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.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Salon and Apple -- the perfect match! The cash-starved webzine Salon has pulled out of these crises before, but you've got to figure that -- one of these times -- it won't. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, David Talbot and company may run out of money by the end of the month after running up $81 million in losses during their nearly seven years of publication.

If Salon actually, finally fails, it would leave rival Slate as the only big general-interest webzine that's not tied to a larger media empire. Incredible. A half-dozen years ago, many people (okay, me too), were predicting that by now there would be dozens if not hundreds of such ventures.

Slate prospers the old-fashioned way: as a part of the Microsoft empire, it doesn't have to worry about making money. Indeed, such magazines as the New Yorker, the New Republic, the Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, and the like all lose money every year or at least most years.

So let me drag out an idea I first floated a couple of years ago, when it first became clear that Salon was not going to make everyone rich: talk Apple Computer into acquiring its assets, and let the Salon-Slate competition continue, this time as a proxy for the longstanding Apple-Microsoft war.

Publishing Salon may be too expensive for Talbot, but it would be pocket change for Steve Jobs. And each webzine, culturally, is the perfect match: Salon is hip, sexy, and alternative, much like Apple; Slate is a little geeky, has a penchant for telling you what you ought to think, and reaches a lot more people, just like Microsoft.

Is this a match made in heaven or what?

posted at 9:10 PM | link

Goodbye, Dolly. What killed Dolly? Premature aging related to her unusual origin as a clone? Or just one of those things? If you read this morning's Boston Globe and New York Times, you're still wondering.

According to the Globe piece -- which carries Anne Barnard's byline, but which included reporting by staff writer Gareth Cook as well as wire-service material -- cloning almost certainly had something to do with the famous sheep's death at the age of six, "well short of the normal 11- to 16-year sheep lifespan." The report notes that Dolly "grew obese, developed arthritis, and showed signs of premature aging" during her brief but celebrated life.

Yet the Times' Gina Kolata reports almost exactly the opposite, writing that sheep that are kept indoors, as Dolly was, may have about half the 11- to 12-year life expectancy of those allowed to roam in pastures; that her arthritis was not unusual for a sheep allowed to live past the typical nine-month slaughtering age; and that her obesity was well under control. Kolata writes:

Her illness and death, Dr. [Ian] Wilmut [one of the scientists who helped create Dolly] said, probably had nothing to do with the fact that she was a clone. "It could equally well have happened if she was not a clone," he said.

So which is it? This piece, by James Meek in the Guardian, strongly suggests that cloning did, indeed, cause Dolly to age prematurely, and that her true biological age might even have been 11 -- the six years since she had been born plus the six-year age of the cell from which she was cloned.

Needless to say, the full truth won't be known for some time to come.

posted at 12:14 PM | link

Friday, February 14, 2003

And guess what? They're against us. A few days ago I was listening to a radio talk show -- I don't remember which one, but it was probably Bill O'Reilly's or Jay Severin's -- when a caller began to talk about the Bush Doctrine, which he defined as, "You're either with us or against us." The caller was being neither ironic nor sarcastic; indeed, it was clear that he was an admirer of the president's, and he spoke of the Bush Doctrine in the same reverential tones that earlier generations may have reserved for, say, the Monroe Doctrine.

The front page of today's New York Times shows where the Bush Doctrine has gotten us so far in regard to the war with Iraq. Our rift with Europe is deep and growing deeper. And, at home, a new Times/CBS poll shows that a broad expanse of the American public will support war only with a favorable vote of the UN Security Council, an uncertain prospect, needless to say. No doubt many will point to today's Times as just another example of Rainesian liberal bias. But I think it's evidence of far deeper problems.

Like many mainstream liberals, I've been on the fence about this war, more against it than for it, but nagged by the sense that something has to be done about Saddam Hussein's arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, and of his obvious lust to develop nuclear weapons as well. Besides, Saddam presides over one of the cruelest regimes in the world. Would't his overthrow advance liberal goals? Even without embracing the more pie-in-the-sky scenarios of some of Bush's advisers?

Well, yes. But George W. Bush's very approach -- you're either with us or against us -- makes it impossible for me to say, "Okay, Mr. President, go ahead." He makes it sound so simple, and it's never that simple. And what about "Shock and Awe," the Pentagon war plan that may or may not call for the Hiroshima-style flattening of Baghdad during the war's opening days? Not going to win too many hearts and minds that way.

Earlier this week a friend of mine asked whether I was starting to lean toward war. I replied that I was still hoping it could be avoided. And we wondered: what would Bill Clinton have done? We both agreed that, with his masterful touch with the Europeans, the rift that Bush has helped create would be nonexistent.

Of course, there's a chance that Clinton would have smoothed over the differences by not being tough enough. Indeed, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer today blames all the troubles in the world on Clinton's eight years of inaction. But there was no national consensus during the Clinton years for the kind of effort that would have been needed to combat international terrorism in a comprehensive way. As they say, 9/11 changed everything.

We can't be sure that Clinton would have been any more successful than Bush. But given the results that the bullying Bush Doctrine have brought so far, it would be interesting to see how different things might be with some Clinton-style alliance-building instead.

posted at 10:13 AM | link

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Two more Kerry pieces. Harold Meyerson has a good piece in the American Prospect on why John Kerry is well-positioned to win the Democratic nomination for president. A bit early, isn't, Harold? But his process-of-elimination logic is hard to argue with: Gephardt's got too much baggage, Lieberman is too conservative, Dean is too obscure (and perhaps too dovish even for Democratic activists), and Edwards is too young. The New Republic's Ryan Lizza offers a more negative take on Kerry, on the hazards of being the early frontrunner.

posted at 2:26 PM | link

The visions that hawks dream of. Nicholas Lemann has an important piece in the New Yorker this week on the cock-eyed optimists who occupy the high-middle layers of the Bush administration. Their hope: that war with Iraq will result in a new, semi-democratic state that will lead to significant, pro-Western change throughout the Middle East.

Lemann talks with Douglas Feith and Stephen Cambone, both of whom are leading hawks in the Department of Defense. Feith is more expansive than Cambone, and this exchange with Lemann is particularly instructive regarding the hawks' thinking:

I asked Feith whether the United States, if it goes to war, would be doing so partly because it wants to change the Middle East as a whole. "Perhaps I should put it this way," he said. "Would anybody be thinking about using military power in Iraq in order to do a political experiment in Iraq in the hope that it would have positive political spillover effects throughout the region? The answer is no. That's not the kind of thing that leads a country like the United States to commit the kind of military forces that we're committing to this effort -- right now, to try to make our diplomacy work, but ultimately, perhaps, if the diplomacy doesn't work, to take military action. There's no way. What we would be using military power for, if we have to, would be the goals the President has talked about, particularly the elimination of the chemical and biological weapons, and preventing Iraq from getting nuclear weapons." He paused for a moment. "Now. Once you contemplate using military force for that purpose, and you're thinking about what do you do afterward, that's when you can think that if we do things right, and if we help the Iraqis, and if the Iraqis show an ability to create a humane representative government for themselves -- will that have beneficial spillover effects on the politics of the whole region? The answer, I think, is yes."

It is a lovely vision, which is precisely why I'm so wary of it. As Lemann says of this and other post-Iraq scenarios put forth by the hawks, "It is breathtakingly ambitious and optimistic." And more to the point, it says nothing about the other possible outcomes of a US invasion: thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, and resultant cries for terrorist revenge; Saddam Hussein's using his chemical and biological weapons against US troops, as well as targets in Israel and Saudi Arabia; and a generation's worth of chaos.

During the past week, Colin Powell has done much to show that current efforts to contain Saddam are failing. And it is clear that, like it or not, this war is going to take place. It's going to take realism and humility (the latter formerly one of George W. Bush's favorite words) to get through this with as little damage to the Iraqi people and to the US as possible -- not the beautiful visions of Pentagon dreamers.

posted at 11:47 AM | link

MSNBC hits new low (until the next time). I've only heard talk-radio host Mike Savage for maybe a total of 20 minutes. But this summation, by the media-watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, strikes me as pretty much on the money (thanks to reader AS for the link). So does his own website, where you can get a taste of his hate-filled rants and enjoy a photo of him feeling up a wax figure of Barbra Streisand. So, naturally, MSNBC, currently engaged in the longest and most expensive suicide in media history, has added him to its line-up of talk-show hosts.

posted at 11:46 AM | link

A Mitt too far. Earlier this week I praised Democratic political consultant Michael Goldman for whacking Governor Mitt Romney in his Lowell Sun column. Well, yesterday, in the Salem News, Goldman went too far -- actually blasting Romney for his vow to shut down the filthy, dangerous PG&E power plant in Salem. I hereby sentence Goldman to a dozen consecutive viewings of Erin Brockovich.

posted at 11:45 AM | link

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Kerry's got cancer? Kick him again! If you're Kerry-hating Slate blogger Mickey Kaus, John Kerry's prostate-cancer operation isn't a signal that it's time to lay off. No, it's a signal to step it up. Kaus sneers at how slickly Kerry stage-managed his news conference yesterday at which he announced that he has cancer, then adds:

Kerry's prostate cancer operation "helps" him, in the unsentimental political sense, in a way it might not "help" another candidate -- namely by emphasizing to voters that he's in fact a liviing, breathing human being and not a continually trimmed and positioned semi-holographic self-creation.

Now, Kaus isn't the first pundit to make this point. In fact, Kerry joked about it himself yesterday, telling reporters that he was going to have his "aloof gland" removed. But Kaus is just so over-the-top mean that he dehumanizes the guy, and he does it on a day when Kerry's recovering from what must have been some mighty unpleasant surgery -- with, let's not forget, some might uncertain prospects as well.

posted at 5:20 PM | link

NYT v. WJS. Sorry to be feeding off Romenesko, since I assume most Media Log readers are already Romenesko junkies. But this is worth calling your attention to if you haven't seen it: a piece by former Boston Globe business columnist David Warsh on the looming national and international rivalry between the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Thought-provoking.

posted at 4:57 PM | link

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

A post in the Post. The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz includes a long quote from my "celebrities for peace" item in his online Media Notes column today (scroll down about three-quarters of the way).

posted at 12:28 PM | link

Bechtel strikes back. Romenesko has posted a link to this San Francisco Chronicle story in which the hometown heroes at Bechtel whine about the Globe's three-part series on its alleged mismanagement of the Big Dig. Says Bechtel flak Howard Menaker: "We are extremely disappointed in the article. We think it's an extreme misrepresentation of the facts and the history of the project." Whoa! Two extremes in the same quote! Must be serious.

Meanwhile, as the Globe series underscores, we just keep paying.

posted at 11:12 AM | link

"Working the refs." Seriously under the weather today, but I did want to call your attention to a longish excerpt from Eric Alterman's new book, What Liberal Media?, which appears in this week's issue of the Nation. It's been online for a few days, but I waited to read it until my copy arrived in the mailbox.

This is very smart, very good stuff. According to Alterman, the right bellows about "liberal media bias" as a tactic, as a way to get the mainstream media to bend over backwards in the interest of fairness -- thus his "working the refs" analogy.

Essentially Alterman argues (as I and others have) that though the establishment mainstream media may very well have some liberal leanings, they are suffused with strong conservative voices -- stronger, in many ways, than those of the liberals. At the same time, the conservative press -- the Fox News Channel, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Rush Limbaugh's radio show, and the like -- is influential far beyond its small numbers because it is openly, nakedly partisan on behalf of Republican and conservative causes. And there is nothing similar on the left.

I could quibble with some of Alterman's labels. Joe Klein is a neolib, not a neocon, and Michael Kelly is more of a neocon than a right-winger, although he is surely "belligerent," as Alterman notes. But Alterman also gives Kelly a well-deserved poke for tarting up the Atlantic Monthly -- "a mainstay of Boston liberalism" -- with conservative commentators (the talented but overexposed Christopher Caldwell and David Brooks leap instantly to mind). And Alterman is right on the money in labeling the loathsome Pat Robertson as "anti-American."

What Liberal Media? is an important book coming out at an ideal moment: when liberals finally, slowly, are starting to fight back against the phony charge that the media are marred by liberal bias. You can learn more by visiting Alterman's website.

posted at 10:37 AM | link

Monday, February 10, 2003

Janis Ian, lost and found. Reader DH has found Ian's column on Internet music. The Globe's website didn't list it with the editorials and op-ed columns -- but it's there, somewhere. Go figure.

posted at 1:55 PM | link

Celebs for peace II. Patrick Keaney, in his "Daily Grasshopper" blog, doesn't like my "celebrities for peace" item one little bit.

posted at 1:07 PM | link

The troubling spectacle of celebrities for peace. Last night I tuned in the Fox News Channel to watch a mini-debate on Iraq with actress and peace activist Janeane Garofalo and the hawkish Ruth Wedgewood, who's with an organization called the Committee to Liberate Iraq. The phenomenon of entertainers' passing themselves off as policy experts is enough to make one wince, and I admit I watched mainly to see if a train wreck would occur.

I was pleasantly surprised. Garofalo parried Wedgewood calmly, intelligently, and with a moderate point of view, arguing not that the United States is evil, but that war will bring unintended consequences, mainly in the form of renewed terrorist attacks. (Isn't that what last week's Orange Alert was all about?) Garofalo didn't claim to have any special knowledge beyond being an intelligent, well-informed ordinary citizen. And she managed to get her points across even though the buffoonish host, Rita Cosby, kept trying to shout her down.

The low point came when Cosby asked Garofalo if she would be willing to go to Iraq as a human shield -- a question Cosby was so proud of that she actually promo'd it earlier in the show. Garofalo, to her credit, simply sneered and said no, of course not (you idiot!).

Still, I find it hard to understand why celebrities keep doing this. Not long ago Sean Penn visited Bagdhad in the name of peace. The New York Times did a long piece on him (no longer online at the Times, but I found it here), and I was struck -- and surprised -- by how carefully he spoke, and how insistent he was on refusing to say anything that could be interpreted as helpful to Saddam Hussein. "You come here on a Friday, you leave on a Sunday, and you start throwing out flamboyant and inflammatory messages -- that doesn't seem to be of advantage to anyone," Penn said.

But that didn't stop conservatives from ripping Penn as naive or even unpatriotic. This piece on National Review Online was typical, if more well-reasoned than some I've seen.

The whole notion of celebrity peace activists is an interesting one. In the case of Garofalo and Penn, the flak they've taken from the right has been largely unfair and unjustified. But what good are they doing? Well-intentioned though they may be, they help cement the image of the antiwar movement as an idle indulgence for unserious people.

Following Colin Powell's devastating report last week, it may no longer be possible to avoid war. It doesn't help that the main antiwar voices that the public is hearing from belong to Hollywood celebrities.

posted at 9:47 AM | link

Technology's unintended consequences. The second-most-painful financial debacle of my life involved a septic system at a rental property we owned from the mid- to the late 1990s. The town of Topsfield ordered us to replace the system after it failed in the midst of a massive flood in late 1996. Rather than fight, we decided to sell the property. It cost us about $50,000 -- $10,000 in engineering fees and $40,000 for the actual system.

(Our most-painful debacle began the day that Bill Clinton and Tony Blair talked down genomics stocks, a debacle that continues.)

So I was riveted this morning by Scott Kirsner's piece in the Globe on nascent sewage-cleaning technology that could greatly reduce the size of leaching fields, replacing much of a septic system with a unit that is about half the size of a water-heater. Even more important, it could bring the cost down to somewhere in the $2000-to-$10,000 range. It's about time.

Unfortunately, though Kirsner doesn't mention it, if this technology -- being developed by a Nashua company called Ovation Products -- works, there will be an enormous unintended consequence: vast pieces of property that are currently considered unbuildable will get a second look. And efforts to control sprawl will be dealt a huge blow.

posted at 9:46 AM | link

Society's forgotten child. When I saw a column in the Globe today by Janis Ian about the music industry's overwrought crackdown on Internet music, my first instinct was to snicker. Who knew Ian was still alive? But then I read it, and realized that her current obscurity is exactly her point. Her piece is not online (guess she wouldn't sign the freelancer's agreement!), but I found a long version of the same argument here, on her website.

posted at 9:45 AM | link

When bad things happen to bad people. Tom Mashberg has a mind-boggling piece in this morning's Herald about homicidal hockey dad Thomas Junta, who's filed an appeal of his conviction for involuntary manslaughter.

According to Junta's lawyer and Mashberg's own reporting, the physician who testified at Junta's trial, Stanton Kessler, had said at a medical conference some time before the trial that the sort of injuries Junta inflicted on coach Michael Costin could have been the accidental result of "minor blows to the head," and have even been associated with a vigorous session at the chiropractor's office. Yet, at trial, Kessler testified that Costin's injuries could only have been inflicted by a vicious, savage assault.

Naturally, this information was not made available to the defense in a timely manner. If this pans out, it should serve as yet another caution that even in cases that seem open and shut, the potential for prosecutorial abuse should never be underestimated.

posted at 9:45 AM | link

The Goldman report. Democratic political consultant Michael Goldman is writing a column for the Lowell Sun these days. Yesterday, he documented the obvious: that change-agent Mitt Romney isn't changing much of anything other than the names and faces. You know where Goldman, a Robert Reich strategist last year, is coming from, but his take strikes me as pretty much on target.

posted at 9:44 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