Friday, October 31, 2003

Blame it on Drudge. Just got back from a field trip to Nashua, New Hampshire, only to find bad news on Drudge.

-- Liberal comedian turned pathetic Bush apologist Dennis Miller is getting a talk show on CNBC, which shows the idiots at NBC have decided that what's not working on MSNBC can fail just as miserably on the sister station.

As soon as Barry Crimmins, a former writer for Miller, weighs in on this distressing development, I'll put up a link.

-- Microsoft wants to swallow Google, the best damn search engine there is. According to this New York Times article, Google would rather go ahead with its planned IPO, but what Bill Gates wants, he eventually gets. If he succeeds, the question is, how will he ruin the experience?

Earlier this year Google acquired Blogger, the Web-based software that powers Media Log. It's Bill's world, and we're all just visiting.

Disingenuous bishops. Leave it to a conservative, independent Catholic to call the bishops' bluff.

Today's Herald quotes Phil Lawler, editor of Catholic World News, on the bishops' claim that the media got it wrong recently when they reported that the Church was softening its stance on benefits for gay and lesbian couples.

The Herald's Eric Convey and Elisabeth Beardsley write:

Phil Lawler, editor of Catholic World News, a conservative Web site focusing on church affairs, and a former editor of The Pilot, defended the secular media.

"The way it was played in the media is pretty much the only logical way to play what was out there," he said.

Asked why church leaders would challenge that interpretation, Lawler said: "Plausible deniability."

Here is the Globe story on the same subject.

Little People, Big Apple. I'll be talking about Little People tomorrow from noon to 1 p.m. on Simply Put, on Bloomberg Radio, which is heard in New York City on WBBR (AM 1130), on all three satellite networks, and in streaming audio at

The hosts are two Boston guys -- Democratic political consultant Michael Goldman and MetroWest Daily News columnist Tom Moroney.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Crony capitalism, continued. I've heard it said that Halliburton is the only company in the world with the expertise to rebuild Iraq's shattered oil infrastructure. It may be true.

But stories like this front-page exclusive, by the Boston Globe's Stephen Glain, can't help but raise questions of crony capitalism. Dick Cheney's former company is doing very well indeed, and the worse things get, the better they are for Halliburton's shareholders.

If a Democrat were in the White House and the independent-counsel law were still on the books, what do you suppose the headline would be this morning? Certainly not the deceptively bland head you'll find in the Globe: "Projected Iraq Oil Costs Up Sharply."

New in this week's Phoenix. It's time for the Phoenix's annual "Best" issue, which features -- among other things -- our "Local Heroes."

Mine is Tom Birmingham, for being unafraid to use a parliamentary maneuver to stop a hateful amendment to the state constitution aimed at lesbians and gay men.

Also, union employees at the Globe boycott NECN.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Subtle indeed. I'd like to think I have a good eye for these things. But last week, I found myself scratching my head several times while flipping through the New York Times.

What's different? I asked myself. Has the headline type changed?

I decided it hadn't.

It had.

On the Media has the story.

Shameless self-promotion. I'll be talking about Little People today from 3:15 to 3:45 p.m. (local time) on Total Health, on KCTE Radio (AM 1510) in Kansas City, and -- locally -- tonight on New England Cable News' NewsNight sometime between 8 and 9 p.m.

Islam and terrorism in Boston? (Part II). The Herald is back with the second half of its piece on the Islamic Society of Boston and its alleged ties to Muslims who support terrorism.

Today's installment draws the circle a little tighter than yesterday's, reporting that Osama M. Kandil, who chairs the society's board of trustees, "is allegedly linked to a network of Muslim companies and charitable groups in Virginia suspected by federal investigators of providing material support to Islamic terrorists."

But the report is frustrating, because it's impossible to know whether Kandil is truly aiding and abetting terrorists, or if he's been caught up in some unfortunate second-hand affiliations.

Kandil himself denies all, and tells the Herald that the mosque and cultural center the society intends to build in Roxbury will promote "the moderate, sophisticated view of Islam."

The smartest comment comes in the sidebar. US Representative Michael Capuano, whose district includes Roxbury and who took part in the groundbreaking for the new mosque, says, "The allegations are pretty serious. I'm going to do my best to learn more. Having said that, the Islamic Society I know is an active, responsible group ... I will not indict a whole group because of a few people."

The Herald has unearthed some important facts. But we need to know a lot more.

Gammons on Grady. You know what you want. You want to know what Peter Gammons thinks of Grady Little's firing, and of what comes next.

Here you go.

Joe Maddon? Well, the Globe's Bob Hohler mentions him today, too. So does the Herald's Michael Silverman.

So it's officially a trend.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

The housing market is hot! No, it's cold! The Wicked Good Conference has picked up something I missed completely. The Globe today reports that home sales last month soared through the roof; the Herald says they cratered through the floor.

"Shoddy reporting or what?" asks Beso at the WGC.

Actually not, at least by my quick read of the two stories. The problem is that the papers relied on different experts. The Globe led with Wayne Ayers, chief economist at FleetBoston Financial Corporation. The Herald leaned mainly on Karl Case, an economics professor at Wellesley College.

The Globe also bases its optimism on a comparison of September's sales figures with those of September 2002. The Herald's gloomy assessment comes from comparing September's sales to the August numbers.

The question is, don't economists agree on which is the more valid comparison? Why are Ayers and Case so far apart in their assessments? And whom is the reader to trust?

The Herald provides a clue at the bottom of its report, noting the improvement over September 2002 and quoting Massachusetts Association of Realtors president Peter Casey as saying, "It's a very, very positive market for both buyers and sellers."

That leads me to suspect that the optimistic view is the more valid.

The business of baseball is business. The Globe's Steve Bailey or the Herald's Cosmo Macero should have been put on the case. Because the day-after reaction to Grady Little's firing is supremely unsatisfying. The Herald's Steve Buckley (sub. req.) and, no kidding, Gerry Callahan (ditto) have the smartest takes this morning. But what this story really needs is someone who understands business.

Looking at this from afar, it appears that what's really happened is that the Red Sox' newish owners intend to run the franchise as a business, not as some old boys' club dedicated to their own post-adolescent amusement. In the business world, executives have to manage both down (i.e., handling employees, in this case players) and up (working with the senior executives in carrying out the business plan).

Little did a good job of managing down, but he evidently was lousy at managing up. He openly disdained the ownership's numbers-based approach to the game -- an approach that has become increasingly popular and successful at other franchises in recent years. The Globe's Gordon Edes has a mind-blowing anecdote this morning:

The Sox no longer want to discover, to their dismay, that the manager, according to a team source, failed to hold a hitters' meeting before the Oakland playoff series, wasting countless hours of traditional scouting work and sophisticated video and statistical analysis that was done ostensibly to give the Sox an edge.

This is just derelict. No CEO should put up with this from one of his front-line managers.

Stories like this put Little's idiotic decision to send Pedro Martínez out for the eighth inning -- and to leave him out there while he got his brains beaten in -- into perspective. But Little's self-immolation robbed the team owners of a certain degree of maneuverability, too.

Because despite his flaws, Little might have been better than anyone else the Red Sox could get for next year. In a perfect world, the Sox would have strung Little along for a few weeks to see who became available. If they couldn't get a manager who would be obviously better, they might have signed Little for one more year.

Adrian Wojnarowski, writing for, is irrationally pro-Little, but he is correct when he observes that the Red Sox let him go without having a backup plan in place.

That's Little's fault. He could never have managed here again after what happened in Game Seven.

Islam and terrorism in Boston? The Herald's investigative team breaks through the Bennifer haze this morning to weigh in with a major piece on a Boston-based Islamic organization.

According to the report, the Islamic Society of Boston, which plans to build a mega-mosque in Roxbury, has ties to two men who are virulently anti-American and anti-Israel, Abdurahman Muhammad Alamoudi and Yusuf Abdullah al-Qaradawi.

Both men have praised terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Alamoudi has been indicted on allegations that he illegally accepted money from Libya. Al-Qaradawi has been banned from the US for his pro-terrorist views.

The problem is that it is unclear whether Alamoudi and al-Qaradawi really do have close ties to the Islamic Society. The society itself denies it, and supporters say that it preaches a moderate, tolerant brand of Islam.

There's no doubt that the Herald's findings are of some significance. But how significant? It's hard to say.

Part two, coming tomorrow, promises some answers: "A current trustee of the Islamic Society of Boston has been named in a federal Islamic terrorism financing investigation."

Monday, October 27, 2003

Kerry's fading candidacy. Last week I ran into someone who described himself as a strong John Kerry supporter, a politically savvy guy who used to work for the senator. He urged me to investigate those polls that showed Howard Dean trouncing Kerry in New Hampshire.

It's not real, he insisted. He especially wanted me to check in with pollster John Zogby, whose methodology, he claimed, showed that Kerry was doing far better against Dean in New Hampshire than the other polls suggest.

Well, on Friday, Zogby reported that Dean had opened up a 40 percent-to-17 percent lead over Kerry in New Hampshire. "This is stunning," Zogby quoted himself as saying. "This qualifies as juggernaut status. Can he be stopped?"

Yesterday, the Boston Globe published poll results that showed Dean leading Kerry in New Hampshire by a margin of 37 percent to 13 percent.

It's still early, of course, but it's not that early. In a large field in which no one has really broken through, Dean has simply done more things right than anyone else. He has managed the contortionist's trick of establishing himself as the frontrunner and the insurgent simultaneously, and he's raising a ton of dough -- meaning that, unlike past early surprises such as John McCain (2000) and Gary Hart (1984), Dean will have no problem capitalizing on a big New Hampshire win, if that is indeed what lies in his future.

As for Kerry ... well ... he remains the establishment's choice, a solid, stolid, intelligent person with deep foreign-policy credentials and a mainstream liberal voting record. But you have to ask: is this someone who is capable of making up a lot of ground in a short period of time? He's not exciting or flashy. He is incapable of explaining his complicated position on Iraq in a soundbite. In other words, Kerry -- after enjoying a brief moment as the consensus frontrunner earlier this year -- may now be the fallback candidate: the guy voters turn to if Dean implodes. And there's no sign that Dean is going to implode.

I watched some of last night's debate (confession: I passed out cold about half-way into it), and thought Kerry got off a few good lines -- especially his zing at Dean, who said he would surround himself with good foreign-policy advisers. "We're electing a president of the United States, not a staff," Kerry said.

But Kerry was, as usual, too quick to cite his military service, as he did when defending himself against Joe Lieberman, who had criticized him for voting against the $87 million package in aid for Iraq. And there is the continued logistical impossibility of breaking through at a debate when there are nine candidates on stage.

The Boston Herald's David Guarino and Andrew Miga think last night's debate was a good moment for Kerry. He's going to need a lot more such moments.

The Great Savior, Wesley Clark, appears to be going nowhere fast, but his presence does make it less likely that the media will give Kerry a second look. And Dean keeps doing his thing, and doing it well.

But first, are you experienced? The Globe's Gordon Edes yesterday on potential Red Sox managerial candidate Bud Black: "[H]e has zero managing experience, and Boston is no place for your first job."

A few paragraphs later, on Willie Randolph: "He hasn't managed before, but there's nothing wrong with raiding the Empire, is there?"

Local the way Mr. Potter was local. It's pretty hard to get worked about about the impending demise about Fleet Bank, isn't it? The Globe's Steve Bailey breaks another big story.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Come on,, take it down. Media Log does not wish to become known as a bastion of overly sensitive political correctness.

But still. As I write this, has a story with the headline "The Case for Coolie Labor."

My informant tells me that the headline was supposed to have been taken down by now, and perhaps it will be gone soon. But what were they thinking?

A measured take on "partial birth" abortion. Reader J.S. sends along this statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists explaining why Congress erred in banning intact dilation and extraction (D&X) -- a procedure labeled by its critics as "partial-birth abortion."

(To be totally accurate, the statement was actually released a couple of weeks ago, in anticipation of the congressional vote.)

The college refers back to a 1997 policy statement that found that, in some instances, intact D&X may be the best option available:

The policy statement notes that although a select panel convened by ACOG could identify no circumstances under which intact D&X would be the only option to protect the life or health of a woman, intact D&X "may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman, and only the doctor, in consultation with the patient, based upon the woman's particular circumstances, can make this decision."

This is a far more solid argument than the hapless prochoice Democrats were able to make earlier this week. Here's what the college is essentially saying: if it's legal for a woman to have an abortion, then lawmakers have no right dictating what particular type abortion she must have -- especially since intact D&X may be safter than the alternative.

Hersh, rampaging again. In case you haven't heard yet, Seymour Hersh is back in the New Yorker this week with a long, horrifying piece on the intelligence failures of the Bush White House -- failures that stemmed directly from its keen desire to believe what it wanted to believe regarding Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

Dick Cheney comes off particularly badly. And wait till you read one of the leading theories as to who forged those documents purporting to show that Iraq had sought to obtain yellowcake uranium in Niger.

New in this week's Phoenix. The Atlantic Monthly -- if not its heartbroken staff -- has recovered from the death of editor Michael Kelly. But questions about its future remain.

Also, a novel idea for improving local TV news: quality!

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Media Log goes conservative! I'll try to avoid going off on any Gregg Easterbrook-style benders. But three stories in the news this morning put me on the "wrong" side, and as we all know, three makes a trend.

1. Good for Jeb Bush. Florida's governor reacted promptly to legislation authorizing him to order that Terry Schiavo be fed. Here's the Miami Herald story; but the New York Times actually goes deeper, reporting on concerns that Bush and the Florida legislature have interfered with the separation of powers by superseding a court order.

So what? This is a nasty, nasty case. Schiavo, though profoundly brain-damaged, is not in a coma and not on life support. Her husband claims she would want to die under her current circumstances, but he has no proof. Moreover, her parents desperately want her to live.

I'm not sure this breaks down cleanly on liberal-conservative lines, but for the most part it appears that the conservatives are with Bush and the liberals are not. Well, here's one liberal who's with Bush.

2. A messy abortion-rights debate. Congress yesterday finished work on legislation to ban a late-term abortion procedure that opponents call "partial birth" abortion. Click here for the New York Times story.

There's no question that intact dilation and extraction, as the procedure is more accurately known, is gruesome. The real question is one to which I have no answer: is it true, as opponents claim, that it is never medically necessary for a physician to resort to this procedure, even to protect the life or health of the patient? If they're right, I'm for a ban; if they're wrong, then I'm not. Analyses I've seen over the years tend to depend on the political orientation of those who are offering them.

But it strikes me as absurd and offensive for liberals to stake their reputations on a full-throated defense of this particular type of abortion. Senator Tom Harkin went way overboard yesterday, saying, "Congress has turned its back on America's women, their right to privacy, the right to choose. America's women are now second-class citizens."

Those who voted against the ban, like Harkin and Senator Barbara Boxer, probably did the right thing. But there are enough moral qualms around this issue that they ought to be lowering the rhetoric.

3. "Givers and takers." Governor Mitt Romney yesterday distanced himself from remarks by his chief budget aide, Eric Kriss, that the state's money woes are being exacerbated by the presence of too many "takers" and not enough "givers."

I didn't hear Kriss give his speech, so the nuances and full context are not available to me. But according to an account in this morning's Boston Globe, it seems that Kriss's remarks were entirely analytical and, if he's right, go to the heart of a real problem.

Here are three key paragraphs from the Globe story about Kriss's remarks, which he made at a meeting of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce:

"Of course, all of us receive some benefits -- like the roads and rails that brought us all here this morning. But we all know that some -- most in this room probably -- are net contributors, while others are net beneficiaries. The ratio between givers and takers turns out to be a critical variable of government," said Kriss, who was not available yesterday to elaborate on his remarks.

"What ratio is sustainable?" Kriss asked. He noted that when President Lyndon Johnson launched his Great Society programs in the 1960s, the "sustainable" ratio of givers to takers was thought to be 9 to 1 -- that is, 90 percent of the population should pay taxes to help the bottom 10 percent rise up by receiving government services.

"Forty years later, our ratio at the state level is more like 3 to 1 -- 75 percent net contributors and 25 percent net recipients -- and edging towards 2 to 1," Kriss said, adding later: "And the trends are unsettling."

Why would Democratic legislators and social-services advocates be "enraged" by these observations, as the Globe reports? Why would Romney think he needed to disavow them in any way? Kriss identified a real problem -- the carnage that results when there are not enough people paying taxes and too many people receiving benefits that are paid for through taxes.

The only way such a problem can be solved is through growth -- a healthier economy and more jobs. That's what liberals ought to be saying.

John Dennis's non-apology apology. Why did WEEI Radio (AM 850) talk-show host John Dennis even apologize? He now claims he never said what he said.

He and co-host Gerry Callahan were back on the air yesterday, and the Globe quotes Dennis as saying in part: "There is my least favorite item of all -- that is, the constant and inaccurate repeating of the phrase that John Dennis compared black schoolchildren to a gorilla. I did no such thing. That reference makes me sick to my stomach."

He did "no such thing"? Roll the tape, one more time. Remember, Dennis was talking about Little Joe, the gorilla who had escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo.

Callahan: "They caught him at a bus stop, right -- he was like waiting to catch a bus out of town."

Dennis: "Yeah, yeah -- he's a Metco gorilla."

Callahan: "Heading out to Lexington."

Dennis: "Exactly."

If Dennis doesn't understand that he was comparing black schoolchildren to gorillas, well, everyone else does.

Meanwhile, Herald columnist Howard Bryant today has a fine, tough piece (subscription required) on the hypocrisy of Callahan, who wrote a Herald column a few days ago calling for Grady Little to be fired, but who, personally, served just a two-week suspension for pouring gasoline on Dennis's racist explosion. Maybe two weeks is sufficient -- but only if they change their race-baiting, gay-hating, women-mocking ways. Dennis's remarks, sadly, suggest that they still don't have a clue

Bryant's closing remarks: "As a former Metco gorilla myself, I thank you, guys. To paraphrase your old friend Louise Day Hicks, we know where you stand." (Bryant apparently wrote these words before news of Hicks's death became public.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

The irony of foolishness (or the foolishness of irony). Gregg Easterbrook has a piece in the Wall Street Journal today on Garrett Hardin, a philosopher who -- along with his wife -- committed suicide last month.

The op-ed is unremarkable until you get near the end, where Easterbrook writes: "And Hardin's ability to be wise, caring and accomplished, yet to say foolish things, reminds us all of our humanity."

Mickey Kaus has the best explanation for Easterbrook's own foolishness.

Gregg Easterbrook's Jewish problem. I've been watching Gregg Easterbrook's ongoing implosion with some distress over the past few days. This is one of those weird, inexplicable stories that is difficult to comment on intelligently.

Easterbrook, if you don't know, is a journalist -- a very good one -- who recently began writing a blog on the New Republic website, and who almost immediately used it to blast Jewish film executives such as Harvey Weinstein and Michael Eisner for producing violent films such as Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. Here's the offending paragraph:

Set aside what it says about Hollywood that today even Disney thinks what the public needs is ever-more-graphic depictions of killing the innocent as cool amusement. Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice. But history is hardly the only concern. Films made in Hollywood are now shown all over the world, to audiences that may not understand the dialogue or even look at the subtitles, but can't possibly miss the message -- now Disney's message -- that hearing the screams of the innocent is a really fun way to express yourself.

It's hard to figure out exactly what point Easterbrook is trying to make, but his item reeks with the language of those who loathe money-grubbing Jews. There's nothing in Easterbrook's background to suggest that he's an anti-Semite, but he clearly has some unhealthy thoughts rattling around his head that find expression when he's not being edited.

Here is Easterbrook's original item; here is his apology, which to my mind makes it worse by wallowing in self-pity; and here is an apology from TNR's editors, who observe, "The spectacle of this magazine defending itself against the charge of anti-Semitism would be funny if it were not so sad."

Because of his outburst, Easterbrook has lost a gig writing about sports for Josh Marshall thinks it's because ESPN is owned by Michael Eisner's Disney, but I doubt it. Rather, ESPN, having just dumped Rush Limbaugh for making remarks more defensible than Easterbrook's, couldn't afford to be seen coddling a liberal -- or, at least, someone we had all thought was a liberal.

Jack Shafer has a smart take on all this in Slate, although he seems not to know that Easterbrook is so obsessed with movie violence that, a few years ago, TNR film critic Stanley Kauffmann felt obliged to devote an entire column to an earlier Easterbrook screed against Natural Born Killers.

So this is not a new subject for Easterbrook. The only new twist is his dark mutterings about Jewish businessmen. This is ugly and unexpected, and I suspect he's not done having to explain himself.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Gordon Edes has questions. Media Log has answers! The Boston Globe's Red Sox beat reporter was in full defend-Grady mode on Sunday. Trouble is, he only served to underscore the idiocy of Grady Little's non-decision to bring Pedro Martínez back out for the eighth, and to leave him in while the Yankees took batting practice.

So let's roll the tape.

EDES: "Would people be as inclined to fire Little today if the Sox had been blown out in Game 7, if Pedro Martínez had been knocked out of the box in the first inning instead of the eighth?"

MEDIA LOG: Of course not! You don't get fired for losing a game. You should get fired for gift-wrapping it and handing it to the opposition, which is what Little did last Thursday.

EDES: "What if Jorge Posada's broken-bat popup is caught by Todd Walker on the infield dirt instead of falling in shallow center field? Does Little get fired then?"

MEDIA LOG: Nope. Luck plays a role. However, most fans, after getting over their heart palpitations, would still have thanked their stars that the Sox had escaped from Little's incompetence.

EDES: "What if Posada had gotten his game-tying hit off Alan Embree or Mike Timlin?"

MEDIA LOG: Then Little would have been following the plan! Yes, some would bitch -- especially since, as Edes points out, Posada was hitting only .191 against Martínez. But nearly all fans know that the Red Sox got as far as they did by bringing in Timlin and/or Embree in the eighth and a closer -- increasingly, Scott Williamson -- in the ninth.

Again, you don't get fired for losing. You get fired for stupidity. Martínez, at this stage of his career, is a seven-inning, 100-pitch guy. He was clearly running out of gas in the seventh. Little sycophants who say otherwise are lying out of loyalty.

EDES: "What if Little had played it by the book in the eighth, and Embree and Timlin and Williamson can't hold the lead?"

MEDIA LOG: See previous answer.

EDES: "Call me a Little apologist."


Grady Little seems like a pretty decent guy. The most difficult job of the modern manager is to get his overpaid charges to play hard, and Little has done a good job of that.

But the Red Sox can't possibly bring him back after he -- all by himself -- blew the biggest game since the 1986 World Series. One senses that Larry Lucchino understands: he wouldn't be as reticent with the Globe's Dan Shaughnessy today if Little were staying.

The difference between Clinton and Schwarzenegger. Globe columnist Cathy Young today blasts Bill Clinton defenders for hypocrisy in their full-throated denunciations of Arnold Schwarzenegger's can't-keep-his-hands-to-himself style of interacting with women.

I'm not even going to try to parse whose behavior was worse. You could say that Clinton's philandering, unlike Arnold's groping, was consensual, but that would overlook Juanita Broaddrick, whose unprovable claim that Clinton had raped her in the late 1970s strikes me as at least passing the threshold of credibility.

So -- Broaddrick aside, since one's view of Clinton depends on how you view her story -- let's just agree that both men have behaved in a piggish manner toward women. "Double standard," as Young calls it?

No. With a few exceptions, Clinton's conduct was roundly, heatedly condemned by Democrats as well as Republicans when the Monica Lewinsky matter became public knowledge in early 1998.

The difference -- which eludes Young entirely -- is that the allegations about Clinton's sex life were fueled by a $50 million government investigation, which led to his impeachment and near-removal from office. Independent counsel Ken Starr's official abuse of his powers was one of the factors that led to the law that created his office being repealed.

In Schwarzenegger's case, the allegations were driven only by a few newspaper stories. He won the election anyway. And the groping and other humiliations he visited upon women are already fading into the woodwork.

If Young would really like to eliminate the double standard, perhaps she could push for California attorney general Bill Lockyer to spend a few million taxpayer dollars investigating Schwarzenegger's peccadilloes.

Tune in tonight. I'll be on Greater Boston this evening talking about Little People. (WGBH-TV; 7 p.m. on Channel 2, midnight on Channel 44.)

Saturday, October 18, 2003

A clear signal from the first President Bush. The most fascinating column you'll read all weekend is this one in the Boston Globe, by veteran journalist Georgie Anne Geyer, on George W. Bush's break with his father on one issue after another.

Bush Sr. will soon present his Award for Excellence in Public Service to Ted Kennedy in a ceremony at -- get this -- Texas A&M, right in George W.'s backyard.

Kennedy, of course, has had a few things to say about the younger Bush's foreign policy in recent days. Yet Bush Sr. doesn't seem to be the least bit offended.

Writes Geyer:

Now it's all out. Father Bush has done it in his own preferred nuanced way -- the way Establishment gentlemen operate -- but he has revealed the depth of his disagreement with his impetuously uninformed son.

It's going to be hard for Karl Rove and company to dismiss this as the ravings of the anti-Bush left. Could make family get-togethers at Kennebunkport mighty uncomfortable.

Friday, October 17, 2003

The Fox Misinformation Channel. I'm late to this, but it's too amusing -- and relevant -- to let it pass by.

According to a University of Maryland study of seven nationwide polls, those who rely on the Fox News Channel as their primary source of information are the most likely to believe at least one important misperception about the war in Iraq.

The misperceptions:

  • That weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. (Sorry, David Kay fans -- precursors, abandoned trailers, twigs, and seeds don't count.)
  • That evidence has been found of a link between Saddam Hussein's regime and Al Qaeda. (Even George W. Bush had to correct Dick Cheney on this one.)
  • That world opinion favored the US going to war with Iraq. (It's hard to believe that anyone believes that.)

According to the study, 80 percent of Fox viewers believed one or more of those untruths; between 55 percent and 71 percent of those who relied on CNN or one of the Big Three broadcast networks were similarly misinformed; and only 47 percent who rely mainly on print, and 23 percent who rely on NPR and/or PBS, shared those misperceptions.

Here's a story on the study in the Washington Post by Harold Meyerson. (Guess he's not at the American Prospect anymore.) You can read the study itself here.

Turning on Romney. Globe columnists Scot Lehigh, who is certainly not hostile to Governor Mitt Romney, and Brian McGrory, who could be considered a fan, have both had it up to here with Romney's transparent political posturing.

Specifically, they're disgusted with Romney's absurd bid to name the depressed Central Artery the Liberty Tunnel rather than honor the late Tip O'Neill.

Turning on Grady. There is nothing I can add to what has already been said about last night's horror show.

The early nomination for the smart-commentary award goes to Dale Arnold and Bob Neumeier on WEEI Radio (AM 850) this morning. (Caveat: others may have said this before them, but the fill-ins on Dennis & Callahan seemed mainly interested in constructing a gallows for hapless manager Grady Little.)

Arnold and Neumeier argued that from a pure management point of view, Little probably deserves to be rehired because of what he's accomplished during his first two seasons, and because his players not only like him, they play hard for him.

But -- and this is the but on which everything turns -- they added that, logic aside, Little can't be rehired. The fans will never stand for it. They're right. After a decent interval (say, until right after the World Series), Little will be gone.

And let me add my voice to those of millions of other Red Sox fans: Little's decision not to start the eighth with Mike Timlin was the single most bone-headed managerial move I have seen in 35 years of watching baseball games. My heart sank when I saw Pedro Martínez stroll back to the mound after his outstanding night's work was apparently over.

Of course, that blunder was only compounded by Little's refusal to get off his ass and rescue Martínez after he gave up a hit, then two, then three.

There was no Curse last night. Just sheer, unmitigated stupidity.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Mush from a wimp. Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman today derides herself and other liberals for showing too much sympathy for Rush Limbaugh, who admitted last week that he's addicted to prescription pain-killers. "This is the curse of liberal wimpathy," she writes.

Among the fellow wimps she identifies is Joe Conason, the author of Big Lies, who writes a column for the New York Observer and a weblog for Salon. Her evidence is this Conason sentence: "It's hard not to feel sorry for anyone whose suffering causes them to hustle narcotics."

I was surprised, because I'd recalled Conason's being pretty tough on Limbaugh. I looked it up, and I was right.

Not only did Conason quote from an e-mail suggesting Limbaugh's pill-popping might have caused his deafness, but Goodman took Conason's sentence out of context. Here's the context from Conason's October 3 blog entry (subscription required) -- written before Limbaugh had even come clean:

From what I've read, it seems that Limbaugh may have been overmedicating himself for pain. That's no excuse, as he would surely have said of any liberal caught doing likewise, but it's hard not to feel sorry for anyone whose suffering causes them to hustle narcotics. Perhaps he and his hard-hearted dittoheads might begin to understand addiction differently now.

Now that Rush has gone public, Conason is even more unstinting. Here's a choice bit from his column in this week's Observer:

So whatever punishment Mr. Limbaugh must endure will be handed down in the court of public opinion. He enjoys the support of millions of character witnesses, including prominent fellow hypocrites such as his close friends William Bennett and Newt Gingrich. But they would all be hard-pressed to describe the mighty radio mouth as someone who has earned great sympathy. This is, after all, a man who earned millions by lampooning the plight of AIDS victims, spreading rumors that implicated Hillary Clinton in murder and Bill Clinton in cocaine abuse, and mocking the physical appearance of their young child. His brilliant career was founded on daily "entertainment" of this quality.

This casts Conason's "liberal wimpathy" in a rather different light, doesn't it?

New in this week's Phoenix. I talk with Peter Dinklage, the star of The Station Agent. Dinklage's portrayal of the lonely railroad enthusiast Finbar McBride may be the most important role a dwarf actor has ever had.

Also, the last days of Al Giordano's Narco News Bulletin.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Could the sale of the Globe have been prevented? That sobbing sound you hear is from William and Benjamin Taylor, the last two publishers from the Boston Globe's former ruling family, who this week must be asking themselves, "Why didn't we think of that?"

Freedom Communications, parent company of the Orange County Register, has found a way to keep the paper within the Hoiles family and simultaneously pay off what the New York Times describes as "dissident family members."

Freedom owns 28 daily newspapers and eight TV stations, which these days qualifies as small potatoes. So this is a huge victory for independent media.

Among the rejected suitors are Gannett and MediaNews, whose chief executive, Dean Singleton, is pissed, according to both the Times and this report in the Wall Street Journal.

I have no idea whether the Taylors could have pulled off a deal like this rather than selling the Globe to the New York Times Company for $1.1 billion in 1993. The times and circumstances were different, and perhaps there was no way of preventing the sell-off.

But even though the Times Company has been a reasonably good steward of the Globe (from a reader's perspective; certainly many employees feel differently), the psychological impact continues to loom large.

Boston today is largely a franchise town, as Globe columnists such as Joan Vennochi bitterly lament from time to time. Nothing has contributed to that status more than the transfer of New England's dominant media organization to out-of-town ownership.

We interrupt this home run to bring you another commercial. I missed Manny Ramirez's home run yesterday -- some of us have to work, you know -- but it looks like Fox's commercials-up-to-the-last-possible-second policy claimed a victim: the viewers.

The Boston Herald has the story.

Please come to Amherst. I'll be reading from my book, Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes, tomorrow from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the UMass Amherst Campus Center, Room 904-08.

If you're going to be in the neighborhood, come on down.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Loyalty oafs. It hasn't gotten much attention -- the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and Long Island's Newsday all ran this AP story inside -- but Common Cause has issued a devastating report on influence-peddling within the Bush White House.

Titled "Prospecting for Access: How the Bush Pioneers Shaped Public Policy," the report meticulously documents favors granted to the so-called Pioneers -- Bush contributors who gave $100,000 or more in his 2000 campaign.

The press release is here (ignore the typo that says "2002"); the full report, in PDF format, is here.

The report takes the form of a Pioneer-by-Pioneer look at contributions made and goodies received.

To take a random example, consider James H. "Buck" Harless, the founder and chairman of International Industries, in Gilbert, West Virginia. Harless raised and contributed at least $355,000 for Bush's campaign, for the Florida-recount effort, and for the Bush-Cheney inauguration.

So what did old Buck get for his generosity? Here's what the report says:

The Bush administration retracted a campaign pledge to require power plants that use coal to sharply cut carbon dioxide emissions, rejected U.S. endorsement of an international agreement to curb global warming, weakened federal clean water regulations related to coal mining and proposed investing substantial federal dollars in "clean coal" technology.

The cost: "$2 billion over ten years in federal subsidies to encourage clean coal technology; degradation of air and water quality."

Of course, the White House might have been inclined to do these things anyway. But that makes Common Cause's findings no less repulsive.

Overall, the report is a litany of regulations loosened or abolished, Colombian pipelines protected at taxpayer expense, and secret meetings with Vice-President Dick Cheney held.

It should have gotten a lot more attention. Perhaps it will in the days ahead.

So, David, why do you think Zimmer apologized? No, Pedro Martinez certainly doesn't deserve a good-conduct medal for his disgraceful antics in Saturday's playoff game.

But he did not "grab a 72-year-old man by the head and toss him to the ground," which is New York Times columnist David Brooks's alternate-universe description of the Martinez-Don Zimmer confrontation.

Besides, doesn't Brooks realize that the New York Times Company is a part-owner of the Red Sox, and that its editorial page last week actually called for a Sox victory over the Yankees?

Brooks needs to get with the program.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Not even a mini-scandal, as it turns out. Media Log reader K.W. points me to this InstaPundit item. Apparently the identical letters started with one soldier who asked his buddies to sign it.

InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds writes that "it seems that the letter isn't bogus after all." Uh, well, not so fast. When a bunch of newspapers receive a form letter that's not labeled as such, purporting to be from their hometown soldier when it really isn't, that's still pretty bogus.

But it does seem that there's no organized campaign behind this.

By the way, Reynolds pleads guilty to reading-comprehension problems. That's what led me astray, too.

This week's scandal. It will be interesting to see how far up this one goes.

The Gannett News Service reports that newspapers around the country have been receiving identical -- and apparently fake -- letters from US soldiers stationed in Iraq. The message: the reconstruction is going great, Iraq is returning to normal, and God bless the USA.

Here's a report from USA Today.

Thanks to Michael Goldman for passing along word of this sleazy campaign to demonstrate fake support for George W. Bush.

It's hard to muster much outrage -- this is too pathetically transparent for that.

Pox on Sox. While you were watching all hell break loose at Fenway on Saturday, I was huddled around a radio with about a half-dozen other fathers at a Boy Scout camping trip. The signal kept fading in and out. So you know more than I do.

What strikes me, though are two things:

  • The "Cowboy Up" crapola aside, this is a distinctly unlovable team. Yes, of course I'm glad the Sox are doing well, but these are not the Sox of '67, '75, or '86. There are too many crybabies and bullies.
  • Pedro Martinez seems to be one of those athletes whose very intensity makes him a far better teammate when he's doing well than when he's not. He just can't stop the frustration from boiling over when things are going against him. He's got to grow up, especially as he looks at the future. He may have some good years ahead of him, but his days as the dominant pitcher in baseball are almost certainly over.

There's been a lot of smart commentary in both dailies. One of my favorites was Michael Gee's column (sub. req.) in Sunday's Herald. His conclusion:

Winning is always the best PR. Ask Gov. Schwarzenegger. But the Sox didn't win. In the process of losing, they struck millions of neutral observers as childish boors.

Way to go, Pedro. That's quite an accomplishment, making the Yankees America's sentimental favorite.

Let judges judge. Today's Globe has a must-read column by Judge Mark Coven on the folly of mandatory minimum sentences for drunk drivers.

Coven's unassailable logic could be extended to mandatory sentences in general.

Friday, October 10, 2003

The end of Narco News. Today is a sad day for independent media. The Narco News Bulletin, produced by my former Phoenix colleague Al Giordano, will soon be no more.

For the past three and a half years, Narco News has offered an idiosyncratic, comprehensive look at the misguided US "war on drugs," told from a Latin American perspective. It's an issue that's not on all that many radars -- indeed, it's not on mine as much as it should be. But I always knew that Al and his "authentic journalists" were out there telling the truth.

Giordano writes:

It's been quite a ride. In these 1,275 days that shook América, we've witnessed, reported, translated, and participated in the growth of a visible drug legalization movement in Latin America where there previously was none. We've blown the whistle on attempted coups d'etat in Venezuela. We've walked side by side with, and reported from the fronts of, the growing social and indigenous movements that, from Argentina, to Bolivia, to Brazil, to Ecuador, to México, to Perú, to Venezuela, and elsewhere, have reawakened Simón Bolívar's dream of a Latin America united against impositions from above.

In December 2001, Giordano and Narco News won a precedent-setting First Amendment case when a New York judge threw out a libel suit brought by the head of Banamex, a powerful Mexican bank. Here is a piece I wrote on Giordano's victory; and here's an earlier piece that discusses the lawsuit in detail.

Giordano will continue to write his weblog, Big, Left, Outside, "Al Giordano's countercoup for authentic journalism, democracy and a free press."

Narco News will be missed, but I suspect Giordano will continue to be heard from, soon and often.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

More on Der Gropenfuhrer. Blogger Elisabeth Riba reports that I put up the wrong link to my Phoenix piece on Arnold Schwarzenegger and the LA Times. Here's the right one.

And here is Riba's take on why the tabloids went easy on Schwarzenegger during the recall campaign. It's not personal -- it's business!

That's Mister Ed to you, pal. The Globe Spotlight Team today has one of those long packages on an obscure topic that you wouldn't think you'd much care about: financial abuses at private foundations.

This one, though, is pretty sprightly, mainly because the paper has found some rather colorful characters with their hands in the till.

My favorite is Edward Lake, whose story is told in a sidebar by Francie Latour. A retired $20,000-a-year government clerk, Lake, through a chance encounter some six decades ago, lucked into serving on the Florik Charitable Trust, paying himself -- at most recent count -- $230,000 a year to look at the mail.

Latour's kicker:

"A lot of people thought I couldn't do this, see? I don't appear to be slick enough," Lake said. "But I fooled them. I fooled them all. When they say Mr. Lake, that means Mr. Lake. Nobody calls me Ed."

Urine trouble. Both the Globe and the Herald give front-page treatment to yesterday's regional drug summit at Faneuil Hall.

The Herald's Thomas Caywood runs hard with the most disturbing angle: White House drug czar John Walter's outrageous proposal for random school drug testing.

As the ACLU's Nancy Murray says, "It's just putting the emphasis in the wrong place. We don't need our schools to be more like prisons."

New in this week's Phoenix. The Wilson affair is potentially an enormous scandal that could endanger lives and national security. Will the media keep the heat on -- or just pass it off as a typical Washington kerfuffle?

California voters show the LA Times that they don't care about Governor-elect (imagine that!) Arnold Schwarzenegger's groping and humiliation of women.

And the Phoenix editorial calls on WEEI Radio to declare that Dennis & Callahan has completed its long-running engagement.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Peter Meade, class act. Apparently it took an old pro from a different, better era of talk radio finally to knock some sense into the management at WEEI Radio (AM 850).

Both the Globe and the Herald report today that the station suspended John Dennis and Gerry Callahan for two weeks without pay on the same day that Peter Meade, the executive vice-president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, was yanking $27,000 worth of advertising off the air.

If you've just tuned in, this all arose last week, when the morning-drive-time hosts yukked it up over Little Joe, the gorilla who escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo.

Observing that Joe had hung out for a while at a bus stop, Dennis referred to him as "a Metco gorilla"; Callahan chimed in that he was "heading out to Lexington."

Though both papers mention Meade's action, neither points out that Meade was a talk-show host at WBZ Radio (AM 1030) during the 1980s. (He continues to do political analysis for the station from time to time.)

A moderate liberal, Meade hosted a show that directly preceded conservative David Brudnoy's. More often than not, they would kick issues around together during the crossover. It was a model of enlightened, civil talk radio of the sort that's almost impossible to find these days.

As for Dennis and Callahan, two weeks sounds about right -- provided the station is serious about changing its gay-bashing, misogynistic, and (in at least this one instance) racist tone.

Then again, we're living in an era when the likes of Michael Savage trash gays and lesbians on the air, and when even a reasonably intelligent host like Jay Severin refers to illegal Latino immigrants as "wetbacks" and Muslims as "towelheads."

No doubt that Dennis and Callahan crossed way, way over the line. But the line itself needs some heavy-duty recalibrating.

Monday, October 06, 2003

It's not what's in his heart, it's what comes tumbling out of his mouth. The Globe's Adrian Walker has a smart column this morning on suspended WEEI Radio (AM 850) host John Dennis.

Dennis wants us to know that he's not a racist. Well, I've never met the guy, and have no idea whether he's a racist. But what he said was racist, and that's the issue.

Cohost Gerry Callahan is on the air today, despite the revelation on WGBH-TV's Greater Boston on Friday that Callahan was in on the so-called joke.

Meanwhile, 'EEI hasn't changed the Dennis & Callahan website since this all began. The motto: "Home of Repeat Offenders." Nice.

Many zeroes. I've always enjoyed Michael Wolff's media column in New York magazine.

But I doubt I'll ever be able to read it again without remembering that Wolff is making $450,000 a year.

Call and response. Globe ombudsman Christine Chinlund has a meaty analysis of whether the paper gave former State Senate president Tom Birmingham a fair chance of responding to charges that he'd blown his budget -- thus putting his successor, Bob Travaglini, in an awkward position.

Chinlund rarely lets her colleagues have it, but in this case her conclusion is clear: what Birmingham had to say would have cast the story in a different light; and though he had been difficult about making himself available, in the end, reporter Raphael Lewis didn't try hard enough.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Okay, lock Rush up and throw away the key. I now believe that the Limbaugh quote I cited on Thursday may have been the only sane thing he ever said about the war on drugs.

Here's a 1995 quote from Limbaugh dug up by Newsday columnist Ellis Henican:

Let's all admit something. There's nothing good about drug use. We know it. It destroys individuals. It destroys families. Drug use destroys societies. Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country. And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs. And the laws are good because we know what happens to people in societies and neighborhoods which become consumed by them. And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up.

Henican's got lots of other good stuff, too, so read the whole thing.

Here's a teaser from the National Enquirer, which broke the story. Unfortunately, you'll have to buy it to read the article. Just find a store where they don't know you.

Callahan, too. The Boston Herald's got a problem with one of its own. The paper deals with it straightforwardly today.

Dean Johnson reports that the alleged monologue by WEEI Radio (AM 850) blabber John Dennis about gorillas and black schoolchildren was actually a dialogue involving Dennis and his cohost, Herald columnist Gerry Callahan.

For the past few days, everyone (including me) has been reporting that Dennis -- commenting on Little Joe, the gorilla who escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo -- had said that he was "probably a Metco gorilla waiting for a bus to take him to Lexington."

But Greater Boston, the public-affairs program of WGBH-TV (Channel 2), obtained an audio tape, and it turns out that it actually went like this:

Callahan: "They caught him at a bus stop, right -- he was like waiting to catch a bus out of town."

Dennis: "Yeah, yeah -- he's a Metco gorilla."

Callahan: "Heading out to Lexington."

Dennis: "Exactly."

(Disclosure: I was a panelist on Greater Boston yesterday, and was on the set when the tape was played.)

Meanwhile, pressure continues to build for Dennis either to quit or be fired by WEEI. I'm not going to call on Dennis specifically to go. The problem is the genre of idiotic, racist, homophobic locker-room sports-guy talk more than it is any one individual.

But it sounds like, during a call to WEEI yesterday in the midst of his two-day suspension, Dennis said all the right things, admitting that not only did he say something "stupid," but that he's got "sensitivity issues" to deal with as well.

And now WEEI (and the Herald) has to decide what, if anything, to do about Callahan, too.

Today's Globe, by the way, buries the Callahan revelation in a long piece about Boston city councilor Jim Kelly's refusal to call for Dennis's firing, and fails to credit Greater Boston's exclusive.

Arnold, not getting it

"It's too bad nobody came up to me before and sat down and said I still feel hurt about what you said," he said Friday, "and I could have apologized right then and there. I never got the chance."

-- Arnold Schwarzenegger, quoted in the New York Times today

The waitress said she told Schwarzenegger at the time: "If you're ever some place and some woman throws hot coffee on your head, it will be me." He laughed, she said.

"He thought it was the funniest thing. And then the whole table laughed because, if Arnold laughed, the whole table laughed."

-- Los Angeles Times, October 2 (The woman said Schwarzenegger had told her, "I want you to go in the bathroom, stick your finger in your [vagina], and bring it out to me.")

Limbaugh: a hypocrite after all? I've gotten a number of critical comments regarding my Thursday item, in which I absolved Rush Limbaugh -- accused of having a serious pill problem -- of the charge of hypocrisy when it comes to the war on drugs.

Several Media Log readers say the one quote I found is more than counterbalanced by numerous other comments the Formerly Rotund One has made over the years.

They may have a point. On Friday, Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz noted that, in 1999, Limbaugh said that "by legalizing drugs, all you're going to do is define further deviancy downward."

Here's what Limbaugh said about the drug story on his radio show yesterday:

Now, here's the nub of it at the moment. The story in Florida is -- it really is an emerging situation. I watch what's being reported on television and it changes from morning to morning, hour to hour, day to day. I don't know yet what I'm dealing with there, folks.

I really don't know the full scope of what I am dealing with. And when I get all the facts, when I get all the details of this, rest assured that I will discuss this with you and tell you how it is, tell you everything there is, maybe more than you want to know about this. You can believe me and trust me on that. I don't want to answer any questions about it now, as I say, until I know exactly what I'm dealing with, and at that point I will fill you all in.

Pretty weird, huh? To say that it's not exactly a denial is almost beside the point.

Friday, October 03, 2003

More on the WEEI story. Gorillagate is about to get bigger. Watch Greater Boston today at 7 p.m. on WGBH-TV (Channel 2).

If you've seen one black columnist named Howard ... If you take a look at the main sports website of the Boston Herald right now, you'll see a hype that reads "Manly: No bash by the Bay."

The column, in fact, is by Howard Bryant. Both Bryant and Manly are African-American.

Media Log reader M.L. tells me this is the second time this has happened recently. No, it's not racism. But it does make you wonder whether someone at One Herald Square really does think they all look alike.

Whoever that someone is ... he or she needs to be more careful.

John Dennis's simian stupidity. Yesterday I described John Dennis as the luckiest man in the media (second item): he made a grotesquely racist remark comparing gorillas to black school kids, and he got away with having to issue nothing more than an apology.

Today, he's a little less lucky. The management of WEEI Radio (AM 850), under pressure from the city council and the community, suspended Dennis for two days. Will that be enough? Stay tuned.

This is really a mind-blowing media scandal. It's hard to imagine what the thought process was that led Dennis to blurt out that Little Joe, the gorilla who briefly escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo, was "probably a Metco gorilla waiting for a bus to take him to Lexington." Yes, Dennis has apologized, but why did it even enter his head in the first place?

Dennis -- a former sports anchor on Channel 7 -- is one-half of the Dennis & Callahan morning team, which specializes in lowbrow and offensive humor. I'm not a frequent listener, but I'm familiar enough with it. Their speciality is crude jokes about gays and lesbians. Until now, I wasn't aware of their having indulged in racism, but maybe I just haven't been listening at the right time.

Callahan, a columnist for the Boston Herald, comes across like a guy totally within his element -- that element being cruel locker-room humor for dumbass white boys. Dennis is more like the nerdy kid who can't believe he's being allowed to hang out with the jocks.

Loathsome as Callahan's act can be, I suspect his instincts are such that he would never make this kind of mistake. Dennis, by contrast, comes across as way, way too eager to ingratiate himself with his new buddies.

What should happen next? I don't know. More than anything, WEEI management should stop acting like it wants to get away with as little as possible -- an apology here, a two-day suspension there, some public-service announcements for Metco -- and deal with this in a serious and public way.

A Boston Globe editorial today argues that Dennis got off "far too lightly." I can't disagree with that.

Meanwhile, over at the Herald, it looks like it's going to be columnists Howard Manly and Callahan, in the parking lot, right after work: Manly today (sub. req.) refers to Callahan as Dennis's "reactionary sidekick."

This isn't over. Nor should it be.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Rush on drugs. The media world is going wild today over a report in the New York Daily News that "Rush Limbaugh is being investigated for allegedly buying thousands of addictive painkillers from a black-market drug ring."

What would appear to be delicious about this scandal is that Limbaugh is a big-time conservative who's hung out for years with the just-say-no crowd. What could be better than learning that the "moralizing motormouth" (the News's phrase) has a thing for Oxycontin, a/k/a "hillbilly heroin"?

Okay, had your moment of schadenfreude? Me too. Now, calm down. It appears that Limbaugh may not be such a hypocrite after all. For quite some time, Limbaugh has advocated an end to, or at least an easing of, drug prohibition.

Here's a transcript of some comments he made in 1998 on his radio show. An excerpt:

It seems to me that what is missing in the drug fight is legalization. If we want to go after drugs with the same fervor and intensity with which we go after cigarettes, let's legalize drugs. Legalize the manufacture of drugs. License the Cali Cartel. Make them taxpayers and then sue them. Sue them left and right and then get control of the price and generate tax revenue from it. Raise the price sky high and fund all sorts of other wonderful social programs.

I'm no Limbaugh fan, and I'm glad that he quit ESPN under pressure yesterday after making racially insensitive remarks about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.

But though Limbaugh may indeed have a substance-abuse problem, at least he's got his head screwed on straight about society and drugs.

Under the sheets with John Dennis. The luckiest man in media today is John Dennis, co-host of the execrable Dennis & Callahan show on WEEI Radio (AM 850).

According to this item in the Boston Globe (scroll down a bit), Dennis has apologized for comparing escaped gorilla Little Joe to black Metco students.

Dennis reportedly said that the gorilla, who hung out for a while at a bus stop before being recaptured, was "probably a Metco gorilla waiting for a bus to take him to Lexington."

Obviously what Dennis said was far worse than the remarks that got Limbaugh into trouble at ESPN. You could also make a case that Dennis's little joke was worse than the anti-Palestinian diatribe that got John "Ozone" Osterlind fired from WRKO Radio (AM 680) in August.

Of course, Limbaugh is a ratings monster in political radio who was out of his element doing sports on TV, and Osterlind was not considered vital to the future of WRKO.

Dennis, by contrast, is one-half of a hit show. It just demonstrates that if you've got the numbers, you can get away with just about anything.

Dylan on the Man in Black. Bob Dylan has posted a wonderful tribute to Johnny Cash. (Thanks to P.C. for the link.)

Understanding dyslexia. I worked with the Boston Globe's Gareth Cook from 1996 through '98, when he was the Phoenix news editor. I never would have guessed that he's got dyslexia -- certainly not from the blistering edits he sent back to me.

Anyway, Cook has written a terrific column about his lifelong struggle with this learning disability. It should be a must-read for teachers and parents.

New in this week's Phoenix. Former Republican political operative Virginia Buckingham settles in at the Boston Herald; some thoughts on the death and life of the Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said; and things are looking up for Democratic political consultant Michael Goldman, recovering from a serious leg infection.

Also, Herald employees are offered a buyout, but no one can answer the question everyone's asking: Can layoffs be avoided?