I don't see anything contradictory in Ubuntu's position. Honestly, DbC (Design by Committee) is justifiably ripe fodder for an endless number of cartoon parodies. I think Ubuntu wants to be "the Apple of Linux", and I don't mean that in the sense that they're overly mimicking the OSX interface.
Sometimes one has to take the bull by the horns and head off into new directions. Hopefully the endeavor is successful, others agree, and the changes get integrated back into the project's baseline - because maintaining a fork is expensive. But engaging in political battles on mailing lists to convince a community to change is often tilting at windmills (let's see how many clichés I can fit in here...)
As the same time, there's often a hypocrisy in these communities. When a change is suggested, half the developers shout "show me the code"; when the code is written another half complain about the style or how it's the wrong way to do it; and when the code is released independently because an upstream merge is just too difficult, yet another half complain about the project being forked. However, the fork allows the code to prove itself in the real world and not simply in theoreticals, and what more proof is needed?
One thing is for sure - Ubuntu is doing their own thing. There is a vision that they are pursuing, and they're not asking for permission first. They are making mistakes, but are also very successful. The Linux ecosystem is growing and in some respects Ubuntu is leading the way. This statement isn't meant to diminish any other distro forging their own paths (all of which are leading their particular ways in growing the ecosystem) but Ubuntu is giving Linux some Apple-like consumer "magic".
And they're not doing it to the exclusion of others -- again, there are (as always) areas for improvement, but they're helping the Debian project (by paying some DDs if nothing else) and the talk of cadence is the equivalent of shouting, "Hey guys, follow me!". Of course, if you're running off a cliff you can do that yourself, thanks, but so far all evidence to the contrary.
I have to stop here because I feel like I'm writing an advertisement for Ubuntu, when really I just find it difficult to fathom why there is so much disdain for a distro doing open source the way that open source advocates sell it.