Friday, April 15, 2005  
 Clubs TonightHot TixBand GuideMP3sThe Best '03Guide to Summer '04 
Food & Drink
Editors' Picks
New This Week
News and Features

Food & Drink


Restaurant Menus
Stuff at Night
The Providence Phoenix
The Portland Phoenix
FNX Radio Network


Notes and observations on the press, politics, culture, technology, and more. To sign up for e-mail delivery, click here. To send an e-mail to Dan Kennedy, click here. For bio, published work, and links to other blogs, visit For information on Dan Kennedy's book, Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale, October 2003), click here.

Friday, November 15, 2002

The creeping Poynterization of Romenesko's During the past few years, Jim Romenesko's has established itself as the virtual water cooler for media news and gossip. Romenesko's terse but cheeky style even survived his transition from entrepreneur to employee of the Poynter Institute a couple of years ago.

This week, though, Poynter has unveiled a major redesign of MediaNews. It's attractive, and includes some long-needed features, especially links to individual items. But there's also a greatly increased Poynter presence on the page. Gone are the weird little tidbits on the left-hand side of the screen; they've been replaced with links to other Poynter pages. On the right-hand side, a "New on Poynter" feature takes up so much space that you have to scroll down before encountering Romenesko's invaluable links.

This may be fine. It may, overall, be an improvement. But the creeping Poynterization of MediaNews is something that bears watching.

posted at 10:17 AM | link

Censorship by other means. White House budget director Mitch Daniels wants to save taxpayers $70 million a year by transferring authority over the publication of public documents from the Government Printing Office to individual Cabinet agencies. At least that's what he says. But according to this editorial in the Los Angeles Times, the real effect would be to make it far easier for the executive branch to edit out anything it finds embarrassing or inconvenient. (Thanks to PB for the link.) Here's how it would work, according to the Times:

Currently, a federal agency such as the Pentagon can't delete an embarrassing passage from a historical document without first going through the hassle of asking each reading room to obscure the passage with a black marker.

If Daniels gets his way, all an agency will have to do is call up the document in Microsoft Word and quietly hit Control X to delete the passage for eternity.

It amounts to the perfect censorship scheme: take a system that has worked since the era of Thomas Jefferson and trash it in the name of budget-cutting and efficiency. And do it in such a low-profile manner that few people other than the most inside of insiders have any idea of what's going on.

posted at 9:25 AM | link

Brian Golden, no-tent Democrat. GM writes that I missed the best part in my 11/12/02 item on Allston-Brighton state rep Brian Golden's beef with Democratic State Committee chairman Phil Johnston:

When I was in West Palm Beach, Florida in November 2000, helping Al Gore on the recount, I was shocked to see Brian Golden acting as an observer in the recount for George Bush. It's one thing to publicly endorse a candidate of the opposing party, but it was entirely different to join the die-hard Republican Brooks-Brothers rioters in helping George Bush steal the election. I agree that the Democratic Party should have a big tent, but I don't think that tent should include partisan Republicans. One other thing -- Dave Friedman, Golden's primary opponent -- was in West Palm Beach helping Al Gore while Brian Golden was on the Republican side helping George Bush.

Here's a Town Online article from last June -- republished on Golden opponent Friedman's website -- verifying GM's recollection.

posted at 9:25 AM | link

Don't ask, don't tell, don't translate that terrorist threat. You can't make up stupidity like this. The AP reports today that the Army has discharged nine linguists, including six trained in Arabic, because they are gay. "The soldiers' dismissals come at a time when the military is facing a critical shortage of translators and interpreters for the war on terrorism," the report notes. Last week's New Republic goes into this absurdity in some detail. And the whole issue of the consequences engendered by the military's ridiculous don't-ask/don't-tell policy is followed by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

posted at 9:25 AM | link

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Donut delirium and animal rights. I'll be on the road today, personally investigating Congressman Ed Markey's claim that Boston's winning the 2004 Democratic National Convention has created "a delirium that is breaking out at every Dunkin' Donuts shop across the state of Massachusetts that would be hard to capture."

But I don't want to let the week go by before urging you to pull last Sunday's New York Times Magazine out of the recycling bin and read the cover story, a critique of the animal-rights movement by Michael Pollan. Pollan does a masterful job not just of describing the moral, environmental, and health-related evils of factory farming (that's easy), but also of showing why vegetarianism is unnatural, harmful to the environment, and even bad for animals. Important, counterintuitive stuff that's left our family wondering where we can buy organic meat.

posted at 7:12 AM | link

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Romney's not Weld. That's bad -- but maybe good, too. Bill Weld exemplified the kind of Republican who can thrive in Massachusetts: he was fiscally conservative, tough on crime, but libertarian on personal-freedom issues such as reproductive choice and lesbian and gay rights. I suspect Governor-elect Mitt Romney would have doubled his margin over his Democratic opponent, Shannon O'Brien, if he had done a better job of assuring voters that he's not a social conservative. Certainly Romney's retrograde stand against civil unions -- never mind same-sex marriage -- didn't help.

But there was one gaping hole in Weld's administration, as well as those of his successors, Paul Cellucci and Jane Swift. And if Romney is willing to fill that hole, he can improve considerably over the records of his Republican predecessors. Weld campaigned against the Democratic machine in 1990, targeting then-Senate president Bill Bulger with the same tenacity with which Romney went after the "Gang of Three" -- House Speaker Tom Finneran, incoming Senate president Bob Travaglini, and O'Brien. But to say that Weld didn't mean it would be quite an understatement. Weld ended up presiding over an administration as laden with patronage as any in the state's history. He even made common cause with Bulger, who, in his day, was as unpopular with the public as Finneran is in 2002.

Perhaps nothing symbolized Weld's indulgence of the machine politics that he'd campaigned against as much as his elevation of David Balfour, a Republican hack whom the then-governor elevated to be the head of the MDC. On November 4, the Globe's Stephanie Ebbert quoted an unnamed Democratic consultant as saying that Balfour exemplified the difference between Weld and Romney:

"Bill Weld would embrace the David Balfours of the world and get a kick out of them," the consultant said, referring to the Republican advance man and Metropolitan District Commission chief who has been nominated for a clerk-magistrate job. "Mitt Romney doesn't get a kick out of them. This is a very political world, so it's hard to know how it will play."

This morning it all comes together on the front page of the Boston Herald. David Wedge and Jack Sullivan report that Balfour's MDC recently paid $675,000 in public (i.e., our) money to buy a tiny slice of land that is now being used as a parking lot by a Stoneham restaurant where Balfour likes to eat, and which is sometimes the venue for MDC meetings. Outraged Stoneham officials, 30 percent of whose town is already owned by the MDC and is thus exempt from local taxes, are demanding an investigation. "We feel very, very strongly they are doing something illegal. I just feel it's wrong to acquire this land with public money," selectman Cosmo Ciccarello told the Herald.

Balfour is now up for a cushy clerk-magistrate's job in Suffolk Juvenile Court, a post to which he was nominated by Governor Swift. The Governor's Council will vote on November 27.

Romney doesn't become governor until January. But if he's serious about eliminating patronage abuses, he should send a loud, public signal that the parking-lot fiasco will be the subject of a vigorous investigation once he's in office -- and that the Governor's Council ought to think twice before handing a lifetime job to someone who will be the principal subject of that investigation.

posted at 9:54 AM | link

Friedman on Bush and the UN. It seems lazy and obvious to point out that Tom Friedman has a brilliant column in this morning's New York Times, but guess what? He does. Friedman puts his finger on precisely why the UN Security Council's unanimous vote to force Saddam Hussein to comply with weapons inspections is such a hopeful development. Writes Friedman:

It was the first time since then [9/11] that the world community seemed to be ready to overcome all of its cultural, religious and strategic differences to impose a global norm -- that a country that raped its neighbor and defied U.N. demands that it give up its weapons of mass destruction not be allowed to get away with it.

And Friedman gives George W. Bush just the right amount of credit for standing up not only to Saddam, but to the "superhawks" in his own administration who tried to convince him that real men don't ask the UN for anything.

Obviously a lot could still go wrong, and with a Republican Senate, I worry that Bush will be more inclined to listen to warmongers such as Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz than Colin Powell. But this has been a good week for anyone who supports both peace and a vigorous, UN-backed effort to force Saddam to give up his weapons.

posted at 9:53 AM | link

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Mitt Romney, defender of the Constitution. Jay Fitzgerald has a fascinating item on Mitt Romney's inconsistent stand on patronage (jobs for his top-level supporters, a meritocracy for everyone else). "He didn't make that distinction before the election, so he's probably going to take some heat for it now," writes Fitzgerald. The most interesting part, though, is Fitzgerald's discussion of a 1990 US Supreme Court decision, Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois, in which the Court held that patronage is unconstitutional in hiring government workers because it violates their First Amendment right to hold the political views of their choice. The one exception: top-level appointments, the theory being that elected officials need to fill the most important jobs with people with whom they agree, and who will be committed to carrying out their agenda.

The majority opinion was written by a liberal, Justice William Brennan, who opens in this vein:

To the victor belong only those spoils that may be constitutionally obtained. Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347 (1976), and Branti v. Finkel, 445 U.S. 507 (1980), decided that the First Amendment forbids government officials to discharge or threaten to discharge public employees solely for not being supporters of the political party in power, unless party affiliation is an appropriate requirement for the position involved.

Well, now. Romney must certainly take comfort in knowing that he can wrap himself in the Constitution as he goes about rewarding his friends and punishing his enemies.

posted at 12:29 PM | link

And now, the rest of the story. With apologies to Paul Harvey, this morning Media Log points out an inexplicable omission in a cry from the heart written by state representative Brian Golden and published on the op-ed page of today's Boston Herald. Golden, a Democrat (at least that's what he claims) from Brighton, calls for the removal of Democratic State Committee chairman Phil Johnston, blaming him for such allegedly extreme liberal views as believing that lesbians and gay men ought to have the same rights as everyone else. Such apostasy, Golden argues, was responsible for Republican Mitt Romney's surprisingly easy victory in last week's gubernatorial election.

But this is just boilerplate, designed to run up the word count so that Golden can talk about what's really on his mind:

[I]n a highly unusual move, Johnston interfered in at least two local Democratic primaries -- one of them being mine.

As a two-term incumbent, I was shocked to find the state Democratic Party backing one Democrat over another. Rather than allowing local Democrats to choose their own nominees, Johnston injected himself into races and places he didn't even vaguely understand.

Here's what Golden leaves out: in October 2000, just before Al Gore and George W. Bush held their first debate -- in Boston, no less -- Golden announced that he had decided to endorse Bush because of the Republican's opposition to the late-term abortion procedure that opponents label "partial-birth abortion," and because Bush favored public aid to Catholic schools.

Now, of course, there's nothing wrong with disagreeing with your party's presidential candidate on the issues -- even in public. But to endorse his opponent is to call into question whether you ought to be a member of that party in the first place. There's a name for Johnston's effort to replace Golden with a real Democrat: politics. Then, too, if Golden re-registered as a Republican, his career as a state rep would be over.

"There is no role for differences on matters of conscience in Johnston's party, no big-tent philosophy," Golden whines at the end of his Herald piece. What tent? As Lyndon Johnson once explained in deciding to reappoint the notorious J. Edgar Hoover as head of the FBI, "It's probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in." Golden stepped outside the "big tent" two years ago. And he's been relieving himself on his supposed fellow Democrats ever since.

posted at 9:33 AM | link

Monday, November 11, 2002

Tony Hawk II. I knew this was going to happen. It turns out that the Boston Globe published a 2000-word feature on Tony Hawk last June, on the front of the Sunday arts section. Although it's long gone from the Globe's free archives, I managed to find the piece -- by staff writer Geoff Edgers -- here. So obviously my argument that the mainstream media have ignored Hawk was off the mark. Nevertheless, given Hawk's enormous popularity with teenagers, his appearance at the FleetCenter last week deserved more coverage than it got.

posted at 3:21 PM | link

Patronage, Romney-style. Just in case there were any doubts, Mitt Romney has said it twice since becoming governor-elect last Tuesday: his crusade against patronage was not meant to apply to his political allies, just to people who have to work for a living.

Here's the relevant excerpt from Rick Klein's piece in last Thursday's Globe:

Romney, who railed against patronage appointments on the campaign trail, also sought to clarify to reporters yesterday what role people with political connections will play in his administration. He said he expects to appoint some people with political experience and connections to top posts in his administration. But for lower-level workers, he said that ties to political leaders or his campaign will be a disadvantage, not an advantage.

"I will look for people to get jobs based on what they know, not who they know," Romney said. "I want people who are secretaries of the various executive offices -- some of them -- to have substantial political experience. But as we look down those organizations, and as we go into middle management, the people driving the trucks and clearing the snow, there's no reason to have political association with those kinds of jobs."

Then there's this, from Yvonne Abraham's front-page interview with Romney published in the Sunday Globe:

He was also reluctant to discuss what his new administration would look like. The Republican, who railed against patronage on the campaign trail, was very specific in his definition of the term on Friday. He said his top staffers would include some of the people who had worked on his campaign, people with extensive political experience, and with whom he had worked for a long time. Nothing wrong with that, he said.

"Where patronage begins, in my view, is where you start going down into the positions inside a government, where that kind of political experience is not necessary,'' he said. ''And yet where campaign workers and members of the party and perhaps even contributors find themselves getting jobs in the courts, or the Turnpike Authority, where it's clear political history is being rewarded.''

For applicants for those positions, Romney said, ''a political history, or a relative in politics, will be a burden they will have to overcome.''

Romney couldn't have been more clear. If you're an aspiring bureaucrat, especially an aspiring top-level bureaucrat, you'd better have made your bones getting Romney elected. But if you're down on your luck and looking for a job as a toll-taker, a truck-driver, and the like, well, you can fill out an application just like anybody else, pal.

It's easy to be for a meritocracy when it only applies to people you don't know.

posted at 8:32 AM | link


Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

about the phoenix |  find the phoenix |  advertising info |  privacy policy |  the masthead |  feedback |  work for us

 © 2000 - 2005 Phoenix Media Communications Group