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See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale, October 2003),
Friday, November 07, 2003
More on that so-called Iraqi
peace offer. New York Times reporter James Risen and Iraq
expert Ken Pollack were on CNN's NewsNight with Aaron Brown
last night, chewing over Risen's story on a
last-minute peace overture
that appeared to have Saddam Hussein's blessing.
Maybe there's more to tell, but it
sounds like this is going nowhere. Pollack -- a prowar ex-Clinton
official -- was dubious in the extreme, saying, "There is no reason
to believe that Iraqi intelligence had any intention of delivering on
any of the promises that they were dangling in front of the United
States. Far more likely what they were trying to do was to derail
the US war effort without actually giving up anything."
And Risen himself made no great
claims for his story, other than to assert that it was accurate. For
I think, as Ken said, you
know, you can't get into the mind of Saddam Hussein very easily.
It's quite possible this was all, that he wasn't really serious
about this. All I'm saying in my reporting is that this happened.
This channel happened....
So, I'm convinced that Habbush
met with Hage, that Hage then met with Richard Perle, that Perle
then talked to the CIA. I'm not trying to say that this was real
or that Saddam Hussein was serious. I'm just saying this channel
Josh Marshall has a
different take on the whole
thing, arguing that the story was a setup by the neocons to help one
of their own -- Michael Maloof, who also figures in the story, and
who lost his security clearance earlier this year.
Marshall is very astute, but also a
bit too cynical for Media Log's tastes, given that he seems to think
that if you can speculate on the motive, you can dismiss the
On the other hand, Pollack's and
Risen's comments were pretty convincing that there is a wisp of smoke
here, but no fire.
Divide and conquer. New
York Times columnist Paul Krugman today reminds
us of how the Republicans
have used the Confederate flag to advance their interests in the
And the Boston Globe's Mary
Leonard reports that the GOP is salivating
over the prospect of making same-sex marriage an issue in the 2004
posted at 12:07 PM |
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Thursday, November 06, 2003
"At least they could have talked
to them." As Bob Somerby might say, I have no idea how
serious Iraq's last-minute attempt to avoid war really was. Nor do I
have any idea how US officials were supposed to differentiate this
one from the dozens of other back-channel communications they claim
they were receiving.
But the account
of this approach, by James Risen in today's New York Times, is
depressing nevertheless. Because the one thing we do know is
that Saddam's go-betweens were telling the truth when they claimed
Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction.
Read these two paragraphs and weep.
Hassan al-Obeidi was a top Iraqi intelligence official, and Imad Hage
was a Lebanese-American businessman who met with him, and who tried
to persuade the Americans to take the initiative
Mr. Obeidi told Mr. Hage
that Iraq would make deals to avoid war, including helping in the
Mideast peace process. "He said, if this is about oil, we will
talk about U.S. oil concessions," Mr. Hage recalled. "If it is
about the peace process, then we can talk. If this is about
weapons of mass destruction, let the Americans send over their
people. There are no weapons of mass destruction."
Mr. Obeidi said the "Americans
could send 2,000 F.B.I. agents to look wherever they wanted," Mr.
But no. All of this had to be
ignored, because the White House had already decided that the
invasion would take place.
Not to denigrate what has been
accomplished. Though Saddam's WMD capability -- pumped up by
Bush-administration lies -- has been disproven, can we all agree that
we've learned the savagery of Saddam's government was even worse than
Still, we're in a mess, and we
don't know how to get out of it. As if to emphasize the poignancy of
the lost opportunity Risen describes, three more pieces in today's
Times report that 43,000 reserves and National Guard troops
are to be called
up; that a soldier has been
accused of cowardice
-- not good if true, but you can't help but feel sympathetic for the
guy; and on GIs wounded
in last weekend's helicopter attack.
War is horrible even when
necessary. It is an unspeakable crime when it can be
Cash and carry. Howard Dean
is probably doing what's necessary if he walks away from the broken
public-financing system. If he doesn't, and if he then wins the
nomination, he's going to get creamed by George W. Bush.
That's why even pro-reform groups
such as Common Cause appear ready to give Dean a pass, as Dan Balz
and Thomas Edsall report
in today's Washington Post.
Still, this is treacherous
territory for Dean. How do you make the case that you're a different
kind of Democrat, and then turn around and raise money like Bill
Clinton? (Clinton, who did abide by public financing, raised
zillions in soft money through a loophole that was closed by
in today's Albany Times-Union is indicative of what Dean can
look forward to:
Going for broke also would
further expose one of Mr. Dean's glaring weaknesses. It would be
perhaps his most serious contradiction of a prior position yet.
For Mr. Dean, the self-proclaimed advocate of campaign finance
reform, running for president as a big money candidate would
amount to hypocrisy.
For Democrats, the most appealing
aspect of Dean's candidacy is that he appears to be willing to do
whatever it takes to win. But he can't afford to look like a
New in this week's
Phoenix. Meet Dr.
Bill Siroty: physician,
Dean supporter, and New Hampshire indispensable media
posted at 10:28 AM |
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Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Stars, bars, and Howard
Dean. I taped last night's "Rock
the Vote" debate while I
was out. Naturally, I screwed up somehow, and missed the first
half-hour, when all the fireworks took place over Howard Dean's
earlier comment that he "want[s] to be the candidate for guys
with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks."
But I caught the exchange between
him and Al Sharpton in the post-debate wrap-up. In any case, that
particular dust-up now appears to have been chewed over
is the Boston Globe report, by Patrick Healy and Joanna Weiss.
Chris Suellentrop has a good analysis
in Slate this morning on how Dean boneheadedly turned this
into a bigger deal than it should have been. And the Boston
Herald's David Guarino caught
up with Sekou Dilday, who
initially popped the question, and who now says he's decided not to
So here's what I'm mad about. At
one point, a 20-year-old student asked the candidates to describe who
they were when they were 20. It was a good question, the sort that
I'd have liked to hear all eight candidates answer.
But moderator Anderson Cooper, who
must have been told to keep things moving no matter what, cut it off
after only Dennis Kucinich, Wesley Clark, Dean, and Joe Lieberman had
answered. (John Kerry must have been eating his heart out, but he
managed to work in the Vietnam stuff later.)
Good move, Coop! The next question
was from a Tufts kid, who asked Carol Moseley Braun about --
AmeriCorps. "I think AmeriCorps is important. I think public
service is important," Moseley Braun began, sucking all semblance of
life out of my TV set.
And so it went. There were moments
when the debate veered toward being the best Democratic forum yet.
But it was too disjointed, and Cooper -- a white-haired 36-year-old
whom CNN has designated as its youth magnet -- was all too eager to
contribute to the disjointedness.
For instance, Kerry -- criticized
for that photo
of him hunting pheasants the other day -- joked, "It's a tough
economy now, and it's amazing what you have to do to put food on the
table." He then turned it around, blasting Dean for wooing and
winning the support of the National Rifle Association. "You want an
assault weapon? Join the Army," Kerry said.
Dean responded by saying he
supports the assault-weapons ban. But when Kerry tried to challenge
him, Cooper wouldn't let him.
Kerry's most idiotic moment came
when he was asked about polls that show Hillary Clinton would lead
the entire pack of Democrats by a wide margin if she were to jump
into the race. "I saw a poll the other day that showed me 15 points
ahead of her," Kerry replied. Citation, Senator?
The weirdest performance of the
evening came from Kucinich, but that was no surprise. He and Clark
looked like Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in their black ensembles;
perhaps they're auditioning for MiB III. Kucinich was wearing
orange make-up, and toward the end -- waving his arms and shouting
out a five-point plan for something or other -- he looked positively
bug-eyed and unhinged. Kucinich's video
did have the best music, though.
Clark seemed sharper and more
assertive than he has since his shaky start, but he still can't
answer a simple question. Asked about lesbian and gay rights, he
seemed to support letting homosexuals serve openly in the military,
but then backed away. Afterwards, CNN's Paula Zahn asked him to
clarify his "blurred line" on don't ask/don't tell.
"I don't think there are any lines
blurred there, Paula," he replied, and then blurred things even more:
"We have a policy that may be working or may not be working." The
rest of his answer continued in a similar vein.
The funniest line of the evening
(also no surprise) came from the Reverend Al Sharpton. When asked
what his first thought would be upon moving into the White House, he
replied, "Well, I think the first thing going through my head will be
to make sure that Bush has all his stuff out."
But maybe the most effective line
-- to get back to the Confederate-flag flap -- was from John Edwards,
the Southerner who's trying to appeal to the Bubba vote. "I drive a
pickup truck," he told Zahn, "but I've got an American flag in the
Presidential pix online.
NPR's All Things Considered yesterday had a nice piece on
Diana Walker, a former Time magazine photographer who
photographed presidents and their families for more than two
If, like me, you heard the piece
and wanted to see the photos, click
You say "art," I say, "So what?"
Q: What do you call a docu-drama that gets canceled? A: A step in
the right direction.
I simply cannot get excited over
the fact that CBS has decide to yank its controversial, fictitious
treatment of the Reagans. Yes, it's disturbing -- as the New York
Times reports today
-- that CBS knuckled under to a concerted campaign by top-level
Republicans. I have no doubt that Sumner Redstone and Mel Karmazin
were, uh, gently reminded of regulatory and legislative issues that
could have a serious effect on their immensely profitable
But then I saw this quote from
Barbra Streisand, wife of faux-Reagan James Brolin: "Indeed, today
marks a sad day for artistic freedom -- one of the most important
elements of an open and democratic society."
Good grief. As Madonna once
explained to Ted Koppel, "It's like my art, ya know?"
Come on down. I'll be
reading from Little
People today at noon in
The Studio, in Northeastern University's Curry Student Center. If
you're in the neighborhood, stop on by.
posted at 9:02 AM |
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Tuesday, November 04, 2003
"Fair and balanced" debunked --
by a conservative. Fox News fans who actually buy into Roger
Ailes's "fair and balanced" crapola ought to get themselves over to
the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com.
Yesterday the site republished a
long piece from City Journal written by one Brian C. Anderson,
who glowingly sings the praises of the Fox News Channel because --
get this, Roger -- it's unapologetically
Anderson: "Watch Fox for
just a few hours and you encounter a conservative presence unlike
anything on TV." Naturally, Anderson thinks this enables Fox to do
better journalism than its so-called liberal competitors, which is a
dubious proposition. But it's refreshing to see someone on the other
side acknowledge simple reality.
Anderson doesn't stop there. He
praises South Park for its allegedly conservative sensibility
-- he's absolutely rhapsodic over segments that depict the rain
forest as smelling "like ass," and that make fun of Native
And he engages in the absolutely
loathsome practice of attributing to liberals views that are held
only by a few seriously demented extremists.
For instance, he points to a
South Park encounter with the North American Man-Boy Love
Association (NAMBLA) as somehow saying something important --
importantly bad, that is -- about liberals. He writes of
One of the contemporary
left's most extreme (and, to conservatives, objectionable)
strategies is its effort to draw the mantle of civil liberties
over behavior once deemed criminal, pathological or immoral
Of course, Anderson offers not a
whit of proof that any real liberal would "draw the mantle of civil
liberties" over the behavior that NAMBLA advocates, as opposed
to letting the organization simply talk about it, which is a very
different thing. Then again, the First Amendment isn't all that big
with the right these days, so it's perhaps too much to expect
Anderson to make such fine distinctions.
Anderson also lets Matt Welch
assert, without challenge, that he started his weblog right after
9/11 "in direct response to reading five days' worth of outrageous
bullshit in the media from people like Noam Chomsky and Robert
Yes, it's true that Chomsky and
Jensen are members of the hard left. Like virtually every liberal I
know, I was deeply offended by Chomsky's blithe blame-it-on-the-US
attitude following the terrorist attacks.
But Welch -- and, by extension,
Anderson -- would lead one to believe that Chomsky was perched at the
right (okay, left) hand of Howell Raines during those days and weeks
of 24/7 coverage. In fact, you'd have to scour the websites of, say,
and the Nation
to find any unmediated Chomsky. And even the Nation's editors
felt compelled to balance Chomsky with erstwhile lefty war hawk
Christopher Hitchens. For the most part, the public was introduced to
Chomsky's views by pundits who quoted him for the sole purpose of
As for Jensen, I couldn't even
remember who he was until I Googled him this morning.
is his home page. As I
recall, he nearly lost his job for speaking out, and was saved only
by an old-fashioned idea called academic freedom.
Toward the end, Anderson cites
Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam's attack on bloggers last
year (sorry, can't find it online) as an example of elite liberal
bias. Beam is certainly an elitist, as I'm sure he would be the first
to attest; but he's actually a conservative, in an elitist,
old-fashioned sort of way.
Ultimately Anderson's piece is
well-written, well-argued, and silly. It sounds good, but it falls
apart when you examine the faulty premises on which it
But he's right about one thing: Fox
News is as fair and balanced as the Wall Street Journal's
posted at 9:18 AM |
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MEDIA LOG ARCHIVES
Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.