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Where’s Alan Dershowitz?

Last Saturday, the Boston Globe editorial page criticized Jimmy Carter for refusing to debate Alan Dershowitz at Brandeis University over Carter’s new book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” The editorial said in part:

Some of the fury Carter has provoked is so overwrought that it appears to confirm his own overstated contention that any criticism of Israel is treated like heresy by the mainstream media. But it is precisely because of the hyperbole of his critics, and the seriousness of the issues he wants to raise, that Carter should agree to debate that inveterate defender of Israel, Alan Dershowitz.

I agree. So I was a little surprised today when the Globe ran an op-ed by Carter in which he both flogs his book and whines about the way he’s been treated. Carter writes:

[T]here has been a pattern of ad hominem statements, alleging that I am a liar, plagiarist, anti-Semite, racist, bigot, ignorant, etc. There are frequent denunciations of fabricated “straw man” accusations: that I have claimed that apartheid exists within Israel; that the system of apartheid in Palestine is based on racism; and that Jews control and manipulate the news media of America.

Actually, the Carter op-ed isn’t a surprise. It’s the lack of a counterbalance from Dershowitz or anyone else — not necessary under normal circumstances, but necessary because the Globe just got finished applauding Brandeis for insisting on a debate rather than a monologue.

Coming tomorrow?

How old is Rocky?

New York Times: “Since he was last seen 16 years ago in ‘Rocky V,’ this two-time former heavyweight champion, now pushing 60 (Mr. Stallone’s age), has evolved a philosophy of the ring that befits an older, slower athlete.”

Boston Globe: “‘Rocky Balboa’ is about a 50-year-old boxer’s last shot at glory, but it clearly represents the 60-year-old Sylvester Stallone’s attempt to climb back in the ring after a career that has dwindled into inconsequence in the past decade.”

Fill in the blanks

Three or four times a year, the Boston Herald comes up with an easy answer to the arduous question of what to put on the front page. The editors follow a formula, reliable, predictable and simple. Just fill in the blanks:

___, the city’s/state’s (pick one) czar/czarina (pick one) of ___, has been running up exorbitant tabs at posh resorts and swank hotels in the Caribbean/ Hawaii/ Austria (pick one) instead of attending to taxpayer business.

During a stay at the ___, according to public records, ___ spent $110 wining and dining ___, head of the ___. The menu features such chi-chi fare as fire-roasted lobster with pine nuts and scallop-encrusted steak. Even a cheeseburger costs $24.95.

___ justified the trip by claiming ___ has promised to open a ___ in the city that would generate $__ million of economic activity every year. But ___, dragging her two/four/six (pick one) toddlers through a local Burger King yesterday, voiced outrage.

“Why should ___ get to travel to ___ when I’m stuck here?” she demanded. “Let him/her (pick one) see how the rest of us gotta live. Ya know?”

Put together a front page featuring the word “JUNKET.” Bake for 15 minutes. Serve when ready.

Today it’s Julie Burns, the city’s “$100,000-a-year arts and tourism czarina,” who, reporter Michele McPhee breathlessly tells us, “has traveled to Austria, Taiwan, Chicago and Philadelphia, but has yet to ink a deal due to her globe-trotting.” Burns has been on the job for only eight months. And, gee, why on earth would a tourism “czarina” be traveling, when she could, you know, be signing documents or something.

Then there’s this: according to McPhee, “most” of Burns’ junkets haven’t cost the taxpayers a dime, since they’ve been paid for by private groups. But hey, she traveled while on city time.

There’s also the matter of a proposed Montreal-to-Boston bicycle tour, which isn’t a done deal, but which was the subject of her trip to Austria. McPhee gleefully reports that Burns is worried the bike tour won’t happen if the Herald were to reveal it. And City Councilor John Tobin, who ought to know better, helps out by saying Burns should be bringing movies to Boston rather than cyclists. (Hey, John: Why not both?)

All of this is wrapped up with the front-page headline “PAGING JULIE JUNKET!”

This is the very definition of a non-story, fueled mainly by class resentment and the hope that readers are too stupid to understand why a tourism “czarina” can’t do her job holed up at City Hall all day. Enjoy.

No more Joseph Wilsons

My reservations about former ambassador Joseph Wilson aside, at least no one tried to stop him from writing his celebrated op-ed piece for the New York Times in July 2003. The principle that internal critics of government policies must be allowed to speak out is an important one, especially when those critics no longer work for the government. To muzzle them at that point is the very definition of censorship.

So it’s pretty disturbing to learn that two former government officials have been barred from writing a Times op-ed that criticizes the Bush administration’s refusal to hold talks with Iran. The reason, supposedly, is that the op-ed would reveal classified information. But there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that’s not true.

The Times itself covers the story today. Rather than rely on the Times reporting on itself, though, I’d rather look at this account, which was published yesterday in the Raw Story. In the article, Brian Beutler reports on a talk given by former CIA agent Flynt Leverett, co-author of the op-ed along with his wife, Hillary Mann, a former official with the National Security Council and the State Department.

What is the evidence that Leverett and Mann’s article does not, in fact, contain classified information? Consider:

  • Leverett told Beutler: “Up until last week with regard to this particular op-ed at this particular time … they have cleared on the order of thirty drafts that I have sent them in three and a half years out of government.” And: “Until last week they never asked to change a word.” Assuming that Leverett is being candid, this is clearly a man who knows what he can write about and what he can’t.
  • Beutler writes: “Leverett contends that the op-ed in question is based on a larger paper that passed the same oversight process without a change made to a single word, and that people who work on the review board have told him that the piece would have been approved — were it not for intervention by the White House.”

That paper, according to the Times account, is called “Dealing with Tehran,” and it was published by the Century Foundation. You can download a PDF of it here. (If you’re interested in reading it, you might want to save it right now.)

This Washington Post account is worth reading as well.

A statement by Leverett appears on the TPM Café. It includes this:

There is no basis for claiming that these issues are classified and not already in the public domain.

For the White House to make this claim, with regard to my op-ed and at this particular moment, is nothing more than a crass effort to politicize a prepublication review process — a process that is supposed to be about the protection of classified information, and nothing else — to limit the dissemination of views critical of administration policy….

Their conduct in this matter is despicable and un-American in the profoundest sense of that term. I am also deeply disappointed that former colleagues at the Central Intelligence Agency have proven so supine in the face of tawdry political pressure. Intelligence officers are supposed to act better than that.

You can watch Leverett’s talk yesterday here.

The Leverett story is breaking just as the administration has decided to back down from an attempt to force the ACLU to turn over all copies of a memo it had obtained on government policy regarding the photographing of detainees. The ACLU has posted the memo here.

The Bush administration’s continued efforts to conduct its dubious foreign policy in secret boggles the mind. The only good news is its remarkable ineptitude — we keep finding out anyway.

WBUR lands a bigfoot

After the Boston Globe, there is no more important a news organization in Greater Boston than WBUR Radio (90.9 FM). But though its mix of NPR programs and its own shows, such as “On Point,” “Here and Now” and the late, lamented “Connection,” is consistently good, the station has had a greater presence nationally over the years than it’s had locally.

Yesterday the station went a long way toward bolstering its local image by hiring a genuine bigfoot — David Boeri, a veteran reporter with WCVB-TV (Channel 5). The move reunites Boeri with Paul La Camera, who, before becoming WBUR’s general manager in 2005, was president and general manager of Channel 5.

Earlier this year I wrote an article for CommonWealth Magazine about La Camera’s goal of building WBUR’s local presence.

How can ‘BUR grow while every other media institution is slashing? It’s the ownership model. WBUR is a public station whose license is held by Boston University. Contrary to what conservative public-broadcasting critics would have you believe, public radio stations receive very little money from the government; it could be eliminated entirely without doing much harm to the product.

Instead, the real key is that public radio is built on a foundation of listener contributions and corporate underwriting (i.e., advertising, although no one likes to call it that), with a nonprofit model that guarantees revenues will be plowed back into the news rather than used to enhance the bottom line for Wall Street’s benefit.

It’s a model that bears watching — and that might have some relevance to the newspaper business as it gropes its way toward an uncertain future.

Me culpa

No, that’s not a typo. Looking back over the past few days, I see that I’ve put up a string of horrendously self-referential posts. Unavoidable, perhaps, given the circumstances. But that should be pretty much the end. Keep reading Media Nation for posts about things other than Media Nation.

Media Nation on the air

Kevin Whalen, the co-host of “Pundit Review Radio,” has invited me to sit in with him tonight on WRKO Radio (AM 680) from 8 to 9 p.m. Please tune in.