Friday, August 29, 2003

Competition for USA Today? Reader JM today sends along an e-mail that clearly looks like spam. But is it? Here is a press release I found for the USA Times that is similar to the e-mail, and it obviously doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. Apparently it's going to be sold through some multiple-level-marketing system, sort of like NuSkin.

Says the press release:

This will be the first nationwide newspaper in 21 years! You Know How Huge USA TODAY is, so you can imagine the potential! The newspaper will be promoted by MLM. This is going to be a very big deal and their 5 level commission plan is awesome!


The press release directs you to this page at a site called, which describes the USA Times as "THE LARGEST VENTURE IN THE HISTORY OF NETWORK MARKETING!" It continues: "The USA TIMES is poised to take the nation by storm with a new kind of hard hitting journalism that people will want to see on their doorstep every day of the week!"

So is it real? I did a "whois" search, and it turns out that the domain name and are registered with the same owner, which is a good sign, I suppose. It appears to be based in Miami.

And there is a classy-looking website for the USA Times that claims the paper will launch on January 1.

I wouldn't want to bet that the USA Times will ever come into being, but it's worth keeping an eye on.

Today's news today. The Globe's website has now been updated.

The wayback machine. I keep trying to tell myself that the Boston Globe's redesigned website isn't as bad as it looks. But it's 7:10 a.m., mid-morning for some of us, and yesterday's paper is still up.

Okay, it's the week before Labor Day. I'll let them call this the beta if they'd like. But come Tuesday, they should be prepared to convince us all that it doesn't suck.

Meanwhile, off to the New York Times ...

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Conflicts and ethics. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Boston Globe's decision to pull one of its freelancers, Gail Spector, out of Newton. Spector had been covering the Newton school system for the Globe West section even though she served on the state-mandated advisory council of her child's elementary school.

It was an open-and-shut case. Unfortunately, Spector -- who I'm sure is a nice person who was trying to do a good job -- still doesn't get it. In the current Newton Tab, she gives her side of the story, attributing her demise to "a three-year vendetta" by the conservative Newton Taxpayers Association. She writes:

Questioning my ethics -- particularly for being an involved parent -- is a dirty tactic. My integrity is what I am and it's what's made me a successful reporter. I was, and still am, a fair, honest journalist, and I am proud of my work.

Come, now. Spector wasn't questioned for being an "involved parent." She was questioned for serving in the very same government that she was supposed to be covering. Here's a section from the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics:

Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know.

Journalists should:

  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
  • Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.

Spector also writes, "I would have resigned but the editor who hired me thought it was unnecessary." If that's true, then the Globe ought to schedule a seminar in Ethics 101 as soon as possible.

It is unfortunate that this lapse of judgment has handed a victory to an anti-school group whose leaders include Brian Camenker, a homophobic crank. But as the saying goes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Camenker is right rather less often than that. But he's right in this case.

New in this week's Phoenix. Joe Conason's new book, Big Lies, is the latest sign that liberals are mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore.

Also, the Globe deletes a crucial paragraph -- and makes a state rep look like a vengeance-seeking monster. And the BBC engages in a mind-blowing bit of Israel-bashing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Get in the back and no one gets hurt. You won't find a more bizarre story today than this one, buried well inside the New York Times.

Headlined "Fear of Air Bag Sends Children to Back Seat, Saving Many," the article, by Matthew Wald, reports that parents have been properly terrified by stories that exploding air bags have decapitated and maimed babies and small children sitting in the front passenger's seat.

The response -- sticking them in the back -- may have saved hundreds of lives in recent years. That's good, of course. But it's unclear why this is better than getting rid of deadly air bags and instead re-engineering the front seat so that it's safer.

Or, conversely, since the incentive appears to be arming the front seat with a lethal weapon, why not just take a cheaper approach, and mount an AK-47 in the glove compartment of every new car? If the rider is four-foot-10 or shorter, blammo!

I am no libertarian when it comes to auto safety. I'm all in favor of mandatory-seatbelt laws, for instance. But air bags are a proven mistake, and government efforts to justify their continued use only compounds the mistake.

For a laugh-out-loud example of bureaucracy run amok, check out this pamphlet from the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NTHSA) on what you have to go through to get an on-off switch installed so that you can disconnect your air bag.

Air bags have been a hot issue for years in Little People of America, the leading organization for dwarfs and their families. It's an issue for drivers more than passengers: because most people with dwarfism are roughly the same size as everyone else from head to hips, they do not appear unusually short when sitting. In the passenger seat, the air bag isn't a problem -- or rather, it's no more deadly for them than it is for the rest of us.

But because their arms and legs are disproportionately small, a driver with dwarfism tends to sit much closer to the steering wheel. And that, as even the NTHSA concedes, is dangerous.

Sensible advice on Iraq. Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria, as you might expect, has some excellent suggestions for solving the chaos in Iraq.

Zakaria supported the war, and thus underestimates, I think, the degree to which the entire world suspects the Bush administration's motives and resents its thumbing its nose at the international community.

Still, Paul Bremer and company would do well to ponder Zakaria's outline of heavy international involvement and a long-term commitment. His conclusion:

The fundamental purpose behind the invasion of Iraq -- more important than the exaggerated claims about weapons of mass destruction -- was to begin cleansing the Middle East of the forces that produce terror. Were America to quit, it would give those armies of hate new strength and resolve. A failed Iraq could prove a greater threat to American security than Saddam Hussein's regime ever was.

Of course, it would have helped if George W. Bush had told us what the "fundamental purpose" was ahead of time instead of mindlessly repeating his aides' lies about weapons of mass destruction.

Good news, bad news. Boston Herald columnist (and former Boston city councilor) Tom Keane writes today that the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority has managed to overcome its hack origins and reinvent itself as a lean, mean, convention-snaring machine.

Even so, it appears that the only way it's been able to book any business has been to steal shows from the privately owned Bayside Expo Center and World Trade Center.

A well-run boondoggle is still a boondoggle.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

A lying what? With what? The size of what? You are hereby commanded to read Russ Smith's "Mugger" column in the current New York Press. Yes, you may read the whole thing. But do not bail out until you've read his advice to John Kerry. It's in the second-to-last paragraph.


Eric Alterman has some thoughts on Kerry in his Altercation blog, too. Alterman heard Kerry speak at an off-the-record fundraiser. His conclusion: Howard Dean may have passion on his side, but Kerry -- despite "zero personal charisma" -- would probably make a better president.

The end of Ozone. Most of the time, when someone screws up he's given a second or even a third chance. Sometimes, though, a screw-up forces management to reassess -- to decide that the person who committed said screw-up isn't the right person for the job after all.

That's what happened to former New York Times executive editor Howell Raines, who was forced out not because of the Jayson Blair scandal but because, in its aftermath, it became clear that Raines had fostered an atmosphere of fear and favoritism that allowed a con artist like Blair to thrive.

Not to compare WRKO Radio (AM 680) with the Times -- or John "Ozone" Osterlind with Raines, who is, despite his flaws, a great journalist -- but that's apparently what happened to Osterlind yesterday when program director Mike Elder let him go.

According to coverage today in the Herald and the Globe, Osterlind is stunned that he has been dropped from Blute & Ozone, the morning-drive-time show. And he denied to the Herald -- as he has from the beginning -- that he ever called for the entire Arab race to be "eradicated."

Osterlind was initially suspended for two weeks following reports that, on August 12, he called for the "eradication" of the Palestinians. The sequence of events that led to his suspension began when I received an anonymous tip that Osterlind had advocated the Palestinians' "extermination."

I asked Elder about it, and, after he listened to a partial tape of the show (he said a full tape didn't exist), he told me that he'd heard Osterlind say "eradicate," which was apparently close enough for Elder. (Disclosure: I'm paid to blab about the media on WRKO's Pat Whitley Show every Friday at 9 a.m.)

The suspension was reported exclusively on Boston Phoenix Media Log later that afternoon, with the Globe and the Herald not having the story until the next day.

When I interviewed Osterlind shortly after he'd learned about his suspension, I couldn't help but feel bad for the guy. He obviously didn't get it, and I can understand why. He'd been paid to be as outrageous as possible, he is not someone who's particularly well-versed on the issues, and he'd just gotten nailed for doing pretty much what he always does. On a personal level, I don't think he's got a mean bone in his body.

But you certainly can't blame Elder for taking advantage of the situation to elevate the tone of his station. Now let's see if he'll do something about his venom-spewing afternoon star, Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr, and syndicated host Michael Savage, the hate-mongering right-winger who holds down the evening shift.

Ten to 15 years ago, WRKO was a model for what great talk radio could be, with first-class hosts such as the late, great Jerry Williams, Gene Burns, Janet Jeghelian, and Ted O'Brien. Osterlind sneers in today's Herald that Elder apparently wants to turn 'RKO into NPR -- yet, with the exception of Burns, the station's stars of yesteryear were every bit as populist and occasionally outrageous (especially Williams) as today's fakers like to think they are.

Can the old formula work today? Well, David Brudnoy is still the ratings king on WBZ Radio (AM 1030), so clearly there is a market for intelligent talk. And Osterlind's dismissal of NPR aside, public station WBUR Radio (90.9 FM) pulls down good numbers while broadcasting hours of talk each day.

So maybe it's time for WRKO to try quality. It's certainly tried everything else.

A remarkable look at an unfit mother. If you haven't been reading the Globe's series on Barbara Paul and her sons, you can catch up by clicking here.

Reporter Patricia Wen and photographer Suzanne Kreiter have done a remarkable job of documenting the life of a mother who neglected her children, and yet who loved them -- and still does. Paul gave up her parental-custody rights under pressure from state authorities.

One minor quibble: I would have liked to see a stronger point of view. After all, it was Wen and Kreiter who spent nine months with Paul, not us.

But their even-handedness is a strength, too. We find ourselves emphathizing with Paul and yet understanding why social workers concluded that she was an unfit mother.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Catching up on the news. What could be better than coming back from a three-day weekend and finding more than 220 e-mails, nearly all of them spam? Good grief. I'm still catching up with the news, so pardon today's minimalist Media Log.

Of all the unanswered questions surrounding the murder of former priest John Geoghan, the one I find most intriguing -- if perhaps among the least important -- is why his accused killer changed his name from Darrin E. Smiledge to Joseph L. Druce.

The Globe and the Herald don't know why. So what is the story? Is there a character in some neo-Nazi or white-supremacist fiction named Joseph L. Druce? Was he trying to pull a scam? Perhaps we'll find out soon.

It's time to start listening to Scott Ritter. Actually, we should have listened to the former UN weapons inspector before the war in Iraq, but I -- like many observers -- thought his flip-flop on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction made him less than credible. And then he was silenced.

Today he has an op-ed piece in the New York Times in which he asks a devastating question: why -- if former Iraqi officials are to be believed -- did American troops allow looters to destroy records pertaining to the weapons program?

It's a question that demands an answer.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Mistakes were made. D'oh! What can I say? The Curse of Blogging strikes again. Within minutes of tweaking the Poynter Institute for dropping the URL "" from Jim Romenesko's media-links page, I heard from Romenesko and his editor, Bill Mitchell.

It turns out that way back last February, Poynter announced it was dropping the name "MediaNews" because of a letter sent by a lawyer for Dean Singleton's MediaNews Group expressing, uh, displeasure.

Media Log takes full responsibility for a boneheaded error.

Media Log pre-Labor Day break. I'm posting tonight because I'll be leaving tomorrow morning with my son, Tim, his friend Troy, and Troy's mother for three days in the White Mountains. We're staying here (hope it doesn't look like that!) and here, and on Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning we'll be here.

See you Monday.

A perfect excuse to hype my book. Not that I need any excuses! But Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam today has a must-read (right now!) piece on three authors named Dan Kennedy. Two of us have books coming out this fall, and the third -- a sales-and-marketing guru -- seems to put out a motivational book or a tape every other week or so.

I am DK1 in Beamspeak, and here's the link to more information on my book, Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes, which will be published in October by Rodale.

If you want to find out more about DK2 and DK3, check out the links in the lower-right corner of my home page.

More creeping Poynterization. (Note: This item was later corrected.) The last I checked, it costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 or $20 to register a domain name for a couple of years. Are they really that cheap at the Poynter Institute?

A few years ago, obsessive media-linker Jim Romenesko went to work for Poynter, which necessitated his changing the name of his site from to Then, last November, the site was completely redesigned.

The new MediaNews was and is more attractive and useful, although it took some campaigning by's Al Giordano to get Poynter to restore the left-rail items, which had initially been reserved for institutional (a word I use advisedly) purposes. I called it "creeping Poynterization."

As it turned out, the redesign also resulted in the dropping of the name "MediaNews" -- something I didn't really pay much attention to until this morning, when I spotted this item. According to Romenesko, "The domain expires in September and won't be renewed by Poynter."

It's easy to make too much of these things. After all, the name of the page is "Romenesko," which hardly suggests that Poynter is trying to depersonalize it. Still, it's been practically forever -- and now, for the want of 10 bucks, the link will cease to work.

Then again, "" doesn't have the word "Poynter" in it anywhere, does it? I suppose that's the point. Sigh.

New in this week's Phoenix. Roger Ailes's "fair and balanced" lawsuit against Al Franken seems crazy -- until you take a closer look.

Also, thoughts on "Ben," Governor Mitt Romney's secret Internet tormentor.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Ex-Phoenicians buy Bay Windows and South End News. Bay Windows is the largest gay-and-lesbian newspaper in New England. The South End News is a neighborhood paper. I've got the details on Click here.

Under cyberattack. Between yesterday at 3:52 a.m. and today at 8:49 a.m., I received 91 copies of the SoBig virus. So incessant was the invasion that I had to delay posting yesterday's Media Log for several hours.

Because of a peculiarity in the way I choose to have my Phoenix e-mail delivered -- I actually have it forwarded to a different account -- the viruses never get intercepted by the paper's server-level virus-scanning software. So I get every damn one of them.

Fortunately, I can't actually be affected by SoBig: I use a Mac, and can't even open the infected attachments, which carry names such as "application.pif" and "thank_you.pif." But, as many of you already know, the SoBig attack -- one of several virus invasions over the past week -- has slowed down the entire Internet and crashed some sites.

Moreover, each copy of the virus runs around 100 KB (I remember when floppy disks for the Apple II held a maximum of 140 KB), which would make downloading my mail an endless task if I were still on dial-up. That's 9.1 MB of crapola in just a little more than 24 hours.

I also received several computer-generated e-mails from other sites telling me that I had attempted to send the virus to them. I opened them up, and sure enough, the e-mails appeared to be from But they had been sent to addresses I'd never heard of, and that are definitely not in the address book of my e-mail program, Microsoft Entourage.

No surprise there. This is how insidious SoBig and similar viruses have gotten. Once it infects a computer, it burrows into the address book and sends out a copy of the virus to every e-mail address that it finds. All I can be certain of is that someone out there has an infected Windows-based computer with in its address book.

Hiawatha Bray has a good story on the latest virus invasion in today's Globe. If you want to know more, check out InformationWeek and Wired. The Wired piece, by Michelle Delio,appears to make a good case that the endless proliferation of viruses is at least partly the fault of Microsoft.

I'm not in a position to judge, but a little Bill-whacking is always in order.

Horror and quagmire in Iraq. Media Log has been Iraq-free for a bit -- not because I'm not horrified by the way the US-led invasion has descended into all-too-predictable chaos, but because I've been at a loss to find anything that really puts it all in perspective.

But after yesterday's terrorist attack on UN headquarters in Baghdad, it's clear that the quagmire is deepening. On today's New York Times op-ed page, Harvard terrorism expert Jessica Stern offers a brilliant -- and disturbing -- analysis of the situation. Her lead:

Yesterday's bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad was the latest evidence that America has taken a country that was not a terrorist threat and turned it into one.

Of course, we should be glad that the Iraq war was swifter than even its proponents had expected, and that a vicious tyrant was removed from power. But the aftermath has been another story. America has created -- not through malevolence but through negligence -- precisely the situation the Bush administration has described as a breeding ground for terrorists: a state unable to control its borders or provide for its citizens' rudimentary needs.

How do we get out of it? On the same page, Tom Friedman, as usual, offers some ideas that are both idealistic and useful. But it would have been a lot easier not to have created this disaster in the first place.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

More questions than answers. But what great questions! Frank Phillips reports in the Globe today that Governor Mitt Romney may have profited from a dubious stock deal.

Follow the bouncing wad of cash: a Lehman Brothers analyst was pressured into giving a higher recommendation to a stock than it deserved. The company that issued the stock, DDi Corporation, was backed by Bain, Romney's venture-capital firm. Romney himself invested in DDi. Romney bailed in May 2001, selling his shares for $4.1 million. The stock collapsed shortly thereafter.

There are many, many questions that need to be asked, but the big one is the classic. What did Romney know and when did he know it?

And, of course, what will Ben say about all this?

Elevating us all. Okay, one doesn't turn to the Herald expecting a surfeit of political correctness. But, really, now. Today the paper follows up yesterday's Globe story on a mentally ill man who gouged out his own eyes. The Herald's charming headline: "Eye-Plucker Was in Mass. for Care."

Monday, August 18, 2003

Raisins and terrorism. The Globe's Sunday Ideas section has an interesting profile by Lee Smith of Ibn Warraq, the pseudonym for an agnostic critic of Islam who is the author of a 1995 book called Why I Am Not a Muslim.

An anecdote: during Easter weekend in 2002, I covered the annual convention of American Atheists, which was being held in Boston that year. Warraq -- who spoke at the convention -- got off one of the best lines of the weekend. He noted that recent scholarship suggests the Koran promises holy warriors "white raisins of crystal clarity" rather than 72 virgins. The lesson, he said, was obvious: terrorists should "abandon their culture of death and concentrate on getting laid 72 times in this world."

Smith enlists Khaled Abou El Fadl, a scholar of Islamic law, to critique Warraq. El Fadl participated this past April in a roundtable-style piece on the future of the US role in Iraq, which you can read here.

El Fadl also wrote a cover essay for the Boston Review this past spring titled "Islam and the Challenge of Democracy."

Warning to Mac users: for some reason the piece displays in Zapf Dingbats if you try opening it up in Safari. Mozilla seems to work fine.

Everybody's Fair and Balanced (TM)! A weblog called is compiling a list of blogs that have adopted the "Fair and Balanced" label since Fox News sued Al Franken over the title of his new book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. (Via Joe Conason; sub req.)

Friday, August 15, 2003

Darkness, followed by light. The lights are pretty much back on, according to this story on Talk about more alleged news. Don't get me wrong -- it was obviously a big story. But, honestly, once terrorism was ruled out (and it was, pretty quickly), how much do you need to know?

I did tune in long enough to watch what may be the best question anyone has ever asked Senator Hillary Clinton. On Larry King Live, Wolf Blitzer asked: Senator, everybody's been getting likkered up for hours. Aren't they going to run wild tonight?

Okay, I exaggerate, but not by much. Blitzer:

Senator, the people of New York have responded well so far, but I have some concerns standing here on the streets of New York. It's dark, obviously, very dark right now. A lot of people are mulling around. I have seen a lot of crowds mulling around. Clearly for some -- for some misguided New Yorkers, there almost seems to be a festive atmosphere. A lot of people drink[ing] beer and other spirits up if you will.

Have New York law-enforcement authorities done everything necessary to make sure it doesn't get ugly in parts of New York City tonight?

Clinton was on by phone; I wish she'd been on camera so I could have watched her scrunch her lips. Anyway, she eluded the question and was boring to boot, so I won't quote her response. But at least Blitzer provided a moment of cheap entertainment during the Live Story from Hell. ("The lights are still out ...")

Ventura highway to oblivion. I suppose MSNBC, the number-zero cable news channel, deserves a little bit of credit for indefinitely postponing Jesse Ventura's prime-time debut. To my knowledge, this is the first time that the channel has ever cleaned up one of its train wrecks before it's aired for a few painful months.

Still, Nobody's News Channel will let Ventura hold forth on weekends, as it did earlier with right-wing hatemonger Michael Savage. Obviously Ventura is considerably more savvy -- and less offensive -- than the gay-bashing, garbage-mouthed Savage. But an on-air train wreck remains a distinct possibility.

This, from the aforelinked Jim Rutenberg and (ooh, sorry; with) Charlie LeDuff's account in the New York Times, offers a scary insight into how MSNBC president Erik Sorenson and his drones think:

One concept that the network tried this summer, according to someone present at the taping, had Mr. Ventura eliciting commentary from his guests while an attractive woman served up different topics.

Sounds like the bimbos who flaunted themselves at ringside back in The Body's days with the WWF.

That hissing sound you hear is a sigh of relief from Brian Williams, who escaped from MSNBC last summer and who now holds forth on the unwatched, but unembarrassing, CNBC.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

The Globe's confusing new website. Is it too soon to say that the redesign of the Globe's website is seriously flawed? After all, these things do take time. So far, though, not so good.

Aside from the look -- pinched and cluttered, with teeny type -- I'm having a hard time figuring out what the mission is. Ideally, you'd like to see the entire paper put online in a well-organized manner, with perhaps a few extras. But given that people at the Globe, like everyone else, are presumably questioning the practice of giving away their content online while watching their paid circulation fall, maybe they're trying to move away from that. Still, what they're moving toward is anything but clear.

Two observations this morning:

1. As a paid subscriber who receives the North Pole edition somewhere around 5:30 a.m., I often don't get late results when the Red Sox are on the West Coast. So I went to the online sports section a few moments ago and saw this hype: "A's 5, Red Sox 3: Red Sox stuck in reverse." But that wasn't last night's game; it was Tuesday night's game.

I backed up and clicked on "All of today's Sports stories," only to find the tertiary stuff that no one reads anyway. Finally, I backed up again, clicked on "Latest sports news," and found an AP story reporting that Derek Lowe and the Sox beat the A's, 7-3, last night.

Okay, that's better than nothing, but still not good enough. Presumably the late edition of the Globe has staff coverage of the game. But even though I'm a paying customer, I can't read that coverage online.

But wait! I just went to, the übersite that's separate (but not really) from the Globe's, and the lead story was a staff-written (by Bob Hohler) piece on last night's Sox win. So why couldn't I find it in the Globe's own online sports section? Pre-emptive defense: if it's there and I just missed it, well, believe me, I looked. This is supposed to be easy, right?

2. If you click on "All of today's Editorials and Op-Ed columns," you will get exactly what you're promised. There's also an improvement over the old site: an editorial cartoon by Dan Wasserman. But it's yesterday's. Again, the Globe is under no obligation to give away its content, but the concept of publishing the day's paper on the Web is being lost.

Am I being too harsh? Hah! On Monday, Jason Feifer (scroll down) wrote to Jim Romenesko's that "the paper's website has morphed from a user-friendly digital facsimile of a newspaper into something resembling the love child of Google news and a content-free blog."

Then again, Feifer also doesn't like the print edition's new pastel teaser boxes on page one, an innovation that has given Media Log a reason to get up in the morning. So maybe he's being unfair.

But the Globe Web folks, having set out to fix what wasn't necessarily broken, need to do some quick thinking. They could start by explaining exactly what it is they're trying to accomplish.

New in this week's Phoenix. I consider the career of Massachusetts House Speaker Tom Finneran, who's not looking quite as powerful these days thanks to the rise of Governor Mitt Romney and a small but growing rebellion in his own chamber.

Plus, an update of Tuesday's Media Log item on the suspension of John "Ozone" Osterlind, the morning-drive-time host on WRKO Radio (AM 680) accused of wanting to "eradicate" the Palestinians.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Bullying language and a publisher's prerogative. Bad as the Vatican's recent statement on homosexuality may be, it does go out of its way to assert that lesbians and gay men must be treated with dignity (see "Rome Casts Its Ballot," News and Features, August 8).

Quoting from earlier Church doctrine, the statement says that "men and women with homosexual tendencies 'must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.'" This may amount to little more than hypocrisy -- and as the saying goes, "Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue" -- but at least it's better than the bishops' sitting around telling homo jokes over a few brewskis.

Unfortunately, they didn't get the message over at the Pilot, the official weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston. An editorial this week on the Vatican statement (second item), headlined "Courageous Document," begins with this sneering lead: "The GLBTQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) agenda is advancing quickly these days."

Like the N-word among African-Americans, the Q-word is sometimes used in a joking manner among gays and lesbians themselves. But for an official publication of the Church to invoke it is insulting, degrading, and utterly lacking in "respect, compassion and sensitivity."

As archbishop, Seán O'Malley is publisher of the Pilot. He should call editor Antonio Enrique in for a chat about appropriate language at the first opportunity.

The definition of a conflict of interest. A freelance reporter for the Globe's Globe West section wrote "about 300 articles" about the Newton Public Schools while serving on the state-mandated advisory board of her children's elementary school, according to this story by Sarah Andrews, in the Newton Tab.

Writes Andrews: "Newton conservatives say they have been complaining for three years that writer Gail Spector's work for the Globe's West Weekly section has been biased." It looks like they had a legitimate beef.

Ellen Clegg, the Globe editor who runs the regional news sections, called Spector's dual role "a violation of Globe policy," and said Spector would no longer cover Newton.

Newton conservative Tom Mountain gloats here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

WRKO suspends "Ozone" for two weeks. John Osterlind, the loud, raspy-voiced "Ozone" half of the Blute & Ozone team on WRKO Radio (AM 680), has been suspended for two weeks after telling listeners this morning that the Palestinians should be "eradicated," according to Michael Elder, the station's director of operations and programming.

Elder was unaware of Osterlind's alleged remarks when contacted earlier today by the Phoenix, which had received an anonymous tip that Osterlind had advocated "extermination" of the Palestinians. After listening to a partial tape of the show, Elder said, "Your source was pretty close to accurate," but added: "I did not hear exterminate. Eradicate is what I heard." (Disclosure: I am paid to discuss the media on WRKO's Pat Whitley Show every Friday morning.)

Elder said that cohost Peter Blute, a former Republican congressman, sounded aghast at Osterlind's outburst. "Peter Blute kept trying to reel him out of it," said Elder, adding that, at one point, Blute warned Osterlind that he was advocating "Hitlerian genocide." Blute could not immediately be reached for comment.

Osterlind, contacted at home, denied the allegation, saying, "It was dancing around that line, but never once did the words come out of my mouth that the Palestinians should be eradicated. But the bad ones, definitely." Several minutes later, he added, "Arafat, sure, you know, him and his people, no doubt."

This afternoon on the WRKO website, under the heading "Today on Blute & Ozone," is this: "After two more suicide bombings in Israel the other day, a frustrated Ozone wants to rid the world of anti-Israeli Pallestines [sic]. Peter says there is, more violence that occurs on a daily basis, in Massachusetts than Israel [sic! sic! sic!]."

In explaining his decision to suspend Osterlind, Elder said, "I can't let that kind of language against a whole race of people go on the airways unpunished. Other people are going to get the idea that it's okay. It's not okay. That kind of language I'm just not going to let on the radio station." He added: "Quite frankly, I just don't think that's a good way to run talk radio."

Osterlind's suspension comes about a month after Elder suspended syndicated talk-show host Michael Savage's show for one day, following Savage's homophobic outburst on what turned out to be his final appearance on MSNBC.

Neither Elder nor Osterlind could say whether the two-week suspension would be paid or unpaid. Elder said the terms of Osterlind's contract probably require that it be paid.

Osterlind seemed stunned this afternoon, describing the events that led to his suspension as a combination of an aggressive approach on his part and outrageous calls from some listeners. He said that when callers suggested eradicating all Palestinians -- and, in one case, the entire "Arab street" -- he replied, "Are you nuts?"

He described his conversation with Elder like this: "He said he'd gotten some calls, and that he had to do something to appease the people who are upset." Asked whether he believed he himself had made a mistake, Osterlind replied, "Maybe baiting the listeners into calling and saying something like that."

He added: "You do a talk show, you talk about controversial things. I've been doing this a long time, and it's the first time I've ever been suspended. I just don't think he [Elder] liked the whole tone of the segment."

A pause, and then this:

"I'm just a peace-lovin' person, Dan."

Hey, Rupe! Media Log is Fair and Balanced (TM), too! And I mean it the way I presume you mean it, at least when you're talking among yourselves over drinks and cigars: ironically, with a good laugh at the rubes you've bamboozled into thinking that it's true.

Anyway, Fox is suing Al Franken for trademark infringement, charging that the title of his forthcoming book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, would "blur and tarnish" the image of the Fox News Channel. (So why aren't they suing Sean Hannity?)

It gets better. According to this account in the New York Times, Fox contends, "Franken is neither a journalist nor a television news personality. He is not a well-respected voice in American politics; rather, he appears to be shrill and unstable. His views lack any serious depth or insight."

Not to appear to take this drivel seriously, but anyone who has paid any attention whatsoever knows that Franken's political analysis is as deep and serious as that of anyone on Fox, with the possible exception of Britt Hume. It's just that Franken also happens to be a very funny guy.

Here's a Q&A with Franken on his book -- and on his recent confrontation with Bill O'Reilly, who didn't like it one bit when Franken exposed O'Reilly's claim to have won a Peabody Award as something other than the truth.

Berkowitz online. The Boston Globe's website redesign is now well along (Woo, hoo! It looks like the Herald's!), and Peter Berkowitz's essay on the raging moderate known as George W. Bush can be read here.

On the other hand, I was going to link to James Carroll's excellent Globe column today on anti-Semitism within the Catholic Church (yes, he's got something new to say) -- but today's editorials and op-ed columns were not online. Perhaps they will be later this morning.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Q: Is Bush a moderate or an extremist? A: Both! Peter Berkowitz, writing in the Globe's Ideas section yesterday, wants you to believe that George W. Bush isn't really a right-wing crazy. His evidence: the president has been generally moderate on cultural issues such as religion, abortion, gay and lesbian rights, affirmative action, even his court appointments. Plus, he's got black people in his Cabinet! (No link. The Globe's website is in the midst of redesign hell, but Berkowitz's piece might pop up here later today.)

Sorry, but this is argument by straw man. I'm prepared to accept all or most of the above, although I have some quibbles. Certainly a few of Bush's judicial picks have been dangerously right-wing, for instance. And the president's views on homosexuality, although arguably within the mainstream of moderate conservatism, are ugly nevertheless: no marriage, no civil unions, not even domestic-partner benefits.

But, still, what Berkowitz does is raise a whole host of matters on which Bush is moderate in order to frame the two really important issues -- his budget-busting tax cuts and his hyperaggressive foreign policy -- in a less threatening way.

On taxes, Bush really is a right-wing crazy. For some non-fuzzy math, check out this chart (PDF format) put together by Citizens for Tax Justice. Okay, I know you're not really going to take a look, so here's the lead:

As a result of the three major tax cuts enacted at President Bush's instigation in 2001, 2002 and 2003, taxes on the best-off one percent of Americans will fall by 17 percent by the end of this decade. For the remaining 99 percent of taxpayers, the average tax reduction will be 5 percent.

The share of total federal taxes paid by the best-off one percent will fall from 23.7 percent to 21.3 percent in 2010 compared to prior law -- a drop of 2.4 percentage points. The top one percent is the only income group with a substantial reduction in its share of the total federal tax burden.

Berkowitz seems to think that Bush's runaway spending shows that he's not really a conservative when it comes to budgetary matters. He's right! In fact, it demonstrates that Bush is a radical who wants to match or even exceed the borrow-and-spend policies of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, running up hundreds of billions of dollars in debt, a situation that benefits wealthy bond-holders, but certainly no one else.

As for foreign policy, what needs to be said? Here's Berkowitz on the run-up to the war in Iraq:

Today, Bush's critics, usually upholders of international law, rarely acknowledge the manifestly inaccurate and incomplete accounting of WMD that Saddam submitted to the UN Security Council in December 2002. This put him in clear material breach of Resolution 1441, which was unanimously passed by the Security Council one month before. On the Bush administration's reasonable reading, Saddam's defiance of 1441's terms authorized the use of force to disarm him and suggested he had WMD to hide.

Who are these critics who refuse to acknowledge the lies contained in Saddam's December 2002 report? Berkowitz doesn't say. This is, in fact, another straw man. It was, after all, UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix who took the lead in denouncing Saddam's refusal to come clean about the weapons of mass destruction that he had been known to possess in the past.

But in the absense of the imminent threat that Bush and Tony Blair talked about so many times, Blix and most of the rest of the world called for a stepped-up inspections regime, not war. The Bush administration kept pushing for war, building a disingenuous case on not just those 16 words, but on phony claims about aluminum tubes, doctored intelligence, and allegations of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda.

Berkowitz concludes of Bush:

[A]s his administration makes its mistakes, rolls with the punches, and adapts to changing circumstances, the president reveals himself to be a pragmatic conservative who knows in his gut that it is a liberal welfare state that he wishes to reform, and to conserve. This will continue to discomfit purists on both sides. And it may prove attractive to a majority in 2004, not only in the Electoral College but in the popular vote as well.

Berkowitz's argument, essentially, is that Bush is not uniformly extreme in his conservative views. Rather, he's moderate in some areas and extreme in others -- mainly the ones that really matter. Berkowitz intends all this as an endorsement. Seen in a different light, it looks a lot more like an indictment instead.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

O'Malley's mysterious signals. Archbishop Seán O'Malley today is receiving well-deserved credit for making a concrete (if underfunded) proposal to settle with the victims of pedophile priests (Globe coverage here; Herald coverage here), and for announcing that he'll move out of the archbishop's mansion in Brighton.

What strikes me as a ruse, though, is the notion that the archdiocese will not sell the chancery property even though O'Malley will decamp for more-austere quarters in the South End.

The Herald quotes a "source familiar with church finances" as saying, "The chancery is categorically not for sale." The Globe offers, more obliquely: "O'Malley suggested he did not plan to sell the heavily mortgaged Brighton residence, which is coveted by Boston College, but instead would use it for church offices."

Why would O'Malley want his staff across town, inaccessible to him? Why does he need to keep St. John's Seminary, also located on the property, when the number of priest candidates is way down and another, cheaper location could easily be found?

The answers are obvious. Which is why it makes sense -- purely as a matter of sheer speculation -- that O'Malley is being coy in order to drive up the price. If he publicly announced he was going to sell the property and commenced negotiations with Boston College, then BC would hold the upper hand in a down market.

This way, he can delay negotiations indefinitely, and allow another potential buyer to come along and blow him away with an offer that he can't refuse. Assuming the settlement is behind him by then, that would mean more money for the Church's mission -- including its extensive social-services network, which has been badly hurt at the worst possible time by the mind-boggling misdeeds of his predecessors, especially Cardinal Bernard Law.

If I'm right about what O'Malley may be thinking, then he deserves all the credit in the world.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Extra! It now turns out that New England Cable News had the story about the Vatican document on July 28 -- a day earlier than the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune. Click here and watch "Church Critics Seek Charges."

Okay, let's get this out of the way once and for all: Media Log does not rule out the possibility that another news org reported this even before NECN. Hey, maybe someone even reported it in 1962!

And not only did CBS News not "uncover" this, but we now know that its Wednesday report wasn't even "the first time that this has been reported on television," as CBS spokeswoman Sandy Genelius told me yesterday.

Curioser and curioser. The story about the story regarding that secret 1962 Vatican document is getting increasingly convoluted.

The website Catholic World News posted an analysis yesterday attempting to show that the conventional interpretation -- that the Vatican was giving marching orders to cover up the misdeeds of pedophile priests -- is just plain wrong.

According to CWN, the document pertained to a much narrower matter -- priests who solicit sex inside the confessional:

The Vatican document deals exclusively with solicitation: an offense which, by definition, occurs within the context of the Sacrament of Penance. And since that sacrament is protected by a shroud of absolute secrecy, the procedures for dealing with this ecclesiastical crime also invoke secrecy.

In short, by demanding secrecy in the treatment of these crimes, the Vatican was protecting the secrecy of the confessional. The policy outlined in that 1962 document is clearly not intended to protect predatory priests; on the contrary, the Vatican makes it clear that guilty priests should be severely punished and promptly removed from ministry.

CWN specifically blasts CBS News, which claimed on Wednesday to have "uncovered" the document, and which reported that the Vatican "calls for absolute secrecy when it comes to sexual abuse by priests." In fact, though, the existence of the document had already been reported a week earlier by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, and the Boston Herald.

Today's Herald includes this piece by Eric Convey that covers much the same ground as the CWN analysis.

Yesterday, even as I was posting my own item on the scuff-up over CBS's self-aggrandizing "uncovered" claim, the Herald's Convey, the Eagle-Tribune's Gretchen Putnam, the Telegram & Gazette's Harry Whitin, and CBS News's Jim Murphy were going at it hot and heavy on the letters page of Jim Romenesko's website.

And contrary to my report yesterday -- and to Whitin's assertion to Romenesko -- it now appears that the Telegram & Gazette did not break the story all by itself, but rather finished in a first-place tie with the Eagle-Tribune. Both papers broke the story on July 29.

The T&G's, by Kathleen Shaw, has slid into the paper's paid archives, but the Eagle-Tribune's, by Meg Murphy, is still online for free here.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

It depends on the meaning of "uncovered." This morning, while I was driving to work, I heard a curious report on the radio. The announcer said that CBS News had uncovered a confidential 1962 document from the Vatican specifying how the Catholic Church should respond to complaints of child sexual abuse.

Curious because I knew that a copy of the report had been sitting on my desk at work since last week -- and that my colleague Kristen Lombardi had obtained it a few days earlier than that.

Upon looking into it further, I learned that the first report on the existence of the document was published on July 29 in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. The 923-word page-one piece, by Kathleen Shaw, began like this:

The hierarchy of the Catholic church has been instructed by the Vatican at least since 1962 to keep certain cases of clergy sexual abuse secret under pain of excommunication, according to Boston lawyer Carmen L. Durso.

A copy of the directive was sent yesterday to U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan at his Boston office by Mr. Durso, who said he believes the church has been obstructing justice.

The next day, the Boston Herald's Robin Washington covered much the same ground in a story on page eight. His lead:

A Latin document bearing the seal of Pope John XXIII outlined a 1962 Vatican procedure for shielding sexually abusive priests, two lawyers for plaintiffs in cases against the church maintain.

Yet when the CBS Evening News began last night, here's how anchor Scott Pelley introduced the story:

We begin tonight with a surprising development in the sex-abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. For decades, priests in this country have abused children in parish after parish while their superiors covered it all up. Now it turns out the orders for this cover-up were written in Rome at the highest levels of the Vatican. Correspondent Vince Gonzales has uncovered a church document kept secret 40 years, until now.

The transcript does not appear to be freely available online (I got it from Lexis-Nexis). But you can read a version of the story on the CBS News website that includes this: "CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales has uncovered a church document kept secret for 40 years."

What is going on here?

Houston lawyer Dan Shea, who represents some of the alleged victims, is the person who has called the document to the attention of much of the media. Earlier today he told me, "The real credit for this goes to Kathy Shaw and Robin Washington. Hey, smoke and mirrors." As for CBS, Shea said, "They interviewed me for the piece. They spent an hour-and-a-half with me in my office in Houston. And I never even showed up in the piece."

I couldn't reach Shaw. But Washington's comment was succinct: "This is ridiculous. It's beyond the pale."

CBS News spokeswoman Sandy Genelius, though, defended her network's actions. She said of the T&G and Herald reports, "I think they did a great job, and I think that we did our own reporting about it and put a piece on the air. It's that simple."

Genelius added that Gonzales could have broadcast his report earlier, but that he expended considerable effort trying to authenticate the document.

When I asked whether CBS's claim that Gonzales had "uncovered" the document might be fairly interpreted as meaning that the network was claiming an exclusive, she replied, "We never claimed any exclusivity on it, nor would we."

Well, maybe CBS makes a distinction between "exclusive" and "uncovered," but I seriously doubt that it's a distinction any typical news consumer would make.

The broadcast strongly implied that CBS was breaking news. It wasn't.

The Bulger aftermath, and questions for Chancellor Lombardi. After having spent a good part of the morning reading almost every word the Globe and the Herald have to offer on the resignation of UMass president Bill Bulger -- and having glanced at coverage in the New York Times and Washington Post as well -- I have come to a sad conclusion:

I've got nothing to say, beyond what I've already said.

Bulger's $960,000 get-out-of-town package seems excessive, given that his pension should run about $200,000 a year. He might have been talked into taking less rather than staying to face a newly constituted board of trustees with Alan Dershowitz screaming at him through every meeting.

Still, the man was under contract, and it wasn't going to be cheap to make him go away.

But with the Bulger matter having been so thoroughly chewed over, let's shift to a sidebar: the story that UMass Amherst chancellor John Lombardi may be named president -- interim, permanent, or both.

The Globe's Marcella Bombardieri reports that Lombardi -- who's been at Amherst for a year -- did a terrific job during his nearly 10 years as president of the University of Florida.

What Bombardieri does not report is that Lombardi failed to distinguish himself, to say the least, in a troubling academic-freedom case that came up last fall.

Economics professor M.J. Alhabeeb, an Iraqi native and a staunch opponent of Saddam Hussein, was paid a visit in his office by an FBI agent and a campus cop after they learned that he was against President Bush's plans to invade Iraq.

Alhabeeb pronounced the matter "not a big deal." But the fact is that a naturalized American citizen was informed upon and questioned because of his political views and his national origin.

Yet when the faculty senate met to discuss the matter, the Springfield Union-News quoted Lombardi as saying:

I have had, at some time or another, had my friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors asked about my activities, views, and politics in order to get one job or another. When we are talking about the FBI on campus asking questions, we ought to be clear about which activity we have.

Lombardi also urged that the UMass community "not be distracted over cases that are not fundamental attacks on free speech."

For his spineless performance in the face of a challenge to academic freedom, Lombardi was recently singled out for a Boston Phoenix Muzzle Award.

It's something he ought to be called to account for before anyone starts talking seriously about a promotion. The Dersh would be just the one to ask Lombardi the questions that need to be asked.

The next Sony? BusinessWeek has a fascinating piece by Jane Black on Apple's ongoing attempt to reinvent itself -- from a boutique computer maker that, despite its cutting-edge reputation, is slowly fading away to "a high-end consumer-electronics and services company à la Sony."

Her examples: the to-die-for iPod portable music player (the envious take note: Mrs. Media Log got me one for Father's Day) and the iTunes Music Store.

Thanks to FarrellMedia for pointing this out.

New in this week's Phoenix. I've got a problem with the Vatican's recent statement on same-sex marriage -- and its demand that democratically elected politicians toe the line.

Also, a Harvard study shows that the so-called liberal media are far more tolerant of conservative arguments than the conservative media are of liberal ones. But you already knew that.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Times signs write-o-matic Brooks. David Brooks is a fine writer, a provocative thinker, a sensible conservative, and a hell of a nice guy. He is also dangerously overexposed.

You can read him in the Weekly Standard, the Atlantic Monthly, Newsweek, the New York Times Book Review, the New York Times Magazine, the Times of London, and on the Wall Street Journal editorial page. You can see him on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. You can hear him on All Things Considered. Several years ago he wrote a briskly selling book about the nouveau riche called Bobos in Paradise. If he were a pop star, his agent would tell him to lay low for a while and cultivate an air of mystery.

Today we learn that he will soon begin writing an op-ed-page column for the New York Times. The news comes in the oddest of places: buried inside a Times feature today on summer jobs. Brooks is quoted on the subject, and his forthcoming new gig is revealed as an afterthought. (Note: After posting this item shortly before 9 a.m., I was immediately informed that Brooks's appointment is not news. Must have happened while I was on vacation.)

I'm sure Brooks is not looking for Media Log's advice, but I'm going to offer some anyway. Brooks can be a terrific op-ed columnist. But he's going to have to devote most of his attention to it and cut way back on the outside work. The Times job will be the most important thing he does.

Besides showing that the liberal media are far more open to conservative voices than the conservative media are to liberals, Brooks's addition will be welcome because he's so good at what he does. But if he doesn't cut way back on his outside work, he runs the risk of becoming not a writer, but a word processor.

Slick Howie. The Howard Dean described this morning by Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh sounds like someone who is pragmatic to the point of being cynical.

Lehigh doesn't draw the analogy directly, but that whatever-it-takes attitude, unattractive though it may be to those who have to interact with him personally, calls to mind another politician whom many Democrats are pining for these days: Bill Clinton.

Joe Fitz, paragon of objectivity. The funniest thing about Boston Herald columnist Joe Fitzgerald's screed (sub. req.) today is that you have to pay to read it online. The second-funniest thing is his lame-o attempt to wag his finger at the Episcopal Church for confirming Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as the bishop of New Hampshire.

Fitzgerald claims Delphic powers of insight, writing, "To more objective observers ... Robinson's ascendancy is an abomination, which is precisely how Scripture describes the kind of lifestyle he maintains." I guess Fitzgerald considers all that love stuff attributed to Jesus as a bunch of '60s-style hooey.

Even better, Fitzgerald quotes Martin Luther King Jr. as an authority for his side of the argument. Give Fitz this much: he knows King isn't going to complain.

Media Log update. Due to some recent changes in's software, I am now going to upload each morning's items as one post, rather than as individual tidbits. It'll save me a minute or two, and make it easier to post items in the order that I want.

This should only create a minimum of hassle to websites seeking to link to Media Log items. It is also the practice followed by many other weblogs, including that of the prolific Andrew Sullivan.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Do as he says, not as he does. Here is the original Lawrence Eagle-Tribune story from Sunday on Lawrence superintendent of schools Wilfredo Laboy, who can't pass a mandatory English-proficiency test and who outrageously asserts that he shouldn't be held to the same standard as his teachers.

A couple of great quotes:

What brought me down was the rules of grammar and punctuation. English being a second language for me, I didn't do well in writing. If you're not an English teacher, you don't look at the rules on a regular basis.


I should have never taken the test because I came here with a very clear understanding [from the state] that I had licensure.

This is really amazing stuff. Even if Laboy is technically correct about not needing to be as proficient as an English teacher, his inability to grasp the symbolism of the situation is appalling.

Even more appalling is that city leaders in Lawrence don't seem to care. And most appalling of all, neither does Governor Mitt Romney, the scourge of bilingualism, who is demagoguing the Democrats on minor changes they made to the voter-approved anti-bilingualism ballot question.

To be fair, Romney makes it clear that Laboy must pass at some point. But his solicitousness toward Laboy contrasts sharply with his bullying stance on bilingual education.

Judge not anymore. Now here's some quick action. On Monday, Herald columnist Joe Sciacca (sub. req.) reported on Thomas Rango, the federal immigration judge whose outrageous behavior reportedly included making Tarzan jokes to a Ugandan woman named Jane who was seeking political asylum.

Today Rango's gone.

How to lose $400 million and not pay any taxes. First, make $400 million.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Defending terrorism futures. Last Friday, during my weekly appearance to discuss media issues on WRKO Radio (AM 680), talk-show host Pat Whitley said he was going to take a controversial stance: in the 10 a.m. hour, he would come out in favor of John Poindexter's idea to create an Internet-based futures market aimed at predicting acts of terrorism.

Well, Whitley's attempt to make waves got overwhelmed pretty quickly. To an extent one couldn't have imagined, what seemed like a bona fide terrible idea when it was first reported last week was quickly embraced by media pundits seeking to be counterintuitive.

Here are the examples I saw -- and I'm sure I missed a few:

  • Beating Whitley to the punch, New Yorker financial columnist James Surowiecki wrote a piece for his alma mater, Slate, on July 30 in which he argued, "If the price of getting better intelligence is having our sensibilities bruised, we should be willing to pay it."
  • On Sunday, the New York Times' Floyd Norris suggested that the idea was a useful one, and explained why the US government had to get involved in order for it to work: "The answer is that Uncle Sam had been picked to play the role of designated loser in the gambling." In other words, if the terrorism-futures market were private (and there already is one), it wouldn't be as useful, since there would be some bets that no one would take.
  • Also on Sunday, the Boston Globe's Gareth Cook (ex of the Phoenix) reported that the market idea was just one of a number of creepy and potentially vital projects being undertaken by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the office that Poindexter will continue to head for at least a few more weeks.
  • McGill University lecturer Reuven Brenner, in an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal last Friday that was posted to the free site on Sunday, writes in defense of the market idea -- but, in true WSJ fashion, argues that there is "no reason" for government involvement.
  • This morning, the Globe's Hiawatha Bray offers a defense. Unfortunately for him, he writes that "there's nothing to stop some businessperson from launching a similar project," showing that he didn't read Norris's Times piece. Or maybe he read Brenner's piece instead.
  • Also today, the Boston Herald's Ted Bunker, his weekly "Capital Focus" column, interviews former DARPA scientist Vincent Cerf, who complains that the political pressure being exerted today might have hampered the development of the Internet, an earlier DARPA innovation.

So, was the Policy Analysis Market, as the terrorism-futures lottery was formally known, a good idea? Damned if I know. I remain deeply suspicious for two reasons: the involvement of Iran-Contra figure Poindexter, and the notion that futures markets are far better at predicting mass behavior -- say, a presidential election, or changes in soybean prices -- than they are at predicting the behavior of a few mayhem-minded individuals.

But this much is certain: what had seemed like a deeply controversial idea when it was first revealed may not actually be very controversial at all.