May 24, 2003

Book Report

I just finished a couple of political books. I really like getting these from the library so I can read them while the topic is fresh, because they are super-expensive in hardback from the bookstore. The first was "Pigs at the Trough" by Arianna Huffington. It is a pretty short book (definitely not worth buying, though it isn't bad ... just not a lot of book for the buck) about corporate greed and corruption.

If you follow politics as closely as someone like me, there aren't too many surprises here. I guess it is a little shocking to see all at once just how much money some CEO's are paying themselves (like the guy from Tyco ... isn't 10 mansions and an island enough ... do you have to buy more?). Of course, all these greedy guys are Republicans, talking up the wonders of the free market while writing laws to guarantee sweetheart deals. Or they're like Cheney, who claimed in his debate that the government had nothing to do with his millionaire success while his company earned billions in government contracts and special legislative favors during his time as the well-connected CEO. They're all laughably delusional about their own greatness and their debt to society.

Anyway, the book isn't very well-written, though it is interesting. Huffington has always given me the creeps. I watched her occasionally on Bill Maher's old "Politically Incorrect", and she comes across as somewhat superficial and arrogant. She has that I'm-smarter-than-you-and-here's-proof attitude that is so annoying in so many pundits on both sides. She peppers the whole book with classical metaphors and cultural "touchpoints" that it is almost like she's saying, "See, this is what a good liberal arts education can do for you, look how smart and clever I am!" A few such clever things is ok, but every other page made it feel like she's was forcing the issue. Oh well.

The other book I read, and I know this is going to *shock* my three regular readers, is "What Liberal Media?" by Eric Alterman. Some of the content here is also in Huffington's book or "The Hunting of the President" by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons. This is a much better book, *very* thoroughly documented (the author is a real journalist, unlike so many political book authors) and authoritative.

Like a true liberal, Alterman occasionally tries to give the conservative side of this debate the benefit of the doubt. He looks for places where the media could arguably be liberally biased and comes up with some examples and arguments (especially on social issues like abortion). The rest of the book is quite damning of the whole conservative media establishment. For me, he is preaching to the choir for 250 pages, but he also offered up a few things I hadn't thought about along with some more detail on issues I was already familiar with.

Just the story of the coverage received by Gore vs Bush, which is thoroughly documented at websites like The Daily Howler, is mind-boggling. And very readable here. Just as a representative sample of the kind of crap thrown at Gore, read the history of the "I intented the Internet" media fiasco (about 1/4 of the way down, it starts on that page) from the Daily Howler. This is just one of dozens of examples served up by Alterman in his excellent book.

Now I'm in the middle of Yankee pitcher David Wells' "Perfect I'm Not", which is actually quite poorly written. So full of cliches and macho guy rah-rah talk. Blech. But is about baseball over the last ten years, and I'm familiar enough with the game to know about most of the stories he tells, so it is neat to hear them from a different persepctive. I just have to wade through his chest-thumping. That's what skimming is for, I guess.

Now that I think of it, this is similar to "Star Trek Memories" (and the sequel, "Star Trek Movie Memories") by William Shatner. Lots of really stupid prose in here, but buried inside are several absolute gems, stories that are a real pleasure to read and perspective you can't get anywhere else. Both books have the same ghost-writer/co-author, Chris Kretski. Not sure if he should get blame or credit.

Oh yeah, don't think I haven't noticed the Rangers lately. Good news for the Rangers means bad news for my readers ... more boring Rangers posts! Woo!

Posted by Observer at May 24, 2003 08:13 AM
Comments

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See, now I cry bullshit here.

After reading most of that on Al Gore inventing the internet, I'm not surprised that Wolf Blitzer didn't bat an eye during the interview, Wolf probably didn't know what a whopper that was.

I read about it on Slashdot at the time and was amazed he'd try to take credit for it, and am amazed today.

http://slashdot.org/articles/99/03/11/1153213.shtml

http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,18390,00.html

So sorry that the media took a few days to figure out the story, but sometimes it takes researchers a while to look into something's history.

Posted by: Humbaba on May 24, 2003 09:11 AM

I read the article, and it does *EXACTLY* what the rest of the media does, which is to misquote Gore and then go on to answer a completely different claim, which Gore never made. I mean, you think the SCLM would give Gore the benefit of the doubt and *not* misquote him repeatedly and harmfully, but I guess that's just one of those paradoxes we have to live with.

He *DID* take the initiative in Congress to create the Internet. It's all right there. The conservative quote in the Wired article is correct, of course, that Gore did *NOT* do anything to make the Internet commercial. Of course, he never claimed to, so that's not even relevant.

Remember, the quote does not say "I invented the Internet." It says, "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet." He didn't say he created the Internet. He said he took the initiative on that subject, which is 100% true.

Here's an article from the Guardian in 1988:

American computing scientists are campaigning for the creation of a ìsuperhighwayî which would revolutionise data transmission.

Legislation has already been laid before Congress by Senator Albert Gore of Tennessee, calling for government funds to help establish the new network, which scientists say they can have working within five years, at a cost of $400 million.

Oh, and here's a quote from Newt Gingrich, of all people:

In all fairness, itís something Gore had worked on a long time. Gore is not the Father of the Internet, but in all fairness, Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet, and the truth isóand I worked with him starting in 1978 when I got [to Congress], we were both part of a ìfutures groupîóthe fact is, in the Clinton administration, the world we had talked about in the í80s began to actually happen.

Go read the Daily Howler article I pointed to. Explain to me what part is false. Keep in mind that the entire *point* of the story is how the SCLM built the case that Gore is a liar from a misquote. You don't have to misquote Bush to know he's a liar, but where are all the media stories on it?

Posted by: Observer on May 24, 2003 10:26 AM

The internet was around well before Gore got into office in early 1985. Sure he may have been the first Senator to push for increasing funding for the Internet, but the fact of the matter is HE WAS IN COLLEGE when the Internet was created.

Posted by: Humbaba on May 24, 2003 01:58 PM

You are correct that Gore didn't create the Arpanet, nor provide the expertise to turn it into the Internet (he just got behind funding it and expanding it, starting in the 1970's). But where's the "bullshit" contradiction between that and what Gore said? Did you read the entire quote, the context, the actual history, etc.? He took the initiative in a lot of things, there was a list, all of which was accurate. It speaks to his vision of the future of the country, whether you agree with it or not.

Surely the liberal media wouldn't be so maliciously incompetent as to allow something false and stupid like that to be the "conventional wisdom". ... Right?

Surely they wouldn't look back today on the records of Gore vs Bush in office and say *Gore* is the dishonest one. ... Right?

Posted by: Observer on May 24, 2003 02:19 PM

This is probably the money quote that sums up the whole Howler article for me:
Al Gore, 3/9/99: During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.

Newt Gingrich, 9/1/00: Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet.

David Maraniss, 8/26/00: Gore really was instrumental in developing the Internet. He was the one congressman who understood the whole thing in the í70s.

Two of these men remained major pundits. One of these men stood condemned as a liar.

Thanks, liberal media!

Posted by: Observer on May 24, 2003 02:21 PM

Maybe Gore just doesn't understand that he didn't create the internet. I can totally understand Gingrich being confused on the subject.

If he wasn't a Senator until 1985, how was he helping to fund the internet in the 70s, anyway?

I guess from the beginning I thought when you said it was a hoax, you meant he never made that claim, but all sources seem to agree that he did claim to have to have "took initiative in creating the internet" which is a bald-faced lie.

As I see it, SCLM 1, Observer 0 in this case.

Posted by: Humbaba on May 24, 2003 02:32 PM

Ummm, Al Gore was in the US House of Representatives (from Tennessee) from 1976-1984. No one, absolutely no one, disputes the quote from Gore. What I *do* dispute is that he said he "invented the Internet" or something to that effect. It's the misquotes and misinterpretations that are the problem.

If you want to parse his extemperaneous quotation in the most negative way, knock yourself out (and just maybe stop for a minute and ask yourself why). That's what the So-Called Liberal Media did. Places like the Daily Howler busted them for it, for what it's worth, and Alterman's treatment in "What Liberal Media?" is also very convincing.

Read the full treatment on the Howler's website here. Try it with an open mind and with your facts straight.

Posted by: Observer on May 24, 2003 02:55 PM

I did read a bunch of the Howler stuff. The CNN biography of Al Gore failed to mention that he was a Congressman from 76-84, which amuses me. Regardless, the Internet predates 1976 as well.

He says he "created the internet". They mis-quote him as saying he "invented the internet" or was "the father of the internet". The quotes seem relatively similar, the same intent at least, and it's all lie, taking credit for other people's work.

He should have said "helped fund the internet", but that wouldn't have made him sound as important.

As I see it, he lied trying to take credit where it wasn't due, and was called out on it.

Of course, just because he was a liar doesn't mean your *real* point isn't true, which is if a Republican had made such a ridiculous claim they wouldn't have been quite so crucified for it.

Posted by: Humbaba on May 24, 2003 03:44 PM

"I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our countryís economic growth, environmental protection, improvements in our educational system." That's the whole quote in response to a question about what set him apart from Bill Bradley.

His statement could be interpreted in any number of ways. Why do you pick the one that is most harmful? Heck, why not go all the way and accuse him of saying something even more outlandish? Why don't you accuse him of claiming to be solely responsible for moving forward the country's economic growth? Or the sole champion of the environment? Or inventing schools? I mean, you've already drawn the line way the hell out there. Why not go a little further?

As I see it, your problem on the internet quotation is that you remain committed to the single most malicious and deceitful interpretation of an off-the-cuff answer to a question in an interview. The fact that you, the media and so many others do this exact same thing results in paranoid scripted press conferences. It results in a suppression of free, open, easy-going exchanges of ideas that are fundamental to a Democracy. It results in people getting an unrealistic and wrong view of someone like Al Gore.

It's done to dumb down the news, to sell stories, to save time. In this case, it was also done to screw Gore because most journalists just hated his guts (read Alterman's book). A liberal democracy requires an adult conversation and an informed electorate. Right now, thanks to the So-Called-Liberal-Media, we have neither.

And this one quotation is only the beginning of what the SCLM did to Gore at virtually every turn. Alterman also describes the "Love Canal" and "Love Story" media myths, among countless others.

Posted by: Observer on May 24, 2003 05:29 PM

He didn't say he solely led the economic growth, environmental protection, or improvements in our education system.

He did say that he took the initiative in creating the Internet, which is lie.

I can understand how he made that mistake, sorta. I'm a lousy off-the-cuff speaker myself, but then again, I'm not trying to be a politician.

However, even when I fuck up, I don't claim to have created something I didn't.

Posted by: Humbaba on May 24, 2003 06:12 PM

He said he took the initiative on those other matters as part of the list. He included the internet in a list that included all those other things. So if you interpret him as claming to be the (singular) creator of the internet, he must also be claiming sole responsibility for all those other things.

Either that, or your interpretation is wrong.

He was reeling off a list of things he did in Congress. Of all the members of Congress, he was almost certainly the single most important person in championing the government funding that was responsible for turning Arpanet into the vast Internet that we have today.

So to say that as a member of Congress, he took the initiative in creating the Internet, that's a lie? Said in the context of his work in Congress?

Yes, if you are a committed conservative who dislikes Al Gore (or a member of the SCLM), then yes, your interpretation must be that it was a lie. If you are a regular person who uses judgement and common-sense, you know better than to be so incredibly unfair to a person (especially one who volunteered to go to Vietnam and who has served his country in the military and in the government since 1976).

In other words, why don't you consider cutting the guy a break? Or at the very least, don't go out of your way in your logical leaps to make him out as a liar.

In the end, though, we agree on the media's treatment of this whole sorry mess. If you want to stick to your guns and call Gore and liar and nail him to the wall for having this horrible personality flaw making him unfit for the presidency or whatever, fine. Just please do the same with the same ferocious intensity and passion for every single presidential candidate who lies (particularly George W Bush).

The media sure as hell won't.

Posted by: Observer on May 24, 2003 06:26 PM

"I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country?s economic growth, environmental protection, improvements in our educational system."

I see nothing there that's not true. He says they were important to growth, protection, education.

"I took the initiative in creating the Internet"

Here I have to cry bullshit. It was created before he got to Congress.

Notice he doesn't say "I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country?s economic growth, environmental protection, improvements in our educational system, and the growth of the Internet."

Nope. He merely claims he created it. Sorry, I can't forgive resume-padding, I don't care what party they're in.

I look at it like George O'Leary and Notre Dame. He lied on his resume, got caught, and got fired. It should be that simple. Al Gore was trying to take more credit than he was due.

When do you ever see me defending Bush, anyway? I wanted McCain to be President.

Posted by: Humbaba on May 24, 2003 07:34 PM

Hey, you voted for Bush, not me. As for McCain, I like his personality, but he's way too conservative for me. He's also a liar (in the same sense that Gore is). I mean, he has exaggerated. He has kinda/sorta taken credit for things he didn't do. He has said one thing and meant another, etc.

But somehow he has a reputation as a "straight-shooter". Pro-lifers don't think he's a straight-shooter. Neither do people who listened closely to his tax plan claims vs reality.

If you're going to put Gore through the wringer, why don't you turn that critical eye on good old John McCain. Just go to the Daily Howler, for example, and do a search on McCain. Finding McCain lies is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Just to make it abundantly clear, since it is obviously a very important personality flaw which probably should disquality anyone from running for president:

John McCain is a liar.

Posted by: Observer on May 24, 2003 08:20 PM

By the way, it's not just the Daily Howler going over McCain's lies with a fine-tooth comb. Since he had the audacity to challenge Bush in the primaries, lots of the conservative media are on the McCain-bashing bandwagon (they are also anticipating he might try to challenge Bush again). So they have a lot of distorted, misconstrued crap that "proves" McCain is a liar just like they did for Gore.

You can choose to believe it and be cynical about him. Or you can give a man who undoubtedly has served his country bravely the benefit of the doubt, cut him a little slack.

Wait, was I talking about McCain or Gore? Does it matter?

Posted by: Observer on May 24, 2003 09:00 PM

Voting for Bush does not mean I like Bush. It just means at the time I thought he'd be a better President than Gore.

Posted by: Humbaba on May 24, 2003 09:15 PM