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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 www.dankennedy.net. 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, April 04, 2003

The death of Michael Kelly. The media world was inflamed with the rumor for a good part of the morning. Now the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz confirms it: Michael Kelly, the former editor of the Atlantic Monthly, the New Republic, and National Journal, has been killed in Iraq. He is the first American journalist to die in the war.

Kelly, who had been embedded with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division while writing his weekly column for the Post, led a turbulent and colorful career. He became something of a legend in the first Gulf War, when he was a freelancer filing dispatches for the New Republic. At one point, he and another reporter commandeered a jeep and drove out into the desert, where a group of Iraqi soldiers attempted to surrender to them.

He later wrote long pieces for the New York Times Magazine, lampooning Hillary Rodham Clinton's dalliance with New Age spirituality and -- in a landmark article in mid 1994 -- wrote about Bill Clinton's reputation as a liar, an article that helped to define the flailing president just before the disastrous (for Democrats) 1994 election. From there Kelly moved to the New Yorker (where he once reportedly threatened to punch out then-fellow staffer Sidney Blumenthal), and, in 1997, returned to the New Republic, this time as the editor. [Note: Since I first posted this item, it has been brought to my attention that my memory may be faulty. Kelly ordered Blumenthal to stay away from the New Yorker's Washington office, but it's not clear whether he actually threatened him with bodily harm.]

But even though TNR had for years straddled the ideological ground between its liberal past and neoconservative leanings on welfare, race, and foreign policy, Kelly's vitriolic attacks on Clinton and, increasingly, Al Gore -- thundered forth each week in the "TRB" column -- eventually got him fired by editor-in-chief and chairman Marty Peretz, a personal friend of Gore's.

Peretz always insisted it was Kelly's anti-liberalism, not his anti-Gore-ism, that got him fired. Shortly after the incident, Peretz told me: "I'm not your quintessential liberal. But I've always had what I would call a lover's quarrel with liberalism. I made the terrible mistake of hiring an editor who brings rancor and enmity to the liberal idea."

Kelly landed on his feet quickly, being hired to edit National Journal and writing a column for the Post. And when Journal owner David Bradley purchased the venerable Atlantic Monthly, in 1999, he named Kelly to be the editor. "I have, I hope, a great appreciation and respect for what the magazine is," Kelly told me shortly after his appointment. "I believe that when an editor comes in to a magazine that existed before his arrival, the first sacred job is to respect that which is there. So what I am not contemplating is anything that would do violence to the deep-rooted identity of this magazine."

Kelly was true to his word. Although he took the comment pages of the traditionally liberal magazine in something of a rightward direction, adding writers such as David Brooks, Christopher Caldwell, and P.J. O'Rourke, he also persuaded Bradley to sink a ton of money into a vibrant new design, many extra pages, and deep (and expensive) reporting.

The Atlantic won three National Magazine Awards in 2002. Last year, it was the talk of the magazine world for its lengthy three-part series by William Langewiesche on the demolition of the World Trade Center after 9/11, which was turned into an admired if controversial book.

Kelly, a lifelong Washington resident (though he went to college at UNH and served a brief internship at the now-defunct Beverly Times -- made briefer, he once joked over coffee in the North End, because he was struggling with the concept that one is supposed to show up to work every day), enjoyed his time in Boston. He bought a big old place by the ocean in Swampscott, where he and his family staged an elaborate party every Fourth of July. He was also an iconoclastic presence in the traditionally stuffy offices of the Atlantic; at magazine events, he often held forth in an open-necked shirt, a beer in hand, the very opposite of tweedy.

Last year, Kelly stepped aside as the Atlantic's editor to become an editor-at-large, freeing him up to spend more time on his column and for assignments such as the one that cost him his life. He was a brave and curious man, and he paid for those qualities in the sands of Iraq.

Kelly's Post column established his reputation as something of a neocon, even a right-winger. He wrote with great vigor -- some might call it ranting -- and he regularly brought comfort to conservatives and inspired apoplexy in liberals. Yet Kelly's political views were quite a bit more complicated than that.

In 1999 I interviewed Kelly as part of a symposium on America in the post-impeachment era. Interestingly, Kelly expressed as much anger toward the punitive welfare-reform law that Clinton had signed as the most ardent liberal. Kelly derided Clinton as a conservative in Democratic clothing, telling me:

Apart from interest-group policies, which are largely race and cultural policies, this is a conservative president. He's a law-and-order president, he is an anti-welfare president, he is in significant ways more conservative than Ronald Reagan dared to be. Or at least more willing to sign on to conservative programs. That's one thing they can do in domestic politics. The other thing they can do is the little stuff. You know, the endless sort of nitpicking, Gore-ian ideas. We should have, what is it, a 211 number so everybody who's stuck in traffic can have a number to call

In the black sections of a city like Boston, you've got entire neighborhoods where there are no men left because they're all in jail. This is a national catastrophe of immense proportions -- a great moral, liberal cause. It's stunning the degree to which you simply never hear the administration talk about that. Nothing. Dead silence. Meanwhile, the vice president is assuring us that he's going to do something to ensure parking spaces for sport-utility vehicles in every suburb.

That's where I think they're incredibly competent -- on pure politics and identifying push-button, polled issues that appeal to the group that they understand as their core constituency. That group is not the traditional Democratic constituency. That group is highly affluent, highly educated white suburbanites, and they really do care about getting stuck in traffic jams more than they care about the 40 percent unemployment rate in Roxbury.

Clinton and his people developed a new theory of Democratic politics that makes it possible for a Democrat to be elected and re-elected to the White House and clearly makes it possible for the Democrats to win the long-term battle for majority-party status. But at what cost? It isn't actually liberalism. It is an incredibly cheap, shallow, profoundly cynical, deeply valueless emptiness. So I give him full credit for restoring the Democratic Party and Democratic liberalism, if he wants to call it that, to viability -- to use the phrase he made famous himself. But it's a pretty horrifying victory. I'm not denying the sheer political skill here, but to put it in context, all you have to think of is two words: Dick Morris. That's what it is. It works.

But it was in October 2001, just as the war in Afghanistan was getting under way, that Kelly told me something that, sadly, could serve as his epitaph.

"If you want to cover the war, and you want to do field stuff, you're best off going your own way and hoping you get lucky," Kelly said. "What makes reporters uncomfortable is that it's such a gamble" -- that is, there might be no story -- "but there's no other way to do it."

posted at 12:10 PM | link

The fire next time. The New York Times today is full of reasons why we shouldn't have gone into Iraq except as part of a broad international coalition. The military situation has improved greatly for US and British troops this week, and for that we should all be grateful. But what a hell of a mess they're going to leave behind.

The problem is simple, and it's one that was widely predicted by antiwar critics before the invasion: too many people in the Arab and Muslim world hate us. Even if you concede that we're going to some lengths to keep civilian casualties to a minimum (and we are), the images of dead and injured children and families is going to make them hate us even more.

Anyway, three things you should check out in today's Times:

  • Susan Sachs reports that the Arab media are combining images of civilian casualties with horrors from the Palestinian territories to paint a picture of "one continuous brutal assault by America and its allies on defenseless Arabs, wherever they are." The understatement of the day comes from an Egyptian observer, Abdel Moneim Said: "In the longer run, these images can breed a certain type of people, not the ones who are looking to develop our societies but those who think how to sacrifice themselves."
  • A Lebanese journalist named Rami Khouri offers a more measured view of the Arab media on the op-ed page. (Be sure to look at the graphic, too.) Still, he concedes that depictions of coalition troops as humanitarians are greatly outnumbered by "images of dead and maimed Iraqi children, parents wailing over the coffins of relatives killed by American bombings, extensive damage of Iraqi civilian buildings and Iraqi civilians being humiliated by American and British troops."
  • Perhaps most horrifying of all, Laurie Goodstein reports that US-based anti-Muslim hate groups are itching to get into Iraq and start converting the populace to Christianity -- the very image of the "Crusaders" that Osama bin Laden has used to whip up anti-American terrorism. The evangelicals are George W. Bush's base. Does he dare risk alienating them by insisting that they stay home?

The president loves his biblical metaphors. Well, here's one that he ought to think about long and hard: "As ye sow, so shall ye reap."

posted at 9:29 AM | link

Has the bottle-deposit law outlived its usefulness? I voted for the bottle-deposit law when it was on the ballot in 1982, and I've never given it one second's thought since then. If anything, I suppose I would have thought it should be expanded to cover such things as wine and juice bottles. Boston Globe columnist Steve Bailey this morning says the law ought to be repealed, and he comes damn close to convincing me.

posted at 9:29 AM | link

Bring back county government? No way! Boston Herald columnist Tom Keane today has an interesting argument but a bad idea. He notes that Suffolk County sheriff Andrea Cabral can't pay a $5 million settlement to women who were strip-searched because the county has no taxing authority of its own, and that the state and the city of Boston have refused to help.

Keane's moral: empower county government. Media Log's moral: get rid of the last vestiges of county government -- a corrupt, hack-infested haven during its heyday -- and put the county sheriffs directly under the authority of the state. Then Governor Mitt Romney would have to cough up.

posted at 9:28 AM | link

Howard Zinn, at length and on the record. Boston journalist Robert Birnbaum has a long interview with Boston University historian Howard Zinn on the website Identity Theory. The occasion: a new edition of Zinn's landmark A People's History of the United States.

posted at 9:28 AM | link

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Making sense of a shooter's career-ending misstep. All I know about former Boston Herald photographer Brian Walski is that he's got a reputation as a good journalist and a good guy. So the news that he had been fired by the Los Angeles Times for altering a photo in Iraq was shocking.

Romenesko has both a Wall Street Journal story on Walski's demise and a link to to the LA Times that shows two photos taken by Walski and the fake that he Photoshop'd together out of the two images.

What's so mind-boggling about this is that he absolutely didn't need to do it. Not that it's ever necessary to do such an unethical thing, but in this case the improvement was so minimal that it's hard to imagine what had entered his head in the first place.

Here's a good piece by Kenny Irby at Poynter.org on how the scandal unfolded.

The best commentary I've seen, though, falls victim to the Boston Herald's new policy of charging for its columnists. Peter Gelzinis, a former colleague of Walski's, writes with real insight and humanity about what happened to a person he had always respected. Together, Walski and Gelzinis had reported from such places as Calcutta (for Mother Teresa's funeral) and earthquakes in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Walski had also covered Gulf War I, Somalia, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, and other hot spots.

Writes Gelzinis:

If there was a hint of an explanation, perhaps it was there in the e-mail Walski sent to the Herald's photo chief, Jim Mahoney, just before the end. Brian had been covering the war as a "unilateral," essentially traveling on his own.

"Don't know how much longer I can last here," he wrote, "maybe a couple of more weeks."

If you want to read Gelzinis's entire column, go here.

When celebrity columnists and TV people make ethical fools of themselves, they often resurface -- sometimes within hours (right, Peter Arnett?) -- because there's always another media organization farther down the food chain that's willing to take a chance on someone with a name.

Photographers, unfortunately, are the unsung heroes of journalism, and the "unsung" part is going to make it awfully difficult for Walski to land another newspaper job. But assuming this is a one-time transgression, I hope someone is willing to give him another chance.

posted at 9:09 AM | link

And now for something completely different. I don't know whether Boston city councilor John Tobin has kids. His online bio mentions being married, but no children. I do know that the Kid Question was the first thing that popped into my head this morning when I read in the Boston Globe that Tobin and several other councilors want to ban cell phones from "all 'places of public performance,' including movie houses, museums, and comedy shows."

Look, councilor, here's the deal. You've got a sitter at home whom you don't know all that well, your younger one was throwing up the night before, and you're worried that you might get a call at any moment summoning you home for an emergency. At the same time, you and your spouse haven't been out in three months, and you're not going to put it off again.

So you put your cell phone on "vibrate," and if it goes off, you get up, go to the lobby, and find out what the problem is. Is that really such a big deal?

posted at 9:08 AM | link

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Still more Fisk. Ah, the hazards of trying to put these things together on the fly. MP advises me that Robert Fisk wrote about the missile fragment on March 30. Here's Fisk's story. In it, though, Fisk merely reports having found a serial number, writing, "It can be easily verified and checked by the Americans -- if they choose to do so." I don't believe it was reported until today that the missile was definitely of US origin -- manufactured by Massachusetts's very own Raytheon, by the way.

posted at 5:45 PM | link

More Fisk. This is kind of weird: Robert Fisk claims to have discovered evidence that the explosion that killed 62 Iraqis last Friday was caused by an American missile, yet he's not reporting it himself -- it's contained in an Independent story written by another reporter, Cahal Milmo. It will be interesting to see what Fisk writes about this tomorrow, assuming he does.

If this proves true, it won't be a huge surprise. The Pentagon has been very circumspect about this one, unlike a similar, earlier incident, in which American officials pugnaciously asserted that it was an Iraqi missile gone astray, or even a deliberate attack by Saddam on his own people.

All the more reason to get this over with as quickly as possible.

posted at 11:21 AM | link

Robert Fisk: the reporter, not the cartoon. Some interesting reportage this morning from Robert Fisk, the reporter for the Independent, a British paper, who is so despised in some circles that conservative US bloggers invented a verb -- to fisk -- after him.

First, some background on fisking, which is ably explained in this piece for the Northwestern Chronicle by David Weigel. Fisk was reporting on the war in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 when he was set upon by a crowd and beaten. Later, Fisk wrote that the injuries he received were the entirely logical response to a US war that had terrorized the countryside and resulted in scores of civilian deaths. The piece has become such a legendary example of liberal self-loathing that you may be surprised at how stark and rational it really is. The entire piece is online at CounterPunch, but here's a relevant excerpt:

And -- I realised -- there were all the Afghan men and boys who had attacked me who should never have done so but whose brutality was entirely the product of others, of us -- of we who had armed their struggle against the Russians and ignored their pain and laughed at their civil war and then armed and paid them again for the "War for Civilisation" just a few miles away and then bombed their homes and ripped up their families and called them "collateral damage".

So what is fisking? Weigel quotes the well-known conservative blogger Eugene Volokh to the effect that it is "a thorough and forceful verbal beating of an anti-war, possibly anti-American, commentator who has richly earned this figurative beating through his words." In actual practice, it takes the form of quoting lengthy excerpts from said antiwar commentator and responding to them, point by point, with a rant of one's own.

The part that the fiskers don't get, of course, is that they have placed themselves in the same position as the Afghan mob that nearly killed Fisk: that is, acting with righteous fury, but out of pure emotion and rage, uninformed by facts and uninterested in truth. I generalize, of course. Fisking can be done brilliantly, just like anything else. But it's fascinating that those who proudly refer to their efforts as "fisking" are deliberately taking the side of the mob.

Anyway, I've gotten rather far afield. I had started by wanting to call your attention to some stuff Fisk has in today's Independent. In one article, he reports being given a tour of a women's college that had been attacked by US bombers, the sort of moral outrage with the Iraqi government has been trying shock the world's conscience. Fisk wasn't buying:

Now let's be fair. College staff have every right to take their own protection against America's notoriously inaccurate "smart" bombs. But did they dig the slit trench? Did they park the civilian trucks and buses, scattered around the empty campus, 30 metres from each other and always under the foliage of trees? And if college personnel normally worked the gates, why was the campus guarded by armed and green-uniformed militiamen? The crater was 20ft deep -- the classic cruise missile's gouge in the ground -- and its blast was enormous. Internal doors were torn from their hinges, desks overturned, beds thrown across rooms. But no one was hurt; indeed, the college had been abandoned long before the attacks.

On the other hand, terrible things are happening to civilians in Iraq, and Fisk here offers a more graphic description of that than is routinely reported in the American press. Here he reports on an attack in Hilla, a suburb 50 miles south of Baghdad:

Terrifying film of women and children later emerged after Reuters and the Associated Press were permitted by the Iraqi authorities to take their cameras into the town. Their pictures -- the first by Western news agencies from the Iraqi side of the battlefront -- showed babies cut in half and children with amputation wounds, apparently caused by American shellfire and cluster bombs.

Much of the videotape was too terrible to show on television and the agencies' Baghdad editors felt able to send only a few minutes of a 21-minute tape that included a father holding out pieces of his baby and screaming "cowards, cowards" into the camera. Two lorryloads of bodies, including women in flowered dresses, could be seen outside the Hilla hospital.

I could not find these images on the websites of either Reuters or the AP, but I guess that's not surprising if the images are as horrifying as Fisk's description of them.

What's clear is that Robert Fisk is one of the best reporters on the scene in Bagdhad, as worth reading as the Washington Post's Anthony Shadid and the New York Times' John Burns, if for different reasons. This is a man who has been turned into a cartoon by the mob mentality of American conservatives. Mock him if you will, but he deserves to be read.

posted at 9:00 AM | link

Enemy battle plans revealed! This is left over from yesterday, but it demands to be read: a New York Times piece by David Cay Johnston on how an obscure and complex loophole in insurance law benefits the superrich to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.

Johnston reports that just one person -- Peter Kellogg, a billionaire investor -- avoided paying some $100 million in federal taxes by taking advantage of this loophole.

Talk about moral outrage.

posted at 8:59 AM | link

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

The unbearable insincerity of Peter Arnett. If nothing else, Peter Arnett certainly seemed sincere when he appeared on the Today show right after he'd been let go by NBC for giving an obsequious interview to Iraqi television. And not just sincere -- anguished, abject, humiliated, devastated, fully comprehending that he'd made a terrible mistake.

In response to a gentle grilling by Matt Lauer (no publicly available link), Arnett was only slightly defensive, noting that his assertion that the US war plan had failed was no different from what others, including NBC's Tim Russert, had said. But he was full of apologies -- to Lauer and co-host Katie Couric, and to NBC, MSNBC, and National Geographic Explorer. He continued: "And I want to apologize to the American people for clearly making a misjudgment over the weekend by giving an interview to Iraqi television."

Arnett closed with this:

There's a small island in the South Pacific uninhabited which I'll try to swim to, Matt. Now, I'm not kidding. I don't know. I will leave here. I don't really intend to stay in this locality. I'm not a supporter of the Iraqi government. I'm not paid by the Iraqi government. I am a reporter. I came here to report the story. Now that I can't report it for really the best news organization in the world, NBC, I'll leave. You know, I'm embarrassed to -- to question the judgment of your company in hiring me in the first place, is that I came to do a great job. I had a wonderful team of young people helping me to do that job. My stupid misjudgment was to spend 15 minutes in an impromptu interview with Iraqi television. That has been received with anger, surprise and -- and -- and -- and clearly, you know, unhappily in the United States, and for that I'm sorry. I'm an American.

So what are we to make of his debut column in Britain's Daily Mirror? Gone is the contrition, the humility. Instead, Arnett lets out a full-throated cry that he'd been screwed by the right wing. Arnett writes:

The right-wing media and politicians are looking for any opportunity to be critical of the reporters who are here, whatever their nationality. I made the misjudgment which gave them the opportunity to do so.

I gave an impromptu interview to Iraqi television feeling that after four months of interviewing hundreds of them it was only professional courtesy to give them a few comments.

That was my Waterloo -- bang!

And what of his embarrassment over having let down NBC? "I don't blame NBC for their decision because they came under great commercial pressure from the outside," he writes. Yesterday, NBC was "the best news organization in the world." Today, the network got rid of him because its executives cower in fear of advertisers. What about that island in the South Pacific? "I have not yet decided what to do, whether to pack my bags and leave Baghdad or stay on," he writes.

Obviously Arnett didn't mean a thing that he said when he apologized yesterday. One wonders what else he has said that he didn't mean.

posted at 5:25 PM | link

Aid and comfort. If you were watching The Ten O'Clock News on WLVI-TV (Channel 56) last night, you might have seen the Boston Globe's Mark Jurkowitz and me talking with reporter Jon Keller about the firing of Peter Arnett.

My main point was that there was nothing wrong with what Arnett said -- indeed, his contention that the US battle plan hasn't worked has been the principal line in the media in recent days. Rather, it was that he gave an interview to the propaganda arm of the Iraqi government, a government with which we are, wisely or not, at war.

So I was surprised this morning to read in the New York Times that NBC had undertaken a careful analysis of Arnett's interview before deciding to terminate him. The Times' Jim Rutenberg writes:

[A]fter further inspecting the interview, NBC executives said, Mr. Shapiro [Neal Shapiro, president of NBC News] and others decided that Mr. Arnett had gone too far in feeding Iraqi officials what amounted to useful sound bites....

An NBC official said he took a tape of the interview home with him and carefully scanned it to find some defense of Mr. Arnett's commentary. He said he believed that Mr. Arnett's comments that reports about civilian casualties were useful to war protesters seemed to cross a line.

The logic strikes me as backwards. What you want is for Arnett to be candid and truthful, which he was. What you don't want is for him to suck up to the Iraqi regime on Saddam TV. Walter Cronkite, not surprisingly, gets it just right on the Times' op-ed page.

Meanwhile, what can one say about that other media miscreant, Geraldo Rivera? Other than, of course, "good riddance"? Here's an account of Rivera's latest misadventure by David Folkenflik of the Baltimore Sun, the reporter who, in 2001, exposed Rivera's pathetic fiction about standing on "hallowed ground," where three American soldiers had been killed, in Afghanistan.

Actually, he wasn't, and as Folkenflik notes, Rivera's attempts to cover his tracks didn't hold up to scrutiny either.

posted at 9:56 AM | link

In other news. Don't you get the feeling that, with everyone focused on the war, someone, somewhere, is going to try to take advantage of it? Well, guess what? Massachusetts House Speaker Tom Finneran is once again trying to push through raises for his top lieutenants. In the midst of a horrendous fiscal crisis.Globe coverage here; Herald coverage here.

posted at 9:55 AM | link

Monday, March 31, 2003

Dowd twists Rumsfeld's words II. I heard from several readers who took me to task for yesterday's item on the New York Times' Maureen Dowd. The gist was that she had accurately sensed Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's attempt to distance himself from General Tommy Franks at Friday's Pentagon briefing, and that I was too dense to see it.

To which I reply:

1. Maybe Rumsfeld is indeed trying to blame the war's slow start on Franks, but you wouldn't know it from what he said Friday. My point was that Dowd had completely twisted Rumsfeld's words, not whether she had accurately discerned what he was thinking. ("Unknowable," to use one of Rummy's favorite words.)

2. Yesterday Rumsfeld once again attributed the plan to Franks and once again showered him with praise. And this time he was more explicit about what I suspect was the real reason he offloaded this onto Franks on Friday: he's not trying to blame Franks so much as he is desperately attempting to deflect criticism that he's been micromanaging the war plan and not giving the generals what they need.

On ABC's This Week, Rumsfeld labeled as "absolutely false" an article by Seymour Hersh in the new New Yorker that reports he repeatedly rejected requests by the generals for more troops. He told host George Stephanopoulos:

The plan we have is his [Franks's]. I would be delighted to take credit for it. It's a good plan. It's a creative and an innovative plan. And it's going to work. And it is his plan and it has been approved by the chiefs. Every one of the chiefs has said it's executable and they support it. It's been looked at by all the combatant commanders. It's gone through the National Security Council process. And what you're seeing is fiction. You're seeing second-guessers out there.

So not only did Dowd get it wrong, but she attributed to Rumsfeld motives that were less interesting than those that really seem to be at play. My suspicion is that Rumsfeld isn't so much worried that the plan isn't working as he is that he'll be tarred as a bureaucrat who wouldn't listen to his generals, thus putting American troops at unnecessary risk.

posted at 9:37 AM | link

Prowar radio. I've been slow off the mark in whacking radio megagiant Clear Channel for sponsoring prowar rallies around the country. Today's New York Times has a detailed story, although it's more measured than the company's critics might like. Essentially the Times portrays executives of the 1200-station chain as clumsy rustics who don't understand how much power they wield.

(In Greater Boston, Clear Channel owns two ratings monsters, WJMN/94.5 FM, and WXKS/107.9 FM, as well as two insignificant AM stations.)

And it's not as though Clear Channel is the only radio chain pushing war. WAAF Radio (107.3 FM), in Worcester, organized a support-the-troops rally this past weekend, according to this story in the Boston Globe. WAAF is owned by Entercom, which also owns four other stations in the Greater Boston market.

And check out this page on the WAAF website about jock Greg Hill's refusal to play music by the antiwar band Mudvayne.

posted at 9:35 AM | link

Media Log e-mail delivery resumes! I have solved my computer problems the old-fashioned way: through the vigorous application of borrowed money. If you've been holding off on requesting e-mail delivery, now's the time. Just contact me at dkennedy[a]phx.com.

posted at 9:33 AM | link

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Dowd twists Rumsfeld's words. The old saying about columnists is that they're entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. Today the New York Times' Maureen Dowd twists Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's words, making him appear to be saying the opposite of what he actually said at the Friday Pentagon briefing. Here's Dowd:

Rummy was beginning to erase his fingerprints. "The war plan," he said, "is Tom Franks's war plan." Tommy, we hardly knew ye.

Here's the full context of what Rumsfeld actually said:

The war plan is Tom Franks's war plan. It was carefully prepared over many months. It was washed through the tank with the chiefs [the Joint Chiefs of Staff] on at least four or five occasions....

It has been through the combatant commanders. It has been through the National Security Council process. General Myers and General Pace and others, including this individual, have seen it in a variety of different iterations. When asked by the president or by me, the military officers who've reviewed it have all said they thought it was an excellent plan.

Indeed, adjectives that go beyond that have been used, quite complimentary.

Nor did Rumsfeld disagree when General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Franks's plan "brilliant."

Maybe Dowd considers herself just a cheap entertainer at this stage of her career, but there's no excuse for this kind of disingenuousness. Rumsfeld may be in a heap of trouble (and he should be), but he clearly has not walked away from General Franks's plan.

posted at 9:11 AM | link

Notes from the underground. Today's Boston Globe has a fascinating piece by David Filipov on what may be the most dangerous spot in the world: as a member of the anti-Saddam Iraqi underground. The movement is thought to be so infiltrated by Saddam's secret police that Filipov observes he couldn't even be sure whether he might have inadvertently interviewed some of them while researching his story.

posted at 9:11 AM | link

Family affair. The Boston Herald today not only has a dispatch from its embed, Jules Crittenden, but also an essay by his wife, Amy McKinnon, on what it's like to have her reporter-husband on the front. (McKinnon's piece was originally published by the Christian Science Monitor.)

posted at 9:11 AM | link


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

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