and in Iraq, Americans demand retribution and moral certainty; they assert the ‘rights of victims’ and make pronouncements against ‘evil’. Yet for Aladjem this dangerously authoritarian turn has its origins in the tradition of liberal justice itself – in theories of punishment that justify inflicting pain and in the punitive practices that result. Exploring vengeance as the defining problem of our time, Aladjem returns to the theories of Locke, Hegel and Mill. He engages the ancient Greeks, Nietzsche, Paine and Foucault to challenge liberal assumptions about punishment. He interrogates American law, capital punishment and images of justice in the media. He envisions a democratic justice that is better able to contain its vengeance.

Aladjem is a Lecturer on Social studies at Harvard University and an Associate Director at Harvard's Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning.


Listen to the Aladjem interview here.

June 17, 2008
An interview with Gabor Maté, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction.

Bestselling writer and physician Maté looks at the epidemic of addictions in our society, tells us why we are so prone to them and what is needed to liberate ourselves from their hold on our emotions and behaviours.

For over ten years Maté has been the staff physician at the Portland Hotel, a residence and harm reduction facility in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. His patients are challenged by life-threatening drug addictions, mental illness, Hepatitis C or HIV and, in many cases, all four. But if Dr. Maté's patients are at the far end of the spectrum, there are many others among us who are also struggling with addictions. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, work, food, sex, gambling and excessive inappropriate spending: what is amiss with our lives that we seek such self-destructive ways to comfort ourselves? And why is it so difficult to stop these habits, even as they threaten our health, jeopardize our relationships and corrode our lives?

Beginning with a dramatically close view of his drug addicted patients, Dr. Maté looks at his own history of compulsive behaviour. He weaves the stories of real people who have struggled with addiction with the latest research on addiction and the brain. Providing a bold synthesis of clinical experience, insight and cutting edge scientific findings, Dr. Maté sheds light on this most puzzling of human frailties. He proposes a compassionate approach to helping drug addicts and, for the many behaviour addicts among us, to addressing the void addiction is meant to fill.


Listen to the Maté interview here

June 10, 2008
An interview with Vincent Bugliosi author of The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder.

Famed Charles Manson prosecutor and three time #1 New York Times bestselling author Vincent Bugliosi has written the most powerful, explosive, and thought-provoking book of his storied career.

In The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, Bugliosi presents a tight, meticulously researched legal case that puts George W. Bush on trial in an American courtroom for the murder of nearly 4,000 American soldiers fighting the war in Iraq. Bugliosi sets forth the legal architecture and incontrovertible evidence that President Bush took this nation to war in Iraq under false pretenses — a war that has not only caused the deaths of American soldiers but also over 100,000 innocent Iraqi men, women, and children; cost the United States over one trillion dollars thus far with no end in sight; and alienated many American allies in the Western world.

As a prosecutor who is dedicated to seeking justice, Bugliosi, in his inimitable style, delivers a non-partisan argument, free from party lines and instead based upon hard facts and pure objectivity.

A searing indictment of the President and his administration, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder also outlines a legally credible pathway to holding our highest government officials accountable for their actions, thereby creating a framework for future occupants of the oval office.

Bugliosi calls for the United States of America to return to the great nation it once was and can be again. He believes the first step to achieving this goal is to bring those responsible for the war in Iraq to justice.

In his career at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, Bugliosi successfully prosecuted 105 out of 106 felony jury trials, including 21 murder convictions without a single loss. His most famous trial, the Charles Manson case, became the basis of his true-crime classic, Helter Skelter, the biggest selling true-crime book in publishing history.


Listen to the Bugliosi interview here

June 3, 2008
An interview with Taras Grescoe author of Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood.

A look at aquaculture that does for seafood what Fast Food Nation did for beef.

Dividing his sensibilities between Epicureanism and ethics, Grescoe set out on a nine-month, worldwide search for a delicious — and humane — plate of seafood. What he discovered shocked him. From North American Red Lobsters to fish farms and research centers in China, Bottomfeeder takes readers on an illuminating tour through the $55-billion-dollar-a-year seafood industry. Grescoe examines how out-of-control pollution, unregulated fishing practices, and climate change affect what ends up on our plate. More than a screed against a multibillion-dollar industry, however, this is also a balanced and practical guide to eating, as Grescoe explains to readers which fish are best for our environment, our seas, and our bodies.

Taras Grescoe has written articles on travel for The Times, Independent, Condé Nast Traveller, National Geographic Traveler and the New York Times. His bestselling first book Sacré Blues: An Unsentimental Journey Through Quebec won the Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-fiction and First Book Award, among numerous other awards. His book, The End of Elsewhere: Travels Among the Tourists, was called "one of the most original travel books to come out in years" by the Globe and Mail.


Listen to the Grescoe interview here

May 27, 2008
An interview with Suzanne Gordon co-author of Safety in Numbers: Nurse-to-Patient Ratios and the Future of Health Care.

Legally mandated nurse-to-patient ratios are one of the most controversial topics in health care today. Ratio advocates believe that minimum staffing levels are essential for quality care, better working conditions, and higher rates of RN recruitment and retention that would alleviate the current global nursing shortage. Opponents claim that ratios will unfairly burden hospital budgets, while reducing management flexibility in addressing patient needs.

Safety in Numbers is the first book to examine the arguments for and against ratios. Utilizing survey data, interviews, and other original research, Suzanne Gordon, John Buchanan, and Tanya Bretherton weigh the cost, benefits, and effectiveness of ratios in California and the state of Victoria in Australia, the two places where RN staffing levels have been mandated the longest. Their book shows how hospital cost-cutting and layoffs in the 1990s created larger workloads and deteriorating conditions for both nurses and their patients — leading nursing organizations to embrace staffing level regulation. The authors provide an in-depth account of the difficult but ultimately successful campaigns waged by nurses and their allies to win mandated ratios. Safety in Numbers then reports on how nurses, hospital administrators, and health care policymakers handled ratio implementation.

Gordon is an award-winning journalist and author. She has written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic Monthly, the American Prospect, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and others. She’s the author of seven books.


Listen to the Gordon interview here

May 20, 2008
An Interview with Matt Taibbi author of The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire.

Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi set out to describe the nature of George Bush's America in the post-9/11 era and ended up vomiting demons in an evangelical church in Texas, riding the streets of Baghdad in an American convoy to nowhere, searching for phantom fighter jets in Congress, and falling into the rabbit hole of the 9/11 Truth Movement.

Matt discovered in his travels across the country that the resilient blue state/red state narrative of American politics had become irrelevant. A large and growing chunk of the American population was so turned off-or radicalized-by electoral chicanery, a spineless news media, and the increasingly blatant lies from our leaders ("they hate us for our freedom") that they abandoned the political mainstream altogether. They joined what he calls The Great Derangement.

Taibbi tells the story of this new American madness by inserting himself into four defining American subcultures: The Military, where he finds himself mired in the grotesque black comedy of the American occupation of Iraq; The System, where he follows the money-slicked path of legislation in Congress; The Resistance, where he doubles as chief public antagonist and undercover member of the passionately bonkers 9/11 Truth Movement; and The Church, where he infiltrates a politically influential apocalyptic mega-ministry in Texas and enters the lives of its desperate congregants. Together these four interwoven adventures paint a portrait of a nation dangerously out of touch with reality and desperately searching for answers in all the wrong places.


Listen to the Taibbi interview here


May 13, 2008
An interview with Nicholson Baker author of Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization.

Baker delivers a deeply moving indictment of the treasured myths that have romanticized much of the 1930s and '40s. Incorporating meticulous research and well-documented sources — including newspaper and magazine articles, radio speeches, memoirs, and diaries — the book juxtaposes hundreds of interrelated moments of decision, brutality, suffering, and mercy.

"'Burning a village properly takes a long time,' wrote a British commander in Iraq in 1920. Baker traces a direct line from there to WWII, when Flying Fortresses and incendiary bombs made it possible to burn a city in almost no time at all. Central to Baker's narrative — a chronological juxtaposition of discrete moments from 1892 to December 31, 1941 — are accounts from contemporary reports of Britain's terror campaign of repeatedly bombing German cities even before the London blitz. The cynical warmongering of Churchill and FDR; Churchill's hate-filled reference to "yellow Japanese lice" force one to reconsider means and ends even in a 'good' war and to view the word 'terror' in a very discomfiting context.

Praised by critics and readers alike for his exquisitely observant eye and deft, inimitable prose, Baker has assembled a narrative within Human Smoke that unfolds gracefully, tragically, and persuasively. This is an unforgettable book that makes a profound impact on our perceptions of historical events and mourns the unthinkable loss humanity has borne at its own hand.

Baker has published three works of nonfiction, including Double Fold, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2001.


Listen to the Baker interview here

May 6, 2008
An interview with Glenn Greenwald author of Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics.

Long since Americans were wooed by images of Ronald Reagan astride a horse, complete with cowboy hat and rugged good looks, the Republican Party has used a John Wayne mythology to build up its candidates and win elections. Their marketing scheme of evoking brave, courageous, heroic warriors has been so persuasive and strikes such a patriotic nerve, that many citizens have voted based on this manipulative imagery even when they’ve flat out disagreed with the GOP’s positions on key issues.

Glenn Greenwald puts this bogus GOP mythology under microscopic critique and successfully argues that none of these men is, in fact, a brave, strong moral warrior — far from it. Rather, most have dodged military duty, have strings of broken marriages and affairs, and live decadent, elitist lives, which they so ruthlessly condemn Democrats for doing. Such false archetypes — that GOP leaders are exclusively fit to command the military, represent traditional family values, and are fiscally restrained and responsible because they’re just regular folk like us — are so firmly entrenched in our culture as to allow the GOP to sit back and let their time-tested marketing ploy spin itself silly while avoiding debate on real issues. When they actually do voice opinions, it’s nothing more than a smear campaign of the supposed weakness and elitism of the Democrats.

To prevent this tired marketing scheme from succeeding again, Greenwald takes off the gloves and knocks down the hoaxes and myths, exposing the tactics the right-wing machine uses to drown out both reality and consideration of real issues. But he also calls on Democrats to shake off the defensive posture (“We love America too,” “We support the troops too,” “We also believe in God”) and start attacking the Republican candidates for the hypocrites they, in truth, are.

Greenwald is a former constitutional law attorney and now a contributing writer at Salon. His political reporting and analysis have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the American Conservative, and numerous congressional reports.


Listen to the Greenwald interview here

April 22, 2008
An interview with Susan Jacoby author of The Age of American Unreason.

Jacoby paints a disturbing portrait of a mutant strain of public ignorance, anti-rationalism, and anti-intellectualism that has developed over the past four decades and now threatens the future of American democracy. Combining historical analysis with contemporary observation, she dissects a culture at odds with America's heritage of Enlightenment reason and with modern knowledge and science. Jacoby offers an unsparing indictment of the ways in which dumbness has been defined downward throughout American society-on the political right and the left. America's endemic anti-intellectual tendencies have been exacerbated by a new species of semiconscious anti-rationalism, feeding on and fed by a popular culture of video images and unremitting noise that leaves no room for contemplation or logic.

The book surveys an anti-rational landscape extending from reality TV and "infantainment" videos for babies to a pseudo-intellectual universe of "junk thought." This vast kingdom of junk thought reaches from semiliterate blogs of all political persuasions to institutions of so-called higher education that offer courses in "fat studies" and horror films but do not require students to obtain a thorough grounding in American and world history, science, and literature. Throughout our culture, disdain for logic and evidence is fostered by the infotainment media from television to the Web; aggressive anti-rational religious fundamentalism; poor public education; the intense politicization of intellectuals themselves; and-above all-a lazy and credulous public increasingly unwilling or unable to distinguish between fact and opinion.

Finally, Jacoby argues that anti-rational government is not the product of a Machiavellian plot by "Washington" but is the inevitable result of "an overarching crisis of memory and knowledge" that has left many ordinary citizens and their elected representatives without the intellectual tools needed for sound public decision-making. The real question is not why politicians have lied to the public but why the public was so receptive and so passive when it heard the lies. At this crucial political juncture, The Age of American Unreason challenges Americans to face the painful truth about what our descent into intellectual laziness and our flight from reason have cost us as individuals and as a nation.

Jacoby is the author of eight books. She is also program director of the Center for Inquiry-New York City, a rationalist think tank with offices in Lower Manhattan.


Listen to the Jacoby interview here

April 15, 2008

An interview with Maude Barlow author of Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water.

"Life requires access to clean water; to deny the right to water is to deny the right to life."
— from the introduction to Blue Covenant

In their international bestseller Blue Gold, Maude Barlow and co-author Tony Clarke exposed how a handful of corporations are gaining ownership and control of the earth's dwindling water supply, depriving millions of people around the world of access to this most basic of resources and accelerating the onset of a global water crisis.

Blue Covenant, the sequel to Blue Gold, describes a powerful response to this trend: the emergence of an international, grassroots-led movement to have water declared a basic human right, something that can't be bought or sold for profit.

World-renowned activist Maude Barlow is at the center of this movement, which is gaining popular and political support across the globe, encompassing protests in India against U.S. bottling giant Coca-Cola; in Bolivia against the water privatization scheme of European water conglomerate Suez; against the use of water meters in South Africa; and over groundwater mining in Barrington, New Hampshire, and dozens of other communities in North America.

Barlow traces the history of these international battles, documents the life-and-death stakes involved in the fight for the right to water, and lays out the actions that we as global citizens must take to secure a water — just world — a "blue covenant"—for all.

Barlow is the National Chairperson of The Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest public advocacy organization, and the co-founder of the Blue Planet Project, working internationally for the right to water. She serves on the boards of the International Forum on Globalization and Food and Water Watch, as well as being a Councillor with the Hamburg-based World Future Council.


Listen to the Barlow interview here

April 8, 2008

An interview with Nick Davies author of Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media.

"Finally I was forced to admit that I work in a corrupted profession." When award-winning journalist Nick Davies decided to break Fleet Street's unwritten rule by investigating his own colleagues, he found that the business of reporting the truth had been slowly subverted by the mass production of ignorance.

Working with a network of off-the-record sources, Davies uncovered the story of the prestigious Sunday newspaper which allowed the CIA and MI6 to plant fiction in its columns; the newsroom which routinely rejects stories about black people; the respected paper that hired a professional fraudster to set up a front company to entrap senior political figures; the newspapers which support law and order while paying cash bribes to bent detectives. Davies names names and exposes the national stories which turn out to be pseudo events manufactured by the PR industry, and the global news stories which prove to be fiction generated by a new machinery of international propaganda. He shows the impact of this on a world where consumers believe a mass of stories which, in truth, are as false as the idea that the Earth is flat - from the millennium bug to the WMD in Iraq - tainting government policy, perverting popular belief. He presents a new model for understanding news. With the help of researchers from Cardiff University, who ran a ground-breaking analysis of our daily news, Davies found most reporters, most of the time, are not allowed to dig up stories or check their facts - a profession corrupted at the core.

Davies has been named Journalist of the Year, Reporter of the Year and Feature Writer of the Year for his investigations into crime, drugs, poverty and other social issues. He has been a journalist since 1976 and is currently a freelance, working regularly as special correspondent for The Guardian.


Listen to the Davies interview here

March 25, 2008

An interview with Marnia Lazreg author of Torture and the Twilight of Empire: From Algiers to Baghdad.

Lazreg looks at the intimate relationship between torture and colonial domination through a close examination of the French army's coercive tactics during the Algerian war from 1954 to 1962. By tracing the psychological, cultural, and political meanings of torture at the end of the French empire, she also sheds new light on the United States and its recourse to torture in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Torture and the Twilight of Empire is nothing less than an anatomy of torture — its methods, justifications, functions, and consequences. Drawing extensively from archives, confessions by former torturers, interviews with former soldiers, and war diaries, as well as writings by Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and others, Lazreg argues that occupying nations justify their systematic use of torture as a regrettable but necessary means of saving Western civilization from those who challenge their rule. She shows how torture was central to guerre révolutionnaire, a French theory of modern warfare that called for total war against the subject population and which informed a pacification strategy founded on brutal psychological techniques borrowed from totalitarian movements. Lazreg seeks to understand torture's impact on the Algerian population--especially women--and also on the French troops who became their torturers. She explores the roles Christianity and Islam played in rationalizing these acts, and the ways in which torture became not only routine but even acceptable.

Lazreg is professor of sociology at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her books include The Eloquence of Silence: Algerian Women in Question.


Listen to the Lazreg interview here

March 18, 2008

An interview with Fred Kaplan author of Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power.

America's power is in decline, its foreign policy adrift, its allies alienated, its soldiers trapped in a war that even generals regard as unwinnable. What has happened these past eight years is well-known. Why it happened continues to puzzle. Slate columnist Fred Kaplan combines in-depth reporting and analysis to explain just how George W. Bush and his aides got so far off track — and why much of the nation followed.

For eight years, Kaplan reminds us, the White House — and many of the nation's podiums and opinion pages — rang out with appealing but deluded claims: that we live in a time like no other and that, therefore, the lessons of history no longer apply; that new technology has transformed warfare; that the world's peoples will be set free, if only America topples their dictators; and that those who dispute such promises do so for partisan reasons. They thought they were visionaries, but they only had visions. And they believed in their daydreams.

Fred Kaplan writes the "War Stories" column in Slate. The author of the classic book The Wizards of Armageddon, he has also written for the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, the Atlantic Monthly, and other publications. He worked as a foreign policy aide on Capitol Hill, and spent decades as a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter in Washington and Moscow.


Listen to the Kaplan interview here

March 11, 2008

An interview with Nicholas Maxwell author of From Knowledge to Wisdom: A Revolution for Science and the Humanities.

From Knowledge to Wisdom argues that there is an urgent need, for both intellectual and humanitarian reasons, to bring about a revolution in science and the humanities. The outcome would be a kind of academic inquiry rationally devoted to helping humanity learn how to create a better world. The basic intellectual aim of inquiry would be to seek and promote wisdom — wisdom being the capacity to realize what is of value in life for oneself and others, thus including knowledge and technological know-how, but much else besides.

According to Maxwell, "Natural science has been extraordinarily successful in increasing knowledge. This has been of great benefit to humanity. But new knowledge and technological know-how increase our power to act which, without wisdom, may cause human suffering and death as well as human benefit. All our modern global problems have arisen in this way: global warming, the lethal character of modern war and terrorism, vast inequalities of wealth and power round the globe, rapid increase in population, rapid extinction of other species, even the aids epidemic (aids being spread by modern travel). All these have been made possible by modern science dissociated from the rational pursuit of wisdom. If we are to avoid in this century the horrors of the last one — wars, death camps, dictatorships, poverty, environmental damage — we urgently need to learn how to acquire more wisdom, which in turn means that our institutions of learning become devoted to that end.

For nearly 30 years Maxwell taught the Philosophy of Science at the University College London, where he is now Emeritus Reader in Philosophy of Science and Honorary Senior Research Fellow. He is also the author of What's Wrong With Science?, The Comprehensibility of the Universe, and The Human World in the Physical Universe.


Listen to the Nicholas Maxwell interview here

March 4, 2008

An interview with Charles Barber, author of Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation.

Public perceptions of mental health issues have changed dramatically over the last fifteen years, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the rampant overmedication of ordinary Americans. In 2006, 227 million antidepressant prescriptions were dispensed in the United States, more than any other class of medication; in that same year, the United States accounted for 66 percent of the global antidepressant market. Barber provides a much-needed context for this disturbing phenomenon.

Barber explores the ways in which pharmaceutical companies first create the need for a drug and then rush to fill it, and he reveals that the increasing pressure Americans are under to medicate themselves (direct-to-consumer advertising, fewer nondrug therapeutic options, the promise of the quick fix, the blurring of distinction between mental illness and everyday problems). Most importantly, he convincingly argues that without an industry to promote them, non-pharmaceutical approaches that could have the potential to help millions are tragically overlooked by a nation that sees drugs as an instant cure for all emotional difficulties.

Barber was educated at Harvard and Columbia and worked for ten years in New York City shelters for the homeless mentally ill. The title essay in his first book, Songs from the Black Chair, won a 2006 Pushcart Prize. His work has appeared in The New York Times and Scientific American Mind, among other publications. He is a senior administrator at The Connection, an innovative social services agency, and a lecturer in psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine.


Listen to the Charles Barber interview here.

February 26, 2008
An interview with Jeffrey C. Goldfarb, author of The Politics of Small Things: The Power of the Powerless in Dark Times.

Political change doesn't always begin with a bang; it often starts with just a whisper. From the discussions around kitchen tables that led to the dismantling of the Soviet bloc to the more recent emergence of Internet initiatives like MoveOn.org and Redeem the Vote that are revolutionizing the American political landscape, consequential political life develops in small spaces where dialogue generates political power.

Goldfarb provides an innovative way for understanding politics, a way of appreciating the significance of politics at the micro level by comparatively analyzing key turning points and institutions in recent history. He presents a sociology of human interactions that lead from small to large: dissent around the old Soviet bloc; life on the streets in Warsaw, Prague, and Bucharest in 1989; the network of terror that spawned 9/11; and the religious and Internet mobilizations that transformed the 2004 presidential election, to name a few. In such pivotal moments, he masterfully shows, political autonomy can be generated, presenting alternatives to the big politics of the global stage and the dominant narratives of terrorism, antiterrorism, and globalization.

Goldfarb is the Michael E. Gellert Professor of Sociology at the New School for Social Research. He is the author of seven books, including On Cultural Freedom, The Cynical Society and Beyond Glasnost.


Listen to the Goldfarb interview here

February 19, 2008
An interview with Robert Creamer, author of Listen to Your Mother: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win.

Some people think that in order to win this November, Democrats need to move to the political center by adopting conservative values and splitting the difference between progressive and conservatives positions. History shows they are wrong. To win the next election and to win in the long term, progressives need to redefine the political center. Creamer, one of America s most experienced political strategists and organizers lays out a broad strategy for progressive victory and describes the tactics needed to win real-world political battles one at a time. He analyzes: The self-interests of voters; Targets for political communication; The principles of political messaging; The secrets of winning electoral and issue campaigns; What is meant by progressive values, and; How to describe a compelling progressive vision for the future.

Creamer has been a political organizer and strategist for almost four decades. He is a consultant to the campaigns to end the war in Iraq, pass universal health care, change America's budget priorities and enact comprehensive immigration reform.


Listen to the Creamer interview here

February 12, 2008
An interview with Jonathan Simon author of Governing through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and Created a Culture of Fear.

Across America today gated communities sprawl out from urban centers, employers enforce mandatory drug testing, and schools screen students with metal detectors. Social problems ranging from welfare dependency to educational inequality have been reconceptualized as crimes, with an attendant focus on assigning fault and imposing consequences.

Even before the recent terrorist attacks, non-citizen residents had become subject to an increasingly harsh regime of detention and deportation, and prospective employees subjected to background checks. How and when did our everyday world become dominated by fear, every citizen treated as a potential criminal?

Simon traces this pattern back to the collapse of the New Deal approach to governing during the 1960s when declining confidence in expert-guided government policies sent political leaders searching for new models of governance. The War on Crime offered a ready solution to their problem: politicians set agendas by drawing analogies to crime and redefined the ideal citizen as a crime victim, one whose vulnerabilities opened the door to overweening government intervention. By the 1980s, this transformation of the core powers of government had spilled over into the institutions that govern daily life. Soon our schools, our families, our workplaces, and our residential communities were being governed through crime.

Simon is Associate Dean of Jurisprudence and Social Policy and Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.


Listen to the Simon interview here

February 5, 2008
Our guest is Sarah Posner author of God's Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters.

Posner examines the unholy alliance between a new breed of corrupt televangelists and the Republican Party, which is eagerly courting "values voters" in the nation's largest megachurches.

Posner exposes the activities of Kenneth Copeland, John Hagee, Rod Parsley, T.D. Jakes, and other politically connected, skillfully marketed, and increasingly influential religious leaders. Preaching the "prosperity gospel" — the notion that faith and tithing alone can ensure financial security — both in their churches and over the airwaves, these charismatic leaders scam the gullible even as they enjoy unprecedented access to top Bush Administration officials. Admired by Republican strategists for their antigovernment ideology and authoritarian leadership styles, these televangelists work together to maximize profits; protect themselves legally; influence elections, judicial nominations, and promote their pro-war, apocalyptic ideas.

Posner is an investigation journalist covering the religious right for the Prospect, The Nation, The Washington Spectator, AlterNet, and other publications. She also writes the Fundamentalist List which counts down the week's top news about the religious right, for the American Propect website.


Listen to the Posner Interview here

January 22, 2008
Our guest is Matt Mason author of The Pirate’s Dilemma: How Youth Culture is Reinventing Capitalism.

Mason charts the rise of various youth movements - from pirate radio to remix culture, from punk and hip-hop to graffiti and gaming - and tracks their ripple effect throughout larger society. He shows how subversive ideas, fringe movements, street and youth culture have combined with technology to subvert old hierarchies and empower the individual. And it shows why the rest of us had better catch up.

Extending this argument to the world of pirate radio, graffiti, hip-hop, and advertising in subsequent chapters, Mason shows how, by thinking like pirates, people grow niche audiences to a critical mass and change the mainstream from the bottom up. It considers what the world will look like when people begin virtually annotating real space - where the nature of privacy, the public domain, and the role of graffiti suddenly change. In this world, boundaries might just be a thing of the past.

Mason began his career as a pirate radio and club DJ in London, going on to found the seminal magazine RWD (the largest urban music title in the UK). In 2004, he was presented the Prince's Trust London Business of the Year Award by HRH Prince Charles. He has written and produced TV series, comic strips, and records, and his stories have appeared in VICE, Complex, and other publications in more than 12 countries around the world.


Listen to the Mason interview here

January 15, 2008
Our guest is Mark Winne author of Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty.

Food activist and journalist Mark Winne poses questions too often overlooked in our current conversations around food: What about those people who are not financially able to make conscientious choices about where and how to get food? And in a time of rising rates of both diabetes and obesity, what can we do to make healthier foods available for everyone?

To address these questions, Winne tells the story of how America's food gap has widened since the 1960s, when domestic poverty was "rediscovered," and how communities have responded with a slew of strategies and methods to narrow the gap, including community gardens, food banks, and farmers' markets. The story, however, is not only about hunger in the land of plenty and the organized efforts to reduce it; it is also about doing that work against a backdrop of ever-growing American food affluence and gastronomical expectations. With the popularity of Whole Foods and increasingly common community-supported agriculture (CSA), wherein subscribers pay a farm so they can have fresh produce regularly, the demand for fresh food is rising in one population as fast as rates of obesity and diabetes are rising in another.

Winne addresses head-on the struggles to improve food access for all of us, regardless of income level. Using anecdotal evidence and a smart look at both local and national policies, Winne offers a realistic vision for getting locally produced, healthy food onto everyone's table.

For twenty-five years Mark Winne was the executive director of the Hartford Food System in Hartford, Connecticut. He now writes, speaks, and consults extensively on community food system topics.


Listen to the Winne interview here

January 8, 2008
Our guest is Craig Unger author of The Fall of the House of Bush: The Untold Story of How a Band of True Believers Seized the Executive Branch, Started the Iraq War, and Still Imperils America's Future.

The presidency of George W. Bush has led to the worst foreign policy decision in the history of the United States — the bloody, unwinnable war in Iraq. How did this happen? Bush's fateful decision was rooted in events that began decades ago, and until now this story has never been fully told.

Craig Unger, the author of the bestseller House of Bush, House of Saud discusses the secret relationship between neoconservative policy makers and the Christian Right, and how they assaulted the most vital safeguards of America's constitutional democracy while pushing the country into the catastrophic quagmire in the Middle East that is getting worse day by day.

A seasoned, award-winning investigative reporter connected to many back-channel political and intelligence sources, Unger interviewed scores of figures in the Christian Right, the neoconservative movement, the Bush administration, and sources close to the Bush family, as well as intelligence agents in the CIA, the Pentagon, and Israel, Unger shows how the Bush administration's certainty that it could bend history to its will has carried America into the disastrous war in Iraq, dooming Bush's presidency to failure and costing America thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. Far from ensuring our security, the Iraq War will be seen as a great strategic pivot point in history that could ignite wider war in the Middle East, particularly in Iran.


Listen to the Unger interview here

January 1, 2008
Our guest is Ismael Hossein-zadeh author of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism.

Hossein-zadeh's wide-ranging, interdisciplinary analysis blends history, economics, and politics to challenge most of the prevailing accounts of the rise of U.S. militarism. While acknowledging the contributory role of some of the most widely-cited culprits (big oil, neoconservative ideology, the Zionist lobby, and President Bush's world outlook), this study explores the bigger, but largely submerged, picture: the political economy of war and militarism.

The study is unique not only for its thorough examination of the economics of military spending, but also for its careful analysis of a series of closely related topics (petroleum, geopolitics, imperialism, terrorism, religious fundamentalism, the war in Iraq, and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict) that may appear as digressions but, in fact, help shed more light on the main investigation.

An Iranian-born Kurd, Hossein-zadeh came to the United States in 1975 to pursue his formal education in economics. After completing his graduate work at the New School for Social Research in New York City (1988), he joined Drake University faculty where he has been teaching classes in political economy, comparative economic systems, international economics, and development economics.


Listen to the Hossein-zadeh interview here


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KUCI is a free-form alternative
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For more program information, a history of the station, a photo gallery and much more visit KUCI.org. More information regarding public affairs guests and topics can be found at KUCItalk.org.




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