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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 www.dankennedy.net. For information on Dan Kennedy's book, Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale, October 2003), click here.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Barnicle to write for Herald. It was nearly six years ago that the Boston Herald reported that then-Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle had lifted one-liners from a George Carlin book. Within weeks, Barnicle was gone amid accusations of fabrication and plagiarism - charges that he denied, but that he never adequately explained.

Well, what goes around comes around. Because now comes word that new editorial director Ken Chandler is on the verge of announcing that Barnicle will be brought in as a Herald columnist. The announcement is said to be scheduled for Monday, although that could be moved up since it's apparent that the entire Boston media world already knows about it.

Barnicle's first column is supposedly scheduled for Tuesday. No word on whether he'll be a staff member or a freelancer, or if he'll write once, twice, or more a week. The guess here is that he'll freelance so that he can keep doing his show on WTKK Radio (96.9 FM). Perhaps he can be persuaded at least to give up his low-energy Sunday column in the New York Daily News.

No doubt Andy Costello did much during the past year to keep Chandler from bringing in Barnicle, a move that had been rumored since last summer. Last week, of course, Costello was moved out of the editor's job. This week, here's Mike!

The staff began finding out about the impending move on Thursday. Media Log's sources suggest there is considerable unhappiness about bringing in an aging hack at a time when the mantra is supposedly all about attracting younger readers.

As for whether that discontent will extend to anything more than grumbling, Monday should be a good indication.

posted at 8:54 PM | comment or permalink

Did too! Here's the lead of an Associated Press dispatch that moved yesterday: "Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Cole said Thursday he did not intend to equate a vote against President Bush to a vote for Adolf Hitler, but stuck by recent comments that a Bush loss would be a win for Osama bin Laden."

Here is what Cole actually said, according to his own spokeswoman: "What do you think Hitler would have thought if Roosevelt would've lost the election in 1944? He would have thought American resolve was [weakening]."

Here is what Cole says he really meant: "What I am saying is that in a time of war, if our commander in chief is defeated in an election, our adversary will regard that as a triumph."

By Cole's own admission, he said that a vote for John Kerry is a vote for bin Laden. (The actual quote: "[I]f George Bush loses the election, Osama bin Laden wins the election.") And by any reasonable person's interpretation, Cole also said that a vote for Kerry is a vote for Hitler.

You may recall that Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie recently went bananas when MoveOn.org mistakenly posted a video contest entry that compared Bush to Hitler, even though website co-founder Wes Boyd took it down and apologized almost immediately.

Now some Democrats are calling on Cole to apologize. Please. His constituents ought to demand that he resign.

posted at 1:24 PM | comment or permalink

Thursday, March 04, 2004

The (ahem) inside track on the Herald. Not much good news coming out of Wingo Square these days. Click here for my update on the Boston Herald in the post-Andy Costello era.

One good move, though: the paper has shifted columnist Howard Manly to the op-ed page. Manly's stuff tends to get lost inside the Herald's hyperkinetic news hole. This should give him some new readers.

New in this week's Phoenix. In addition to my Herald update, I've got a piece on how John Kerry can survive the Republicans' flying monkeys in the run-up to the Democratic National Convention.

posted at 10:42 AM | comment or permalink

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Selling out his own daughter. Business is business, but even Vito Corleone was good to his kids. Which is why I'm so appalled, if not surprised, that Dick Cheney would sell out his own daughter on gay marriage. Says the vice-president: "The president's taken the clear position that he supports a constitutional amendment. I support him."

Now, I suppose it's possible that you could have a child who's gay or lesbian, that you could oppose marriage rights on religious or philosophical grounds or whatever, and you could still love that child. But Cheney, as we know, has actually changed his position in order to get on the right side of George W. Bush's panderfest. Have he and his daughter, Mary Cheney, talked about this? For that matter, do they still talk?

Here's what Cheney said in his debate with Joe Lieberman in 2000:

The fact of the matter is we live in a free society, and freedom means freedom for everybody. We don't get to choose, and shouldn't be able to choose and say, "You get to live free, but you don't." And I think that means that people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. It's really no one else's business in terms of trying to regulate or prohibit behavior in that regard.

The next step, then, of course, is the question you ask of whether or not there ought to be some kind of official sanction, if you will, of the relationship, or if these relationships should be treated the same way a conventional marriage is. That's a tougher problem. That's not a slam dunk.

I think the fact of the matter, of course, is that matter is regulated by the states. I think different states are likely to come to different conclusions, and that's appropriate. I don't think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area.

I try to be open-minded about it as much as I can, and tolerant of those relationships. And like Joe, I also wrestle with the extent to which there ought to be legal sanction of those relationships. I think we ought to do everything we can to tolerate and accommodate whatever kind of relationships people want to enter into.

From let-the-states-decide (which implies federal recognition) to a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. What a long, strange, ugly trip it's been.

Andrew Sullivan, for some reason, tries to throw Cheney a lifeline, arguing that Cheney said he supports the president, not the amendment. To which I say, if Cheney is parsing his words as carefully as Sullivan thinks he is, then his performance is all the more shameful.

And do check out DearMary.com.

A Corleone line that Cheney won't be using: "Why do you come to me on the day of my daughter's wedding?"

Quote of the day. "Just last week he [George W. Bush] proposed to amend the Constitution of the United States for political purposes. He has no right to misuse the most precious document in our history in an effort to divide this nation and to distract us from our goals." - John Kerry during his victory speech last night.

Strong stuff. Too bad Kerry fails to show the same reverence for the Massachusetts Constitution, which he favors amending for the sole purpose of getting an election-year monkey off his back.

posted at 12:24 PM | comment or permalink

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

A bad night for gay marriage. Democrat Angus McQuilken, to everyone's surprise, appears likely to lose to Republican Scott Brown in the special Massachusetts Senate election to replace McQuilken's former boss, Cheryl Jacques.

Jacques left to become head of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-and-lesbian-rights organization. McQuilken strongly supports same-sex marriage; Brown is an opponent, and has gotten a lot of help from Governor Mitt Romney.

Rightly or wrongly (and, sadly, I suspect rightly) this race is going to be looked at as a referendum on gay marriage. This wasn't even supposed to have been close. Legislators are going to pay a lot of attention to this on March 11, when they resume the constitutional convention to consider an amendment banning gay marriage.

This isn't good.

posted at 10:38 PM | comment or permalink

Maggots of the media. A wonderful phrase for you old-time Boston political junkies. And it fits!

I'm not sure whether this is good or bad, but Wonkette has the same take on Elisabeth Bumiller as Media Log. She writes: "She just turned in what may be the worst debate performance since Nixon sweated through his makeup." There's something about a kitten being strangled, too.

On Slate, William Saletan blasts all three inquisitors - Bumiller, Dan Rather, and WCBS-TV reporter Andrew Kirtzman - writing, "And we wonder why people hate the press."

Actually, no, we don't. The reasons are many, and have been on display for quite some time now.

The giving of the green. No doubt Massachusetts House Speaker Tom Finneran hates the press today. The Boston Globe's Raphael Lewis reports on some mighty strange donations.

In December, according to Lewis, Finneran donated $24,500 to the Massachusetts Democratic Party. The party then turned around and donated $26,000 to 10 House members who have been loyal to Mr. Speaker on some contentious issues.

What may have been going on was that Finneran took advantage of a legal loophole to make campaign donations to his supporters far in excess of what he could give via the direct route.

As it stands, the story is incomplete, but Media Log looks forward to the follow-up.

The end of the beginning. John Kerry stands an excellent chance of carrying all 10 states today, according to the final tracking polls. Click here for the Real Clear Politics roundup; here for Zogby.

The Kerry campaign is known to be concerned about Georgia, where the lead over John Edwards is narrow, and the Minnesota caucuses. There's also a chanced that Vermont will reward its former governor, Howard Dean, with a symbolic victory. But Edwards now seems unlikely to carry Ohio, where his populist message has some appeal.

Will Edwards quit tonight?

As for what's next, Media Log does not often agree with Mickey Kaus. But if you look at his piece today as things to worry about rather than as a blanket indictment, I think you'll find that Kaus has pretty much nailed it.

posted at 10:03 AM | comment or permalink

Monday, March 01, 2004

Why stop at gay marriage? The godly folks at God Hates Shrimp remind us of some more important lessons from the Book of Leviticus.

posted at 4:21 PM | comment or permalink

"Are you a liberal?" Only if God's on our side! So what did we learn from the 1297th and possibly final debate of the Democratic presidential primary season? That journalist-questioners are endlessly rude, and hinder more than they help. That John Edwards is pretty effective when he goes on the attack. That Al Sharpton's and Dennis Kucinich's demands for equal treatment were a whole lot easier to listen to back before they'd been soundly rejected by primary voters and caucus-goers in every state in which they've run. (Okay, Kucinich did all right in Hawaii.) And that John Kerry isn't going to fill anyone with spasms of excitement, but that there's virtually no way he can blow the nomination at this point.

Yesterday's debate, sponsored by CBS News and the New York Times, was particularly frenetic because it only lasted for an hour. Dan Rather, at least, was polite in trying to move things along; and I wanted to cheer when he told Sharpton that "I think you will agree, the voters have spoken." But Andrew Kirtzman, of WCBS-TV, in New York, seemed clueless. And Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller was a constant distraction, interrupting before anyone could even get out a fragment of an answer, and continually trying to push her agenda.

Item: In discussing yesterday's departure of Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the first democratically elected leader in that country's history, Bumiller at one point asked, "But no one says he's a good president, so why is it so terrible he's gone? You've all agreed on that." As her own paper's editorial page puts it this morning, Aristide left because of pressure "from a Bush administration too willing to ignore democratic legitimacy in order to allow the removal of a leader it disliked and distrusted."

You know, the Democrats all agree that George W. Bush isn't a good president, either, and he wasn't even democratically elected. What do you suppose Bumiller's response would be if one of the candidates called for Haitian troops to remove Bush from office?

Item: Bumiller's intellectually insulting interrogation of Kerry as to whether he is a "liberal." Roll the tape:

BUMILLER: The National Journal, a respected, nonideologic [sic] publication covering Congress, as you both know, has just rated you, Senator Kerry, number one, the most liberal senator in the Senate. You're [she gestures to Edwards] number four. How can you hope to win with this kind of characterization, in this climate?

KERRY: Because it's a laughable characterization. It's absolutely the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen in my life.

BUMILLER: Are you a liberal?

KERRY: Let me just ...

BUMILLER: Are you a liberal?

KERRY: ... to the characterization. I mean, look, labels are so silly in American politics. I was one of the first Democrats in the United States Senate in 1985 to join with Fritz Hollings in deficit reduction. Now, does that make me a conservative? I fought to put 100,000 police officers on the streets of America. Am I a conservative?

BUMILLER: But, Senator Kerry, the question is ...

KERRY: I know. You don't let us finish answering questions.

BUMILLER: You're in New York.

Are you a liberal? Are you a liberal? Are you a liberal? I would expect this from Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, not one of the lead reporters at the paper of record. Pathetic. (By the way: Kerry is a liberal!)

Item: Dan Rather began the proceedings by asking the candidates about their "spirituality" or "religiosity." It was a little weird - Rather, after all, is a little weird - but I thought it was within bounds, since all four of them have brought up the G-word at one time or another. And, actually, their answers were at least somewhat revealing.

But then, in the closing minutes, Bumiller came back to it - this time putting it in the context of President Bush, who, she claimed, "has made quite clear in his speeches that he feels God is on America's side." (A fair interpretation, perhaps, but has Bush ever said anything quite that crude? I don't think so.)

She then asked: "Really quick, is God on America's side?" Roll that around on your tongue, in your mind, for a moment. Really quick, is God on America's side? Is this what we need from the people who are supposed to be explaining the presidential campaign to us? A sneering jab at Bush, followed by an invitation to the Democrats to make horse's asses of themselves? Really quick?

Kerry, understandably, looked stricken at the vacuousness of Bumiller's question. He fumbled around for a moment and didn't say much of anything. Edwards had such a good answer that you couldn't help but wonder whether he knew it was coming, observing that Abraham Lincoln once refused to pray that God was on our side - but that "I'll join you in a prayer that we're on God's side."

Good recovery. But that doesn't excuse Bumiller's cheap stunt.

Kerry supports federal benefits for gay couples. On Friday, I asked whether Edwards had moved ahead of Kerry in promising to extend federal marriage rights - though not the word "marriage" - to gay and lesbian couples that marry in states that choose to allow same-sex marriage. Kerry answered that yesterday, saying at one point, "That's why I am for civil union. That's why I'm for partnership rights. That's why I'm for even the federal extension, with respect to tax code and other rights."

With that, I would argue that Kerry is superior to Edwards on gay and lesbian rights, since Kerry's support of civil unions is more definitive than Edwards's. Neither man supports same-sex marriage.

Rod Paige, meet Mike Barnicle. Tim Francis-Wright catches WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) talk-show host Mike Barnicle referring to two Academy Award nominees with foreign-sounding names - one of whom is (gasp!) Iranian - as "terrorists." One would expect outrage, but I suppose that would be too much coming from a station that lets Jay Severin refer to illegal immigrants as "wetbacks" and Arabs as "towelheads." UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: The original item appeared in Saturday's Globe. Francis-Wright gives proper attribution, but I misunderstood the sequence.

posted at 9:09 AM | comment or permalink


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

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