Posts Tagged ‘Seth Gitell’

Gitell.com Says Goodbye

February 8, 2009

I write today with the bittersweet news that I am suspending my primary writing outlet for more than two years, Gitell.com. This website served as an eclectic collection of musings and reporting, on subjects ranging from the 2008 presidential campaign to Middle East politics, great deli to Chinese food.

In the world of blogging such a diverse website is not supposed to succeed. I received my share of lectures from web experts urging me to narrowcast. I shouldn’t just write about pets or cats or black cats, they said, but one-eyed black cats. That was how I could hope to wring money out of the media at a time of transformation and retrenchment, they said. I never heeded that advice. The site fit into no existing blogosphere community – an all but certain way to boost website traffic. I never wanted to generate gruel for the ideologically converted. No. Gitell.com will stand as the repository of quirky interests of a person with plenty of passions.

I’m particularly proud of the response Gitell.com gained in a number of areas. My writing on veterans’ affairs, influenced by my father, garnered a constant stream of visitors. See this piece on the Vietnam War Memorial. Then, there were the pieces I thought of as the web equivalent of a Boston Globe metro column: for example, the story of my neighbor, a witness to the Warsaw Ghetto horror, himself taken to Germany as a slave laborer after participating in the little-remembered Warsaw revolt. Then there are my writings on the people who helped forge the political character of Boston, such as Albie Sherman and Charlie Doyle. And, of course, food. I’ll probably miss that the most.

It’s a tribute to the site and the brilliance of the great departed John Cazale that a post about him is the fourth-most trafficked piece in the history of Gitell.com.

As much as Gitell.com ran contrary to the flow of conventional web thinking, it won more than its fair share of of acclaim and recognition. The site was linked to by Politico and Slate, The New Republic and other sites. My piece on encountering documentarian Ken Burns at Costco was quoted in the print edition of The Washington Post. Another post was excerpted on the op-ed page of The Boston Globe. Amidst the more than 205,000 blogs associated with WordPress, Gitell.com was selected “Blog of the Day” and “Hawt Post” on a number of occasions.

All-in-all, it was a great run. I’m moving on to a terrific opportunity. To all my readers, I thank you for your loyalty and support. Farewell.

EDIT. February 10, 2009. Many have written asking about my new coordinates. The State House News Service reported today that I have joined the new Speaker of the House in Massachusetts, Rep. Robert DeLeo, as his director of communications.

More Caroline Kennedy: Supports Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

December 22, 2008

I just left a memorial luncheon for the great David Nyhan, presided over by Ed Jesser and Marty Nolan. The Kennedy Room in Doyle’s was abuzz with talk of Caroline Kennedy’s quasi-candidacy. Seasoned political hand Jim King recounted his efforts on behalf of Ted Kennedy back in 1961!

While I soaked up the political color — more than I can get into here — I received a news flash via the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: Kennedy had just come out in favor of an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Caroline Kennedy expressed support for Israel and for Jerusalem as its capital.

The scion of the Kennedy clan, who recently expressed her interest in assuming the seat of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) should Clinton be confirmed as secretary of state, answered a New York Times political questionnaire on Saturday, her first such policy statement.

Kennedy expressed “strong support for Israel,” the Times reported, “and said an undivided Jerusalem must be the country’s national capital.”

This recalled another aspect of the Senator Moynihan-Hillary Clinton-Caroline Kennedy connection. Moynihan urged Clinton to embrace the cause of Israel as part of her advocacy of New York. She not only agreed, but broke with President Clinton over it. And I scooped the world on it.

Here’s a caution from a pro-Israel activist on this issue. The comment relates to Clinton, but it could possibly apply to Kennedy as well:

Morrie Amitay, who is a former director of Aipac, a Washington lawyer, and a pro-Israel activist, cautioned against reading too much into Mrs. Clinton’s statement. “What a candidate says before they’re elected is fairly meaningless. She’s become a friend of Israel only recently. You do not know what she really believes,” Mr. Amitay said. Pre-election statements on Jerusalem have bedeviled political candidates on both sides of the aisle. Asked about moving the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv by Morton Klein at a private fundraiser in 1999, President Bush, then the governor of Texas, replied, “I’m afraid that might screw up the peace process. I don’t want to screw up the peace process.” An aide later stated Mr. Bush’s intention was to move the embassy to Jerusalem and that he would “set the process in motion as soon as he becomes president.” Neither President Bush nor President Clinton followed the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act of 1995, which declared the city Israel’s capital and ordered the moving of the embassy to the city.

Gitell on Barack Obama’s National Security Team

December 3, 2008

Watch me on NewsNight analyzing President-Elect Obama’s new national security team by clicking here.

NECN NewsNight Appearance 8 P.M.

December 2, 2008

Watch me on NECN NewsNight tonight at 8. The topic is the Obama transition.

Personal Memories of Campaign 2008

November 6, 2008
I first met Barack Obama at a sparsely attended press conference for Deval Patrick in October 2006. I saw him electrify an audience at the JFK Library and witnessed his first big appearance in New Hampshire in early December. I was there in Concord when Obama stood by his vow to meet the president of Iran during his first year in office. “We don’t need Bush-Cheney Lite,” he said as the crowd erupted in cheers. Even when this became an issue in the debates with McCain, nobody told McCain Obama ever said that.
I heard him implore Massachusetts to vote for him with Caroline Kennedy and Ted Kennedy at his side the night before the primary. He lost but he did not lose his cool.
I saw his last appearance with foreign policy aide Samantha Power. Obama seemed to love her energy but his staffers kept reeling her in.
I was one of the few writers to spend an extended period of time with Joe Biden, who gave me time after a book talk at Borders in downtown Boston. In an odd juxtaposition from four years earlier, I waited for Biden with the BPPA’s leadership team.
I attended scores of Hillary Clinton speeches and watched her campaign of inevitability devolve into desperation. I saw her fight back as the NH primary approached. I was in the room when two goons got up during one of her speeches shouting “Iron My Shirt! Iron My Shirt!”
I covered the Pennsylvania primary before Obama had figured out how to capture the votes of blue collar whites (or before the economy entirely went south.) I saw a Bill Clinton, reduced to giving 25 minute speeches in out-of-the-way venues, rev up the crowd in Millvale, PA. I interviewed Senator Casey of Pennsylvania who assured me Obama would win over enough Catholic voters to become president.
On the Republican side, I began by following Mitt Romney around New Hampshire. I saw Rudy Giuliani take brief interest and lose it in the Granite State. While he started to resonate in July, his big tour across Southern New Hampshire was a bust. The lasting image is of his gaggle of stilettoed press aides shoeing away the media, including David Broder who subsequently slammed Giuliani in the Washington Post.
McCain began his presidential campaign in Portsmouth at a highly orchestrated event right on the river with just one problem. The t.v. cameras could not shoot over the big speakers McCain’s people had set up. I called around NH when McCain hit his low point. McCain would win NH on his own, his supporters said. And they were right. I was with McCain the night he won NH and killed the campaign of Mitt Romney. The campaign blared Chuck Berry’s “Go Johnny Go!” How is this guy going to compete with Obama and his U2 “City of Blinding Light?” I thought.
I was there in Denver when Obama made everything in his campaign bigger and pulled it off.

Bogus Rumor: Sarah Palin Is Jewish

October 27, 2008

David Bernstein included a curious anecdote in his insightful long article on Sarah Palin — that tears came to Palin’s eyes when a supporter likened her to Queen Esther of the Bible. In the story of Purim, Esther is a Jew who keeps her identity hidden until put into a position where she can save the lives of her fellow Persian Jews. (Bernstein’s piece, incidentally, represents the best of journalism in the Phoenix, a long article that combines reporting, color and analysis.)

Now comes a rumor in a strange new light. Several websites make the assertion that Sarah Palin, like John Kerry and Madeleine Albright before her, has hidden Jewish roots.

Ron Kampeas, the Washington bureau chief for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, has investigated the claim and come to the conclusion that it is false. Kampeas links to a genealogy of Palin that appears to put the story to bed. Kampeas has every incentive to check this story out. When I was the Washington bureau chief for the Forward, a national weekly Jewish newspaper, I spent a month trying to discern whether Hillary Clinton had a similar story in her background. (She had a Jewish step-grandfather.)

Having said that, I think Bernstein’s Phoenix piece provides some detail as to why the claim is resonating on the right. By the way, it seems to also be circulating among those suspicious of the “Israel Lobby’s” power on the Left as well.

I found the contraband signs in the damp grass. They had been rounded up and now lay in two piles by the opening in the chainlink fence where security and campaign officials had screened the 5000 or so people who came to see Sarah Palin speak at Salem High School’s Grant Field this past Wednesday, October 15. It was the third Palin rally in New Hampshire I had attended that day, and I knew that the security guards were keeping out more than just dangerous weapons — campaign staff was also filtering out signs, pins, and shirts that might, to a now highly attuned national audience, appear harsh or offensive.

So, while the crowd was still cheering Palin, who had finished her 30-minute speech and had begun signing autographs, I headed to that entrance and found about a dozen handmade cardboard signs. I don’t know whether other rejected slogans had already been removed, but most in these piles were pretty tame. The only potentially offensive phrase on one was “NOBAMA.” Another read “CONSERVATIVE WOMEN HAVE RIGHTS TOO.” “ACORN IS NUTS,” one claimed, while another, carefully lettered, declared “PALIN — BABIES GUNS JESUS.”

But the two most striking were adorned with Jewish stars. One read “PALIN — TRUE NORTH.” The other, “SARAH — FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS.”

That last phrase comes from chapter four of the Old Testament Book of Esther. Apparently, the idea of Palin as the Queen Esther for our time has made it to New Hampshire.

The theory has been around since before John McCain picked Palin in late August — it was circulating on religious Christian blogs in early June when news outlets reported that she was on McCain’s short list. After the announcement, it picked up steam — particularly after it was reported that Palin, at the suggestion of her pastor, had, upon becoming governor of Alaska, patterned herself after Queen Esther.

Soon after the Republican National Convention, an e-mail went viral in conservative Christian circles, in which Pastor Mark Arnold claimed to have found himself next to Palin at a rally in his hometown of Lebanon, Ohio. According to the account, Arnold came face-to-face with Palin, and God spoke through him, telling the governor that “God wants you to know that you are a present-day Esther. . . . Keep your eyes on God and know that He has chosen you to reign!”

Palin, according to the account, immediately began to cry — as did her husband, Todd, when Arnold then repeated the news to him. Arnold also told McCain that the Palins are “called of God and she is an Esther.”

Esther, for those not up on their Old Testament, was a Jewish woman plucked from obscurity to become Queen of Persia after winning a beauty contest. This placed her in the right place, at the right time, to intervene in a plan to annihilate the Jews. In a nutshell, when she revealed herself to be Jewish, the king halted the slaughter and instead hanged Haman, the official behind the plot.

Jews recount the tale on Purim with much gaiety and, for most, little concern about historical accuracy.

Palin, of course, was a beauty-pageant participant (while McCain has oft commented that he “never
won Miss Congeniality in the Senate,” Palin won that title in the 1984 Miss Alaska contest), now plucked from obscurity to be in a position to advise the powerful should John McCain become president.

The big question, of course, is for what vital role — what “time such as this” — is Palin being groomed?

One common theory among the Christian cognoscenti is that, just as Esther stopped a threat in Persia to wipe out the Jews, Palin must stop a threat from modern-day Persia — Iran — to wipe out Israel (which would be anathema to conservative Christians, who believe Jews must control that land when Christ returns).

Jon Wiener, blogging last month on thenation.com, took note of this suggestion and pointed out that, in the Biblical account, Esther also got the king to grant the Jews the right “to destroy, to slay . . . every people and province that oppress them,” including women and small children. Wiener suggests that, to the Christian fundamentalists, the Book of Esther appears to authorize the bombing of Iran — regardless of civilian casualties.

Gitell on 96.9 with Hank Morse

October 11, 2008

You can listen to me along with Charley Manning on the Hank Morse Show on 96.9 FM-Talk tomorrow at 8 a.m.

NECN NewsNight: Gitell v. Gitell

October 11, 2008

We are joined by the sophisticated editor of Boston Common, Terri Stanley. Watch the show by clicking here.

A Very Special NECN NewsNight

October 10, 2008

Jim Braude on NECN’s NewsNight will host tonight what in the 1970s was called “a very special episode.” Tonight is the regular NewsNight quiz. It is no surprise that I will be a contestant, having competed on many occasions. The special aspect of tonight is that the show’s diabolical producer, John Van Scoyoc, has scheduled my wife, The Fabulous Dana, to be among those competing against me. This should ratchet up the already high stakes on what is already high intensity television. Dana has a solid grounding in current events and a rapier-like wit especially when it is directed at me. Such programming schemes are undoubtedly what t.v. professionals must resort to when the Boston Red Sox are in the ALCS.

The show will air at 8 p.m.

Gitell 7 a.m. Appearance on with Hank Morse with WTKK

September 27, 2008

I will be on WTKK with Hank Morse at 7 a.m. Charley Manning will be the other guest. The subject will be tonight’s debate.