Thursday, October 31, 2013

FOY War on Christmas

I think I saw an Xpesmasse tree in full regalia during the game Wednesday night, so it shouldn't be a real surprise that the War on Christmas begins as early as Halloween these days. Take it away, Fair 'n' Balanced Network:

Hallmark, the Kansas City greeting card company, edited the lyrics of "Deck the Halls" on one of its 2013 ornaments to omit the word 'gay' and has received criticism on its Facebook page that puts the company in an unfamiliar position of defending a product. 

The original carol verse goes: "Don we now our gay apparel." But Hallmark's version, which appears on a Christmas ornament designed as an ugly Christmas sweater goes: "Don we now our FUN apparel."

And what are the outraged citizens saying?

The company's Facebook page has received posts criticizing the decision to change the lyric. One post read, "Hallmark is insinuating that gay people dress differently than anyone else. If I were gay, I would be more upset with that."

A woman who described herself as a Gold Crown Rewards member, posted that by changing the lyric, the company made an unnecessary political statement.

Seem a little mild? It's a little livelier in the Fox story's comments:
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Yes, that does sort of sum it up

If it isn't the annual picture of the local Ghost Whisperer doing his/her thing for the Oct. 31 frontpage, it's some other -- well, let's be kind and just say "some other story about the archetypal behavior of fictional beings in human form, meant as a symbolic reminder of social/behavioral norms." For such, I think, is this tale, which made it to the No. 4 spot at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network on Wednesday morning:

Imagine going trick-or-treating for candy this Halloween and getting a critical letter in your candy bag. 

That’s what* may be happening to some kids in North Dakota this year. One woman called into** the Y94 radio station in Fargo this week to say she doesn’t plan to just give Halloween candy to all of the children who come to her door.

It's not just a Fox culture war story (no Kenyans picking on beleaguered white Christian men, for example). Here's the version at USA Today, (which also went so far as to quote a psychology prof):
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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Manly girls, girly men, made-up stories

Having watched the lie get halfway around the world, shall we see what happens when the truth puts on its pantsdress cover?

Things got worse for America, of course, before they got better. Here's the follow-up from the Friday predawn hours:

A retired female gunnery sergeant has blasted the Obama Administration’s plan to create a "unisex" look for the Marine Corps by swapping out the Marines' iconic hats with a new hat that some have derided as "girly" ...

Ready for the punch line?
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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Today in Kenyan Muslim perfidy

Is nothing safe from his marauding Alinskyite touch?

A change to the Marine Corps' uniform hats could leave hard-nosed Leathernecks looking a lot less macho.

According to the New York Post, President Obama's plan to create a "unisex" look for the Corps has officials on the verge of swapping out the Marines' iconic caps with a new hat that some have derided as so "girly" that they would make the French blush.

Well, iconic is as iconic does. As the Post reports (but Fox doesn't), the style you see at right in the illustration* is "based on a style the Marines used from 1904 to 1918"; it's apparently called a Dan Daly, after a Marine of that era whose insight on its alleged girliness might be welcome.**

Fashions change, of course, and this isn't the fashion section anyway. We do, though, maintain an active interest in the sort of question-begging that makes this "Obama's plan." Here's the Post:

A change to the Marine Corps’ uniform hats could take the hard-nosed Leathernecks from the Halls of Montezuma to the shops of Christopher Street.
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Monday, October 21, 2013

Lede of the (no longer young) year

My usual instinct on this sort of lede is "quit while you're ahead":

FONTANA, Calif. -- You couldn't re-imagine the climactic IZOD IndyCar Series season finale any more than you could re-imagine the Battle of Iwo Jima without the Marines planting the flag.

... but I'm not sure that really applies here. If you quit after "Iwo Jima," so you're just likening an automobile race to, you know, the battle of Iwo Jima, you're not technically ahead. But at least you're not as far behind as when you throw in the Marines and the flag.

Thanks, in the sense of "thanks for the reminder that beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade," to the Arkansas bureau for sharing.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Happy birthday, A.J. Liebling

You could almost set your watch by these guys. Barely a day after a minor decision at the opinion pages of a West Coast paper caught the ire of the wackosphere, it's a top story at the Fair 'n' Balanced homepage! Since it's presented in the form of real news, let's have a look:

The Los Angeles Times is giving the cold shoulder to global warming skeptics.

Paul Thornton, editor of the paper’s letters section, recently wrote a letter of his own, stating flatly that he won't publish some letters from those skeptical of man’s role in our planet’s warming climate. In Thornton’s eyes, those people are often wrong -- and he doesn’t print obviously wrong statements.

Not to put words in Paul Thornton's mouth or anything,* but I'm not sure "often wrong" is the point here. I think his problem is with shrill, deranged and dishonest, but let's continue:
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Thursday, October 17, 2013

There's good news tonight, Mr. and Mrs. America

Let's all just have another beer, watch the playoffs and celebrate this unusual outbreak of vertebrosity in a couple of too-often-spineless institutions: journalism and academia.

First up, The Fox Nation gets the vapors over a story brought to daylight by Poynter: The guy in charge of letters at the LA Times isn't going to run any more letters from climate loonies (though the paper won't stop their commenting on articles, letters, Op-Eds or whatever). Here's the core of his explanation:

Simply put, I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page; when one does run, a correction is published. Saying "there's no sign humans have caused climate change" is not stating an opinion, it's asserting a factual inaccuracy.

So the real question isn't "CENSORSHIP???" The real question is "why does The Fox Nation hate freedom???"
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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

There's a winner every time

As a general rule, if you take newspaper headlines about survey results at face value, you should stay away from those friendly games of chance at the county fair. In this case, though, WashTimes readers have a little extra reason to be peeved, because the home team is lying to them.

OK, maybe not technically lying. Unlike "rising" or "falling," which are negatable, "in free fall" is just impressionistic enough that the journalistic expert involved can claim, in effect: Well, it looks like free fall to me! And in an abstract world, you'd kind of like the idea of an expert who defies the apparent evidence to tell you what's really going on. The trouble with this one is that there are no meaningful values of "free fall" -- and almost none of "fall" -- for which the claim is true.

Democrat Cory Booker’s lead over Republican Steve Lonegan in the race to fill New Jersey’s vacant Senate seat has shrunk to 10 points with about 48 hours to go before Wednesday’s special election.

No doubt it's pretty to think so, and it'd be cherry-picking to point out that in the most recent poll, the Democrat's support had fallen from 52 percent to 54 percent. (Let's just use the polls collected at the generally execrable RealClearPolitics, for the heck of it.) No doubt the Times is extrapolating from the poll before that, in which he fell from 58 to 52 percent. But that ignores the previous poll, in which he fell from 53 to 58, or the one before that, in which he fell from 50 to 53 -- starting to get the idea here?

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Off tropic

Nice obit from the Nation's Newspaper of Record*, but ...

He eventually set aside the Herb-O-Lac for a skin liniment he unapologetically called Snake Oil, but his most enduring commodity was his nostalgic pitch.

... do you figure there's one "r" too many in "topical" there?

Now let's start a pool on how many words the Times uses to describe a redeout in the correction.

* Thanks to RayB and the Central Ohio Bureau for keeping print in business; this doesn't appear online.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Uh, not exactly. Not at all, actually

As the Reuters tale to which you're directed from the Drudge Report makes clear: No, not really. Not at all.

A mass evacuation saved thousands of people from India's fiercest cyclone in 14 years, but aid workers warned a million would need help after their homes and livelihoods were destroyed.

Some tropical cyclones "fizzle": Karen*, for example. This one, though, hit the Indian coast as more or less what we'd call a Category 3 hurricane, disrupting and destroying a lot of stuff but killing comparatively few people, in light of what storms of that scale can do. As someone who keeps up with how communication works in disasters (and as a human being in my spare time), I think that's a pretty reasonable outcome.

So: Is Drudge just too stupid to understand the distinction here, or is he making stuff up for some other reason? Much as I hate to bet against stupid when humankind is involved, I expect it's the latter. There's a reason for that.
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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Super-hard precious stones are forever

No, but thanks for asking.

As Phillip Blanchard so gently put it, this one has it all:

Diamonds are forever, unless you’re on Saturn or Jupiter. Loads of the super-hard precious stones may be floating among the gas giants’ fluid layers and melted into liquid further into their depths, say a pair of planetary scientists.

It'd be nice to think this was a one-off, but apparently at Science Now, you can't do The Science without a little of The Stupid. Crsly!

I'd weep for the planet, but on the bright side, we're not overrun by intergalactic prospectors.


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Friday, October 11, 2013

SlimGhazi latest

Busy guy, huh?


Wednesday, October 09, 2013

SlimGhazi update: Eyes and ears of the Party

Those wacky college kids! What are they up to today, Fair 'n' Balanced Network?

A Wisconsin college professor warned her students they wouldn't be able to get all of their homework done because of the partial government shutdown, and put a partisan spin on the bad news.

And how do we know that?

At least one student in the online course reported the professor's political spin to the education blog The College Fix, which first reported the story.

And the e-mail's* political content?

“Some of the data gathering assignment will be impossible to complete until the Republican/tea party controlled House of Representatives agrees to fund the government. ... The Census website, for instance, is closed. Please do what you can on the assignment. Those parts you are unable to do because of the shutdown will have to wait until Congress decides we actually need a government."
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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Stop him before he kills again!

And as the Philadelphia buro suggests -- if it wasn't the same deer, how come it's a "crime" story?


Annotated 'Ask the Editor'

Today's helpful suggestion for confused readers of the Stylebook's "Ask the Editor" feature:

Q. Should we refer to the government shutdown as a "partial" government shutdown? Are they interchangeable? Is "slim down" a biased word?
– from San Diego on Mon, Oct 07, 2013
A. In AP stories, partial government shutdown in initial references, thereafter shutdown. The other term doesn't seem accurate for this standoff.
A: No. "Slim down" would be two biased words, except that nobody's using it for the nouns "slimdown," "SlimFast" or "Slimghazi!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Those are interchangeable with "Kenyan death stare."

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Sunday, October 06, 2013

Slimdown update: Personalization

In case you missed it during Syriagate last month, the pronouns are back! Here's Cal Thomas:

In his nationally televised address Tuesday night, President Obama said little that was not already known. By my count he used the words "I," "me" and "my" 30 times in his 15-minute address. He personalizes everything, but delivers little, except uncertainty in his foreign policy.
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Equal time

The Nation's Newspaper of Record is pretty good at pointing out when some blunder or another has occurred "because of an editing error." Not that every case has to have some equal apportionment of  blame or anything, but sometimes it'd be nice to know what the equivalent of "because of an editing error" is in real money -- say, when it comes to making up a quote:

An article last Sunday about college students who live close to home quoted incorrectly from comments by Scotti Parrish, one of the parents interviewed. Dr. Parrish, who teaches at the University of Michigan, said: “I stay home, for instance, on St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t want to see my students vomiting in an alley.” She did not say, “I don’t want to see my students, much less my own kids, vomiting in an alleyway."

Because if there's some sort of systematic error that we can identify when it comes to fabricating stuff at random, it seems that might be pretty useful stuff to know the next time we're on the brink of an illegal war of aggression or something.

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Saturday, October 05, 2013


Q: Hey, kids! How do you say "we got spanked repeatedly by the grownup media on relevant international stories because we were camping out at national landmarks hoping for more SlimFast stories" without admitting it?

A: "Fox News confirms"!

US Navy SEALs have conducted a raid of the Al Shabaab militant group in Somalia, killing at least one militant, Fox News confirms.

A Libyan Al Qaeda leader, wanted for his role in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in East Africa, has been captured in Tripoli by U.S. forces, Fox News confirms.

Let's bear in mind here, of course, that the Nation's Newspaper of Record is not allowed to make things up just because it's, you know, the Nation's Newspaper of Record:

But at a moment when President Obama’s popularity is flagging under the weight of his standoff with Congressional Republicans and his leadership criticized for his reversal in Syria, the simultaneous attacks are bound to fuel accusations that the administration was eager for a showy victory. 

As we discussed yesterday, if there's any evidence that some political figure or another's popularity is "flagging under the weight" of the SlimFast, you need to show it, not proclaim it. If you don't, we're entitled to infer that you're more interested in finding an ideologically appropriate narrative than in finding out what went on and reporting about it.

That's one reason the American press -- there's no reason to exclude the Times -- is appropriately described as a "realism-free zone." Realists wouldn't rule out the idea that there's some sinister domestic motive involved, but they'd give equal, if not preferred, weight, to the Clint Eastwood reading: We're a superpower, and we woke up today and decided to kill or capture some people who annoy us. Got a problem with that?

If the Times doesn't get the idea that national interest and domestic campaigns are basically separate creatures, it's still the same paper that lapped up Judith Miller's bogus reporting in 2002, only with fewer copy editors. And that's not a good pattern to repeat.

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Friday, October 04, 2013

Slimdown update: Dunno. Is they?

The short answer is "no, but thanks for asking." A more specific version is "we have no idea, but none of the evidence in this story suggests that they is, and to the extent it suggests anything, they isn't."

This is actually a fairly interesting bit of news practice, in that the story's gone from the lead position (this afternoon) to oblivion -- not that it's vanished, but it's no longer findable from the home page, and it hasn't picked up a comment in four hours (comments are showing up every few seconds on the current lead story at this writing). And it's largely contradicted by the usual story Fox writes to accompany a Fox poll.

Anyway, here's the now-oblivionated "Throw the bums out? Budget deadlock portends 2014 backlash" tale:

While the House and Senate point fingers at each other over the budget impasse, new polling suggests the only thing they might accomplish is getting thrown out of office.

Hold that thought.

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Thursday, October 03, 2013

Slimdown update: Both sides

There's too much slimdown news to cover in one post, but a few points are worth noting here. One is the first refer -- "Fed partial shutdown," a reminder of how hard it is to enforce language change even when your intentions are pure.

More fun, though, is the third: "Two views of the budget impasse," which provides exactly as many views as you'd expect.


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Red clay feet

Was the discrepancy not a sign unto anyone at the Nation's Newspaper of Record that perhaps something should be looked up by someone?

A music review and a picture caption on Tuesday about the “Another Day, Another Time” folk music concert at Town Hall in Manhattan misspelled the surname of a performer. She is Gillian Welch — not Walsh, as the article noted, or Welsh, as the caption said

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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

A terrible beauty is born

You have to hand it to the wordsmiths at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network. When they repurpose a word, they really, really mean it.

The view at top right was on offer when I got up today; somebody didn't get the word that heds of the form "Let the N begin" are on the forbidden list, but otherwise it appears to be shutdown business as usual.

The change in attitude appears to have come in this story, which showed up (I think*) sometime around noon:

What the Obama administration is portraying as a "shutdown" of the federal government -- complete with signs posted at the entrances to government buildings, parks and monuments -- is turning out to be more of a "slimdown," as all but non-essential workers reported to their jobs Tuesday.

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