In November 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, I called all the magazine editors for whom I’d ever written, and told them I was going to Berlin. One of the publications that gave me an assignment was The Chronicle …Continue reading →
Today, I’m inspired by this 1969 recording of an interview that a brave and curious 14-year-old, Jerry Levitan, conducted with John Lennon, of the Beatles. It reminds me of the reason I wrote Carla Rising. Levitan asks Lennon why he’s …Continue reading →
A good bit of the action in Carla Rising really happened in the United States, in the 1920s. Some of the resource material came from The West Virginia Mine Wars: An Anthology, by David Corbin. I helped David get Mine Wars into print in 1991.
Here are some things I learned about the Battle of Blair Mountain since the 1990s: Continue reading →
In his West Virginia: A History for Beginners, John Alexander Williams carefully explains to young readers how social scientists gather evidence, make reasonable inferences from that evidence, and then interpret the information they have before them. People come up with …Continue reading →
For more than 20 years before moving to Berlin, I was a freelance writer and publisher in my home state of West Virginia. As I pitched and sold stories to US magazines, I published West Virginia: A History for Beginners …Continue reading →
I enjoyed hearing this NPR report about musicians protesting a proposal by iTunes (and others) to deliver the artists’ music along new media pipelines without paying them. The same day, I hear that Amazon, in its wisdom, is paying writers …Continue reading →
A friend shares this video about “Sorry Day” in Australia. The day is dedicated to Aboriginal people, victims of a European (white) policy of trying to “civilize” them by removing children from their parents, to be brought up in boarding …Continue reading →
What fun it is to see Independent U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders enter the 2016 race for president. Look at his indictment of wealthy CEOs for helping their institutions grab impossible amounts of cash from the U.S. Treasury on the backs of the once-great U.S. middle class.
These takers of the national wealth rationalize their theft of billions, perhaps convincing themselves, if no one else, of their own “business savvy” — like Riley Gore, in Carla Rising, a cheating coal company bookkeeper-turned-politician.
No doubt these men and their businesses kick the billions back into the election campaigns of docile U.S. candidates — Senators, Congressmen and next year’s other presidential candidates — who would change nothing.
The money these men — they are all men — take from the government is nothing short of obscene. What would any of us do with a multimillion-dollar tax refund?
I just watched Chris Matthews’ interview with Mike Morrell, the reluctant blower of a long-delayed whistle. The interview reminds me of some of my reasons for writing Carla Rising.
As the CIA’s chief liaison to the Bush-Cheney White House, Mike Morrell painfully confirms that US President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney fabricated the amazing lie they told Americans and the world: That Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear and biological weapons, capable of hitting targets in the United States. During the interview, Chris Matthews grows increasingly angry and tells Morrell why….
Matthews angrily wants to know why President Bush and his administration lied in connecting Saddam not only to weapons of mass destruction but to the radical islamacists’ attacks of September 11, 2001 – a lie that, remarkably, persists in the minds of many Americans today.
Further, as Morrell confirms, Cheney and his convicted aide “Scooter” Libby smeared the work and reputations of others, including CIA operatives, who tried to set the record straight. Bush and Cheney clearly lied to the American people to inflate the threat from Saddam in Iraq and used their offices and power to isolate rational opposition in the United States and abroad.
Matthews presses Bush’s CIA briefer: “Why?”
Morrell refuses cross that line. “I don’t know,” he says. “You will have to ask them.”
But Matthews gets it right anyway: The Bush Administration was determined to go to war against Iraq — likely even before 9/11/2001 — and they needed to turn any possible opposition into a US “enemy.” Matthews describes “very objective people” in the newsroom who “finally” were cowed into backing the war, exactly because of the Bush-Cheney lies, based on CIA “intelligence” that did not exist.
Matthews is clearly angry because of the way that Bush and Cheney lied to convince Americans that Iraq — and, by extension, the Middle East — was a much more dangerous place than it actually was in 2002. The lies about nuclear weapons and WMDs had the effect of removing any middle ground. Anyone who openly questioned the lie became a target for official, very public criticism — and, sometimes, professional ruin — in the newly polarized atmosphere that was created by these very same, very big lies.
“If you’re not with us, you are against us,” Bush announced — in a line I borrowed for a pro-war speaker in Carla Rising.
Like the hyping of threats from long-ago civil-rights and labor protesters, Bush’s fiction of a threatened attack from Saddam’s Iraq had the effect of shutting down even newsroom conversation about it, contributing to the American media’s own rush to war, and the self-fulfilling prophecy of spreading violence in the region.
“Intelligence gets politicized all the time in this town,” Morrell says. “On both sides.”
This is a weak reiteration of the “both sides are guilty” argument. The side he served, however, was clearly determined to drive America into an awful, deadly war — killing more than 100,000 innocent people — “on false pretenses,” as Matthews says.
Part of the plan was to polarize the political environment in the United States — even to the detriment of the Republican Party. Bush/Cheney’s early most high-profile victim of the lie from their own ranks was Colin Powell, once representing hope for a new, more rational GOP.
It’s good to see Mike Morrell doing something to set the record straight, however late and “safe” it is. It’s troubling, however, that Bush and Cheney and their loyalists are still “at large” in Washington, some of them in public office, getting away with the fabulously weak “Mistakes were made” position in order to maintain their choke-hold over US public opinion.
(This is my own interpretation of a printed defense of the German Book Price Regulation, visible here, by the Market Association of the German Book Trade.)
“This law serves to protect the book as a cultural good. The establishment of a binding price in each sale (of a new book) to the final customer ensures the preservation of broad book diversity. At the same time, the law guaranties a further good for the public interest, in that it advances the existence of a large number of book outlets.”
The book price regulation’s guarantee:
Every single book counts.
Each reader is different. Each has different needs and wishes. Books serve our need for entertainment, for information or for getting advice. And then, sometimes we have to immerse ourselves in a unique area of study — taking joy in discovering an obscure title within the boundless sea of content.
For more than 500 years, since the time of Gutenberg, we have been able to satisfy these needs, in part, because our culture of books has offered us infinite diversity. Each book exists as part of an economic market, as a material good. Collectively, books also define a broad cultural good.
No single title is interchangeable with another.
Each one counts.
This is why each individual book needs protection in the bigger marketplace. In Germany, each new title is sold at the same retail price — the price that is established by its publisher. This is true whether that book is sold in Dusseldorf or Berlin, whether it’s purchased in a small, cozy bookshop or in a big, beautiful department store. Or on the Internet.
The German Book Price Regulation protects all books published in Germany from the excesses of the “dog-eat-dog” marketplace, in a market where one “big player” has automatic and easy advantages over his “mom and pop” competitor down the street. Left unregulated, the marketplace would soon destroy the diversity of books and our literary culture.
In Germany, the retail price of each new book is legally fixed by its publisher, and anyone selling that new book to its final owner must honor that price. There are no “special customers” who get the benefit of paying less than the book manufacturer’s price. The price for every customer is the same, whether or not the seller is big or small, private or public, profit or nonprofit.
There are, of course, different prices for different editions. The prices for the paperback, hardcover, and e-book versions of a book are generally different. Publishers have the option of waiving the regulation that binds booksellers to the fixed retail price after 18 months. Only then can the price be determined by the seller. In this case, the price becomes subject to the open marketplace….
The book market
isn’t all about the seller.
About a million different books are available in Germany — an incredible variety of fiction, children’s books, science books, manuals, young adult literature, advice guides, and textbooks in all fields of study. Every year about 90,000 new publications are produced for German readers.
On the broader market,
books are cheaper in Germany.
It has been proven that books in countries without fixed book prices are, on average, more expensive than in countries that establish a binding price law. Of course, in a US-style price war, a retail giant can sell some best-sellers at something close to “dumping” prices. The result, however, is that prices climb rapidly for the larger number of books.
The bookstore should be protected
as a well-established cultural good.
About 4,900 bookstores insure that all books are offered across the country, even in the most remote places. The trained bookseller on site should be able to offer good advice in all matters relating to books. That person also ensures that every book is available within a short time, even overnight, using a remarkable ordering service linked to a selection of more than 300,000 titles.
The German Book Price Regulation
is a law made for book buyers and readers.
The book price agreement has been an industry-wide practice in Germany for almost 150 years. The agreement was passed into law, as the German Book Price Regulation, in 2002.