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tv   Age of Folly  CSPAN  December 3, 2016 6:30pm-7:31pm EST

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he said he know dave when you feel nervous as is when you feel both my hands on your shoulders. [laughter] [applause] that is not my job. that is my doctors. that is curtis amber's joke. hi. >> hi there. my father works for newspaper and write a column. >> your father works where? >> he works for a newspaper. he's the editor of a newspaper in washington today wanted to ask you a thought of the column as a form of writing and where that's going in the next generation. >> your dad is a columnist? it's a great thing. [laughter] no, i fear not to bring everything down but the way journalism is going it's harder and harder to get a column into
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a paper anymore.lu there's a lot of great writing on the internet but it's harder and harder to make a living as a newspaper columnist. you see fewer and fewer of them but i'm sure your dad will be fine. [laughter] >> why won't he run for governor? [applause] >> i think that's a wonderful note to end our session on. let's give a round of applause to dave barry.>> >> thank you. >> thank you very much. >> thank you all. [applause] [inaudible conversations] you can purchase dave barry'sbok book. thank you.
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[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> okay. thank you everybody for coming. c-span booktv is going to be here recording tonight on the q&a portion i will pass the microphone around. we can make sure we get that
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captured. but culture is pleased to host lewis lapham in a conversation with terry mcdonell. the new book, "age of folly" and terry mcdonell's new book also and editors notes on writing. we encourage you to pick up one or two or three so we can continue to be a community space on the upper west side. a quick show of hands if you have been here before. okay, well welcome all of the new faces. 20 years ago this was lost to the upper west side. many other wonderful independent bookstores over the airport a couple of years ago but culture in partnership with parker magazine opened up of this space to celebrate the important written word.
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might not get the attention it deserves. it's something we think an independent bookstore can offer more than anyone else. and again we are really happy to be here to bring great authors and a great conversation. lewis lapham is the founding editor of lapan quarterly and the college received a national award in 1995 for exhibiting an accelerating point of view in the age of conformity and in 2002 and esteemed journalism award. he was inducted into the american society of magazine and his other books include money and class in america, imperial masquerade among other titles. terry mcdonell has won numerous awards for his editorial work in various magazines and web sites. he's also a novelist and poet is
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written and produced for television. in 2000 hope you was inducted into the american society of magazine editors hall of fame. he's the president and serves on the board of overseers of the journalism review. thank everybody for coming and i will turn it over our guests. >> that's your signal for the round of applause. [applause] >> what a stud by giving you a little background on my relationship with lewis. lewis has been for my entire working life a role model and our typical heroic figure for
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all freewheeling editors and all writers. it's a sure thing. we grew up in the same place really except his father was the mayor and his grandfather founded standard oil. i was picking apricots down in the valley. but enough about me. [laughter] specifically what was so important to me and to almost everyone that i have ever worked with us and editor is the revolutionary thinking that lewis did about what that meant and what is magazines were like really went to school in them. at harvard he invented the index. that was the way to tell a story that had never been used before, statistical data put ironically into a particular order that told me more about your moments
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in the country than all but 20,000 word pieces were trying to bring in and then there were the ratings etc.. it's so important i can't tell you and we follow them still through "lapham's quarterly" which is also a revolutionary kind of publication. his career is this arc really from the newspaper based in san francisco through the high points of the new journalism. i would recommend that you all find our lookup lewis's piece about being with the beatles in the 60s. when the beatles were speaking not redemption, enlightenment with the maharishi, lewis had a point of view about that. if you read his book you'll enjoy that. all the upheavals we have going on now like the daddy that he
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is. it's a wonderful, wonderful book i think what i would like to do is start with the first paragraph of the book in which which -- before you buy the book read that first paragraph in the book on your way out and you will be sold. the harder the paragraph you suggest that donald trump is not a surprise, really. >> that's true. that's the point. donald trump has been walking down the road to his nomination for the presidency of the united states in the year 2016. it's the way it's been going for 25 years. the book is a series of essays that were written over the
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course of the 25 years from 1990 to 2015, setting up the premise of that generalization. so you have in 1990 when you have george, president george h.w. bush staging or sending the gunboats to iran and what was the second gulf war. then the gunboats and the cameras to display with self-congratulatory explosives making america great again. that was what he was essentially attempting to do. the united states was caught, or the washington consensus was caught off guard by the calming coming down of the berlin wall
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in 1989 and the implosion of the evil soviet empire. this was something that had never been predicted either by the thinkers and the pentagon or the thinkers writing for the new york review of books. >> let me interview -- interrupt you on that. was that your thinking and here comes trump? >> i'm thinking here comes trump because whether there is self-congratulatory explosions in the persian gulf in 1991 really just simply advertises the greatness of the great american empire. what you have got with trump is self-congratulatory bursts of
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long vast, bursting in air. it's the same kind of thing. >> self-promotion and trump is, he is in the news in 1989. he has opened his trump tower. >> think the republicans didn't see this coming? >> the republicans got caught up in the dream of glory, the dream of an american empire, the dream there was nobody else in the world that mattered except the united states. the american way was the right way and any impertinent nation that refuse to see it, it was
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our occupation to destroy those people. that is what was called the national defense strategy of the 1990s published in 1993 written by cheney and paul wolfowitz. it sets out very clearly the preemptive strike and forward deterrence. it commits the united states to maintain two major wars on two continents at any one time and to take out any country, any nation, and he failed state that doesn't wish to accept the american guidance. >> this is also the same year you've got to remember that, the guy that wrote the book the end
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of history, you know who i mean. yuki yama is talking about the end of history in 1989, 1990. the american way is the only way to establish the competition of ideas is over so the union has collapsed and the only thing left to do is maintenance of the perfection of the american idea. >> you also have a book on the american tradition of revolutionary thinking. it's contradictory to me. >> the thing that is startling is when i can -- began putting these essays together and bring it or were 22,016 is how little the thinking has changed. we talk about a spectacular
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change, technology, silicon valley, robots and so forth. the thinking in washington, the so-called washington consensus has not changed at all. >> you would say that our history as a resource. you are a historian. he said the great resource and we are squandering it. we are. that's the reason that i left harper's magazine in 2006 in order to stop start lapan's quarterly which is about history and i think of history as an immensely generative source of hope, energy and ideas. also irony.
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as a reader of the lapham quarterly, irony is simply the lessons of experience. the lessons of experience, yeah. >> i think history is anonymously valuable. >> at one point in the book our satirists are not playing with fire they will -- the way they should be playing with fire. >> they are not playing with fire in the same way that, well actually i'm barring bad idea from mark twain. twain looked at the satire as a form of larson to burn down the hospitality of
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self-congratulatory camps. >> can i get that sentence, burned down the hospitality sense of self-congratulatory camps. >> you all need this book. [laughter] >> he thought -- sauce satire is a crime of arson and that is what it was intended to do. he was an adult and as he turned turned -- it began to have more edge as he got older. he didn't publish some of his most acerbic commentary because it would hurt his public persona as the friendly man in the white suit.
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so a lot of it wasn't published until after that and then only over the strenuous objections of his daughters who were afraid the posthumous publication of twain's satire would destroy his reputation. the thing is with our kinds of satire are the kinds of satire that it becomes "saturday night live" jon stewart and so on, they lead us off the hook because they say it's all a joke. we are all in the know. we have got crooks running the government. not only crooks but unbelievably incompetence. our military is a disaster.
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we present our military, the big media presents it as the most powerful force in the world. charles krauthammer in the year 2001, four months before the attack on the trade towers, "time" magazine says america has the most powerful nation since imperial rome. the world will be bent to our will. i'm quoting. this is the consensus of opinion in washington. now, the point is our military, and we start off with the invasion of iraq in 1993 expecting a walk in the park, expecting to transform the whole middle east into connecticut.
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[laughter] and to do this with the most magnificent military of force ever assembled in the history of the world. this is an editorial in "the new york times." this is network news television and so on. the truth is the united states hasn't won a war or hasn't fought a war in 45 years and hasn't won a war in 70 years. our american lit terry essentially is show business. it's an advertisement. we do, we will make more movies. >> you watch television? >> not very often. >> how were you informed? if you were not watching the campaign coverage on television,
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are you not watching some of that? >> i have watched some of that but you don't have to see a lot of that to get the idea. [laughter] i saw trump come down in june 2015 when he comes down the escalator in the atrium of the trump towers and announces himself as candidate for the united states, okay? i mean for the presidency. that was his announcement. now that, you asked me how things have been coming at us for the last 25 years and trump is no surprise. okay, if you saw that, which i did on television, it's almost
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exactly george w. bush on the deck of the united states carrier uss abraham lincoln may 1, 2004, sorry 2003 saying mission accomplished. it's the same kind of appearance. he comes out of a fighter jet wearing a costume, you know what top gun costume, swaggers up to the microphone and says mission accomplished. we had already lost the war on terror three months after we started it. the war had begun in march of 2003 with a magnificent airshow over baghdad. >> this sounds like a saturday night live skit, lewis.
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>> i'm pointing it out to guess they think that kind of satire is effective on television. but they say the trouble with television is, they save that kind of satire until two years later. nobody was saying that in the media in 2003. the media was comparing bush and the united states do you know, the americans on d-day. they were comparing the american generals to normal. i mean, the hype, i mean what's the guy's name is "cnn"? >> manning you made wolf blitzer? >> no, no, the guy that was going to carry a gun and go personally to tour a bora and gun down bin laden. does anyone know of?
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geraldo. >> geraldo. >> listen, let's stop for a moment. if there are any questions will come back. i find questions in the middle sometimes change things. does anybody have any questions? yes. >> the only problem i have with this analysis is that it's very easy to be wise after the event. >> i'm sorry? >> the only problem i have with this analysis is that it's very easy to be wise after the event. >> the point of the book, these are essays that were printed exact way as it happens. i'm not writing this 25 years later. i'm writing it down. >> i appreciate that. in terms of how this plays into trump. in the months and years after
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the infamous carrier incident, that sort of display of power came to be ridiculed. it's not necessarily a linear narrative that we go from there. >> you are misunderstanding it. i'm not following trump for 25 years. i am following the self-congratulatory attitude of the american so-called washington consensus of the republican party of the neoconservative sense of american empire. the notion of making america great again and making america the notion that it can do anything it pleases. the trump arrogance and actually stupidity has been
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characteristic of the way that we have been managing our government and foreign policy and military for 25 years. that's all i'm saying. i'm not following trump. i met trump in 1989 and once was enough. [laughter] i'm talking about the sensibility, and the sensibility was pervasive. i mean it was systematic and in the second paragraph in the book i go back to aristotle and aristotle is talking about forms of government follow one another, democracy and monarchy
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despotism and so on. it's a circle. what it says is that all governments, all governments start off as oligarchies, a relative few deal with the money and the society attempt to set up a government. it's what the founders of the united states were trying to set up in washington, i'm sorry philadelphia in 1787. madison says that. madison says we are trying to establish a government that will be run by people with the wisdom to discern and the virtue to pursue the common good of the society. that's a direct quote. the people who signed the
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constitution are all rich. they are the merchants rich from the northeast and the plantation rich from the south. and they are undertaking to provide a government, a constitution that will allow balance. a democratic society with fake capitalist consumer economy. those two things are very different. a democratic society values equality. it's the emotions of the heart. the capitalist economy has no interest in the equality, none. it's about more for me and less for you and goodbye and good luck. that's trump. >> lewis? is that what you mean by what he called the collaborative
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decision of the constitution? >> yes, they are trying to set up that balance. they are trying to balance the motions of the heart with the movements of the market. and they do that but the trouble with that is, it takes a continued paying of attention on the part of the people who are managing that form of government they were trying to set up a republic. republics last only as long as the people that are engaged in it really work at it and pay attention. but that doesn't happened. sooner or later will -- later and this is aristotle again, not me aristotle and also madison.
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sooner or later all oligarchies turned rancid. they are like cheese. they go back in the sun because those wealth accumulates the man dk. you can see it. that happens in greece, that happens in rome and it happens in france and it happens in the united states. the greeks called it the disease was called plea lee sia which is the disease that imagines that there is nothing that money can't buy. and it is the desire for more, more of everything, more dancing girls, more cruise missiles, more floors on the buildings on
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57th street, more circulation, more of everything and the greeks called that plea on the sea and they call that the disease, the idea that there is nothing that money can't buy. the united states falls in to that in. i mean across a couple hundred years of america's existence, there have been many struggles with that. that's the struggle that jackson has with the banks in the 1830s. that's the struggle of the progressive populist party's rising at the end of the 19th century. that is the country crucifying on the cross the gold that is william jennings bryan. that is part of what is in teddy
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roosevelt's mind when he speaking an argument with the trust. the same thing that's in the mind of franklin d roosevelt. when he is putting together the new deal. this is a constant struggle. >> lewis says in the book quote the for telling of the apocalypse never loses its appeal as we have just heard from lewis. >> it never loses its appeal. we are creatures in puritan massachusetts would get up when they were speaking from the pulpit. they have learned to cry like actors and wiping the tears from their eyes because of the sins
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of the world that have been visited upon the congregation in cambridge. and the world was coming to an end. jonathan edwards, sinners in the hands of an angry god. .. >> good move. [laughter]
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it has been through many times before. you have no idea how reassuring that is to me. >> it should be. >> that is one of the great values of history. here we are on the brink of the election of what? the two most unpopular candidates in the history of the republic. >> i will just up there and ask you what you make of that. >> will it might persuade. [inaudible] the people essentially who own the country to pay attention to politics. for the last 30 odd years people who have a stake in the country, who own who run the banks and so forth and so on, people that
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enjoy the privileges of american citizenship have had almost no interest in politics. they been perfectly perfectly happy to leave it to the hired help. who cares. who wants to go. as you and i both know, there are a lot of very talented, interesting, intelligent, thoughtful, courageous people in the united states. but but they don't going to politics. >> what was it in your background that kept you from entering the arena? ? >> i'm just a there has to be some horrible skeleton that had to be able to come out of it. >> no. i actually entertained the thought at one time very briefly. >> tell us about that.
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>> will come as you know my grandfather was the mayor san francisco during world war ii. and i often accompanied him on his rounds as mayor and i also, as the mayor san francisco in 1945 he was obliged to preside over the formation of the charter of the the united nations. >> how old are you? >> ten. so he excused me from school and i had to go to the pulmonary sessions of the formation of the un in 1945. also during the course of the war the mayor would be obliged to go out to the launch and meet the returning carriers coming in
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from the were from the pacific. set the age of 9i was been hiked aboard the enterprise and introduced to admirable nimitz or admiral -- and that makes a very big impression on a 9-year-old. [inaudible] >> beside that, grandfather was a very unconventional politician. he had been a shipowner during the 30s we had a shipping company and he ran for mayor on the ground that he would serve one term and one term only. and that he would make all of the decisions to do what he
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thought or to be done and what was right. twice during his four-year term the machine politician try to impeach him because he really did a lot of damage to the machine politics in the city. and both times he was restored with a higher majority and a very popular mayor and he tried to stay absolutely fixed on his civic purpose. at the end they said to him, you could run for governor and he said no, i made one deal and that's it.
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so i had that kind of idea and so i thought okay, i will start out in the newspaper business in san francisco and learn something about politics and then i would come to new york and i would there's something about journalism and work for a big-time newspaper and meet people like you. then i would go back to california and possibly attempt to get elected senator, i actually had that idea. but then, while a lot of different things happen. one of them was that i was was married to a woman who had absolutely no interest or willingness to play the part of a wife of a
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politician is horrible and i would not put her through it. so it louis did instead was stay on the east coast and begin to mock the west coast. i know this because i was reading all of this, did you not? i wrote one. well, yes. [laughter] because this is such a good place to live as a person of letters and ideas that was your point, no, no my point was an oscar? know the part the point that came out of my experience at the san francisco examiner, mama san
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francisco examiner in 1959 and there was a mistake, the examiners of the newspaper but there is also a los angeles examiner in their sunday rotor reviewer section and magazine section those days were both printed in bakersfield. >> it was an old printing psychology that required you to print six weeks, was it not before the deadline? your way behind yes and it was nice print, it wasn't glossy like the new york times magazine. so they mixed it up. they put the story a 12 pages to read spread with photographs
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that was intended to be in the los angeles paper they put the cover of the san francisco paper on it. so sunday morning comes in san francisco we had the paper and it says, los angeles, the san francisco examiner, los angeles, the angeles, the athens of the west. [laughter] in san francisco was a very self-satisfied town. >> how is this your fault? it was not my fault. but you are blame for you told me. >> i tell you why it was blamed for it. so we have this horrible and we have the los angeles athens of the west and then there's 12 pages afforded graphs thomas mann, christopher, stravinsky,
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rehman, a long list, all in l.a. the l.a. brat pack at the time the pretty big brat pack and i came, i was again reporter size the first person in on 10:00 a.m. on monday morning. and all the brats the managing editor, the publisher saw it, they had gathered around the coffee table and were looking at this thing and it was an attitude of, i thought the cruise ship had sunk and 1000 were dead in the bay. it had that kind of crisis they brought me over and they said this is heresy, san francisco is the athens of the west, everybody knows that right and you were right for tomorrow's paper, the monday paper the
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headline, known san francisco is the athens. and it's 1030 in the morning and the deadline is at four in the afternoon. and they have to back up the headline, cannot be done. mean henry miller was in big sur, okay having canal was in sosa lido, that was the ballgame there is nobody in san francisco, the opera was a roadshow. there is no serious music, there was some jazz but that was a jazz quartet but they were not rooted in san francisco.
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so i came to the managing editor at 4:00 o'clock and i said, i for once or do not believe there is an athens of the west. but if there is, it is in los angeles. [laughter] and i was fired. you're a traitor to your class, your grandfather was the mayor and so on, and so they assign the story to a journalist 35 years old, mortgage, three children, no choice, to write this story and he wrote it and he simply attributed to it quotes from lois lori, owner of a flashy restaurant. of of
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course san francisco is the athens of the west, the second quote from the magnum department store, no question. their quote was from hurricane, i was going to throw that in but i wasn't sure people know what that was, may not to me is basically the way the media works, but that's what our national news media stood up to show that our armies are invincible and so on, right, to paint the rosy picture is an ever ties meant for reality.
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unless a status quo. but that's natural, that's what the media is supposed to do, if they asked what you're going to do on election night? i'm going to watch it gladly with my wife. you have to vote and i'm gonna vote no. my vote does not count, please, let's not go through that. it's in the book close, it's in the book the number suggested that maybe the people who don't vote have good and sufficient reasons for their abstentions. also in the the city of new york, the electoral colleges
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democratic, the reason that the politicians don't bother to come and talk to anybody in new york is because -- it doesn't matter who i vote for, it will be in new york state is democratic. they are only with their for our six swing states in the united states where the road actually may count. >> so we should drive to north carolina by yourself some what? lottery tickets. >> let's go to some questions. >> thank you lewis for the talk. my question goes back to your statement about history be an important. as eisenhower said, warned us of the military-industrial complex and when jack kennedy was in the white house he was trying to
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negotiate with the russians to calm down the cold war and the military, and seems to me wanted to ramp up in vietnam and approximately 48 hours after jack kennedy was killed, johnson put an order through to put the troops you to be now. i'm wondering if the business of america isn't really the business of war and the war machine and it started there, and as jim garrison said, if this climb is not properly investigated the republic will not hold, your thoughts?
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>> i think part of that is true, i'm not a conspiracy theorist, but the bone and marrow of the american economy is the military-industrial complex. and eisenhower was right about that. that is what sustained the american economy through the second half of the 20th century, that is the reason in 1991, now comes the cold war, the russians come down the -- the soviet union collapses. the berlin wall comes down. this is why it's such a major
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event in washington is because they have been using the cold war to building constantly build up the military-industrial complex. you know how how that works, they have contracts in every state and so on. and it's not just the military budget, it's also also the contractors, salsa the corporations, it's the arsenal of freedom, i don't know what it is today but general electric, one of the greatest arms manufacturers in the country owns nbc. i don't know they still do, but they did. but essentially the same people on the media so yes, i feel like i montauk radio.
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but a lot of people have said this. this is is not a radical point of view, oliver stone wrote the whole book along that line, but so did john appleton williams in the 60s, so did the guy, can't remember his name but the general who wrote the war is a racket in the 20s and 30s he was an american kernel who was running our wars through the united troop company in guatemala and honduras. and our wars have been elected, we were attacked in world war ii but all the other american workers have been our choice, the mexican war, right the war against the indians in the 19th century, the spanish-american war, the korean war, the vietnam war, our
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choice. and yes, when there is a very fine book actually that again other people have said this, i'm not a talkshow radical, but there's a very, very fine book that was published last sprague by a guy named andrew and it was called america's were for the greater middle east. he tells the story of our picking that fight in 1980, jimmy carter, desert one, if you remember the heller copper that had come to rescue iranian. and that book is marvelous and
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goes into very specific detail. i also had a guy godfather, another point of reference when my godfather was a very good friend of my grandfather and he was a norwegian and he ran away to see, my family was in the texas oil business, texaco, not standard oil and the reaper became the first tanker captain of the first texas tanker 1910 ceiling on brownsville texas and by 1930 he was chairman of the board of texaco. and texaco was, as was a lot of
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other american companies, dealing with the germans all the way through the 30s and the texas oil was supplying fuel to the german squadrons that were at work in spain and by 1953 wilbur was the grand old man of the m american oil business. here been part of the people who set it up in saudi arabia in the 50s and the americans were having trouble in iran,
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democratically democratically elected president of that country, but he was threatening to take the oil business, nationalize then take it back from the british. it had been anglo british oil. reber was called down to washington and was told to bring a message and the message was, you either give us the oil or we kill you, it was that simple. so your answer is yes. there's a lot of, there are a lot of people that have written books of various angles of this. but america is a warmaking country. we have been for a long time. >> will take another quick
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question. >> you highlight the arrogance and stupidity of the conservatives, particularly embodied in donald trump, but what are your thoughts on the arrogance and stupidity that neoliberal. >> is the same. i don't make that much of it this distinction between neo- liberal anita conservative. if you read the book you'll see it goes across 25 years and i have just as many observations of clinton and the neoliberals as i do of the bush and the neoconservative.
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as far as i know hillary clinton seems to be part of the washington consensus which has been there for a long time. it is nonpartisan. >> and i quote this out with a remark of my own? do we have any more questions? >> i had a question or so. >> you're not a conspiracy theorist but donald trump certainly seems to be and i feel like what he has brought about more so for me that is concerning is that in questioning the reading rigging of the election. every time someone brings up a fact fact he comes up with something that may be sought back to and i don't know if it's internet culture for the future, because
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everybody has their own chamber and that's what i'm most concerned about going forward. >> for future politicians? >> i really didn't understand that question, i had a hard time hearing you because of the way the microphone was. i you asking me what i think is happening next? i don't know. >> don't use the microphone. it's jumbling it. [inaudible] yes. i mean it makes it very hard to democracy is about people face-to-face and the trouble
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with the kind of argument you can have in this room the size, medicine again talks about democracy doesn't actually have to be small but it has to be small enough so that various people within it of different walks of talents, ages, and so on. this is payne's idea of democracy and it was mainly possible and the united states in 1800 there are 3 million people in the united states, women did have the vote, blackstone have the vote, people, people without sufficient property didn't have the vote. and the people that are the small oligarchy that batterson is talking about can talk to each other.
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but the internet people are departing from one another at length speed. they can live in their own little world, they do not have to hear anybody that disagrees with them, they do not have to try to compromise, they don't have to, here they are in their own self confirming universe. and democracy is about friction, change, arguments, it's a very hard thing to pull off and it depends on friction. even as democracy depends on the free flow of information.

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