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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 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, October 18, 2003

A clear signal from the first President Bush. The most fascinating column you'll read all weekend is this one in the Boston Globe, by veteran journalist Georgie Anne Geyer, on George W. Bush's break with his father on one issue after another.

Bush Sr. will soon present his Award for Excellence in Public Service to Ted Kennedy in a ceremony at -- get this -- Texas A&M, right in George W.'s backyard.

Kennedy, of course, has had a few things to say about the younger Bush's foreign policy in recent days. Yet Bush Sr. doesn't seem to be the least bit offended.

Writes Geyer:

Now it's all out. Father Bush has done it in his own preferred nuanced way -- the way Establishment gentlemen operate -- but he has revealed the depth of his disagreement with his impetuously uninformed son.

It's going to be hard for Karl Rove and company to dismiss this as the ravings of the anti-Bush left. Could make family get-togethers at Kennebunkport mighty uncomfortable.

posted at 3:21 PM | comment or permalink

Friday, October 17, 2003

The Fox Misinformation Channel. I'm late to this, but it's too amusing -- and relevant -- to let it pass by.

According to a University of Maryland study of seven nationwide polls, those who rely on the Fox News Channel as their primary source of information are the most likely to believe at least one important misperception about the war in Iraq.

The misperceptions:

  • That weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. (Sorry, David Kay fans -- precursors, abandoned trailers, twigs, and seeds don't count.)
  • That evidence has been found of a link between Saddam Hussein's regime and Al Qaeda. (Even George W. Bush had to correct Dick Cheney on this one.)
  • That world opinion favored the US going to war with Iraq. (It's hard to believe that anyone believes that.)

According to the study, 80 percent of Fox viewers believed one or more of those untruths; between 55 percent and 71 percent of those who relied on CNN or one of the Big Three broadcast networks were similarly misinformed; and only 47 percent who rely mainly on print, and 23 percent who rely on NPR and/or PBS, shared those misperceptions.

Here's a story on the study in the Washington Post by Harold Meyerson. (Guess he's not at the American Prospect anymore.) You can read the study itself here.

Turning on Romney. Globe columnists Scot Lehigh, who is certainly not hostile to Governor Mitt Romney, and Brian McGrory, who could be considered a fan, have both had it up to here with Romney's transparent political posturing.

Specifically, they're disgusted with Romney's absurd bid to name the depressed Central Artery the Liberty Tunnel rather than honor the late Tip O'Neill.

Turning on Grady. There is nothing I can add to what has already been said about last night's horror show.

The early nomination for the smart-commentary award goes to Dale Arnold and Bob Neumeier on WEEI Radio (AM 850) this morning. (Caveat: others may have said this before them, but the fill-ins on Dennis & Callahan seemed mainly interested in constructing a gallows for hapless manager Grady Little.)

Arnold and Neumeier argued that from a pure management point of view, Little probably deserves to be rehired because of what he's accomplished during his first two seasons, and because his players not only like him, they play hard for him.

But -- and this is the but on which everything turns -- they added that, logic aside, Little can't be rehired. The fans will never stand for it. They're right. After a decent interval (say, until right after the World Series), Little will be gone.

And let me add my voice to those of millions of other Red Sox fans: Little's decision not to start the eighth with Mike Timlin was the single most bone-headed managerial move I have seen in 35 years of watching baseball games. My heart sank when I saw Pedro Martínez stroll back to the mound after his outstanding night's work was apparently over.

Of course, that blunder was only compounded by Little's refusal to get off his ass and rescue Martínez after he gave up a hit, then two, then three.

There was no Curse last night. Just sheer, unmitigated stupidity.

posted at 11:23 AM | comment or permalink

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Mush from a wimp. Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman today derides herself and other liberals for showing too much sympathy for Rush Limbaugh, who admitted last week that he's addicted to prescription pain-killers. "This is the curse of liberal wimpathy," she writes.

Among the fellow wimps she identifies is Joe Conason, the author of Big Lies, who writes a column for the New York Observer and a weblog for Salon. Her evidence is this Conason sentence: "It's hard not to feel sorry for anyone whose suffering causes them to hustle narcotics."

I was surprised, because I'd recalled Conason's being pretty tough on Limbaugh. I looked it up, and I was right.

Not only did Conason quote from an e-mail suggesting Limbaugh's pill-popping might have caused his deafness, but Goodman took Conason's sentence out of context. Here's the context from Conason's October 3 blog entry (subscription required) -- written before Limbaugh had even come clean:

From what I've read, it seems that Limbaugh may have been overmedicating himself for pain. That's no excuse, as he would surely have said of any liberal caught doing likewise, but it's hard not to feel sorry for anyone whose suffering causes them to hustle narcotics. Perhaps he and his hard-hearted dittoheads might begin to understand addiction differently now.

Now that Rush has gone public, Conason is even more unstinting. Here's a choice bit from his column in this week's Observer:

So whatever punishment Mr. Limbaugh must endure will be handed down in the court of public opinion. He enjoys the support of millions of character witnesses, including prominent fellow hypocrites such as his close friends William Bennett and Newt Gingrich. But they would all be hard-pressed to describe the mighty radio mouth as someone who has earned great sympathy. This is, after all, a man who earned millions by lampooning the plight of AIDS victims, spreading rumors that implicated Hillary Clinton in murder and Bill Clinton in cocaine abuse, and mocking the physical appearance of their young child. His brilliant career was founded on daily "entertainment" of this quality.

This casts Conason's "liberal wimpathy" in a rather different light, doesn't it?

New in this week's Phoenix. I talk with Peter Dinklage, the star of The Station Agent. Dinklage's portrayal of the lonely railroad enthusiast Finbar McBride may be the most important role a dwarf actor has ever had.

Also, the last days of Al Giordano's Narco News Bulletin.

posted at 8:23 AM | comment or permalink

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Could the sale of the Globe have been prevented? That sobbing sound you hear is from William and Benjamin Taylor, the last two publishers from the Boston Globe's former ruling family, who this week must be asking themselves, "Why didn't we think of that?"

Freedom Communications, parent company of the Orange County Register, has found a way to keep the paper within the Hoiles family and simultaneously pay off what the New York Times describes as "dissident family members."

Freedom owns 28 daily newspapers and eight TV stations, which these days qualifies as small potatoes. So this is a huge victory for independent media.

Among the rejected suitors are Gannett and MediaNews, whose chief executive, Dean Singleton, is pissed, according to both the Times and this report in the Wall Street Journal.

I have no idea whether the Taylors could have pulled off a deal like this rather than selling the Globe to the New York Times Company for $1.1 billion in 1993. The times and circumstances were different, and perhaps there was no way of preventing the sell-off.

But even though the Times Company has been a reasonably good steward of the Globe (from a reader's perspective; certainly many employees feel differently), the psychological impact continues to loom large.

Boston today is largely a franchise town, as Globe columnists such as Joan Vennochi bitterly lament from time to time. Nothing has contributed to that status more than the transfer of New England's dominant media organization to out-of-town ownership.

We interrupt this home run to bring you another commercial. I missed Manny Ramirez's home run yesterday -- some of us have to work, you know -- but it looks like Fox's commercials-up-to-the-last-possible-second policy claimed a victim: the viewers.

The Boston Herald has the story.

Please come to Amherst. I'll be reading from my book, Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes, tomorrow from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the UMass Amherst Campus Center, Room 904-08.

If you're going to be in the neighborhood, come on down.

posted at 9:00 AM | comment or permalink

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Loyalty oafs. It hasn't gotten much attention -- the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and Long Island's Newsday all ran this AP story inside -- but Common Cause has issued a devastating report on influence-peddling within the Bush White House.

Titled "Prospecting for Access: How the Bush Pioneers Shaped Public Policy," the report meticulously documents favors granted to the so-called Pioneers -- Bush contributors who gave $100,000 or more in his 2000 campaign.

The press release is here (ignore the typo that says "2002"); the full report, in PDF format, is here.

The report takes the form of a Pioneer-by-Pioneer look at contributions made and goodies received.

To take a random example, consider James H. "Buck" Harless, the founder and chairman of International Industries, in Gilbert, West Virginia. Harless raised and contributed at least $355,000 for Bush's campaign, for the Florida-recount effort, and for the Bush-Cheney inauguration.

So what did old Buck get for his generosity? Here's what the report says:

The Bush administration retracted a campaign pledge to require power plants that use coal to sharply cut carbon dioxide emissions, rejected U.S. endorsement of an international agreement to curb global warming, weakened federal clean water regulations related to coal mining and proposed investing substantial federal dollars in "clean coal" technology.

The cost: "$2 billion over ten years in federal subsidies to encourage clean coal technology; degradation of air and water quality."

Of course, the White House might have been inclined to do these things anyway. But that makes Common Cause's findings no less repulsive.

Overall, the report is a litany of regulations loosened or abolished, Colombian pipelines protected at taxpayer expense, and secret meetings with Vice-President Dick Cheney held.

It should have gotten a lot more attention. Perhaps it will in the days ahead.

So, David, why do you think Zimmer apologized? No, Pedro Martinez certainly doesn't deserve a good-conduct medal for his disgraceful antics in Saturday's playoff game.

But he did not "grab a 72-year-old man by the head and toss him to the ground," which is New York Times columnist David Brooks's alternate-universe description of the Martinez-Don Zimmer confrontation.

Besides, doesn't Brooks realize that the New York Times Company is a part-owner of the Red Sox, and that its editorial page last week actually called for a Sox victory over the Yankees?

Brooks needs to get with the program.

posted at 9:09 AM | comment or permalink

Monday, October 13, 2003

Not even a mini-scandal, as it turns out. Media Log reader K.W. points me to this InstaPundit item. Apparently the identical letters started with one soldier who asked his buddies to sign it.

InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds writes that "it seems that the letter isn't bogus after all." Uh, well, not so fast. When a bunch of newspapers receive a form letter that's not labeled as such, purporting to be from their hometown soldier when it really isn't, that's still pretty bogus.

But it does seem that there's no organized campaign behind this.

By the way, Reynolds pleads guilty to reading-comprehension problems. That's what led me astray, too.

posted at 1:06 PM | comment or permalink

This week's scandal. It will be interesting to see how far up this one goes.

The Gannett News Service reports that newspapers around the country have been receiving identical -- and apparently fake -- letters from US soldiers stationed in Iraq. The message: the reconstruction is going great, Iraq is returning to normal, and God bless the USA.

Here's a report from USA Today.

Thanks to Michael Goldman for passing along word of this sleazy campaign to demonstrate fake support for George W. Bush.

It's hard to muster much outrage -- this is too pathetically transparent for that.

Pox on Sox. While you were watching all hell break loose at Fenway on Saturday, I was huddled around a radio with about a half-dozen other fathers at a Boy Scout camping trip. The signal kept fading in and out. So you know more than I do.

What strikes me, though are two things:

  • The "Cowboy Up" crapola aside, this is a distinctly unlovable team. Yes, of course I'm glad the Sox are doing well, but these are not the Sox of '67, '75, or '86. There are too many crybabies and bullies.
  • Pedro Martinez seems to be one of those athletes whose very intensity makes him a far better teammate when he's doing well than when he's not. He just can't stop the frustration from boiling over when things are going against him. He's got to grow up, especially as he looks at the future. He may have some good years ahead of him, but his days as the dominant pitcher in baseball are almost certainly over.

There's been a lot of smart commentary in both dailies. One of my favorites was Michael Gee's column (sub. req.) in Sunday's Herald. His conclusion:

Winning is always the best PR. Ask Gov. Schwarzenegger. But the Sox didn't win. In the process of losing, they struck millions of neutral observers as childish boors.

Way to go, Pedro. That's quite an accomplishment, making the Yankees America's sentimental favorite.

Let judges judge. Today's Globe has a must-read column by Judge Mark Coven on the folly of mandatory minimum sentences for drunk drivers.

Coven's unassailable logic could be extended to mandatory sentences in general.

posted at 11:54 AM | comment or permalink


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

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