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See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale, October 2003),
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Yes, Senator, freedom
from religion, too. Religion is starting to sneak into the
presidential campaign in a fairly rancid way. The latest example is
Joe Lieberman, who, according to this
article in the New York
Times, is going after Howard Dean for being too
In what Times reporter Diane
Cardwell calls a "veiled swipe" at Dean, Lieberman reportedly
I know that some people
believe that faith has no place in the so-called public square.
They forget that the constitutional separation of church and
state, which I strongly support, promises freedom of religion, not
freedom from religion. Some people forget that faith was central
to our founding and remains central to our national purpose and
our individual lives.
The good senator, of all people,
should know that religion is treacherous territory in public life -
and that if religiosity is a good, old-fashioned American value, so
too is anti-Semitism. If Lieberman were actually in a position to
win, his Orthodox Judaism might prove to be a problem with some of
the very people he's trying to win over. It's unseemly of him to go
after a fellow Democrat on religious grounds.
Still, Lieberman's outburst is not
without context. This week's New Republic features a
story (sub. req.) by
Franklin Foer arguing that Dean simply isn't religious enough to get
elected in November. Foer notes a survey showing that "70 percent of
Americans want their president to be a person of faith."
"Howard Dean is one of the most
secular candidates to run for president in modern history," writes
Foer, citing Dean's switch from the Episcopal to the Congregational
church over his anger at the Episcopal diocese's opposition to a bike
path he was championing; his admission that he rarely goes to church;
his marriage to a Jewish woman, Judith Steinberg, whose religious
views also appear to lean secular; and his frequent attacks on
religious fundamentalists. (Representative Dean soundbite: "I don't
want to listen to the fundamentalist preachers anymore.")
But is it the religion of the
politician that matters, or the politics of the religious? Earlier
this week, the Boston Globe published a column by its former
Washington-bureau chief, David Shribman, on a well-known phenomenon:
the overwhelming preference that Christian fundamentalists have for
Republicans. (You can find it here,
on the website of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where Shribman
is the executive editor.)
In the 2000 election, Bush
swept more religiously observant voters by large percentages -
and, in the case of white evangelical Protestants, by a margin of
more than five to one.
Shribman doesn't quite connect the
dots, so I will: this wide split took place despite such
Gore-ian ick as his wearing a WWJD ("What would Jesus do?") bracelet.
For the fundamentalists, it's not whether you were born again; it's
where you stand on such cultural issues as abortion rights and
It doesn't matter to me whether a
candidate is a secular Protestant, such as Dean; a Catholic, such as
John Kerry; or someone like Wesley
Clark, whose father was
Jewish and who apparently switches to a different Christian
denomination every couple of years.
Then again, I suppose I'm one of
those secularists who Joe Lieberman's mother warned him
A close encounter with mad-cow
disease. News that a downer cow in Washington State has been
diagnosed with mad-cow disease has brought this low-simmering story
back to a boil. Here
is the story from the
hometown Seattle Times.
Two years ago I identified mad cow
as a shamefully undercovered story and urged the media to get off
their butts and start reporting. You can read it here.
The best - and most horrifying -
overview remains Ellen Ruppel Shell's piece in the Atlantic
Monthly of September 1998, "Could
Mad-Cow Disease Happen Here?"
So put down that burger and start
And have a Merry Beef-free
posted at 8:59 AM |
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Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Interview Ben Affleck? Go
directly to jail! Not that anyone should be surprised, but now
comes evidence that the administration's thuggishness toward foreign
visitors extends to journalists as well.
According to this December 13
in the Toledo Blade, of all places, "immigration and customs
people are arresting, detaining, and deporting journalists arriving
here without special visas. This is so even when they come from
nations whose citizens can stay for up to 90 days without a visa if
they are arriving as tourists or on business."
The Blade recounts the story
of Peter Krobath, of an Austrian entertainment magazine called
Skip, who was jailed overnight like a common criminal after he
arrived in the US to interview Ben Affleck and attend a screening of
the movie Paycheck. His crime: showing up without a
There are other horror stories as
well. Read the whole thing.
More information is available on
the website of the International
Press Institute, based in
Austria. Be sure to check out this letter
to Secretary of State Colin Powell, which includes more details on
Krobath's detention. This is outrageous:
When Mr. Krobath landed at
Los Angeles Airport (LAX) on 2 December 2003 to cover the
above-mentioned junket, he was questioned about the purpose of his
visit and further interrogated for almost five hours. After he was
body-searched, and his photograph and fingerprints were taken, two
security officers led him handcuffed to an isolation room. Later
on he was transferred to a downtown prison where he spent the
night together with about 45 persons (some of whom were convicted
criminals) in a room with iron benches and two open toilet
facilities but without blankets despite the low temperature. His
luggage and his personal belongings were kept separately.
The letter urges Powell to support
a resolution by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, which has
asked Congress to include journalists in the US Visa Waiver Program
for Visitors from Friendly Countries.
does not appear to have anything on it about this grotesque assault
on the civil liberties of international visitors.
This story bears
posted at 9:30 AM |
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Monday, December 22, 2003
The overweening arrogance of
George Will. George Will's buckraking ways have landed him in
some trouble today. And what's not to love about that?
In this morning's New York
Times, Jacques Steinberg and Geraldine Fabrikant report
that Will was one of several conservative deep thinkers - along with
National Review founder William Buckley, geriatric war
criminal Henry Kissinger, Carter-era hawk Zbigniew Brzezinski,
Margaret Thatcher, and others - who were paid to lend intellectual
legitimacy to Conrad Black, a newspaper baron who is himself in quite
a bit of hot water over his alleged corrupt business
It seems that not only did Will
provide a fawning blurb for Black's new biography of Franklin
Roosevelt - the recipient of an unusually harsh assessment
in the current New York Times Book Review by former Boston
Globe editor Michael Janeway - but he has also sucked up to his
secret benefactor in his column as well.
Here are the (literal) money
In a column syndicated by
The Washington Post Writers Group in March, Mr. Will recounted
observations Mr. Black had made in a London speech defending the
Bush administration's stance on Iraq.
In a rebuttal to Mr. Bush's
critics, Mr. Will wrote, "Into this welter of foolishness has
waded Conrad Black, a British citizen and member of the House of
Lords who is a proprietor of many newspapers."
Asked in the interview if he
should have told his readers of the payments he had received from
Hollinger, Mr. Will said he saw no reason to do so.
"My business is my business," he
said. "Got it?"
Alan Shearer, editorial director
and general manager of The Washington Post Writers Group, said he
was unaware of Mr. Will's affiliation with Hollinger or the money
he received. "I think I would have liked to have known," Mr.
Buckley comes in for some
criticism, too, but in the main his response is that of an
old-fashioned gentleman: he has often disclosed his friendship with
Black, but not his financial arrangement. Will, by contrast, looks
like a money-grubbing worm.
Of course, Will has made a career
out of using his column to advance his own interests, political,
financial, and otherwise. Most memorably, in 1980 Will secretly
prepped Ronald Reagan for his debate against Jimmy Carter - a
coaching session made all the easier because the Reagan campaign had
improperly obtained a copy of Carter's briefing book. Will later went
on television and pronounced Reagan's performance to be that of a
"thoroughbred." Norman Solomon has a good synopsis here,
on the Fairness
and Accuracy in Reporting
FAIR's Steve Rendall
a bit of unpleasantness that descended on Will in 1996, when he
continually tore into Bill Clinton at a time when Will's wife, Mari
Maseng, was working for Clinton's opponent, Bob Dole. Will,
naturally, didn't disclose.
George Will is an elegant writer,
and he sure knows how to wear a bowtie. But he has always
subordinated the interests of his readers to his own, narrower
I'm glad to see that his editor is
pissed off. Editorial-page editors across the country might consider
whether Will has now proven himself to be a repeat offender with no
possibility of rehabilitation.
Convention-al wisdom. The
contracts, as they say, have already been signed. But are Mayor Tom
Menino and planners for the Democratic National Convention really
going to walk into a full-blown catastrophe now that a viable
alternative has been identified?
Last Friday, the Boston
Herald's Cosmo Macero wrote
(sub. req.) that the new convention center in South Boston would be
ready by next July if the go-ahead to move the DNC were
It is a brilliant idea. The
FleetCenter is a disaster waiting to happen. There is no place to put
the media (and the modern convention is, above all else, a media
show). And security in such a crowded neighborhood is bound to be so
odious that it will leave a bad taste for years to come.
Check this out from Macero's
"If we got the call from
the mayor or the committee ... I believe we could do it," says Jim
Rooney, chief executive of the Massachusetts Convention Center
Authority and Menino's one-time chief of staff. "It would look
different. But it could and would be made to look like a good
media event, which is by and large what conventions are."
The analogous situation is
Philadelphia, which hosted the Republican National Convention in
2000. Most of the events took place in the downtown, all within a few
blocks. But the convention itself was held far from the downtown, in
a facility surrounded by acres of unused land - plenty of room for
tents to house the media, security, and the like.
It was an ideal set-up, and one
Boston would do well to emulate. Now that it appears this could
really be done, the only intelligent response is to make it happen.
posted at 8:56 AM |
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MEDIA LOG ARCHIVES
Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.