LOG BY DAN KENNEDY
Notes and observations on
the press, politics, culture, technology, and more. To post a
comment that may be used in a future installment of Media Log, or
to request e-mail delivery, contact dkennedy[a]phx.com.
Friday, November 08, 2002
Goldman to Finneran: No new
taxes! Democratic political consultant Michael
Goldman -- a leading liberal
who advised Robert Reich during his gubernatorial run -- has written
an open letter to House Speaker Tom Finneran begging him not to raise
taxes, thereby letting Governor-elect Mitt Romney take credit for
solving the state's fiscal crisis à la Bill Weld in 1990. It's
a great read. But it's on the Salem News site, so hurry up and
read it! Salem News links expire faster than unpasteurized
posted at 11:50 AM |
I want my TNR -- on time.
Got my pre-election issue of the New Republic yesterday
afternoon. Thanks, Marty! If I had a bird cage, I could do something
with it. Meanwhile, please get your circulation department to take a
look at the
Weekly Standard's website.
Rupe and company let paid subscribers download the entire issue as a
PDF file on Saturday, at the same time that the print edition is
coming off the presses. If you've got a fast enough printer, you
could even print out the entire issue and take it to the bathroom
Meanwhile, TNR keeps offering
and less of its print-edition
content online. That's understandable -- giving content away on the
Web hasn't exactly proved to be a viable business model. But that's
the beauty of what the Standard is doing. It's only available
to readers who've already bought subscriptions. And you get the
entire magazine, including advertisements -- thus negating an
argument one of your editors once made to me in explaining why
TNR couldn't be made available to subscribers
Marty, I would even be willing to
subscribe only to an electronic edition of TNR -- for a
substantial discount, of course. But think of all the production
costs and postage you'd save. And you'd have at least one less
pissed-off customer forced to look at coverlines such as "Can the GOP
Convince Blacks Not To Vote?" two days after we already know the
posted at 9:26 AM |
Thursday, November 07, 2002
The bumpy road ahead. The
Democrats' intramural war over the next two years will be fought
between the moderate, neoliberal branch that dominated during the
Clinton years and the paleoliberals who always harbored a grudge over
Bill Clinton's accommodation to the center.
Today the New Republic's
Beinart stakes out the
neoliberal ground while the Nation's David
Corn speaks up for that
old-time liberalism. Not that they disagree entirely -- both urge the
Democrats to challenge George W. Bush's tax cut for the rich,
something the party was notably loath to do in the past election. For
the most part, though, they lay out different visions for the
Democrats -- although not radically different, since both Beinart and
Corn are more or less on the same side.
Both of these pieces are worth
reading for any liberal who's wondering where we go from
posted at 10:03 AM |
Wednesday, November 06, 2002
The Republican victory. The
Democrats lost the Senate -- and George W. Bush finally gained the
legitimacy he failed to earn two years ago -- because Daschle,
Gephardt, et al. tried to campaign on a gutless, vacuous agenda.
Later today, bostonphoenix.com
will publish a post-election roundup, including a few thoughts from
me. Meanwhile, if you -- like me -- are a liberal who's gnashing your
teeth today, let me add to your pain: the Weekly Standard's
Brooks gets it exactly right.
Can the Democrats learn?
posted at 10:08 AM |
A Mass. tax backlash. Before
last night, the scenario for solving the state's fiscal crisis if
Mitt Romney were elected governor was simple. The legislature would
pass a tax increase. Romney would veto it. The legislature would
override Romney's veto. And everyone would get back to business as
usual. Romney would fulminate, and try to use the "Democrat tax hike"
to boost Republican numbers in the legislature in 2004. But with
deficits looming as far as the eye can see, he wouldn't be all
that upset to have the extra money.
Well, you can now rule that scenario
out. Not only was Romney's victory by a wider margin than anyone had
expected, thus giving a boost to his anti-tax message; but Question
One, Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Carla Howell's radical
proposal to eliminate the state income tax, lost by a margin of only
55 percent to 45 percent. Given such circumstances, the
Democratic-controlled legislature can no longer be expected to go out
on a political limb and raise taxes. As WLVI-TV (Channel 56) Jon
Keller observed last night, not a single poll had predicted Question
One would do that well, which demonstrates pretty decisively that
there's a lot more anger and frustration among voters than any of the
prognosticators had realized.
In fact, the Globe/WBZ-TV
(Channel 4) poll
of November 1 showed Question
One losing by 59 percent to 34 percent; on September
29, the margin was 58 percent
to 31 percent. What that means is that virtually everyone who made up
her or his mind at the last minute voted for a massive tax cut that
would leave the state on the brink of bankruptcy.
Of course, late deciders are also the
least informed and most disengaged part of the electorate. So when
Romney said he could cut taxes without harming services by going
after the bureaucracy, these voters actually believed him. At some
point Romney can be expected to pay a price for his disingenuousness,
but not this week. His victory was so broad that he
won an absolute majority --
nearly 50.6 percent -- even if the votes of all five candidates are
tallied up. And if you assume that Shannon O'Brien would have
received all of the votes that went to the Green Party's Jill Stein,
she still only would have gotten 48.4 percent.
Mitt's got a mandate. We'll see how
well he delivers.
posted at 9:57 AM |
Tuesday, November 05, 2002
Kristof's ugly smear. New
York Times columnist Nicholas
Kristof today charges that
"liberal Web sites" are raising the possibility that Minnesota
senator Paul Wellstone -- killed in a plane crash a week and a half
ago -- was the victim of an assassination by his political enemies on
the right. "The White House team that executed Vincent Foster must
have struck again," Kristof sneers. His so-called point is that
liberals are reacting to George W. Bush and the Republican Party with
the same demented paranoia that marked conservatives' stance toward
Bill Clinton and the Democrats.
Kristof's use of the word "liberal"
suggests that mainstream Democrats are calling for an investigation
into whether Bushies planted themselves on Minnesota's equivalent of
the grassy knoll and shot down Wellstone's plane. But he offers no
evidence in trying to make the case for moral equivalence. Cartoonist
Rall -- who's way to the left
of liberal -- recently wrote a piece claiming that "some Democrats
and progressive Americans" are raising questions about the Wellstone
tragedy. But, like Kristof, Rall names no names, and in the end he
concludes that the conspiracy theory is highly unlikely. There's also
some chatter on the websites of the Independent Media Centers, which,
frankly, are way to the left of Rall. Conservative commentator
Sullivan, writing in
Salon.com, had to strain to find another nutty conspiracy theorist, a
Dr. Michael I. Niman of Buffalo State College. And even Niman ends up
admitting that Wellstone's death was probably just an
It's not that no one is
raising questions about Wellstone's death. It is, after all, not
difficult to find websites that raise questions about whether the
earth is round, or if people really did land on the moon. But
Kristof's tone suggests that I should be able to read the latest on
the Wellstone conspiracy at the website of, say, the Democratic
National Committee. Please.
When Clinton aide Vince Foster committed suicide, no fewer than two
special prosecutors were ordered by congressional Republicans to look
specifically into the question of whether the White House had him
assassinated. Even the sex-crazed Ken Starr concluded that was
ridiculous. As Times columnist Bill
Keller pointed out on
Saturday, Republican congressman Dan Burton of Indiana, a member of
the House leadership team, once went so far as to shoot bullets into
a watermelon in a twisted attempt to prove his Foster-was-murdered
theory. (Presumably Burton would have used a cocoanut if he believed
Foster had really killed himself.) Where are the Democrats calling
for an investigation into the Wellstone "assassination"? The answer
is that there aren't any.
Conservative paranoia during the
Clinton years reached the highest levels of the Republican Party. By
contrast, Kristof offers no evidence that anyone other than a few
people on the far left believe the Bush White House had anything to
do with Wellstone's tragic death. Kristof's charge amounts to a
smear against Democrats and liberals, unsupported by facts.
posted at 9:51 AM |
Monday, November 04, 2002
Embrace, extend, and
standardize. Last week I was cleaning out an old desk when I
found a box of five-and-a-quarter-inch floppy disks. They contained
much of the work I'd done in graduate school, including my master's
thesis. And though I didn't throw them out, they are also utterly
worthless: the documents imbedded on them were created on a Radio
Shack Color Computer, a machine with its own perverse and obscure
operating system, abandoned by the world some 15 years
Which brings to mind last Friday's
decision by US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to give
Microsoft little more than a slap on the wrist in the seemingly
endless antitrust case. The suit had long since been abandoned by the
federal government, but it continues to be pursued like Moby Dick by
a handful of Ahab-esque attorneys general, including Tom Reilly of
Massachusetts. The desultory media coverage Kollar-Kotelly's ruling
generated shows that we live in a world considerably different from
the one that existed in 1997, when the Clinton administration first
filed suit. Amid the wreckage of the New Economy, Microsoft -- a
technology company that makes real products and turns a real profit
-- now looks pretty good.
Moreover, the commodification of the
personal computer and the software that makes it useful has advanced
considerably during the past five years. Bill Gates likes to talk
about the "freedom to innovate," but that's always been ridiculous.
Microsoft's products over the years have invariably been derivative
and, in many cases, inferior to products that came to market first.
The company's real innovation has been to bring dozens of
competing standards under one roof and to enable nearly everyone who
uses a personal computer to speak the same language. I don't like
Microsoft Word, and I don't use it. Yet the ability to share files
created with Word makes for a much more efficient universe. I pay a
price for my obstinacy, having to use kludgy translation software
whose results are imperfect at best. Even more important, files
created with Word today are likely to be readable in at least some
form 15 years from now, unlike my poor lost master's thesis. For the
vast majority of us, innovation is nice, but standards are better.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page today puts
it this way:
We've always argued that
Microsoft's sin, if you'd call it that, was primarily in giving
consumers what they wanted -- a standard operating system for
hardware and software makers alike. Quibbles over the company's
hardball business strategies aside, the main effect of its
monopoly position was to get new Web tools to consumers quickly
and efficiently, vastly speeding up the PC revolution.
That's too sunny a spin, but it's
right on the facts.
The frustrating thing, and one many
Microsoft critics seemingly can't get over, is that Gates and company
won by waging total, relentless war against their competitors,
illegally (don't forget that) exploiting the monopoly their Windows
operating system enjoyed to harm other products, such as Netscape
Navigator and Sun's Java. Last week, Salon.com ran a
detailed, two-part report
that Microsoft's tactics continue: the company has reportedly
incorporated features of streaming-video software called Burst into
its Windows Media Player, and is being sued by Burst.com.
My view of the Microsoft case is
admittedly colored by two factors. First, I own some Microsoft stock.
Second, I don't use any Microsoft products, with the exception of
Internet Explorer for the Macintosh. (I also sometimes use Mozilla,
an "open source" alternative to Explorer that is supposed to be
the choice of concerned anti-Microsofties everywhere. Guess what?
It's not as good.) Yes, I like standards, but I've gambled that Apple
has succeeded in establishing an alternative standard that will be
supported well into the forseeable future. So, yes, I'd like my stock
to increase in value, and no, I don't believe that anyone is forced
to use Microsoft products, which is what the Tom Reillys of the world
would have you believe.
Mr. Attorney General, if you'll
abandon your futile quest, I will send you a box of
five-and-quarter-inch disks. The postage is on me.
posted at 9:06 AM |
Sunday, November 03, 2002
Why O'Brien isn't leading Romney
by six points. "There's nothing that I have concretely said that
I would support" -- Shannon
O'Brien, on the possibility
of a gas-tax increase, in today's Boston Herald. Got that?
posted at 12:39 PM |
MEDIA LOG ARCHIVES
Boston Phoenix senior writer Dan Kennedy is writing Media Log
while on leave. He is working on a book, tentatively titled
Little People: A Father Reflects on His Daughter's Dwarfism -- and
What It Means to Be Different, to be published by Rodale in the
fall of 2003. His archives and links to published works can be
found at www.dankennedy.net.