Ave Atque Vale, The (Late, Lamented) Weekly Standard

The hardworking staff has long been a fan (we were a charter subscriber in the mid-90s) – and also a critic – of The Weekly Standard, which officially folded on Friday. For over two decades we’ve found the magazine’s political coverage generally harebrained, and its Culture & Arts coverage generally excellent.

When the news broke earlier this month that the magazine’s end was imminent, Politico’s Morning Media registered the objections left and right.

— “This is terrible news,” Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tweeted following CNN first reporting Tuesday on the magazine’s precarious position. “Vibrant conservative media (that is not just an echo chamber or de facto state media) is incredibly important for a robust public conversation.” Washington Post columnist Max Boot said: “America will be worse off without @weeklystandard to fight for a principled, un-Trumpified conservatism.”

— “The Weekly Standard has always published some of the best writers, word for word — not just the best conservative writers — in American political journalism,” tweeted New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. “To kill it because its brand is too anti-Trump is ultimately an act of philistinism.”

Even public-broadcast luminaries have weighed in with lamentations for what was known in the George W. Bush years as the in-flight magazine of Air Force One.

Politico’s Jack Shafer summed up the magacide neatly: “[Billionaire conservative Philip Anschutz] has grown tired of it. He better favors his other conservative political publication, the Washington Examiner, which his company announced plans on Monday to ‘expand into a national distributed magazine with a broadened editorial focus.’ In other words, the Standard is dying so the Examiner can live larger.”

And it’s a pretty ugly death, according to CNN’s Brian Stelter in his Reliable Sources newsletter. He obtained an audiotape of the staff meeting that Ryan McKibben, the head of Anschutz’s holding company Clarity Media, held on Friday (bold emphasis Stelter’s).

McKibben told staff that they would be paid through the end of the year, and that afterward they would receive severance which would range in scale depending on factors like seniority. To receive severance, however, employees would need to sign a strict non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreement. “I know it’s an emotional day, but I want to tell you, don’t get on social media and attack anybody because it will put your severance in jeopardy,” McKibben told employees.

Nice. When staff members tried to ask some questions, McKibben replied, “I’m not going to take questions. This isn’t a press conference.”

That attitude is very much in keeping with John Podhoretz’s lede in a Commentary piece on Friday.

The Weekly Standard will be no more. There is no real reason we are witnessing the magazine’s demise other than deep pettiness and a personal desire for bureaucratic revenge on the part of a penny-ante Machiavellian who works for its parent company.

Podhoretz seems to be talking about McKibben there. The conventional wisdom is that Anschutz refused to sell the magazine because what he really wants is to strip-mine the Weekly Standard subscriber base and transfer it to the Washington Examiner, which would fulfill the former’s circulation commitments.

That prospect led us to make a ‘Dear John’ 1-800 call and receive this Dear John email in return.

Our confirmation:

Dear Weekly Standard,

You will be missed a lot more than a hundred dollars worth.

Campaign Outsider Extra Bonus Content™ (via Politico Playbook)

Classics from the TWS archives: Matt Labash on Trump and the “Twidiocracy” … Charles Krauthammer on IBM vs. Garry Kasparov and Andy Ferguson on the Beatles

They forgot Joseph Epstein, one of the Weekly Standard’s consistent delights, who’s been remarkably prolific throughout the magazine’s life – and his own, come to think of it. (Epstein’s 2016 piece Hitting Eighty is, as even he would have to concede, thoroughly charming.)

Read it all soon: Stelter also reported that “McKibben stunned staff when he said at Friday’s meeting that ‘at some point’ The Weekly Standard’s website is ‘going to come down.'”

Penny-ante indeed.

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WSJ Beats Boston Dailies on Bulger Wrongful Death Suit

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal featured this Zusha Elinson piece about the latest verse in The Ballad of Whitey Bulger.

Bulger Was Wary Of Prison Transfer

Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger seemed to have good news when he called his attorney four weeks before his death.

The 89-year-old said on Sept. 28 that he was getting out of solitary confinement at a federal prison in Florida and being transferred to a prison medical facility, according to Hank Brennan, Bulger’s attorney of seven years.

“You must be glad,” Mr. Brennan said, but Bulger replied that he wasn’t eager to go.

“The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t,” Bulger told him. “I don’t trust them.”

Less than 24 hours later Whitey Bulger was dead, “beaten to death inside his unlocked cell  at a notoriously violent federal prison in West Virginia, where federal authorities had sent him instead of a medical facility.”

Money graf:

Mr. Brennan says he is preparing to sue the government on behalf of Bulger’s estate for wrongful death and negligence to find out why authorities sent the frail, notorious gangster to the U.S. Penitentiary Hazelton in West Virginia, and put him in with the general population.

Local Bulger bloodhound Shelley Murphy drafted behind the Journal report in today’s Boston Globe.

Bulger’s family set to file wrongful death suit, report says

A wrongful death lawsuit that the estate of James “Whitey” Bulger plans to file against the federal government could end up helping the families of Bulger’s victims whose own efforts to collect from the government have been stymied, lawyers said Monday.

Bulger’s estate plans to file a suit against the government for transferring him to a West Virginia prison where he was killed by fellow inmates within hours of his arrival in late October, according to the gangster’s lawyer.

The Globe report credits the Journal in the sixth graf for those of you keeping score at home.

Crosstown at the Boston Herald, calumnist Howie Carr goes full-tilt Bulger on the Journal’s scoop.

Greedy Bulgers looking to cash in … again

The only surprise is that it took the greedy Bulger clan six whole weeks to announce that they are suing the feds – in other words, us – for the “wrongful death” of their beloved serial-killing, coke-dealing, extorting Uncle Jimmy.

How much more of our money do these shiftless, rotten hacks need? If they’re so hard up for cash, why don’t they go out and get real jobs, like the rest of us. I hear the Post Office is hiring.

The suit against the Bureau of Prisons will be filed on behalf of the family. Whitey’s closest survivor, I suppose, is his younger brother Billy, the Corrupt Midget.

Mr. Carrtoon credits the Journal in the eighth graf for those of you keeping score at home.

Drive-the-locals-nuts graf:

The Wall Street Journal kicked your ass on this one.


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Google Cloud Reigns in New York Times Edvertising Mashup

It started out routinely enough with this New York Times Past Tense California special section last month.



It’s a fascinating pictorial journey through the Times California archives, but then comes the money (screen)shot on page 2.


Okay, so what we have here is a collaboration between the Times and Google – not all that unusual in this day and newspaper age. What is unusual is how aggressively the Times is flogging the project.

This triple-truck ad ran last Monday.


And this triple-truck ran yesterday.


Here’s the intro copy from the first ad page for those of you keeping score at home.

The introduction by Walter Mosely, the photographs with their annotated “metadata” on the back – it’s all extremely engrossing and very nicely done.

But the round robin of editorial-advertising-aditorial is just the sort of State of the Cuisinart Marketing our kissin’ cousins at Sneak Adtack have been tracking for years.

In the end, is there anything inherently compromising about the Times hooking up its Past Tense series with Google Cloud? Not really.

But is Google’s nose under the tent? Sure looks that way.

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New York Times ‘The Truth’ Campaign Safeguards . . . Cooking?

For the past two years the hardworking staff has diligently chronicled the newspaper industry’s Pep Squad for Truth – those preaching-to-the-choir ad campaigns aimed at convincing the American public that real news matters.

Chief among the pom-pom crowd has been the New York Times, which has run expensive TV spots like this one on national networks.



The Times has also peppered its own pages with full-page ads extolling the virtues of journalistic watchdogging.


But now comes this double-truck in Saturday’s edition that focuses on the Times’s integrity in covering . . . pies.

Memo to Timesniks: We know that, for financial reasons, you make a distinction between content – that is, journalism – and product like NYT Cooking.

But housing both in The Truth campaign is not helping your cause.

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New York Public Library Goes ‘Full-Page Bookie’ in NYT

Any book lover has to love the New York Public Library’s full-page ad in yesterday’s New York Times.

Not only that . . .

Best of all . . .

Sign us up!

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New York Times Ventures Into New Adver-Whatever Frontier

Over the past several years, the hardworking staff – and our kissin’ cousins at Sneak Adtack – have chronicled the Grey Lady’s opening the kimono to advertorials and edvertorials from marketers hither and yon.

Still, we weren’t sure what to make of page 7 in yesterday’s Styles section.


Is it an ad? It doesn’t say so.

Is it editorial content? It doesn’t say that, either.

It does say this.



The headscratching staff figures it’s an ad. We also think that previously, the Times would have labeled it as such.  Times a-changin’, eh?

P.S. Here’s a link if you want to buy the lipstick and be like Tia.

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Civilians Who Run Full-Page Ads in the New York Times (@MaxKingRealty Edition)

Yesterday’s New York Times yielded a bumper crop of full-page advocacy ads.

There was this ADL ad on page 11.


And this ad from a boatload of human-rights and faith-based groups on page 17.



But it was this ad on page 21 that went straight to our All Those Dollars and No Sense desk.



The ad was paid for by Brett M. Kingstone, CEO of Orlando-based Max King Realty, LLC, who railed against government-funded “corporate welfare deals” in Jarred Schenke’s Bisnow Atlanta piece last year.

Now he’s all about a full-throated defense of capitalism. And his Times ad struck the headscratching staff as bizarre enough to merit a readable reproduction in full.

Not surprisingly, the reaction in the Twitterverse was equally headscratchy.

Memo to Brett M. Kingstone: Next time, just set your $120,000 on fire.

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‘Lest We Forget’/’Yankees Suck!’

The other day I took the Green Line downtown to meet the Missus.

At Kenmore, a horde of Red Sox fans boarded the trolley, fresh off the Duck Boat Parade celebrating the fourth Boston Red Sox World Series Championship of the 21st Century.



And there was this one kid – maybe seven years old, I’m not good at estimating ages – who chanted over and over, “Yankees suck! Yankees suck! Yankees suck!”


Later on, the Missus and I wandered over to Boston Common and took in Lest We Forget, an unforgettable public art installation.

On October 16, 2018, German-Italian photographer and filmmaker Luigi Toscano unveiled 60 large-scale portraits of Holocaust survivors from the United States – including nine from Massachusetts – Germany, Ukraine, Israel, Russia, and Belarus – on Boston Common as part of a compelling arts and remembrance project entitled LEST WE FORGET. The exhibition will be on display through November 10, 2018.

As we read the heartbreaking stories of those amazing Holocaust survivors, two Red Sox bros walked by chanting “Yankees suck! Yankees suck!”

A couple of observations:

1) All Bostonians should go see that stunning exhibit before it departs next week.

2) You guys have to stop measuring everything against the Yankees. It’s just so stupid.

Your team is better than theirs. But they don’t care about you. Get over it.

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2018 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox: 25 Players, 1 Cab

And they loved their driver.

Alex Cora led the Olde Towne Team not only to its best regular-season record ever, but also to its fourth 21st Century World Series Championship.

A totally joyful ride.

One discordant note: Steve Pearce’s MVP designation was entirely justified. But the award should have been shared with David Price’s resurrection.

Other than that, just enjoy.



As for this Made Yankee Fan in Boston, see you next year.

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When the Missus and I Visited Hearst Castle 4 Times in 1 Day

Patricia Leigh Brown’s New York Times piece the other day about the Hearst Castle in San Simeon was interesting in its own right.

Taking a Dip at Xanadu

Guests swim at Hearst Castle, where Hollywood luminaries one cavorted.

SAN SIMEON, Calif. — It was the ultimate pool party. The benefit “V.I.P. Swim Experience” in the Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle here started with a troupe of Esther Williams look-alikes in matching white bathing caps and lipstick-red halter suits doing fan dives off the marble steps of the pool’s signature Roman Temple beneath a heroic pediment of Neptune.

As day descended into night, it was the bucket list set’s turn, as guests who paid more than $1,000 for the real-life fantasy of swimming in the Neptune Pool plunged into 345,000 gallons of frigid nirvana designed for the publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst.

Then again, one man’s bucket is another man’s madeleine:

Thirtysome years ago, my boss at the time, thinking I was on the verge of quitting his ad agency, sent me and the Missus on a deluxe, all-expenses-paid trip down the California coast from San Francisco to LA.

About halfway through our Golden State jaunt, we encountered the two highlights of the trip: the Hearst Castle and the Madonna Inn, both located in San Luis Obispo.

First stop was the Madonna Inn, which boasts “110 whimsical guestrooms, each with their own unique charm and decor.” We stayed in the Highway Suite, described thusly by the hotel’s website.

Alex Madonna’s passion was heavy construction… building highways throughout California. The “Highway Suite” commemorates several job sites with personal photo’s sharing this facet of his life. The large stone boulders featured in the fireplace were recovered from local highway construction projects adding to the novelty of this room. Natural rock is also used in the shower to compliment the theme.

Not to mention complement it. (Alex Madonna’s descendants are clearly not passionate about grammar.) Either way, we dubbed it the Clan of the Cave Bear Room.

Next morning it was off bright and early to the Hearst Castle, where the Missus – a certified cinema junkie – wanted to take all four tours.

Of course, it wasn’t as simple as that.

After the first tour, the Missus said to the bus driver, “We’re all in for the other three tours, so can we just stay up here and catch the next one?”

The bus driver very sweetly said, “No. You have to go back down to go back up.”

So we rode back down 15 minutes to ride back up 15 minutes three more times.

And it was worth every minute.

P.S. Not long afterward, I did quit that ad agency. As the bus driver said, you have to go back down to go back up.

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