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Doug Fine Discusses His Book, Hemp Bound, At The Booksmith, in Haight-Ashbury

11:10 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Sunday afternoon, I will be hosting author Doug Fine here at the Firedoglake Book Salon. We will be asking him questions about the subject matter of Hemp Bound: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution.  Last year, we had him here to discuss the paperback edition of his book on the medical cannabis growing scene in California, Too High to Fail.

His new book concentrates on non-medicinal and recreational uses of hemp, in a variety of industrial applications.  Having read all four of Doug’s books, I regard this as his most important.

Here is an hour-long presentation on the book he gave at The Booksmith, in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District, around April 23rd.  I shopped at The Booksmith on December 21st, while Christmas shopping on my first trip to that historic area since October, 1968.

Firedoglake Book Salon Preview: After Legalization: Understanding The Future Of Marijuana Policy, by Jon Walker

4:48 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

On Sunday, I will host Jon Walker, author of the first book to look a decade and a half into a future where cannabis use will be governed by sets of local, state and national regimes that will be quite different from what we now experience or observe. It will be the second time I’ve been able to host discussion here about how government agencies deal with the most irrational element of the generations-old “war on drugs.” Back in December, I hosted author Doug Fine, whose book Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution had just come out in paperback. Fine spent an entire growing season following a single plant from clone to use by a medical marijuana patient. His observations about how one major local polity – California’s Mendocino County – was then (2011) dealing with that county’s most important agricultural product in the face of its legality in the state, but severe illegality in the eyes of the Federal government are fascinating.

Jon Walker’s After Legalization: Understanding The Future Of Marijuana Policy combines detailed knowledge of the past and present stories and issues surrounding cannabis in the United States with a solidly based set of predictions about what the stories and issues will be like in 2030. In the introduction, Walker writes:

This book is written from the perspective of someone in the year 2030 describing what America looks like after federal marijuana legalization has been in place for a few years. It is intended to answer the two big “how” questions: how marijuana will be treated as a legal product, and how this change will come about. I will show in a very tangible way what legalization will mean for regular people and give a detailed explanation for why things may turn out that way.

Later, in his conclusions, Walker writes:

My goal was not just to list what the regulatory issues will be, but also to indicate what political and economic forces are most likely to shape them. I want people to understand who the relevant players will likely be, where the minor legal fights should take place, and what political dynamics will drive the debate. In this way, one can anticipate which leverage points will shape the future.

The author goes about this in a set of chapters titled:

Chapter 1 – Where to Buy

Chapter 2 – What to Buy: Brands, Selection, and Big Marijuana

Chapter 3 – Price

Chapter 4 – Taxes

Chapter 5 – Home Growing

Chapter 6 – Where You Can Smoke

Chapter 7 – Who Is Smoking

Chapter 8 – Impact on Public Health

Chapter 9 – What Becomes of Medical Marijuana

Chapter 10 – Criminal Justice

Chapter 11 – Industrial Hemp

Chapter 12 – How and Why It Happened

There are footnotes and 23 pages of endnotes.

Nobody can predict the future. Walker’s setting of 2030 as the period he envisions makes a lot of sense, though. Near the end of the book, he relates how we get from 2014 to 2030, step by step.

I found the book to be a very accessible and quick read. Walker’s humor showed every bit as much as it does in some of his essays at Firedoglake‘s Just Say Now niche, where he serves as senior policy analyst and editor.

Walker’s look at the future needs to be widely read, particularly by policy makers, law enforcement professionals and politicians. He addresses part of why this is important:

Given marijuana policy reform’s broad popular support and the fact that it has remained weirdly taboo among politicians, the ballot initiative is crucial. In 2013, 52 percent of the country supported marijuana legalization, but only 17 members of the House of Representatives—that is, only 3.9 percent of the chamber—sponsored HR 499, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013.147 This imbalance is a real problem.

It certainly is.

Come join us Sunday at 2:00 pm, Pacific Time, for a lively two hours with the author who has made Just Say Now a vital component of our national battle toward sanity in drug policy reform. I’m looking forward to it.

Discussion over at Book Salon

FDL Book Salon Preview: Stop Drifting, Start Rowing, by Roz Savage

11:01 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Roz Savage in her ocean rowboat, about 4 weeks after setting out from the Canary Islands on the Atlantic Rowing Race 2005.

I.  When I was a teenager, I read Frank Worsley’s Shackleton’s Boat Journey, about British explorer Ernest Shackleton’s desperate move in an open boat, to rescue his stranded crew from the Antarctic ice, in April and May, 1916.  At the time, I didn’t know much about the ocean, sailing or extreme condition adventures.

By my mid-twenties, though, I was fishing commercially year-round in Alaskan coastal waters, having multitudes of such hazards under my belt, including being pulled overboard and 60 feet underwater by a 8-foot-by-8-foot crab pot.  Between fishing trips, my reading list included Joshua Slocum’s seminal 1900 memoir, Sailing Around Alone Around the World, every book I could find on Captain Cook’s voyages, Herman Melville’s White-Jacket, and other volumes on the extremes the sea can fetch into the laps of anyone who dares to seek the edge.

I avidly devoured Tristan Jones‘ accounts of solo ocean sailing voyages as they were published, between 1977 and 1991, beginning with The Incredible Voyage, in which Jones sailed half the world’s oceans, as he sought to sail the lowest (the Dead Sea) and highest (Lake Titicaca) bodies of sailboat-navigable water on this planet.

These books were all by men, about themselves, or other men.  But I knew from my Alaskan experiences than many women loved the sea and testing their limits there as much as I did, or more.  Sadly, there aren’t nearly as many historical books about women braving the extreme hazards of solo trekking, sailing, climbing and exploring.  This has changed markedly since the 1970s, and the trend is accelerating in our new century.  Here is a book list of adventure books featuring women who dared challenge not just the odds, but the conventions of their times.

This new century has brought not only more women adventurers to the fore.  It has brought them and their male counterparts the opportunity of keeping us up-to-date on their progress (or not!) via blogs, vlogs, social media and other almost instant communication.  My first close encounter with this approach to extreme trekking was in late 2007, when I discovered Erin McKittrick and Bretwood Higman, as they walked, pac-rafted and skied from Seattle to the Aleutian Islands,  blogging as they progressed.  Additionally, some of these new wave adventurers were using their journeys to heighten awareness of environmental issues.

Simultaneously, I became more interested in rowing, women rowing and extreme rowing, as I followed my daughter Julia’s journey to an NCAA team championship in 2008.  The same week my daughter was rowing to a gold medal on Lake Natoma, near Sacramento, solo ocean rower, Roz Savage, was departing Sausalito in San Francisco Bay, 110 miles west, on her way to Hawaii, the first stage of Savage’s trans-Pacific crossing.  Savage eventually became the first woman to successfully row solo across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.

II.  Since achieving this remarkable set of feats, which included over five million oar strokes, Roz Savage has been lauded worldwide.  Most recently, Queen Elizabeth II honored the adventurer on the Queen’s Birthday, awarding Savage the  Order of the British Empire.  Although she has been lionized for her rowing accomplishments (including National Geographic‘s 2010 Adventurer of the Year), Savage has been honored, perhaps more significantly, for her efforts to bring more attention to oceanic plastic pollution.  Her campaign, along with many others, to end plastic bag use at the Olympic Games, symbolic as that is, has been commended.

Roz Savage’s second book, Stop Drifting, Start Rowing: One Woman’s Search for Happiness and Meaning Alone on the Pacific, was released on October 1st.  It is one of the more important personal narratives by a woman explorer yet written.  Her first book, Rowing the Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean, was about the first leg of her three-ocean odyssey.  Even though written after Savage had completed the final, Indian Ocean leg, her new one covers only the three-stage Pacific Ocean leg.

In Stop Drifting, the author looks back at what it was that brought her to become an ocean rower.  Here she recounts her earlier life as a management consultant, her wake-up call to reinvent her life, and the many frustrations as she encountered adversity after setback after near-disaster on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans:

Roz Savage would not have been able to successfully engage her dedication, pluck and resolve as rower-adventurer, had she not brought with her into the mission her excellence as a fundraiser.  This is part of the book, though more needs to be written about how important that is to someone who embarks upon a great and expensive human-powered quest meant to bring attention to global environmental challenges and disasters. Savage concentrates more on the details of putting together the boat-survival package, and the alternation between long days just rowing, rowing, sleeping, rowing, rowing – and sheer terror in the face of the overwhelming power of the sea.

Putting together her idea of solo ocean rowing with a wider long-range environmental activist role, Savage writes that she:

began to compile a grand to-do list of all of the things I would need to read, learn, finance, buy and otherwise do . . . had broken the list down to such small steps that there was nothing too far outside of my existing abilities. It felt as if everything that had happened so far in my life had been leading me to this point, preparing me for this task, and that I was uniquely equipped to pursue this quest. It was a perfect collision of personality, past experience, purpose, and timing.

In the very long leg of the trip between Hawaii and Kiribati, Savage sometimes found herself losing ground over the course of a day.  Savage’s encounters with fish, birds, turtles and marine mammals were mostly routine, although she had to put up with a lot of bird poop, and – on one occasion – flying squids, landing on deck, injuring themselves fatally, as they tried to escape an underwater predator.  Her encounters with marine pollution saddened her, even though she knew beforehand that there would be such occurrences.  But in mid-Pacific, Roz learned that two ocean scientists had created a raft of ocean-borne plastic pollutants, and were crossing part of the Pacific on it.  For days, their paths slowly converged, until they met, and shared experiences, food, watermarking equipment, and fragrances.

The book’s narrative is rich with her encounters, remembrances and bits of wisdom gleaned from isolation, exhaustion, exhilaration and struggle.

III. As with any environmental crusader who travels the globe promoting his or her cause or book, Savage has been called to task for the carbon footprint left behind by those efforts.  How one gets around that is one of the best questions out there.  Are iconic environmental crusaders who are also public speakers, educators, board members and delegates to conferences around the world supposed to walk, swim or row in recycled wooden boats to attend to their roles, rather than fly by jet, motor by Subaru, or – as some Roz Savage critics have written in CAPS – row against plastics in a plastic boat full of solar-powered electronics made out of precious rare earth elements?

Some of these same critics, though, acknowledge the power of Savage’s story-telling in the book. reviewer Russell Bradley wrote:

Excellent book which is both a fantatsic adventure story and a real world example of someone chasing their dreams to challenge themselves. And try to make a difference at the same time. I was one of the biologists Roz passed by at the Farallon Islands. I remember watching her disappear over the horizon and thinking I may be the last person to ever see her. But she did it and helped inform, educate and inspire along the way. Though it’s obvious this publisher deals primarily in “self help books” which may be offputting to some, this is a great easy read that does have lots of life lessons anyone can appreciate – like dealing with the failure of her aborted first attempt. She’s a badass (but a delightful one)…

Back in March, 2012, I brought up the issue of spending environmental resources to make people aware of environmental degradation, in an interview with Roz, and with fellow adventurer-environmentalist Erin McKittrick.  Here’s Roz’s response to my question about this:

I have a unique vessel, but I have recycled the same vessel for all 6 of my voyages. The initial purchase of the boat was expensive – for which I used my life savings – but since then my expeditions have operated on a shoestring budget, largely “crowdsourced” by a multitude of supporters. As to “the logistics to support it”, this may imply that I have a support vessel – which I don’t. I do what I can to recycle as much kit as is still working at the end of every voyage, and to select foods that have minimal packaging, with as much of it as possible being recyclable or biodegradable. I am quite proud of my frugality and regard to environmental impact in this regard……

The need to raise funds has had significant side-benefits in terms of outreach. Much of my funding has come from a multitude of people who have donated anywhere between $10 and $10,000 to support my adventures. This has three huge benefits – firstly, it gives them a sense of ownership towards my mission. Because they have parted with hard-earned cash to help make it happen, they are more likely to check in and read my blog while I am at sea to reassure themselves that I am using their money wisely – thus increasing my outreach.

Secondly, when I am having a tough day on the ocean (like, most of them!) it really helps to keep me going to think of all those people who have invested in me – emotionally as well as financially. Even if I am struggling to find the motivation to keep going for my own sake, I do it for them. I feel I owe it to them to complete what I set out to do.

Thirdly, it gives me freedom. I’ve never been in the situation of having to decide whether to accept a huge sponsorship deal from an environmentally reckless company – but if I did accept such a deal, it might have raised question marks over my independence on environmental issues. By being funded largely by individuals, I don’t have to toe any corporate line, giving me freedom to express my own views.

Please join us Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time, as we ask Roz Savage about what meaning there is in such wondrous epic adventures, even as people question how we can get the word out on impending environmental catastrophe without using too many resources presenting the message.

Photo taken from her support vessel Aurora by Dan Byles.

FDL Book Salon Preview: Too High to Fail Author Doug Fine Addresses London UK NORML Meeting

5:41 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

On Sunday, I’ll be hosting author and journalist Doug Fine at the Firedoglake Book Salon, as he fields your questions about the rapidly changing scene regarding cannabis legalization on the state level in the U.S.A. Since publication last summer of the paperback edition of his look at organic, outdoor medicinal cannabis cultivation in California’s Mendocino County, the political field on the legalization issue in various states is changing rapidly. Fine regards the passage of ballot initiatives calling for a legalization regime for recreational use in Washington state and Colorado as seminal. “It is no stretch to say that the Berlin Wall of the Drug War fell,” wrote Fine in the augmented paperback edition.

I loved Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution so much, I soon read the author’s two other books, Not Really an Alaskan Mountain Man and farewell, My Subaru:  An Epic Adventure in Local Living.

Because Fine’s book is one of the most important yet published on failings and stupidities of the War on Drugs, he has been in demand for public speaking engagements on legalization issues and their ramifications.  He has taken a holistic approach toward how legalization, cultivation, marketing, product development and hemp-cannabis infrastructure might rationally work.  In that, he is in the forefront.

He recently returned from Europe, where he gave talks as part of his Drug Peace Tour.  Here he is, on November 13th, addressing the London, UK branch of NORML.  It is over 80 minutes long, but well worth watching:

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Book Salon Preview: Goliath, Life & Loathing in Greater Israel by Max Blumenthal – Part Two: The Book’s Reception – Updated

3:28 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Join the FDL Book Salon with Max Blumenthal, hosted by Edward Teller this Saturday at 2:00pm PST.

Max Blumenthal’s new book, Goliath:  Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, was released October 1.  It is his second book. Republican Gomorrah:  Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party was his first.

Goliath cover

Some supporters of Israeli politics have lobbied harsh, questionably accurate criticism at Goliath.

Released in September, 2009, it became a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller. During the author’s book tour for Republican Gomorrah, Blumenthal was interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air, on CNN’s Morning Joe, and numerous other prime author venues. Reviews of the book, almost universally favorable, were printed in such mainstream outlets as Harper’s, the Los Angeles Times, truth-out and others. Considering how difficult it is to get our mainstream media to look deeply into inconvenient aspects of fundamentalist Christianity, and how that plays out in GOP ideology, Republican Gomorrah was surprisingly well covered by them. Firedoglake hosted Max for a book salon session.

That coverage of his second book is far less universal is no surprise to those of us who have observed the rollout of books critical of aspects of Israeli society, or which look closely at the unhealthy role Zionists play in internal American politics. For instance, in 2007, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, was widely reviled in articles and reviews. However, in the six years since publication, the book’s impact has been seen as seminal, in forcing more and better informed open discussion of that lobby’s influence. Five years after publication, author Walt wrote:

[D]iscussions of the lobby and its impact have moved from the fringes of U.S. discourse to the mainstream. Today, one can read or watch people from Jon Stewart to Andrew Sullivan to Glenn Greenwald to David Remnick to Nicholas Kristof acknowledging the lobby’s role in shaping U.S. Middle East policy. Editorials in mainstream papers like the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times call for the U.S. government to adopt a tougher approach toward the Israeli government. More and more news stories on U.S. Middle East policy refer to the ‘Israel lobby’ as a serious political force, and not always in flattering terms. Even hard-line neoconservatives like David Frum now acknowledge the power of groups in the lobby, as in Frum’s recent complaint that Sarah Palin failed to appreciate the political benefits she could gain by choosing to visit Israel under the auspices of the Republican Jewish Coalition, instead of going on her own. Of course, our book and article are surely not the only reason for this shift in discourse, but we probably played a role.

A fairly modest claim.

Blumenthal has not been invited back on to Fresh Air or Morning Joe. Or on to any mainstream venues normally available to authors of his high caliber upon launch of a new book. Nor will he be, even if the book becomes a best seller, which is fairly likely.

The push-back against Max Blumenthal for Goliath is reminiscent to the reception of The Israel Lobby. One might say, though, that the militant Zionist hits against the new book are informed somewhat by what Zionist commentators have learned from Walt and Mearsheimer’s book.

The most savage attack on Blumenthal’s book was published in the November edition of  The Nation, which is also publisher of Goliath. Progressive-ish writer and commentator, Eric Alterman, in an article called “The ‘I Hate Israel’ Handbook,” castigated it with one-liners like “this book could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club.” Alterman’s article was immediately criticized for its inaccuracies and invective, perhaps most thoroughly by journalist Phan Nguyen, in an article initially published at Mondoweiss. I wrote about Alterman’s hit job and Nguyen’s comprehensive responses here, back on October 19th.

Alterman won’t let things go.  Though he has failed to respond to Nguyen’s throughly researched critique, he has responded to the author’s rebuttal to the initial Alterman articles panning the book and its creator, concluding:

Literally nothing this fellow writes can be taken at face value. He shames all of us with his presence in our magazine.

One of the fascinating details of the lengthening Alterman-Blumenthal exchange at The Nation is that all of Blumenthal’s articles have allowed reader comments, but none of Alterman’s provide that feature.

Alterman also noted:

Blumenthal’s letter is no less dishonest and disingenuous than his dreadful book (a book, I hasten to add that has received virtually no attention in the print media, save in my column). I will answer each and every one of his charges in the order he makes them and then I hope and pray I will finally be done with this mishegas forever.

I really doubt that, Eric.

Between now and Saturday’s book salon with Max Blumenthal, there may be other reviews of the book, or negative articles such as those accumulating by or because of Alterman. I’ll update this post if that occurs.


1).  Eric Alterman is claiming that Max Blumenthal’s Dad, Sydney Blumenthal, is attacking Alterman in emails.  Yet Alterman, when asked to disclose the content of the alleged attacks, has refused to cooperate with the reporter to  whom he is complaining:

Sidney Blumenthal, a close adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton, has reportedlyundertaken an email campaign to defend a controversial book written by his son that compares Israel to Nazi Germany.

The book, written by Max Blumenthal, accuses Israel of being a fascist country and has chapter titles explicitly comparing the Jewish State to Nazi Germany, such as “The Concentration Camp” and “The Night of Broken Glass.”

According to the Nation columnist Eric Alterman, who harshly reviewed the book, long-time Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal has sent “nasty emails” to “our mutual friends and professional acquaintances” attacking him for “telling the truth about his son’s book.”

Alterman’s refusal to disclose specifics:

Alterman declined to give additional details on the contents of the alleged emails, telling the Free Beacon that “private emails deserve to stay private.” He said he only mentioned them in his column because “it was necessary to answer one of Max Blumenthal’s myriad charges.”

2).  Alterman is interviewed by The Forward‘s J.J. Goldberg:

There’s an unpleasant little debate sloshing around the Web lately that tells you all you need to know — and perhaps more than you want to hear — about the current state of relations between Israel and the left.

The debate revolves around an unpleasant book published October 1 by Nation Books, titled “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.” The author is Max Blumenthal, gonzo journalist, video provocateur and son of onetime Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal. The book is the product, the author says, of four years’ work, including more than a year living in Israel and the Palestinian territories to study the facts on the ground.

As his title makes clear, he didn’t think much of the place. He’s written a collection of 73 short vignettes, weaving together reportage, history and interviews to show the suffering and unbroken spirit of the Palestinians and the callous cruelty of the Israelis. Lest anyone miss the point, many of his chapters have titles like “The Concentration Camp,” “The Night of Broken Glass,” “This Belongs to the White Man” and “How to Kill Goyim and Influence People.”

The hottest debate, though, isn’t over the book itself. It’s about a magazine column devoted to the book. It appeared October 16 in the left-wing weekly The Nation, whose publishing arm put the book out. It’s by Eric Alterman, the magazine’s sharp-tongued media columnist. Its title: “The ‘I Hate Israel’ Handbook.”

A prolific author, academic and liberal pundit, Alterman is regarded as a chronic Israel-basher by the Israel-right-or-wrong crowd, while devoted Israel-bashers call him a “member of the Israel lobby.” He stipulates that Israel’s “brutal occupation” inflicts “daily humiliations” on the Palestinians, but says Blumenthal “proves a profoundly unreliable narrator.” The book, he writes, shows “selectivity” toward truth. Its chapter titles are “juvenile,” its accounts “often deliberately deceptive.”

Book Salon Preview: Goliath, Life & Loathing in Greater Israel by Max Blumenthal – Part One: The Book

1:10 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Join the FDL Book Salon with Max Blumenthal, hosted by Edward Teller this Saturday at 2:00pm PST.

Max Blumenthal portraits

Firedoglake’s Edward Teller hosts Max Blumenthal book salon this weekend.

In 2009, soon after finishing his bestselling look at authoritarian underpinnings of the evangelical core of the USA’s militant new right, Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party, Max Blumenthal went to work on his next book.  He had actually conceived of the idea that became the framework of Goliath before he began writing Republican Gomorrah:

I conceived this book project before I even started my first book, Republican Gomorrah, and when I was beginning to refine the tactics that were working really well in exposing the radical right and the Republican Party. I was simply insinuating myself into the institutions of the GOP base, and into the gatherings this party would hold, getting to know people, trying to understand their mentality, and then following up with them. And making constant calls instead of relying on other people to do the reporting for me. From there, I’d conduct my own research and analysis and immerse myself in the history of the Christian right.

So what I set out to do when I made my first extended trip to Israel in May 2009, right after it elected its most right-wing government in history, is to insinuate myself into the major institutions of Israeli society.

The young author spent a lot of time in Israel and the occupied West Bank, assiduously chronicling, and interviewing, posting dozens of articles in magazines, online journals and blogs. Although Blumenthal continued to cover aspects of the far right in America, his efforts toward gathering the vast amount of information packed into the new book must have been a formidable task.

Four years later, what we have in Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel is simply the most detailed look yet taken at the increasingly racist, authoritarian and Xenophobic nation that Israel has become. The book’s narrative is relentless in its pursuit of detail. Interviews with contemporary political, cultural, religious and military figures are interspersed with well laid out chapters looking into the historical context of today’s events.

Divided into ten parts, and subdivided into 73 chapters, the book can be approached cover to cover, or tackled by looking at the subjects contained in the subdivisions. The ten divisions cluster chapter episodes related to a broader subject. For instance, Part V, What Lies Beneath the Forest, concentrates on the legacy of internal displacement of non-Jewish Palestinians within Israel itself. It contains five chapters, each of which looks at an aspect or ramification of this policy over the years:

The Days of ’48 Have Come Again looks at house demolitions of Palestinians inside of Israel, particularly the Lod ghetto, and in the occupied territories.  Blumenthal interviews several people who had their houses destroyed, often without warning.

The Blueprint goes back into the historical basis for internal displacement of non-Jewish residents of Israel, particularly the historically semi-nomadic Bedouins, 170,000 of whom are Israeli citizens. Looking closely at the writings of David Ben Gurion, back into the mid-1930s, Blumenthal demonstrates that the Zionist ideal has always and continues to regard the placement of their Bedouin citizens into concentration camps as a laudable goal.

The Summer Camp of Destruction looks at how a group of Jewish Israeli kids took a day off from summer camp in 2010, to help in the total destruction of the Bedouin village of Al Arabiq in the Negev.

Preparing the Land for Jesus ties into the preceding chapter, which as an aside, brings up the strange relationship between Zionism and millennialist Christian Zionism.  Blumenthal details workings of GOD-TV, “a Jerusalem-based cable television network that claimed to reach over half a billion people around the world with programming blending New World Order conspiracism with Greater-Israeli zealotry.” In essence, Blumenthal discovered that the founders of GOD-TV were partnering with the Jewish National Fund to plant over a million trees on the site or the demolished Bedouin village of Al Arabiq, and in the nearby rural areas. The author describes the development, since the 1980s, of ties between Israeli Jewish agencies, NGOs and non-profits, to American fundamentalist Christian Zionist groups.

There Are No Facts looks at the absurd Canada Forest project, culminating in the late 2010 Carmel area forest fires that killed 40 Israeli police cadets, among others. One of the best chapters of the book, it abundantly shows how nutty some of Israel’s land reclamation projects have been, how destined to failure they always were.

The five chapters of What Lies Beneath the Forest are a microcosm of the way the entire book is constructed — clusters of facts, history, interviews and encounters, showing the fatal shortcomings of Zionism’s paradigm.

Blumenthal, describing this aspect of the book’s thrust:

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Max Blumenthal Begins Book Tour With Democracy Now! Appearance

1:32 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller


Blumenthal begins book tour.

Author and journalist Max Blumenthal’s second book came out on October 1. Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel recounts Blumenthal’s four-year quest to fully cover, document and chronicle Israel’s inexorable tilt to a country so far to the right, so authoritarian, so overtly racist, so defiant of international standards, that it risks becoming more than a bit like North Korea in the ways it turns inward, denying the reality of the world’s perception of what the small nation actually is.

Blumenthal’s first book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party, came out in late summer of 2009. In it, Blumenthal described in detail how fundamentalist Christian organizations and figures changed the Republican Party into something authoritarian, anti-democratic, overtly racist, anti-science and in denial of how its actions are perceived by the American public at large. It became a New York Times best seller and continues to resonate, as many of the ideas and figures Blumenthal exposed in it have become more powerful in GOP behind-the-scenes decisions.

During Republican Gomorrah‘s book tour, Blumenthal made a number of appearances on mainstream venues. The American media does not handle discussing the dangers of religious fundamentalism very well – unless the fundamentalists being discussed happen to be Muslim. When on Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough, in September, 2009, Scarborough refused to give Blumenthal’s basic premise — that the far right’s obeisance to fundamentalism is deep and structural — any credence.  Even Terry Gross, when interviewing Max on Fresh Air, around the same time, had trouble coming to grips with the importance of Blumenthal’s revelations (although it is a damn good interview!) More than any of the many other interviews Max participated in back in late 2009, Gross and Blumenthal got into the ties between GOP Christian Zionists and Zionism itself.

That same week, Max was welcomed to a Book Salon session here at Firedoglake, hosted by Watertiger. At that time, I posted an appreciation of the young author, titled “Watching Max Blumenthal Grow to be a Major American Writer.”

Max’s work first came to the attention of many through his Youtube postings, where some called him “the Youtube Michael Moore.”  The most famous — and notorious — was made in late Spring of 2009. It was banned from Youtube several times, but keeps on cropping up:

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Author Tom Ricks, Fresh from FDL Book Salon, Tells Truth on FOX – Gets Cut Off

6:53 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Thomas E. Ricks

Last Saturday, firedoglake‘s Book Salon showcased military affairs author and Pultizer Prize-winning journalist, Thomas E. Ricks.  The salon was hosted by Susan Glasser from Foreign Policy, where she is Editor-in-Chief, and Tom blogs.  The author is promoting his new book, The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today.  As is usual with guests at fdl‘s salon, Ricks discussed his most recent work with fdl commenters.

Right after the Thanksgiving weekend, the author was on FOX News, being interviewed by “newsman” Jon Scott on the subject FOX just can’t seem to get enough of these days, uh – weeks.  Benghazi.

Here’s how it went:

Here’s Politico‘s shot at a transcript, after Scott’s introduction:

“I think that Benghazi generally was hyped, by this network especially,” Ricks said. “And now that the campaign is over, I think [Sen. John McCain] is backing off a little bit. They’re not going to stop Susan Rice from being Secretary of State.”

Scott pushed back on the accusation that Fox News “hyped” the attack, asking, “When you have four people dead, including the first U.S. ambassador in more than 30 years, how do you call that hype?”

“How many security contractors died in Iraq? Do you know?” Ricks replied.

“I don’t,” Scott said.

“No, nobody does, because nobody cared,” Ricks said. “We know that several hundred died, but there was never an official count done of security contractors dead in Iraq. So when I say this focus on what was essentially a small fire-fight, I think, number one, I’ve covered a lot of fire-fights, it is impossible to figure out what happens in them sometimes.”

Ricks then slammed Fox News again for their Benghazi coverage.

“And second, I think that the emphasis on Benghazi has been extremely political, partly because Fox was operating as a wing of the Republican Party.

After that, Scott wrapped the interview. “Alright, Tom Ricks. Thanks very much for joining us today,” Scott said.

“You’re welcome,” Ricks replied.

There have been a fair number of stories on this already, not at fdl, as far as I can tell.  The followup on the nutcase right has been all too predictable.  The most questionable so far has been an article published Monday afternoon in The Hollywood Reporter, titled Fox News Exec VP: Guest Who Slammed Network Apologized – But Not Publicly.  It had this lead-in update:

UPDATED: Author Tom Ricks accused the network of “hyped” Benghazi coverage; Fox News’ Michael Clemente says Ricks apologized but “doesn’t have the strength of character to do that publicly.” Ricks disputes.

Ricks must also be excited. After all, he’s busy selling books this month, and Christmas lists are being made all over the place.

I’d trust the Hollywood Reporter about as far as I’d trust FOX News.  Their only claim to fame in the annals of journalism was a long, long time ago, and it was disgraceful – the September, 1947 “Billy’s List,” the first published version of the Hollywood blacklist of 1948.

Ricks isn’t impressed by the hit jobs on him, or by the level of reportage at HR:

Some guy apparently claiming to be a spokesman for Fox misinformed the Hollywood Reporter that I apologized afterwards. Unfortunately the Hollywood Reporter didn’t ask for specifics, or even ask me about it — and I am not hard to find. (Dude, that’s an automatic F in Journalism 101.)

And Ricks’ thoughts on being cut off the air at FOX:

I was surprised that they cut me off instead of doing the manly thing and riding to the sound of the guns. Whattabunchawimps. It reminded me of something that Col. Nathan R. Jessup once said. Or, as a defense reporter commented to me yesterday, “The story is not about Benghazi, it’s about how Fox can’t tolerate criticism.”

Ricks, in his blog post on this, published a few of the many e-mails he got from FOXbots.

image on flickr by Philip Weiss

FDL Book Salon Preview: The Rogue – By Joe McGinniss (The Hate Continues)

1:41 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

The Rogue - Searching for the Real Sarah Palin

The Rogue - Searching for the Real Sarah Palin

[This is the extended version of the preface to Sunday's Firedoglake Book Salon, which was limited to about 1,000 words.]

I. Longtime journalist and award-winning author Joe McGinniss’ newest book, The Rogue, is the latest – but by no means last – book about Sarah Palin.  Palin is not only the most famous Alaskan in history, she has uniquely combined political activity, celebrity, motherhood, grandmotherhood, a spousal relationship, borderline religious beliefs, professional victimhood, the American gossip universe, pop culture, legal obfuscation, new media and social networking.  Increasingly known for being thin-skinned and somewhat lacking in spatial awareness,  Palin, more than any American politician in a generation or so, almost begged McGinniss – or any investigative author – to move next door.  As I wrote here last year, a couple of days after McGinniss was able to do just that:

[A]uthor Joe McGinnis, who is writing a critical book about Sarah Palin, was looking for a place in Wasilla to rent this summer, as he continues his research. He was offered the house next door to the Palins’ Lake Lucille cult compound-in-progress. He wasn’t looking for the place. It came looking for him. What would you do?

Having spent time with McGinniss at the crucial point between when he moved in, and the Palins’ reaction to their new neighbor set in concrete the scene for how the book played out, I can say that Joe really was hoping to be able to just be their next-door neighbor.  He did not want to make waves, and was hoping to sit down with Sarah and Todd socially, perhaps professionally, and go through notes with them as work proceeded.  I’m not kidding.

What ended up happening was another over-reaction by Sarah, similar to many those of us who had been watching her for a long time had witnessed before.  Her facebook people went all professional victim for her and, to quote Palin in another context – “Game on!” Read the rest of this entry →

Joe McGinniss Starts His Book Promo Tour Thursday – He Will Be at firedoglake on the 25th – Updated

11:37 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller


Joe McGinniss’ new Book, The Rogue, comes out on the 20th of September. Thursday morning, he will be on the Today Show.

Gary Trudeau was one of the few people McGinniss gave an early advance copy of the book to, as anyone who regularly reads Doonesbury might have guessed.  Trudeau is upset that at least three major papers, The Chicago TribuneThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Newsday have stopped running Doonesbury because it is featuring excerpts and a fictitious story line based upon some of the book’s content.

McGinniss told me last week that advanced sales of the book were approaching a quarter million copies.  He and his publisher have been quite shrewd in getting press in the run-up to release, with The National Enquirer running a story today on NBA star Glen Rice, back when he was a junior in college, playing in the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Great Alaska Shootout tournament, and the rogue was a fledgeling reporter at Anchorage’s preeminent TV station, KTUU.  According to the book (at least, according to Gary Trudeau):

“She was a gorgeous woman. Super nice. I was blown away by her. Afterward, she was a big crush that I had. I talked about her for a long time. Only good things.”— Glen Rice on Sarah Palin, from The Rogue, by Joe McGinniss Read the rest of this entry →