Why we're, um, liberals...

Happy Why We're Liberals Official Pub Date, everybody!

To help get this party started, I did an interview with the managing editor of Playboy, Jamie Malanowski, here, and if you go here, you will find a lengthy online discussion in which I participated Saturday on Firedoglake about the book. So far, I've seen reviews in:

The New York Times

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

New York Post

Feminist Review

See below for the tour schedule for the next two weeks, please.

Why they're not liberals:

This New York Times piece by N. Gregory Mankiw was written by a conservative economist who advised both George W. Bush and Mitt Romney. It reads like a straightforward endorsement of John McCain, together with an argument that when it comes to trade, the values and desires of the American people ought simply to be ignored.

The only explanation for why the entire economics profession is not in McCain's camp, says Mankiw, is the fact that nobody believes that the Democrats take seriously their own questioning and caveats regarding the ideological commitment to free-trade. He writes:

BUT another reason is that many economists don't really believe the populist rhetoric coming from the Clinton and Obama campaigns. They expect that once in office, either candidate would pursue a policy more like that of Mr. Clinton, who relied heavily on the advice of economic moderates like Mr. [Lawrence] Summers and Robert E. Rubin, another former Treasury secretary. When reports surfaced recently of an Obama economic adviser telling the Canadian government to ignore his candidate's anti-Nafta rhetoric, some people were appalled, but many Democratic economists I know were secretly relieved.

My point here is that these views are also the views of virtually every high-level MSM reporter, and they constitute a kind of firewall for Republicans and conservatives, who like to spout this kind of rhetoric even though they ignore them in practice. (Only because Democrats are continually expected to prove their manhood as free traders, the more they are willing to accept agreements that largely benefit only the wealthy and well-to-do.) Interesting that when the business section of the Times publishes a piece with a statement that reads: “It is hard to be confident, however, that on issues of trade policy either Democratic candidate would act like the last Democratic president. Maybe the candidates' records as legislators are not good indicators of what their policies might be as president. Maybe campaign rhetoric about Nafta is nothing more than that. But counting on it requires, one might say, the audacity of hope,” the paper feels no compulsion to print an opposing view ...

P.S.: What are “mere Muggles” anyway?

I don't understand Mickey's obsession with Obama and affirmative action.

Mickey brings up the possibility -- without any confirming evidence at all -- with the question “Did Obama benefit from race preferences?" Mickey brought this up in a Bloggingheads.TV dialog I did with him a long, long time ago. Now I support affirmative action by class, not by race, but I don't understand what the problem is. Does Mickey think that Obama is therefore unqualified to be president? Hasn't the guy accomplished quite enough to impress us no matter what metric was used to get him into Harvard? Isn't Obama an argument for affirmative action?

My god. I know privileged white guys are the people who whine the loudest about affirmative action, and I've done some of it myself. But what in the world is Mickey's problem? Does he think he would be a better Democratic nominee for president?

Upcoming Alter-appearances on the official Why We're Liberals Tour (sorry, no T-shirts...):

Tuesday, March 18, 2:30 p.m.
Take Back America conference
Washington, DC (signing only)

Tuesday, March 18, 6:30 p.m.
Borders, 18th and L streets
Washington, DC

Wednesday, March 19, 7 p.m.
Politics & Prose
Washington, DC

Thursday, March 20, 7 p.m.
Ethical Culture Society (Sponsored by Left Bank Books)
St. Louis, MO

Monday, March 24, 7 p.m.
Barnes & Noble, 82nd and Broadway
New York, NY

Tuesday, March 25, 7 p.m.
Berkeley, CA

Wednesday, March 26, 12:30 p.m.
First Congregational Church of Berkeley
2345 Channing Way, Berkeley, CA
Sponsored by Cody's Books

Thursday, March 27, 7:30 p.m.
Powell's Books
Portland, OR

Friday, March 28, 7:30 p.m.
Town Hall Seattle
sponsored by Elliott Bay Book Co.
Seattle, WA

Saturday, March 29
Seattle, WA
Talk/reception in a private home; email below for details if you'd like to come and George will send them to you ...


Ray Davies, Working Man's Café, by Sal:

It took Ray Davies almost 20 years to follow up his first solo album, Return To Waterloo, with his 2006 release, the wonderful Other People's Lives. Now, less than two years later, he delivers Working Man's Cafe. It does not sound rushed. The first listen to Other People's Lives was like sleeping in your own bed after spending two weeks abroad. “Aaahhh. I'm home.” Kinks fans, well ... at least this Kinks fan, wanted that record to be good. I had been waiting nearly half my life for it. It was. Davies voice hadn't changed much since The Kinks' heyday, so it remained a great comfort.

Working Man's Cafe is solid, but not amazing. There are no bad songs, some excellent ones ( “Morphine Song,” about his New Orleans hospital stay after being shot, and the title track both stand out) and as I said before, Ray is in fine voice. My one problem, and it's minor, is the record's sameness. Just about every song has a similar arrangement. There are no fast and crunchy rockers like “You Really Got Me” or “Destroyer.” No big sweeping ballads like “Days” or “Waterloo Sunset.” No big pop sing-a-longs like “Lola” or “Better Things.” That's OK. Ray Davies owes us nothing. “Waterloo Sunset” is enough for a lifetime. I just wonder if “Working Man's Cafe” would have played better if IT had been the first release after a 20-year wait.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Michael Rapoport


Why We're Liberals is on the shelves! I just bought my copy this evening (Saturday) at a Barnes & Noble near my home in New Jersey, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

(Unsolicited book-selling suggestion: Can someone get Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly to go off on a spluttering rant about the cover? You know: “How dare they call Jesus a liberal! Or Adam Smith! Or ...” That'd move some paper, I bet.)

In any event, congratulations, and here's to knocking Valerie Bertinelli off the top of the Times best-seller list. (Valerie Bertinelli? Jeez...)

Name: Dan V
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

You mentioned about how Fox replaced John Gibson because they want more election coverage. By the way, how much is more election coverage? We've been supersaturated with the 2008 election since sometime in early 2006. And to add insult to injury, I've already heard several comments on who is likely to be the candidates in 2012. Oh, I can't help but mention the comments about Barack Obama going nice on Hillary so he will have a good shot at running in '12.

At a time when our economy is on the verge of collapse (and sadly there is little talk about it on the campaign trail) and we have a presidential campaign that will cost us over a billion dollars before it's over, I can't help but wonder who really benefits from the three-year media explosion about the 2008 election. Sadly, it's not the American people. It's more likely the media and the big donors who see big campaigns as a way to get big favors. Until we rein in this campaign spending, the American people are going to be on the outside looking in on the political landscape. And I heard that Florida's 2012 primary has been moved up to March of 2009 and Fox will have to permanently cancel John Gibson.

Name: Jack Cheng
Hometown: Boston

My guess is that anyone who talks about, or writes about, a “post-racial” future or “post-racial” America is white.

Us folks with more pigmentation in our skin don't believe that race will someday not matter in this country (at least in our lifetimes). I think Obama's appeal transcends race, precisely because it acknowledges but doesn't focus on race.

And my support of Obama has less to do with how he looks than the fact that he is the child of an immigrant. As such he has a different perspective on this country and a different relationship with the rest of the world.

First black president? Who cares. How about the first “first generation American” president?

Name: Tyrone Mason
Hometown: Mililani, HI

A voter re-do for Florida & Michigan would not be fair to all of the candidates who were on the ballot. If Michigan voters had chosen Edwards and the Florida voters and delegates had split among the various candidates (Biden, Dodd, etc), the contest we are seeing now could have been an Obama vs. Edwards contest, or Clinton vs. Edwards contest.

Florida & Michigan had the opportunity to participate in the process according to rules every other state has been and are following. If a revote is granted, their importance should not be allowed to alter the political landscape, and should only be after all the remaining states that have patiently waited to make their choice.

Name: Paul Goode
Hometown: Redmond, WA

So let me get this straight...Barack Obama's pastor makes an ill-considered remark in the sanctity of his church, and Obama is called out in the public pulpit and made out to be somehow responsible for it. But, for the last 28 years, lunatic right-wing Christian ministers can spew anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-Arab, anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, anti-science anti-human bile from their cable networks and talk shows; summon the wrath of their god on the Muslim world; and call for the assassination of foreign leaders -- and the Republican presidents and politicians who consort with them not only get off scot free, they get away with branding the media as liberal. What a world...

Name: Tara A
Hometown: Boston

I would think that if Mr. Fuller is willing to chastise you for your lack of research, he would have not made the same mistake. Jesus' “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” quote is not about either Mary Magdalene or a nameless prostitute. The woman brought before him is accused of adultery. (see John 8.4) Granted, many prostitutes are guilty of adultery, but many guilty of the sin are not prostitutes. Of course, I've always wondered where her partner in crime was, and why he wasn't being threatened with stoning too...