Molly Ivins, 1944-2007

The great Molly Ivins has died at the age of 62. The Austin American-Statesman runs a fine obit, but its registration scheme is truly odious. The Texas Observer, where she first came to fame, has put together a terrific tribute.

My first exposure to Ivins was in listening to her hilarious commentaries for NPR in the 1980s, a gig I don’t think she had for very long. After that, I read her first book, “Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?”, and was delighted, although I’ll admit I had not read her regularly in recent years.

Even so, I always considered her, along with Nat Hentoff, to be perhaps the finest columnist never to win a Pulitzer — and far better than many of those who did. I recall listening to the audio version of Ivins and Lou Dubose’s Bush bio, “Shrub,” just before the 2000 Republican National Convention. Among its best features was the fact that Ivins narrated it — she was as much a master of the spoken word as the written word. “Shrub” was tough but also fairly gentle in some ways, but that changed: She later called for Bush’s impeachment.

One memorable Ivins-ism that I haven’t seen brought up tonight is her description of then-governor George W. Bush’s ability to speak Spanish as well as English: “bi-ignorant.”

She was one of the greats.

Update: Here’s a link to Ivins’ last column, headlined “Stand Up Against the Surge.” “We are the people who run this country,” she wrote. “We are the deciders.” If only that were true.


More bad news for the Globe

The financial situation continues to deteriorate at the Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Romenesko has the roundup: “The New York Times Co. posted a $648 million loss for the fourth quarter as it absorbed an $814.4 million charge to write down the value of its struggling New England properties, the Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.”

It looks like the Times Co. now agrees with retired General Electric chief executive Jack Welch, who’d like to buy the Globe and who recently valued the paper at between $500 million and $600 million — half what the Times Co. paid for it, and in 1993 dollars at that.

Question: Do the Sulzbergers believe the newspaper market is going to bounce back? Or is it look out below? The answer to that question will determine whether and when the Globe gets sold.

Taking the Globe to task

Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post on the Boston Globe’s decision to eliminate its three remaining foreign bureaus: “I find it disheartening that a fine newspaper such as the Globe would feel compelled to diminish itself in this way. But maybe that’s the nostalgia of a dinosaur.” (Via Romenesko.)

Not wild about Harry

I might have stumbled across the blog Squaring the Globe once or twice in the past. This morning, though, I paid a visit on Universal Hub‘s recommendation. What I found was — well, odd.

Today’s complaint by our blogger, Harry, is that a Globe story by Charles Radin about the closing of an Episcopal church in Attleboro is biased against the priest and the congregation, who are being forced to leave by the diocese after affiliating with a Rwandan branch that opposes the American church’s liberal views on homosexuality. As Radin points out, this is becoming increasingly common as liberal and conservative Episcopalians split apart.

Harry lodges a couple of weird complaints in this post. First, he writes:

Monday’s Boston Globe front page carries this picture of the last service of an Episcopal congregation in their Attleboro church. The photo’s label “Schism brings a church closing” as well as the story’s headline “Worshipers vacate Episcopal church” are both inaccurate half-truths. This congregation is being evicted on 2 weeks notice by the US Episcopal church hierarchy.

Really? How are either the caption or the headline even remotely incompatible with the word “eviction”? In any case, here is Radin’s lede, from which Harry does not quote:

In a service overflowing with tears, hugs, and evocations of historic persecution of Christians, members of All Saints Anglican Church of Attleboro held their last service yesterday in their North Main Street building and bowed to orders from the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts that they vacate the premises.

An eviction, in other words.

The other part of Harry’s post that I’m scratching my head over is his conclusion, in which he approvingly cites a story in the Sun Chronicle of Attleboro for quoting the Rev. Lance Giuffrida. Writes Harry: “The story about the church closing in the local Attleboro Sun Chronicle quotes the priest’s dilemma more poignantly: ‘I didn’t change. … I preached the same thing for 30 years. I didn’t move. I just stood.'”

The clear implication is that Radin’s Globe story fell short by not offering up a similar quote from Giuffrida. Yet here is the second paragraph of Radin’s story:

“I never meant us to be at this time and place,” said the Rev. Lance Giuffrida, his voice cracking as he addressed about 160 worshipers who filled the sanctuary nearly to capacity. “I didn’t do anything differently than when you called me” to the church’s pulpit in 2001.

Different words, but precisely the same sentiment.

I love the idea of citizen journalists like Harry holding the mainstream media to account. Squaring the Globe may not have a huge following, but it’s important because it’s part of the blogging ecosystem. (After all, with a very few exceptions no single blog is so important that it stands on its own.)

Unfortunately, based on this post, it seems that Harry is so caught up in his belief that the Globe is biased that he can’t see a straightforward news story when it smacks him in the face.

Hot to Trot

This drives me crazy. The Globe’s Nick Cafardo predicts that the Cleveland Indians will be happy they invested $3 million in former Red Sox rightfielder Trot Nixon. Why? “He will likely play only vs. righthanders, but he’s motivated to produce at a high level,” Cafardo writes. “He worked out harder this offseason than he has in many years.”

Gee, thanks, Trot.

What Joseph Wilson said

I have to laugh at Josh Marshall for charging Charles Krauthammer with telling a “lie” about former ambassador Joseph Wilson — namely, that Wilson had claimed he was sent on his infamous mission to Niger by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Marshall approvingly reproduces an e-mail from someone who had seen Krauthammer make that accusation on a TV show. The reader points out, quite accurately, that Wilson never made such a claim in his celebrated New York Times op-ed piece. Marshall concludes: “Does someone know where one can find transcripts for this show. It doesn’t surprise me that Krauthammer is still peddling this lie.”

But wait. No, Wilson didn’t say it in his op-ed. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t say it. For instance, check out this Wilson statement, which he made on CNN in July 7, 2003 (thanks to Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler):

Well, I went in, actually in February of 2002 was my most recent trip there — at the request, I was told, of the office of the vice president, which had seen a report in intelligence channels about this purported memorandum of agreement on uranium sales from Niger to Iraq.

Yes, Wilson gave himself some wiggle room, but clearly he wanted viewers to believe he’d been sent to Niger by Cheney. I’m sure there are other examples out there, too. And yes, for some time now I’ve shared Somerby’s view that critics of the Bush administration have hurt themselves with their unquestioning embrace of the dubious Mr. Wilson.

It sounds like Krauthammer got it right.

Not our commander in chief

Garry Wills has written a brilliant essay on the militarization of American society in general, and of the presidency, especially George W. Bush’s, in particular. No summary or excerpt will do it justice, so no quotes here. Just read it.