Another lost post from 2004:
I just finished reading Eric 'What Liberal Media?' Alterman and Mark 'Consumer Bible' Green's book, 'The Book on Bush: How George W. (Mis)leads America.' I had high hopes, among other reasons because I'm a pretty big fan of some of the authors' other books. When I worked as a telephone poll-taker for Peter Hart Research (If you're thinking of a b-list pundit, it's fairly likely you're thinking of a different Peter Hart. This one is more the kind of guy who appears as an expert every now and again to talk about polling), we did a lot of calling during the NYC mayoral election (eventual winner: Giuliani). After a few days of reading off heavily-slanted summaries of various primary candidates' positions, I was rooting for Green, but, alas, it was not to be.
I was sufficiently interested in ol' dude to pick up his book, and The Consumer Bible is both a good resource and a good time. It's like a Naderite Heloise. Well, not exactly, as Heloise basically writes about goings-on inside the home, while this book focuses on interaction with the outside world, but I really wanted to use the phrase 'Naderite Heloise.' There are at least two editions of TCB (ooh, now I like it even better, like Elvis, and that Supremes/Temptations television special, and Mr. T), and either one is worth picking up. Not, perhaps, ideal pleasure reading, except for reference-book junkies, but an excellent resource--a throwback to second-wave consumerism, if you will, more in the spirit of Consumer Reports and 'On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors' than Adbusters and 'No Logo.'
Not long ago, I also read Alterman's 'What Liberal Media? The Truth about Bias and the News.' It's not amazing, but it's definitely good, in a preaching-to-the-choir, old-song-in-a-new-key kind of way. And, like many of these kinds of things, it's an incredibly well-supported argument. Alterman begins by examining media ownership, then separately treats specific areas of the punditocracy, looks at coverage of specific events including the Clinton and Bush 43 administrations and the Floridian 2000 election debacle and, finally, says a word or two about those portions of the media which are outwardly, aggressively conservative. Alterman is an entertaining and persuasive writer, which is a shame in a world where people, myself included, mostly read things that reinforce their existing opinions.
But what about The Book on Bush? It's good, but kind of mixed. The authors attempt on one hand to examine Bush's serial duplicity and the other to look at the real-world effects of his policies (I tend to associate these goals with Alterman and Green, respectively). And, well, these goals are not entirely compatible. Still, though, it's a good read. The main arguments are that Bush is consistently loyal to his base--big business, neocons and the religious right--and that he begins with conclusions and supports them with the aforementioned lies. 'The Book on Bush' is near the top of the list when it comes to Bush books. Bushwhacked is funnier, and angrier. American Dynasty is more exhaustively-documented. House of Bush, House of Saud is more provocative. The Book on Bush, however, is reasoned, measured and authoritative. Were I going to recommend one Bush book to, for example, my father, who is a)not particularly well-informed, b)moderate and c)on the fence, this might well be the one.
Also, not that long ago, I finished reading George Anastasia's 'The Last Gangster: From Cop to Wiseguy to FBI Informant: Big Ron Previte and the Fall of the American Mob.' There is a wonderful book out there, or maybe just in my mind, about organized crime in this country and, well, what happened to turn the 'Will He Still Love Me Tomorrow?' first reel of Goodfellas into the 'Gimme Shelter' third reel. Such a book would tell small stories to explain a larger one--small stories of individual criminals to explain the larger Darknet of criminal behavior, and the small story of criminal behavior to explain something larger in American culture. It would examine things like European immigration and assimilation, life imitating art and vice versa, and the rumored death of civilized, stratified society. I'm getting excited just thinking about it. 'The Last Gangster,' alas, is not that book. Previte is a fascinating figure, but, even so, it's just another tale of stupid, violent, thuggish mobsters.