Wednesday, November 30, 2005


1) THAT’S MY KERRY – I have it on excellent authority that John Kerry stole the spotlight this morning and in so doing he stabbed his fellow Democratic senators in the back and undermined the plans of their most brilliant political strategists (giggle).

Here’s what was supposed to happen: Harry Reid designated Senator Jack Reed (no relation) to do the rebuttal to Bush’s speech. Indeed, Reed had done the “prebuttal” the day before (showing just how open-minded the Democrats were to Bush’s proposal). Apparently miffed at being bypassed for the spotlight for some senator no one’s ever heard, Kerry called his own competing press conference for this morning. Naturally Kerry’s presser would get more coverage than the obscure Reed’s, so in order to maintain the appearance of a united (and mature) Democratic front, minority leader Reid had to combine the two press conferences. Naturally, Kerry’s antics have created some ill-will amongst his fellow democrats.

It’s at times like this that I just can’t resist the urge to say “I told you so” to my liberal friends. Since Kerry has taken his sorry act national, haven’t I been telling you all that everyone who knows him dislikes him? The stories concerning the senator around Boston that end with Kerry intoning, “Do you know who I am?”, are legion.

I know we’re never going to see the day where we all agree on the quality of George W. Bush as both a president and a man. But can we not at least agree that this country is fortunate to not have John Kerry as its president?

By the way, my source for this report is impeccable.

2) USELESS IDIOTS – As you’ve probably heard, four “peacemakers” for the self-styled Christian Peacemaker Teams have been abducted by Iraqi terrorists. Naturally, the Christian Peacemaker Teams are outraged – at the United States and Britain who created the war that made the presence of the Christian Peacemaker Teams a purported necessity in Iraq.

If you read the organization’s statement on their website regarding the abductions, you will not find a negative word directed at the kidnappers, terrorists, insurgents, and/or perpetrators. The CPT apparently feels no anger towards the people who may well kill their innocent friends. They are, however, “angry because what has happened to our teammates is the result of the actions of the U.S. and U.K. governments due to the illegal attack on Iraq and the continuing occupation and oppression of its people.”

While we all hope for the safe return of the four hostages, let’s acknowledge something about their terminally “stuck on stupid” organization. Communist sympathizers in the free world were often referred to as “useful idiots” because they were foolish enough to not grasp the nature of repressive regimes but were smart enough or well positioned enough to further the interests of the evil they unwittingly championed.

But organizations like the CPT are “useless idiots.” They’re so fixated on hating the West that they don’t have any anger left over for the murderers who may well be preparing to cut off their friends’ heads and broadcast the footage on Al-Jazeera. Even at this crucial moment, their instinct remains to make nicey-nice with the Jihadis and blast Bush.

Unlike the Useful Idiots of generations past, folks like the CPT discredit and embarrass the causes they champion. Would a self respecting peace movement allow the CPT in its company?

Once again, let us pray for the safe return of the hostages, and the speedy defeat of their captors.

3) POP CULTURE UPDATE – My little blurb on “Walk the Line” drew a lot of mail, so I’ll add another item to your must see list. If you haven’t watched HBO’s “Rome,” go to your On Demand channel and start with Episode One. You’ll thank me.

There’s something a little odd about HBO’s programming. “The Sopranos” and “Six Feet Under” got so much press (the former completely deserved, the latter less so) that there seems to have been no media oxygen left for HBO’s other dramatic series. That’s a shame, especially where “Rome” and the comparably brilliant “The Wire” are concerned. Both shows are amongst the best things ever created for their medium.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


I don’t usually do movie reviews here, but I just had to offer a quick blurb for “Walk the Line,” the biopic about the life and struggles of Johnny Cash. To do a little Gene Shalit channeling, do yourself a favor and run out to see “Walk the Line.”

The movie is fantastic; both lead actors will doubtlessly receive Oscar nominations. But what will hopefully make “Walk the Line” a singular moment in pop culture history is that there’s a chance the movie will cause people who otherwise wouldn’t be so inclined to discover the spectacular music of Johnny Cash.

Go see “Walk the Line.” And I guarantee that soon after you get home, you’ll be visiting to buy a Johnny Cash CD or two.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett


I’m a big fan of second chances. I believe in the power of atonement, and I also believe that we’re all sinners who sometimes need a shot at redemption. I bring this up only because what follows might not seem quite in the spirit of those notions.

About a week and a half ago, Congressman Jack Murtha urged the “immediate redeployment” from Iraq. Frankly speaking, this was and is an awful idea. The awfulness of the idea was so apparent that when called to vote on whether the United States should “immediately withdraw” its troops from Iraq, only three Democratic congress-people were so foolish as to support the measure.

While the Democratic Party has subsequently sought to hide behind the meaningless alleged "distinction" between “immediate redeployment” and “immediate withdrawal” to somehow indicate that it supported Murtha’s rhetoric but not the corresponding legislation that would have enforced it, everyone knew what had happened here:

1) A prominent Democrat had suggested that we declare defeat in Iraq and turn the country and indeed the region over to terrorists.

2) The party and the mainstream media predictably rushed to lionize the proposal and the proposer.

3) When called upon to actually memorialize their support for Murtha’s ill-advised policy prescription, only three of the most moon-batty congressmen around agreed to do so.

4) Murtha was not among those three; he voted against his own rhetoric.

So what was the takeaway from this entire episode? I would suggest that as a congressman Jack Murtha had a pretty piss-poor week and did a pretty piss-poor job. He issued a proposal along with a matching batch of fiery emotion that had to dishearten the supporters of the war effort (including the troops waging it) while giving succor to the oppositions of the war effort, both domestic (no big deal there) and foreign (a very big deal). Ultimately, one has to judge Jack Murtha’s efforts as a congressman this past fortnight as a dismal failure.

BUT COMPARED TO DUKE CUNNINGHAM, Murtha has been a latter day Daniel Webster. Cunningham yesterday pled guilty to accepting over seven figures worth of bribes from defense contractors during his tenure in the House. Although Cunningham originally denied the charges, yesterday he offered a full confession and took what he hopes will be the initial steps to atonement and ultimately redemption.

Now, in no way am I comparing the sins of Duke Cunningham to the missteps to Jack Murtha. Cunningham’s actions were criminal; Murtha’s were merely reminiscent of Maxine Waters or John Conyers on a bad day.

But Murtha and Cunningham do have one thing in common – both men’s actions are viewed as if the events of the current day must necessarily be swaddled in the fact they served nobly in Vietnam. Both were highly decorated and heroic back then – there’s no doubt about that. And in judging both men’s lives in their totality (if the modern audience is qualified or even entitled to do such a thing), their service and sacrifice will be a noteworthy aspect. For whoever gets to judge them as men, their time in Vietnam will be hugely important.

But how relevant is their time in Vietnam in judging them as congressmen four decades later? Should Murtha get a pass on giving a demagogic speech whose contents even he didn’t believe in? And should Cunningham get a pass on an outrageous violation of the voters’ trust?

It’s true that no one is suggesting that they be given “a pass,” and that suggesting such is the case sets up a straw man worthy of Andrew Sullivan. But it’s also true that in the post-Clinton era (Bill, that is), the entire dialogue concerning politicians who are Vietnam veterans has skewed from appropriately respectful to unduly reverential. Hell, the Democratic Party conferred its nomination for the presidency on a guy solely because that guy had served four months in Vietnam; the party even made that guy’s service the focus of its nominating convention which turned into little more than a three day pageantry in Boston celebrating the guy's four months in country.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and it shouldn’t be. It once was possible for critics to attack George H.W. Bush without first offering a gratuitous tribute to his stint as a WWII fighter pilot. Bob Dole was also never handled with kid gloves because of his WWII service, either.

Jack Murtha may be a great man; Duke Cunningham may be a great man who made a chain of unforgivable errors. But they’re in the political arena; let them be judged on the merits of their political endeavors. Leave the rest to their maker and, in Cunningham’s case, the courts.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Shortly after my parents divorced, Mother Soxblog had no shortage of suitors. My brother and I quickly discovered an astonishing recurrent feature in these men: A surprising number of them claimed to have played minor league baseball. (One in particular had his path to the major leagues blocked by anti-Semitism – bastards!)

My brother and I were 13 and 14 years old at the time and sports fanatics, so these guys probably figured this was a way to impress us. The had us figured wrong, because while we were sports nuts we weren’t nitwits and we certainly weren’t so gullible as to believe that 70% of the male population had at some time or another played minor league baseball.

But you can see what they were going for. Boasting that you played minor league baseball would establish your athletic bona fides in a modest enough manner that the claim could almost be credible. For instance, if one of these guys said that he had won the Heisman trophy, no one, not even a child, would have been stupid enough to believe it. But the minor league baseball claim, pre internet era, had a certain genius to it. Verifying or debunking such a declaration would have been nearly impossible.

The thinking was probably the same that went into the selling of “Jon Voigt’s” car to George Costanza in a particularly hilarious “Seinfeld” episode. As Jerry observed, the selection of Jon Voigt as the celebrity at the center of the ruse showed the conman’s true genius. If he had said it was Liam Neeson’s car, George never would have believed it. But by selecting a B-lister like Jon Voigt, the seller gave the whole pitch a certain believability.

All of this of course comes to mind because of the scandal that currently surrounds New Mexico governor and potential Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson. It seems that for the past few decades Richardson has been claiming that the Oakland Athletics had drafted him to play minor league baseball.

On its face, Richardson’s claim always seemed slightly implausible. We have athletic looking politicians and doughy sedentary looking politicians; Richardson clearly falls into the latter category. But appearances aside, Richardson was a pitcher for Tufts University in the late 60’s. While Tufts isn’t exactly known for being a prime developer of major league baseball talent, one must admit that Richardson clearly enjoyed more athletic success than the typical American male.

So with that success under his belt and many more noteworthy successes (Ambassador to the U.N., Clinton cabinet member) to follow, what hole in this man’s heart made him repeatedly recite such a penny-ante tall tale? As Richardson has been forced to acknowledge, “After being notified of the situation and after researching the matter ... I came to the conclusion that I was not drafted by the A's.”

Richardson’s quote begs the question, just how exactly did he “research the matter?” Would he have not remembered being drafted by a professional sports organization? One would think that for a sports obsessed young man as Richardson probably was, being drafted by a major league baseball team would have been a pretty significant event.

It’s times like this that I can’t help but marvel what a bunch of narcissists most politicians are. And I’ll be bi-partisan about this – Bill Richardson hardly holds the monopoly on having an unquenchable desire for glory. But to have squandered a share of his credibility and integrity on such a meaningless matter – you’ve got to question the man’s judgment.

Then again, maybe it’s just a guy thing. We all want to be the alpha-dog and a big part of being the alpha-dog is physical presence and athletic prowess. Maybe it truly is time for a female president.

Either that, or at least a guy who is comfortable enough in his own skin and with his own accomplishments that he doesn’t feel the need to fabricate outlandish untruths.

On a related note, while this matter may well strangle any notion of a Richardson presidential candidacy in its baseball paraphernalia festooned crib, Joe Biden will still be running.

You remember Biden, right? The son of Welsh coal miners/brilliant legal scholar? At least we’ll have him to kick around.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Thursday, November 24, 2005


For you Socialists out there, a brief primer: For most businesses, making money is a significant part of their core mission. Indeed, that’s why they became businesses in the first place. If they can make money while benefiting society, so much the better. But in the business world it’s a pretty binary equation. You have your profitable entities and your unprofitable entities. In due time, the unprofitable entities cease being entities at all.

I mention this because today I’ve been musing on the movie industry. While of course I lack the inside baseball knowledge of Andrew Sullivan (who showing his usual omniscience recently proclaimed Heath Ledger a bankable star), I do feel qualified to make the following assertions: Family movies (read: Rated G or PG drivel) almost always make money, regardless of their quality. And yet Hollywood declines to make more of such films, presumably due to the community’s commitment to producing high art such as the remake of “The Fog.”

It also seems to me that a sure money maker would be a film that would capitalize on the great sense of patriotism and American exceptionalism that most of the country’s citizens possess. Such a film would be especially effective (i.e. popular) if it took place in context of the war in terror. Hell, seven years before 9/11, Arnold Schwarzenegger packed the multiplexes full of fans eager to see the Governator kick Jihadi ass in “True Lies.”

So it’s amazing that it took Hollywood four years after 9/11 to get a treatment that even tangentially concerns the war on terror to the big screen in the soon to debut “Syriana.” It should come as little surprise as who the bad guys are. Hint: They’re not the terrorists.

Since I haven’t seen the movie, I’m not in a position to give much of the plot away. However, the fact that the protagonist is a CIA agent/assassin played by a bloated George Clooney having an attack of conscience does seem to suggest that “Syriana” is unlikely to be confused with Frank Capra’s “Why We Fight.”

But wait, there’s more. Take the following excerpt from A.O Scott’s review of the film in today’s New York Times: “Someone is sure to complain that the world doesn't really work the way it does in ‘Syriana’: that oil companies, law firms and Middle Eastern regimes are not really engaged in semiclandestine collusion, to control the global oil supply and thus influence the destinies of millions of people. O.K., maybe. Call me naïve - or paranoid, or liberal, or whatever the favored epithet is this week - but I'm inclined to give (writer/director) Mr.(Stephen) Gaghan the benefit of the doubt.”

And why shouldn’t Gaghan get the benefit of the doubt? After all, he’s a Hollywood director. If he doesn’t know how the world really works, who does?

So there, you have it: Hollywood has finally engaged the world of terrorism and has come out with a product that pleases the sensibilities of people who figure that oil companies and law firms are the biggest threats to global harmony.

To be fair to reviewer Scott, he does remind his readers during his review that “Syriana” is only “a movie.” (This is the kind of breathtaking originality that keeps me reading the Times!)

At moments like this, I say to myself something similar: “It’s only a soon to be extinct newspaper.”

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


My little blurb about Abe Foxmans’ latest outrageous outburst triggered some extremely thoughtful letters. What follows borrows heavily from a couple of my readers’ insights.

As you know, Foxman heads a group known as the Anti-Defamation League. Formed a few years before World War I, the ADL’s mission was to stamp out the “defamation” of the Jewish people. Now, if the ADL wanted to take a global perspective on things, it would find plenty of “defamation” of the Jewish people going on out there. One doesn’t have to look particularly hard in the Middle East to find a reference to Jews as the descendants of apes and pigs.

And that’s the nice stuff. The real problem in the Middle East is countries like Iran that have the genocide of the Jewish people as a formal governmental policy and aim.

But the ADL has decided to focus its resources on domestic “defamation.” The focus on America, of course, presents the ADL with an existential challenge. When the organization was formed in 1913, there was loads of anti-Jewish sentiment to combat. But today, there’s not a major company in America that a Jew can’t join or a college he can’t attend. There are still a few golf clubs out there that are still a tough nut for the typical Jew to crack, but given all the craziness out there if that kind of thing is your organization’s top concern, your organization is somewhat lacking in gravitas and relevance.

In other words, some time in the past 92 years the acting head of the ADL could have landed on a metaphorical battleship and pronounced “mission accomplished.” So the ADL in recent times has been confronted with a choice: Either concentrate its resources and rhetoric on the very real and very dangerous enemies of the Jewish people who aren’t at all shy about broadcasting their hostility, or summon domestic “enemies” like Mel Gibson from the hinterlands of their imaginations.

Regrettably and to their everlasting shame, Foxman and others who think like him have chosen the latter course. Last Friday, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the liberal Union for Reform Judaism, gave a speech in which, according to the Associated press, he “blasted” the religious right and among other acts of verbal idiocy accused “conservative religious activists of promoting “anti-gay policies akin to Adolf Hitler's.”

First a couple of preliminary words about Rabbi Yoffie: For what it’s worth, until I saw this item about him, I had never heard of him. I point this out not to belittle Rabbi Yoffie’s fame nor to highlight my own ignorance, but simply to illustrate that Rabbi Yoffie is not a leader of the Jewish people in any way, shape or form. I follow these things pretty closely, and if the man has eluded my notice until last week, that means he’s hardly the equivalent of Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton in a yarmulke. Rabbi Yoffie does not speak for me, nor does he speak for the 99.998% of other American Jews who are fortunate enough to have never heard of him.

Now some more substantive words about Rabbi Yoffe: You would think that someone who presumes to speak for the Jews would be careful with the Hitler analogies. Honestly, such an inapt comparison coming from any person would be offensive, but, coming from a Jew, it’s border-line sickening. As Yoffie doubtlessly knows, Hitler’s “anti-gay policies” were rather well fleshed out and went well beyond distaste, intolerance and offensive rhetoric. Hitler’s anti-gay policies included the extermination of homosexuals. Linking the religious right with such a thing is outrageous, slanderous and, need I add, disgustingly provocative.

And yet there’s another dimension to Rabbi Yoffie’s obtuseness that bears mention. There happens to be a rather sizable group of people out in the world that really does have views of gays that are “akin to Adolf Hitler’s.” Hint: They were throwing homosexuals off of rooftops before America, led by a president who is the darling of Yoffie’s detested “religious right,” liberated Afghanistan

It just so happens that these folks and their spiritual fellow travelers also have an attitude to Jews that is “akin to Adolf Hitler’s.” Again, it defies the imagination that such an obvious fact has escaped Rabbi Yoffie’s notice. And yet who does the Rabbi spend his time on the soapbox castigating? “The religious right.”

If the Rabbi and Abe Foxman and the rest of their ilk are feeling pugnacious, that could be good for the Jewish people do have a determined enemy. But that enemy is not America’s Christians, who in addition to having for centuries been tolerant and accepting of America’s Jews have also made common cause against Jewry’s most dangerous foes.

And yet Yoffie and Foxman remain determined to undermine an alliance that is critical to the well-being of most of the world’s Jews. I’m sure their asinine spiels help with their fundraising efforts, and the AP reports that Yoffie’s speech won enthusiastic applause from 5,000 like-minded schmucks.

Obviously, to remain relevant the Yoffies and Foxmans think they have to drive a wedge between America’s Jews and Christians. It is fortunate for all of us that the bonds they seek to sever are far stronger than either man realizes, and that the goodwill of America’s Christian community is far greater than either willfully ignorant man could possibly imagine.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Did you know that today is the 142nd anniversary of the Gettysburg Address? On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln, his cabinet, several thousand active military men and 15,000 civilians gathered to dedicate the new national cemetery on the site of the Battle of Gettysburg that had occurred roughly a half year earlier. It was at the conclusion of that day’s ceremonies that Lincoln delivered the finest and most stirring speech in America’s history.

It must have been something to have been there that day. Fortunately for us, a New York Times reporter was there and today’s Times’ website directs us to his account of that historic day.

If you read his account, you’ll probably learn a few things you didn’t know: The size of the gathering is reported on in some detail and the prayer that began the ceremony is quoted in its tedious entirety. You’ll even learn who sat on Lincoln’s left and who sat on his right.

But you’ll also notice that the Times account of the Gettysburg Address seems to be missing something. Nowhere in the Times article is there any mention about Lincoln’s speech. Indeed, the Times doesn’t even report that Lincoln spoke. The Times does, however, quote the oration of Edward Everett (sort of the 1860’s Bruce Springsteen, the most popular orator of his day) apparently in its entirety on the second page of that day’s edition. Everett is best known to historians as the professional windbag who bored the crowd to tears for over two hours before Lincoln delivered his stirring address. The Times reports that Everett’s lengthy oration “was listened to with marked attention throughout.”

So, in reporting on the Gettysburg Address, the Times completely missed the small fact of the Gettysburg Address’s existence.

I report this not to embarrass the New York Times. After all, the failure of 142 years ago can hardly be laid at the feet of Pinch Sulzberger or Gail Collins. We even have to give Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd a pass on this one.

I just point out this anomaly to highlight something. In writing the so-called first draft of history, the scribes sometimes don’t just “bury the lede” but they often completely miss what matters and what doesn’t.

Perhaps different witnesses to the event had a more enlightened perspective than the Times-man’s. We know that the orator Everett realized in watching Lincoln’s speech that he had witnessed greatness and made a contemporaneous expression of that to the president.

I won’t bother drawing the rather obvious comparisons between the media of 142 years ago and that of today. But please, talk amongst yourselves.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Friday, November 18, 2005


Some of you doubted I’d be back to blogging full time. To those of you skeptics I say the following – ha! What could make it more official than my first “spanning the globe” piece in several months?

1) BILL CLINTON ON JIMMY CARTER: “I've never met anyone who did more with the gifts God gave him than Jimmy Carter.

Is it just me, or is that one of those oddly phrased compliments? You know, the kind of compliment that can be taken another way like writing a reference letter that reads, “I praise this candidate without qualifications.”

After all, what “gifts” did God convey upon Jimmy Carter? Self righteousness? Smugness? An endless capacity for vacillation and second guessing himself? An ability to be serenely at ease with himself in spite of mountainous failures? A big toothy grin?

When you look at it that way, God didn’t give Jimmah much. And yet, he still got himself elected president. And then, after being president, he graduated to being without doubt the worst ex-president ever, cozying up to every dictator from Ceascescu to Kim Il Sung.

Bill Clinton is renowned for choosing his words carefully. Remember, this is the guy who actually parsed the meaning of the word “is.” Until someone convinces me otherwise, I’m going on record as saying this was Clinton’s sly way of sliding a shiv right between Carter’s shoulder blades, showing once and for all that Clinton is the top dog amongst pathetic former presidents.

2) ABE FOXMAN, DIRECTOR OF THE ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE, resumed his favorite pastime this week –baiting America’s Christians to provide a shot in the arm for ADL fundraising efforts. The less said about Foxman and the ADL the better; the man and the organization both permanently shot their credibility when they linked arms with Frank Rich to battle Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” claiming that the movie would be polarizing and harm relations between Jews and Gentiles. When about a gazillion people went to see the movie and not a single pogrom resulted, you’d think Abe would have had the good sense to forever retire from the public square.

I really don’t care to address or reprint Abe’s latest foray into paranoid idiocy. Since his charges are being greeted by indifference, I don’t want to give them any oxygen by regurgitating them. I do feel the need to say this: Foxman purports to speak for American Jewry. He does not. He is but one man, and a perennially obtuse one at that. While I guess I shouldn’t feel the need to apologize for him and his antics any more than an African American should have to apologize for the similarly pathetic Jesse Jackson, I will anyway. While the goodwill to Jews of Christian America remains a stranger to Foxman, it is not to the rest of us.

3) IS THE DYNASTY OVER? As a certain over-zealous Pittsburg Steeler fan never tires of telling me, it’s been a tough year for the Patriots. Crippled by injuries, the Pats have looked mediocre at best. Were it not for Tom Brady, this team would be 1-8, maybe worse.

But they do have Tom Brady. And they also have a pretty good coach. And because they play in the remarkably weak AFC East, they’ll make the playoffs which means they have another 8 weeks to right the ship and get healthy. Don’t count them out

A couple of years ago at the season’s mid-point, the Kansas City Chiefs looked all but unbeatable. That shows you what season mid-points are worth – a whole lot of nothing. Beware Pittsburg and Indianapolis – this sleeping giant may yet awake.

4) AN ANXIOUS NATION AWAITS – John Kerry said yesterday that while he still wants to be president, he remains undecided on whether or not to toss his beret into the ring in 2008. During the interview where he revealed this Hamlet-like indecision, he also took the time to remind America that he had served in Vietnam while certain members of the Republican party had not. And to think – I had almost forgot.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Thursday, November 17, 2005


If you’re fortunate enough to live in a big city with a large indigenous newspaper, you have a front row seat from which to observe a true rarity – a once powerful species go extinct.

From watching the HBO series “Rome,” we know that people in that great civilization got their news from a fat guy reading portentous announcements in the city square. Fat guys with deep voices and the ability to make the most banal “news” sound weighty probably thought they had it pretty good. If they had a union, the membership probably couldn’t foresee a day when a more effective medium than a fat guy with a basso profundo would come roaring down the pike.

So it is today with our major daily newspapers. It is the conceit of organs like the Boston Globe and the New York Times that they have created the “end of history,” printed media division. In other words, they think they have crafted the perfect news disseminating device, one that cannot be improved upon so therefore one that will never be replaced.

Alas, yesterday heralded the arrival of the type of organism that will soon chase the major dailies into virtual extinction. In New York, Open Source Media (OSM) launched itself with a fitting amount of pomp and ceremony. OSM is the new (and far better name) for Pajamas Media, the brainchild of bloggers extraordinaire (and my virtual friends) Charles Johnson and Roger Simon. A simplistic (and erroneous) reading of OSM’s mission is that it aims to serve as a right wing answer to the relentlessly dreadful Huffington Post.

OSM promises to be much more than that. OSM has the potential to provide an answer for the principal problems that plague the larger media outlets. One weakness of the dead tree leviathans is that they falsely promise objectivity. This issue could be easily solved if the publications at issue were willing to be more transparent regarding their biases, but we all know that’s not going to happen. Most mainstream media publications are heavily invested in the ludicrous notion that they embody a Greek ideal of detached enlightenment. Virtually every news consumer in the world has grown wise to this pathetic charade, and yet the charade’s perpetrators oddly enough believe their own bull-hockey (see Mapes, Mary and Rather, Dan). Their fidelity to this pretense makes their product disingenuous and fatally flawed.

A problem for the rest of us is that the mainstream media has what seems to be a monopoly on access to the news and newsmakers. The typical citizen journalist doesn’t have the option of being a part of the White House’s press gaggle. In order to join a roster of elite minds like Terry Moran and Elizabeth Bumiller, you have to belong to a news organization.

Now, even prior to the birth of OSM, the mainstream media’s monopoly on access had been eroding. High end news consumers know that the best military news coverage to come from Iraq has come from the independent journalist and unattached blogger, Michael Yon.

To further prove the point, four photojournalists are publishing a collection of their pictures taken while they were “unembedded” in Iraq; while their political orientation is hardly to my liking (think Leni Riefenstahl in a burkha, hell-bent on embarrassing the United States and its war effort), their labors show that often-times anyone with the talent and inclination can practice what we call journalism.

But sometimes if you want to be a journalist you need to be affiliated with an organization of a certain heft to get the access that you want or need. I’ve found this out first hand. As a blogger, I’m a second class pundit. But when I’m doing a story for the Weekly Standard, my phones calls to Senators, Governors, Nobel Laureates and even James Carville get returned.

The reason the calls get returned is because when I’m representing the Standard, I’m providing access to an audience that the targets of my calls want to reach. The Standard offers a level of prestige and gravitas that serves me and my sources well.

OSM should be able to do the same thing for its citizen-journalists. Because of the size of the audience that OSM will probably reach, politicians and newsmakers will be delighted when a chance to appear on their virtual pages arises. Where the Huffington Post has proven itself little more than a vehicle for which Hollywood dilettantes to dabble in punditry or tin-foil hat conspiracy mongering, OSM has the potential to break the stranglehold on journalism currently enjoyed by the mainstream media.

Will OSM have a representative in the White House gaggle? I don’t know, but why not? Will the OSM have reporters in Iraq doing a far better job than their opposite numbers in the MSM? They already do. And will the OSM’s “staff” be better and more skilled than the embittered youths, has-beens and never-weres prowling the newsrooms of America’s dailies? Could they possibly be worse? Combine all of this with transparency regarding their reporters, their methods and their biases, and OSM has the very real potential to build a better mousetrap than the one that arrives on your front stoop every day (or more likely the one that used to arrive on your stoop every day).

The only thing I’m unclear about is how OSM will actually make money, although I assume the venture capitalists involved in the project have given more thought to the matter than I have. My only insight on the subject is the following: started out as an online bookstore, with the knowledge that it wouldn’t make money merely as a bookstore but that selling books would be its entrée into becoming an internet hegemon and once that happened it would be in a pretty good position to practically print money. That plan has worked out pretty well for Amazon, and it’s not hard to imagine OSM making scads of money by pioneering a similar track in the news industry. Virtual News Hegemon sounds like a pretty lucrative platform to me.

Get ready for Open Source Media – the revolution starts now.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


At the risk of sounding a tad metaphysical, we’re just passing through this moment in time. When the history of our era is written, the fact that George W. Bush had 37% approval ratings as Thanksgiving 2005 approached won’t be remembered. By anyone. Except maybe a few history buffs who will want to remind people that minute-to-minute polls aren’t the metric by which leadership is ultimately judged.

Near the end of his presidency, Harry S. Truman had approval ratings in the low 20’s. Truman’s 1952 numbers remain the lowest numbers ever recorded by the Gallup poll. If they’re ever mentioned in relation to Truman’s noble legacy, they’re brought up to highlight how meaningless such numbers are or to salute Truman for ignoring such worthless ephemera.

Unfortunately, political and media types aren’t by nature typically inclined to take the long view. So the Democratic party and its house organs like the New York Times smell blood in the Potomac and sense an opportunity to once and for all relegate this president and his administration to irrelevancy.

Of course their efforts to do so will fail. Their ploy is transparently fickle, an obvious attempt to substitute political gamesmanship for leadership. Twice this past weekend, Democratic leaders demonstrated quite clearly that all they stand for is tactical political opposition to the Oval Office’s current resident.

On “Meet The Press,” Tim Russert sat opposite current DNC chairman Howard Dean in a vain quest to determine where the Democratic party stands on anything of import. The exchange was revealing:

Russert: What is the Democratic position on Iraq? Should we withdraw troops now? What do the Democrats stand for?

Dean: Tim, first of all, we don't control the House, the Senate or the White House. We have plenty of time to show Americans what our agenda is and we will long before the '06 elections.

Russert: But there's no Democratic plan on Social Security. There's no Democratic plan on the deficit problem. There's no specifics. They say, "Well, we want a strong Social Security. We want to reduce the deficit. We want health care for everyone," but there's no plan how to pay for it.

Dean: Right now it's not our job to give out specifics.

For a normal politician, such a moment could be a career-destroying moment, but when your career has already been crushed by a nationally televised primal scream offered in the aftermath of a crushing electoral disappointment, I guess you could say you’re already playing with house money.

Perhaps there was something in the air on Sunday that made Democratic politicians even less intellectually coherent than usual. Or maybe there was a party-wide “office pool” to see which nationally recognized Democrat could make the biggest ass of himself on the Sunday chat circuit. If the latter was the case, West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller walked away with the pot. Rockefeller had the following exchange with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: Now, the President never said that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat. As you saw, you did say that. (A tape had just been played showing that.) If anyone hyped the intelligence, isn't it Jay Rockefeller?

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: No. The — I mean, this question is asked a thousand times and I'll be happy to answer it a thousand times. I took a trip by myself in January of 2002 to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, and I told each of the heads of state that it was my view that George Bush had already made up his mind to go to war against Iraq — that that was a predetermined set course which had taken shape shortly after 9/11.

There you have it, in High Definition Technicolor. Rockefeller revealed not only the depths of his disingenuousness, but also in his desperation to taint the Bush administration confessed that he was telling tales out of school to our enemy, Damascus’ boy optometrist.

Unfortunately the meltdown has not been confined to Sunday talk shows or even to Democrats. The entire Senate voted yesterday on whether or not to announce a time table for withdrawal from Iraq, which in real world terms would mean making an announcement to Zarqawi and friends how long they have to hang around to get the keys to the country. While that measure (the Levin amendment) failed, it did get 40 votes. A less precise measure which allowed all the Senators to morally preen and distance themselves from the war that 80% of them originally supported passed with overwhelming bi-partisan gusto, showing that the coalition of the wobbly continues to grow.

Many of the readers of this blog might be familiar with the name George McClellan; they also are perhaps acquainted with McClellan’s fellow travelers, the Copperheads. Doubtlessly, in American society though, relatively few citizens have any knowledge of either.

And that’s just fine. For while McClellan et. al spent their energy trying to ensure the Civil War would end in failure, their betters pursued nobler ends. For a period in 1864, it looked like a foregone conclusion that McClellan would defeat Abraham Lincoln at the ballot box in November. But instead of becoming president, McClellan had to settle for someday being elected governor of New Jersey and later languishing in richly deserved historical obscurity.

Yesterday Donald Rumsfeld stated the following: “We must be careful not to give terrorists the false hope that if they can simply hold on long enough, they can outlast us.” Rumsfeld and Bush are making history.

Democrats are merely making fools of themselves on national TV. And many Republican Senators, judging by yesterday’s vote, seem to want in on that action and have made a turn on to Copperhead Road.

Having done so will be to their everlasting shame.

USER’S NOTE: I have relocated for the winter to the southern Soxblog Manor. That means postings will be A LOT more frequent. Depending on one’s perspective, I guess that’s either good or bad news

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


I’VE RECEIVED SEVERAL LETTERS today asking what’s going on with the Red Sox, specifically in regards to the resignation of wunderkind general manager and John Kerry supporter Theo Epstein. Oops. Did I tip my hand by referencing Theo’s stumping for Kerry in the wake of the 2004 World Series triumph? I guess so. In short, although Theo did a fantastic job with the Sox during his three year tenure, I think the franchise will survive his departure.

Here’s what you have to understand about professional sports franchises: They will only be as strong as their ownership allows. In Boston, we are fortunate to have had the Patriots’ Kraft family practically create the paradigm for successful 21st century sports ownership. While every sports fan throughout the country doubtlessly knows the name “Bill Belichick,” the Patriots franchise would not be the success story that it is were it not for the Krafts’ visionary and consistently outstanding leadership.

How good are the Krafts at what they do? Look at the three head coaches that have been in their employ. In spite of him being an obnoxious blowhard, the Krafts tolerated Bill Parcells. When Parcells screwed up the Super Bowl for the team because of his congenital pettiness and resigned shortly thereafter, the Patriots hired Pete Carroll. Although Carroll didn’t work out particularly well in New England, since he’s gone on to become a living legend at the college level you have to admit that even when they miss, the Krafts don’t miss by much. Belichick of course followed Carroll, and the rest, as they say is history.

The Red Sox ownership team is the baseball equivalent of the Krafts. Principal owner John Henry is a mathematical wiz who made his money being smarter than the competition in the hedge fund field. Best of all, Henry had the good sense to bring in a man like Larry Lucchino to head his baseball operation.

AT THE MOMENT LUCCHINO isn’t very popular in Boston. It’s widely assumed that Epstein left because, to put it bluntly, Lucchino is a pain in the ass to work for. That may well be so, but Lucchino’s considerable talents are under-appreciated in the baseball world.

I’m pretty sure there’s no one else like Lucchino in the sports world, at least in terms of intellectual bona fides. (WARNING: ELITISM ALERT!!!) After graduating Yale Law School in 1971, Lucchino went to work for the Washington law firm of Williams & Connolly. Williams & Connolly is on everyone’s short list of the best law firms in America.

As a young man at W&C, Lucchino stood out enough to attract the attention of Edward Bennett Williams who was at the time perhaps America’s most highly regarded attorney. Lucchino became something of a protégé to Williams. When Williams got into sports ownership scooping up the Washington Redskins and later the Baltimore Orioles, Williams plucked Lucchinno from the tedium of law firm life and thrust him into the comparatively exciting world of sports ownership.

By any objective measurement, Larry Lucchino is one of the smartest men in sports. Not only are his educational and professional credentials unrivaled by most (all?) of his sports management peers, he has a track record of uninterrupted success. How successful has Lucchino been? He even managed to take the San Diego Padres to the World Series. The San Diego effin’ Padres!

Prior to the arrival of the Henry/Lucchino team, the Red Sox were run in a consistently petty and obtuse manner. How dumb were previous Red Sox owners? They hired managers like Don Zimmer and Butch Hobson. They even hired a general manager like Dan Duquette and let him openly war with his players for almost a decade.

More importantly, on a macro level, previous Red Sox ownership had allowed the franchise to be tainted as racist long after it had ceased being racist. It had allowed Boston to become a terrible place to play, not just because the fans and media were so difficult but because ownership and management were obnoxious, overbearing and inept.

In his first year on the job, Lucchino removed all these taints. Red Sox management almost instantly became professional and intelligent. General Manager Dan Duquette and manager Joe Kerrigan were both removed from their posts. Lucchino began a reconstruction of hallowed Fenway Park that has become wildly popular and successful. Perhaps most amazingly, the reputation of the Red Sox franchise changed almost instantly.

In his second year on the job, Lucchino hired his former mentee, the then 28 year-old Theo Epstein, to be the Red Sox general manager and the youngest general manager in baseball history. This was a courageous move, made all the more courageous by the fact that everyone who is professionally involved in Boston sports knows that the media are perennially poised like a piranha, ready to pounce on any mistake and any misstep. (Give me alliteration over metaphorical accuracy any day.)

Lucchino was of course widely pilloried for hiring someone as young as Epstein by intellectually sloppy and simplistic columnists like the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy who observed at the time, “It sounds like a Bill Veeck stunt, like sending midget Eddie Gaedel up to the plate as a pinch hitter.” It is a measure of Lucchino’s intelligence, confidence and bravery that he was willing to be such a path-bearer, especially given the attacks he would have doubtlessly received had the Epstein hire not worked out.

THE WORD IS THAT TENSION between Lucchino and Epstein triggered the younger man’s departure. Also apparently playing a role, appropriately enough, seems to be a Sunday column penned by Dan Shaughnessy that allegedly spilled the beans regarding the confidential negotiations between the two men.

The worst part of being an athlete or part of a pro sports franchise in Boston is having to deal with the endless destructive sniping and negativity of the likes of Shaughnessy. Upon Epstein’s hiring, Shaughnessy positioned himself to engage in snarky second guessing. A few years later, after a World Series title, Shaughnessy repositioned himself as an Epstein champion offering tributes like this one from this past Sunday: “Theo Epstein is a truly remarkable young man from a truly remarkable family. He would be a success in any field of his choice and Boston is fortunate that he set out to have a career in baseball.”

Of course, this is the same Dan Shaughnessy who a full week into David Ortiz’s career as a Red Sock wrote critically of what he considered to be Ortiz’s “salami bat.” The attention of the Boston media types like Shaughnessy types is as relentless as it is fickle. Many an athlete has been chased out of town by Shaughnessy’s ilk. There seems a real chance that Epstein in a similar vein has decided life is too short to put up with such nonsense.

Again, it is somehow fitting that Shaughnessy wrote a column that was a proximate cause for Theo’s exit. Normally Shaughnessy just unfairly inflicts misery on sports figures; now he’s apparently taken his game up a notch.

REGARDLESS OF WHY EPSTEIN LEFT, the franchise will be okay. What made the Sox special the last few years wasn’t Epstein as much as it was the guys who had the sense to hire Epstein. Ultimately the people at the top determine the long term direction of any organization. Theo Epstein did a great job here and will doubtlessly be missed.

But the principal difference maker in this franchise has been Larry Lucchino. He’s not going anywhere, and as a consequence all will remain well in Red Sox Nation.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett