Saturday, March 26, 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, December 20, 2002

Nyhan calls Romney's bluff. Retired Globe columnist David Nyhan takes a look at Mitt Romney's suddenly inoperative promise to steer the state through the budget crisis without raising taxes or cutting services in any significant way. Nyhan's column appeared in yesterday's Salem News; you can try following this link, although if past practice is any guide, it will expire long before the end of the day.

Nyhan goes easier on Romney than he should, given that the parameters of the current crisis were well-known before Election Day. You could even argue that Romney won because he reassured voters that they had nothing to worry about while his opponent, Shannon O'Brien, was somewhat more honest. (I think Romney would have won anyway, but maybe by a smaller margin.)

Still, Nyhan is unsparing in reminding readers that Romney was claiming a $1 billion deficit when everyone else was using a figure of $2 billion -- a number that Romney has now embraced -- so that he could mouth his phony promise to eliminate that deficit through reorganization. No one, including the highly credible Massachusetts Taxpayers Association, believes Romney can save anywhere near that much without slashing services. Nyhan also notes that the deficit was fed in large measure by $4 billion in tax breaks for the affluent during the Weld/Cellucci/Swift years. Nyhan writes:

Mitt had to lowball the deficit during the campaign if he was to have any credibility at all with his no-new-taxes approach. He even went so far as to vow to roll back the $1 billion in new/old taxes that the Legislature forced upon acting Gov. Swift in facing up to the deficit avalanche swooping down on the state.

But if Mitt is to have any future in national politics as a Republican candidate for president, vice president, or the Bush cabinet, he has to go the no-new-taxes route.

Nyhan's conclusion: "So what does all this amount to? Politics as usual, I'm afraid. Yep, it's even worse than we thought."

And by the way, Dave, let's make a deal: get your son or one of his friends to put together a website collecting your columns so that they don't disappear into the ether within a few hours of their being posted, and I promise to add a link somewhere.

posted at 8:58 AM | link

Thursday, December 19, 2002

NU J-school director whacks Buckingham. Steve Burgard, the director of Northeastern University's School of Journalism and a former editorial-board member at the Los Angeles Times, e-mails Media Log on an additional reason why Virginia Buckingham would be a poor choice as the Herald's deputy editorial-page editor:

The Boston Globe has reported that Virginia Buckingham, a former head of the Massachusetts Port Authority, has been talking to the Boston Herald about becoming deputy editorial page editor. Let's hope that the lunch meeting she was spotted having with Rachelle Cohen, the editorial page editor, was that and only that. Lunch.

To see why having Buckingham as number two of one of the city's major daily editorial boards is a bad idea, look no further than today's (Dec. 19) Herald. In a story headlined "Logan hit hardest post 9/11," the newspaper reports on a study that found that Logan International Airport lost almost a quarter of its flights since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Massport's spokesman was quoted as citing drastic agency actions such as cutting budget, laying off 15 percent of its work force and delaying capital projects.

Readers look to major editorial pages to make sense of important stories like this. How much stock could they put in an institutional voice spoken by a former political appointee whose fingerprints were all over Massport and its troubles?

Editorial pages can and should have a point of view, but they will cheat readers of clear, independent thinking if they are too politically connected or ideologically rigid. Make no mistake either about the clout inherent in a deputy editor's position. At major newspapers, deputies exercise enormous influence over the daily editorial line, and when the boss is out of the office, they often set it.

Burgard's letter has already been posted by Romenesko, too. The Globe item described Buckingham as a "shoo-in." But you've got to wonder if the opposition of someone as respected as Burgard might make Cohen and publisher Pat Purcell pause.

posted at 11:35 AM | link

Larry and Rummy, kissy-kissy. Here's my favorite exchange from Larry King's on-his-knees interview last night with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld:

KING: Morale is high?

RUMSFELD: Excellent, just excellent.

Of course, it's too easy to make fun of King. You can't deny that there's value in letting someone like Rumsfeld talk unimpeded for the better part of an hour. You might even learn more than you would if an interviewer with an agenda kept trying to steer the interview in his direction. Given Rumsfeld's refusal to answer any questions about the inner workings of the administration, it's easy to see how someone other than easy-going Larry would have turned the entire hour into a testy exchange over the Defense secretary's penchant for secrecy. Okay, but he's still not going to answer the question.

But even given King's low standards, I was nevertheless stunned that he failed to ask about the single biggest Rumsfeld story of the week. Veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh has a piece in this week's New Yorker on Rumsfeld's controversial efforts to push the military into carrying out smaller, faster operations aimed at taking out terrorist cells -- operations that his critics call "assassinations."

Hersh is often criticized for becoming a prisoner of his sources, but this piece is better balanced than some of his previous efforts. I came away impressed with how dangerous it is to carry out operations like the recent missile attack in Yemen, where Al Qaeda leader Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi and five other men were killed. Hersh's sources make it clear that Rumsfeld risks (a) making mistakes and killing innocent noncombatants and (b) elevating assassination to the status of a legitimate tool of warcraft that can just as easily be used against the US.

Yet Hersh also takes note of the danger of not acting as well. He quotes a "Pentagon adviser" on Rumsfeld's frustrations in dealing with his cautious -- overly cautious? -- generals: "The idea of not wanting to go after the senior leadership of a paramilitary group that has declared war on you is such a perversion that it's mind-boggling. The problem of a peacetime military is that they cannot conceive of doing what they are paid to do. 'Going after the leadership of Al Qaeda -- that's a serious problem.' My God!"

It's an important and fascinating look at one of the most momentous debates going on inside our government, and Larry had an hour to interview one of the principals. Too bad he didn't ask him about it.

posted at 8:39 AM | link

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

A Bulger defender checks in. The Dorchester Reporter's Bill Forry finds some things to like and some things to object to in my recent commentary on UMass president Bill Bulger's refusal to testify before the Burton committee. (Click here, here and here for what I wrote.) Forry doesn't have a whole lot of nice things to say about the rest of the media regarding the Bulger Chronicles, either, except for Globe columnists Brian McGrory and Tom Oliphant. Worth a read.

posted at 1:29 PM | link

Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus. The Globe reports this morning that the Herald is wooing former Massport director Virginia Buckingham to be its deputy editorial-page editor. Why? I am not a Buckingham-basher. Yes, she got her last job through political connections, but so did all of her predecessors, and she was more professional and diligent than many of them. To blame her for 9/11 is ludicrous. But her only published piece that I'm aware of was a self-pitying essay for the Globe's Sunday magazine last fall. And if she has any ideological convictions other than being a Republican, she's done a good job of hiding them.

For some reason, the Herald has never seemed willing to turn its editorial and op-ed pages into a smart, conservative alternative to the Globe. Of the local columnists who write for those pages now, Wayne Woodlief and Tom Keane aren't conservatives, and Beverly Beckham belongs in the lifestyle section. The departed Don Feder was a conservative, but his screeds were boring, lazy, and predictable. If publisher Pat Purcell really wants to give the Globe a run for its money in the pundit department, he should give editorial-page editor Shelly Cohen the budget to expand from two pages a day to four (giving her approximately the same square footage as the Globe) and to sign up some bright new columnists.

Hiring Buckingham sounds like a sideways move -- and an expensive one at that.

posted at 9:57 AM | link

You've got Cosmo. Jay Fitzgerald's Hub Blog beat me to it (I overslept), but Boston Herald business columnist Cosmo Macero has unveiled a personal website and a weblog. No doubt Macero will make it worthwhile. But it's unusual, and a little dangerous, for a newspaper staffer to write a blog that's not connected to his newspaper's website.

Earlier this year, the Houston Chronicle fired Steve Olafson for his extracurricular blogging activities (but not before reportedly being told to "take the fucking site down"). Brit commentator Andrew Orlowski referred to Olafson's firing as an example of "America's constipated 'journalism ethics.'"

Be careful, Cosmo. It can get ugly out here in Blogland.

posted at 9:56 AM | link

Monday, December 16, 2002

Now, Kerry versus Lieberman. The New Republic's Ryan Lizza, in a dispatch today for TNR Online, makes the case that Joe Lieberman will be the chief beneficiary of Al Gore's decision not to run for president in 2004. Of course, Lieberman's right-of-center Democratic Leadership Council credentials make him a favorite of TNR. In the current print edition, editor Peter Beinart actually urges Lieberman to run against Gore, a personal friend of the magazine's editor-in-chief and chairman, Marty Peretz.

Still, Lizza is right. What Gore may have guaranteed is a showdown between John Kerry and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party versus Lieberman, the best hope of the moderates. With a primary schedule even more front-loaded than 2000's, there will be a huge premium on candidates who are already well-known and who can raise vast amounts of money before the first vote is cast. No dark horses need apply. Sorry, Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, Tom Daschle, John Edwards, etc., etc. (Although John Ellis, interestingly, sees it as Lieberman-Gephardt.)

The New Yorker has already published long profiles of Kerry (marred by a rare lapse by writer Joe Klein, as reported by the Globe's Alex Beam) and Lieberman (by Jeffrey Toobin). Both pieces were positive, to say the least. But you can't understand the candidates unless you first understand how they see themselves, before the political and media spinners start ripping them apart. A plea to editor David Remnick: put the pieces online!

posted at 10:07 AM | link

Bored pundits, outraged public. All-purpose quote machine Larry Sabato makes some smart observations about Trent Lott on Newsweek's website. The most important is that the media are so bored and cynical that they had to be reminded by the public that Lott's racist remarks were truly outrageous. Says Sabato:

Public officials frequently say things that are out of the box and those who are covering it can slough it off and say, "there he goes again." Average people have a different, much more human reaction which is to take a more genuine offense.

David Brooks's contribution to the Newsweek package is an assertion that Republicans really don't wax nostalgic about cross-burnings and segregation when they get together and no one else is around. I'm sure that's true of Brooks's well-educated neoconservative crowd. But the question remains: what do Southern Republicans such as Lott talk about among themselves? Lott's comments are racist enough even when the cameras are rolling.

The problem with the Republican Party today is not that it is racist -- the genuine outrage over Lott's remarks expressed by George W. Bush and a range of conservative commentators is evidence of that. The problem is that a cadre of hardcore racists make up a small but important part of the Republican coalition.

Put it this way: the reason that 95 percent of African-Americans routinely vote for Democratic presidential candidates is not because they don't want a tax cut.

posted at 10:07 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