Monday, May 31, 2004

IF YOU BROADCAST, THEY WILL LISTEN. Chaos and a lack of money aside, Air America Radio is coming along, reports Jacques Steinberg in today's New York Times. Steinberg writes:

Despite the intrigue concerning its management - and the abrupt pulling of its programming last month from stations in Chicago and Los Angeles, in a contract dispute - there are early indications that, where it can be heard, Air America is actually drawing listeners. WLIB-AM in New York City, one of 13 stations that carry at least part of Air America's 16 hours of original programming each day, even appears to be holding its own with WABC-AM, the New York City station and talk radio powerhouse that is Mr. Limbaugh's flagship.

For example, among listeners from 25 and 54, whom advertisers covet, the network estimates it drew an average listener share (roughly a percentage of listeners) of 3.4 on WLIB in April, from 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays, according to the company's extrapolation of figures provided by Arbitron for the three months ended in April. (Arbitron, which does not provide ratings in monthly increments, said the network's methodology appeared sound, although such figures were too raw to translate to numbers of listeners.)

By contrast, according to Air America's figures, WABC-AM drew an average share of 3.2 during the same period in April for the same age group. That time period includes the three hours in which Mr. Limbaugh was pitted head to head against Mr. Franken.

That's a good base to build on, but it would certainly help if Air America weren't so strapped for cash that Franken is currently working for free.

Last week, I did some extended checking-in for the first time since Air America's launch, listening in on the network's website. Morning Sedition is still pretty bad. The hour that I was listening was "highlighted" by an interview with an Iraq-war veteran who talked about mistakenly blowing away civilians at a checkpoint. It could have been powerful, but in the inexpert hands of the show's hosts it came off as callow. Unfiltered was so-so; Chuck D was interviewing some guy who is the youngest member of the legislature in New York's Nassau County. Zzzzz.

The O'Franken Factor, on the other hand, seemed greatly improved. Al Franken's understated humor was coming through much more clearly than I remember from before. His guest was conservative-pit-bull-turned-liberal-pit-bull David Brock, who apparently comes on regularly to talk about his new website,

Brock is currently campaigning to get Armed Forces Radio to drop Rush Limbaugh from its taxpayer-funded service, arguing that Limbaugh's tee-hee take on the horrors of Abu Ghraib is not only a direct contradiction of White House policy, but that it represents a danger to the troops as well.

Pretty good stuff. I just wish it wasn't such a pain in the ass to capture the stream so that I can listen to it in my car.

A NEW TYPE OF OUTSOURCING. Scott Allen reports in today's Boston Globe:

Harvard Medical School plans to break ground today on a branch in the Persian Gulf that will help oversee a massive "healthcare city" in the United Arab Emirates, the latest in a wave of US-Arab medical projects that was accelerated by the post-Sept. 11 restrictions on travel to the United States by the Middle East's elite.

This can't be good for the local economy.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

BUSH'S LIES EXPOSED. The Washington Post nails it in an editorial yesterday:

President Bush's persistence in describing the abuse of foreign prisoners as an isolated problem at one Iraqi prison is blatantly at odds with the facts seeping out from his administration. These include mounting reports of crimes at detention facilities across Iraq and Afghanistan and evidence that detention policies the president approved helped set the stage for torture and homicide. Yes, homicide: The most glaring omission from the president's account is that at least 37 people have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan - and that at least 10 of these cases are suspected criminal killings of detainees by U.S. interrogators or soldiers.

Let's return for a moment to Bush's speech of last Monday night:

Under the dictator, prisons like Abu Ghraib were symbols of death and torture. That same prison became a symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values.

Try as Bush might, he can't blame it all on Charles Graney and Lynndie England. We know too much already. We're going to know a lot more in the very near future.

CORRECTION OF THE WEEK. If not the month. From today's Boston Globe (not online yet):

Because of a reporting error, Dr. Arleigh Dygert Richardson III, former teacher at Lawrence Academy in Groton, was described in his obituary yesterday as favoring tacky pants with tweed jackets and Oxford shirts. Dr. Richardson favored khaki pants.

Friday, May 28, 2004

THE DIFFERENCE IS THAT THE CITIBANK DIRECTORS DON'T CONDONE RAPE. John Farrell has an excellent rant on Cardinal Bernard Law's soft Roman landing, although, as you will see, he takes a completely unfair shot at the board of Citibank.

KERRY SPEAKS. Tim Grieve has a longish, highly worthwhile Q&A with John Kerry in Salon today. Read the whole thing, but I especially liked how Kerry responded to Republican charges that he's a "flip-flopper":

Q: As you know, the Republican line on you is that you're a "flip-flopper." Do you think the White House really views you that way, or is this just an intellectually dishonest political exercise?

A: Of course it is. It's not only intellectually dishonest, it's shallow beyond belief. It's exactly what they said about Bill Clinton, it's exactly what they said about Al Gore, it's exactly what they said about John McCain. It is the standard operating approach of Republicans who have nothing to say for themselves, so all they do is try to brand somebody else.

Q: Well, it's not exactly what they did to McCain. Nobody's accused you of having an illegitimate love child.

A: Not yet. I'm waiting for those. That's probably August or September.

I'll tell you what. What's really so craven about it is that they pick something that they implement badly and screw up, like Iraq or No Child Left Behind or the Patriot Act. And when you point out that they screwed it up, they say that you're "flip-flopping."

But they, on the other hand, break a promise to have no deficit, break a promise not to invade Social Security, break a promise to fund No Child Left Behind, break a promise to introduce the four-pollutant bill and move forward on the environment, break a promise to deal with the real health issues and prescription drugs, break a promise of humility in American foreign policy. I mean, you start running down the list - I've never seen a grander array of flip-flops. This is the biggest "say one thing, do another" administration in modern history.

Q: So maybe when you voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq, you were agreeing to never raise any questions about how the president used the power he was given.

A: I didn't sign off on that. This is the biggest "my way or the highway" crowd we've ever had in Washington. They have no interest in legitimate governance. They have all the interest in power, favor, privilege, perks and reelection.

Caveat: it is true that Kerry has a maddening habit of nuancing things so finely that he can claim to hold numerous positions on many issues. But that's not the same thing as being a flip-flopper, and the Republicans know it. And it's amazing the way that Kerry's enemies will mischaracterize reality in order to shoe-horn it into that paradigm.

Yesterday Bob Somerby rightly whacked the Boston Herald for referring to Kerry's dalliance with not formally accepting the Democratic nomination in Boston - an idea driven wholly by a weird technicality in campaign-finance regulations, and which Kerry ultimately rejected - as a "flip-flop."

Today the Herald is back with a really stupid editorial (although not as stupid as another editorial, headlined - I'm not making this up - "How Dare Al Gore Disgrace This Nation") that concludes: "Ah, yes, another decisive moment from a man who is increasingly behaving like New England weather. You know, if you don't like it, just wait a minute, it'll change." In the print edition, the editorial is illustrated with a photo of Kerry as some sort of a two-faced monster.

HERALD BRAIN DRAIN CONTINUES. Veteran staff reporter Robin Washington is leaving to become editorial-page editor of the Duluth News Tribune. And recently promoted investigative editor Maggie Mulvihill has been named to a Nieman Fellowship.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

WELL, I WOULDN'T HAVE APOLOGIZED. Boston Globe editor Marty Baron tells the Washington Post that it's "regrettable" his paper ran a photo of Boston College students yawning during Tim Russert's commencement speech.

This Russert thing is getting completely out of hand.

VENNOCHI TAKES THE WALTER BROOKS CHALLENGE. The Boston Globe columnist says she was never told the Kennedy-compound party was off the record. Her highly anticipated report reveals that ... nothing happened!

NEW IN THIS WEEK'S PHOENIX. The horrors at Abu Ghraib have finally changed how the media report on the war - and on the president who started it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

SHE WHOSE NAME MUST NOT BE SPOKEN. The talk of the media world over the next few days is going to be today's mea culpa in the New York Times about the paper's gullible coverage of Iraq's weapons capabilities and terrorist ties in the run-up to the war. Headlined "From the Editors," the piece admits to mistakes on the part of reporters and editors, and to the same overreliance on the charlatan Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi that helped goad the White House into this terrible, unnecessary war.

Although the piece, as Editor & Publisher has already observed, makes no mention of Chalabi's favorite Times reporter, Judith Miller, you've got to wonder whether her career can survive. It would be ironic if Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, et al., whose love affair with Chalabi led to the deaths of hundreds of Americans and thousands of Iraqis, get off scot-free while Miller pays a higher price. Then again, despite the Times' well-documented problems of the past several years, it still has higher standards than the Bush White House.

Miller's principal tormenter, Jack Shafer, wrote about the pending "Editor's Note" yesterday in Slate. Although he closes with "And so ends The Judith Miller Chronicles (I hope)," presumably he'll have more to say today.

Romenesko is gathering commentary on the subject here.

WINING, DINING, AND NOT FILING. Walter Brooks has an amusing take on an off-the-record soirée at the Kennedy compound attended by about 100 journalists, and apparently mentioned by only two smallish papers in the western part of the state.

Media Log was not invited. And that's on the record.

A FIASCO FORETOLD. Boston Globe columnists Scot Lehigh and Steve Bailey today both blast the poor planning that may result in apocalyptic gridlock during the Democratic National Convention. Bailey is angry - I mean, really angry - and thus more entertaining.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004


The White House's top lawyer warned more than two years ago that U.S. officials could be prosecuted for "war crimes" as a result of new and unorthodox measures used by the Bush administration in the war on terrorism, according to an internal White House memo and interviews with participants in the debate over the issue.

The concern about possible future prosecution for war crimes - and that it might even apply to Bush administration officials themselves - is contained in a crucial portion of an internal January 25, 2002, memo by White House counsel Alberto Gonzales obtained by NEWSWEEK. It urges President George Bush declare the war in Afghanistan, including the detention of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters, exempt from the provisions of the Geneva Convention.

- Michael Isikoff, Newsweek website, 5/17/04

The Pentagon has begun criminal investigations of at least 37 deaths involving detainees held by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials said Friday. There are 33 cases involved, the officials said, eight more than the military reported two weeks ago....

Of the 15 other cases that happened inside detention facilities, four were categorized as justifiable homicides, two as homicides, and nine were still under active investigation, the official said. Eight of those nine have been classified as homicides involving suspected assaults on detainees before or during questioning.

- Associated Press, 5/21/04

Two weeks ago Senator Ted Kennedy uttered what may turn out to be the single most disgusting remark made about the United States in the course of the Iraq War. The reaction to his slander - or rather, the lack of reaction - speaks volumes about the moral bankruptcy of the American left.

Speaking in the Senate on May 10, Kennedy had this to say about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal:

"On March 19, 2004, President Bush asked, 'Who would prefer that Saddam's torture chambers still be open?' Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management - US management."

This was not a blurted, off-the-cuff comment - Kennedy was reading from a prepared text. It was not a shocked first reaction to the abuses at Abu Ghraib - the story had broken more than a week earlier. Incredibly, the senior senator from Massachusetts really was equating the disgraceful mistreatment of a few Iraqi prisoners by a few American troops with the unspeakable sadism, rape, and mass murder that had been routine under Saddam Hussein.

- Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe website, 5/25/04

Monday, May 24, 2004

BLAMING IT ON THE TROOPS. It took what seemed like forever tonight for George W. Bush to get around to Abu Ghraib. And when he did, it was to blame it all on the troops, and to promise the completely symbolic (though probably necessary) step of demolishing the prison. Said Bush:

A new Iraq will also need a humane, well-supervised prison system. Under the dictator, prisons like Abu Ghraib were symbols of death and torture. That same prison became a symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values.

America will fund the construction of a modern maximum security prison.

When that prison is completed, detainees at Abu Ghraib will be relocated. Then with the approval of the Iraqi government, we will demolish the Abu Ghraib Prison as a fitting symbol of Iraq's new beginning.

Those seven camera-and-glowstick-wielding soldiers deserve their share of the blame. But it's already been reported that similar abuses took place in Afghanistan, and Rummy only knows what's going on at Guantánamo. Sorry, Mr. President. You can knock down Abu Ghraib, but the truth is coming out anyway.

IT'S THE SAME SECRET SERVICE, ISN'T IT? So why will Greater Boston be virtually shut down for the Democratic National Convention while life will go on pretty much as normal in New York City when the Republicans gather there five weeks later? Tatsha Robertson reports in Sunday's Boston Globe.

KERRY, SHRIVER, AND THE CHURCH. Scott Stossel, the author of a major new biography of Sargent Shriver, wrote in the Globe's Ideas section on Sunday about how John Kerry might learn from Shriver in balancing his Catholicism with his politics. Shriver, as Stossel tells it, stuck to Church doctrine throughout his public career on such matters as abortion and birth control, but refused to let his personal religious views guide his policymaking.

It's a worthwhile piece, but I learned a lot more about Shriver than I did about how Kerry could follow his example. Even though Shriver was much more closely aligned with the Church hierarchy than Kerry appears to be, Shriver today would face problems very different from those that were on the table in the 1960s and '70s.

Let's not forget that last summer, the Vatican issued a document on same-sex marriage that ordered Catholic politicians to get the with program. The document, written largely by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, includes this:

When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.

Currently, there is a controversy over whether Catholic politicians who are pro-choice should take communion. And make no mistake: Shriver's actions and statements were entirely pro-choice, regardless of his personal views about abortion. Today's Catholic hierarchy would be breathing down his neck just as surely as it is breathing down Kerry's.

UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM. Boston Herald columnist Joe Sciacca today points to (sub. req.) the biggest problem if Kerry decides not to accept the nomination at the convention: the very likely possibility that national conventions, already relics of a long-dead era, will be done away with altogether. (Of course, it's a problem only for those who want to keep the conventions on life support.) Writes Sciacca of Kerry:

He's taking heat for flip-flopping on the nomination, but there's no shame for Kerry in keeping his eye on the prize instead of the party. Running for president means winning, not ensuring that some donkey-capped delegates with their credentials hanging over their lobster bibs feel "part of the process." Both parties should start thinking about the conventions and whether the negatives - too scripted, too costly, too mind-numbing and too predictable - have made them throwaway events in the new era of high-speed politics.

It's been wrongly predicted before, but I think there's an excellent chance that this will be the last time the two major parties hold conventions as we know them. That moment is past due.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

NOT SO SERIOUS AFTER ALL. Attorney General Tom Reilly finds time in his busy schedule to persecute same-sex couples. Obviously I gave him way too much credit.

AIR AMERICA'S ONGOING WOES. Still more bad news about Air America Radio, the liberal broadcasting venture that you can't hear in Boston. Reuters reports that the struggling network is seeking to raise more money and is retreating from its earlier goal of buying radio stations outright. At least the people behind it haven't given up, but they need someone to run this mess who actually knows radio - fast.

Here is a possibility.

I have to confess that I haven't listened since the first week or so. Capturing the Web stream and converting it to a format so that I can take it with me is just too much of a pain. Forget whether the programming is any good - Air America needs money, and it needs stations. How can anyone take this seriously if it can't be heard in liberal Boston and Cambridge in time for the Democratic National Convention?

CAMPAIGN FAIRNESS. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry will accept the nomination in Boston whether it costs him millions or not. The reason is very simple: he can't afford to let the convoluted alternative that his campaign has come up with to become the story.

But let's stop snickering for a moment at the notion of a candidate so indecisive that he can't even make up his mind whether to accept the nomination at a nominating convention. The fact is that his campaign has identified a real problem, and there ought to be a reasonable solution.

The Federal Election Commission should find a way to let Kerry keep spending the campaign funds he's raised as long as George W. Bush can. It's absurd to think that federal spending limits should kick in five weeks earlier for Kerry just because the Democrats are having their convention at a normal time of year, while the Republicans delayed theirs as long as possible.

Friday, May 21, 2004

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SERIOUS AND NOT. That would be the difference between Attorney General Tom Reilly and Governor Mitt Romney.

Item one: Romney sends the marriage-license applications of 10 out-of-state same-sex couples to Reilly's office and demands that Reilly take action to prevent them from getting married. Romney: "We all have the same interests. To make sure the law is carried out." Reilly: "We have an awful lot of other things going on, so we'll deal with this as it comes." (Globe coverage here; Herald coverage here.)

Item two: Six ex-employees of the Registry of Motor Vehicles are being investigated for their alleged role in a scheme to sell illegal driver's licenses. The Globe reports: "Reilly called the allegations 'deeply disturbing' because of the potential dangers posed by those in the country illegally with false documents and by dangerous drivers being returned to the road." (Globe coverage here; Herald coverage here.)

In other words, when Reilly says he has better things to do than persecute gay and lesbian couples, he's not kidding.


From today's Globe:

New University of Massachusetts president Jack M. Wilson will earn $350,000 a year plus an array of benefits including hefty car and housing allowances, under an agreement reached with trustees this week, a UMass spokesman said.

The salary is higher than that of his predecessor, William M. Bulger, who earned $309,000 plus benefits, but falls well short of the $400,000 limit that trustees set on Wilson's pay before starting negotiations this month.

From today's Herald:

New UMass President Jack Wilson inked a five-year contract this week that could pay him nearly a cool half-million dollars his first year - $140,000 more than his predecessor.

The contract was signed late Tuesday, a UMass spokesman said, giving Wilson, a former physicist, a handsome pay package of as much as $497,000 for his first year on the job - his first as university president anywhere.

As you will see, the facts in both stories are the same - it's just that the Herald totaled up Wilson's benefits. Since money is money, I'd say the Herald provides a truer picture.

TUNE IN SATURDAY AT 3 P.M. I'll be appearing tomorrow on WBIX Radio in Boston (AM 1060) between 3 and 4 p.m. on Family Talk Radio, with Deirdre Wilson and Peter Chianca, to talk about my book on dwarfism, Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes.

If you're out of the signal range, listen live here.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

WE POST, YOU DECIDE. Lowell Sun assistant editorial-page editor Ann Frantz writes:

Hey, Dan!

Any writer knows it's a snap to extract a sentence and use it out of context for effect - as you did with my column, which does not apologize for that photo, but supports it.

I try to recognize the motivations that prompt people on different sides of an issue and address them, maybe even change a mind or two. I don't screech like a banshee at them....

GOOD journalists don't alter content to give themselves something for their own juicy column, just media hacks.

Wishy-washy? Here's something that you, with your simple black-and-white head, can understand: Up yours.

And thanks for reading! Didn't know you actually did much of that.

Ann Frantz

Hey, Ann! As you know, I posted a link to your entire column so that Media Log readers could decide for themselves what you were up to. I also did not say, suggest, or even hint that you "apologize[d]" for the photo. [See clarification below.] Uh, GOOD journalists don't put words in other people's mouths.

NO GUTS, NO GLORY. The Lowell Sun, spooked by a handful of cancellations, apologizes today for publishing a photo of two men kissing at Cambridge City Hall this past Monday, the day that same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. A Sun editorial panders thusly:

While the photo accurately chronicled the new reality in Massachusetts that same-sex couples are to receive equal rights granted traditional married couples it represented a shocking element to what has otherwise been a fair and cautious process conducted on The Sun's news and editorial pages.

To some readers, the photograph pushed the envelope too far. Those contacted by The Sun said it represented an unnecessary, in-your-face intrusion, especially for parents with young children.

No doubt The Sun underestimated the photo's impact on a segment of its readership population. By publishing it, we inadvertently inflamed passions and emotions in people who are still trying to come to terms with the gay-marriage issue.

We learned a valuable lesson and hope to benefit from it....

If The Sun could turn back the clock, we most likely would select a less intrusive photograph not because the original photo was wrong but because it didn't fit the go-slow approach we've endorsed for a better understanding of this sensitive issue.

Assistant editorial-page editor Ann Connery Frantz compounds the outrage with a remarkably wishy-washy exercise in hand-wringing that includes this absurdity: "Parents want to protect their kids from behavior that offends. Although I suspect many children are more understanding than they're given credit for, I have also felt the impulse to keep them innocent, at least while they still were."

So if you're gay or lesbian and living in Greater Lowell, here's the message: you can get married. But don't act so, you know, married.

Clarification: The Sun's editorial apologized for running the photo, not Frantz's column. Media Log apologies for any misunderstanding.

THE SEVENTH-GRADER THEORY OF POLITICAL GAMESMANSHIP. The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller writes today:

Both White House and Bush campaign officials said there were no plans or debate about changing the president's re-election strategy, which is to run on national security. Mr. Rove and Mr. Bush were also described as adamant that the president not admit publicly to any mistakes in war planning and the American-led occupation of the country, as Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary and intellectual godfather of the Iraq war, did in a hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

"There is a theory in the White House that they don't want to appear like Jimmy Carter," said one Republican adviser. "They think that's weak."

So how many Americans and Iraqis must die so that no one will confuse George W. Bush with Jimmy Carter?

Don't worry, Mr. President. No one is going to confuse you with a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, that's for sure.

NEW IN THIS WEEK'S PHOENIX. The big story: With Iraq taking center stage, other news gets squeezed. Plus, Danny Schechter goes public, Spare Change News goes pro, and the Globe goes porn.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

FAKE RAPES AND LYING LIARS. You will not be surprised to learn that the right is lying about the Boston Globe's role in promulgating those fake photos of American troops raping Iraqi women. The pictures were unveiled at a news conference last week by Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner and black-community activist Sadiki Kambon. Click here and work backwards for the full story.

To recap briefly: the Globe published an article about the news conference by reporter Donovan Slack that conveyed great skepticism about the pictures, and that quoted a military spokesman as saying the photos might well be an Internet fraud. In fact, it turned out that had already exposed them as frauds. Where the Globe went wrong was in running a George Rizer photo of Turner and Kambon in which the fake-rape pictures were clearly visible; and then, when editors realized what a mistake they'd made after the first edition rolled off the presses, shrinking the photo rather than removing it altogether from subsequent editions.

A screw-up? Yes. A really bad screw-up? Absolutely! But not the one that right-wingers wish the Globe had made. That's not going to stop them, though.

Here, for instance, is Mark Steyn, taking a break from the hard work of ridiculing triple amputee Max Cleland:

In the last few days, the Mirror, a raucous Fleet Street tabloid, has published pictures of British troops urinating on Iraqi prisoners, and the Boston Globe, a somnolent New England broadsheet, has published pictures of American troops sexually abusing Iraqi women. In both cases, the pictures turned out to be fake. From a cursory glance at the details in the London snaps and the provenance of the Boston ones, it should have been obvious to editors at both papers that they were almost certainly false.

Yet they published them. Because they wanted them to be true. Because it would bring them a little closer to the head they really want to roll - George W. Bush's.

Writing in National Review, John O'Sullivan accuses the Globe of "Willing Gullibility," adding:

Two newspapers - the Daily Mirror in Britain and the Boston Globe in the U.S. - have published fake photographs of British and American soldiers abusing prisoners. In the British case the fakes were quickly detected once they had been published, and in the American case, they had been detected before the Globe published them. Neither the media's vaunted "skepticism" nor simple fact-checking on the internet were employed in either case by the papers. The fakes were, in the old Fleet Street joke, "too good to check." There was a rush to misjudgment.

On a right-wing website called, someone named Lee P Butler (no period, please!) blurts out:

The mainstream media has joined the attack of our military as The Boston Globe, a subsidiary of The New York Times, published photos that show what they said were American soldiers taking part in 'gang rapes' of Iraqi women without ever verifying their authenticity. They have since been proven to be pictures taken from an internet porn site. The newspaper has since given what they consider an apology but still refuses to accept their own complicity.

I'm sure I could find more examples if I kept looking.

Of course, none of these accounts is even remotely accurate, but they follow one of the right's favorite scripts: that the liberal media - in this case, the Globe - so hate America that they eagerly seize upon dubious claims of heinous behavior on the part of US soldiers. It doesn't matter that the Globe reported no such thing. It doesn't matter that the paper didn't "publish" the fake pictures, instead accidentally capturing them in a photo of Turner and Kambon. (And before you dismiss my contention that it was an accident, ask yourself if you really believe that any mainstream-newspaper editor would knowingly run graphic photos of oral sex and gang rape. Pause. Okay, you've got your answer, don't you?)

The right has its lies and myths to promote. And it will never, ever let the truth stand in the way.

TECHNOLOGY'S TOLL. The Boston Herald's Elisabeth Beardsley today has a must-read on rude and obnoxious toll-takers. But that's not what this item is about.

The Herald's website has a feature that highlights certain keywords and lets you click for more information. Toward the end of Beardsley's piece is a reference to an "Indian Orchard man." (Indian Orchard is a small town in Western Massachusetts.) India is highlighted. Select it, and you get a bunch of stories related to India, the nation.

Although nothing on last week's election and subsequent political machinations.

Calling IT!

TATTOO WHO? Continuing this morning's theme of petty gotchas, here is the lead of a story in the Boston Globe by Christina Pazzanese: "After Massachusetts legalized tattoos in early 2001, Nashua firefighter Roger Hall began exploring what kind he might get."

What does this mean? Nashua, as we know, is in New Hampshire, where tattooing has been legal pretty much forever. And even if Hall was a Massachusetts firefighter, couldn't he have driven to New Hampshire? Was there a reason that he had to wait for tattooing to become legal in Massachusetts? Or is it simply that no one edited this?

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

THESE OPINIONS BROUGHT TO YOU BY ... The Boston Globe announces today that it will begin accepting ads on the op-ed page. This is unsurprising: the New York Times has been taking such ads for years. No doubt officials at the New York Times Company, which owns both papers, have been grumbling that if it's good enough for the Times, it's certainly good enough for the Globe. And let's face it - the Globe op-ed page does not often seem overwhelmed with stellar material.

Still, having an ad-free op-ed page was always a distinguishing feature of the Globe, and it's too bad to see it go away. I imagine that it will result in fewer pieces by outside contributors - many of which, let's face it, are snoozers, but which nevertheless diversify the page.

HOW IS THIS EVEN POSSIBLE? "CORRECTION - An editorial yesterday misstated the name of Julie Goodridge, one of the gay marriage plaintiffs."

Coming tomorrow: the Globe screws up the president's middle initial.

A RACK IN BLACK. Here is the Boston Herald's Andrew Miga this morning on Alexandra Kerry's black dress, which was the talk of Drudge, Wonkette, and Kaus yesterday. Kerry wore a slinky number to the Cannes Film Festival, which - in photos beamed across the Web - turned out to be entirely see-through. (Media Log's verdict: not bad!)

Kaus, at least, is honest enough to admit that the effect was almost certainly the result of the cameras' flash, although that doesn't stop him from wondering if the pictures prove that she is "a bit vain, selfish and opportunistic." Really.

But there is simply no way Kerry could have looked in the mirror, seen what the photos depicted yesterday, and said to herself, "Perfect! That is exactly how I want to look tonight!" I mean, let's be serious.

Well, okay, not too serious.

Monday, May 17, 2004

MARRIED, OFTEN WITH CHILDREN. The biggest story in the country today is gay marriage, and Massachusetts is the epicenter, as same-sex marriage becomes legal here for the first time anywhere in the United States. (Globe coverage here; Herald coverage here.)

Not to focus on the negative, but I feel compelled to reproduce the first few paragraphs of Howie Carr's column in Sunday's Herald. Unlike his fellow columnist Joe Fitzgerald, who at least appears to be a true believer (sub. req.), I find it hard to accept that the sneering Carr really cares one way or the other. Yet this is how he began his hateful little screed (sub. req.) yesterday:

Gay marriage, another mega-embarrassment for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but what else is new? Imagine the circus this evening out on Mass. Ave. in front of Cambridge City Hall - one shudders to think of what sort of XXX-rated products the hawkers will be trying to peddle to those who once were referred to in simpler times as "brides" and "grooms."

"Hey, get your amyl nitrites here. Poppers here, poppers!"

This is the liberal credo: If it happens in Abu Ghraib prison, it's a war crime. If it happens at a rest stop on I-495, it's true love.

Welcome to Massachusetts. The Gay State. Sodom and Begorrah.

And everyone has to pretend that this will be the end of it. You will be hounded by the PC Police if you state the obvious, that if the perversion du jour is "gay marriage," then tomorrow it will be polygamy, and the day after tomorrow incest, and then the final frontier ... bestiality.

Elisabeth Beardsley, Thomas Caywood, Thea Singer, Marie Szaniszlo, Franci Richardson, and other Herald reporters trying to cover gay marriage with the seriousness it deserves must cringe when they see garbage like this.

The Globe's anti-gay-marriage columnist, Jeff Jacoby, complained yesterday that "the media depiction of the same-sex marriage controversy has been strikingly one-sided." No doubt I'm caught in my own paradigm, but I can't help but think that that's because there is a right and a wrong regarding gay marriage, and that the vast majority of the media have sided with those who are right.

Jacoby continued:

Those of us who think this week's revolution is a terrible mistake need to do a much better job of explaining that the core question is not "Why shouldn't any couple in love be able to marry?" but something more essential: "What is marriage for?" We need to convey that the fundamental purpose of marriage is to unite men and women so that any children they may create or adopt will have a mom and a dad.

Marriage expresses a public judgment that every child deserves a mom and a dad. Same-sex marriage, by contrast, says that the sexual and emotional desires of adults count for more than the needs of children. Which message do we want the next generation to receive?

Well, marriage is for many things, but I agree with Jacoby that child-rearing is by far the most important. I would even agree that there are many advantages to raising children within the context of a family headed by a mother and a father - advantages that are difficult to replicate with two mothers, or two fathers, or a single parent.

But this is theory. The reality is that there are already same-sex couples and single parents raising children, and that, in many cases, they are doing a far better job than some traditional families. Children are raised by actual people, not by theories about what constitutes the ideal. We ought to recognize that. And today, at least in one state, we do.

RUMSFELD'S LAST WEEK? Here is the latest from Seymour Hersh, in the current New Yorker, on a secret order signed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that may have led directly to the abuses at Abu Ghraib. The most chilling paragraph:

The government consultant [a source of Hersh's] said that there may have been a serious goal, in the beginning, behind the sexual humiliation and the posed photographs. It was thought that some prisoners would do anything - including spying on their associates - to avoid dissemination of the shameful photos to family and friends. The government consultant said, "I was told that the purpose of the photographs was to create an army of informants, people you could insert back in the population." The idea was that they would be motivated by fear of exposure, and gather information about pending insurgency action, the consultant said. If so, it wasn't effective; the insurgency continued to grow.

When you consider the incredible damage that has been done to American interests by the abuses and torture at Abu Ghraib - when you consider that terrorists executed Nicholas Berg in retaliation (or at least used it as a convenient excuse) - then, if this is true, Rumsfeld's resignation should be on President Bush's desk by noon today.

Yeah, right.

Friday, May 14, 2004

CONFUSION AND INCOMPETENCE. Boston Globe ombudsman Christine Chinlund gets a B-minus today for her assessment of what went wrong with those hardcore porn pictures that made their way into the Globe on Wednesday. The photos were promoted by Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner and local activist Sadiki Kambon as possibly depicting US soldiers raping Iraqi women.

Chinlund is utterly believable in describing the comedy of errors that led to a photo's being published in which the porn pictures were visible. In newsrooms, as in life, whenever a mistake can be explained in terms of confusion and incompetence rather than malicious intent, go with confusion and incompetence.

It remains inexplicable how or why Globe editors, once they realized they had a problem, decided merely to shrink the photo rather than pull it altogether. Yes, shrinking did make the porn more difficult to see, but come on folks. Get it out of there. Chinlund writes:

First edition carried the Page B2 photo three columns wide - big enough to make out the roughly 1-inch square sexual images within it. In later editions it was made smaller at the request of Michael Larkin, a deputy managing editor, who said that although he could not discern the sexual images on the page proof he viewed, he wanted to play it safe, given the story's content.

Play it safe? Playing with fire is more like it.

Where Chinlund falls short is in her narrowly stubborn insistence that because she couldn't find the porn photos on the Internet, she can't verify that Turner and Kambon were indeed passing off porn shots as evidence of American atrocities:

Various sources last week said the photos displayed by Turner came from a pornography website, and they may well have, although I could not trace it to the source. I did find one news website with a note from a woman identified as the porn site operator. She was quoted as saying the images, shot in Hungary, had been removed because they were used for anti-American purposes.

This morning I did my regular Friday-morning stint on The Pat Whitley Show, on WRKO Radio (AM 680). Whitley and his producer, Amy Hirshberg, told me that on Wednesday, when they were first alerted to the Globe's miscue, they were able to find the photos on a porn site within minutes. Since then, they said, the site has been taken down.

Chinlund also fails to acknowledge that Sherrie Gossett has done some very credible reporting on the origin of these photos for In fact, a Globe editorial today blasting Turner for his "reckless and inflammatory" actions is better on this score, forthrightly stating, "Turner's photos appear to match ones found on a pornographic website."

In the Boston Herald, columnist Cosmo Macero today criticizes (sub. req.) the Globe for reporting on Turner and Kambon's news conference, noting that other journalists who attended the conference decided it wasn't worthy of public attention. Macero observes that the article written by the Globe reporter who covered the news conference, Donovan Slack, was "loaded ... with expressed doubts about the photos' authenticity."

The Globe certainly could have chosen not to run the story. Maybe that would have been a better decision than the one its editors made. But Slack's story wasn't the problem. Metro editor Carolyn Ryan told Chinlund, "Our intent ... was to bring some scrutiny to allegations" that Turner had made, "specifically his claims that he had evidence of extensive abuse committed by US soldiers." Slack's story succeeded in doing that.

Unfortunately, as Chinlund notes, the photo not only became the story, but it also cast Slack's report in a "less skeptical" light.

By the way, the Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web" site leads with the Globe controversy, and relies heavily on Media Log's running coverage. So please check it out.

And barring any further developments, that's a wrap.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

THE FALLOUT CONTINUES. Former Marine major Cecil Turner writes:


If anything, you're being too kind to Turner, Kambon, and the Globe.

More than a week ago, someone tried to peddle those pictures on Roger L. Simon's blog, and it was immediately debunked. A casual glance at the photos shows out-of-date and mismatched uniforms, improperly worn, wrong color t-shirt and boots, and lack of unit patches. Even without knowing about the porn site, there is no way this should have stood for a minute.

Turner's "just wanted to get verification" story is nonsense - and certainly wouldn't require a press conference. The technique of proffering a slanderous statement and hoping something will stick was old when practiced by Roman senators, and the Globe should never have fallen for it. The real story here is that Nation of Islam is spreading Islamist propaganda - and it certainly appears to be intentional.


Cecil Turner
Major, USMC (Retired)

Also, in my quick update this morning, I neglected to note that the Globe failed to include some pretty vital information in its "Editor's Note" today - or, for that matter, anywhere else in the paper: the fact that these photos had been exposed as fakes quite a bit before Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner and local activist Sadiki Kambon unveiled them at a news conference on Tuesday.

Yes, reporter Donovan Slack's story was properly skeptical, but if either she or her editors had known that the photos had already been identified as having come from commercial porn sites, this never would have seen the light of day. Those who hadn't been following the tale of the fake rape photos on the Internet would have had to buy today's Herald to find out the whole story.

Chuck Turner popped up on The Pat Whitley Show on WRKO Radio (AM 680) this morning and continued to peddle the line that he never wanted the media to publish the photos, just verify their authenticity. He called the Globe's decision to publish the photos a "serious mistake," and said he was "shocked and surprised." (Time out: the Globe didn't "publish" the photos; it published a photo of Turner and Kambon showing the pictures to the media. I still think that's an important distinction, because in the edition I saw yesterday, the images were so tiny that I really couldn't make them out. Still, there's no question that the Globe ran it big enough to shock in earlier editions.)

What crapola. You don't call a news conference to release photos that you don't want published. You don't say - as the Globe quoted Turner as saying - "The American people have a right and responsibility to see the pictures."

Here is the text of a press release sent out on Monday by Kambon's organization, the Black Community Information Center:

Release of US Military rape photographs in Iraq!!!

Assignment Desk/City Desk:

The Black Community Information Center Inc. will hold a press conference on Tuesday, May 11th, 2004, 9:30 a.m. The purpose of the press conference is to release copies of dramatic photos of members of the US Military, gang raping innocent Iraqi women in Iraq.

The press conference will be held in the Curley Room at Boston City Hall (5th Floor) in downtown Boston, Massachusetts.

For more information, call [phone numbers deleted].

Sadiki Kambon
Director, BCIC Inc.

Now, it's true that at the news conference Turner asked the media to use their contacts to authenticate the photos. But the tone of this press release admits to no doubt whatsoever, does it?

NEW IN THIS WEEK'S PHOENIX. Jessica Lynch and Lynndie England - the damsel in distress and the castrating bitch - symbolize our shifting perceptions of the war in Iraq.

THEY KNEW. BUT THEY PRINTED IT ANYWAY. That's the only interpretation I can put on an "Editor's Note" in today's Boston Globe apologizing for the publication of a photo showing pornographic depictions of rape. Here's the note:

A photograph on Page B2 yesterday did not meet Globe standards for publication. The photo portrayed Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner and activist Sadiki Kambon displaying graphic photographs that they claimed showed US soldiers raping Iraqi women. Although the photograph was reduced in size between editions to obscure visibility of the images on display, at no time did the photograph meet Globe standards. Images contained in the photograph were overly graphic, and the purported abuse portrayed had not been authenticated. The Globe apologizes for publishing the photo.

In other words, at some point editors realized the pictures that Turner and Kambon were showing off were too graphic to be published - but rather than remove the photo altogether, they simply shrunk it down and hoped no one would notice.

This isn't good. For crying out loud, this is a paper that killed Doonesbury a couple of weeks ago because B.D. shouted out "son of a bitch!" after he learned that his leg had been blown off. What are these people thinking?

I do believe it's ombudsman Christine Chinlund's week to write this coming Monday.

Meanwhile, the Boston Herald is having fun with this today. Inevitably, the tabloid reports that the Globe is "reeling" from the mistake (how does one reel?), and points out that the photos obtained by Kambon had already been exposed by the website as porn shots being passed off as evidence of American atrocities. The Herald quotes a statement from Globe editor Martin Baron:

"This photo should not have appeared in the Globe," editor Martin Baron said in a statement. "First, images portrayed in the photo were overly graphic. Second, as the story clearly pointed out, those images were never authenticated as photos of prisoner abuse. There was a lapse in judgment and procedures, and we apologize for it."

The story also recycles some of Globe reporter Donovan Slack's very candid quotes to WorldNetDaily.

An unusually long Herald editorial, headlined "Prouder Than Ever to Be an American," includes this swipe: "It's a nation where that daughter puts herself in harm's way to protect the freedom of the press which allows Boston Globe editors to run bogus photographs of American soldiers raping Iraqi women."

Not a proud moment for the folks on Morrissey Boulevard.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

MORE ON THOSE FAKE RAPE PHOTOS. This is going to be a bigger story than I thought. (Hardly the first time that's happened!) Matt Drudge has posted an image from an earlier edition of today's Boston Globe in which the photo of the fake pictures of American soldiers raping Iraqi women was run bigger - big enough so that their graphic nature is more evident, even to my aging eyes - and in which the headline ended with "Photos Purported to Show Abuse," a rather different spin from "Councilor Takes Up Iraq Issue."

Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr was going nuts on his WRKO (AM 680) talk show this afternoon, repeatedly accusing the Globe of "libeling" American soldiers. Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner called in and declined Carr's invitation to apologize. I wasn't rolling tape, but essentially Turner said that he didn't want the press to publish the photos, he simply wanted news organizations to attempt to verify their authenticity.

Of course, that completely contradicts this Turner quote in the Globe story: "The American people have a right and responsibility to see the pictures." But never mind.

Word is that the Herald's "Inside Track" is going after the Globe tomorrow morning. Tomorrow is also Mike Barnicle's turn to write. Will he resist the urge to pile on his former employer?

Now, huffing and puffing aside, I still think the two most important facts are these:

1. Donovan Slack's story is completely legitimate, making it clear that there was no way of authenticating the photos that Turner and community activist Sadiki Kambon showed the media, and even raising the possibility that it was all an Internet fraud - as it indeed turned out to be. You could argue that the Globe shouldn't have run the story, but a newspaper does not have to defend covering a City Hall news conference called by a well-known elected official. The issue is how the Globe covered it, and in that regard, there is no issue. Carr himself admitted as much on the air today.

2. Which brings us to the George Rizer photo of Turner and Kambon showing those fake images to the media. I'll wait to see what the Globe says tomorrow, but I'm willing to bet that no one even looked at those tiny images - that the subjects of the photo were Turner and Kambon, and that that's as far as anyone thought things through. Obviously the Globe blew it, but there's no way anyone in that newsroom deliberately ran photos of a gang rape.

MORE FOOLISHNESS FROM TURNER AND KAMBON. An alert reader urged me to check out Margery Eagan's April 8 column in the Boston Herald. The subject: national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice. The speakers: City Councilor Chuck Turner and local activist Sadiki Kambon.

Turner was quoted as saying that Rice isn't concerned "about the plight of the majority" of African-Americans. Okay, she's a foreign-policy wonk, not a domestic-policy analyst. But then Turner added that Rice is a "tool to white leaders.... It's similar in my mind to a Jewish person working for Hitler in the 1930s." Say what?

Kambon, naturally, was even more outrageous, calling her "Condoleezza White Rice" and "The Negro Security Adviser."

CHUCK TURNER, IRAQI RAPE ALLEGATIONS, AND THE GLOBE. The right-wing website is having a wicked good time over an apparent fraud perpetrated on (by?) Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner and African-American activist Sadiki Kambon, and reported in today's Boston Globe.

At a City Hall news conference yesterday morning, Turner and Kambon showed photos that they claimed depicted American soldiers raping Iraqi women. "The American people have a right and responsibility to see the pictures," Turner was quoted as saying.

Today, Sherrie Gossett writes in that the photos are identical to pictures "taken from pornographic websites and disseminated by anti-American propagandists," a story that she's been reporting on in recent days.

Gossett also writes that today's Globe "came complete with graphic photos" of the alleged gang rape. But that's not quite right. The Globe story, by Donovan Slack, is accompanied by a photo by George Rizer of Turner and Kambon displaying four of the pictures for the benefit of journalists who'd come to the news conference. The pictures look like they might be graphic, but it's hard to tell given the size and the angle. Still, I'm sure Globe editors wish they hadn't run Rizer's photo.

Gossett includes some extremely entertaining quotes from Slack:

Asked whether the photos were the same as the porn photos WND already investigated, reporter Donovan Slack said, "I have no idea. I'm surprised the editor even decided we should write about it."

She added: "Oh my God, I'm scared to answer the phone today."

"It's insane," said Slack. "Can you imagine getting this with your cup of coffee in the morning? Somehow it got through all our checks. Our publisher's not having a very good day today."

Slack sent the photos to WND, which immediately confirmed they were the same porn photos reported on last week.

Slack quipped, "I'll be working at Penthouse soon."

The photos aside, Slack's story sounds all the right notes of skepticism. She quotes a spokesman for the Defense Department as saying, "I would caution that there are many fake photos circulating on the Internet." She also notes that the Nation of Islam, which purportedly supplied the photos to Kambon, would not verify their authenticity. Turner told reporters, "We cannot document their authenticity. But you have the ability to do that."

Nor did the Globe give this story a lot of play. It's a short piece on page B2, beneath the bland headline "Councilor Takes Up Iraq Issue." The subhead, "Turner Releases Purported Images of Rape by Soldiers," reinforces the notion that the story is about a city councilor speaking out more than it is about the subject of his outrage.

Now, I'm sure the Globe will be publishing some sort of statement, maybe as early as tomorrow. But the person who really has something to answer for is Chuck Turner. Kambon is Kambon. No one would take seriously the notion that photos of Iraqis being abused by American soldiers would somehow fall into his hands.

But Turner is a prominent elected official who lent both his good name and the imprimatur of City Hall to this fiasco. Without Turner, this story never would have been reported.

THE TERRIBLE DEATH OF NICHOLAS BERG. Okay, I've seen the video. Good Lord, what a horrible, undeserved death Nicholas Berg suffered at the hands of terrorists in Iraq. A website I'd been directed to couldn't make the connection, but it took me no more than a few minutes to locate and download a copy with LimeWire. Such is the modern media environment. I have nothing profound to say about this horrific act. A few random observations:

- Berg's family is probably right that their son was singled out for execution because he's Jewish. An odd wrinkle, though, is that his killers apparently said nothing about Berg's being a Jew on the five-minute-plus videotape. By contrast, when Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was beheaded by terrorists, their propaganda video dwelled at length on Pearl's Jewish background.

- When CBS News aired the non-gruesome parts of the Pearl video two years ago, it was widely criticized. When the Phoenix posted a link to the entire video, and published two small images, including Pearl's severed head, in its print edition, it set off a nationwide controversy. By contrast, the pre-execution portions of the Berg video have already been widely aired. At least one rather mainstream website, based in Arizona, has already posted the entire video. And pro-war radio talk-show hosts this morning are demanding that the major networks air the video, under the guise of reminding Americans of why we're fighting. Why the difference? I've always believed the media showed unusual deference to Pearl's family - far more than they would under most circumstances - because Pearl was a fellow journalist. More important, sadly, is that we've all become increasingly desensitized after nearly three years of constant war.

- Unlike the Pearl video, which was a pretty unambiguous portrayal of Islamist terrorism, the meaning of the Berg video depends entirely on one's preconceived notions about the war in Iraq. Supporters of the war will argue that it shows why we must keep on fighting. Opponents will counter that it's further proof we shouldn't be in Iraq in the first place. As for those who say - as the terrorists themselves claimed - that it was in direct response to the abuses and torture at Abu Ghraib, I'm with CNN's Aaron Brown, who said last night, "The fact is these guys never need a reason to kill Americans, hostages or otherwise. If it is in their interest, and it is sick to think that killing an American in Iraq is in anyone's interest, but if it is they would have done it anyway. Danny Pearl was murdered and what exactly was the reason for that?"

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

THE ROYAL "WE." David Brooks is no more responsible for the quagmire in Iraq than Andrew Sullivan is. Still, it's interesting to see how the New York Times columnist takes (that is, doesn't take) responsibility for his failure to think things through as opposed to the blogger/essayist's squarely wrestling with his conscience.

Sullivan's lamentations, which I flagged yesterday, were filled with the first person singular. By contrast, here is an emblematic passage from Brooks's column this morning:

We were so sure we were using our might for noble purposes, we assumed that sooner or later, everybody else would see that as well. Far from being blinded by greed, we were blinded by idealism.


We didn't understand the tragic irony that our power is also our weakness. As long as we seemed so mighty, others, even those we were aiming to assist, were bound to revolt.

As Tonto explained to the Lone Ranger, "Who's 'we,' Kemosabe?"

DRIVING US AWAY. You could look it up (I don't feel like it), but Media Log has predicted on at least several occasions that this July's Democratic National Convention will be a five-alarm disaster for anyone who lives in, works in, or even thinks about Boston.

Yet now that Anthony Flint is reporting in today's Boston Globe that operations to shut down I-93 each day will begin as early as 4 p.m., I'm ready to make a counterintuitive prediction. I now think everyone has been so thoroughly freaked out by months of apocalyptic scenarios (can I take just a little bit of credit?) that everyone is going to take the week off and the locals are going to barricade themselves inside their homes.

Media Log's newest prediction: this is going to be the easiest week for driving around the city since just after the invention of the automobile.

Monday, May 10, 2004


The one anti-war argument that, in retrospect, I did not take seriously enough was a simple one. It was that this war was noble and defensible but that this administration was simply too incompetent and arrogant to carry it out effectively. I dismissed this as facile Bush-bashing at the time. I was wrong. I sensed the hubris of this administration after the fall of Baghdad, but I didn't sense how they would grotesquely under-man the post-war occupation, bungle the maintenance of security, short-change an absolutely vital mission, dismiss constructive criticism, ignore even their allies (like the Brits), and fail to shift swiftly enough when events span out of control.

No chortling here. This is a monumental tragedy. I opposed the war from the beginning, but always thought that the reasons to go to war were good ones - not WMDs (remember, the UN weapons inspectors were just starting to gear up) and the non-existent ties to Al Qaeda, but the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe caused by Saddam Hussein's Hitlerian regime, compounded by more than a decade of Western sanctions.

If Bush had only taken the time and shown the patience to build a genuine international coalition, things might look very different today.

GOOD RUMMY, BAD RUMMY. From William Safire's New York Times column today:

Shortly after 9/11, with the nation gripped by fear and fury, the Bush White House issued a sweeping and popular order to crack down on suspected terrorists. The liberal establishment largely fell cravenly mute. A few lonely civil libertarians spoke out. When I used the word "dictatorial," conservatives, both neo- and paleo-, derided my condemnation as "hysterical."

One Bush cabinet member paid attention. [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld appointed a bipartisan panel of attorneys to re-examine that draconian edict. As a result, basic protections for the accused Qaeda combatants were included in the proposed military tribunals.

Perhaps because of those protections, the tribunals never got off the ground. (The Supreme Court will soon, I hope, provide similar legal rights to suspected terrorists who are U.S. citizens.) But in the panic of the winter of 2001, Rumsfeld was one of the few in power concerned about prisoners' rights. Some now demanding his scalp then supported the repressive Patriot Act.

From Seymour Hersh's latest, in this week's New Yorker:

The Pentagon's impatience with military protocol extended to questions about the treatment of prisoners caught in the course of its military operations. Soon after 9/11, as the war on terror got under way, Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly made public his disdain for the Geneva conventions. Complaints about America's treatment of prisoners, Rumsfeld said in early 2002, amounted to "isolated pockets of international hyperventilation."

Safire is a serious civil libertarian who doesn't mind whacking his fellow conservatives, so his observations about the Good Rummy can't be dismissed lightly. But it's pretty obvious that Rumsfeld's occasional good deeds have been overwhelmed by his disdain for anyone and anything that interfered with his ability to do what he damn well pleased.

CREDENTIALS? THEY DON'T NEED NO STINKING CREDENTIALS! Joanna Weiss reports in today's Boston Globe on the Democratic National Committee's plan to issue press credentials to some bloggers. There's a numbers game going on, and apparently not everyone who wants credentials will get them.

This isn't going to matter to establishment types. For instance, Weiss mentions Josh Marshall, who writes Talking Points Memo; but Marshall's got nothing to be concerned about, since he also writes a column for the Hill, a print publication. (Media Log plans to be at the convention as well, blogging and also reporting for the print edition of the Phoenix.)

Bloggers have just as much of a right to be there as anyone else. Particularly out of it is Jerry Gallegos, head of the House Press Gallery, who told Weiss, "Anyone with a computer and home publishing can call themselves whatever they want. If it's a retired couple that just decides they've got an opinion, that doesn't make them a news organization. It just makes them a retired couple with an opinion and a website." Yeah, but Grandma and Grandpa might just be kicking the ass of the hometown daily to which Gallegos would issue credentials without a question.

Still, there's some serious naïveté on the part of bloggers if they think credentials are going to do much for them. There are lots of great stories at conventions, but very few of them take place inside the convention hall. Even fully credentialed mainstream journalists are only rarely able to gain access to the floor - not that there's any great thrill in that other than to be able to say you were there. Mainly you wander the building checking out the news-org set-ups and looking for interesting people to talk to.

Outside is another story, and it strikes me that that's where bloggers could do their most important work: at the protests, at the parties, panels, and seminars, and at the numerous events that will be staged by those trying to get their message out. I'm not aware of anything being planned that's as cool as the "shadow conventions" Arianna Huffington put together in Philadelphia and Los Angeles four years ago, but certainly something - no doubt many somethings - will pop up.

Here's a dirty little secret: even credentialed reporters inside the hall watch the convention on television. So bloggers ought not to worry about credentials and bring their laptops to Boston. They'll have plenty to write about.