I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Various items

(updated below)

(1) The Editor-in-Chief of Publishers Weekly, Sara Nelson, has devoted her column this week to discussing the pre-release success of How Would a Patriot Act?, including the impact it could have on independent publishing:

The book, How Would a Patriot Act?, addresses what the author, Glenn Greenwald, deems to be the deceptions of the Bush administration, in a well-reasoned and lively 146 pages priced at $12. But let's not be partisan: the sudden success of Patriot spells good news for the whole publishing business, especially that of the grassroots, independent variety.

Why? Because the book became Amazon's #1 "without a single penny being spent on marketing or advertising," according to Greenwald. The book's sudden and so far enduring popularity (at press time it had dropped only to #160) is all the more intriguing when you consider that the book doesn't, technically, exist yet; its now sold-out first printing of 20,000 copies will be shipped the week of May 15. (A second printing is in the works.)

She also expressed the standard bewilderment at the emerging ability of the blogosphere to compete with, and even surpass, mainstream, conventional corporate promotional tools:

For promotion, she [Editorial Director Jennifer Nix] relied on Greenwald's popular blog and "about five or six" other bloggers to spread the word. Obviously, they managed to do so.

The Internet has been used wisely as a promotional tool before (I'm thinking of author MJ Rose, among many other early adopters) and, as many an anxious refresh-button–pushing author will tell you, a couple of good days on one Web retailer does not necessarily a bestseller make. Still, now that virtually every major retail outlet, online and off, has placed its orders, I can't help thinking we're going to be hearing and seeing more of Greenwald and his Patriot Act.

I've spoken with a lot of reporters from national media outlets over the past week regarding the success of the book. Because the book hasn't been released yet, they are more interested at the moment in talking about how the book has generated so much attention without any paid marketing or advertising than they are in talking about the substance of the book. Most of them seemed genuinely baffled that the blogosphere has the power to generate that kind of impact -- something which, for some time, has been readily apparent to those who participate in the blogosphere. As this realization spreads to those who are still largely unaware of what blogs really are, the blogosphere will be taken much more seriously and will have a much greater impact to influence the national dialogue, something which, as I have noted before, can only be a good thing.

(2) The New York Sun has a surprisingly informative and balanced article on the Bush administration's latest effort to expand its war against investigative journalism -- "with an aggressive and unusual move to force two San Francisco Chronicle reporters to identify their sources for stories about secret grand jury testimony from a federal investigation of steroid use in professional baseball."

There is a long history of striking a balance in this country between allowing investigative journalism to flourish through the use of leaks and the need to safeguard secrecy needs. As is true in so many other areas, every presidential administration since the Roosevelt administration has accepted and worked within roughly the same framework. The Bush administration is waging war against so many of these traditions, and its obsessive efforts to eliminate all anti-administration leaks, and thereby eliminate investigative journalism in this country entirely, is one of its most dangerous assaults on the operating rules to which we have collectively agreed.

The administration is an aggressive practitioner of politically self-serving leaks, and is seeking to ensure that all leaks are eliminated other than those which serve its interests and promote its version of events. Just imagine what we would not know about our government over the last five years if there had been no leaks -- warrantless eavesdropping, the use of torture and rendition, secret Eastern European gulags, Abu Ghraib, the inconvenient pre-war intelligence which was ignored. And then imagine the even more extreme measures the administration would have felt free to pursue had they known that there was no chance of leaking. That is the world they are trying to create.

(3) Following up on the discussion from the last few days over the efforts by conservatives to disassociate themselves from the failed Bush presidency, Digby has a great post detailing the by-now familiar tactic of smearing anyone with the curse-word "liberal" who is to be held out as impeding the Success of Conservatism -- whether that be military Generals, career CIA agents, or even the President himself:

As we all know, conservatism itself cannot fail. It can only be failed. And it isn't just the mediocre conservatives think tank intellectuals who believe this. Here's a
commmenter on the blog Parapundit writing about Bush and the US Military:

It would still be possible to win if Junior was willing to brutally prosecute the war, as Roosevelt or Truman would have done. It is clear now that Shrub is way too liberal for that. It is not clear if he could have gotten away with it even if he was not a modern liberal. It is not clear if US Army is capable of prosecuting a brutal war now (but Marines probably could do it), way too many officers are squishy liberals in various stages.

Today, the CIA is crawling with liberals. The military is crawling with liberals. The Bush administration itself is nothing but a bunch of liberals as must be the GOP congress since they signed off on everything Bush has proposed.

The media are, needless to say, nothing but squishy liberals. The country is going to hell in a handbasket. The president and the congress and all their policies are dramatically unpopular. This, then, is just further proof of the failure of liberalism.

The only thing that can save us is conservatism.

Bush supporters have dominated and run every center of government power for the last five years. But still, the failure of the war and of their terrorism policies generally are still all the fault of liberals.

(4) A British helicopter crashed this weekend in Basra, and the grateful, pro-coalition, soon-to-be-our-partner-for-peace Iraqis cheered the crash, attacked the helicopter, and threw stones at it. According to John Podhoertz in the Corner, the people doing this were "followers of the monster-thug Moqtada al-Sadr" -- one of the most popular Shiite political leaders in Iraq. For Podhoretz, this underscores the fact that "one of the biggest mistakes we've made" in Iraq was -- as he revealingly put it -- our "decision to let al-Sadr live."

That seems to be a nice, emerging theme among those responsible for this failed war - that the reason we haven't won in Iraq is because we haven't been violent and ferocious enough. If only we had killed more of their political and religious leaders, they would have been a lot more welcoming to us and we would have won their hearts and minds a lot more quickly. But the liberals in the military and the CIA and in the Bush administration just weren't man enough (the way John Podhoretz is) to do what had to be done, and so we lost. Or, as Digby put it: "The only thing that can save us is conservatism."


(5) Virtually on cue from the script Digby provided, National Review today has posted an Editorial lamenting all of the horrible failures -- both past and current -- at the CIA, but fortunately, they know exactly what is wrong over there:

Too often the agency has performed that job miserably, the greatest example being its gargantuan miscalculations about the Soviet Union. In retrospect, this is perhaps unsurprising. The CIA has always had a leftist bent, well represented in its upper echelons even under directors of staunchly anti-Communist and pro-national-security orientation.

I don't see how this can be doubted. For an entire generation now, socialist hippies have been faced with the defining leftist career choice -- a post-modern/feminist-lit post at Berkeley, teaching nonviolent protest seminars for Greenpeace and Earth First, or becoming a covert operative for the CIA. The ranks of the CIA have long swelled with lefitsts, which is why it has been so dainty and why it has failed so miserably.

And what does an institution (like the CIA) which is filled with leftists need? National Review has the answer:

The president is has named Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the NSA and current deputy to national intelligence director John Negroponte, as Goss’s successor. It is crucial that the administration and Hayden make clear from day one that, while Goss is gone, the CIA purge is far from over. Those who are using the agency to undermine the war effort must be rooted out, no matter who is in charge.

That's right. What the CIA needs is a hard-core Stalinist purge of all those Lefitsts who have been ruining it. Or, as Digby put it: "The only thing that can save us is conservatism."

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