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Political reads to keep you simmering

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"We are in for the fight of our lives," says journalist Bill Moyers. He's talking about control of the media, but also about what's at stake: whether our country will ever be the shining beacon on a hill that the planet needs, rather than the greed-driven, oil-guzzling, military-industrial-establishment-run disaster we've become.

On that light and cheerful note, my summer political reading suggestion is that you bone up on the Sith as well as the Rebellion, Lord Rove's dark side along with the progressive Force. The good news: the darker it is, the less time it requires--I finished Ed Klein's take on Hillary in 15 minutes, and I'm no speed reader.

Moyers on America: A Journalist and His Times
Bill Moyers
Anchor Books, 256 pp., $13.95

It's the wealth, stupid. The only thing capable of protecting us against the depredations of mindless corporations and the global investment banks is our government, says good-guy Moyers. But if big money ever gets control of the government, and of the media--but wait, they've got it, or darned close. Ex-CBS/ex-PBS/ex-Johnson White House Moyers calls on the citizenry--and on journalists especially, a dying breed--to fight with passion and "a beating heart" for media reform, freedom on the internet, and local control of the emerging digital communications spectrum, because otherwise, people will never know what hit them--and their jobs.

Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate
George Lakoff
Chelsea Green Publishing, 144 pp., $10

The hot political book right after Kerry lost. Says Lakoff, a UC-Berkeley linguist: For 30 years, the Republicans have been using values lingo and brazen deceptions to, for example, present tax cuts for the rich as good for middle- and working-class families; weakened anti-pollution standards as a way of getting industry to clean itself up; war as peace, and so on. Meanwhile, Democrats argue endlessly about the details of obscure programs, losing everybody including themselves, since they can never agree on anything.

For most voters, it's all about "framing," is Lakoff's point. The GOP says "death tax." The right-wing think tanks issue papers attacking the death tax. Fox News has three conservatives and a moderate talk about whether to abolish the death tax. Then liberals say, let's keep the death tax, but only apply it to blah, blah, blah--and forget to call it what it is, which is a tax on large, hitherto tax-sheltered estates.

Don't think about elephants? The discussion is now about elephants.

What's the Matter With Kansas?
How Conservatives Won the Heart of America

Thomas Frank
Henry Holt/Owl Books, 352 pp., $14

This was the best political book of 2004. If you missed it then, it's out in paperback now (with a post-election note) and tells exactly why Kerry and the Democrats lost--again. Why? Well, it's the "carefully cultivated derangement of places like Kansas," where Frank is from. Such places are losing jobs, losing whole communities, and the Republicans at least offer them an explanation: It's the gays. And the immigrants. Really, that's what they say. To which the Democrats reply? Blah, blah, blah. The Democrats should be pushing populist, anti-corporate economic policies, Frank argues. But they're beholden to Wall Street and nominate candidates like Kerry who act like they've never seen a plow, let alone pulled one, and guess who wins?

The Truth About Hillary
Edward Klein
Sentinel, 336 pp., $24.95

Do not buy this piece of trash. Read it in your favorite mega-bookstore over a cup of coffee, then put it back and wash your hands. Still, it helps to know what's coming. And when Hillary runs for president in 2008, here's the poop, as gathered from the clips by ex-Newsweek correspondent and (hard to believe) ex-New York Times magazine editor-in-chief Klein: Hillary is rumored to be a lesbian. Yes, and knows many lesbians, and is friends with some, and never loved Bill, and is power-mad and a big fat liar. Well, she has told a few whoppers. Anyway, see whether you think Hillary can stand up to this bullshit any better than Kerry did to the Swift Boat Liars.

Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism is Corrupting Our Future
Ben Shapiro
Regnery Books, 256 pp., $27.95

Again, don't buy it. Peruse it. Shapiro is 21, a Harvard Law student, and already a "syndicated columnist" bought and paid for by the right-wing. (Regnery, as hopefully you know, is the publishing equivalent of Fox News--or, better, Talon News.) What's wrong with the country? The kids are all having sex, giving in to their "misguided passions." Exhibit A: Tom Wolfe's fictional Dukie "Charlotte Simmons," Shapiro's '05 update of Dan Quayle vs. TV's "Murphy Brown, unwed mom."

Also don't buy, but do peruse, Michael Savage's Liberalism is a Mental Disorder (Nelson Current, 272 pp., $25.99). While liberals (Marxists, actually) are being gay, "Islamofascists" are filtering into Galveston. The answer: Take over the Middle East forever, Savage thinks. Then there's Zell Miller's A Deficit of Decency (Stroud & Hall, 288 pp., $27.95). The former Georgia Democrat says his old party won't fight for America and is beholden to so many special interests it won't fight for anything, really. Scary what he leaves out--like reality.

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