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See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale, October 2003),
Saturday, April 12, 2003
A different take on the
plutonium story. Several Media Log readers have called my
attention to a piece that casts the "weapons-grade
plutonium" story in a
Mansoor Ijaz has written a lengthy
post for National Review Online suggesting that several facts about
the facility south of Baghdad really do point to the possibility of
extremely scary activities
on the part of Saddam Hussein.
Here is a bio
of Ijaz. Clearly he is a
serious and knowledgeable person.
Not that this makes Fox News's
original report any less speculative or irresponsible, by the way.
Ijaz himself is engaging in speculation; but it appears to be
informed speculation that a discerning reader can take for what it
is. Fox was simply engaging in sensationalism.
Thanks to HM and DH for leading me
to Ijaz's post.
posted at 9:52 PM |
Friday, April 11, 2003
Back on top. Now that Saddam
Hussein has been toppled, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's
credibility is looking a lot better -- and that of his generals a lot
worse -- than it did a week or two ago.
So now, of course, is the perfect
time for "Sex
Tips from Donald Rumsfeld,"
on Esquire.com, called to my attention by the estimable Yee
Talk dirty to me, Rummy!
posted at 11:40 AM |
CNN's dubious Iraq
connections. Last October the New Republic's Franklin Foer
wrote a piece condemning CNN for toadying to the Iraqi government in
order to keep its reporters from getting kicked out of the country.
(The story is online here,
and it appears to be freely available.)
Among the amusing details Foer
offered was the fact that Saddam's henchmen would apparently go
absolutely bonkers if reporters referred to the Great Leader as
anything other than "President Saddam Hussein." In fact, that's what
got Al Jazeera into trouble last week. And I recalled that detail
watching CNN last night when Nic Robertson, back in Baghdad, referred
repeatedly to "President Saddam Hussein" in his standup for
NewsNight with Aaron Brown -- three times in just a couple of
to this transcript.
Robertson is nobody's toady, and I
imagine his repetitious invocation of Saddam's preferred mode of
reference was more habit than anything else. But this morning, in two
pieces in the New York Times, a far more serious matter
regarding CNN came to light.
The first -- and by far the
more disturbing -- was an op-ed column by Eason Jordan, who is
described as CNN's "chief news executive." By his own description,
ambassador to Iraq" would
be more accurate. And it appears that he was an ambassador of the
most odious kind, keeping silent about terrible human-rights
Jordan portrays himself as a
humanitarian, and surely he wouldn't want to complain or exclaim in
such a way that people would be tortured or killed -- beyond the fact
that some were being tortured or killed anyway. But, as you will
read, Jordan's silence may have cost the lives of Saddam's
sons-in-law, who defected in 1995 and who were lured back by promises
of forgiveness. Jordan does credit himself with saving the life of
King Hussein. Well, at least he draws the line
More to the point: at what moment
does Jordan's concerns about access and safety morph into a slimy
collaboration with Saddam's evil regime? Given the horrors that he
describes, shouldn't there have come a day when he finally said, "No
more"? Wasn't everything that CNN was reporting out of Iraq
inherently dishonest, given that its chief news executive knew many,
many things that he dared not say? "I felt awful having these stories
bottled up inside of me," Jordan writes. Well, I would hope so. He
should feel worse that he did nothing about it.
other story, which
describes CNN as the only major US news network to refuse to
participate in a government-sponsored media campaign in Iraq,
wouldn't stand out so much if it weren't for Jordan's column. CNN
released a statement saying, "We didn't think that as an independent,
global news organization it was appropriate to participate in a
United States government video transmission."
Read Jordan's op-ed and then try to
wrap your mind around the idea of CNN taking a principled stand on
anything to do with Iraq. It is literally enough to induce
posted at 8:26 AM |
D'oh! Well, so much for the
plutonium. The Fox News
Channel -- which yesterday was breathlessly hyping a report that US
Marines may have found "weapons-grade plutonium" in a facility south
of Baghdad -- is now running an AP report on its website that puts
the matter in a very different light.
It appears that the Americans, with
Simpson-like regard for the
hazards of nuclear material, may have broken the seal on a cache of
low-grade uranium that was already known to the UN weapons
Fox News's source yesterday was
Carl Prine, an embedded reporter for Richard Mellon Scaife's
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Here's
his story today, which
seems to be a measured and responsible account of the
As far as I've been able to tell,
Fox News is the only major news outlet to hype this inflammatory
piece of non-news. Is this fair and balanced reporting?
posted at 8:25 AM |
Globe's Farrell joins
Moore at Denver Post. The Boston Globe's number-two
person in Washington, John Aloysius Farrell, is leaving to become
Washington-bureau chief of the Denver Post -- the paper he
worked at before coming to the Globe in 1987. He was recruited
by Post editor Greg Moore, who was, until last year, the
managing editor of the Globe.
Farrell is best known for his book,
Tip O'Neill and the Democratic Century (see "Don't
Quote Me," News and
Features, February 9, 2001), a massive, authoritative biography of
the late House Speaker. He worked as Washington editor --
second-in-command to the bureau chief -- under David Shribman, who
left the Globe recently to become executive editor of the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. More recently, Farrell has been the
Globe's senior Washington correspondent.
Here is Moore's memo to the
Post staff announcing Farrell's hiring:
Aloysius Farrell is rejoining The Denver Post as our new bureau
chief in Washington. He replaces Bill McAllister, who resigned
effective April 1st.
I have said that
for The Post to be considered an important regional newspaper, we
must do a better job of covering the issues out of Washington that
affect our region -- public land management, forestry issues, the
environment, military affairs and politics.
Jack returns to
The Post after a 16-year absence. He left The Post in 1987 to join
The Boston Globe as a national political reporter. He also worked
as an investigative reporter on the Globe's prize winning
Spotlight Team, a Congressional reporter, and White House
Correspondent. Most recently, Jack served as The Globe's
Washington editor, supervising a 10-person staff and assigning and
crafting coverage of the 2000 election recount, post-September
11th coverage and many other challenging news stories. He is the
author of the celebrated biography of the late House speaker, "Tip
O'Neill and the Democratic Century."
While at The
Post, Jack provided distinguished work as a magazine writer and
investigative reporter. He wrote an eight-part series entitled
"Utah: The Church State," and another eight-part series, The New
Indian Wars, that took him and photographer Jim Richardson more
than 35,000 miles to visit 21 tribes in 14 states. His work at The
Post has won the Roy Howard Public Service Citation, the National
Press Club Prize and the George Polk Award.
The Denver Post in 1982, Jack worked at The Baltimore News
American, the Annapolis Evening Capital, and the Montgomery County
He is a graduate
of the University of Virginia.
knowledge, experience and leadership will boost our report out of
Washington. It is a bonus that he is familiar with Denver,
Colorado and the West, in general.
Jack back to The Denver Post on May 12.
posted at 7:39 AM |
Thursday, April 10, 2003
The plutonium connection.
This is obviously the biggest story of the war if it proves true: US
Marines have reportedly found radioactive material that may turn out
to be weapons-grade plutonium at a facility south of
So why am I suspicious? Well, right
News appears to be the only
major news organization reporting this. And its source is an embedded
reporter with Richard Mellon Scaife's Pittsburgh
In other words, you might want to
wait on this one. On the other hand, it certainly could be
true. And if it is, it will obviously be a huge boost for President
posted at 3:45 PM |
One unfortunate lesson that dictators may draw from the war in Iraq
is this: get nukes, and the US will leave you alone. Ian
Rall (yes, that Ted
posted at 1:10 PM |
A glorious moment and some cold
water. What, really, can be added to the scenes of liberation and
joy in downtown Baghdad yesterday? Of course we all know that chaos
reigns, that the hunt for Saddam Hussein and the senior Iraqi
leadership continues, and that the war may sputter on for days or
There may yet be hell to pay for
the way the Bush administration accomplished this. The scenes of
civilian suffering are wrenching, and the president's go-it-alone
approach means that there's no one to blame but the US and Britain.
But, overall, this is a truly wonderful moment for the people of
But what would Media Log's purpose
be if it were not to throw some cold water on this celebration? This
morning, three buckets:
- Al Jazeera today warns that
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the rest of the
administration are now giving
the hairy eyeball to Syria and
Iran. This has been
widely reported in the US press, too; the significance of the Al
Jazeera story is that this is what much of the Arab world is now
talking about. What looks like liberation to American eyes takes
on the appearance of the beginning of empire from another
- The Independent's Robert
Fisk is anti-American to the core, but that doesn't mean he's
unreliable. In fact, Fisk's
account of yesterday's events in
Baghdad is rich and
nuanced. He describes not just the liberation -- or, should I say,
"liberation," since he's always careful to use quotation marks --
but also the suffering that led up to it, as well as the US role
in securing Saddam's dictatorship in the first place.
- Now that US soldiers have
suffered and died, fat cats such as former secretary of state
George Shultz -- a director of Bechtel -- can move
in for the financial kill,
observes New York Times columnist Bob Herbert. The problem
is that this White House doesn't just not worry about appearances
-- it mocks them. Turning this into a business opportunity for
American corporations is one sure way to turn victory into
posted at 10:17 AM |
Two more on Kerry. Retired
Boston Globe columnist David
Nyhan has a good
description in the Salem News of the Republican attack
machine's stunningly successful effort to smear John Kerry for saying
that favors a "regime change" in Washington.
And, in the New York Press,
columnist Russ Smith
attacks Kerry, lecturing that "he needs a tutor who can explain the
difference between a standard political jab and a rhetorical time
bomb." (Smith also pays tribute to the late Michael
posted at 10:16 AM |
New in this week's
Phoenix. I've heard from several Media Log readers who say
they don't realize that my main gig is writing for the print edition
of the Phoenix. So at the risk of being hopelessly
self-promotional, I'll plug my stuff once it's available on
This week, two pieces:
remembrance of Michael Kelly,
the columnist and editor who was killed last week in Iraq, and some
thoughts on the Pulitzer
Prizes -- particularly the
ones awarded to the Boston Globe for its coverage of the
child-sexual-abuse crisis in the Catholic Church and to Samantha
Power for her book on genocide.
posted at 10:15 AM |
Wednesday, April 09, 2003
Aaron Brown, explained. Yes,
Aaron Brown can be a little
weird, but so what? He's smart and serious, two qualities you
normally don't associate with the all-news cable channels these
days. Plus, when he's doing his regular one-hour NewsNight --
as opposed to hour after hour of continuing war coverage -- he's the
only anchor I can think of who's capable of projecting even a
slightly hip sensibility.
So yes, I like this
piece by Jason Gay in the
current New York Observer.
posted at 4:07 PM |
Credit where it's due. JR
advises that the photo of an Iraqi kissing a George W. Bush poster
was taken by Kevin Frayer of the Associated Press. I don't want to
violate the AP's copyright, so I've taken it down. But
do have a look.
posted at 3:15 PM |
has posted this photo of a newly minted Bush supporter. I have no
idea where he got it -- pardon the lack of a photo credit.
Misgivings aside -- and there will
be plenty of opportunity for that in the weeks and months ahead --
this is a legitimately great moment.
posted at 2:31 PM |
Wild in the streets. The
Boston Globe has published an extra on the fall of Saddam
the front page.
posted at 2:19 PM |
Apple polishing. The New
York Times' R.W. Apple Jr. has been taking a pounding from the
likes of Slate's
Jack Shafer for prematurely
predicting a "quagmire," then trying to walk away from it with no
Well, today Johnny Apple weighs in
with something that should disturb those who might be called
patriotic antiwar liberals -- a group that includes Media Log and,
one would have thought judging from his previous pieces, Apple
forces, who have had to contend from the start with the widespread
belief that their position is unpatriotic and unsupportive of
American troops engaged in deadly combat, must now bear the
additional burden of arguing with success. American losses are
relatively small: 96 dead to date, compared with 200 a day at the
height of the Vietnam War.
Marcus once said, What
is this shit? Responsible war critics never thought the US was
going to lose, or even suffer many casualties. Rather, the danger was
that we would unleash chaos in Iraq, inflame the Arab world by
inflicting civilian casualties (which we have certainly done), and
cause terrible problems for ourselves down the road, such as creating
a new generation of revenge-seeking terrorists.
At the moment, we don't know
how many civilian casualties we've caused. Many, judging from
today's dispatch by the
Washington Post's Anthony
We have to hope for the best,
obviously. It appears that the fighting is almost over. The New
York Times website has a minutes-old story by Dexter Filkins and
Jane Perlez reporting that some Baghdad residents, at least, are
beginning to throw of the shackles off three-plus decades of Baathism
and are actually greeting
American troops as liberators.
That's something the US can build on.
But "arguing with success"? Please.
Johnny Apple's problem isn't just that he's consistently wrong. It's
that he tries on a persona-a-day, and expects us not to remember or
care what he wrote just days before.
posted at 7:55 AM |
Crittenden's view. The
Boston Herald's Jules Crittenden had a front-row seat when
American tank blasted the Palestine
Hotel, killing two
journalists -- an attack that Al-Jazeera
has charged was a deliberate attempt to intimidate the media. It
looks a lot different from where Crittenden was watching.
posted at 7:55 AM |
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
A conversation with Samantha
Power. Robert Birnbaum sends along a
link to an interview he
conducted last summer with the newly minted Pulitzer Prize
posted at 10:45 AM |
Missiles? What missiles?
Robert Fisk, of the Independent, has a surrealist take on
the Iraqi information minister's news conference on the roof of the
Palestine Hotel yesterday -- the most absurd moment of a day that was
marked by "a
crazed mixture of normality, death and high
As shells exploded to his
left and the air was shredded by the power-diving American jets,
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf announced to perhaps 100 journalists that
the whole thing was a propaganda exercise, the Americans were no
longer in possession of Baghdad airport, that reporters must
"check their facts and re-check their facts -- that's all I ask
you to do." Mercifully, the oil fires, bomb explosions and cordite
smoke now obscured the western bank of the river, so fact-checking
could no longer be accomplished by looking behind Mr Sahaf's
The different lens through which
foreign journalists such as Fisk see the war continues to fascinate.
For instance, Fisk writes that the "American thrust into Bagdhad had
neither humility nor honour about it," adding that American soldiers
were "sniping at soldiers and civilians. Hundreds of Iraqi men, women
and children were brought to Baghdad hospitals ..."
This is not how to win the
friendship and trust of the Iraqi people.
posted at 8:52 AM |
It's called campaigning.
Well, finally someone has figured out what John Kerry was doing when
he called for "regime change" in Washington. He was (gasp!)
running for president. The
New York Times' Paul Krugman explains.
And good for Kerry for
back against the Republican
attack machine. It would be nice if the media could figure out on
their own that they're letting themselves be used, but maybe Kerry
can help educate them.
posted at 8:52 AM |
Pulitzers online. Here are
links to some of the prize-winning work of yesterday's three local
- The Boston Globe's
coverage of pedophile
priests and of Cardinal
Bernard Law's cover-up of their misdeeds.
- The first-day coverage of the
Lawrence Eagle-Tribune's reporting on the
deaths of four boys who
plunged through the ice of the Merrimack driver.
- Samantha Power's book "A
Problem from Hell": America in the Age of Genocide
posted at 8:52 AM |
Monday, April 07, 2003
The smoking barrel? Yes,
there have been some false alarms, but this one looks pretty solid:
the New York Times website is reporting that American troops
have found evidence
of Iraqi nerve gas and mustard gas
in Karbala, near the Kuwait border.
posted at 11:48 AM |
More on The Boondocks,
plus a correction. Boston Globe ombudsman Christine
Chinlund today alludes to the weirdness of obsessing over the comics
in the midst of a war. It is weird, but now I'm going to do
Chinlund's topic is the
Globe's decision to kill
the March 29 edition of The
Boondocks, which, on
that particular day, consisted of a text-only protest
against the war in Iraq.
She quotes editor Marty Baron as saying, "What I saw was not a comic
strip. It was a written statement on the war. For such commentary, we
have the op-ed page and letters. We reserve the comics page for
Chinlund disagrees with Baron,
saying he should have allowed it to run. She writes: "Allowing
Boondocks the occasional use of a text note as one way to
connect with readers would not threaten the integrity of the comics
page." I agree.
As I was reading Chinlund's column,
I realized, too, that I had made an error in this
Media Log item on March 29.
I took the Globe to task for censoring The Boondocks
while doing nothing about the humor-free right-wing strip Mallard
Fillmore. And I specifically cited a March 3 strip I'd found on
MF website that
referred to the French by a junior-high-level anti-gay
Well, Chinlund writes today that
"the Mallard Fillmore strip that ran in the Globe March
3 was a substitute; the original, with a demeaning reference to the
French, was canned."
My bad, but what I find interesting
is that though I received several e-mails in response to my March 29
item, no one pointed out my mistake. Perhaps that says something
about how closely people are looking at Mallard Fillmore,
which may be the most stupid, unreadable comic on the
posted at 8:15 AM |
On having it all (not). The
results of today's Boston Globe/WBZ-TV poll are the perfect
example of what happens when you pander instead of lead. Governor
Mitt Romney isn't the only culprit, but he is certainly the most
the grim details for yourself,
but an overwhelming majority opposes raising the income tax, opposes
raising the sales tax, opposes raising tuition at public colleges,
opposes cutting local aid, and really, really opposes (by 73 percent
to eight percent) cutting human-services funding.
They want it all, and they don't
want to pay for it. Romney got elected, in part, because he never
disabused voters of such ridiculous notions.
posted at 8:14 AM |
Free and unpopular speech.
Regina Burke, a member of the Hull Board of Selectmen, is
to say the Pledge of Allegiance
as a protest against the war in Iraq. The story is buried deep inside
today's Boston Herald, which is exactly where it
The question now is whether the
yahoos will leave her alone and let her finish her term in peace --
or turn her into fodder for talk-radio abuse.
posted at 8:14 AM |
Warblog scandal. Media Log
freely confesses to spending little or no time reading amateur
warblogs. Keeping up with real news is hard enough. But if you're a
fan of Sean-Paul Kelley (the Agonist),
be advised that Dan Forbes, writing for Wired.com, has
him plagiarizing --
deliberately, and with malice aforethought.
Forbes notes that Kelley was a
guest on March 31 on WBUR Radio's The Connection.
posted at 8:13 AM |
Sunday, April 06, 2003
Onward Christian huckster.
As if fighting in the Iraqi desert weren't enough of a challenge
already, some American troops must also contend with Army
chaplain Josh Llano, who
would appear to have a bright future ahead of him as a televangelist
on cable TV.
No baptism, no water? I hope
someone in the Army brass reads this, hands Llano a rifle, and sends
him out looking for Fedayeen Saddam.
posted at 10:00 AM |
MEDIA LOG ARCHIVES
Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.