Sunday, November 30, 2014

Return of the pronouns

The shiny, jingly object that is presidential pronoun frequency never really goes away; it just gets lost behind the fridge for a while until somebody cleans. Hence its return to Drudge, courtesy of CNS News (offspring of the Media Research Center):

Leaving aside passages in which he quoted a Chicago pub owner and a letter from a citizen from Georgia, President Barack Obama used the first person singular—including the pronouns “I” and “me” and the adjective “my”—91 times in a speech he delivered in Chicago Tuesday to explain his unilateral action on immigration.

CNS has been a frequent, if irregular, contributor to the pronoun hunt, so it tends to be impressed by the raw tally, rather than the proportion:

But as often as Obama used “I,” “me” and “my” in Chicago this week, it was no match for the speech he delivered in Austin, Texas, on July 10, when he used the first person singular 199 times.

The original contribution here is the apparent effort to link pronoun counts to the content of the speech:

In that Texas speech, however, Obama had not focused specifically on immigration policy. In that speech, Obama had explained his intention to act unilaterally wherever he could.

... On Tuesday, in Chicago, Obama said: “This isn’t amnesty, or legalization, or even a pathway to citizenship--because that's not something I can do.”


Is it just going to spoil everyone's dinner to point out that this speech (one FPSP every 46 words, the penultimate graf points out) comes in lower than Obama's overall average?* Or that the frequency in the Libya speech CNS cites is even lower, at 1.8%? Or that a pronoun-count drinking game for the State of the Union address is likely to be the dullest drinking game in presidential history?

WARNING: Pres. Obama has been known to use the personal pronouns "I" or "me" more than a hundred times in a single speech. Please drink responsibly.

Anyway: No, the pronouns didn't go away after the election. Why would anyone think they would?   

 * Thanks, as always, to the indefatigable chroniclers of pronoun mania over to Language Log.

Labels: ,

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Stop press!

Common cold cured! Fractious Near East at peace! New all-aluminum F150 runs on blend of moonbeams and angel farts!

OK, it may be true that no Detroit newspaper could actually turn down a 1A story that says "aluminum F150" in the lede, but this one doesn't even get that far. Behold the top story in this morning's Freep:

Americans are getting fatter — and so are the crash test dummies used to test the cars they drive.

You almost wish they'd just play pin-the-tail-in-the-other-191-countries-in-the-world and run some news already.

Labels: ,

Friday, November 28, 2014

The most wonderful time of the year

Wouldn't it be nice if America's Newspapers delivered rusty forks along with the post-Thanksgiving paper, the better to gouge your eyes out once you dig through the circulars and find the front page? Here's your yearly list of oops-too-late things not to do in headlines.

This year's tally seems a little low on "Ready, set, shop"; that's the Freep on the left, assisted by Columbus and Newark. The "gobble up" count is also down against last year (you'll have to forgive the Post; it was busy with the War On Snoopy), so we had to throw New London's "Let the bargains begin" in there with Miami and the Old Hometown Reflector:

 We do have a couple of new ones this year. Let's start with the turkey-plus-spending meme, which is harder to crack than it looks. You can't just flock to the mall after eating with your birds of a feather; you have to have the turkey in the hed, by name. Congratulations to (clockwise from upper left) Baltimore, Asbury Park, Tacoma, The State, Wichita, and Orlando.

I'm not sure why the "new tradition" started this year (maybe it was official and I just missed the memo), but there it is at Eugene and Albuquerque, with a variant from Buffalo:

Anyway, 'tisn't the season, so pay attention to those papers -- Philly and Austin, to name two -- that didn't seem to find it necessary to put a Thanksgiving shopping story on the front at all. Perhaps a few more brave souls will venture down those mean streets next year.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On investigations and trusting them

Well, so much for those officially empowered investigations carried out under intense public and media scrutiny by -- what's that, The Washington Times? -- "the only people who have heard and examined all of the evidence of all of the witnesses." Maybe Sen. Graham can help us through a little pre-holiday mix-and-match game: Which images go with which sentiments from the Free and Independent Media?

National ReviewWhen the facts didn't back their narrative, they dismissed the facts and retreated into paranoid suspicion of the legal system.

Good thing federal officials are still on the case!

Let’s hope he’s able to shed light on what happened once and for all. The victims and their families deserve both justice and the truth.

No, that can't be it. How does it look from New York Avenue?

These purveyors of ... resentment had three months to polish their false and angry narrative, with the help of a compliant media that feeds on wild sensation.

Wow, that doesn't sound like the Lindsey Graham we know. Were the purveyors waving anything in particular?

Rioters armed with automatic weapons* fired on the police and put the torch to police cars.

Maybe the Rutherford Institute could help us put it all in perspective?
What we're really faced with, and what we'll see more of before long, is a growing dissatisfaction with the government and its heavy-handed tactics by people who are tired of being used and abused and are ready to say "enough is enough."
Read more »

Monday, November 24, 2014

This looks like a job for ...

Just assuming, for the sake of argument, that the common cold is well and truly cured and the Fractious Near East at peace, thus justifying the expenditure of frontpage space on a story that boils down to Supervisors Don't Mind That Previous Job Didn't Break Any Rules -- is Probie Hoseman* just another Popular Orange Vegetable, or is some deeper meaning afoot?

For all that they're the Voice of The People and everything, tabloids make The People work pretty hard sometimes. You don't just have to get "probie" and "hoseman," you have to know the Bravest from the Finest. Good thing the Daily News had -- um, triple byline and two more in the shirttail, five reporters free to work on bringing this epic to the reader. It does sort of make you wonder: Do you guys have any copy editors left?

* Stay tuned for the sequel, "Four Hosemen of the Apocalypse." Thanks, I'll be here all week.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Another day on Planet Fox

Hey, kids! What do you suppose was the takeaway point of Friday afternoon's report from the House Intelligence Committee?

Washington Post: An investigation by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee has concluded that the CIA and U.S. military responded appropriately to the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, dismissing allegations that the Obama administration blocked rescue attempts during the assault or sought to mislead the public afterward.

AP: ... Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

Fair 'n' Balanced Network: A leading Republican wants to expand the House investigation into the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack by adding a Senate probe, as a new House Intelligence Committee report Friday concluded that the initial CIA assessment found no demonstrations prior to the assault and a primary purpose of the CIA operation in eastern Libya was to track the movement of weapons to Syria.
Read more »

Labels: , ,

Friday, November 21, 2014

Noun pile of the week

In case you missed it while the usurper was distracting you last week, freedom was under assault on many fronts:

There’s a new battleground in the war on Christmas – the suburbs of our nation’s capital. The school board in Montgomery County, Maryland has decided to appease Muslims families by making the school calendar — religious neutral.

The in-the-tank media appear to have let this one slip by, but the newly profitable Washington Times and its readers have stayed on the case, providing the genuinely awesome noun -- at last, by US standards -- noun pile above.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Son of "that's what"

Come for the "that's how long," stay for the sequence:

Twelve minutes.

That's how long it took someone to drive by three Pleasant Hill houses Monday morning and fire one or more bullets before driving away. Two people were struck and suffered non life-threatening injuries. More could easily have been wounded or worse, Pleasant Hill police said.

Certainly seems to have taken his sweet time about things, didn't he? (Assuming he was a he
and there was only one of him, I mean.) Unless you wait for the Google map to explain that the houses aren't next to each other or anything, except that makes the "one or more bullets" sound even more jargon-like -- and makes you wonder why the story's cautious enough to say "in the NNN block of ..." when the map gives exact addresses. But it takes your eye off the third graf, which begins "One is Local Teen" without letting on which of the earlier categories he might be one of. And then there's the caption with the mug, which see, but that's piling on.

Sometimes it'd be nice if there was less writing and more reading -- say, of the copy that's about to leave your hands -- at America's Newspapers.

(Thanks to longtime reader Sam for the share.)


Sunday, November 09, 2014

Whose sari now?

What seems to be the hardest word today, Nation's Newspaper of Record?

An article last Sunday about Bradley Cooper, who is starring in a Broadway revival of “The Elephant Man,” referred incorrectly to the London address where Joseph Carey Merrick — the real Elephant Man — exhibited himself. The address is now a sari store — it is not, our sincerest apologies, “a sorry store.”

Labels: ,

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Today in making things up

Well -- not exactly. Actually, not at all. But with a little head-fakery on an otherwise innocent AP report, the Fair 'n' Balanced Network manages to push a made-up story. And once you've made the Drudge homepage, your work is done.

Here's what the AP reported Friday:

The U.N. nuclear agency said Friday that its attempts to probe allegations that Tehran worked on nuclear weapons were deadlocked — a finding that all but rules out hopes of full nuclear deal between six world powers and Iran by the Nov. 24 target date.

And the version that was Fox's No. 3 tale this morning, under the "Agency claims Iran still working toward nukes" hed shown above:

Hours after the UN’s nuclear agency said that its attempts to investigate allegations that Iran worked on nuclear weapons, an Iranian opposition group claimed to have information showing the country is still working toward nuclear weapons.

See the pivot foot move? Clumsy grammar aside, Fox is grafting one set of claims onto another, allowing a for the bogus hed (after the story fell downpage, the switch was even clearer: "UN agency claims Iran still working toward nukes"). Fox is simply having a little more fun with the opposition press conference, which AP discusses in its 11th graf:
Read more »

Labels: , ,

Transcription follies

Did anybody at the Nation's Newspaper of Record actually listen to the Joni Ernst victory speech? Or, you know, watch the earlier campaign ad?

An article on Thursday about some of the Republicans’ rising stars of the 114th Congress quoted incorrectly from comments by Senator-elect Joni Ernst, who on Tuesday night became the first woman elected to Congress from Iowa. She said: “We are heading to Washington. And we are going to make ‘em squeal!” — not “We are heading to Washington. And we are going to make a squeal!

Sometimes, the best question a copy editor can ask is something on the order of "Why would she say that?"

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 06, 2014

With any luck, it might be true

Wow, that all-purpose image of Sad Panda Usurper is coming in handy these days!

President Obama reportedly penned a secret letter to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last month discussing their shared interest in fighting the Islamic State -- a development one congressional source told Fox News "f***s up everything."

Guess you've got him this time, right?

... A senior congressional source told Fox News that there is not anything definitive as to whether the letter even exists. But the source indicated they don't doubt that it's true because "we've seen [the president] do it before, so there is [a] precedent."

Well, there's some high-quality sou***ng for you. And was it just last week that Fox had a lecture for us on how not to talk about other people's heads of government?

The White House on Wednesday sought to tamp down the controversy over a magazine piece that detailed deep tensions between the U.S. and Israel – and quoted an unnamed senior Obama administration official calling the Israeli leader a “chickenshit.” 

Why, that's just ...

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Tuesday accused the administration of “hurling expletives” at the Israeli leader.
Read more »

Labels: , ,

Monday, November 03, 2014

Little lost story

Well, that's a relief. Imagine clicking the second most super-important story of the evening (left) and getting a big old case of File Not Found:

 No, but thanks for the tip. I wasn't really looking for random paranoia about Ferguson or right-wing babbling about the Fractious Near East. I wanted details on that gun-grabbing TSA. Thankfully, the link was restored shortly after midnight; it looks as if Fox was just trying to smooth out the British English in the hed (so now the TSA "seizes," rather than "seize," dozens of guns), and the story itself is intact:

Dozens of guns were confiscated in October from the carry-on bags of pistol-packing passengers trying to board planes at major U.S. airports.

Last month the Transportation Security Administration screeners found 181 firearms in carry-on bags at airport screening points around the country. A total of 157 were loaded and nearly a third of those had rounds chambered, according to the TSA Blog.


Pesky gun-grabbing libruls! Always trying to keep the guy next to me from having a loaded handgun in addition to a smartphone. Or, as The Economist put it a few months ago in what is certainly one of the best ledes in history:

Have you ever stood in a steamy, crowded bar, jostling other patrons to catch the bartender's attention, and thought: "This would be more fun if everyone in here were armed"? If so, Georgia is the state for you.

The rest of the Fox story, of course, neither especially original (it's a rewrite from an official blog) nor especially interesting -- even if, like Your Editor, you've left a favorite pocketknife in a carryall after a long road trip and forgotten to take it out before packing for a flight.* But it's not there because it's interesting; it's there because of what the readers get to say!

Read more »

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Sweet dreams

Let's just enjoy Fox's copy editing before we get to the substance, shall we?

“Anthony Brown means eight more years of Martin O’Malley,” Carter said. “They are two pees in a pod.”

Because, after all, the point isn't Fox's playful sense of  language and bladder activity; it's the habit of running made-up stories about one political office or another that's on the brink of being plucked from the evildoers' grasp. These aren't lies in the sense of making stuff about pronoun frequency. They're more like bedtime stories: not falsifiable claims about how the world is, but instructive tales about how the world ought to work. And since all opinions are  equal, a friendly interpretation of the evidence is as good as any other. Right, Fair 'n' Balanced Network?

The campaign for Maryland GOP gubernatorial nominee Larry Hogan earlier this week enthusiastically predicted that a win Tuesday would be the surprise, upset victory of the midterm elections.

And it might well be correct.

Well, sure. It could be correct about how surprising a win would be without actually predicting a win. But that wasn't the point, was it?

Left off essentially everybody’s list of hot governors’ races, the tightening Maryland contest has now captured the national spotlight with big outside money and A-list politicians coming in to close the deal for Hogan or Democratic nominee Anthony Brown, who has served eight years as Gov. Martin O’Malley’s lieutenant governor.

... Brown had led the race by double digits from the start. But recent polls -- including one by The Baltimore Sun in mid-October that indicated Brown ahead by just 7 percentage points -- have shown his lead starting to slip.

However, the turning point seemed to occur after a Republican-sponsored poll released Monday showed Hogan trailing Brown by just 2 percentage points, 46-to-44 percent.
Read more »

Labels: ,