Wednesday, October 01, 2014

HAHAHAHAHA watermelon!

How does Gategate look in the cold light of day there, Boston Herald?

And what's the latest on the apologia front?

Boston Herald cartoonist Jerry Holbert took to the airwaves this morning to apologize for a political cartoon that set off a social media firestorm after appearing on the paper's editorial page.

“I want to apologize to anyone I offended who was hurt by the cartoon,” Holbert said this morning on Boston Herald Radio. “It was certainly, absolutely, not my intention.”

... Holbert claimed he came up with the idea to use watermelon flavor after finding “kids Colgate watermelon flavor” toothpaste in his bathroom at home.

“I was completely naive or innocent to any racial connotations,” Holbert said. “I wasn’t thinking along those lines at all.”

Got it. I mean, it's not like the Kenyan's brushing his teeth with a chicken bone or anything.
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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dear Mobile

Should we just get John Prine to sing the "Ask the Editor" blog, or what?

Q. I appear to be the only one who didn't get the message. Are we now calling children kids? – from Mobile, Ala. on Tue, Sep 30, 2014
A. While not a Stylebook term, kids is usually acceptable in news stories, particularly lighter fare, reflecting wide use in society. In some news situations, children as a more formal term may be more appropriate.
Dear Mobile: You are what you are and you ain't what you ain't the only one who didn't get the message. We've been calling children "kids" since the 17th century --"originally low slang, but by the 19th c. frequent in familiar speech," as the OED puts it. If you're at the sort of operation that drops the occasional "moniker" or "eatery" into a story, you have no complaint. And if you've figured out that some words work better in some stories than in others, then you're well on your way to better things as it is.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Stop press!

Yes, Virginia, there is a planet on which the fourth most important story in the history of the world in space is "notes between Clinton, lib activist Alinsky revealed":

Previously unpublished correspondence between Hillary Clinton and the late left-wing organizer Saul Alinsky reveal new details about her relationship with the controversial Chicago activist and shed light on her early ideological development.

Fair 'n' Balanced cousins? Guys? Can I suggest that if you aren't already driven into paroxysms of rage at the mere sight of the secret, yellow and midnight hag, you're going to need more than a little light on her early ideological development to get there. Or maybe not.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Today in news language: Whaddaya, nuts?

Looks like a little confusion on the Language Arts Desk over at New York's Hometown Newspaper. The thug in question speaks "perfect English" on the front; inside,* he has something called a "North American accent," but on Twitter, it's "unaccented English." Given the interest last month in the accent of evil -- "linguistic experts studying the voice on the YouTube clip believed the voice bore a definite British accent, most likely from London," the same reporter wrote -- what could it possibly be?

The story doesn't make things much clearer:

The newest voice of Islamic State terrorism sounds alarmingly like a son of the Midwest.

Alarmingly? What did he do, say "Missouruh" at graduation or something?

A newly released Islamic State propaganda film ends with the gun-toting jihadist speaking in perfect English, raising speculation that he’s a homegrown Muslim militant.

The man with the North American accent then joins in a mass execution.

Which sounds a bit like backtracking -- from Midwestern to "perfect" and then back to, um, "North American." Wonder what that could mean?
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Friday, September 19, 2014

Those who don't know cliches ...

... are doomed to write corrections about them:

Frank Bruni’s column on Wednesday incorrectly attributed the dictum that those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. It is from George Santayana, not Edmund Burke.

If it's the phrase "everybody uses" in a particular situation, you should be the writer who doesn't.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Yes and no, but no, and yes. And no.

Q. Hello. How would you write "a drugmaker that makes generic drugs": "generic-drug maker," "generic-drug-maker" or something else? Thanks. – from Tustin, Calif. on Thu, Sep 18, 2014
A. The Stylebook spelling is drugmaker, so the first is correct.
Dear AP: You're at least partly right about something, though not about what the questioner asks or even entirely about what you answer. The question from Tustin appears to be about how to shorten the phrase by preposing "generic drugs," not about whether the longer form is already correct-ish. You could instead be raising consciousness about why "generic-drug maker" is an exception to the Stylebook's spelling of "drugmaker."

What we want to avoid is letting the Stylebook drag us into doing something stupid -- making the drugmaker, rather than the drugs, generic, in the same sort of way careless writers turn women who run small businesses into teeny-tiny businesswomen.You don't want the adjective to modify the compound noun: small businesswoman, generic drugmaker. What you want is a compound modifier, and you're going to link it up just the way Tustin suggested: small-business woman, generic-drug maker. Or you can just use the longer form: A maker of generic drugs, women who run small businesses. And if someone wails that you're not being consistent, you should respond: At least I'm not being dumb.

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Today in the realism-free zone

Behold the National Review in its infinite wisdom:

We can’t delegate our warfighting to jihadists.

Kinda slept through the entire Afghan-Soviet thing, did we? Here's the AP in December 1984, bringing Ronald Reagan into a story about the administration's apparent inability to ensure that enough high-end equipment ended up in remote parts of Afghanistan:

He added, "The Afghan freedom fighters -- the Mujahedeen -- remind us daily that the human spirit is resilient and tenacious, and that liberty is not easily stolen from a people determined to defend it."

Hey, kids: See if you can guess what triliteral root is used to form the noun "mujahed"! In sad news for the National Review, not only can we delegate our warfighting to jihadists, we're pretty good at it.

That's why we have realism, and why (in one of those rare bits of punditry that still merit reading six years later) Stephen Walt referred to the American press as a "realism-free zone." You don't have to still be sticking up for the Melians to be a realist, but you do have to begin by looking at the world as it is, not as your angry friend on the AM dial wants it to be. You don't even have to take sides for or against Reagan's Elmer Fudd approach to the parts of the world with funny alphabets and lots of brown people. (If realism had a T-shirt, it would probably say "It seemed like a good idea at the time" in Latin.) But you should have either the common sense or the common decency to agree that things happened the way they happened, because that's sort of essential if you want to shape how things might happen in the future.

To paraphrase a popular rallying cry from early in our national life: billions for defense, but not one cent for jihad.

Should we just take up a collection and buy the poor clown a copy of "Charlie Wilson's War"? 

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A psychotic weasel, in the nonscientific sense

See if you can guess where Dr.  Krauthammer is going with this one:

HUGH HEWITT, HOST: ... I know you’ve said before you no longer practice psychiatry. You’ve given that up. But I want to tempt you to do a little armchair diagnosis here. On the New York Times front page yesterday, Peter Baker wrote about a series of dinners the President’s been having, and our friend John Hinderaker at Powerline says he sounds whiny. He sounds depressed to me. What do you think is his mental state?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: That’s very funny, because my specialty when I was a psychiatrist was bipolar disease. And I wrote some papers on manic disease. He’s not manic, and I don’t think he’s depressed. And I, you know, look. I’ve foresworn psychiatry simply because you really can’t do it at a distance. And one other thing is that you remember 1964 when about 500 psychiatrist signed a statement that Barry Goldwater was psychically unfit for the presidency?

HH: Well, I’ve read about it. I don’t remember it.

CK: Oh, you’re not young enough. Actually, I probably got it second-hand, for all I know.

I expect that's true. Chuckles was born in 1950, the article that made the matter famous was published in '64, and the last appeal of the resulting lawsuit was rejected in 1969. (The Supreme Court declined to hear it the following January, with Black and Douglas dissenting.)

Short version: Fact magazine, one of Ralph Ginzburg's gifts to the free-speech world, had run a special Goldwater issue -- "The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater" -- the month before the 1964 election, including among other things an ill-concocted "poll" of psychiatrists. Goldwater sued. Ginzburg more or less admitted at trial that several assertions in the issue were, well, you know, kinda-sorta made up despite evidence that contradicted them. So Goldwater remains one of the rare public officials to win a libel case under the Sullivan standard. Anyway, continue:
But that’s a real abuse. Psychiatrists, doctors and others who use their science, or even the global warming folks, you know, you have your expertise, and some people just use it to try to bludgeon other people with their authority. 

Yes. That seems to be kind of what the American Psychiatric Association had in mind a few years later when it banned jackleg pseudo-diagnosis for the media.

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