Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Sweetheart, get me rewrite

Not a bad Wednesday lead story by the Washington Post there:

The Justice Department has “systemic” problems in how it handles sexual harassment complaints, with those found to have acted improperly often not receiving appropriate punishment, and the issue requires “high level action,” according to the department’s inspector general.

Justice supervisors have mishandled complaints, the IG said, and some perpetrators were given little discipline or even later rewarded with bonuses or performance awards. At the same time, the number of allegations of sexual misconduct has been increasing over the past five years and the complaints have involved senior Justice Department officials across the country.

 Not quite good enough for the Fair 'n' Balanced Network to appropriate yet, but just add some Kenyan Muslim usurpering in the rewriting process and ...

The Justice Department scolded the Obama administration on Wednesday following a report on how sexual harassment of all kinds was improperly handled at the department for years.

The shock findings are a little less shock on the inside hed:

Where did all the "rampant office sex" go? Maybe the Post will tell us:

The cases examined by the IG’s office include a U.S. attorney who had a sexual relationship with a subordinate and sent harassing texts and emails when it ended; a Civil Division lawyer who groped the breasts and buttocks of two female trial attorneys; and a chief deputy U.S. marshal who had sex with “approximately” nine women on multiple occasions in his U.S. Marshals Service office, according to investigative reports obtained by The Washington Post under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Fox's summary is shorter (and leaves out the FOIA request) but doesn't add a lot in the way of sex or groping:

The Washington Post reported that the DOJ’s inspector general had found “systemic” problems with how complaints were addressed, with offending officials often being let off the hook or even rewarded. The article cited investigative reports on a lawyer who allegedly groped two female attorneys and a top U.S. Marshals official who had sex with “approximately” nine women in his office.
Though fresh complaints have been filed as recently as August, the IG said some of the worst alleged offenses happened several years ago in the department’s Civil Division.

Ready for the scolding?

Ian Prior, a spokesman in the Trump Justice Department, would not comment in detail about the allegations but described the problems as largely occurring during the prior administration.

“The Department does not discuss specific employee disciplinary actions or comment on personnel actions or matters that may impact personal privacy. That said, the Department was very disappointed with the issues that occurred in the Obama administration and strives for a workplace free of harassment and other misconduct for all of our 115,000 employees,” he said in a statement. “That is why the Civil Division has implemented additional safeguards and systems to ensure that all misconduct allegations are handled appropriately going forward.”

Fox might have gotten a copy of the statement on its own -- a Fox staffer is credited in the shirttail -- but otherwise, there's nothing here you couldn't have gotten from a dead-tree edition produced by adults. Fox just added the "watchdog releases shock findings" part, and if by "watchdog" it meant the Post, that was actually kind of charitable.

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Sunday, December 24, 2017

The dead and the naked

Episodic double murders are always a candidate for glory at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network, but what makes some episodic double murders more Foxalicious than others? This one, for example, started Sunday morning at the No. 4 position, with "Killed By A Monster" at the top of the page. Let's have a look at Fox works to shape the raw material into the perfect story for its readers.

First, the headline -- fine as far as it goes, but nothing there that would set this apart from any other set of murders on Christmas Eve. "Workplace violence" doesn't elevate matters; you can't bend it far enough to make contact with the Two Minutes Hate angle. And there's nothing very exciting about the art: basically a mug shot of some post boxes. Hard to believe a Fox staffer missed the obvious angle that perked things up around 10:30 a.m.:

Relatives and friends of two Ohio postal workers slain by an enraged, naked coworker were at a loss to explain the violence that occurred Saturday morning.

So we've managed to get "naked" into the hed, but -- Sweet Norman Mailer, who's naked and who's dead? The original hed (and the url) are the usual way we -- well, certainly we headline writers -- think of "X's slaying": "the slaying of X." We'd need another prepositional phrase to get "X's slaying of two colleagues" out of it, and when the verb becomes singular, matters get even messier. 

Still, the commenters have picked up on something else that slipped past the Fox editors:

DeShaune is it? Uh-huh.

So about 11:39, the next angle falls into place:
 The headline is the same syntactic hash, but now it's a real Fox story. Right, commenters?
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Dear Nation's Newspaper of Record:

A review on Dec. 3 about “GenerationWealth,” by the photographer Lauren Greenfield, referred incorrectly to one of the book’s conclusions. Greenfield does refer to the media’s influence on people’s obsession with wealth and fame; it is not the case that “she never mentions” that influence. The review also misstated the provenance of some of the book’s images; many of them accompanied reports that appeared in major publications, not “most” of them.

Did you think about reading the book before you reviewed it? Just wondering.

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Friday, December 22, 2017

Martinis, steaks and cold-blooded belles

So with the UN slapping America in the face, Republicans finally wising up to the Kenyan usurper's Mideast perfidy and Massster's beautiful tax cuts held hostage by those pesky budget rules, what do you figure should have been the world's fourth most important story on Thursday afternoon?

Aw, you peeked. Having done so, though, you might have wondered how the elements of this story fell into place so naturally, so let's have a look:

She’ll drink to that!

The Latvian woman who watched her fiancé drown in the Hudson River walked out of prison Thursday — and celebrated with a martini and steak lunch.

There's no "police said" or "according to eyewitnesses" or "Fox News can reveal" (though there is that delicate accent on "fiancé," in case you've forgiven the French for anything in the past few decades). But there is an outline of the structure under which we're supposed to understand stuff. "Walked out of prison Thursday" is an easy claim to verify. "Martini and steak lunch" is close, but .. hang on a little and we'll get back to the martinis. "Celebrated" is actually a bit different from what you see in sports photo captions, where at least people are usually jumping up and down or something. As for who's drinking to what -- well, you can't call it a lie, because there's nothing for it to be true or false about. It's a framing device. It doesn't tell you what to think, but it tells you how to think about the things you're poised to learn.

Watching one's fiance drown, of course, is substantially different from drowning one's fiance; both have the makings of a good country song, but to make sense of the second paragraph, you need to know in advance that this isn't your ordinary Latvian woman. She's the one ... oh, come on, you read about it a couple years ago, it's on the tip of your tongue, she's the one in that story! So now you're ready to look at how tabloids make news. Indeed, let's just go ahead and shift over to the New York Post, the Murdoch stablemate from which Fox appropriated this story:
The part that Fox added to the hed -- the steak dinner -- seems to be the better attested,* but what the heck. How many martinis, and how do we know?
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Monday, December 18, 2017

National security is hard. Let's go shopping!

If you had to guess which word from the homepage display isn't included in Fox's top story, it'd be ... aw, you peeked.

President Trump’s national security strategy, set to be unveiled in a major address Monday afternoon, restores references to the “jihadist” terror threat – in a tacit rebuke to the Obama-era decision to avoid such language.
The president is expected to detail his administration’s strategy at 2 p.m. ET in Washington, D.C.

Trump is expected to discuss threats he'll deem as "rogue regimes," like North Korea, and "revisionist powers," like Russia and China, who aim to change the status quo.

"Apologies," alas, you'll have to infer from the Sad Panda Obama photo and your own sense of the Kenyan usurper's endless "apology tours" (even though the photo appears to be from a Newtown vigil, in which case some apologies seem rather appropriate).

But notably, the document repeatedly refers to “jihadist” terror groups, in a break from the Obama administration.

Because we all know that's how the West was won, right?

“The primary transnational threats Americans face are from jihadist terrorists and transnational criminal organizations,” the document states, according to excerpts released ahead of the speech.

Another section calls for strengthened missile defense and homeland security, vowing to “pursue threats to their source, so that jihadist terrorists are stopped before they ever reach our borders.”

Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump White House adviser, drew attention to the term in an interview Monday morning with “Fox & Friends.”

“The political correctness of the last eight years is gone,” he said. “You haven’t seen anything like this for 20-25 years.”

No, Sebastian Gorka hasn't gone away, and no, you can't sit in if he's made to retake his qualifying exams. But there's more!

Broadly speaking, according to a senior administration official, Trump’s doctrine has four main principles: protecting the homeland and way of life; promoting American prosperity; demonstrating peace through strength; and advancing American influence in an ever-competitive world.

The official said the “principled realism … takes a clear-eyed view of the threats we face.”

Interesting way to introduce the term "principled realism," don't you think? I wonder if it has anything to do with the party press's late-breaking discovery that the anarchic world is -- a competitive place! Right, Wall Street Journal?

On Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump will give a speech formally laying out his first national-security strategy, a document mandated by Congress. The instrument describes an “America First” approach that outlines the new challenges the nation faces. These are some of the highlights. 

A competitive world: The strategy warns that the U.S. faces an era of increased political, economic and military competition and argues that a fundamental rethinking of national-security policy is needed to maintain the U.S.’s advantages. America’s global dominance after the Cold War “bred complacency” that “American power would be unchallenged and self-sustaining.” The U.S. will begin “competitive diplomacy” focused on defending American interests ahead of other concerns.

Pesky history.

And in case you missed it last week, here's the Fox conclusion:

In another shift for the president who ran on an “America First” platform, Trump’s strategy will remove an Obama declaration that climate change is an "urgent and growing threat to our national security."

I'm not sure which Fox is hoping for -- that we won't remember what "America First" means, or that we will.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The end of irony

Yes, it's a "most people" lede, but bear with our Tribune columnist here -- he has a Point!

The two questions most people ask about a new movie are: Do I really want to see it? And, is it worth the price?

“Darkest Hour,” the film starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, is definitely worth seeing now, not later. It is worth the price.

And it is required.

Because in a West under siege, in a West — particularly the European West — that often seems lost and almost eager to capitulate to a diminished future, “Darkest Hour” isn’t merely a good film.

I didn't know you spelled "sharia" with a D, but nevertheless:

It is a necessary film.

It reminds us that heroes don’t require magic swords, superpowers, spandex costumes or comic-book inspiration.

Heroes can be quite human, even dumpy and old and fat, egotistic and self-indulgent.

... What is required is an iron will, an epic stubbornness, a refusal to listen to reasonable voices that would reasonably help bend the knee. 

And we all know where that comes from, right? 

In “Darkest Hour,” and in the other films about Churchill that I’ve seen, there is a hint about where the iron will comes from: the expectations of the British aristocracy on the young; the severe schools, the punishments, the obligations placed on the ruling class to serve the empire.

In America, we infantilize our young, and some remain boys and girls until middle age, and we make heroes of athletes and actors and entertainers. But not in the England of that time.

For the aristocracy, the will was also molded by the kind of literature that helped shape the empire, which, along with the British Navy and its guns, reinforced Great Britain’s place, ruling the seas.

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Saturday, December 16, 2017

No, but thanks for asking

For the morning's top story,* let's go live to Fox legal analyst Gregg "Law is hard -- let's go shopping!" Jarrett:
There is strong circumstantial evidence that an insidious plot unprecedented in American history was hatched within the FBI and the Obama Justice Department to help elect Hillary Clinton and defeat Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

And when this apparent effort to improperly influence the election did not succeed, the suspected conspirators appear to have employed a fraudulent investigation of President Trump in an attempt to undo the election results and remove him as president.
Such a Machiavellian scheme would move well beyond what is known as the “deep state,” a popular reference to government employees who organize in secret to impose their own political views on government policy in defiance of democratically elected leadership.

However, this apparent plot to keep Trump from becoming president and to weaken and potentially pave the way for his impeachment with a prolonged politically motivated investigation – if proven – would constitute something far more nefarious and dangerous.

Apparently having mistaken Hofstadter's "The paranoid style in American politics" for a user's manual, he rocks on:
Such a plot would show that partisans within the FBI and the Justice Department, driven by personal animus and a sense of political righteousness, surreptitiously conspired to subvert electoral democracy itself in our country.

As of now, we have no proof beyond a reasonable doubt of such a plot. But we have very strong circumstantial evidence.

And as the philosopher and writer Henry David Thoreau wrote in his journal in 1850: “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”

 You'll want to read the whole thing. Or not.

* With refreshing clarity, the url at least calls the piece "opinion."

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Oh, stop it

One would like to think that, in most of the sentient world, the whole "bigly" thing had been quietly euthanized, oh, a year and a half or so ago. "Bigly" is not what the guy says, plain and simple. You are misinterpreting his pronunciation of the well-known modifier "big league." It doesn't matter whether you think Donald Trump is a disgrace to the English language, a disgrace to the concept of democracy run by grownups or a disgrace to humankind in general; all those can be true at the same time, but he still doesn't say "bigly." Somehow, that seems to have escaped the Washington Post:

At this point, we're justified in calling for a ban on heds of the form "just ... bigly," from now unto the end of time Amen, on grounds of sheer tedium. But there's more!
Several points here. First, there's never an excuse for running bogus headlines, and that includes -- if you have a problem with this, just go ahead and get off my lawn -- headlines based on bogus premises. Second, in case you hadn't noticed, (alleged) media malpractice is a favorite topic with the vermin press these days; if you don't want them sniping at you for being a snarky librul with no ability to interpret actual evidence, please consider the commonsense alternative of not providing them with the goddamn ammunition. Third, please stop wasting my time. The moral embarrassment that is the Trump presidency poses serious threats to a number of areas. If you're playing worst-guess scenario about matters of partisan dispute rather than -- for example -- reporting on the actual Fractious Near East itself, there is little to distinguish you from Fox News. I'd prefer that you make that distinction clearer.

I'm grateful, as I've said before, that the Post invests heavily -- in human and other capital -- in doing news. I appreciate that. Evidence-based reporting separates the sheeps from the goats, and everything we do in journalism should be built on the idea that putting genuine, actionable information in front of people is the highest and best form of the craft. Even if -- sad news, kids -- the public is in fact a bunch of morons, we should literally report, and they should literally decide.

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Slave-scarf symbol of the steppes

Some days the right-wing press just drives you to the Liebling archive before the coffee is even made. Take it away, veteran National Post columnist Robert Fulford:

In a burst of bogus feminism and commercial ambition, Mattel Inc., the global doll-maker, has announced that in 2018 it will market a Barbie doll wearing a hijab. Barbie dolls rarely impinge on political and social issues but this one is so unsettling that it evokes a wide range of responses.

Tell us a little more about how rare it is for Barbie to reflect social issues!

... After all, Barbies aren’t just princesses and wonder women. You can buy Barbies wearing practical clothing for offices, “chic summer suits” and camel-hair coats. This is Mattel’s bow to feminists who believe little girls should be discouraged from dwelling on fantasies of the future: they should learn, as soon as possible, the truth about what they are likely to become.

For girls with higher aspirations, you can get Barbies clothed in a cocktail dress, a classic black dress, or an Oscar de la Renta ball gown. One Barbie has a Hudson’s Bay jacket and another displays an Andy Warhol painting on the front of her dress.

So much for the camel-hair coat vs. Hudson's Bay controversy, though you'd think the fencing uniform -- the new addition is modeled after the Olympic medalist  Ibtihaj Muhammad -- might suggest at least some aspiration. But back to the issue at hand: 

Attached to the news about the hijab Barbie is a line from Mattel about “Continuing to inspire girls to be anything.” Girls are to become whatever their desires and talents can make them.

... But Mattel doesn’t explain the crucial facts about places where hijab is required apparel.

See if you can guess what's coming next. Or return with us to the glory days of Chicago Tribune columnist Jimmy Savage's campaign against the other headscarf:

"We propose a citywide burning of the babushkas!" Savage wrote one morning, not too long ago. "These regimenting rags, which convert pretty, young Chicago faces into moon-round parodies of peasants, have made the teen scene resemble potato digging time on a Soviet collective. Watching those farm-fresh, 4-H club visitors to the livestock show, we noted that not one of them wore that sloppy substitute for headgear. ... Those youngsters were American farmers, too proud of their heritage to wear the slave-scarf symbol of European field hands. Are our Chicago kids less smart, less proud? To the torch, then, and the burning of the babushkas!"
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Saturday, December 09, 2017


Another installment in the occasional series of Perfect Fox Front Pages. Collect them all!

In the first and second spots, we have two cases of Massster calling "fake news" on the librul media.

At No. 3, ghastly foreigners foiled! (Third paragraph, first sentence: "President Trump went to Brentwood in July and vowed to crush MS-13, while pledging a tougher approach on immigration.")

At No. 4, black people behaving badly! (Second graf, first sentence: "Brittany Covington, 19, entered her plea in a case that received national attention because it involved an 18-year-old disabled white man and four blacks who taunted him with profanities against white people and President Trump.")

The lese-majeste triumph, though, is the causal implication of the No. 5 story:
Skiing star Lindsey Vonn suffered a back injury during a World Cup super-G race in Switzerland Saturday, two days after she criticized President Donald Trump in an interview about next year's Winter Olympics..*

Let's skip to the ninth graf:

... The two-time Olympic medalist told CNN in an interview that aired Thursday that she would "absolutely not" visit the White House if the United States Olympic team gets a traditional post-games invitation.

You can check out the reader comments yourself, if you're wondering what one buys into as a Fox reader.

* (sic), if you're scoring along at home

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Winter wonderland

So if you clicked through from the Fair 'n' Balanced home page to the story that moved into the lead position* around 9 a.m. Saturday and thought the view looked familiar,** you might be wondering what the illustration has to do with much of anything:

Storms that yielded recording-breaking snowfall in the South during the week were expected to hit the Northeast on Friday evening and continue causing problems throughout the weekend.

Once you get past "recording-breaking" and stop wondering why no one's updated "were expected to hit the Northeast on Friday," you're still left with a big question: What's a photo of a Detroit freeway in January 2014 doing on top of a story about something that either has happened or might happen to the Northeast in December 2017?

Winter Storm Benji was moving up the East Coast, with heavy snow predicted for a 2,000-mile stretch from the Deep South to New England. Some spots could see as much as 10 to 15 inches of snow, forecasters said. 

The link to the Weather Channel story (updated at 10:15 a.m. Saturday) suggests where some of the raw material might have originated:

Winter Storm Benji is now spreading snow to much of the Northeast Seaboard, after blanketing a swath of the South with record-setting snowfall.

By the time Benji departs the Northeast, it will have laid down a blanket of snow 2,000 miles long from Texas to New England.

Facts, like Legos, just sort of sit there until someone builds a story out of them. There is a "2,000-mile stretch," and "heavy snow" is predicted for some parts of it, and no doubt there's been some blanketing. But the current winter advisories (per the Weather Channel map) start just southwest of Asheville, which -- being in the mountains near ski resorts and all -- has actually seen snow before. You might be forgiven, at this point, for wondering what sort of story is being built for you. Back to Fox:
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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

The enemy of the people

Q: How does the Washington Times revive the flagging spirits of the faithful after a potentially trying weekend?
A: With a picture of Emmanuel Goldstein, Enemy of the People George Soros in the centerpiece!

 Plagued by sagging ratings, player protests and fan outrage, the NFL has thrown a political Hail Mary by reportedly agreeing to dole out millions of dollars to two social justice groups connected to Democratic billionaire George Soros.

Under an agreement with the Players Coalition, NFL owners plan to funnel tens of millions of dollars to the Dream Corps, a leftist advocacy group led by former Obama adviser Van Jones and linked to Mr. Soros, which has called for saving the Clean Power Plan, cutting the prison population by half and providing “sanctuary for all.”

The $89 million, seven-year deal also carves out millions of dollars for the Players Coalition, according to ESPN, which has been advised by Soros-funded groups such as the Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth and the Center for American Progress, a leader of the anti-Trump “resistance.”

Could it get worse?

... Mr. Soros’ fingerprints can also be found on the Dream Corps, which merged in 2014 with Green for All, an environmental group founded by Mr. Jones in 2007 whose funders included Open Society as well as former Vice President Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection, according to Discover the Networks.

Mr. Jones resigned as President Obama’s “green jobs czar” in 2009 amid reports of his earlier Marxist activism, including his oft-quoted declaration that he became a communist after the 1992 acquittal of Los Angeles police officers who beat up Rodney King.

Any further questions about which side the Washington Times would have been on in the 1930s?

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Boundary violations

The fun thing about watching Fox isn't waiting someone at Fox to break the "rules"; it's trying to figure out what Fox's rules are from how Fox breaks other people's rules. So what are the circumstances under which Sunday morning's top story becomes "Trump will take care of it"? Apparently not the lede:

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster says neither the American people nor U.S. allies should question the stability of the Trump administration amid his predecessor Michael Flynn’s guilty plea and rumors Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is stepping down.

 “No, I don't think our allies need any reassurance,” McMaster told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “In fact, what we're doing is continuing to work with them on all the key challenges we face today -- from North Korea, to the defeat of ISIS across the Greater Middle East -- the ongoing efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, too.” 

So ... there must be a lot to talk about.

... Wallace also asked McMaster about the president’s recent retweets of online posts linked to “Britain First,” a far-right group in the United Kingdom.

... “General, why did President Trump send out those videos?” Wallace asked.

“Well, President Trump is the best judge of why he did that,” McMaster said. “I know it was his intention to highlight the importance of creating safe and secure environments for our citizens -- to make sure that we have the right laws in place, enforcement mechanisms in place.”

370 words in, we get to the point(ish):

McMaster also addressed North Korea.

Last week, North Korea launched its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile – a provocation to which President Trump replied, “I will only tell you that we will take care of it.” 

How exactly would the president “take care of it” given China and Russia’s complicity in propping up the regime, Wallace asked.

“Well, the president's going to take care of it by, if we have to, doing more ourselves,” McMaster said. “But what we want to do is convince others it is in their interest to do more. 

Under the standard rules of hed writing, we could at best get a week-old "Trump says 'we will take care of' North Korea." It'd be a stretch to draw "McMaster says Trump will take care of North Korea," because McMaster only vaguely says that.* And since the first few paragraphs (and the point of the interview) seem to point to concerns about whether the president is actually deranged or just acting like it, one wonders why North Korea was the headline at all.

It's a challenge keeping up with Fox and its masters these days; even if you manage to skip from one international nightmare to another, there's something new on the domestic scene. But if you want to climb the Fox ladder quickly, it's hard to go wrong with "Massster will fix it! Massster has everything under control!"

* Nor does he seem to be the one who said “I will only tell you that we will take care of it.” 

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