LOG BY DAN
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See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale, October 2003),
Friday, January 02, 2004
60 Minutes versus the
New York Times. There may be a problem with Sharon
that CBS paid $1 million to Michael Jackson partly in return for his
agreeing to be interviewed by Ed Bradley. Roger Friedman has the
Waxman's story was devastating. But
60 Minutes is - along with Nightline - the last great
TV news institution, and I'm willing to give Don Hewitt and company
the benefit of the doubt. It will be fascinating to see how this
plays out, given the Times' own troubles over the past
New in this week's
Phoenix. 2004 is likely to be a
very good year for George
W. Bush and Capitol Hill Republicans - and, thus, a very bad one for
Also, what if everything we know
posted at 9:36 AM |
Wednesday, December 31, 2003
"CBS News doesn't pay for
interviews." No, but CBS's entertainment division does. And that
distinction is behind a sickening
Sharon Waxman reports in today's
New York Times that Michael Jackson and/or his business
managers talked CBS into paying him $1 million - on top of the $5
million he had already received - for an entertainment program that
he's headlining this Friday and for his appearance on 60
Minutes this past Sunday.
As Waxman describes it, the payment
was handled just delicately enough for CBS News executives to have
deniability - although that old Nixonian phrase "plausible
deniability" is certainly not what comes to mind. Absolutely no one
is going to buy this load of garbage.
Here's the killer, admittedly
dependent on an unnamed source:
"Michael was in his room,"
the associate said. "Ed Bradley had set up. Basically Michael
wanted to see the rest of the money. Bradley kept saying, 'Don't
worry, we'll take care of it.' Michael said he wouldn't do the
interview unless they paid. It came to a stalemate. But they
didn't want to put anything in writing."
Bradley ended up walking away from
the interview then, but he did it later.
The best quote is from Orville
Schell, dean of the University of California at Berkeley's Graduate
School of Journalism, who tells
the Los Angeles Times' Tim Rutten:
[CBS] has gone
from one humiliating event to another in recent years. But it's
particularly demeaning to compromise your integrity so
fundamentally over something as worthless as Michael Jackson. I
suppose you could make a case for getting a story that laid bare
the terrorist networks operating inside Iraq by paying for it. But
to lose your reputation, as CBS now has done, to get more Michael
Jackson? That's really sad.
As Schell notes, CBS News has been
a pathetic joke for years. But 60 Minutes, while by no means
perfect, has managed to maintain its basic integrity. Not now. It's
And since there are zero
indications that there will be any firings, resignations, or
heartfelt promises not to do it again, then it's fairly safe to say
that it's gone for good.
Nomar, Mr. Nice Guy. Gordon
Edes has a fascinating inside
look in today's Boston
Globe at what went wrong with the Alex Rodriguez
But there's another angle to this,
too. Edes gives free rein to the Red Sox ownership to do damage
control with Nomar Garciaparra, who almost certainly would have been
traded if Rodriguez had come to town.
(Edes does not disclose that the
Globe's corporate owner, the New York Times Company, is part
of the Red Sox' ownership group. Since this is mainly a baseball
story, I'm agnostic on whether he should have.)
What really stands out is that Sox
principal owner John Henry really, really wants Garciaparra to know
is that the only reason he considered this deal in the first place
was that he was convinced his star shortstop didn't want to stay in
Here are some excerpts from an
e-mail that Henry sent to Edes:
I am not sure of the exact
date, but almost immediately after this meeting, I heard from
[general manager] Theo [Epstein] that the gulf
between [Garciaparra's agent] Arn Tellem's demand and the
club's view of the right number for Nomar was so wide that he felt
we were not going to be able to re-sign our shortstop....
I had a hard time imagining
finally winning a World Series in Boston without Nomar being there
at that great moment. Nevertheless, we faced the realities such as
they were and determined to move forward.
Former Globe baseball
reporter Peter Gammons, writing for ESPN.com, has a rather
different take on the
breakdown. According to Gammons, the principal bad guy in this was
Sox president Larry Lucchino, who pissed off Rodriguez by
grandstanding against the Players Association for nixing the proposed
downward restructuring of Rodriguez's $252 million
Lucchino doesn't come off all that
well in Edes's telling, either. But the Edes version is that the man
Lucchino really infuriated was Rodriguez's current employer,
Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks.
The Edes version leaves the Sox
with the best of both worlds: the possibility that the trade will
still take place, along with indications that if it doesn't,
Garciaparra could be signed to a new, long-term contract.
Two Dans, no waiting. Secret
Agent Cathy is upset
that I went after Dan Savage yesterday
for suggesting that Americans deserve to die because the US propped
up Saddam Hussein for many years.
posted at 9:00 AM |
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
How the American Prospect saves money. Based on this, I'd say by recycling an old Bill Bradley drawing and claiming that it's Howard Dean. (For a closer view, click here.)
posted at 3:06 PM |
Savage war. Dan Savage, the
editor of Seattle's The Stranger and a noted sex columnist,
caused a stir earlier this year when he came out in favor of the war
in Iraq. He hasn't changed his mind, but this week he
I regret that the
president of the United States is a lying sack of shit. And I
regret the first piece I wrote about Iraq. I was taken in by the
Bushies' attempts to link Saddam and Osama, and conflate Baathism
with Islamo-fascism, and the first piece I wrote is so credulous
that I can't read it without cringing. I put too much stock in
Condoleezza and her mushroom clouds, Colin and his mobile weapons
labs, and Cheney and his alternate reality.
Savage hangs his hat on Christopher
Hitchens's coat hook, arguing that the United States had a
responsibility to remove Saddam Hussein's lunatic homicidal regime,
especially since we had so much to do with propping him up over the
years. It's an eminently respectable argument, even if I don't agree
Unfortunately, Savage goes insane
at the end. Here is his last paragraph:
Saddam Hussein was our man
in Baghdad for years, our creation, our problem. And that it's
costing American lives and money to remove Saddam Hussein from
power is, in a sense, only right.
Money? Okay, fine. But
lives? Is Savage serious? Is he really sitting up there in the
Pacific Northwest, somehow satisfied or even pleased that American
soldiers are making the moral equation even by doing us the favor of
getting killed in a war that Savage himself doesn't have to fight?
This is repulsive.
Remedial reading for Savage:
today's New York Times front-pager
on Army Sergeant Jeremy Feldbusch, who, while serving in Iraq, was
hit by a piece of shrapnel that blinded him and damaged a part of his
brain that controls emotions.
Savage may believe it's "only
right" that Feldbusch's life has been ruined, and that Donald
Rumsfeld's long-ago handshake with Saddam has thus been somehow
negated. What Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman really shows
us, though, is the true horror of war - and why it is a moral
obscenity that the Bush White House lied about weapons of mass
Savage should stick to what he's
good at. Like licking
The Dissector's year in
review. Danny Schechter, the executive editor of Mediachannel.org,
blogs some of the lowlights of 2003 here.
And check out his new personal website, Dissectorville.
posted at 11:06 AM |
Monday, December 29, 2003
Why technology won't kill
spam. A remarkable thing happened when I downloaded my e-mail a
few moments ago. Forty-six messages flooded into Microsoft Entourage.
Three - all of them legitimate - stayed in my in box. The rest were
transferred to a folder labeled "Spam" before I could even look at
I began paging through the spam
folder and found the usual foolishness. Come-ons for Viagra
substitutes. A get-rich-quick scheme from Nigeria. Pornography. And
lest you think that's a fairly light load of garbage, be advised that
this was only since 10 p.m. yesterday.
Yet I also found one message that
shouldn't have been there. It was an e-mail I had sent out last night
that for some reason bounced back. If I hadn't inspected my spam
message-by-message, I never would have seen it. And that's why -
despite an impressive error rate of just under 2.2 percent - I'm
going to remove the spam-filtering software I've been playing with
for the past week.
That's the problem with trying to
eliminate spam. Losing one good message is worse than having to sort
through scores of bad ones. The program I installed a little more
than a week ago - SpamSieve
- is highly rated, and it does seem to do an excellent job. But no
program is perfect, as the SpamSieve manual itself acknowledges: it
promises "to catch nearly every spam message yet produce very few
Well, if there are any false
positives, or even the possibility of one, then I have to go through
my spam folder with exactly the same attentiveness as I did with my
inbox before I installed SpamSieve, don't I?
This isn't the software designer's
fault, of course. (And, in fact, it would work a little better if I
were more diligent: I keep getting warning messages that I've
programmed SpamSieve to be oversensitive by showing it too many bad
messages and not enough good ones.)
But the false-positive problem
shows the limits of technology, and demonstrates further why computer
users are dependent on Congress to deal with spam in an intelligent
way. Will a new law called CAN-SPAM - whose implementation is
in today's Boston Globe by Chris Gaither - make a
I hope so, but I'm skeptical. As
this recent piece
at Wired.com makes clear, CAN-SPAM may make so small a difference as
to be nearly worthless.
One of the best overviews is
article by Christopher
Caldwell that was published in the Weekly Standard last June.
Since spammers depend on sending out millions upon millions of
e-mails - a practice that now costs them virtually nothing - Caldwell
proposed taxing e-mails - a very un-Standard-like approach,
but one that might actually work. He wrote:
A penny-per-e-mail charge
would drive most spammers out of business, subject them to jail
time for tax evasion if they hid their operations, and cost the
average three-letter-a-day Internet user just ten bucks a year. If
even that seems too hard on the small user, then an exemption
could be made for up to 5,000 e-mails per annum.
Sounds good to me. In the meantime,
CAN-SPAM takes effect on New Year's Day. Perhaps when people see how
ineffective it is, they'll demand something more toothsome.
Caldwell's article would be a good place to start.
posted at 8:07 AM |
MEDIA LOG ARCHIVES
Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.