Wednesday, June 30, 2004

MENINO SLAMS KERRY. Oh, my. Boston mayor Tom Menino is going public with his anger at Senator John Kerry. Kerry's been indecisive, to say the least, in trying to balance his desire not to offend the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association and his need to maintain a good relationship with Menino heading into the Democratic National Convention.

Today's Boston Herald lead story, by David Guarino and Noelle Straub, quotes Menino as calling Kerry's campaign "small-minded" and "incompetent." Menino, understandably, is exercised over Kerry's decision not to speak at a gathering of the US Conference of Mayors, hosted by Menino, rather than cross the police union's picket-line-that-isn't-really-a-picket-line. The mayor's also pissed at Kerry-camp leaks alleging that Menino hung up on Kerry sometime Sunday. Menino told the Herald:

Maybe they should use some of their energies to get their message across to the American people instead of trying to destroy the integrity of someone who is on their team, to try to discredit someone on their team. They have better things to do.

The only truly surprising thing is that Menino decided to unload even though media sentiment has been going his way, with most commentators castigating Kerry for refusing to stand up to a union whose aggressive tactics have been widely criticized.

In today's Boston Globe, for instance, Glen Johnson reports that Kerry's critics - and some supporters - think the senator's machinations over the mayors' conference were "protracted, messy, and guided by self-interest."

Globe columnist Scot Lehigh quotes Menino as saying that this could have been a "Sister Souljah" moment for Kerry - that is, an opportunity to stand up to an important Democratic constituency that's out of line, as Bill Clinton did in 1992 in speaking out against a rap singer who'd talked about killing white people.

With things going Menino's way, he could have just sat back and enjoyed it, and allowed Kerry to stew in a mess of his own making. But that's not how the mayor does things. He had to get it off his chest even though most people already agree with him.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

ALAN SIMPSON ON THE "LIBERAL" MEDIA. Here at Media Log Central these days, it's all Clinton, all the time. Day and night, we slog through My Life, a project that's taking almost as long as it did for him to live it, never mind write it. Is it "eye-crossingly dull"? At times.

But I love a critique offered by former Republican senator Alan Simpson, of Wyoming, about the so-called liberal media. It appears on pages 692-693, and I quote Clinton at some length:

Simpson laughed at how willing the "elitist" press was to swallow anything negative about small, rural places like Wyoming or Arkansas and made an interesting observation: "You know, before you were elected, we Republicans believed the press was liberal. Now we have a more sophisticated view. They are liberal in a way. Most of them voted for you, but they think more like your right-wing critics do, and that's much more important." When I asked him to explain, he said, "Democrats like you ... get into government to help people. The right-wing extremists don't think government can do much to improve on human nature, but they do like power. So does the press. And since you're President, they both get power the same way, by hurting you."

Liberal in a way. That sums up what I've been saying about allegations of liberal media bias for years. There are critics who deny there is any liberal bias on the part of the media, or that if there was, it has long since burned itself out. In fact, there is a liberal bias on certain cultural issues - abortion rights, gay issues, and the social agenda in general.

But the media are moderate to conservative on economics (when was the last time you saw a positive story about organized labor anywhere except in the Nation?) and agnostic on foreign policy (if George W. Bush's Iraq misadventure had been an unqualified success, the media would be hailing him as a new Caesar).

Perhaps most important, journalists counter the accusation that they are liberal by going after liberal and/or Democratic politicians like crazed weasels. Just look at what they did to Clinton. And Al Gore.

Those distinctions are important to keep in mind as the 2004 presidential campaign moves ahead. The media should be tough on John Kerry - and Bush. But their coverage of the Gore campaign four years ago amounted to a wilding. That can't happen again.

LITTLE PEOPLE MAKES THE CONNECTION. Tune in this Thursday at 11 a.m., when I'll be a guest on The Connection, on WBUR Radio (90.9 FM), talking about Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes.

Monday, June 28, 2004

KERRY'S DIVORCE AND THE GOP. Get ready for the next John Kerry media feeding frenzy. Following the court-ordered release of Illinois Republican Senate candidate (make that former candidate) Jack Ryan's seamy divorce papers, anti-Kerry forces are now demanding the same treatment for Kerry and his first wife, Julia Thorne.

According to Drudge, the push may come from the Tribune Company, which was in the forefront of the Ryan case because of its ownership of the Chicago Tribune. The company also owns Boston's WLVI-TV (Channel 56), which would give it legal standing. Not to rely on Drudge, but does anyone doubt that the media and the Republicans would love to see Kerry's divorce records made public, just to find out what's in there?

I have to admit that I hadn't paid much attention to the Ryan's case, other than to share everyone's amusement at the sex-club allegations. Until this morning, I hadn't realized they'd been released by a judge, Robert Schnider. Good Lord - what was Schnider thinking? And of course, even though Schnider's ruling only pertains to his jurisdiction, it's going to be pretty easy to make the case that what's good for Ryan is good for Kerry.

If Ryan and his ex-wife wanted their sealed records to remain sealed, that should have been respected. Voters should have been trusted to make what they would of the Ryans' refusal to go public.

Same with Kerry and Thorne.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

YOU SAY "AZZAWI," I SAY "AHMAD." A couple of Media Log readers pointed me to this excellent post by Juan Cole on the matter of that top official for Saddam Hussein who's been linked to Al Qaeda.

As I noted earlier, even promoters of this link, such as the Weekly Standard's William Kristol and Stephen Hayes, have conceded there was a possibility that they were talking about two different people with the same name.

Well, Cole shows that they don't have the same name. Never mind! He writes:

The al-Qaeda employee in Malaysia is named Ahmad Hikmat Shakir Azzawi.

The Iraqi intelligence agent is named Lt. Col. Hikmat Shakir Ahmad.


Do you notice how they are not the same?

Cole adds, "Isn't it a shame that we have these key people doing important things who are either incompetent ignoramuses or dumb as posts?" Well, uh, yes. More than a shame.

Friday, June 25, 2004

DUBYA AND ADOLF. This really is incredible. I wouldn't be surprised if this has been pulled before you can see it. But the Bush-Cheney campaign has put up an ad on its website that makes use of that spot comparing George W. Bush to Hitler that was uploaded to some months ago as part of a contest, and that was yanked as soon as it was discovered.

Hurry! Watch it while you still can!

In a blast e-mail titled "Disgusting," Kerry-campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill writes:

Yesterday, the Bush-Cheney campaign, losing any last sense of decency, placed a disgusting ad called "The Faces of John Kerry's Democratic Party" as the main feature on its website. Bizarrely, and without explanation, the ad places Adolf Hitler among those faces.

The Bush-Cheney campaign must pull this ad off of its website. The use of Adolf Hitler by any campaign, politician or part is simply wrong.

Cahill is being just a tiny bit disingenuous, making it sound like the Bush campaign is comparing Kerry to Hitler. Actually, the Bush campaign is desperately trying to pretend that the Kerry campaign is comparing Bush to Hitler. Quite a stretch, given that we're talking about an unsolicited contest entry for which apologized many months ago. That's disgusting, all right.

Here's how the New York Times covered the story today. But why didn't Adam Nagourney mention the Hitler pix? The liberal media would never soft-pedal the vicious negative campaign tactics favored by the Republicans, would they?

Thursday, June 24, 2004

GUILT BY NON-ASSOCIATION. John Kerry today is fending off a smear launched from outer space. The Associated Press reports that Americans Coming Together (ACT), a liberal independent organization working to defeat George W. Bush, has hired some ex-cons to help with its door-to-door canvassing.

Is this a good idea? Well, giving former inmates a chance to earn a living certainly doesn't sound like such a bad thing to me. But that's not the point. You could think it's a terrible idea and still shake your head at this story. The AP's David Lieb calls ACT "crucial" to Kerry's hopes, and writes:

America Coming Together, contending that convicted criminals deserve a second chance in society, employs felons as voter canvassers in major metropolitan areas in Missouri, Florida, Ohio and perhaps in other states among the 17 it is targeting in its drive. Some lived in halfway houses, and at least four returned to prison.

But wait! Farther down, Lieb adds this:

Although it works against the re-election of President Bush, ACT is an independent group not affiliated with Kerry's campaign - federal law forbids such coordination. Yet ACT is stocked with veteran Democratic political operatives, many with past ties to Kerry and his advisers.

Allison Dobson, a spokeswoman with the Kerry campaign, said there is no coordination with ACT, and of the policy: "We're unaware of it and have nothing to do with it."

This isn't even guilt by association - it's guilt by non-association.

Not surprisingly, today's Boston Herald goes huge with this, blowing out the front with a headline that screams "CROOKS FOR KERRY." The story, by David Guarino, credits the AP, and treads pretty much the same path as Lieb - that is, sounding the alarm that a pro-Kerry organization is providing honest work to ex-cons, while at the same time noting that Kerry's campaign, by law, has nothing to do with the group.

And just to complete the circle, Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie issued this statement:

It is disturbing that the voter mobilization arm of the Democratic Party is proudly hiring felons convicted of sex offenses, assault and burglary to go house to house and handle sensitive personal information.

Democrat voters should be leery of opening their doors to political operatives until the Democrats can assure them that a convicted felon won't be on the other side.

I suppose Gillespie deserves at least a little credit for not using the word "Kerry." Would that the AP and the Herald could be so precise.

RADIO REMINDER. I'll be the guest host of Counterpoint this Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. on WRKO Radio (AM 680). We'll be taking calls, so pick up the phone and punch in 617-266-6868.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

WILL MITT ROMNEY TRY TO OUTLAW GAY PARENTHOOD? I'm sure he won't. (Although I'm not so sure he wouldn't try if he thought he could.) Which is what makes his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday a prime example of political hypocrisy, even by his low standards.

During his opening statement, he said this:

But marriage is not solely for adults. Marriage is also for children. In fact, marriage is principally for the nurturing and development of children. The children of America have the right to have a father and a mother.

Of course, even today, circumstances can take a parent from the home, but the child still has a mother and a father. If the parents are divorced, the child can visit each of them. If a mother or father is deceased, the child can learn about the qualities of the departed. His or her psychological development can still be influenced by the contrasting features of both genders.

Are we ready to usher in a society indifferent about having fathers and mothers? Will our children be indifferent about having a mother and a father?

But we already live in a society that is pretty much indifferent about having fathers and mothers, do we not? Single women choose to have kids. Gay and lesbian couples choose to have kids. For that matter, single women and gay couples sometimes adopt kids, suggesting not just indifference on the part of society but, rather, active participation. Would Romney stop any of this? Of course he wouldn't. (Again, maybe he would if he could.)

A few moments later, Romney said:

Scientific studies of children raised by same sex couples are almost non-existent. And the societal implications and effects on these children are not likely to be observed for at least a generation, probably several generations. Same sex marriage doesn't hurt my marriage, or yours. But it may affect the development of children and thereby future society as a whole. Until we understand the implications for human development of a different definition of marriage, I believe we should preserve that which has endured over thousands of years.

Preserving the definition of marriage should not infringe on the right of individuals to live in the manner of their choosing. One person may choose to live as a single, even to have and raise her own child. Others may choose to live in same sex partnerships or civil arrangements. There is an unshakeable majority of opinion in this country that we should cherish and protect individual rights with tolerance and understanding.

But there is a difference between individual rights and marriage. An individual has rights, but a man and a woman together have a marriage. We should not deconstruct marriage simply to make a statement about the rights of individual adults. Forcing marriage to mean all things, will ultimately define marriage to mean nothing at all.

I highlighted the part where the governor acknowledges that same-sex marriage doesn't hurt anyone else's marriage, and I'm glad to learn that he won't be sporting a "Protect Ma and Pa" button anytime soon. But again, the hypocrisy here isn't even hidden - it's shimmering right on the surface.

Marriage is about children. We don't know what the effects may be of raising children in gay and lesbian households. So we shouldn't rush into this. But Governor - much of what the legal definition of civil marriage is all about is making it easier to raise children. Tax incentives. Rights of inheritance. Joint medical insurance. And on and on.

Today's best take is by the Boston Globe's Scot Lehigh, who observes that Romney appears to be running against his own state in order to advance his fevered national ambitions. Lehigh writes, "Can Romney be an effective governor by continually taking on the culture and candidate of the state he leads? Or will Massachusetts voters eventually grow tired of watching their chief executive raise his national profile at the state's expense?"

AGAIN. I hope we're not getting inured to the horror of terrorist beheadings in the Middle East. Somehow, yesterday's execution of Kim Sun Il by terrorists allegedly tied to Abu Musab Zarqawi (who is believed to have personally beheaded Nicholas Berg) didn't seem like as big a story as it should have.

The danger is that each decapitation - of Daniel Pearl, of Berg, of Paul Johnson, and now of Kim - will make us progressively numb to the horror of what's taking place. We should remember each victim. You don't have to support George W. Bush misadventure in Iraq to acknowledge that these men gave their lives in the war against terrorism.

ZZZZZ. Right-wing journalist Mark Steyn hits me where it hurts. He's linked to my less-than-flattering profile of him, and adds this commentary: "Warning: May cause drowsiness. Do not attempt to read before operating a motor vehicle or heavy machinery." Oof!

MEDIA LOG ON THE AIR. Tune in to WRKO Radio (AM 680) this Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. I'll be hosting Counterpoint, the station's liberal alternative to its 165 weekly hours of conservative and right-wing talk.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

UNHAPPY FATHER'S DAY. There is something so raw and ragged in Jimmy Breslin's column about his daughter's death that reading it is nearly unbearable. His attempts to put some distance between himself and the tragedy he describes - "the daughter," "the mother" - only underscore what a terrible moment he is describing. I'm not going to quote one more word from it. Just read it. Read the whole thing. It will break your heart.

SADDAM AND OSAMA REDUX. Did Saddam Hussein have ties to Al Qaeda? No one has been dropping off any secret dossiers here at Media Log Central, so all I know is what I read in the press. But the current uproar, over the 9/11 Commission report, strikes me as weird on several levels.

For one thing, it would seem to me that if anyone was stacking the deck against the White House, it would be fairly simple to identify the culprit. Not so. Some conservatives - including Vice-President Dick Cheney - are blaming the media, claiming that they mischaracterized the findings of the report. "The press, with all due respect, [is] often times lazy, often times simply reports what somebody else in the press said without doing their homework," Cheney said on CNBC last week.

Yet New York Times columnist William Safire, who believes in the Saddam-Al Qaeda link just as fervently as Cheney, says the media are blameless, and that in fact it was the staff of the 9/11 Commission that played down the relationship. In his column yesterday, Safire reported that the commission's findings were written up by its staff chief, Philip Zelikow, who ignored evidence that contradicted the anti-Bush conclusion he wanted to reach, and who did this behind the backs of both the Republican chairman, Tom Kean, and the Democratic vice-chairman, Lee Hamilton. Wrote Safire:

Cheney's ire was misdirected. Don't blame the media for jumping on the politically charged Zelikow report. Blame the commission's leaders for ducking responsibility for its interim findings. Kean and Hamilton have allowed themselves to be jerked around by a manipulative staff.

Now it's true that Safire's column had the added advantage of exonerating his employer, which had come under particularly heavy criticism for its news reports dismissing the Iraq-Al Qaeda link. But Safire's evidence is pretty hard to contradict.

The Weekly Standard, the leading neocon magazine, decides not to decide this week, running a cover line that reads: "There They Go Again: Why the 9/11 Commission and the Media Refuse to See the Ties Between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda." (Yes, I know the subhead is too small to read; I've got the print version.) Hmmm ... if the media accurately reported what was in the commission's report, how is it their fault?

Inside, editor William Kristol and staff writer Stephen Hayes recycle some of the evidence regarding Saddam's alleged ongoing relationship with Iraq. Both Kristol and Hayes have been known to truck in some Chalabi-by-way-of-Feith fantasies, but they are serious people, and I don't take their findings lightly. I was particularly struck by the charge that the 9/11 Commission ruled out the possibility that terrorist mastermind Mohamed Atta met with a top Iraqi intelligence official in Prague, several months before 9/11, partly on the basis of Atta's cell-phone records. Hayes writes: "It is entirely possible that Atta would leave his cell phone behind if he left the country. In any case, the hijackers are known to have shared cell phones." No kidding.

But I'm always suspicious when the White House's supporters are willing to make a better case than the White House itself. Take, for instance, the matter of Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, who reportedly attended a January 2000 Al Qaeda planning meeting in Malaysia, who is known to have possessed contact information for top Al Qaeda officials, and who may have been a high-ranking officer in the Fedayeen Saddam. Now that's a pretty definitive tie, I think we would all agree.

Both Hayes and Kristol concede that they might be writing about two people with the same name. And, in fact, today's Washington Post reports that is apparently the case. After 9/11 Commission member John Lehman, a former secretary of the Navy, repeated the Shakir allegations over the weekend, a "senior administration official" was quoted as saying the apparent tie was the result of confusion over two similar names. Read Spencer Ackerman on this, too.

In any case, such evidence does not explain the Bushies' obsession with Iraq, especially given the finding that Al Qaeda had much closer ties with Iran and Pakistan. Of course, Pakistan is now our "friend," and Iran is too big and scary to invade. Iraq remains what it has been from the beginning - a war of convenience, fought because the White House thought it would be easy. Getting out the electron microscope to find evidence that Saddam and Osama bin Laden worked together doesn't change that.

CLINTON'S PSYCHE, TOO MUCH WITH US. Here's the thing, President Clinton: if you're going to write about your affair with Monica Lewinsky, and you're going to submit willingly to questions about it - as you did with Dan Rather on Sunday - then you've got to expect that not every interviewer is going to be as polite and understanding as Rather or, say, Oprah.

You could have set different ground rules. You could have made it clear that you weren't going to run around psychobabbling about your inner child. You could have talked about health care, or global debt relief, even though that would have cost you a few sales.

So don't throw a nutty when someone like David Dimbleby lets you have it on the BBC.

Monday, June 21, 2004

UH, OH. The latest on Air America Radio is the worst news yet. According to this front-page story in today's Wall Street Journal, the liberal network went on the air with just $6 million - not the $30 million it had claimed - and it's now $2 million in debt. The story further reports that the network is downscaling its ambitions and putting new financing in place, so no need to give up just yet. But don't look for a Boston affiliate any time soon. To say the least. (Via Romenesko.)

FUN WITH BILL AND DAN. So there he was, in all his shining, frustrating glory - Bill Clinton, one on one with Dan Rather, on 60 Minutes. The interview was fascinating to those of us who find Clinton himself fascinating, but depressingly short on substance. On CNN's Reliable Sources yesterday, Howard Kurtz told Rather, "You've covered a lot of ground in this interview, from the economy to Kosovo, but inevitably you came to Monica Lewinsky."

Well, maybe. But, in watching it, it seemed to me that nearly the entire interview was taken up with Lewinsky and a few other personal matters, punctuated mainly by Clinton's explanation of how he warded off a kiss from Yasser Arafat at that momentous outdoor news conference with Yitzhak Rabin. Clinton did a pretty good Rabin imitation, too.

Clinton's fault, or Rather's? It's hard to say, since we can't see the outtakes. Rather told Kurtz that what we saw last night was culled from four hours' worth of interviews, so maybe the more serious stuff was left on the cutting-room floor. Still, Clinton is well known for his eagerness to please, and I'm sure he realizes that his tawdry personal life will sell far more books than a recitation of how he managed to balance the budget.

Among the oddities of the book world's blockbuster mentality is that a phenomenon like Clinton's My Life starts to seem old even before anyone has had a chance to read it. At 957 pages, the book is going to feel like a project to those who actually determine to read the thing. The New York Times' Michiko Kakutani, obviously a faster reader than Media Log, has already whipped through her advance copy and pronounced it to be a mess:

The book, which weighs in at more than 950 pages, is sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull - the sound of one man prattling away, not for the reader, but for himself and some distant recording angel of history.

Ooh, I can't wait! Meanwhile, remember, the thing won't even be available to the rest of us until Tuesday.

Friday, June 18, 2004

THE HORROR, AGAIN. The wires are reporting that American hostage Paul Johnson has been executed by the terrorists who were holding him, presumably in Saudi Arabia. The early word is that he was decapitated, just like Nicholas Berg and Daniel Pearl before him. You could see this coming, but that doesn't make it any less sickening.

Although this particular group of terrorists has been demanding the release of prisoners in Saudi Arabia, the focus of terrorism in that country in recent weeks has been to get Western workers - especially Americans - to leave.

I'd say it's going to work, wouldn't you?

This is terrible, terrible news, and further evidence - as if we needed any - that our enemies are intent on dragging the entire world back to the eighth century.

STEYN'S FANS RESPOND! Someone was kind enough to post my Mark Steyn profile to, so the hate mail is rolling in. Have a look at what they're saying over on the right side of the Web.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

INSIDE BUSH'S BRAIN. Is George W. Bush barking mad? Until recently, I can't say I seriously considered the question. Recently, though, I linked to an item on the not-especially-reliable Capitol Hill Blue website that portrays Bush as raging against the world as he lurches about the White House, quoting from the Bible and denouncing his enemies.

Now comes meatier fare - a Salon review of three books on the presidential psyche. Unfortunately the reviewer, Laura Miller, uses up most of her space on Justin Frank's Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President, even though she calls it "a sloppily written and edited book, padded with repetitions and laced with dubious psychological theories," not to mention overtly partisan.

But Frank is at least well-qualified to explore Bush's brain: he's a clinical psychiatrist at George Washington University medical Center. Miller writes:

While the conventional wisdom might suggest that Bush fears being unmasked as a dolt, Frank believes that Bush's rigidity - also manifest in his ironclad daily routine - protects him from inadvertently revealing the darker emotions he's never come to terms with. In addition to the fear of not living up to his father's example, there's the anger at being expected to, and the fear of the destructive power of that anger should it ever be unleashed. The primitive moral vision Bush subscribes to - in which the world is divided into the good, "freedom-loving" people of America and "evildoers" like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein - is another inflexible schema that imposes order on the internal chaos that's always threatening to rise up and swamp him. Maintaining such control takes a considerable amount of energy, according to Frank, which may be one reason why Bush needs so much sleep and finds it so hard to concentrate.

As Miller observers, such characteristics do not guarantee presidential failure; some of our best presidents have been psychological basket cases. And it's always hard to know how seriously to take psychoanalysis from afar. ("Not very" would seem to be a pretty good guide.)

Still, this is fascinating stuff, and may help explain how we got to where we are today.

O.J. AND REAGAN, TOGETHER AT LAST. Looks like Frank Rich's column in next Sunday's New York Times will be a must-read.

NEW IN THIS WEEK'S PHOENIX. Write, twist, smear, and sneer: meet Mark Steyn, the most toxic right-wing pundit you've never heard of.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

DO AS THEY SAY. But not as they do: Jack Meyers reports in today's Boston Herald that one of the Boston police unions taking part in the FleetCenter blockade hired non-union contractors for $75,000 in repairs to its own headquarters. Meyers writes:

Union officials admitted to the Herald they gave the work to a cop's relative, following a policy to favor blood relations over union brotherhood.

"We have a policy where we try to give [contracting work] to police or police-related family-owned companies," said Jack Parlon, head of the detectives union.

HINDUSTAN VIA HOOSIERVILLE. The Herald's computers are at it again. A month ago, the Herald website included a reference to Indian Orchard, in Western Massachusetts, and sent readers to an archive of stories about India. Today, the same thing happens with a Cosmo Macero (sub. req.) reference to Indiana.

Does anyone care? Probably not.

MICHAEL GOLDMAN, LYING LIAR. Earlier this week Goldman sent out an e-mail - complete with photo - telling everyone he was going to join a group of topless female mujahadeen warriors. (Sorry, you'll have to take my word for it.)

Today comes the truth: the longtime Democratic political consultant's talk show for Bloomberg Radio, called Simply Put and currently heard on weekends, is going daily. Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh has the details.

Goldman's co-host, Tom Moroney, actually leaked the news (sub. req.) on May 30 in his farewell column for the MetroWest Daily News.

Lehigh writes:

For someone who has been talking to Goldman about campaigns and politics for two decades, it's hard to imagine an election season without his strategic perspective, his irrepressible energy, his imaginative spin - and, yes, his deep-on-deadline calls that are nigh unto impossible to end.

Well, yes. But I'm not sure what Lehigh is talking about. I'm going to keep calling Goldman.

As Lehigh also notes, this is a huge comeback for Goldman, who spent many months recovering from a life-threatening leg infection. Last fall I did an hour on Simply Put from Bloomberg's Boston studio. Goldman had come in, against doctor's orders, and was in obvious pain, although that didn't stop him from joking around both during and after the show.

Making the full-time move into talk radio is something Goldman has wanted for years. I'm glad it's finally happened, and I only wish we could listen to him and Moroney in Greater Boston without having to tune in to the Internet stream or subscribe to satellite radio.

Monday, June 14, 2004

IS DEMOCRACY UNDEMOCRATIC? There's more than an element of gamesmanship behind Democratic efforts to take away Republican governor Mitt Romney's power to appoint a new senator if John Kerry is elected president. But if the legislature approves a bill to supersede Romney's power of appointment with a special election, guess what? The voters will decide. And the last I checked, the Republicans will be allowed to put up a candidate if they so wish.

You'd never know that from reading this editorial in today's Boston Herald, though. Calling the bill "one of the most cynical, selfish, outrageous votes ever on Beacon Hill," the editorial claims that it would guarantee a Democratic victory, since only a Dem "can muster the financial resources to successfully compete within such a short timeframe."

Well, I don't know. Romney could run himself, leaving Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healy in charge. Romney has told us repeatedly that she's qualified, so it must be true. Romney could almost certainly raise and spend more money than any of the Democratic congressmen who are thinking about running. Or how about David D'Alessandro, the retiring John Hancock chief, who says he's interested in running for office? He sounds like kind of a liberal, but he could prove to be a Bill Weld-style Republican. That should appeal to the Herald's Bill Weld-style deputy editorial-page editor, Virginia Buckingham.

This much is sure: cynical though the Democratic power grab may be, letting the voters decide, rather than the governor, isn't necessarily a bad thing. Unless you're Mitt Romney - or the Herald editorial board.

MORE ON KERRY WAFFLES. I've been on deadline and unable to blog today, but Media Log reader Steve Brady (see comments) did send along some more information on "Kerry," "waffle," and Google. It turns out that you need to enter the word "waffles" (not "waffle," as Mickey Edwards erroneously reported). Do that, and the first site you'll be referred to is reports that Kerry is the victim of a "Google-bomb" prank by right-wing bloggers. So what was Edwards's point exactly?

Saturday, June 12, 2004

HOW LAZY CAN YOU GET? Look at what former Republican congressman Mickey Edwards writes in today's Boston Globe:

One of my colleagues at Princeton said recently that if one went to Google and typed in the word "waffle," Kerry's name would come up. I haven't checked it out, but a newly reported Los Angeles Times poll found that nearly half of voters questioned called Kerry a flip-flopper.

"I haven't checked it out." Okay, it's a jibe, but in order for it to work there ought to be something to it, right? Well, go over to Google, enter "waffle," and click on "I'm Feeling Lucky," which is where other politically oriented jokes reside (for instance, try this with "weapons of mass destruction").

Done? What do you have? "Welcome to Waffle House!" The waffle with two eggs, sausage, or bacon sounds particularly good, although it could prove fatal.

Now, go back to Google, enter "waffle" again, and hit the regular "Google Search" button. Results 1 through 10 are for recipes, movies, anything but politics. Result #11, though, takes you to, home of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. I clicked, but the page to which Google linked does not actually have the word "waffle" (or "waffler") on it. Google probably found an outdated page in which some Bushoid referred to Kerry as a "waffler." No, I don't know it for a fact, but unlike Edwards I at least tried to check it out.

At long last ... Result #44 brought me to a different "Waffle House," put together by some Kerry-hating cretin who has a banner on his site reading "Make the French Happy! Vote for John Kerry." There's also something called "Kerry = Al Qaeda Employee" and an animated graphic starring the, uh, senatorial unit. Is this what Edwards is referring to? Oh, wait, never mind - Edwards has already admitted that he doesn't know what he's referring to.

As for Edwards's citation of the LA Times poll, the flip-flopper finding is accurate, but here's what he leaves out:

... Kerry led Bush by 51% to 44% nationally in a two-way matchup, and by 48% to 42% in a three-way race, with independent Ralph Nader drawing 4%.

Lifting Kerry is a powerful tailwind of dissatisfaction with the nation's course and Bush's answers for challenges at home and abroad. Nearly three-fifths believe the nation is on the wrong track, the highest level a Times poll has recorded during Bush's presidency.

Edwards's column is called "The Iconoclast," and is apparently intended to provide some pro-Bush counterweight to the op-ed page's generally pro-Kerry tilt. That's fine. But dishonest, selective, lazy spin isn't in anyone's interest - certainly not the reader's.

OPERATIC. Media Log reader Elisabeth Riba corrects my assertion that you have to pay for the Web browser Opera. It turns out that there's a free version available if you don't mind looking at ads. I don't, so I downloaded the latest version and gave it a quick spin. I was unimpressed - it seemed a bit slow, and type spacing looked weird. But I know there are Mac users who swear by it, so I'll keep playing with it to see whether it's me or the software.

Friday, June 11, 2004

THE INCREASINGLY UN-MAC-FRIENDLY WEB. Not that today is an entirely slow news day (although I've had about enough of Reagan's funeral), but the words at the top of the screen say that Media Log is at least occasionally supposed to be about technology. So today, for you handful of fellow Macintosh users, I'd like to call attention to a dirty little secret: the pathetic state of Web-browsing software for those of us who "think different."

If you're a Windows user, you probably browse with Microsoft's Internet Explorer. There are other options, but IE is the standard by a considerable margin. If a site doesn't work properly with IE for Windows, then you can be reasonably sure that there's something wrong with the site. If only it were that simple in the Mac universe.

It was just about a year ago that Microsoft announced it would no longer work on new Mac versions of Internet Explorer. Bill Gates and company have been true to their word. Though the company has released occasional maintenance upgrades to Mac IE 5.x, there will be no significant new features coming out of Redmond.

Mac IE is still probably the most compatible with the widest range of websites. For instance, there are certain graphics on that work only with IE. But IE is bulky and slow, and there's just no reason to use it all or even most of the time when there are faster alternatives available. (And in an unforgivable act, Microsoft has even rendered streaming video on its own site unworkable except with the Windows version of IE.) The problem is that those alternatives have their own shortcomings.

If there's a Mac standard today, it's Apple's free Web browser, Safari, which comes pre-installed with OS X. Safari is a fine program in many ways. It's fast and reliable. But, again, it's not suitable to all-the-time use. For instance, the cascading menus on Newsweek's site don't even show up with Safari, making it difficult to navigate. Some sites render horribly with Safari (such as Boston Herald columnist Cosmo Macero Jr.'s site, for some odd reason), yet fine with other programs. Also, I tend to print out a fair amount of stuff, and Safari has no way of letting you embed headers and page numbers - a real problem if your printouts go flying before you can staple everything together.

A final complaint: Safari is now up to version 1.2, but that's only for users who've upgraded to Panther (OS X 10.3). Those of us still using Jaguar (OS X 10.2) are stuck with 1.0.2.

My favorite browser these days - though, again, it ain't perfect - is Firefox, a lightning-fast, stripped-down version of Mozilla Navigator, the free, open-source program on which Netscape (remember?) is based. Mozilla has its own adherents, and I use it occasionally for some Web-design work. But Firefox is so much faster that there's no comparison. Nearly every site I visit renders cleanly. For certain forms-filling tasks, though, Firefox chokes, forcing me to switch to Safari. In addition, Firefox refuses to hand off streaming-media tasks to RealOne and the Mac version of Windows Media Player, forcing me to save an icon on my desktop and start it up separately. Not a big deal, but a pain nevertheless.

Firefox is in beta - I'm using 0.8, although a 0.9 test version recently became available. So the program should continue to improve. Unless Apple intends to start putting some serious development resources into Safari, I'd guess that Firefox is going to be the browser to watch.

I've also played briefly with Mozilla's Camino and with Opera, the latter of which features a truly loathsome innovation: you actually have to pay for it. In neither case have I seen any evidence that I should explore further, though I could be wrong.

The larger issue, of course, is what this means for those of us who use and love Macintosh computers. I have resisted switching to Windows for years. Yet if there's a reliable standard for browsing in Windows, but not on a Mac, then Apple's vaunted ease-of-use claim begins to look pretty silly. Besides, Apple is finally beginning to make its coolest new products, such as the iPod and the iTunes Music Store, compatible with both Mac and Windows.

I want to keep using Macs for as long as possible. At some point, though, that choice is going to start looking more like a fetish (not that there's anything wrong with that!) than a wise decision. If Steve Jobs is retooling Apple for a post-Macintosh future, I wish he would tell us.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

REAGAN AND AIDS. One of Ronald Reagan's most shameful legacies was his indifference toward the then-emerging AIDS epidemic. This press briefing, conducted by Reagan spokesman Larry Speakes in 1982, is a good reminder of what things were like then.

Granted, Reagan doesn't appear personally in this briefing, and much of this has more to do with what some people thought was a laff riot at the time. But the Reagan White House's lack of interest in a disease that would soon decimate the gay community is palpable.


Office of the Press Secretary


October 15, 1982

The Briefing Room

12:45pm EDT

Q: Larry, does the President have any reaction to the announcement - the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, that AIDS is now an epidemic and have over 600 cases?


Q: Over a third of them have died. It's known as "gay plague." (Laughter.) No, it is. I mean it's a pretty serious thing that one in every three people that get this have died. And I wondered if the President is aware of it?

MR. SPEAKES: I don't have it. Do you? (Laughter.)

Q: No, I don't.

MR. SPEAKES: You didn't answer my question.

Q: Well, I just wondered, does the President -

MR. SPEAKES: How do you know? (Laughter.)

Q: In other words, the White House looks on this as a great joke?

MR. SPEAKES: No, I don't know anything about it, Lester.

Q: Does the President, does anyone in the White House know about this epidemic, Larry?

MR. SPEAKES: I don't think so. I don't think there's been any -

Q: Nobody knows?

MR. SPEAKES: There has been no personal experience here, Lester.

Q: No, I mean, I thought you were keeping -

MR. SPEAKES: I checked thoroughly with Dr. Ruge this morning and he's had no - (laughter) - no patients suffering from AIDS or whatever it is.

Q: The President doesn't have gay plague, is that what you're saying or what?

MR. SPEAKES: No, I didn't say that.

Q: Didn't say that?

MR. SPEAKES: I thought I heard you on the State Department over there. Why didn't you stay there? (Laughter.)

Q: Because I love you Larry, that's why (Laughter.)

MR. SPEAKES: Oh I see. Just don't put it in those terms, Lester. (Laughter.)

Q: Oh, I retract that.

MR. SPEAKES: I hope so.

Q: It's too late.

This transcript is taken from the prologue to Jon Cohen's 2001 book, Shots in the Dark: The Wayward Search for an AIDS Vaccine, the full text of which can be found here.

NEW IN THIS WEEK'S PHOENIX. The obit desk meets the undead.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

USELESS AND POINTLESS KNOWLEDGE. Let me confess up front that my sole exposure to Christopher Ricks's Bob Dylan scholarship consists of reading occasional references to it in Alex Beam's Boston Globe column. That said, I don't think I would be any less dubious if I were to sit down and read Dylan's Visions of Sin, Ricks's 500-page opus, which is the subject of this Charles McGrath piece in today's New York Times. McGrath writes of Visions:

At various points he compares Mr. Dylan to Marvell, Marlowe, Keats, Tennyson, Hardy, Yeats and Marlon Brando, to cite just a few of his references.... Other chapters ... draw insightful and persuasive parallels between, say, "Lay Lady Lay" and John Donne's poem "To His Mistress Going to Bed," between "Not Dark Yet" and Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale," and between "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" and the Scottish ballad "Lord Randal."

Whoa! The problem with Ricks - who splits his time between Boston University and Oxford - is the same as that of many academicians who are drawn to pop culture. By comparing Dylan to the Great Poets, Ricks both overpraises and diminishes Dylan's gifts. Although Brando makes sense.

Maybe a few of Dylan's songs can hold up on the page; "Desolation Row," a Ricks favorite, certainly comes to mind. But Dylan isn't a poet so much as he is a singer/ songwriter/ musician/ kick-ass rock-and-roller. His genius flows from the combination of his lyrics, his music, and his uniquely urgent, idiosyncratic singing. (Never mind his voice; Dylan is among the greatest singers rock has produced.)

I don't think they'll be publishing "Can't Wait" in any poetry anthologies 50 or 100 years from now. But I hope people will still be listening to Time Out of Mind, the 1997 album whence it came.

IT'S ALL IN THE WRIST. If you or I made a really small sundae, it would be a really small sundae. But if MIT alumnus Kevin Brown makes one, it's something that he "invented," earning him a huge spread on the front of today's Boston Globe Food section. Go figure.

AT LEAST IT'S NOT THE ONION. An alert Wonkette reader passes along one of her finds: a piece on the website Capitol Hill Blue claiming that aides to George W. Bush "privately express growing concern over their leader's state of mind." Writes site publisher Doug Thompson:

Worried White House aides paint a portrait of a man on the edge, increasingly wary of those who disagree with him and paranoid of a public that no longer trusts his policies in Iraq or at home.

"It reminds me of the Nixon days," says a longtime GOP political consultant with contacts in the White House. "Everybody is an enemy; everybody is out to get him. That's the mood over there."

The president also reportedly veers between quoting from the Bible and vulgarly denouncing his enemies.

File this under: interesting if true. And: unlikely. But highly entertaining!

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

HE REALLY DID CALL HIM A LIZARD. That's for you fans of Boston political trivia. Christopher Hitchens's distaste for Ronald Reagan would be rather more credible if he didn't spend so many of his waking hours licking George W. Bush's boots. Hitchens, in Slate, calls Reagan "a cruel and stupid lizard," as well as "an obvious phony and a loon." Hitchens must feel so relieved to be able to bash a right-winger again. It's been a long, long time. But, Hitch, come on: not just the dead ones, okay?

THE REAL RONALD REAGAN. Two good against-the-grain pieces for your consideration. The first, in Salon, by Barry Goldwater biographer Rick Perlstein, is a useful reminder that Reagan was often unpopular during his long political career, and that he was even the object of a substantial recall effort when he was governor of California.

Though Perlstein gives Reagan credit for being more flexible and pragmatic than George W. Bush, he warns against embracing the gauzy image that has increasingly surrounded him during his long decline. Perlstein writes:

It is a quirk of American culture that each generation of nonconservatives sees the right-wingers of its own generation as the scary ones, then chooses to remember the right-wingers of the last generation as sort of cuddly. In 1964, observers horrified by Barry Goldwater pined for the sensible Robert Taft, the conservative leader of the 1950s. When Reagan was president, liberals spoke fondly of sweet old Goldwater.

Nowadays, as we grapple with the malevolence of President Bush, it's Reagan we remember as the sensible one. At the risk of speaking ill of the dead, let memory at least acknowledge that there was much about Reagan that was not so sensible.

The second, by Joshua Green, appeared in the Washington Monthly in January 2003, but it seems especially pertinent now. Green's take on Reagan is somewhat different from Perlstein's: according to Green (now at the Atlantic Monthly), Reagan really was something of a closet moderate, especially after the bellicose first two years of his presidency. Here's the heart of Green's argument:

Reagan is, to be sure, one of the most conservative presidents in U.S. history and will certainly be remembered as such. His record on the environment, defense, and economic policy is very much in line with its portrayal. But he entered office as an ideologue who promised a conservative revolution, vowing to slash the size of government, radically scale back entitlements, and deploy the powers of the presidency in pursuit of socially and culturally conservative goals. That he essentially failed in this mission hasn't stopped partisan biographers from pretending otherwise. (Noonan writes of his 1980 campaign pledges: "Done, done, done, done, done, done, and done. Every bit of it.")

A sober review of Reagan's presidency doesn't yield the seamlessly conservative record being peddled today. Federal government expanded on his watch. The conservative desire to outlaw abortion was never seriously pursued. Reagan broke with the hardliners in his administration and compromised with the Soviets on arms control. His assault on entitlements never materialized; instead he saved Social Security in 1983. And he repeatedly ignored the fundamental conservative dogma that taxes should never be raised.

Trouble is, Green continues, Reagan's hagiographers on the right have airbrushed out the non-conservative parts of his record in order to turn him into a right-wing icon - and a weapon to use against the rest of us. He writes: "As with other conservative media efforts - Rush Limbaugh, Fox News Channel, The Washington Times - the purpose of the Reagan legacy project is not to deliver accuracy, but enhance political leverage."

Monday, June 07, 2004

MODIFIED LIMITED HANGOUT. The Boston Globe came half-clean yesterday in the matter of that James M. Taylor column seeking to debunk global warming. The paper published a letter from Harvard professor John P. Holdren noting that Taylor's professional affiliation, Environment & Climate News, is "a publication of the ultra-conservative, antiregulation Heartland Institute, where Taylor works."

That's good as far as it goes. But as Media Log revealed last week, the Heartland Institute isn't just a right-wing think tank - it also includes among its directors current and retired officials of such oil- and automobile-industry giants as ExxonMobil, Amoco, and General Motors, companies that directly benefit from any seeds of doubt they are able to sow with regard to global warming.

If the Globe wants to run stuff from right-wing organizations, that's its business. But if it publishes propaganda bought and paid for by industry, it has an obligation to disclose that to its readers. (Actually, it shouldn't run such garbage in the first place. And yes, there are some perfectly respectable scientists it could turn to for an independent anti-global-warming perspective.)

The Globe still owes an apology to its readers.

ANOTHER SIDE OF REAGAN. Check out Greg Palast's Ronald Reagan obituary. The headline: "Killer, Coward, Con-Man; Good Riddance, Gipper ... More Proof Only the Good Die Young." It lacks the mythic sweep of Hunter Thompson's kiss-off to Richard Nixon. But there's nothing in Palast's screed that's even remotely inaccurate.

Good grief. If it were me I would have waited a week, but what the hell.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

RONALD REAGAN, 1911-2004. I turned on NPR in my car late yesterday afternoon and heard a long clip of President Reagan giving a speech. I called Mrs. Media Log and said, "Turn on the TV. I think Reagan just died." Sure enough, he had.

Reagan was never my guy. But unlike some liberals, I did not contemplate jumping off the nearest ledge after he was elected in 1980. I was disgusted enough with Jimmy Carter that year that I voted for the independent, John Anderson, which I knew was as good as a vote for Reagan. So I had nothing to complain about.

I thought Reagan was a bad president then, and I still do. But he looks better today than he did during his eight years in office. To the extent that his massive military build-up helped topple communism, it was a good thing. If the tax reform that he and Democratic moderates such as then-senator Bill Bradley shepherded into law had actually held, we'd have a much better system today. Even the enormous budget deficits melted away pretty quickly once Bill Clinton pushed through his desperately needed tax package in 1993. That doesn't mean Reagan's deficits were good; it just means that they turned out not to be as big a deal as they seemed at the time.

His darkest legacy is not Iran-Contra but rather a component of that scandal: his support, both overt and covert, for the right-wing death squads that fought on behalf of the pro-US governments of El Salvador and Guatemala and against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. It was a terrible thing when the people that the United States was supporting were implicated in the massacre of nuns, peasants, and other innocent people. Reagan was never held fully accountable for those atrocities, and he's certainly not going to be now.

On the other hand, despite his well-known disengagement from day-to-day details - and, at times, from reality itself - Reagan exhibited a certain maturity and judgment that is all too obviously lacking in the White House today. It is unimaginable that Reagan would have more than 100,000 troops bogged down in a war we didn't have to fight.

Reagan wouldn't have ignored the horrors of Saddam Hussein's regime, but he would have used such time-honored techniques as sanctions, United Nations involvement (not that he was any fan of the UN), and clandestine efforts to mount a coup against Saddam. George W. Bush claims to be a Reaganite, but he misses entirely how flexible and nuanced Reagan could be.

BETTER THAN REAL BOXING. It hasn't gotten a lot of attention, but one of the more amusing Boston media stories of recent days is the brawl between Globe boxing (and football) writer Ron Borges and New York Times freelancer Mike Katz. Bruce Allen covers it here, here, and here. At one point Allen seems to side with Borges, posting an anonymous e-mail he received:

Mike Katz may be 5-5 and old but he is also about 250 pounds and just about the biggest prick walking the face of the earth. A truly horrible guy who treats the rest of the media like crap and regularly shoves around ushers, other writers, etc. In talking to a few buddies who witnessed the "fight" it was a few seconds long, Katz started it and Borges had no choice but to defend himself.

However, Allen also links to this David Weber story in yesterday's Herald (check out the "Tale of the Tape" graphic) in which it's reported that the "enraged" Borges, responding to an invitation from Katz, "allegedly lunged across the table and hit Katz across the back of his head with an open-hand slap, knocking his eyeglasses and beret to the floor." Weber also writes:

Acquaintances of both writers described Katz as a "short, fat" man in his 60s who walks with a cane and wears a neck brace because of chronic back problems. Borges, who played football at the University of Massachusetts many years ago, is described as being in his 50s and in much better shape.

Nice! Too bad there's no video.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

CASUAL TEEN SEX: THE ABRIDGED VERSION. I've been too busy this week reading about Judith Miller's sex life and Alexandra Polier's non-sex life to have set aside enough time to wade through the New York Times Magazine's big cover story last week on teenagers' sex lives. But since I've already had to fumble through several conversations about this, I set aside some time this morning, and read all 7400 words of it.

Written by freelancer Benoit Denizet-Lewis, the article - which brings new meaning to terms like "friends with benefits" and "hooking up" - is a ripping good read. After all, it's about sex. But if you haven't read it yet, you probably never will. So in the best tradition of Slate's "series-savers," I will bring you up to speed:

1. Teenagers are still having casual sex.

2. The Internet makes it easier.

3. Most adults think this is bad. A few think this is good.

As magazine feature-writing, Denizet-Lewis's story is first rate. As sociology, it's highly suspect. Other than the technological advances that ease the logistics of casual teen sex, there is nothing in here that is persuasive on the matter of things being much different from what they were 20, 30, or 40 years ago. In fact, Denizet-Lewis is too honest to claim otherwise, although there is much huffing and puffing designed to make you think things have changed dramatically.

If you were getting it then, you'd probably be getting it today, too. And if - like, I suspect, most of us - you weren't getting any then, things probably wouldn't be much different in 2004.

Friday, June 04, 2004

DRUDGE AND CLARK REVISITED. For anyone who still cares, Alexandra Polier's account of her non-sex non-affair with John Kerry in the current New York magazine contains pretty convincing evidence that Wesley Clark really did play a key role in passing the rumor along to the media, or at least in further inflaming their loins.

You may recall that Drudge fingered Clark at the time, writing that the then-Democratic presidential candidate had told reporters that Kerry was about to "implode" over an intern scandal. Clark supporters and some other Democrats were upset that pundits - including Media Log - were accepting Drudge's word rather than investigating the Republican dirty-tricks machine.

Well, check this out from Polier's piece:

Drudge claimed Clark himself had told reporters on his campaign bus that Kerry was going to "implode" over a scandal, but when I called Wesley Clark Jr., a screenwriter in L.A., who had helped out on his father's campaign, he told me Drudge had ignored the context of his father's quote. "He was reacting to the latest issue of The National Enquirer, which had just run a front-page story about Kerry and possible scandals, when he said that."

But? What do you mean "but"? This is confirmation, not contradiction. It also comports perfectly with what Boston Globe columnist Tom Oliphant told me at the time in describing the background of a column he'd written on Clark's role in spreading the rumor:

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.

Chris Lehane, who'd earlier worked for Kerry and who ended up on Clark's campaign, also figures prominently - and negatively - in Polier's piece.

DEBASING THE BASE. In an interesting juxtaposition showing that both George W. Bush and John Kerry are trying to appeal to the middle, the New York Times today reports that some conservative activists - mostly smaller-government types - are disgusted with Bush, while the Boston Globe details liberal discontent with Kerry.

Make of it what you will. Bush sure as hell is no centrist, but he's certainly not a conservative in any commonly accepted sense of the word, either. Radical right-winger is more like it. Kerry is sort of a moderate liberal. I guess.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

WHO'LL STOP THE RAINES? You'll not find a more vacuous piece of political analysis all week than former New York Times executive editor Howell Raines's debut for the Guardian on the shortcomings of John Kerry. You may have learned about it, as I did, from today's Boston Herald. Well, here it is in all its unexpurgated glory.

Sorry to quote the same stuff as the Herald wire report, but this riff on Kerry just screams out:

I personally find him easier to talk to than Al Gore, but there's no denying that he's ponderous. And he's pompous in a way that Gore is not. With Gore, you feel that if he could choose, he would have been born poor and cool. Kerry radiates the feeling that he is entitled to his sense of entitlement. Probably that comes from spending too much time with Teddy Kennedy, but it's a problem. The TV camera is an x-ray for picking up attitudinal truths, and Kerry's lantern jaw and Addams Family face somehow reinforce the message that this guy has passed from ponderous to pompous and is so accustomed to privilege that he doesn't have to worry about looking goofy. It's as if Lurch had gone to Choate.

Good grief. I'm not sure which is worse - that a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist is eager to allow such non-thoughts to be published under his byline, or that he was actually in charge of the World's Greatest Newspaper for a year-and-a-half. It is becoming easier to understand why his reign was such a fiasco, isn't it?

By the way, the headline over Raines's ditty is "Must Do Better." No kidding.

PRESS BOXED. Both the Globe and the Herald report today that media workspace at the Democratic National Convention is getting squeezed. Some reporters may not even be able to work inside the security zone, meaning they're going to get the Richard Reid treatment every time they want to wander inside the FleetCenter.

Just thought I'd point out that if the show had been moved to the South Boston convention center, as it should have been, the entire media horde could have been housed in big, comfortable, cheap tents in the parking lot, which was done with great effectiveness at the Republican gathering in Philadelphia four years ago.

NEW IN THIS WEEK'S PHOENIX. The New York Times confesses its sins in hyping Iraq's non-existent weapons capabilities and terrorist ties. So what took so long?

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

WHY ALCOHOL AND NEOCONSERVATISM DON'T MIX. So who was the drunken neocon who blurted to Ahmad Chalabi that the United States had broken Iran's secret code? According to today's New York Times story on how Chalabi allegedly came to learn about this intelligence coup:

American officials reported that in the cable to Tehran, the Iranian official recounted how Mr. Chalabi had said that one of "them" - a reference to an American - had revealed the code-breaking operation, the officials said. The Iranian reported that Mr. Chalabi said the American was drunk.

Chalabi has been accused of then turning over the secret to Iranian officials, as grotesque a breach of security as can be imagined.

Here is what the Washington Post says:

The FBI is investigating an intercepted Iranian message that alleges Iraqi exile leader Ahmed Chalabi told Tehran officials that the United States had broken Iran's secret code, U.S. officials said.

The message alleges Chalabi said he had been told about the code-breaking by a drunken U.S. official, one senior Bush administration official said.

Josh Marshall all but names a suspect, but I would need my own secret decoder ring to figure out whom he's referring to:

I'll try not to be too coy. There are a number of folks who could fit that bill. But for anyone who's followed this story, there's one guy who's just got to jump right to the top of the list: an expert on Iran who is extremely close to Chalabi, served as his civilian Pentagon handler for some time in Iraq after the war, and is known for comparing Chalabi to Mohammed and other equally august worthies.

In April, Marshall had this to say about Chalabi's declining fortunes:

There are still more than a few of the Chalabi crowd here in DC who persist in calling this charlatan the "Leader of Free Iraq", as they did for last several years or 'the greatest Arab since Mohammed' as one of his acolytish handlers often refers to him. (Believe me, I'm not making this stuff up.)

Last August, Marshall wrote, "There's another neocon at DOD who, I'm told, has often called Chalabi the most important Muslim since the Prophet Mohammed." But no name there, either.

Media Log seeks enlightenment. If Marshall has ever named his suspect, drop me a line at