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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, January 10, 2004

The Democrats and the war (a semi-correction). Media Log reader F.C. thinks a correction is in order for my item on the New Republic's endorsement of Joe Lieberman, whom I called "the only one of the nine Democratic presidential candidates" to support the war in Iraq.

"In fact," writes F.C., "Gephardt, Edwards and Kerry all voted to authorize Bush to use military force, and Gephardt was among the first Democrats to do so publicly."

I semi-agree. John Kerry, depending on how things are going on any particular moment, can sound as antiwar as Howard Dean these days, so I will definitely stick with leaving him out of the prowar mix.

As for Gephardt, he said at the time of the vote that he thought it represented the best chance for peace. Here's a postwar Gephardt statement:

I said to President Bush in the Oval Office, a number of times early last year, that he had to get the UN, he had to get NATO, he had to start the inspections, he had to weld together an alliance to do whatever needed to be done. He failed at that. We're now seven months into the event, or eight months, and he still hasn't gotten it done!

That said, Gephardt did vote "yes" on the Bush administration's request for $87 billion to help reconstruct Iraq. So did Lieberman.

On the other hand, Kerry and Edwards voted "no." And though Edwards has not sought to distance himself from his prowar vote with quite the vigor that Gephardt has, his statement about the $87 billion were pointed:

The policy this administration was pursuing in Iraq was not working. It needed to be changed. And I wanted to say absolutely clearly that it needed to be changed.

What's beyond dispute is that no one other than Lieberman has made this kind of statement:

Look, long before George Bush became president, I reached a conclusion that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the US and to the world, and particularly to his own people who he was brutally suppressing. I believe that the war against Saddam was right, and that the world is safer with him gone.

Which is why I called Lieberman the only one of the nine to support the war. If I had added the word "unreservedly," I suppose that would have gotten it exactly right.

More on the Herald's unlabeled front-page ad. WBUR Radio weighed in on Friday. Click here to see the fake front. You can also listen to a commentary by Boston University journalism-department chairman Bob Zelnick.

posted at 10:29 AM | comment or permalink

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Ben Bradlee departs Globe. Veteran Boston Globe staff member Ben Bradlee Jr. - on leave to write a book about Ted Williams - has decided not to return. Globe editor Marty Baron's memo to the staff has been posted on Romenesko. A copy was sent to Media Log as well. It reads:

To the staff:

I am sorry to report that we are saying farewell to a colleague whose 25 years of dedicated service to The Boston Globe has brought some of its finest journalistic achievements.

Ben Bradlee Jr. has served this paper in a wide range of capacities - as investigative reporter, state government reporter, national correspondent, foreign correspondent, the editor overseeing State House and City Hall bureaus, the Assistant Managing Editor for local news, and Deputy Managing Editor for Projects and Investigations.

To each of those jobs, he brought passion, fierce competitiveness, and a drive to get at the truth. Ben has held us to high standards and high ambitions, and he has become a dear friend to so many here.

Over the past year and a half, Ben has been on a leave of absence while researching and writing a book on Ted Williams. He will continue to work on that book, his fourth. A few weeks ago, Ben said he had concluded that now would be a good time to move on to another phase of his life, and in that I know he has our best wishes.

He also has our thanks for his many contributions to the Globe's success. I am particularly grateful for his invaluable leadership on the investigation of the priest sex-abuse scandal, where he always pressed forward and never settled for less than the full story. The book that emerged from that investigation, "Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church," would never have been published without Ben, who conceived the project, oversaw the reporting, and personally edited it.

Ben won't be far away, and I'm sure he'll be available for good advice, journalistic inspiration, or maybe just a drink among friends.


Bradlee, 55, had been at the Globe for 25 years. Among his books is Guts and Glory: The Rise and Fall of Oliver North, published in 1988, in the midst of the Iran-contra scandal.

And yes, his father is the retired executive editor of the Washington Post, the legendary Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee.

posted at 7:21 PM | comment or permalink

Where's Marty? Perhaps the only surprising thing about the New Republic's endorsement of Joe Lieberman is that boy wonder editor Peter Beinart is taking pretty much sole credit for it.

Lieberman's politics - moderate on social and economic issues, hawkish on national security - are perfectly in alignment with those of Martin Peretz, the magazine's principal owner and editor-in-chief.

Yet Peretz's name didn't even come up last night when Beinart appeared on CNN's Paula Zahn Now to discuss the endorsement.

BEINART: It was a vigorous internal debate within the magazine. In fact, in this issue of the magazine we're publishing, four dissents in favor of other candidates. At the end of the day, as the editor in consultation, I made this decision feeling it was our responsibility to take a side.

ZAHN: That's a nice way of saying, you're the big cheese. You ultimately sign off on the decision.

BEINART: After listening to a lot of people.

Of course, the phrase "editor in consultation" leaves a lot of room for the involvement of others, including Peretz. But clearly a judgment was made to portray this as the decision of the magazine collectively, led by Beinart. And it was easier to do that this time around, since Peretz isn't known to be personal friends with Lieberman or any of the other candidates, as he was and is with Al Gore.

The endorsement itself is freely available, so have a look. What it really comes down to is one thing: TNR supported the war in Iraq, and Lieberman is the only one of the nine Democratic presidential candidates to do the same. For instance, there is this:

Fundamentally, the Dean campaign equates Democratic support for the Iraq war with appeasement of President Bush. But the fight against Saddam Hussein falls within a hawkish liberal tradition that stretches through the Balkan wars, the Gulf war, and, indeed, the cold war itself. Lieberman is not the only candidate who stands in that tradition - Wesley Clark promoted it courageously in Kosovo, as did Richard Gephardt when he defied the polls to vote for $87 billion to rebuild Iraq. But Lieberman is its most steadfast advocate, not only in the current field but in the entire Democratic Party.

That's a fair assessment. And I'm reasonably sure that Lieberman would never have resorted to the duplicitous arguments about weapons of mass destruction that were used by the Bush White House to concoct its case for war.

But, short of the prospect of Iraqi nukes, how could Lieberman - or anyone else - have convinced the American public that waging war was the right thing to do? As horrible a dictator as Saddam Hussein was, the chaos in Iraq today shows that this war was a terrible idea. Now that we know there were no weapons, what do we tell the families of American soldiers (not to mention Iraqis) whose lives have been lost?

The editorial is accompanied by pieces from the TNR staff favoring John Edwards, Dick Gephardt, Wesley Clark, and Howard Dean.

Nowhere in sight: Massachusetts senator John Kerry.

Ed Gillespie, lying liar. Even though Wes Boyd, head of the lefty political website, has clearly explained that he had nothing to do with the ad comparing George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler that had been posted by a contest participant; even though the ad was removed as soon as it was brought to his attention; Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie's disingenuous rant is still up on the party's website,

Here is's statement. And here's an analysis by Timothy Karr at, complete with the requisite link to an unhinged column in the right-wing New York Post.

New in this week's Phoenix: John Kerry battles to revive his moribund presidential campaign.

And the Narco News Bulletin is back.

posted at 9:54 AM | comment or permalink

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Front page for sale. I couldn't find one while I was running around the Back Bay earlier today, but a colleague just handed it to me: a very, very special edition of today's Boston Herald, given to her free of charge at Downtown Crossing.

Free, but not without a cost. Because the front is a mock cover that looks like the Herald, but that is apparently a full-page ad for JetBlue, which today - according to the lead "story" - "launches its much-anticipated nonstop service from Logan Airport to Orlando, Tampa and Denver."

The splash reads "JetBlue Arrives, Promises a Free TV to All Who Fly." There's an asterisk next to "TV," and an explanation that the head refers merely to "the complimentary satellite TV on JetBlue, not an actual television set."

Other tidbits include "Flight Attendant Gives Passenger Entire Can of Soda," "Blue Potato Chip Discovered, Enjoyed by JetBlue Passenger," and weather reports from JetBlue's destination cities.

Something you won't find: any mention of the fact that this is an advertisement, not news.

Flip open the paper, and there is today's unadulterated Herald. So, yeah, it's a free newspaper once you get past the front-page ad.

But at the very least, the front should have been prominently labeled as an ad. This isn't just a violation of the traditional wall separating business and editorial - this is an out-and-out demolition.

posted at 5:03 PM | comment or permalink

Bush's mind: empty, closed, or both? Check this out from Elisabeth Bumiller's profile of national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice in today's New York Times:

Richard Haass, the former director of policy planning at the State Department who is now the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, recalls going to see Ms. Rice in July 2002, well before the president began making a public case for ousting Mr. Hussein, to discuss with Ms. Rice "the pros and cons" of making Iraq a priority.

"Basically she cut me off and said, 'Save your breath - the president has already decided what he's going to do on this,'" Mr. Haass said.

Not that you can blame Bush. After all, there were all of those dangerous aluminum tubes and stores of Niger yellowcake to be gotten rid of.

And as Bush recently explained to Diane Sawyer when she pointed out that the White House had actually accused Saddam Hussein of having weapons of mass destruction, "as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons":

"So what's the difference?"

posted at 11:06 AM | comment or permalink

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Hunting really stupid humans with David Brooks. Josh Marshall and Bob Somerby have already explained why David Brooks's column in today's New York Times - claiming that criticism of the neoconservatives is a form of anti-Semitism - is so deeply offensive.

But let me zero in on just one part. Brooks writes:

Theories about the tightly knit neocon cabal came in waves. One day you read that neocons were pushing plans to finish off Iraq and move into Syria. Web sites appeared detailing neocon conspiracies; my favorite described a neocon outing organized by Dick Cheney to hunt for humans.

Really? Is this what all of us liberal and lefty conspiracy theorists are buzzing about these days - that Dick Cheney likes to shoot humans when there aren't enough tame pheasants to blast out of the sky?

I fired up Google and got to work. First, I came across this post on the website of the Portland (Oregon) Independent Media Center titled "9-11 Director CHENEY RAPES CHILDREN and has a history of playing HUNT THE HUMAN in Wyoming." It begins:

This whole neocon monstrosity of America is a sick place. Its shallow media lets these type of people into power here. SUMMARY: Cheney is involved in 'testing,' hunting, and raping children who were Monarch Mind Control Slaves when he was the sole Representative for Wyoming in the 1970s. Below is some testimony from one of his child victims. Well, this certainly explains how he could have the composure or sang froid to be the Bush Administrations's 9-11 Director as he oversaw the deaths of thousands in the World Trade Center, told the military planes to standdown, and let the plane hit the Pentagon (without ordering the evacuation of it as he could have over 30 minutes earlier, and without ordering the evacuation of the fourth plane hit location, the Congress, either). Cheney ordered the fourth plane shot down as well, even according to nimrod Bush. Cheney is one sick asshole who deserves the electric chair.

Crazy? Well, yeah, of course. But to read Brooks, you'd think he'd learned of this nuttiness by paging through the Dean for America weblog.

But wait: it gets better. Because it turns out that the only other entry I could find for Cheney and human-hunting involves - yes! - Bill Clinton! Check this out:

Another Clinton-Bush connection is their love of hunting mind controlled men, women and children, The Most Dangerous Game. Cathy describes one of experiences at Swiss Villa when Clinton and Bush went hunting with dogs for herself, her daughter, Kelly and two mind controlled "toy soldiers", one of whom had Italian-looking features:

Swiss Villa appeared deserted, except for Bill Clinton and George Bush who stood at the edge of the woods with their hunting dogs at the ready to embark on " The Most Dangerous Game of human hunting. (Clinton shared Bush's passion for traumatising and hunting humans)...Bush and Clinton alike in camouflage pants, army boots, and wind breakers. The two shared the trademark of sharing a cap with cryptic meaning. This time, Bush's camouflage cap had an orange insignia which said "Dear Hunter". Clinton's blue cap read, "Aim High" and had a picture of a rifle on it. Clinton appeared awkward with his hunting rifle, while Bush looked like an expert marksman with his black rifle and elaborate scope.

"The rules of the game are simple" Bush began, triggering me by using the same words that always preceded the most dangerous game.

Clinton interrupted; "You run, We hunt "

Bush continued: 'This will be called " Hunt for a Virgin"' ( Clinton chuckled) 'and she's it.  He pointed to Kelley who was still in my arms. "I catch you, she's mine"

Clinton spoke up: 'You'll have plenty of time to play with the dogs because they'll  have you pinned down while we... ' ( he slid a bullet in the chamber for emphasis)'... hunt down the bigger game.'  Clinton glared a the "toy soldier" with the waxy face. Toy soldier was a term I often heard referring to the mind-controlled robotic '"special forces'"young men who operated under the New World Order.

And on and on it goes.

So what's the point? Simple: why is David Brooks shoveling this garbage out there as though it were something that's actually being talked about by those who oppose the Bush-Cheney policy of pre-emptive war? And why is he portraying the human-hunting crap as though it were directed at Cheney and his neocon friends, when in fact a cursory examination reveals that Clinton - the original victim of the vast right-wing conspiracy - has been dragged into it as well?

When Brooks got an op-ed columnist's slot at the Times last year, my biggest question was whether the paper's right-wing critics would be appeased by hiring someone so moderate.

Well, it's increasingly looking like Brooks has decided to reinvent himself. And it ain't pretty.

posted at 4:53 PM | comment or permalink

Monday, January 05, 2004

A very bad day for Dick Gephardt. Even without Al Sharpton and Wesley Clark, yesterday's Democratic presidential debate in Iowa still felt too crowded.

Though Media Log was pleased that the bloviating Sharpton was MIA, Clark appears to be emerging as the consensus choice as Howard Dean's strongest challenger.

So you had the worst of both worlds: seven candidates, not much of an improvement over nine; and the most potentially interesting confrontation failing to take place.

For my money, then, the most interesting subplot in this lowered-stakes debate was John Edwards's absolute evisceration of Dick Gephardt. Gephardt, from neighboring Missouri, has to win the Iowa caucuses. Gephardt himself would surely tell you otherwise, but the plain truth is that if he can't win there, he can't win anywhere.

And Gephardt was having a pretty good day, appearing more animated than usual and seeming to get more face time than most of the other candidates.

But then he mistakenly said that all of his opponents had voted for NAFTA and for free trade with China except Dennis Kucinich.

"Can I respond first to what was just said?" interjected Edwards. "Because it was very skillfully done; he lumped everybody together."

Note the little trick Edwards pulls here: Gephardt not only wronged me, but did it in a way that shows he's a skilled politician.

According to the transcript, Edwards continued:

First of all, I didn't vote for NAFTA. I campaigned against NAFTA. NAFTA passed before I got to the Congress, to the United States Senate.

And I might add, you could pick out any one vote of anybody on this stage - you [Gephardt], for example, voted for fast-track authority for Bush I that led to the passage of NAFTA.

So the point is - and I don't believe you're not for American workers; I do. I absolutely believe that. But I think you could take any one vote from any candidate and distort it. And we ought to tell the truth about this.

This is first-rate political gamesmanship on Edwards's part.

First, he sets the record straight. Next, he points out that not all of Gephardt's votes have been in accord with his anti-NAFTA stance. Finally - and this is the best part - Edwards deconstructs the debate, explaining that plucking out single votes and beating people over the head with them is just wrong, y'all.

You can see how Edwards got to be a zillionaire as a trial lawyer. The wonder is that he hasn't done better in his presidential campaign.

Gephardt's response was as flat-footed as Edwards could have hoped for. Roll the transcript:

GEPHARDT: Well, John, you weren't in Congress when NAFTA came up, so you couldn't vote. But you voted for the China...

EDWARDS: But you just said I voted for it.

GEPHARDT: I understand.


EDWARDS: You understand?



EDWARDS: Does that mean you're wrong? You'll take it back now?

GEPHARDT: I'm quite willing to say that you weren't there and you didn't vote for it.

But you voted for the China agreement, and it's had a bad impact here in Iowa, and it's had a bad impact in your state of North Carolina.

Adam Nagourney reports in today's New York Times that Gephardt "appeared to redden a bit" during this exchange. The color on my TV set must be off, but I should think he would have.

Thanks to Edwards's deftness, it turned out to be a fairly good day for Dean, despite Joe Lieberman's effective attack on him for refusing to make public all of his records from his years as governor of Vermont.

Dean is in defensive mode, trying to protect a lead that, though substantial, may not be quite as big as it was a few weeks ago.

The Dean strategy: (1) eliminate Gephardt in Iowa; (2) eliminate John Kerry in New Hampshire; (3) try to withstand a post-New Hampshire surge from Clark or, less likely, from Lieberman.

Edwards certainly helped Dean with part one yesterday.

posted at 8:56 AM | comment or permalink


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

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