Monthly Archives: November 2011

Qatar v. Kendall

By Chris Daly

At a glance, can you tell Doha, Qatar, from Kendall Square?

You make the call!






Hint: The top photo is from today’s NYTimes, the bottom photo is from today’s Globe.



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Tabloid ethics: Warts and more warts

By Chris Daly 

More slimy details emerge from the Murdoch scandals.

Today’s Times spotlights the unrepentant former deputy features editor at Murdoch’s News of the World.








Meanwhile, the Guardian focuses on the former spokesman for the British government, Alastair Campbell.




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A timely reminder

for journalists, about polling. As we enter a busy election season, all these issues will come up again and again.

Thanks to Tom Patterson at the Kennedy School and his colleagues.




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Barney Flashback: 1989

By Chris Daly 

The news that Barney Frank is retiring from the U.S. House at the end of this term prompted me to think back over the years that I covered him while I was a political reporter in Boston (for the AP, then for The Washington Post). I went to the Post archive, only to be reminded that the Post claims copyright to all my stories, so I had to pay to get access to my own work. (This was all part of the infamous “rights grab” a decade ago by big publishers who used their market power to treat all work as if it were “work for hire” — which, in my case, it was not.)

Anyway, here’s my Barney Frank story from 1989 (free to you, and now free to all comers).

For Now, Constituents Supporting Rep. Frank

The Washington Post

Aug. 31, 1989

By Christopher B. Daly

In the week since Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) acknowledged his involvement with a male prostitute, many of his constituents apparently have decided to stand by their congressman, at least for now.

With a mixture of anger, sympathy and disappointment, voters and public officials in southeastern Massachusetts generally agree that Frank’s record of accomplishment will outweigh the revelation that he paid for sex from a man who later said he had run a prostitution ring out of the congressman’s Capitol Hill apartment. Many of those who still support Frank, an acknowledged homosexual, said they are willing to overlook an isolated lapse in judgment. But even his supporters warn that the fifth-term congressman could be in political jeopardy if there are any more such revelations.

“Because it’s something of a personal nature, not something that happened in the halls of Congress, people don’t know quite how to react to it,” said state Rep. Stephen Karol, a Democrat from Attleboro. “This was something that was done by a public official in his private life. Most reasonable people are being very cautious and making sure they don’t rush to judgment.”

Karol, echoing a sentiment voiced by other Democrats in state government, added that he personally supports Frank and admires the way the congressman has dealt with the reports openly and honestly.

“I was very saddened by the congressman’s difficulty. I think it’s certainly very serious,” said A. Joseph DeNucci, a Democrat from Newton who serves as state auditor, an elected position. “I just happen to believe that he’s one of the best congressmen in the country. He has served his district, where I live, very well and capably. He has provided tremendous constituent services for the people in the district.” DeNucci added, “No question, this is seriously going to offend some people. To be frank, it troubles me somewhat. However, as a public person, separating the incident from his public abilities, I can overlook it.”

Responding to a published report, Frank confirmed last Friday that he paid a male prostitute, Stephen L. Gobie, for sex in 1985. Frank said he also tried to rehabilitate Gobie by hiring him as a personal aide but fired him after hearing complaints about Gobie’s activities in the congressman’s Washington apartment when Frank was out of town. On Monday, Frank asked the House ethics committee to investigate.

Despite extensive coverage in the local newspapers, television and radio, the affair has met with more shrugs than outrage in the 4th Congressional District, where many voters refer to their witty, caustic liberal congressman on a first-name basis. Frank’s district-a product of gerrymandering-runs from Brookline and Newton, two prosperous and politically liberal suburbs just west of Boston, through the wealthy Republican towns of Wellesley and Dover to the distant suburbs, then south to the industrial port city of Fall River, more than 50 miles from Boston.

Considered a brash state legislator, Frank was first elected to Congress in 1980, filling a vacancy created when Rep. Robert Drinan (D-Mass.), a liberal priest, was ordered by the Vatican to renounce political office. In 1982, Frank survived a bruising fight with Rep. Margaret M. Heckler (R) when the two incumbents’ districts were merged. Since 1982, Frank has won handily, even after openly acknowledging his homosexuality. In a 1987 interview with The Boston Globe, Frank confirmed persistent rumors that he was gay, then went on to defeat a Republican supporter of the Rev. Pat Robertson in the 1988 election with 70 percent of the vote.

At the lushly landscaped town dump in Wellesley, a favorite midday meeting place, all the residents in today’s lunch hour crowd had heard the news about their congressman, and most were openly, if somewhat reluctantly, supporting him.

“I like Barney,” said Frank Jones, a retired printer. “He’s a good congressman, but he sure doesn’t use good judgment.” Jones said the disclosures about Frank have been a topic of conversation this week and that his relatives in Fall River feel as he does. On balance, Jones said, he would rather have a gay congressman “than a crook.”

Only Charles Plouffe, a retired insurance salesman and long-time Wellesley resident, said he thought Frank should resign. “I don’t see how they can run in people like {Oliver} North, when this fellow is a disgrace to moral people,” Plouffe said.

“I still say it’s better to keep it in the closet.” Plouffe said the Frank affair was “a main topic of conversation” among his golfing foursome. “Two of them’s Democrats, and they are singing a different tune now,” he said. “Since this thing broke, I don’t hear anybody defending him.”

Still, Frank has many loyal supporters, due in part to his strong backing for Israel in an area with many Jewish voters, his attention to constituent services and his reputation as a brilliant, hard-working advocate for working families and the elderly. Polls conducted for Boston newspapers and television stations immediately after the story broke reported that 65 percent of the district’s voters believed Frank should not resign and that 59 percent of those surveyed said the revelations would have no impact on their voting.

One critical moment for Frank occurred last weekend when the congressman kept a promise to march in a parade in Fall River, home of many Portuguese Americans. Striding alongside the city’s mayor, Frank was greeted with cheers. Doug Cahn, the congressman’s press secretary in Washington, said the office has received “hundreds” of telephone calls from constituents in the past week, and he said they were running 8 to 1 in support of Frank.

State Rep. Marjorie Clapprood, a liberal Democrat from suburban Sharon and a staunch Frank loyalist, said she was at a senior citizens’ center last weekend. “It was being talked about,” Clapprood said. “The comments were, `Isn’t it awful’ and `How do you think his mother feels?’ There was no sniping,” Clapprood said.

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

The line above appears at the end of the version retrieved from the Post archives. Actually, the “permission” by the copyright owner (me) was coerced. I dispute the Post’s efforts to limit your right to read it.

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Inside the “meme” factory

By Chris Daly 

Kudos to the New York Times for this piece which looks behind the curtain of the Occupy movement. Not to denigrate the movement, but this kind of process pertains to most political movements. The article focuses on the role of Kalle Lasn, the Canadian editor of Adbusters magazine.

I was especially struck by the use of the “meme” idea (or meme). It will be the major focus of my next book, which is coming soon. The working title is:

INSIDE THE MEME FACTORY: The Rise of Conservative Media

The main idea is that the rise of conservative media in America after WWII was not an accident in the specific sense that it arose in tandem with a set of institutions (think tanks, mainly) that supplied the ideas, slogans, and “studies” — in other words, memes — that the conservative media could use to advance the conservative cause. I plan to focus on the semi-hidden history of this movement, which was actually quite intentional.

To be continued. . .






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Mean but clever?

Or clever but mean?

You be the judge of this satirical screenplay in today’s NYTimes magazine that imagines the Murdochs going to visit a family therapist.




It’s by Etan Cohen, (not Ethan Coen — one of “the Coen brothers”). ETAN is a screenwriterwho got where he is by the traditional route — go to Harvard, join the Lampoon, sit around and think up funny premises. Someone’s got to do it.





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By Chris Daly

More outrageous behavior by NYPD.

According to my preliminary research, there is no recall mechanism for the people to use to remove the mayor of New York. Even though Michael Bloomberg comes from my hometown (Medford, Mass.), I have had it with him over these attacks on journalists, and I think he should be removed.

My understanding is that the governor of New York state has that power. He should use it.




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Another milestone

By Chris Daly

Congrats to the ancient and estimable Atlantic for passing this key milestone on the way to the future: According to today’s NYTimes, the great old magazine now derives more of its in-coming revenues from on-line ads than it does from the advertising in the printed version.

The good news here is that the crossing of those two trend lines virtually assures the Atlantic’s survival well into the digital era. The bad news is that it may hasten the demise of the print edition.








Imagine a magazine that included among its founders a poet (Emerson) who wrote such lines as these:

“Things are in the saddle and ride mankind.”


“All history becomes subjective; in other words, there is properly no history; only biography.”



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Not to be missed

If you like spreadsheets (and who doesn’t?), then you will want to watch this video, which co-stars my next-door neighbor and tech guru Dan Bricklin.

Congrats, Dan.

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Boo who?

By Chris Daly


Of course, right-wingers have the right to boo Michelle Obama and Jill Biden (as can be heard on this CNN clip from a recent NASCAR event).

But folks on the right should have the decency to acknowledge that when other people do the same thing to “their” first families, it is hypocritical to denounce that booing as “unpatriotic” (a favorite right-wing meme) or “disrespectful of the office.”

Either our leaders are fair game or they are not.




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