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Friday, February 07, 2003
More on corporate tax
Lombardi has a detailed
analysis of corporate tax breaks in this week's Phoenix, which
hit the stands yesterday. Like the Globe's Steve
Bailey, Lombardi relied on
the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, formerly the Tax Equity
Alliance for Massachusetts. Evidently Jim St. George got tired of
boneheaded reporters using "of" instead of "for."
posted at 10:30 AM |
What does this mean? An account
in today's Globe on Governor Mitt Romney's appearance at the
filthy PG&E power plant in Salem includes this
''If the choice is between
dirty power plants or protecting the health of the people of
Massachusetts, there is no choice in my mind. I will always come
down on the side of public health,'' Romney said to an audience
that, according to several accounts, tried to overpower him
"According to several accounts"?
That suggests the reporter, David Arnold, was not actually there.
Elsewhere, though, Arnold forthrightly asserts that "several dozen
plant workers tried to shout him down" and that plant opponent Lori
Ehrlich "was halfway through her remarks when opponents drowned her
So which was it? Not a major
matter, but I'd say a clarification is in order.
left no doubt that at least one of its reporters was on the scene,
although the Salem confrontation is awkwardly folded in to an account
of the previous day's near-wrestling
match between Romney
spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom and North Adams mayor John
At the time of this posting, the
News has not yet posted
its account online, but it should be there by this
posted at 9:56 AM |
Here's where all the money
went. Excellent Steve Bailey column in today's Globe in
which he argues that it's time to take back some of the hundreds of
millions of dollars in corporate-tax
giveaways that were waved
through the State House during the 1990s. A sickening
corporate income tax has fallen from more than 16 percent of total
state tax revenue in 1968 to just 4 percent in 2002. The sales and
the corporate taxes generated roughly the same revenue in 1968;
today the sales tax amounts to six times the corporate income tax.
The personal income tax, which generated about twice the corporate
tax three decades ago, today yields 13 times the corporate tax.
The Revenue Department estimated last February that eight changes
in the corporate tax law to the Raytheons, Fidelitys, and others
will reduce state revenue by $382 million next fiscal year.
Bailey reports that Governor Mitt
Romney is off to a better start in closing some of these loopholes
than one might have suspected, having submitted proposals that would
bring in $130 million to $180 million a year if they're passed by the
here (PDF file) for the
executive summary of the report by the Massachusetts
Budget and Policy Center on
which Bailey based some of his findings.
posted at 9:56 AM |
Correction. Several readers
have e-mailed me to let me know that the
warning voters that mean old Harry Truman wanted to outlaw lynchin'
was not the official 1948 Democratic ballot, but, rather, a
sample ballot sent out that year by the Mississippi Democratic Party
(which amounts to almost but not quite the same thing). A
look confirms that, yes,
they're right and I was wrong.
posted at 9:54 AM |
Thursday, February 06, 2003
A sobering and depressing moment
of truth. Cheer up. At least now there will be new material for
Your War On.
It wasn't a surprise that Secretary
of State Colin Powell showed the UN devastating evidence that Iraq
has biological and chemical weapons, and is working on getting nukes as well. Nor was it a surprise that he
showed the Iraqis are not cooperating with UN weapons inspections. So
what was the surprise? This: that even in the midst of inspections,
Saddam Hussein is moving his weapons around, and continues to enhance
his capability to build and possibly use them.
Count me among those who had
believed the inspections themselves -- combined with the two no-fly
zones and continued or even tougher sanctions -- could keep Saddam
contained, an option that is far preferable than war. But after
yesterday, how can anyone reasonably hold to that position?
Especially when the evidence is coming from Powell, the most
respected of President Bush's foreign-policy team, a sophisticated
internationalist who has done much to keep the White House hotheads
from going to war.
Let's be grown-up about this, shall
we? Powell isn't lying. If he wanted to, he could resign on principle
right now and either lead a comfortable retirement -- or win the 2004
Democratic presidential nomination by acclamation. The audiotape
wasn't doctored, the photos weren't "cartoons," as one of Saddam's
thugs charged yesterday. This is real, and Powell obviously believes
the time has come to do something about it.
The lead editorials in today's
New York Times and Boston Globe -- two leading antiwar
voices -- took me by surprise today, mainly because it was the
Times that was flaccid and vague, and the Globe that
articulated just the right tough-minded liberal response. While
acknowledging the power of Powell's presentation, the
"President Bush should continue to let diplomacy work," and "Iraq
still has a chance to change course." Its only nod to the possibility
that military confrontation might be necessary was the last sentence:
"Because the consequences of war are so terrible, and the cost of
rebuilding Iraq so great, the United States cannot afford to confront
Iraq without broad international support."
didn't so much take an opposite position from the Times as
argue it in a sharper, more realistic context -- and note how much
more effective Powell was than the White House's "fitful diplomacy,
its arrogance, and its blunderbuss rhetoric." Although the
Globe stressed that the administration still needs to use the
remaining days and weeks to build as broad a coalition as it can, the
editorial only sees three options for Iraq: a coup, exile for Saddam,
Pardon the long excerpt, but here
the Globe gets it exactly right:
So it can be stipulated
that the Iraqi people, the region, and the world would be a
better, safer, more humane place with Saddam disarmed or out of
power. The question is how to effect such an outcome without
unleashing the furies of troubles that could quickly follow
Chief among these risks: an
eruption of destabilizing violence in the rest of the Middle East;
the recruitment of fresh terrorists enraged by what they may
choose to see as a war on Islam; high military and civilian
casualties among Iraqis and Americans and their allies; and a
murky future for a post-Saddam Iraq involving indefinite
occupation by the United States, a descent into tribal
factionalism, or even anarchy.
Here is where President Bush
still owes the American people a fuller, more credible
presentation -- to prove to our allies and ourselves that these
risks can be minimized to the point where they are lower than the
risks of allowing Saddam Hussein to remain in power.
This is what I, as an American
citizen, worry about the most. Who wouldn't want to see Saddam out of
power, the Iraqi people liberated, and their country governed by a
more democratic regime that respects human rights? Unfortunately,
with reports that the Pentagon may open the war by flattening
Bagdhad and killing everyone in it,
my fear is that we'll be doing little more than causing intense human
suffering and inspiring a new generation of terrorism.
Friedman's column in
yesterday's Times is worth reading on the difference between
quick victory, which is virtually assured, and long-term success,
which is anything but.
I trust Colin Powell. I worry about
the rest of the administration. Now we are reaching the point where
ordinary citizens can do little more than cross their fingers and
hope for the best.
posted at 9:50 AM |
Wednesday, February 05, 2003
Joan Vennochi responds. The
Boston Globe columnist sends along this e-mail to defend her
February 4 column on John Kerry, which I
criticized earlier today.
Here it is, unedited. Try getting this kind of action from the
Globe's letters-to-the-editor section!
Dan: Why hide behind
Salon.com to criticize my column?
However you want to do it, here
is my response to you, Salon.com, or anyone else:
There was nothing silly or
frivolous about my column of Feb. 4.
From where I sit, the vehemence
behind the effort to undercut it shows real nervousness from
Kerry's campaign staff about what tough journalistic scrutiny will
ultimately reveal about their candidate. As far as the Boston
Globe's recent excellent reporting on Kerry's heritage, the
campaign knows ethnicity isn't the real issue here: honesty
My column repeated what many
others have observed. John Kerry is mysterious, aloof, hard to pin
down, both politically and personally.
It spoke primarily from the
local perspective: Sure, he may have mumbled something to John
McLaughlin in 1993 about a grandmother who converted from Judaism
to Catholicism, but that certainly has not been part of his local
In Massachusetts, we know him
best, don't we? As it turns out, we really don't know him at
When you think of all the
profiles that have been written about the man over the last 15
years, by local and national political reporters, it is quite
obvious that he did not routinely present the full picture of who
he is. Before you or anyone else starts accusing me of
anti-Semitism, let me stress that I am not making any value
judgment about the "full picture." I am simply saying that in the
past, he made no real effort to set the record straight. Only now,
as a presidential candidate, is he visiting synagogues in
Some may consider that political
expediency; others might call it personal disingenuousness. Either
way, it's fair game for commentary about a man who wants so badly
to be president.
And by the way, if I were Joe
Klein, I'd be feeling a little burned right now. Kerry unburdened
himself about a lot - but obviously, not about
Just two clarifications for the
record: (1) I'm not hiding behind Salon's Joe Conason. I think
he makes some good points, but I am genuinely not as exercised by
Vennochi's column as he was; (2) Kerry's campaign staff may indeed be
nervous, but I've had no contact with the campaign.
posted at 11:28 AM |
John Kerry -- the Gore of
2004? I took a pass on criticizing Joan
Vennochi's column in
yesterday's Globe, in which she suggested that recent
revelations about John Kerry's Jewish roots -- which, by her own
accounting, he discussed publicly as far back as 1993 -- as well as
longstanding confusion over whether or not he's part-Irish (he isn't)
-- show that, in "a most literal sense, John Kerry doesn't know who
Well, Joe Conason didn't let it go.
her have it in his
Salon weblog, calling her piece "an unusually silly column"
that may be "a harbinger of shallow journalism ahead."
Now, one half-baked column from a
generally reliable pundit isn't going to sink Kerry, but there have
been signs that some elements of the media will attempt to turn him
into the Al Gore of 2004 -- that is, a craven opportunist who shifts
with the breeze and will do anything to get elected. Bob Somerby,
Howler website has
documented in exhaustive detail how the media helped sink Gore with
false stories such as his nonexistent claim that he'd "invented" the
Internet, first wrote about the
Kerry-Gore parallels last
There's an additional danger, too,
that when Kerry really does act cravenly -- such as by
attempting to have it both
ways on Iraq (free
registration to the New Republic's website required) -- it
will fit into the pre-existing template of his supposed character
flaws and be amplified beyond all reason. I mean, I wish he hadn't
voted for the Iraq war resolution, but his subsequent critique of
President Bush's Middle East policy has been typical Kerry: smart,
sophisticated, and nuanced.
Many years ago, the great political
impersonator David Frye made an album in which Hubert Humphrey is
heard pandering, "I was Jewish once myself!" That's not Kerry. Kerry
is a solid senator whose reserved, formal manner is an awkward fit
with today's dumbed-down, user-friendly brand of politics. Character
is important, but there is no evidence that lack of it is one of
posted at 9:50 AM |
Globe announced today that deputy managing editor
Canellos, who's run the
paper's local coverage for the past four years, will replace David
Shribman (the new executive editor of the Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette) as Washington bureau chief.
Assessing the paper's local
coverage is like trying to get your hands around a big, greasy eel.
It's the heart of the paper, yet it also seems to be the hardest for
an editor to make his or her mark. Canellos was an improvement over
his predecessor, Teresa Hanafin, and he brought in some excellent
young talent. He deserves credit for the creation of the Sunday
section. And he successfully made the transition from the Matt Storin
era to the Marty Baron regime.
Still, he'll probably look back on
his time as metro editor the way some of his predecessors do: as an
ordeal that he survived.
posted at 9:49 AM |
A whole Lott of hate. Is
this why Trent Lott waxed nostalgic over Strom Thurmond's 1948
presidential campaign? Phoenix publisher Stephen Mindich has
been passing around a link to the 1948 Democratic ballot in
Mississippi. Not to give it away -- you
should see for yourself --
but note that Democratic voters are warned that if they fail to vote
for Thurmond, then Harry Truman and the rest of those "vicious"
northern liberals will outlaw ... lynching. (Update: On February 7 I posted a correction noting that the document was a sample ballot sent out by the Mississippi Democratic Party that year, and not the official ballot.)
posted at 9:49 AM |
Tuesday, February 04, 2003
Indigestion. Today's Wall
Street Journal front-pager on New York Times Company chairman
Arthur Sulzberger Jr. begins with an anecdote about his removal of
Boston Globe publisher Ben Taylor in July 1999. (If you're a
WSJ.com subscriber, you can read
it here.) Sulzberger tells
the Journal that he scheduled a meeting with Taylor at the
Four Seasons to express his unhappiness with the Globe's
financial performance, and to extricate him from the publisher's
Writes Journal reporter
Matthew Rose: "Early in the meal, Mr. Sulzberger delivered the news
that Mr. Taylor was fired. They left without eating. Mr. Sulzberger
says he 'learned a lesson' about letting people go: 'Don't do it over
Here's what I wrote at the time
demise of Ben Taylor, who
today is executive editor of the American Prospect. And thanks
Cod Media, where I learned
about the Sulzberger story a few hours before I might have gone
posted at 9:59 AM |
The space shuttle
reconsidered. The debate over whether the space-shuttle program
should continue is in full-throated cry. Gregg
Easterbrook has an
exceptionally smart, and extremely negative, take in this week's
Time magazine. He writes:
For 20 years, the American
space program has been wedded to a space-shuttle system that is
too expensive, too risky, too big for most of the ways it is used,
with budgets that suck up funds that could be invested in a modern
system that would make space flight cheaper and safer. The space
shuttle is impressive in technical terms, but in financial terms
and safety terms no project has done more harm to space
Easterbrook recently established his
credentials as a
leading critic of SUVs.
With space and land taken care of, I can only assume his next stop is
the briny deep.
posted at 9:59 AM |
Museums, night life, and the
Central Artery. On a day when the papers are reporting that Mitt
Romney's team conducted the proverbial nationwide search before
Kerry Healey hack for a
$55,000-a-year deputy lawyer's job (part of the state's "core
mission," no doubt), and that House Speaker Tom Finneran is trying to
sneak through a pay raise for his top lieutenants (Globe
Herald coverage here),
there is good news report as well.
The Globe's Tom Palmer
writes that two groups are proposing museums
for the Central Artery greenway,
raising hopes -- at least my hopes -- that misguided plans to
turn it into one big park will be toned down or even scuttled. I'm
particularly intrigued by the proposed Boston
Historical Museum, which
would fill a long-overlooked need.
What's crucial is that the greenway
have some buildings and some life, and that it attract people down
there 12 months a year, during the evening as well as the day. Those
well-intentioned nature advocates seem to forget that this is Boston,
not San Diego, and that the weather makes a park attractive only five
or six months a year.
Moreover, too much green space will
turn the former Central Artery land into a deserted, inhospitable
place at night (except to the homeless), making an after-hours
excursion about as enticing as a take-your-life-into-your-hands jaunt
through the Boston Common.
If you build, people will come.
posted at 9:58 AM |
Monday, February 03, 2003
Thoughts on the shuttle
disasters, then and now. On the day that the Challenger
blew up in 1986, my wife and I just happened to be wandering through
the TV department of the Lechmere at the Liberty Tree Mall. We didn't
see it live, but we did watch those first terrible moments replayed
over and over on several dozen television sets, big and small, an
awful, surreal experience.
As I recall, WCVB-TV (Channel 5)
had its science correspondent, Dr. Michael Guillen, on the air within
minutes. I knew Guillen slightly because he was either going out with
or had already married (I can't remember which) a woman with whom I
worked at the time. These days, of course, he's better known as the
former ABC News science reporter who was going to test the claims of
the cloning cult, but who backed off when it became obvious that it
was a hoax.
This time it couldn't have been
more different. I was at a day-long scouting event with my son, and
didn't even hear about the loss of the Columbia until a good
hour after it had taken place. We kept hearing more in dribs and
drabs throughout the day, but it wasn't until late afternoon that I
could see it for myself.
It's different in a much broader
way, too. With the Challenger, we experienced a lengthy period
of national mourning. Space travel was already becoming routine, but
these days the space program borders on the obscure. In 1986, there
was a celebrity on board, New Hampshire teacher Christa McAuliffe. In
2003, the crew was virtually unknown except for Israeli Air Force
colonel Ilan Ramon, a hero in his own country but anonymous in the US
until his death.
On CNN last night, anchor Aaron
Brown choked up for a moment after a particularly emotional report --
a perfectly appropriate reaction, obviously. But at the risk of
sounding disrespectful, I suspect that this story -- barring any
startling news about the cause of the explosion -- doesn't have the
legs of the story that played out more than 16 years ago.
The space program is so peripheral
to the culture these days that even when a shuttle mission is taking
place, most of us are unaware of it. That takes nothing away from the
courage and dedication of the seven astronauts who were killed, or of
the others who will take their place. It just is.
posted at 10:06 AM |
Headline of the day. "Bush
Isn't Yet Among the Great Ones" -- the Boston Herald's
headline for an Ann McFeatters column in which she argues that it's
just a little too soon to put George W. Bush in the same category as
Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. (No link available.) As
OpinionJournal.com's "Best of the Web" would label it: "You Don't
posted at 10:06 AM |
High and deep. John Farrell
cute video of his father,
retired Boston Globe columnist David Farrell, and his sister,
Bridget, playing in the midst of the Blizzard of 1978.
posted at 10:05 AM |
Sunday, February 02, 2003
A kinder, gentler war plan.
It may go unnoticed on this national and international day of
mourning for the
But today's New
York Times carries a
detailed report by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker -- which surely
would have been on the front page on any other day -- that is a
transparent attempt by the Pentagon to knock down the January 24
News exclusive about
and Awe." That's the code
name for a war plan -- currently in effect, according to CBS's David
Martin -- to destroy Baghdad, and damn close to everyone in it, in an
attempt to intimidate the Iraqi army into surrendering.
What's interesting and unusual is
that both reports are based largely on interviews with on-the-record
sources -- not exactly standard operating procedure in these kinds of
turf wars; that each offers essentially the same details, yet adopts
an entirely different spin; and that the phrase "Shock and Awe"
appears nowhere in the Times report.
CBS NEWS: If the Pentagon
sticks to its current war plan, one day in March the Air Force and
Navy will launch between 300 and 400 cruise missiles at targets in
Iraq. As CBS News Correspondent David Martin reports, this is more
than number that were launched during the entire 40 days of the
first Gulf War.
On the second day, the plan
calls for launching another 300 to 400 cruise missiles.
"There will not be a safe place
in Baghdad," said one Pentagon official who has been briefed on
NY TIMES: The Pentagon's war
plan for Iraq calls for unleashing 3,000 precision-guided bombs
and missiles in the first 48 hours of the opening air campaign, an
effort intended to stagger and isolate the Iraqi military and
quickly pave the way for a ground attack to topple a government in
The initial bombardment would
use 10 times the number of precision-guided weapons fired in the
first two days of the Persian Gulf war of 1991, and the targets
would be air defenses, political and military headquarters,
communications facilities and suspected chemical and biological
delivery systems, military and other Pentagon officials
Having set the scene, the
CBS NEWS: The battle plan
is based on a concept developed at the National Defense
University. It's called "Shock and Awe" and it focuses on the
psychological destruction of the enemy's will to fight rather than
the physical destruction of his military forces.
"We want them to quit. We want
them not to fight," says Harlan Ullman, one of the authors of the
Shock and Awe concept which relies on large numbers of precision
"So that you have this
simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at
Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but in minutes," says
NY TIMES: The air war would be
significant for what the targets will not be as much as for what
they will be. Because the United States wants to help rebuild Iraq
quickly after any conflict, the air campaign is intended to
limit damage to Iraqi infrastructure and to minimize civilian
"The challenges in this air
campaign will be to achieve certain military and psychological
effects at the outset, but have as much of the infrastructure
existing when it's over," said Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman, a former
Air Force chief of staff who is a member of the Defense Policy
Board, a panel that advises Defense Secretary Donald H.
In other words, Ullman's Hiroshima
analogy has now given way to General Fogleman's assertion that the
plan is to keep civilian deaths to a minimum.
CBS NEWS: "You're sitting
in Baghdad and all of a sudden you're the general and 30 of your
division headquarters have been wiped out. You also take the city
down. By that I mean you get rid of their power, water. In
2,3,4,5 days they are physically, emotionally and psychologically
exhausted," Ullman tells Martin.
NY TIMES: [T]he air
campaign would shut down but not destroy important city
services, like water and electricity, so they could more
easily be restarted to minimize public health problems.
This is a difference in emphasis.
Under both scenarios, Bagdhad's water and power facilities would be
targeted. The Times reports that this will be
accomplished in such a way that the facilities can go back online
fairly soon. CBS doesn't really address that issue, leaving the
impression that they'll be flattened.
So which is it? I suspect that
Ullman was speaking out of turn -- especially with his shockingly
immoral Hiroshima comparison -- and that Fogleman was dispatched to
clean up the mess.
Here's the problem. The Pentagon's
aim may be something very much like what the Times is
reporting. But that assumes what may prove to be an unattainable
degree of precision. The goal may not be "Shock and Awe," but that
may be the result.
posted at 11:20 AM |
Vow of poverty. The
quote of the day comes from
Gerald Levin, the former chairman of AOL Time Warner, also in today's
Mr. Levin, 63, will
receive $1 million a year from AOL Time Warner until 2005. His
pension, earned over 30 years, will amount to about $350,000
annually, less than the multimillion-dollar payouts of many chief
executives. Mr. Levin said he was not complaining. "My needs are
small," he said. "I'll be O.K."
posted at 11:19 AM |
MEDIA LOG ARCHIVES
Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.