Friday, April 29, 2005

Democracy Now: Rep. Jim Moran, Aarit Shahani, Bob Somerby (Daily Howler) on Ann Coulter and Janet Maslin

Headlines for April 29, 2005
- Gas Prices Near All
-Time Highs as Gas Co.'s Report Record Profits
- Bush Calls For Construction of New Nuclear Power Plants
- Baghdad Bombings Kill 22
- LA Times: U.S. Allied with Sudan Despite Role in Darfur Genocide
- Court Rules Against Police in Pepper Spay Trial
- Guantanamo Prisoners Subjected to Mock Interrogations
- Pentagon Releases 700+ Photos of War Dead
- Rep. Waters Calls Questions U.S. Role in Arming Haiti Police

Bush Social Security Plan Cuts Future Benefits
In a prime-time news conference, President Bush for the first time proposes to cut Social Security benefits as part of his plan to overhaul the retirement system. We get reaction from Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA). [includes rush transcript]

Latin America in Revolt: Rice on Four-Country Tour As Leftist Victories Sweep Region
As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice embarks on a five-day tour of Latin America, we take a look at recent developments in the region with several countries increasingly moving towards to left of the political spectrum. [includes rush transcript]

Real ID Act Attached to "Must-Pass" Spending Bill Imposes Anti-Immigrant Measures
Congress is poised to pass a law billed as an antiterrorism measure that would have a significant impact on immigrant rights in this country. The bill is attached to a "must-pass" appropriations measure for troops in Iraq and tsunami relief. We take a look at the "Real ID Act" with Aarti Shahani of Families for Freedom. [includes rush transcript]

Rallies Planned Ahead of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Meeting
On May 2, nearly all of the governments in the world will meet at the UN to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - a review conference that takes place every five years. We take a look at some of the rallies and marches planned ahead of the meeting to demand global nuclear disarmament. [includes rush transcript]

Jim (Third Estate Sunday Review) and Julia both e-mailed about Bob Somerby's The Daily Howler today:

MASLIN'S FOLLY: Bear with us, folks--we love this stuff. On Tuesday, we discussed Janet Maslin's New York Times review of Ann Coulter's kooky best-seller, Slander (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/26/05). In her review, Maslin cited a part of Slander where Coulter assembled six troubling "liberal" quotes; in one of the quotes, Peter Jennings said that health care was one of the Castro regime's "success stories." Maslin praised Coulter for "having a field day" at the expense of Jennings' "egregious loose talk." In so doing, Maslin extended the part of her review which praised Coulter's assiduous scholarship. "A great deal of research supports" Coulter's claims, Maslin said, and yes, she counted Coulter's 780 footnotes and praised Coulter for her "measured reasoning." When Maslin scolded Jennings' "loose talk," she continued to push the secondary theme of her review. Slander's author may be driven by bile, but by gum she did do her homework!
But Coulter didn't do her homework; in an astonishing number of kooky cases, she didn't do her work at all. In RE Jennings, there was nothing obviously wrong with his statement about Cuban health care, and in the rest of the report from which this statement was cadged, he portrayed a crumbling Cuban economy and a Cuban human rights nightmare. But so what? Coulter cadged the health care quote and used it to rail against Jennings' rank liberalism. And Maslin was
right there cheering her on--and failing to fact-check Coulter's work.
How inept were Maslin's claims about Coulter's diligent scholarship? Since Maslin praised the part of Slander where Coulter cadged that quote from Jennings, we decided we'd fact-check the five other quotes which comprise Coulter's "loose talk" six-pack. And remember what we’ve always told you--there seems to be no part of Coulter's book which stands up to the simplest fact-check. Did Coulter do a "great deal of research" when she slapped this book together? Should Coulter be praised in the Times for those footnotes? Hardly. Consider the kooky cracked pottery we stumbled across when we fact-checked Coulter's "quote" from Keith Kelly.
Yes, Coulter lists six naughty quotes on page 117 and invites us to marvel at their foolishness. One of the "quotes" is attributed to Kelly, a long-time reporter for the New York Post. Here's the text, as it appears in Slander. Kelly’s "quotation" comes with a critique from triumphant Coulter:
COULTER (page 118):"[T]he media consortium...decid[ed] on October 22--for the sake on national unity in the current political crisis--not to release an in-depth analysis of the Florida election...which, according to inside sources, gave the state election to Al Gore."
Keith Kelly, the New York Post, December 5, 2000 [129](The media consortium study was not completed for another year, at which point it was promptly released, showing that Bush had won on every count.) [130]
That's the "quotation," as it appears in Slander, along with two of those Famous Footnotes and a pithy Koulter Kritique. This passage appears on page 118 of the hardback edition--and on page 149 of the paperback version. Amazingly, no part of this passage was amended when Slander came out in paper. We say that's amazing because--as is the norm with Coulter's work--every single part of this passage is wrong, right down to those highly-praised footnotes.
To start with: No, Keith Kelly didn’t make this statement, nor did anyone else at the New York Post. According to Coulter's footnote 129, this quotation comes from a 12/5/00 Post report headlined "No President, but Election Books are Coming." Yes, there was a report with that headline that day, and yes, the report was written by Kelly. But Kelly's story didn't discuss the consortium vote count in Florida--which, of course, hadn't yet been completed--and no, Kelly's story didn't include the statement which Coulter attributes to it. As usual, her attribution is totally wrong; Kelly had nothing to do with the quoted statement. Like so much of her work in Slander, this presentation by Coulter isn't just wrong; it's bizarrely wrong. And of course, it comes in a part of the book which Maslin specifically praised.

Julia notes that she started using the search engine today to look up Cokie Roberts and "too much to read at lunch! People should be using this resource and he [Bob Somerby] is very funny. It could be really depressing without his humor because you start realizing how screwed up our media is. You think you know. But when you're using that search engine and going through all of his documented evidence, you realize it's much worse then you could ever picture."

Jim said The Daily Howler gets a link this weekend when the next Third Estate Sunday Review edition goes up, a permalink, and that Maslin really is something. I'll add, if you haven't read the book Maslin's "reviewing," you may get taken in. But if you've read it . . . I asked if she'd even read all of Carrie Fisher's last book (The Best Awful). I'd already read My Life So Far, by Jane Fonda, and the review by Maslin was a joke. Maslin wasn't reviewing the book and she rarely does. She gives a summary. When she offers her opinions on a book (check out Bob Somerby for her review of Sidney Blumenthal's The Clinton Wars) she has no idea what the book is about other than the publicity for it. From the publicity, she apparently decides whether she likes it or not and then skims for a few examples to back up her view. When she reviewed films (after the brief flash at the beginning), she was lazy and gave you summaries instead of film reviews with a few "facts" tossed in to round up her "This is what happens" summary. The nicest term is "pedistrian" for what Maslin tosses off in her I-can't-be-bothered way.

With Slander, she apparently knew the publicity, had decided she liked the book based on that, and then decided to praise footnotes that she never checked out. As Somerby points out elsewhere (use the search function), she praised a book that trashed her own paper. Now who knows what she thinks of the Times, but you'd think most people reading some of Coulter's nonsense, most people working for the Times, would be struck by the fact that it seemed wrong and check out the footnotes. Not Maslin. She appears to just want to rush through her book reports, slap them down on the teacher's desk, and rush out to the parking lot for a smoke.

Which is why she's a "reviewer" for non-readers only. People who seriously read, who enjoy it, have no use for Maslin because it's hard to read anything she's "reviewed" and not think, "Good Lord, did she even read it!" (There was a review last week on a book that Lyle was impressed with. Then he read the book. Lyle: I thought, wow, she's actually doing her job. Then I read the two books she was comparing and it was as though she'd skimmed the same section in both.)

On the subject of My Life So Far, Krista e-mailed to note that it debuted on the Times best sellers (hardcover) list Sunday at number one. Krista encourages everyone to check out and asked when Monster-in-Law opens? It opens May 13th.

Maureen Dowd slammed Jane Fonda's book Sunday in the Times. A number of you wanted this site to address it. I passed. Dowd read the book. She didn't like it, but she read it. I'm not surprised by her opinion of it. You can read Rebecca's take here. But she's entitled to dislike it. I'm not interested in a back and forth or with everyone agreeing with me. But I do think that a requirement for a book review is to read the book. Unless, you hate it so much and note that in your review. Pauline Kael would do that in her film reviews from time to time. If she couldn't get through a movie, she'd note that in the review and why. Maslin appears to skim sections of a book (at best, "sections") and then wants to write a "review" (report) and act as though she's read it. It strikes me as dishonest. Praising Coulter for her footnotes, to go back to Somerby, is dishonest. Not just because Coulter's footnotes are wrong, but also because when praising Coulter's footnotes, Maslin's creating the impression that she's checked them out. Why praise them if you haven't checked them out? Maslin leaves readers with the impression that she's done her work but reading the books she's reporting on, it's hard to believe that claim.

The Times appears to be okay with that.

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