Thursday, May 06, 2004

BATTLE OF THE SNAKES. In case you missed it, there has been some excellent eye-boinking going on in the pages of the Boston Herald between columnists Howie Carr and Mike Barnicle. I would say there's tension in the newsroom, except that both specialize in making themselves as scarce as possible. (Neither one is a full-time staffer.)

On April 29, Barnicle wrote (sub. req.) his first recognizably Barnicle-like column since his return to the Boston newspaper wars earlier this year. That is, he penned a shameless suck-up piece about House Speaker Tom Finneran, currently under investigation for his testimony in a court case over redistricting, testimony that may have been just a tad disingenuous.

My favorite Barnicle line: "When he [Finneran] arrived in the Legislature, the witch at the public stake was Kevin Harrington, the Senate president who got hounded out over a signature on a campaign check." Poor Kevin Harrington! As with a lot of what Barnicle writes, this is technically true, but it ignores the fact that a signature on a campaign check can be a serious matter depending on whose signature you're talking about, and whether the person to whom it belongs has any recollection of ever having written it on said check. On course, a lot of what Barnicle has written over the years isn't true, technically or otherwise.

For good measure, Barnicle compared Finneran to Ted Williams, Eric Clapton, and Michelangelo. Hand me the barf bag.

Carr, who's been referring to himself on his WRKO Radio (AM 680) show as the Herald's "non-fiction columnist" since the Barnicle comeback, lashed back (sub. req.) yesterday with a tough column on the friends of "Tommy Taxes" - the lobbyists, the ex-pols, and others who have showered Finneran with so many campaign contributions that he had nearly $500,000 in the till at the end of last year.

Carr also drops this bomblet:

It's astounding that with friends like these, Tommy Taxes could be teetering on the edge of an indictment. He's even had press vermin penning fiction about what a swell guy he is, and guess what - the pipe artist's wife maxed out to Tommy Taxes with a $500 contribution. Odd that the hack forgot to mention his wife's largesse in his piece.

That, of course, is a reference to Barnicle's wife, Anne Finucane, an executive vice-president at FleetBoston Financial and perhaps the most powerful woman in town.

Now, I don't want to go overboard in praise of the sneering Carr. To say that Finneran is "on the edge of an indictment" is a bit like saying that George W. Bush is on the edge of impeachment. That is, some of us might wish it to be true, but there is no evidence for it.

But if this is to be a battle of the snakes, my snake is Howie. Scales down.

TODAY'S TORTURE HIGHLIGHTS. I can't find more than a fragmentary mention this morning of an allegation that an American soldier put a harness on a 70-year-old Iraqi woman and rode her like a donkey. Andrew Miga includes a reference in his Boston Herald roundup. This, obviously, bears watching.

The Washington Post has obtained more photos from Abu Ghraib.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, a liberal supporter of the war in Iraq, calls for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to resign.

NEW IN THIS WEEK'S PHOENIX. Stuck in neutral: Democrats fret as John Kerry's presidential campaign falters in the face of George W. Bush's $50 million assault.

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