Friday, March 24, 2017

Then again, it might not

Dear Washington Post: These are called "then-again" heds for a reason. Any time you're tempted to write a hed that says something might happen, be sure you ask for the space to write a deck that says "and then again, it might not." It's a good way to keep from looking stupid when -- you know, Door No. 2 applies.

This one arrived in my inbox a little after 5 p.m., topping the second of the Post's two daily email updates. It looked remarkably stupid at that point, but the way to prevent that isn't to travel back in time and change your headlines. It's to avoid, whenever possible, trying to predict the future. Let's see if there's a clue in the text:

THE BIG IDEA: If you read Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal,” substituting “conservatives" for "contractors," the president’s ultimatum to House Republicans on health care is not at all surprising. “You have to be very rough and very tough with most contractors or they’ll take the shirt right off your back,” Trump wrote in the 1987 business classic.

Here is a tip. If you think "The Art of the Deal" is a "business classic," you should probably avoid putting your opinions in headlines just on general principles.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Hannity: Hero of the Soviet Union

Hey, kids! What do you suppose was the No. 2 story at the Fair 'n' Balanced homepage this afternoon?

Deep-state Obama holdovers embedded like barnacles in the federal bureaucracy are hell-bent on destroying President Trump. It's time for the Trump administration to purge these saboteurs.

Is it just me, or does Comrade Hannity sound like ... what's that, Soviet-era historian R.W. Davies?

The purge announced  at the XVI party conference in April 1929 ...  was directed towards the removal from office of bureaucratic and degenerate officials, and those who 'solidarised' with Nepmen or kulaks, as well as those who were outright saboteurs and wreckers. The purge was carried out by Rabkrin, with the support of activists both from the institutions being examined and from outside.

So when do we suppose Comrade Hannity will receive his Order of Lenin?

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Thursday, March 09, 2017

The face of Goldstein

Why do you suppose this might be Wednesday afternoon's No. 2 story at America's Leading Cable News Network? One hates to be in the habit of quoting Orwell too often, but ... how does the Two Minutes Hate start off again?

As usual, the face of Emmanuel Goldstein, the Enemy of the People, had flashed on to the screen.

If you wonder why people in your work unit don't throw things at the telescreen when Soros (or Alinsky, or Blumenthal, or Gruber) comes on, you're not looking in the right direction:

Billionaire George Soros gave $246 million to groups behind Wednesday's "Day Without a Woman" protest, according to a report by a conservative think tank.

Wednesday is "International Women's Day," and schools in at least four states canceled classes so teachers and staff members could participate in "Day Without a Woman" demonstrations.

While movement organizers say the demonstration is meant to spotlight gender inequality, critics say it is intended to protest President Donald Trump. The strike was created by the same organizers of the historic Women’s March on Washington in January, which drew hundreds of thousands in protest of the president.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Today in framing

O labor force participation rate, where art thou? Actually, that's not a fair question. The labor force participation data won't be released until Friday, along with the other data in the monthly BLS employment report. Drudge is linking to the (ahem) scrupulously accurate Daily Mail's account of ADP's estimate of the February job market total:
Even Fox is a bit more cautious:

The ADP National Employment Report showed on Wednesday that private payrolls grew by 298,000 jobs last month, well above economists' expectations for a gain of 190,000. January's private payrolls gains were revised up to 261,000 from 246,000.

The report, jointly developed with Moody's Analytics, came ahead of the release on Friday of the U.S. Labor Department's more comprehensive employment report. The ADP report, however, has a poor track record predicting the private payrolls component of the government's employment report.

Could it not quite three years since -- how did the the Murdoch press treat a gain of 288,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in May 2014? Let's ask Lexis-Nexis:
There was a job boom in the US economy in April that was as phony as any Hollywood explosion.

If you keep up with these things, you might have noticed that drooler outlets like Drudge essentially abandoned the the job-creation stat in favor of labor force participation a while ago, once job creation and the unemployment rate seemed to be consistently in the Kenyan's favor. I have no idea what the numbers will look like on Friday, but I do expect it'll be interesting to see how the patterns of the past few months hold up.

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Sunday, March 05, 2017

Today in flummoxing

Are you seeing a reservation on the unheated cattle train to Siberia in someone's future?

President Donald Trump's allegation on Twitter that former President Barack Obama ordered wiretaps of his phones during the election caught senior federal law enforcement officials completely off-guard, sources close to the matter have told Fox News.

"Sources," you say?

Those sources said that the officials in question had no idea what Trump was talking about when the president made the allegation on social media Saturday morning. The sources also told Fox that Trump did not consult with senior officials who would have been advised of any such wiretapping operations before posting the messages.

Trump claimed in a series of tweets without evidence Saturday that his predecessor had tried to undermine him by tapping the telephones at Trump Tower, the New York skyscraper where Trump based his campaign and transition operations, and maintains a home.

"How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!" he tweeted.

Trump's charge also left many in the White House and Justice Department confused and scrambling over the weekend to find any kind of factual backup for the president's accusations.

My, my, my.

... White House press secretary Sean Spicer said without elaborating Sunday that Trump's instruction to Congress was based on "very troubling" reports "concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election." Spicer did not respond to inquiries about the reports he cited in announcing the request.

Should you be wondering, of course, all is still bright in parts of the droolersphere -- for example, the PowerLine blog:

This is the most explosive political allegation in many years, far more explosive than Watergate. Is it true? I assume it has some basis in fact, e.g., Trump’s security people may have told him that they detected a tap on one or more of his phone lines. I have no idea how that works, or why it would only be detected now, or how the presence of a wire tap could be connected to the Obama administration. But it seems unlikely that Trump would make such a dynamite allegation without some kind of support.

Slept through the debates, did we?

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Saturday, March 04, 2017

Today in framing

And how do the day's events look on Planet Fox?

Former President Obama on Saturday denied President Trump’s accusation that Obama had Trump Tower phones tapped in the weeks before the November 2016 election.

Where's the "slam"? (For that matter, where's the Kenyan?)

“Neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false," said Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for the former president.

"Slam" is a go-to headline verb at Fox, so I guess that's a toss-up. But as a mere technical matter, if any slamming was done, it wasn't done by the ex-usurper himself. There is, of course, much more fun to be had:

... Trump does not specify how he uncovered the Obama administration's alleged wiretapping.

That's certainly a lot perkier than what the grownup press could come up with:

President Trump on Saturday angrily accused former president Barack Obama of orchestrating a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap the phones at his Trump Tower headquarters last fall in the run-up to the election.

While citing no evidence to support his explosive allegation, Trump said in a series of four tweets sent Saturday morning that Obama was “wire tapping” his New York offices before the election in a move he compared to McCarthyism. “Bad (or sick) guy!” he said of his predecessor, adding that the surveillance resulted in “nothing found.”

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Thursday, March 02, 2017

'Let there be no more sources'

Hey, that  one's going to be easy to get an on-the-record response for!

The White House is standing by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the face of mounting Democratic calls for his resignation – after reports showed he spoke with the Russian ambassador, despite testimony that he did not have “communications” with Moscow.

Who's going to resist a softball like that?

... A White House official, in a statement, described Democrats’ demands as a “partisan” attack, suggesting the controversy is timed to distract from the positive response to President Trump’s address to Congress earlier this week.

“This is the latest attack against the Trump administration by partisan Democrats. [Attorney General] Sessions met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is entirely consistent with his testimony,” the official said.

Apparently, everybody. Good thing we managed to get ahead of the story by afternoon, though:
Several senators on both sides of the aisle rushed to back Attorney General Jeff Sessions Thursday as he sought to blunt resignation calls from senior Democrats, following revelations he met last year with Russia's ambassador – a detail omitted from recent congressional testimony.

His defenders say such meetings between senators and diplomats were routine. And Sessions even got an inadvertent boost from Democratic Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who in demanding the AG's resignation initially claimed she never called or met with Russia's ambassador -- only for tweets to surface indicating she had, at least twice. 

Well, that must be a relief.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Pronouns: The reunion tour

The Fabulous Pronouns are back on the road! Take it away, The Washington Examiner:

President Trump referred to himself during his first speech to a joint session of Congress at a much lower rate than former President Barack Obama did in his first address in February 2009, roughly half as often.

Trump used the word "I" 40 times and said "my" 12 times during his speech at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday evening. During Obama's first such address eight years earlier, he said "I" a total of 68 times and "my" on eight occasions.

Sigh. I'm not seeing a "rate" here (or a significance test, though that claim was echoed as the story spread to
the Fox Nation). If your interest is in first-person singular pronouns as a proportion of total words, rather than per speech, per day or something, you'll have to calculate it yourself. Going by the figures the Examiner provides for Trump and CNN's transcript, we have 52 FPS pronouns in 4,828 words, or a little less than 1.1%. The Kenyan usurper (transcript from the Washington Post) had 76 FPS pronouns in 5,940 words, or a little less than 1.3%, in his 2009 address.

Why didn't the Examiner count "me"? Interesting question! (Apparently "pronoun," like "significant," means whatever the Washington Examiner wants it to mean.) Adding "me" to the mix, I get 1.4% for Obama, 1.2% for Trump. But before we worry about whether one difference or another is significant, meaning unlikely at a predetermined confidence level to have come about by chance, it might be worth looking at the distribution of pronouns in various State of the Union addresses. A significance test would help understand whether this comparison is more like LBJ to Nixon or like Bush Jr. to his (apparently quite uppity) dad. It wouldn't explain why this speech feature was related to the underlying social condition it purports to explain or what it might say about broader political circumstances.
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