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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, 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, continues:

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 allowed.

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 segment 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.

A disgrace.

posted at 10:14 AM | comment or permalink

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.)

Here 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 do it.

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 this 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 nevertheless.

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 | comment or permalink

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 say?

The defeat 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 Nigerian government.

Also, talk-radio legend David Brudnoy plots his latest comeback.

posted at 8:55 AM | comment or permalink

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 announcement:

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 publications.

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 country."

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, 2003).

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 | comment or permalink

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, here 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 three.

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."

The text 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 | comment or permalink

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 Gore.

Writes 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 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 Oregon.)

In Salon, Eric Boehlert reports 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 | comment or permalink

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 percent opposed.

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 unions.

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 well.

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 "civil union."

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 a 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 | comment or permalink


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

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