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Saturday, February 28, 2004
Censorship, plainly defined.
Need any more proof that the Bush administration has utter contempt
for the First Amendment? The New York Times reports
today that the Treasury Department "has warned publishers that they
may face grave legal consequences for editing manuscripts from Iran
and other disfavored nations, on the ground that such tinkering
amounts to trading with the enemy."
The story, by Adam Liptak,
Adding illustrations is
prohibited, too. To the baffled dismay of publishers, editors and
translators who have been briefed about the policy, only
publication of "camera-ready copies of manuscripts" is
The Treasury letters concerned
Iran. But the logic, experts said, would seem to extend to Cuba,
Libya, North Korea and other nations with which most trade is
banned without a government license.
Nahid Mozaffari, an expert on
Iranian literature, tells Liptak: "A story, a poem, an article on
history, archaeology, linguistics, engineering, physics, mathematics,
or any other area of knowledge cannot be translated, and even if
submitted in English, cannot be edited in the US. This means that the
publication of the PEN Anthology of Contemporary Persian
Literature that I have been editing for the last three years
would constitute aiding and abetting the enemy."
Democracy Now did a
on this last Tuesday.
"It does not reflect the facts
of his service." Even after all that's been reported, the
Boston Globe's Walter Robinson finds
that the White House is still puffing George W. Bush's service in the
Texas Air National Guard.
Bush flack Dan Bartlett says it
will be corrected. But it hasn't been as of this morning. The State
Department site that Robinson points
to contains the same
language that he reports in his article:
George W. graduated from
Yale in May of 1968 with a major in history. Two weeks before
graduation, he went to the offices of the Texas Air National Guard
at Ellington Air Force Base outside Houston to sign up for pilot
training. One motivation, he said, was to learn to fly, as his
father had done during World War II. George W. was commissioned as
a second lieutenant and spent two years on active duty, flying
F-102 fighter interceptors. For almost four years after
that [uh, no] he was on a part-time status, flying
occasional missions to help the Air National Guard keep two of its
F-102s on round-the-clock alert.
posted at 10:14 AM |
Friday, February 27, 2004
An interesting wrinkle on gay
marriage. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I thought
John Edwards said something surprising and significant about gay
marriage at last night's debate. Like John Kerry, Edwards opposes
same-sex marriage and the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a stance that
places both of them squarely in the middle. (Kerry voted against
DOMA; Edwards was not a senator at the time.)
is the relevant exchange:
EDWARDS: Here is my
belief. I believe that this is an issue that ought to be
decided in the states. I think the federal government
should honor whatever decision is made by the states.
I want to say a word in answer
to the question you asked very directly. I would not support
the Defense of Marriage Act today, if there were a vote today,
which is the question you just asked Senator Kerry. I'm not
sure what he said about that.
LARRY KING: You would not
vote for it?
EDWARDS: I would
not. I would not for a very simple reason. There's a part of
it - there's a part of it that I agree with, and there's a part of
it I disagree with.
The Defense of Marriage Act
specifically said that the federal government is not required to
recognize gay marriage even if a state chooses to do so. I
disagree with that.
I think states should be allowed
to make that decision. And the federal government shouldn't
And can I say just one other
word about -
RON BROWNSTEIN: The part
that you agree with is what?
EDWARDS: Well, the part I
agree with is the states should not be required to recognize
marriages from other states. That's already in the law, by
the way, without DOMA.
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but
it seems to me that Kerry has never given a reason for voting against
DOMA beyond his concern that it was a form of "gay-bashing." Edwards,
by contrast, is saying something very specific: that marriage should
be left entirely to the states, and - here's the crucial part - if a
state decides that gay marriage is okay, then the federal government
should honor that, and allow married same-sex couples from that state
to collect Social Security, receive married-couple tax breaks, and
all of the 1000-plus
federal benefits that
equal-rights advocates cite.
Not to give Edwards a pass. As
April 2003 Boston Globe story makes clear, Kerry explicitly
advocates civil-union rights for gay and lesbian couples, whereas
Edwards has shown some reluctance. But Edwards's willingness to defer
to states that let gays and lesbians marry is interesting
Edwards also doesn't have the
political problem of coming from a state that is wrestling with the
issue. Still, Kerry has tied himself into knots. His current position
- for an amendment to the state constitution that would ban marriage
but guarantee civil unions, and against an anti-marriage amendment to
the US Constitution - is almost a parody of Kerry's congenital need
to have it both ways on every issue.
Yes, there is a certain logic to
his seemingly contradictory stands (Mitt's
pandering as usual, in
other words), but politics is about passion and symbols as much as it
is about logic and legislation. George W. Bush is going to paint
Kerry as a gay-marriage supporter anyway. Would that Kerry were bold
enough to make it so.
posted at 12:18 PM |
Thursday, February 26, 2004
Kerry's not-so-gay moment.
If an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage
passes the legislature on March 11, Senator John Kerry will have had
a lot to do with it. Perhaps it's not fair to be too critical, since
the position he takes in today's
Boston Globe - for a
marriage ban, but also for civil unions - is exactly the one he's
taken throughout the presidential campaign.
Still, it's disheartening that the
man who would be president is now helping to enshrine discrimination
in the Massachusetts Constitution. What would John Adams
of three amendments earlier
this month was cause for celebration, but it obscured a fundamental
fact: an overwhelming majority of legislators is in favor of a
gay-marriage ban. The only disagreement is over civil unions -
whether to guarantee them in the constitution, or to leave them to
the whims of the legislature.
Kerry's statement will likely
hasten the process of the moderates and conservatives finding
language they can all agree on - leaving progressives out in the
cold. It's a shame.
Certainly Kerry knows that whatever
he does, the gay and lesbian community will find him infinitely
preferable to George W. Bush. By siding with the right-wing
extremists in his own party (read Howard
Kurtz's round-up of media
reaction), Bush has left the middle wide open to Kerry.
But Kerry shouldn't be allowed to
skate on this, either.
New in this week's
Phoenix. Dick Cheney's old company, Halliburton, is
racking up negative headlines every day. But here's a Halliburton
story you rarely hear about: an accusation being investigated in
three countries that the company, while Cheney was CEO, was involved
in an alleged $180
million bribe to the former
Also, talk-radio legend
Brudnoy plots his latest
posted at 8:55 AM |
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Shake-up at the
Herald. Ken Chandler is up and Andy Costello is down. But
apparently no one is leaving. The Boston Herald just sent out
an announcement that former editor Chandler, who returned last spring
after several years as publisher of the New York Post, has
been named editorial director of the Herald and its Community
Newspaper chain of papers in Greater Boston and on Cape Cod. Costello
is out as editor after nearly 10 years at the top of the masthead,
but he's staying with the company.
Here's the full
Patrick J. Purcell,
president of Herald Media, Inc. announced today the appointment of
Kenneth A. Chandler as Editorial Director of all Herald Media
publications. Chandler will be responsible for the overall
editorial operations of the Boston Herald and the Community
Newspaper Company's five daily, 89 weekly and 21 specialty
Andrew F. Costello announced his
resignation as Editor-in-Chief, effective today. Costello has been
with the newspaper in various editorial capacities since 1983, and
was named Editor in April of 1994. He is exploring other
opportunities within the company.
"Andy has been a tremendous
asset to the newspaper, and we were fortunate to have him at the
helm for the last ten years. His competitiveness, dedication and
work ethic are unparalleled. Andy is the consummate news
professional," said Purcell.
Costello said, "It has been an
honor to serve as editor for the past ten years. My heartfelt
thanks to a very dedicated and talented staff. I know they will
continue to produce one of the finest newspapers in the
Chandler was editor of the
Boston Herald from 1986 to 1992. After that, he became
Editor-in-Chief and later Publisher of the New York Post. He has
since served as a consultant to Patrick Purcell.
Chandler is married to Erika
Schwartz, M.D., a nationally-known women's health expert and
author. They have five children.
Costello's possible departure has
been a matter of internal and external gossip since last spring, when
Purcell brought Chandler back to the paper and went with a tarted-up
product featuring more gossip and lots of cleavage. Costello - a
hard-news guy who used to work for the New Bedford
Standard-Times - couldn't have liked the changes. It's to
Purcell's credit that he is apparently going to take care of
Costello, who is a good guy.
It's been a rough year for the
Herald, which has been beset by declining circulation and
sliding ad revenues. The move toward flash and trash was not well
received in the newsroom, yet staff members have said that they
recognize the survival of the paper is at stake (see "Tabzilla
Returns," June 20,
In November, the paper eliminated
19 positions. Well-known columnists such as Wayne Woodlief and Monica
Collins were cut from the payroll, although they continue to write on
a freelance basis (see "Media,"
This Just In, November 21, 2003).
The next big question: who will
replace Costello as editor? Presumably Chandler doesn't want the job
himself, yet it's equally safe to assume that Purcell doesn't want to
pay the money that would be necessary to bring in a heavy hitter.
Which leaves the folks at One
Herald Square pretty much where they've been for the past year:
waiting for another shoe to drop.
posted at 6:52 PM |
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Buchanan and Nader: a contrarian
view. Anthony Schinella wrote
recently that exit polling in New Hampshire and Florida in 2000
showed Ralph Nader pulled just as many votes from Republicans as he
did from Democrats. Schinella - a diehard Nader supporter - concludes
that Nader did not cost Al Gore the presidency.
I don't doubt Schinella's numbers,
but sorry, I'm not buying his overall thesis. For instance,
is David Rosenbaum in today's New York Times:
Mr. Nader said at the
Press Club that surveys of voters leaving the polls showed he had
received more Republican votes than Democratic votes in New
Hampshire in 2000.
That is true. New Hampshire has
30 percent more registered Republicans than registered Democrats.
But people there did not vote a
straight party line for president in 2000. On the question of whom
they would have voted for with only two candidates on the ballot,
3 percent of those who said they would have voted for Mr. Gore
voted for Mr. Nader, and only 2 percent of voters who said they
would have voted for Mr. Bush voted for Mr. Nader.
Nationally, Rosenbaum adds, Nader
voters preferred Gore over Bush by a margin of 45 percent to 27
percent. Nader voters also supported Democratic congressional
candidates over Republicans by 58 percent to 27 percent. I mean, come
on. Is this clear enough?
Schinella corrects me on the number
of electoral votes that New Hampshire casts: four, not
Declaration of independence.
Erstwhile Bush supporter Andrew Sullivan writes,
"The president launched a war today against the civil rights of gay
citizens and their families."
of Bush's message today in support of a constitutional amendment to
ban gay marriage is astonishing. This borders on hate speech. I may
wind up eating my words, but my first reaction is that Bush is in
full panic mode, and that he's going to end up alienating
middle-of-the-road voters this fall.
posted at 2:31 PM |
Measuring the Buchanan
effect. Boston Globe columnist (and Nader voter) Alex Beam
writes today that Pat Buchanan may have hurt George W. Bush in the
2000 presidential election at least as much as Ralph Nader hurt Al
Beam: "Big Media, with its
hopelessly liberal tilt, doesn't yammer on about Patrick Buchanan's
candidacy, which siphoned off 17,000 votes in the disputed 2000
Florida election. Why not? Because in the view of liberal
editorialists, Buchanan siphoned off votes from the right candidate,
i.e. George Bush. Dandy for him!"
It's an argument I've heard before.
In its most fully developed form, the theory goes so far as to assert
that Buchanan actually cost Bush more electoral votes than Nader did
Gore, even though, nationally, Nader beat Buchanan by a margin of
about 2.78 million to 450,000.
Well, based on Media Log's quickie
analysis, it's just not true. As David Rosenbaum reports
in today's New York Times, Nader voters favored Gore over Bush
by a wide margin. Thus, it can confidently be said that Nader cost
Gore two states, Florida and New Hampshire. And in states where
Buchanan would appear to have been a factor, that's only because
Nader was on the ballot as well.
Let's look at Florida, which, as we
all know, Bush won by just 537 votes. Buchanan received 17,356 votes.
Even if you adjust for the infamous butterfly ballots, it's
reasonable to assume that most of those votes would have gone to
Bush. So Buchanan helped Gore, right? Well, yes. But Nader got 96,837
votes. Remove Nader and Buchanan from the ballot, and Gore
would have won Florida handily. Same with New Hampshire. Bush won by
7282 votes, far less than the 22,156 that Nader received, thus
costing Gore the state's three electoral votes. Factor in Buchanan's
2603, and nothing changes.
But what about states that Gore won
by fewer votes than Buchanan received? There were three: Wisconsin,
Iowa, and New Mexico. But the same logic holds. In Wisconsin, Gore
beat Bush by 5396 votes, fewer than the 11,379 that Buchanan
received. But Nader won 93,553 votes. Again, remove both Nader and
Buchanan, and Gore would have won by an even greater margin. In New
Mexico, which Gore won by just 366 votes, Nader beat Buchanan by
21,251 to 1392. In Iowa, which Gore won by 4130 votes, Nader beat
Buchanan by 29,352 to 5731.
The only reasonable conclusion that
can be drawn is that Nader absolutely croaked Gore, whereas Buchanan
had only a mild negative effect on Bush.
A few caveats: I'm oversimplifying.
I did this quickly, and relied on Election
Night numbers from CNN.com.
The final tally was slightly different, although it should not affect
my findings. Also, I'm not counting other third-party candidates. In
particular, Libertarian Party nominee Harry Browne did better than
Buchanan in some states, including New Hampshire. But even if you
assign all of Browne's votes to Bush - no sure thing, given such
Libertarian stands as an end to drug prohibition - Gore still would
have carried New Hampshire had Nader not run. (That said, it's
possible that Browne and Buchanan together carried Gore to victory in
In Salon, Eric Boehlert
that progressives are deserting Nader in droves. They should. The
Buchanan theorists are just plain wrong. Nader really did cost Gore
the presidency in 2000, and he could do so again.
posted at 9:18 AM |
Monday, February 23, 2004
Civil unions for everyone.
The results of the latest Boston
Globe poll on gay
marriage are disheartening, since they suggest that narrow support
has turned into fairly strong antipathy simply because the idea is
being debated in public. What had once been a margin in favor of 48
percent to 43 percent is now a pretty substantial 53 percent to 35
You can be sure wavering
legislators are studying those numbers as they ponder what to do when
the state constitutional convention resumes on March 11.
Unfortunately, it seems likely that the convention will support an
amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman; the only
real doubt is whether the amendment will specifically require civil
What's weird is that the battle for
marriage rights is moving backward and forward
at the same time. Massachusetts may be on the brink of retreat, but
the fight has already moved to San Francisco and New Mexico. Chicago
mayor Richard Daley has said some supportive things as
It's clear, though, that the
biggest stumbling block is the word "marriage." And I'm beginning to
wonder whether Michael Kinsley has been right all along. Last July,
Kinsley wrote a piece for Slate arguing that the government
should get out of the marriage business. He wrote:
Let churches and other
religious institutions continue to offer marriage ceremonies. Let
department stores and casinos get into the act if they want. Let
each organization decide for itself what kinds of couples it wants
to offer marriage to. Let couples celebrate their union in any way
they choose and consider themselves married whenever they want.
Let others be free to consider them not married, under rules these
others may prefer. And, yes, if three people want to get married,
or one person wants to marry herself, and someone else wants to
conduct a ceremony and declare them married, let 'em. If you and
your government aren't implicated, what do you care?
Now, some of this is too flip. As
the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court makes clear in the
Goodridge decision, same-sex marriage should be considered a
social good precisely because it advances the notion of stable,
two-person relationships. But maybe the term we ought to use for
any such relationship that receives government sanction is
That way, a man and a woman, two
men, or two women could register for spousal benefits such as joint
health insurance, inheritance rights, Social Security benefits - in
short, everything that now comes with marriage. And if they wished to
get married, they could seek out an institution that would perform a
ceremony and call it marriage.
One of the odder aspects of the
current battle is that Catholics, fundamentalist Protestants, and
others who hold religious views in opposition to gay marriage wind up
dictating to those with completely different religious views. If
marriage were entirely a private matter, then a same-sex couple could
get married by whichever Unitarian Universalist minister, Reform
rabbi, or liberal-minded yacht captain they could find.
No one could order the Catholic
Church to perform same-sex marriages, of course. But neither could
the Catholic Church order Unitarians not to, which is, in
effect, what is happening now. Thus the solution may be a wider
separation of church and state.
Globe reviews Little
People. The Boston Globe today publishes
favorable review of
Little People. The reviewer is Mary Mulkerin Donius, who is
herself the mother of a dwarf child.
posted at 12:07 PM |
Saturday, February 21, 2004
Tom Oliphant responds. The
Boston Globe columnist e-mails Media Log on the
of whether Wesley Clark smeared John Kerry, and/or whether Matt
Drudge smeared Wesley Clark:
I could not have written
anything about Gen. Clark's bus discussion had I been there.
Contrary to Mr. Lizza's unclear description about it being
off-the-record "sort of", I was told by others who were there that
the ground rule was off-the-record. Most of these reporters told
colleagues, friends, and other campaigns about it. This is why it
is so weird to me that a candidate would talk about a sensitive
subject with a group of reporters on that basis.
They also told their home
offices, which raises a factual point about all this absurdity
that I think has been overlooked. In studying how a germ got into
the system, the narrative is not simply Clark and then Drudge.
There had been chatter in the political world about "something"
coming on Kerry for weeks before that, dating roughly from the end
of January. It had no specific basis I was aware of, but the
chatter was fairly constant.
Despite the absence of anything
specific, I recall thinking and remarking to pals at the time that
given contemporary standards there was no way this wasn't going to
lead sooner or later to an ugly incident. I can't help you on
Chris Lehane as described in your account of Craig Crawford's
situation, but from personal experience it was my direct
observation that the chatter extended across the campaign and
press worlds. I saw it more as inappropriate gossip than sinister
I used quotes only around
"intern", obviously not to quote Drudge but to use the one word
everyone I talked to used. From the accounts I heard from
reporters there and people in their home offices to whom they
talked, the verb implode fits the various accounts, though
self-destruct and blow up were other examples.
In addition to summarizing the
background to Clark's behavior, I also wrote that his comments
directed attention [to] (some said specifically mentioned)
the piece in The National Enquirer before it was published. The
piece was transparently a clip job, but the effect was to increase
the level of chatter by a lot. Drudge took it down to the next
level, which I described as a frenzy about a story that hadn't
been written concerning an allegation that hadn't been made.
Clark's role - and by now I would suppose that one of the
reporters there will consider writing the whole thing up - was not
isolated; its context was weeks of unfocused gossip-mongering
behind the scenes. It is not true that one consultant or one
campaign was responsible; as usually happens this was much more
generic, and as is usually the case the origin of the chatter
about "something" is obscured.
In a subsequent phone conversation,
Oliphant told me, "There are at least six or seven accounts of this
thing. They don't differ in basic thrust, but they differ enough that
you know you can't possibly get a handle on it as if it were a
transcript of a White House press briefing."
He added: "I was just trying to
make the judgment, did Clark play a role in this? And my answer is,
yes, but it's not clear-cut-and-dried except in context." Clark's
remarks, he explained, would have amounted to no more than "idle
chatter" if they hadn't occurred in the context of the buzz that had
been making the political and media rounds for at least several weeks
previously - buzz that put everyone in "precisely the wrong frame of
mind to handle a virus like Drudge."
I asked: But didn't the mainstream
media, with very few exceptions, act responsibly by failing to take
Drudge's bait? Oliphant answered: "The fact that nobody of any
consequence committed any really flagrant foul is certainly
encouraging, I guess. But not entirely so, because so much was going
on behind the scenes." He called Drudge's non-sex non-story "a
tremendous amount of distraction for several days," adding: "It could
happen all over again tomorrow. And this one came very close to
getting completely out of hand."
A few observations.
First, now we know that Oliphant
wasn't there. His observation that he couldn't have broken
off-the-record ground rules is well taken. But Oliphant is a
columnist who travels, and his paragraph on Clark's alleged outburst
had all the appearance of an on-the-scene report, written by someone
who was no longer bound by confidentiality since the information had
already been reported elsewhere. I'm sure Oliphant wasn't trying to
deceive anyone, but he could have been clearer.
Second, Oliphant appears to have
done enough checking around to make a convincing case that Clark
played some role in spreading the rumor that Drudge would eventually
blast across the world. Oliphant's account can't be reconciled with
those of the New Republic's Ryan Lizza or the Washington
Post's Ceci Connolly. But Lizza, who was there, offers a
tantalizing suggestion that Clark really did make a horse's ass of
himself. And Connolly, who apparently wasn't there, relies - like
Oliphant - on the word of others. Clark's staunchest defenders will
probably be unconvinced, but I think Oliphant's account passes the
Finally, Oliphant's account of the
context surrounding the Kerry rumor is fascinating. Given the level
of chatter that was apparently taking place, it's a miracle that the
media showed as much restraint as they did when Drudge finally
published his sleazy, unfounded story. And Oliphant is absolutely
right when he says, "It could happen all over again
posted at 3:24 PM |
Friday, February 20, 2004
Did Drudge smear Wesley Clark,
too? When Matt Drudge smeared John Kerry with his non-sex
non-story, he also dragged Wesley Clark into it, claiming
that Clark, "in an off-the-record conversation with a dozen reporters
earlier this week, plainly stated: 'Kerry will implode over an intern
In my piece this week on
Lies, and Republicans," I
write that "it appears that the rumor either originated with or was
spread by the now-expired Wesley Clark campaign." This has caused
some consternation among those who think that Drudge unfairly implicated
So what do we know?
For my money, the most striking and
credible description of Clark's alleged outburst was reported on
Sunday by Boston Globe columnist Tom Oliphant. He
The sin of commission
occurred during an astonishing, even for a rookie, judgment lapse
with the gaggle of reporters covering his campaign on its final
day last week. Bantering with them at length under supposedly
off-the-record ground rules, Clark actually said he was still in
the race because he thought Kerry's campaign was going to implode
over what he inelegantly called an "intern" scandal.
No matter what you think of
Oliphant as a columnist, he's a pretty good reporter, and he travels
extensively during presidential campaigns. I don't know about you,
but I took his description to mean that he, personally, had witnessed
Clark when he supposedly went off about Kerry - especially since he
added such I-was-there details as "gaggle of reporters" and
"[b]antering with them at length." If Oliphant wasn't
there, I'd say his description is at least a little bit
The New Republic's Ryan
Lizza, who definitely was there, writes this:
Just in case anybody was
still wondering whether anything in the original Drudge
item about John Kerry was accurate, I can confirm that Wesley
Clark did not say what Drudge says he said at that off-the-record
conversation with reporters in Nashville one week ago.
I was there when Clark spoke,
and just to make sure I didn't miss anything, I've also checked
with other reporters who were there. Since it was off the record
(sort of), I can't get into what Clark actually said (let's just
say it was not his finest moment on the campaign trail), but I can
report that the quote Drudge attributes to him - "Kerry will
implode over an intern issue" - is not accurate. He never said
What is Lizza trying to tell us? I
don't know. The most likely interpretation is that Lizza heard Clark
slime Kerry, but not in precisely the same way that Drudge claimed.
Clark may not have even used the word "intern." Beyond that, though,
this isn't particularly helpful.
Washington Post reporter
Ceci Connolly has also denied Drudge's claim about Clark. The
Incomparable One recounts
this exchange on Fox News Sunday:
JUAN WILLIAMS: Now, let me
just say that Democrats, including the man who endorsed
[Kerry] this week, General Wesley Clark, was overheard
saying, "Oh, you know, Kerry's campaign is going to implode over
an intern," that kind of thing. That adds to it. And I
CONNOLLY: You know, what,
though? That's not accurate. That's not accurate. That's the way
that Drudge reported that supposed off-the-record conversation.
But I've spoken to reporters who were there, and that's not even
what General Clark accused. It was something far more peripheral,
and it was pinned to a tabloid.
Getting warmer? Perhaps. But
Connolly apparently wasn't there, either, based on her
Now, in some tellings of this tale,
Drudge has the rumor being spread by one of Clark's top campaign
aides, Chris Lehane. Joe Conason offered some insight
into that on Salon last week:
The Drudge item blaming
Lehane quoted Craig Crawford, a former Democratic operative who
now works as a consultant and columnist for MSNBC. Within 10
minutes after Drudge posted the Kerry intern item, Crawford sent a
memo to his superiors that said the story was "something Chris
Lehane (clark press secy) has shopped around for a long time."
According to Crawford, someone at MSNBC promptly leaked his memo
to Drudge. But when Lehane called Crawford with a loudly indignant
denial, the MSNBC columnist quickly issued a public retraction. He
"The comments attributed to me
are from a private email to television news associates based on
conversations with Democratic campaign operatives. I did not
consider any of it confirmed enough to report or publish. I can
only verify that Chris Lehane's rivals in other Democratic
campaigns made these claims and I have found no independent source
to confirm it. Which is why we did not go with the story. But then
someone sent my email to others, which is the only reason it got
into the public domain." In other words, there is no proof that
Lehane circulated the rumor, let alone that the rumor has any
basis in reality.
Lehane also denied it directly to
Conason. No disrespect to Lehane, but that's not quite dispositive,
since clearly someone is lying - either Lehane or his "rivals
in other Democratic campaigns."
Still, I'd say that it all comes
down to Tom Oliphant. If he says he was there, and that he heard
Clark smear Kerry, then that's good enough for me. For that matter,
if he was relying on an eyewitness account by one or more of his
colleagues, then that works, too.
But short of that, I'd say Clark is
off the hook - and Drudge only looks that much worse.
What about it, Tom? Inquiring minds
want to know.
On John Edwards's qualifications
for office. From
today's New York Times:
"I believe he is the one
who can beat George Bush," Ms. Wells said. "He's got that Southern
thing going for him. He will hand you your guts on a platter,
and you will thank him for it before you even feel the
posted at 11:28 AM |
Thursday, February 19, 2004
New in this week's
Lies, and Republicans."
Drudge shoots and misses. But Bush's allies are attacking Kerry with
everything from a phony Jane Fonda photo to a sickening attack on
triple amputee Max Cleland.
posted at 10:48 AM |
"Howard's End" -
"Howard's End" -
"Howard's End" -
"Howard's End" -
"Howard's End?" -
Broadcast Bruds. The great
David Brudnoy popped up on the airwaves last night, in preparation
for what he hopes will be his full-time return to WBZ Radio (AM 1030)
on March 15 following months of cancer treatment.
I missed it - I didn't know until I
read about it in the Boston
Herald this morning
(the story, by Dean Johnson, appears to have been victimized by
website glitches) - but look forward to Brudnoy's latest
an AP story on
Back to sleep. If John Kerry
can only get it going when his back's to the wall and the sharks are
closing in, doesn't that sort of bode ill for a Kerry presidency?
Just wondering. Read Patrick
Healy's report in today's
posted at 8:56 AM |
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Rule number four. John
Doherty, co-creator of the excellent "Bush
House of Cards," suggests
one more rule for reporting on sex:
I think you need to add a
rule, specifically naming Republican pols (the Henry Hyde rule?)
that "when a politician makes judgments on the morality of other
people's sex lives, his own should be ripe for inspection to see
if he himself observes the standards he promotes for
Right you are, John. And thus there are four.
posted at 12:12 PM |
Media Log's three rules for
reporting on extramarital affairs. After the Kerry sex-scandal
non-story imploded, Matt Drudge hit what might have been a new low
even for him. On Monday, the Drudge Report alleged that the young
woman who did not have sex with Kerry may have had sex with a veteran
Thus we have a new sex story that
may or may not be true - complete with names! - about two entirely
private figures. Other than the vicarious thrill Drudge apparently
receives from destroying two families, it is impossible to imagine
why anyone would do such a thing. As my late father liked to say,
it's enough to gag a maggot.
Garbage like this is going to come
up again. So with that in mind, I would like to offer Media Log's
rules for reporting on the sex lives of presidential candidates.
Conveniently enough, I learned them from eight years of watching Bill
Clinton, who, unfortunately for him, ran afoul of all three rules. To
The Gennifer Flowers Rule.
If an ex-paramour calls a news conference in order to talk about her
affair with The Candidate, it's okay to cover it, provided - in the
absence of proof - that the allegations are treated with suitable
skepticism. Public events are public events, and it would be an abuse
of the media's gatekeeper role to pretend they didn't occur. Nor
should the entertainment factor be overlooked.
The Paula Jones Rule. If a
woman files a lawsuit that alleges The Candidate harassed her by
soliciting a blowjob, it's okay to cover it - again with suitable
skepticism. If said lawsuit makes it all the way to the Supreme
Court, it's definitely okay to cover it. If said lawsuit further
alleges that the plaintiff can identify "distinguishing
characteristics" on the defendant's unit, then coverage is
The Monica Lewinsky Rule. If
a $40 million (at the time) government investigation reveals that The
Candidate (or, in this case, the president) was carrying on with a
woman other than his wife, and that his lies about said carrying-on
may constitute perjury in the context of a sexual-harassment suit
(see the Paula Jones Rule, above), then it's okay to cover it. It's
not okay to go berserk for six months, leading to a stampede that
resulted in the only presidential impeachment in the 20th century.
(Note: Media Log confesses to breaking the don't-go-berserk rule on
There's a gray area here, too.
Occasionally, there will be a candidate - like Gary Hart in 1988 -
who essentially says, I've got nothing to hide. Please follow me
around and report on what you find! Of course, someone did, and
Hart's presidential ambitions went down on the Good Ship Monkey
The answer: damned if I know what
the media should have done. Hart was stupid, and stupidity is always
worth reporting on. Still, affairs between two consenting adults
should always be off limits unless one of the Clinton rules comes
into play. My best answer is to hope that someone else reports
it, then write a thumb-sucking think piece about the decline of media
posted at 11:02 AM |
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Joe Conason's non-hypocritical
Spy piece. Media Log has obtained a copy of Joe Conason's
1992 article for Spy on the alleged infidelities of George
H.W. Bush - the subject of much chortling over the weekend by
outrage over the John Kerry
As I suspected,
the so-called hypocrisy Kaus thought he had unmasked was anything
but. Yes, Conason did indeed give a full - a very full -
airing to longstanding rumors that the first President Bush liked to
cat around. But Conason did it entirely in the context of the sexual
witch hunt to which the media had subjected Bill Clinton and,
earlier, Gary Hart. Conason wrote:
But the media deflowering
of "Gennifer with a G," cabaret singer, former Arkansas state
employee and self-proclaimed (and, for snitching about it,
handsomely paid) Bill Clinton sex partner, again poses the problem
that agitated the press during the 1988 election: If stories about
womanizing could ruin Gary Hart and cripple Clinton (not to
mention Senator Chuck Robb), then why isn't anybody looking into
the stories about George Bush?
And this, in the windup toward the
Even more to the point is
that the Republicans have not hesitated for an instant to employ
such information against their opponents. They have been involved
in the exposure of Bill Clinton, and the GOP is reported to have
three dozen researchers working full-time to produce even more
dirt. There is, or there ought to be, such a thing as a level
Certainly it's past time for
American politics to grow up and reach a point where stories about
our leaders' sex lives are treated as the titillating, perhaps
largely irrelevant trivia they usually are. But that maturity will
never be achieved as long as the public is permitted to see the
messy human truth only about Democrats, while Republicans are
displayed inside a bubble of happy, wholesome illusion.
Is that clear enough, Mickey? Of
course, since he was relying on a USA Today description of
Conason's article, it's likely that he hadn't even read it.
posted at 12:32 PM |
The sliming of Max Cleland,
cont'd. As I noted
on Sunday, alleged funnyman Mark Steyn has been channeling Ann
Coulter in order to cast aspersions on the war record of triple
amputee Max Cleland. You can't make this stuff up! I've gone back and
read Coulter's original attack piece. Read the
whole thing, but here is a
particularly sickening highlight:
Moreover, if we're going
to start delving into exactly who did what back then, maybe Max
Cleland should stop allowing Democrats to portray him as a war
hero who lost his limbs taking enemy fire on the battlefields of
Cleland lost three limbs in an
accident during a routine noncombat mission where he was about to
drink beer with friends. He saw a grenade on the ground and picked
it up. He could have done that at Fort Dix. In fact, Cleland could
have dropped a grenade on his foot as a National Guardsman - or what Cleland sneeringly calls "weekend warriors."
Luckily for Cleland's political career and current pomposity about
Bush, he happened to do it while in Vietnam.
My first impulse was that Coulter
had probably stopped sharpening her fangs just long enough to do some
homework, and that her characterization of Cleland's service was
factually accurate, though repulsive. After all, accidents happen in
war zones, and it scarcely matters whether Cleland was injured in
combat or in training - even if he was (cover the children's eyes)
preparing to drink beer!
But as Lily Tomlin once said, "No
matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up." Because
Media Log reader G.W. has sent along a link showing that Coulter
didn't even come close to getting her facts straight. Not only did
she describe the accident incorrectly, she missed perhaps the most
pertinent fact of Cleland's service in Vietnam.
G.W. pointed me to the Progress
Report, which exposed
Coulter's lies on Friday.
But as the 8/1/99 Esquire
Magazine notes, Cleland lost two legs and an arm in Vietnam when a
grenade accidentally detonated after he and another soldier jumped
off a helicopter in a combat zone.
Coulter said people "should stop
allowing [Cleland to be] portrayed as a war hero" -
despite the fact that, in a separate incident four days before he
lost three limbs, Cleland won a Silver Star - one of the highest
honors for combat courage the U.S. military gives out. The
congressional citation which came with the medal specifically said
that during a "heavy enemy rocket and mortar attack Captain
Cleland, disregarding his own safety, exposed himself to the
rocket barrage as he left his covered position to administer first
aid to his wounded comrades. He then assisted in moving the
injured personnel to covered positions." The citation concluded,
"Cleland's gallant action is in keeping with the highest
traditions of the military service, and reflects great credit upon
himself, his unit and the United States Army."
The right wing is in full panic
mode. Look at what's happened during the past week: the phony
rumor about John Kerry's having an extramarital affair (not that
Media Log much cares if he did); the phony
photo of Kerry and Jane
Fonda standing together at an antiwar rally; the doctoring
of quotes from Kerry's
testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971 to
make it look like he was accusing US soldiers of committing
atrocities in Vietnam, when in fact he was repeating what soldiers
who had actually committed such atrocities had testified to
Words fail me, except to say that
this is sickening, horrifying stuff. Kerry's got to do everything he
can to make sure they don't get away with it.
Have a biscuit, Sam! From
"Mr. President, we have to
keep this tax cut," said Sam Leto, board chairman for Tampa Brass
and Aluminum Corp.
"Thank you, sir," Bush said. "I
agree. Good job, Sam."
posted at 9:30 AM |
Monday, February 16, 2004
Good job, Matt! The sliming
that's going on right now is beyond belief, and I'll have more to say
about it tomorrow. In the meantime, the "Mystery Woman" - Alexandra
Polier, whom I will name, since she has now named herself - has
issued a statement
denying any relationship with Senator John Kerry. Her parents, far
from calling Kerry a "sleazeball," say they're going to vote for
Drudge is backfilling by floating a
new rumor, and it's sickening. I won't even link to his
latest, but you can find it if you're interested.
posted at 9:07 PM |
If Bill Gates did this, people
would be howling. A little more than a year ago, Apple unveiled
a brand-new Web browser for its Macintosh computers. The move led
Microsoft to stop further development of the Mac version of
Explorer. So - at least for
those who like to use Officially Approved Software - Safari was
suddenly the only game in town.
Now Apple has finally released an
upgrade to Safari, version 1.2. And I can't use it. The new Safari
only runs on OS X 10.3 (a/k/a Panther). I'm running OS X 10.2
(Jaguar). Panther is not a new operating system - it's a maintenance
upgrade with a few new features. And it costs $129. I'm not
The problem is that I'm not seeking
cool breakthroughs in Safari, just basic functionality that was left
out of version 1.0, like the ability to print stuff out with page
numbers. Not being allowed to upgrade to Safari 1.2 without forking over more money strikes me as at least
low-level customer abuse, given that my iBook is less than a year
Anyway, I'm experimenting with a
new browser, Mozilla Firefox. It's still in beta (version
0.8), but it seems to be stable and at least as fast as Safari. You
get page numbers when you print, and some sites that don't render
properly with Safari - such as Cosmo
Macero's weblog - now look
just fine. It interacts better with Blogger.com,
Firefox is part of the
Project, which designs
open-source Internet software. There's a Windows version, too, so
give it a try.
posted at 10:19 AM |
Sunday, February 15, 2004
Like Bush said about Adam
Clymer, only minor-league. There are people - smart people - who
think Mark Steyn is just terrific, a funny conservative truth-teller
who deserves a wider audience.
I'm sure many of his fans cannot be
convinced otherwise. But if you have an open mind, please read
repulsive recitation of
half-truths. Check out, especially, how Steyn literally stoops to the
Ann Coulter level.
Hey, Steyn: Max Cleland never could
have made the "stupid mistake" that cost him three limbs if he hadn't
gone to Vietnam in the first place. Too bad his daddy couldn't get
him into the National Guard, eh?
Jesus. I think I need a
posted at 7:17 PM |
There is less joy in
Mudville. Some counterintuitive first thoughts on the Yankees'
of Alex Rodriguez following the Red Sox' long, protracted
1. Remember, this wasn't about
upgrading the team at shortstop. It was about getting rid of Manny
Ramírez. Manny's still here, but guess what? He's still going
to hit a ton. Rodriguez may be a better player than Nomar
Garciaparra, but they're both going to the Hall of Fame. Ask yourself
this: did you really want to see Nomar leave town?
2. Psychologically, this is good
for the Sox. They've been the favorites all winter. Who needs that
pressure? The Yankees are better today than they were yesterday, but
not by so much that they look unbeatable. And now the focus is going
to be on George Steinbrenner and his $200 million payroll.
3. Major League Baseball's sickness
may be reaching its terminal phase. Two weeks ago, we all got to see
a professional sports league that does it right (except for
contracting out its halftime show). It's depressing to see how owner
selfishness has ruined baseball. Does any team even matter other than
the Yankees and the Red Sox? Every true fan - except those of us in
Boston and New York - will be rooting against both teams.
Sex, context, and hypocrisy.
Mickey Kaus has posted what, at first glance, appears to be a
bit of hypocrisy on the
part of Joe Conason. Conason - who is properly outraged at Matt
Drudge's pathetic attempts to hang an apparently non-existent sex
scandal on John Kerry - turns out to have been very interested in
George H.W. Bush's sex life 12 years ago.
Context, please? I don't have
Conason's 1992 Spy article in front of me, but I can guess. In
1992, the Republicans - then as ever - were obsessed with Bill
Clinton's sex life, as though Republicans never carried on any
extramarital affairs. As I recall, a lot of liberals were appalled at
the single-minded focus on Clinton.
Allegations that Poppy Bush might
have had an affair were irrelevant. The possibility that the media -
spurred on by the Republican Attack Machine - were focusing entirely
on the alleged dalliances of the Democratic candidate while ignoring
evidence about the Republican candidate was important and worth
posted at 9:26 AM |
Friday, February 13, 2004
A non-sex non-scandal
non-story. There is only one story that the media and political
world is talking about right now: the allegations that Senator John
Kerry had an extramarital affair with a young woman a few years ago.
This "news" was broken yesterday by Matt
Drudge, who is best known
for revealing in 1998 that Newsweek was preparing a report on
the relationship between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
What's perversely fascinating about
this is the post-modern nature of the current media environment.
Drudge's scoop obviously doesn't meet any sort of respectable news
standard. Not only are the allegations completely unproven, but it's
still unclear as to what the allegations even are.
Yet this is already getting picked
up by papers in the UK and in Australia, which have rather different
standards from those that prevail in the US (which are low enough as
it is). So you've got a story that everyone is talking about, that
has already broken the talk-radio barrier (Sean Hannity gushed over
Drudge yesterday, and Kerry denied the rumors, whatever they are, on
Imus this morning), but that is virtually absent from US newspapers
The most specific version of the
story I've seen is this,
in the London Sun, home of the Page Three Girl. Assuming it's
accurate (a huge assumption!), the so-called scandal is even lamer
than one might have imagined. A 24-year-old woman's parents believe
that Kerry was coming on to their daughter. Reporter Brian Flynn
There is no evidence the
pair had an affair, but her father Terry, 56, said: "I think he's
a sleazeball. I did kind of wonder if my daughter didn't get that
kind of feeling herself.
"He's not the sort of guy I
would choose to be with my daughter."
This is a sex scandal? Don't you
need, you know, sex?
Conason has the definitive
(thus far) take. As for whether this grows, my guess is that we
should know by the end of the weekend.
Gay marriage survives - for
now. You can read my piece on yesterday's raucous session of the
constitutional convention, as well as other Phoenix coverage,
at BostonPhoenix.com. And check out the QuickTime video I shot of pro-marriage demonstrators.
posted at 2:49 PM |
Thursday, February 12, 2004
ConCom continuing coverage at
BostonPhoenix.com. I'm heading back to Beacon Hill in a few
minutes to catch the resumption of the constitutional convention,
which is debating whether to amend the constitution to ban gay
Check out our continuing coverage
New in this week's
Phoenix. George W. Bush is going through a rough stretch,
ready: the Republican
Attack Machine is gearing up to go after John Kerry on everything
from gay marriage to that fire hydrant that used to be in front of
Also, Wesley Clark finally gets
out, but the zombie
posted at 11:01 AM |
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Finneran to the rescue? It
looks like the best hope for gay activists and all supporters of
marriage equality is House Speaker Tom Finneran. Really.
Senate president Bob Travaglini and
Senate minority leader Brian Lees have crafted a compromise amendment
to the state constitution that would ban same-sex marriage, but would
guarantee the right of civil unions. It is reasonable and
well-intentioned, but would perpetuate the inequality that the
Supreme Judicial Court so eloquently denounced in its
Goodridge decision last fall. (Boston Globe coverage
the Boston Herald's website seems to be messed up this
Because Finneran doesn't like the
civil-unions provision, he may try to scuttle it, leaving an
amendment that would be far harsher, and thus less likely to pass
muster with a majority of the 199 legislators who will meet at
today's constitutional convention. And remember: Finneran controls
160 of them, as compared to just 39 for Travaglini. (Ironically,
Travaglini is short a member because Cheryl Jacques resigned to
become head of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-and-lesbian-rights
The constitutional convention will
take place after the deadline for this week's Boston Phoenix.
But Phoenicians will be swarming around Beacon Hill all day (and
night) today to put together an in-depth report for BostonPhoenix.com,
which will appear tomorrow. There may even be some updates posted
today. So keep checking in.
posted at 9:28 AM |
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
The seductive appeal of mob
rule. There is no more seductive or pernicious argument in the
gay-marriage debate than that "the people" should get to decide the
fate of an amendment to the state constitution that would ban
Today's Boston Globe
that a state rep has come under attack from something called the
"Committee to Let the People Vote." On the op-ed page, a
little screed by Catholic
activist William Hobbib concludes: "The final decision and its
far-reaching implications should be decided by a democratic vote of
the people of the state, with the appropriate level of study and
public debate that a constitutional amendment vote would
Thus in the Hobbibsean view of the
world, the legislature's role in amending the constitution should be
limited to that of a debating society, with all power resting in the
hands of the people.
State Senator Michael Morrissey put
way in a Globe
interview: "The question is, what's more democratic than putting a
question on the ballot? Isn't that democratic?"
Well, of course, nothing could be
more democratic than putting gay marriage to a vote. But we don't
live in a pure democracy; we live in a republic, with constitutional
rights for the minority counterbalancing the will of the majority.
Among other things, that's why we don't see proposals on the ballot
to bring back slavery.
The Massachusetts Constitution can
be amended with stunning ease - far more than is the case with the US
Constitution, which requires a two-thirds majority of both branches
of Congress and three-fourths of the state legislatures. By contrast,
an amendment here requires just a majority vote in two consecutive
sessions of the legislature (or only one-fourth if the amendment is
submitted by a petition of the voters), followed by a majority of
voters on the state ballot.
The point is that the amendment
process, though extremely easy, requires the involvement of
the legislature. If, as Hobbib and Morrissey assert, the
legislature's role is merely to wave the amendment through and let
the voters decide, then they are arguing against any role at all. In
the Hobbib-Morrissey model, the fact that the legislature has to vote
twice is nothing more than impediment, an anachronism, something to
be set aside for the greater good of pure democracy.
That has it exactly backwards. The
legislature is there to protect the rights of the minority. The
drafters of the state constitution - headed by John Adams - gave an
explicit role to the legislature so that our elected officials could
exercise their considered judgment as to whether a proposed amendment
might do so much damage that it should not even be considered by the
voters. Only after legislators have had a chance to reflect - twice -
is an amendment to go before the public.
The amendment to ban gay marriage
may be voted on as soon as tomorrow. Legislators owe us their wisdom,
such as it may be, as well as the courage to act on that wisdom.
Simply letting "the people" decide is an invitation to mob rule. It
would send an ugly message that our elected officials see nothing
wrong with oppression as long as it is "the people" who are doing the
posted at 9:19 AM |
Monday, February 09, 2004
Winning by losing. Jay Rosen
is among the more thoughtful observers of media today. A leading
light in the fading "public journalism" movement and chairman of the
journalism department at New York University, he writes a weblog -
- that is part of the online community "Blogging
of the President."
Recently Rosen wrote
post on an encounter he'd
witnessed between CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Ohio congressman Dennis
Kucinich. Rosen was repulsed by Blitzer's focus on horse-race
questions, and on his repeated badgering of Kucinich as to why he's
doing so badly in the presidential campaign and why he doesn't just
get out of the race. Rosen writes:
When the press looks for
its credibility problems today, it ought to look more at moments
like these. To me, it's in-credible, Blitzer's question. The
public service validity I assign it is zero. Most of the audience,
most of the time, senses the bad faith in it, whether we "like"
Kucinich or not. In a catalogue of low points for the campaign
press (which, done well, is an idea for a kick-ass weblog... )
this was one.
Political man gives it his best
shot. He runs in order to speak to the country, and to see if the
country listens and responds. It is for others to say why he
failed when he is still in the campaign to succeed.
Intuitively we know this. Blitzer, in a boorish way, does
What I find fascinating about
Rosen's post is that he gets an important point half-right. Yes, the
media are generally dreadful to candidates who can't garner much
support, alternately ignoring them or mocking them. Yet Kucinich has
essentially invited the Blitzer's "boorish" behavior by playing the
game of mainstream expectations rather than trying to rise above
As a presidential candidate,
Kucinich has worn well, at least with me. At first, I saw him as
little more than a Ralph Nader wanna-be - a fringe pain in the ass
with nothing interesting to say and no record of accomplishment,
unless you count throwing the city of Cleveland into default as its
boy mayor a generation ago an accomplishment.
But he's shown that he's a serious
candidate of ideas. He forced me to go back and look
at his record in Cleveland.
It turns out he sacrificed his mayoralty over a principled refusal to
give in to the banks and sell the city's municipal power plant - not
smart, perhaps, but certainly courageous.
Kucinich's plan to sit down with
the UN and negotiate a transfer of power in Iraq - about which he
out Tom Brokaw at the
January 29 debate - is reasonable and sensible, a far cry from the
cut-and-run caricature it has usually been portrayed as.
As for a Department
of Peace, well, why
Where Kucinich continues to annoy
me is when he espouses his increasingly absurd scenarios for how he's
going to win. For instance, here is Kucinich's response to Brokaw's
why-don't-you-get-out question at the
Well, Tom, keep in mind,
there's so much talent on this stage that I believe this race is
going to go all the way to the convention. And what that means -
no one's going to get 50 percent of the delegates going to the
convention. And I expect to be able to pick up delegates, state by
state. And I'll arrive at the convention right in the mix for the
nomination, and I look forward to it.
He's still going to win! Contrast
this with the Reverend Al Sharpton's response to the same question,
the highlight of which was this: "They ought to want all of us to
stay in and bring our constituency to the table rather than try to
Sharpton is being realistic and
truthful: he's running for a place at the table. Kucinich is in la-la
The problem here is that Kucinich
knew he wasn't going to win the day he announced, and everyone - Wolf
Blitzer and Tom Brokaw included - knows Kucinich knows he isn't going
to win. So when Blitzer acts "boorish" and Brokaw is dismissive,
they are, in at least some small way, reacting to the intellectual
contempt that Kucinich is showing not just to them, but to their
audiences as well.
pretty good in Maine
yesterday, but he still has just
A far more honest - and disarming -
answer to Blitzer's question would have been this:
Wolf, I know I'm not
going to win. I'm running to give a voice to people who are rarely
heard from: the poor, the disenfranchised, the working-class
families who've been hurt by our so-called free-trade policies.
And I'm running to stand up against war. No one in this race, not
even Howard Dean, is as committed to peace as I am. Like Al
Sharpton, I want a place at the table. I want to help change my
party, to make it a better, more principled vehicle for
progressive aspirations. Four years ago we lost the presidency
because too many voters saw Ralph Nader as a better alternative to
Al Gore. We need to bring those people back inside the tent. And
that's what I'm going to do.
What would Blitzer have said to
that? "But you're still losing"? Perhaps. But at least viewers would
have understood what Kucinich is really fighting for. And Blitzer
would have been more fully exposed for asking a buffoonish, bullying
posted at 10:08 AM |
Friday, February 06, 2004
Kerry takes a stand (sort
of). The great thing about being John Kerry is that you can
always be consistent with something you've said. In
today's Boston Globe, Susan Milligan reports
that the Massachusetts senator may support an amendment to the state
constitution that would ban same-sex marriage. Writes
Asked if he would support
a state constitutional amendment barring gay and lesbian
marriages, Kerry didn't rule out the possibility. "I'll have to
see what language there is," he said.
And, in fact, such a position is
consistent with his oft-stated support for civil unions but
opposition to gay marriage. But, as I pointed
out yesterday, it's
inconsistent with the strong pro-equality statements he made in 1996,
when he was one of just a tiny handful of senators to vote against
the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
This is probably the smart
political stance for Kerry to take if he wants to have some chance of
being elected president.
But it's still depressing as
posted at 11:27 AM |
Thursday, February 05, 2004
Jay Severin's rotten mouth.
I can't imagine there are many Media Log readers who take
Severin seriously. But I've
been thinking about how and when I wanted to give the trash-talking
WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) host a whack for his frequent use of the racist
- yes, racist - word "wetback." Today he gave me what I'd been
I was in my car. I wasn't rolling
tape, and I wasn't taking notes, so pardon the lack of quotation
marks. But, essentially, when I tuned in, he was berating a woman
who'd called to complain about his offensive invocation of "wetback"
and "wetback welcome wagon" in criticizing US immigration
Severin's angry response (and he
was angry; in 20 years of listening to talk radio, I have
never heard a host get as hostile to those with whom he
disagrees as Severin does) was mainly based on what he called her
ignorance of the term. "Wetback" is simply a word for illegal
immigrant, he told her. Look it up in the dictionary. It's got
nothing to do with Hispanics or Hispanic-Americans, as she had
The poor woman. She didn't have a
dictionary in front of her. Severin had his producer cut her off so
that he could spout at length before letting her get back up off the
floor. All she could do was mutter that he must know he was being
offensive, and that he was relying on a "technicality." Smugly, he
replied that the "technicality" she was referring to was the English
What arrogant bullshit.
is the definition of "wetback" from the American Heritage Dictionary
(fourth edition, 2000):
Used as a disparaging term for a Mexican, especially a laborer who
crosses the U.S. border illegally.
is what Merriam-Webster Online has to say:
a Mexican who enters the U.S. illegally
MSN Encarta - which threw up a
warning screen telling me that I was about to access offensive
material - says:
a taboo term for a Mexican
person recently arrived in the United States, especially somebody
who has entered the country illegally to work as a laborer
The Cambridge Dictionary of
American English puts it this
a Mexican worker who
illegally crosses the border to get work in the US. This is an
"Offensive." "Taboo." Get the
If you follow the links, you will
note that virtually every entry for "wetback" traces the origins of
the word back to the practice of Mexicans' swimming across the Rio
Grande to get into the US. So much for "wetback" having nothing to do
For a while, Severin got a lot of
scrutiny. But it seems like in the past year or so, he's gotten a
free pass. WEEI Radio (AM 850) suspended John Dennis and Gerry
Callahan for a bit that compared black school children to an escaped
gorilla. WRKO Radio (AM 680) fired John "Ozone" Osterlind for
suggesting that Israel should "eradicate" the Palestinian people.
(Osterlind has denied it, and I've never heard the tape.) Sadly, 'RKO
(which pays me to blab about the media on Pat Whitley's show once a
week) continues to let Howie Carr denigrate gays and welfare
But Severin goes about his merry
way, making fun of "wetbacks" and "towelheads," and no one says a
word. Well, it's offensive and degrading, and WTKK management
shouldn't put up with it.
And, no, his knowledge of the
English language is not nearly as impressive as he claims. In this
one instance, at least, he's dead wrong. He should apologize to that
posted at 8:06 PM |
Homework help for John
Kerry. As a public service to the Democratic front-runner, Media
Log has dug up some of his and his office's statements from 1996 on
the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Kerry showed some backbone that
year: of the 14 senators who were up for re-election, he was the only
one to vote against it, according to USA Today. (Granted, he
was also in the midst of a tough re-election fight against
then-governor Bill Weld, a favorite of the gay community.)
Despite Kerry's opposition, DOMA
passed and was signed into law by Bill Clinton. But Kerry's public
statements are instructive as we wait to see if he'll weigh in on the
current effort to amend the state constitution so that same-sex
marriages will be banned.
On June 24, 1996, the Boston
Globe reported that "Kerry intends to vote against the Defense of
Marriage Act because it 'does not seem to address any realistic
national legislative needs,' according to his campaign spokeswoman,
Jennifer Watson. Since no state currently recognizes gay marriage,
'this bill is premature at best; at worst, it is an attempt to divide
and play to people's fears,' Watson said."
Hmm. Not too promising. Watson left
her boss with far too much wiggle room, leaving open the possibility
that Kerry would have supported DOMA if there were actually a state
that recognized same-sex marriage.
But the senator himself was more
emphatic on September 5, 1996, when he told the Boston Herald,
"This bill is election-year pandering of the worst order, and I will
not be a party to legislative gay-bashing." Go get 'em, John! Now,
repeat after Media Log: The state constitutional amendment favored
by Governor Mitt Romney and House Speaker Tom Finneran is election
year pandering of the worst order, and I will not be a party to
DOMA finally passed the Senate on
September 10. And Kerry was notably blunt in expressing his
opposition. According to the next day's Globe, Kerry called
DOMA "fundamentally ugly, fundamentally political, and fundamentally
flawed," adding: "The results of this bill will not be to preserve
anything, but will serve to attack a group of people out of various
motives and rationales and certainly out of a lack of
The Herald published this
Kerry sound bite: "This is an unconstitutional, unprecedented,
unnecessary, and mean-spirited bill."
Everything Kerry said in 1996
applies today. The amendment to the state constitution being pushed
by Romney, Finneran, State Representative Philip Travis, and others
is a nasty piece of work, designed to deny fundamental human rights
to a minority of citizens while doing absolutely nothing for anyone
else. I'm sure Kerry doesn't want to take a stand, but he's got to.
It goes with being a senator, and it most certainly goes with showing
the leadership expected of a presidential candidate.
If nothing else, Kerry could quote
Jon Stewart, who had this to say when asked about it by Fox News's
priggish bully-boy Sean Hannity: "The gay marriage thing scared me,
but that's only because I thought at first it was mandatory. Now that
I realize that it's only people that are gay, I'm much more
(Point of personal privilege: the
transcript quotes Stewart as saying, "I'm much more confident." But I
saw Stewart that night, and I think he said "comfortable." So
posted at 1:11 PM |
Not answering the real
question. As the Boston Phoenix's Adam Reilly
Senator John Kerry's statement on the Supreme Judicial Court's most
recent same-sex-marriage decision is consistent with his previous
stand: yes on civil unions, no on marriage.
But Kerry avoids the real issue:
whether he supports an amendment to the state constitution that would
essentially overturn the SJC's Goodridge decision by defining
marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Of course Kerry wants
to take a pass on this. But can he? Should he?
This isn't so much about the fact
that he's a presidential candidate as it is that he's one of the
state's two elected senators. This is a landmark moment, and before
the legislature convenes next Wednesday (assuming it doesn't get
postponed), the public should demand that Kerry, Senator Ted Kennedy,
and the state's 10 House members state their positions on the
The fact that they don't have to is
all the more reason that they should do so anyway. This is the most
crucial civil-rights battle of our time. Are we going to let Kerry -
or any of them - take a pass?
New in this week's
Phoenix. John Kerry's string of victories is becoming
news. Now he must define
himself before the Republicans - and the media - do it for
Also, Fox News asks: are the media
giving Kerry a free
posted at 9:22 AM |
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
Clear language, vague pols.
Anyone who took the time to read the relevant parts of the
Supreme Judicial Court's Goodridge decision knew that the
notion that it was "vague" - as this
AP story puts it - was
ridiculous. The decision couldn't have been any clearer that marriage
was the only way to give gay and lesbian couples the same
"protections, benefits and obligations" as married heterosexual couples.
The "vague" line was put out by politicians such as Attorney General
Tom Reilly, who oppose gay marriage but who also have (had?) some
support in the gay and lesbian community. Such straddling is no
letter from Reilly's two
predecessors, Scott Harshbarger and James Shannon, former governor
William Weld, Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe, and Boston
Bar Association president Ren Landers and you'll see what I
Still, today's advisory
opinion casting aside the
civil-unions alternative is just a little bit surprising. The courts
follow public opinion just like the rest of us. And with the
right-wingers gearing up for a state constitutional amendment to ban
same-sex marriage, it seemed that there was at least a possibility
that one of the justices would change his or her mind in the cause of
pragmatism. Such is not the case. Which means that a monumental
battle is about to unfold.
Next up: the constitutional
convention, a joint session of the legislature scheduled to be held
next Wednesday. If the amendment passes by a simple majority, and
then makes it through the following session of the legislature as
well, then it will go on the ballot in 2006. I wouldn't be surprised
if Senate president Robert Travaglini, who saw his hope of a
civil-unions compromise go down the drain today, decides to postpone
it. After all, he presumably wouldn't want to move ahead unless he
knows what's going to happen. And, right now, everything is
posted at 1:07 PM |
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
A Janet Jackson comment that's
actually worth thinking about. Mickey Kaus comes up with
to say about the Janet
Jackson episode that's so smart it bears repeating: "The issue isn't
nudity but the implicit endorsement of acting out male fantasies
of violent and invasive non-consensual sexual behavior." You can
skip the bit about the Muslims, though.
posted at 3:51 PM |
Put him on Mount Hackmore.
Where, oh where, does the Globe's Dan Shaughnessy get
those ideas? I agree "Nuf
Ced" - Shaughnessy probably never saw Karen Guregian's Herald
column. (No one would be stupid enough to lift something from the
day before in the same city.) But hadn't someone on the
Globe's sports desk read it?
posted at 11:37 AM |
Cutting and running. James
Carroll today moves way to the left of ... Dennis Kucinich.
is what Carroll writes in the Boston Globe:
If our getting into the
unnecessary war was wrong, our carrying it on is wrong. The US
military presence in Iraq, no matter how intended, has itself
become the affront around which opposition fighters are organizing
themselves. GIs in their Humvees, US convoys bristling with
rifles, well-armed coalition check-points, heavily fortified
compounds flying the American flag - all of this fuels resentment
among an ever broader population, including Saddam's enemies. It
justifies the growing number of jihadis whose readiness to kill
through suicide has become the real proliferation problem.
The occupation is its source and
must end. "The day I take office as president of the United
States," a true American leader would declare, "I will order the
immediate withdrawal of the entire American combat force in
is what Kucinich said at last Thursday's Democratic debate, in
response to a mischaracterization of his position by moderator Tom
BROKAW: General Clark,
your friend, Congressman Kucinich, would pull the United States
troops out of Iraq right away and go to the UN and say, "You go in
and take over the peacekeeping there."
Would you tell him about what
happened when we had UN peacekeepers in Bosnia?
KUCINICH: Tom, you've
mischaracterized my position.
BROKAW: Well, tell me what you
KUCINICH: My position is that we
go to the United Nations with a whole new direction, where the
United States gives up control of the oil, control of the
contracts, control of ambitions to privatize Iraq, gives up to the
United Nations all that on an interim basis to be handled on
behalf of the Iraqi people until the Iraqi people are
Furthermore, we would ask that
the UN handle the elections and the construction of a constitution
for the Iraqi people.
When the UN agrees with that, at
that point, we ask UN peacekeepers to come in and rotate our
We help to fund it, we would
help pay to rebuild Iraq, and we would give reparations to those
innocent civilian noncombatants who lost their lives - to their
Kucinich's position is a model of
responsibility, and would actually address the very real problems
that Carroll identifies. Carroll's diagnosis is accurate. But his
prescription would so obviously lead to chaos that it's hard to know
what he was thinking, or if he was.
Speaking of not thinking ...
The Globe's Brian McGrory offers this
today in the course of blasting the knuckleheads (and worse) who went
berserk after the Patriots' Super Bowl win:
The same college kids who
sat in their dorms when America launched a dubious if not spurious
war in Iraq, whose idea of a grave social injustice is a 2 a.m.
bar closing, took to the streets en masse Sunday night, turning
over cars, igniting fires, and harassing anyone who got in their
Now for a refresher course. Here is
the lead of a piece
that ran in the Globe on November 4, 2002:
An estimated 15,000
protesters converged on Boston Common yesterday for a three-hour
rally to demonstrate against a possible US war with Iraq. The
turnout, estimated by police, rivaled any Boston peace rally since
the Gulf War, organizers said.
Here is an AP
story on the massive
antiwar demonstrations that took place across the nation on March 29,
2003. An excerpt:
About 60 miles north at
Boston Common, a police-estimated crowd of 25,000 protested the
war. Nuns, veterans and students listened to speakers and musical
acts before marching to Boylston Street for a "die in," during
which they collapsed on the streets to dramatize war
is David Valdes Greenwood's Boston Phoenix piece on the same
Did the particular kids who
actually poured out into the streets, flipped cars, and battled with
police on Sunday night take part in antiwar demonstrations? Probably
not. But their more-mature peers certainly did, and in huge numbers.
McGrory's shot was not only cheap, but ill-informed.
Nuts and sluts. Media Log
has nothing much to say about Janet Jackson's boob shot, except that
it was a football game, for crying out loud, not some
late-night cable thing, and no, she and Justin Timberlake shouldn't
have done it. (I'm assuming it was deliberate.) But an FCC
investigation? Ridiculous. A firing or two should suffice.
observations. First, a number of critics seem very concerned that sex
was injected into the Super Bowl. By all means read this
nutty rant on the
right-wing NewsMax.com site. But I think we ought to be more
concerned about the message it sent to girls about what they need to
do to get ahead. This wasn't about sex; it was about
Second, I agree with Alessandra
Stanley of the New York Times: the erectile-dysfunction
ads were a hell of a lot
more disconcerting than anything that took place during the halftime
posted at 10:55 AM |
Monday, February 02, 2004
Media Log versus Fox News!
I'm going on the Fox News Channel's Big
Story with John Gibson
today at about 5:20 p.m. The topic (I'm not making this up): Are the
media giving a free pass to John Kerry? (Suggested subtitle: Are they
posted at 2:31 PM |
Kerry and the lobbyists. In
case you missed it, here
is the Saturday report by the Washington Post's Jim VandeHei
on John Kerry's reliance on campaign contributions by lobbyists. The
Kerry, a 19-year veteran
of the Senate who fought and won four expensive political
campaigns, has received nearly $640,000 from lobbyists, many
representing telecommunications and financial companies with
business before his committee, according to Federal Election
Commission data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive
That $640,000, as it turns out, is
more than any senator has received from lobbyists over the past 15
The New York Times
much of the same ground.
Of course, this pales when compared
to the special-interest money that George W. Bush has raised. But
anything that dilutes the Democratic message is potentially
troubling. It's not hard to imagine Bush flinging this charge at
Kerry in a debate, should Kerry be fortunate enough to win the
And on television, everything
flattens out, with Bush's anticipated $200 million looking more or
less equivalent to the pittance that Kerry is likely to bring to the
Mixed messages. The
tracking polls now show
John Edwards up by five in South Carolina and Wesley Clark just
barely ahead in Oklahoma. Kerry seems to have solid leads in Arizona
What does this mean? Who knows? I
suspect that the Clark campaign is dead, but that the general hasn't
figured it out yet. That leaves Edwards as the last man standing,
unless Howard Dean's strategy of winning by losing every primary
Could it be that, after Tuesday,
the nomination will essentially come down to a Kerry-Edwards
face-off? If nothing else, it would confirm John Ellis's
Post-radio radio. For some
time now, I've watched with bemused disdain as various critics wax
rhapsodic over satellite radio. This
piece, by Dan DeLuca in
yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer, is typical.
I'm not saying DeLuca's wrong -
heck, I've never heard XM or Sirius, the two competing services.
Rather, I'm saying that his and others' enthusiasm is misplaced.
Corporate consolidation destroyed free radio. Now, to replace it,
there's something fairly cool, except that you have to pay a monthly
fee. For this I'm supposed to celebrate? And it's still a top-down,
There's another, ground-up model
that is slowly coming into focus. I'm not quite sure what to call it,
but for now let's call it "MP3 to Go." Let me explain it by telling
you what I did this morning.
Just before I left for work, I
Lydon's two-part interview
with Franz Hartl and Dan Droller, two young political activists who
are behind something called Music
for America. I've written
about Lydon's MP3 interviews before. This time, though, I was able to
skip the time-consuming step of burning what I'd downloaded onto a
The secret: iTrip, a little gizmo
from Griffin Technology that plugs into my iPod and transmits an FM
signal to my car stereo. Mrs. Media Log got me one for Christmas, but
it's taken a lot of trial-and-error to get it working
First, because we live in an urban
area, signal interference made it all but useless. I solved that by
finding a heretofore undiscovered button on my dashboard that lets me
lower the antenna. Then, the extraordinary bass that the iPod puts
out was threatening to blow my car speakers - until I found a "Bass
Reducer" setting that brought the boom-boom down to something like a
How was the interview? Well, okay.
Hartl and Droller are a couple of idealistic kids who got involved in
the Dean campaign last March, after the mainstream media virtually
ignored the massive February 15 protests against the then-pending war
in Iraq. There's a lot of blather about "open-source politics," the
power of blogs, the Internet as an organizing tool, and the like.
They're certainly not wrong - for that matter, I think they're
heading in the right direction. But this probably sounded a lot more
compelling a few months ago, when Lydon first posted it.
The larger point is that radio - or
something like it - may slowly be evolving in a DIY direction even as
corporate owners push homogenized garbage over the free airwaves and
hypersegmented content over the satellite services.
"MP3 to Go" isn't by definition a
free, grassroots service. For instance, if you go to Audible.com,
you'll find all kinds of things you can pay for - audio books, or
recent broadcasts of NPR fare such as All Things Considered
and Fresh Air, allowing you to time-shift your listening. But
the point is that the satellite is closed. "MP3 to Go" is open,
available to money-making and free services alike.
"MP3 to Go" is by no means at the
tipping point: it's still a pain in the ass. (Although the popularity
of file-sharing shows that plenty of people will do it.) But it's an
incredibly promising technology for inventing a new kind of radio,
and one that isn't the least bit dependent on the corporate model
that we've all come to detest.
If someone can figure out a way to
eliminate another step or two, this is going to take off.
posted at 11:19 AM |
MEDIA LOG ARCHIVES
Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.