Monthly Archives: November 2005

Getting there

The New York Times finally publishes a toughly worded editorial about reports that white phosphorus used by U.S. forces against insurgents in Fallujah last year wound up injuring and killing civilians as well. An excerpt:

Now the use of a ghastly weapon called white phosphorus has raised questions about how careful the military has been in avoiding civilian casualties. It has also further tarnished America’s credibility on international treaties and the rules of warfare.

White phosphorus, which dates to World War II, should have been banned generations ago. Packed into an artillery shell, it explodes over a battlefield in a white glare that can illuminate an enemy’s positions. It also rains balls of flaming chemicals, which cling to anything they touch and burn until their oxygen supply is cut off. They can burn for hours inside a human body.

The United States restricted the use of incendiaries like white phosphorus after Vietnam, and in 1983, an international convention banned its use against civilians. In fact, one of the many crimes ascribed to Saddam Hussein was dropping white phosphorus on Kurdish rebels and civilians in 1991.

Among other things, the editorial is invaluable for its implicit challenge to the news side to start investigating this story.

Judging the Herald

The Globe reports that Superior Court Judge Ernest Murphy has asked that the financially ailing Herald’s assets be frozen in order to protect the $2.1 million libel judgment he won against the paper earlier this year.

The Herald does not cover the story — at least not in its online edition — and avoids taking any cheap shots against Murphy in this article about the judge’s decision yesterday to boost former UMass president William Bulger’s pension. Interestingly, the story is co-bylined by Dave Wedge, the principal target of Murphy’s libel suit. (The Globe covers the Bulger story here.)

The Herald’s reporting on Murphy was not exactly a model of good journalism. In fact, it was the opposite, pockmarked as it was with inaccuracies and dubiously sourced accusations. But free-press advocates ought to be concerned that a sitting judge can have some influence over the Herald’s future — and possibly its very survival — because of reporting that amounted to criticism of how he performed his public duties. That, more than anything, is what the First Amendment was designed to protect.

The harshest wrist-slapping ever

Boston Magazine hasn’t updated its “Thank God We’re a Two-Newspaper Town” feature since last July. But Media Nation is here to pick up the slack. From today’s papers:

In one of the harshest punishments it has ever handed down, the state Commission on Judicial Conduct suspended a Plymouth County judge yesterday for a year without pay for sexually harassing two female court workers. The commission also fined him $50,000 and barred him from ever sitting in any court in the county. — Boston Globe

The one-year slap-on-the-wrist suspension that will allow “love judge” Robert F. Murray to return to the bench after sexually harassing female underlings would never pass muster in the private sector, experts say. — Boston Herald

They report, you decide.

L.A. Times on the phosphorus case

The Los Angeles Times today fronts an excellent in-depth story on claims that U.S. forces injured and killed civilians with the flesh-burning substance white phosphorus during its assault on Fallujah last year.

Reporters John Daniszewski and Mark Mazzetti write: “In the 1990s, in fact, the U.S. condemned Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for allegedly using ‘white phosphorus chemical weapons’ against Kurdish rebels and residents of Irbil and Dohuk.” So much for U.S. denials that phosphorus is a chemical weapon.

And there is this:

Abdul Qadir Sadi, an Iraqi from Fallouja in his 30s, said doctors had told him that two of his family members were killed by white phosphorus.

“They had a lot of serious skin burns,” Sadi said. “The doctor at the hospital told us that they must have been hit by these chemicals. They were being treated by the doctor, but after a while, these burned places started to dissolve.”

“We have registered the documents and exhibits of everything that happened,” said Mohammed Tariq, a human rights worker in Fallouja. “We informed the Iraqi Red Crescent, the International Red Cross and [other] international organizations, but our efforts were in vain.”

The L.A. Times dutifully reports Pentagon denials that civilians in Fallujah were targeted. But I can’t imagine that anyone to the right of Ramsey Clark thinks that’s what happened. The issue remains whether U.S. forces attacked insurgents with white phosphorus even though they knew — or should have known — that civilians were in close proximity. Since the Pentagon has already admitted to the former, it’s hardly a great leap of logic to arrive at the latter.

At least it’s not a porn site

Making up the name of a fake Web site in order to write a cute headline, only to find out later that it’s a real site — it’s a mistake that’s so ’90s. But here we are in 2005, and the New York Times’ “Practical Traveler” column today is accompanied by the headline “Wishyouwerehere.com: Blogs From the Road.”

Yes, as you might have imagined, there is a real Wishyouwerehere.com, a forwarding site that takes you to the online home of a British company called FremantleMedia, “one of the largest international creators and producers of programme brands in the world, with leading prime time drama, serial drama, entertainment and factual entertainment programming in around 43 territories, including the UK, the US, Germany, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia, Latin America and Asia.”

According to this “whois” search, the domain name wishyouwerehere.com was registered in London in 1997 by the aforementioned FremantleMedia.

Someone at the Times needs to get a clue.

In a heartbeat

That’s how fast I’d latch on to Peter Gammons’ idea of trading Matt Clement for Derek Lowe. (Via Nick Cafardo in today’s Boston Globe.) Lowe may be no one’s idea of a role model, but he can pitch under pressure. For that matter, in his last two seasons with the Red Sox he showed that he might not be able to pitch except when there’s pressure — the more, the better.

Meanwhile, Clement, I’m afraid, is going to be Matt Young-ized if he stays here, not just because of his own skittishness but because many Boston fans are spoiled, mean-spirited yahoos. (That is, unless you think the hapless Mark Bellhorn deserved to be hounded out of town.)