The world according to Bob

Bob, the third member of the Blue Mass Group troika, has weighed in with his thoughts on the “Greater Boston” blogging piece. His contribution is clarifying, partly in a good way, partly not. Let me pull out what I think are the main points:

1. It all started with that New York Times piece. In Bob’s view, the Times op-ed on political bloggers who are paid by campaigns was “sloppy because it lumps all bloggers who have taken money from politicians together, even though what the bloggers have done, and what they have disclosed, is very different in many cases.”

Bob hails Charley’s analysis of same, but I think Bob’s summary is more useful. I thought it was hard to tell whether Charley believed the Times article was wrong, was accurate but misunderstood by John Carroll and company, or somewhere in between.

Any fair reading of the Times op-ed would lead one to conclude that some leading political bloggers were taking money from candidates to write favorable things about them on their own sites (as opposed, or in addition, to the candidates’ sites), and that some of them were disclosing that fact and some weren’t.

Now, if you think “Greater Boston” should not have used the Times piece as fodder for discussion without independently verifying every purported fact contained therein, then your view of the media-criticism world is very different from mine. Suffice it to say that it would take a month to put together a show if every single media report that’s used is treated as though it were wrong until proven right.

2. “Greater Boston” and Carroll made a mistake. Uh, I think that’s been established. And acknowledged. And corrected.

Like every working journalist, I’ve got a pile of corrections to my credit. If I can hang on until 2010, I’ll be able to say that I’ve had corrections published about my work over five decades. It happens. (OK, 2011 for those of you who think a new decade doesn’t begin until the end of the year ending in zero.)

3. BMG blogger David Kravitz was screwed. Kravitz has claimed that an interview “Greater Boston” did with him made it appear that he was directly speaking about Armstrong, and that his words were thus distorted and manipulated.

I disagree. I’ve watched the segment twice now, and it didn’t strike me that Kravitz was addressing Armstrong’s situation specifically, but, rather, conflicts of interest involving bloggers in general.

I heartily endorse the Massachusetts Liberal’s take on this. He writes:

I’m not troubled by how David Kravitz sounded, even if he believes he was cut and pasted inappropriately. He comes across as a strong believer in the value of blogging and in the ability of the blogosphere to police its own.

4. Bob undermines himself with an inflated sense of his own importance. Without a shred of irony, Bob writes about “bits of arrogance continu[ing] to fall from the sky.” No, he’s not talking about himself and his fellow bloggers.

Bob follows up with a ransom note demanding that Carroll take a leave of absence, that “Greater Boston” issue a public apology and that Kravitz be included as a panelist. Good grief. Actually, the third demand wouldn’t be a bad idea were it not for the absurdity of the first two.

And by the way, I’m not saying that Bob and company are being arrogant because they’re trying to place themselves on the same level as the mainstream media. No, they’re being arrogant in a way that I’ve never seen on the part of journalists I respect.

Media Nation on semi-hiatus

I am in a place called Grading Hell this week, and shall not ascend from the fiery depths until sometime Friday morning. So expect blogging to be light or non-existent. Yes, this requires me to sit out World War III for a few days. So be it. I’ve already said pretty much what I had to say, which isn’t much.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy Charley on the MTA’s comment on Blue Mass Group in which he says he doesn’t think it would be any big deal if a blogger signed a confidentiality agreement in return for taking part in the deliberations of, say, the incoming administration of Deval Patrick.

“Gary, we have conversations with people ‘off the record’ all the time,” Charley instructs his inquisitor. Me, too, Charley. But it doesn’t mean I jump into bed with them.

Caveat: If Charley is merely being satirical, my apologies in advance.

More: Yeah, what Massachusetts Liberal said.

Still more: Charley checks in, and I respond.

First thoughts on “Greater Boston”

I’ve received e-mails from several people today asking when I’m going to comment on John Carroll’s piece about paid political bloggers that appeared this past Friday on “Greater Boston with Emily Rooney.” I wasn’t on last Friday, and I’m just catching up. Here is the clip in question:

The “Beat the Press” panelists — including me — will talk about it this coming Friday, so I’m not going to say much until then. Of course, my conflict of interest is obvious. Carroll is a colleague. He’s an honest and ethical journalist, and he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Carroll did make a mistake in believing this satirical post on MyDD.com claiming that several well-known bloggers were actually aliases used by yet another well-known blogger, Jerome Armstrong. But the first rule of satire is that lots of people won’t get it. Media Nation is known to be a land of high density, and if I had been in Carroll’s shoes, I can easily picture myself making the same mistake.

David Kravitz of Blue Mass Group, who was interviewed for Carroll’s piece, is unhappy, as he tells us here and here.

The bloggers seem to be notably unflustered about Carroll’s larger point, which is that some of them (not BMG) are on the take from political campaigns, and some of them don’t bother to disclose that.

Instant update: This post on the Weekly Dig blog is pretty amusing. But, Joe, watch out. The satirical post was by someone named Jonathan Singer, not Armstrong. Get ready for several dozen comments accusing you of being a clueless running dog for the MSM.

Romney’s homosexual agenda

Bay Windows has posted a copy of the letter that would-be presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrote during his 1994 Senate campaign to the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts.

In the letter, Romney claimed he would be an even better senator for gay and lesbian interests than Ted Kennedy. “If we are to achieve the goals we share,” Romney wrote, “we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern. My opponent cannot do this. I can and will.”

Here’s how Romney described Bill Clinton’s “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy: “I believe that the Clinton compromise was a step in the right direction. I am also convinced that it is the first of a number of steps that will ultimately lead to gays and lesbians being allowed to serve openly and honestly in our nation’s military.”

The New York Times reports on the letter today in an article that includes quotes from such right-wing figures as Tony Perkins and Paul Weyrich expressing their dismay with Romney.

But as Bay Windows editor Susan Ryan-Vollmar observes, the letter “was widely reported on at the time.” Why Romney thought he could ever fool the Christian right into believing he had always been an ally is a mystery.

Interestingly, the Romney revelations (re-revelations?) coincide with a cover story (sub. req.) in The New Republic about the only other religious-right presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas.

Like Romney, Brownback comes off as someone who, a dozen years ago, held distinctly more moderate views than he does today. Unlike Romney, Brownback appears to have undergone a sincere religious conversion, from mainline Protestant to evangelical Christian and, finally, to devout Catholic.

Romney, on the other hand, is trying to claim that his Mormon faith makes his views one with those of the religious right. Never mind that his mother, also a Mormon, appears to have been pro-choice. Never mind that Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, among the best-known Mormon politicians in the country, favors embryonic-stem-cell research, which Romney does not.

And never mind that Romney himself, in his first run for office, portrayed himself as pro-choice and as a staunch supporter of what the religious right likes to denounce as “the homosexual agenda.”

For connoisseurs of political hypocrisy in its purest form, the Romney letter is gold. But have his presidential hopes been destroyed?

Not necessarily. The number-one issue for gay men and lesbians today is same-sex marriage, which Romney can claim never to have supported. Marriage equality was barely on the radar in 1994. Even when he ran for governor in 2002, it had not quite attained critical mass. So he’ll try to thread the needle, saying he supports gay and lesbian equality but not marriage.

Will religious-right voters buy it? It’s hard to say. But Romney had certainly better hope he’s not on record supporting, say, civil unions.

Herald meltdown

It continues apace, according to the Weekly Dig’s blog. Among the latest victims: Sean McCarthy, whose cheeky sensibility is the sort of thing I thought they wanted at One Herald Square.

One thing that’s inexplicable is the utter lack of planning. You’d think Pat Purcell could sit down with his money people and say, OK, here’s what we can afford to do for the next year, no matter what happens. And if that required whacking 30 more people, well — horrible though that would be, it would certainly be better than dribbling it out a week at a time.

I assume the end is not at hand — otherwise, he wouldn’t have given his daughter a promotion this week. But this is as ugly as it gets.

Remembering Romney 1.0

The headline on this article in Bay Windows by Laura Kiritsy is grossly inaccurate. Gov. Mitt Romney is not fat. Indeed, not only is he always impeccably turned out, but he’s as slim as a twentysomething gay guy at the gym.

Am I out of bounds? Well, 12 years ago Romney might have taken a remark like that it in stride, or even hoped it would win him a few votes. After all, he had adopted the persona of a gay-friendly, Bill Weld-style moderate Republican in his unsuccessful attempt to defeat U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy. In 2002 Romney was at it again, courting gay men and lesbians in his campaign for governor.

As we all know, Romney is now running for president as a hard-right conservative, flipping on such crucial social issues as abortion rights (he used to be in favor; now he’s against) and gay and lesbian equality (he’s become an outspoken foe of same-sex marriage).

The problem is, everyone knows when Romney is lying: his lips move. You may recall that, some years ago, former senator Bob Kerrey referred to Bill Clinton as “an unusually good liar.” It’s always seemed to me that Romney was the opposite. There’s a long public record of Romney’s making statements that are 180 degrees different from what he’s saying today. There’s no shading them; all he can hope for is that everyone forgets.

So kudos to Kiritsy and Bay Windows for digging up and publishing what the rest of us knew was there but were too lazy or distracted to go looking for.

And here’s one of my personal favorites, from a 1994 Kennedy-Romney debate at Faneuil Hall that I watched from the balcony. According to the Boston Globe of Oct. 27, 1994, here’s what Romney said about the Boy Scouts of America’s policy of discriminating against gay boys and adult leaders:

Asked about the policy in Tuesday’s debate, Romney said, “I support the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue.” But he then added, “I feel that all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.”

After Romney’s defeat, Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby lambasted him as “a watered-down liberal” whom voters found less appealing that “the genuine article.” Well, he’s not going to make that mistake again.

Here is today’s Globe story on the Bay Windows revelations.

Blogger blues

I was just about ready to switch Media Nation from Blogger.com to WordPress when I got a message last night saying that I could transfer to the new, improved Blogger. Well, I tried this morning and was informed that it’s still in beta; I can’t join in the fun because my blog is too large.

I’ve been using Blogger since 2002, and have found it easy but consistently frustrating, mainly because it’s down quite a bit. It also hasn’t kept up with new features such as tags and comment verification. Google acquired Blogger a few years ago, but it hasn’t helped. However, the new Blogger is supposed to address a few of these shortcomings — especially reliability and tags. (I may have to go third-party for a better comment system.)

For the time being, I’ll stick with Blogger and hope that I’ll be allowed to upgrade soon — mainly because changing Media Nation’s address would be a huge pain.

Rosebud

Citizen Charles Foster Kane says he’s all done with blogging — but not before taking a final shot at Gregg Jackson, the right-wing cohost of the radio show “Pundit Review.” (It’s fair and balanced — the other host is a normal conservative.)

Kane’s was a voice of intelligent incivility, and he’ll be missed. Perhaps he’ll change his mind.

Becton to retire

The Phoenix’s Adam Reilly reports that WGBH president Henry Becton is retiring.

Ellis takes it back

Recently I cited a Wall Street Journal piece by former Boston Globe columnist John Ellis as evidence that the New York Times Co. would not sell the Globe — at least not until it had managed to goose up its value.

Well, last night I checked out Ellis’ infrequently updated blog and discovered that he’s taken it back. He’s posted his entire Journal column, so you can finally read it without a subscription. But he adds this, in reference to Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr.:

I now think he should sell all of the “New England assets” (The Globe, the Worcester paper, the Red Sox stake and the NESN stake), and gather up $1 billion-plus. This would enable the Times company to enter the next (2009-2010?) recession loaded with cash.

The fact is that the Globe is doomed. Without union concessions, the cost structure doesn’t work. And the unions will never concede anything, ever. So the NYT might as well get $600 million for it now, rather than $300 million for it in 2010.

Of course, $600 million is the price that retired GE chairman Jack Welch‘s group has floated for buying just the Globe.

Interesting, speculative though it is. Ellis does not specify what kind of “union concessions” the Times Co. needs. It’s certainly my impression that Globe management is already squeezing the union pretty hard.

I did a Technorati search to see whether I was the first blogger to stumble across Ellis’ revisionist theorizing, and discovered that a financial site called Controlled Greed posted on this yesterday.