Wednesday, January 31, 2018

'We' is not amused

Pronouns: How can you miss 'em if they won't go away? The vermin press shows how it's done:

President Trump placed the emphasis on “we” over “I” in his first State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

A review of the president’s prepared remarks by The Daily Caller reveals he used the word “we” more than four times as many times as he said the word “I.”

President Trump used the word “I” 29 times in his speech, while using “we” 129 times. Another communal word used often by the president: “our,” which he used 104 times.

“As long as we are proud of who we are, and what we are fighting for, there is nothing we cannot achieve,” Trump said near the end of his speech. “As long as we have confidence in our values, faith in our citizens, and trust in our God, we will not fail.” (RELATED: Obama Mentions Himself 45 Times During Memorial Speech For Dallas Police Officers)

“As long as we have confidence in our values, faith in our citizens, and trust in our God, we will not fail. Our families will thrive. Our people will prosper. And our Nation will forever be safe and strong and proud and mighty and free.” 

You don't even really need the link to get the point, do you? No pronoun was safe in the hands of the Kenyan usurper: "Someone is going to say, 'Am I the only one* who thinks that Obama likes the sound of his own voice?'" Fortunately, there's a new sheriff in town, and he are not amused.

The experts -- we could say "the coastal eee-lites," but that'd be piling on -- have traditionally spread the bizarre pseudo-sociolinguistic fictions about the meaning(s) of presidential pronoun frequency (Language Log's catalog can be found here). True to form, the impact has already been felt over at the National Review:

Trump’s publicly well-received speech (we hope the Obama first-person singular continues to give way to the Trump first-person plural) did not register with his enemies, mostly progressives but some Never Trumpers as well.

But what if Trump follows up on his speech by letting his successful policies speak for themselves, even as his critics are permanently stuck in the past obsessing on the shadows of Trump — oblivious to his record and brawling against a style and comportment that could be increasingly dissipating?

After watching the Democratic and celebrity boilerplate reaction to Trump’s speech, and the Kennedy response, a person from Mars might conclude that Trump was sober and judicious in reviewing a tangible record, while his critics were emotional and petulant while ignoring definable reality to focus on nebulous symbolism.

I've never been one to suggest that our first contact with the Martians -- "person" or otherwise -- should carry the assumption that they plan to wipe the galaxy with us, but doesn't it seem a little rude to think they'd all act like Daily Caller readers?

* No. You're not even the only white one, moron.

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Sunday, January 28, 2018


You can get a pretty clear idea from the Sunday morning homepage what the master story of the universe is at Fox. It's a hat trick of lese-majeste (1, 2 and 4):

A group of Hollywood elites, progressive groups and social activists are planning a “People’s State of the Union” as a “public alternative” on the eve of President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will not be attending President Donald Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday. Instead, she will be at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, for a talk that was announced in August, the Providence Journal reported.

President Trump responded Sunday to recent criticism from rap mogul Jay-Z by citing joblessness for black Americans under his administration, before asking that somebody “please inform” the hip-hop star about the record-low unemployment.

So if you're not a eee-lite making light of (or being responded to by, or being worshipful toward, otherwise interacting with) the president, you need to be either a Clinton or a random tragedy involving white people if you want to land on the Fox front.

If you're wondering why the world in general (Iran and Afghanistan, to name two parts of it) is only a story when Mr. Trump is angry about it, or why school shootings are only news when the president blesses them with thoughts and prayers (or responders rush to the scene to make strange discoveries), this is partly why. News itself -- the timeliness and prominence of it -- does play a role: 12 hours on, the top two stories are about the Grammy awards, but the lead, "Dialed Up Activism," is exactly what you'd expect, as is "Red Carpet Statement."

I suppose there's more to say, but I need to go do other stuff for a while.

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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Carnivorous yellow fruit

Why do you suppose the Raleigh paper uses a story from Charlotte (which, unless we're leading with the earthquake, is quite a bit farther inland) to warn its readers not to feed the elongated yellow fruit?

A seal sighting reported by the National Park Service on North Carolina’s Outer Banks has prompted a warning to tourists: Seals bite.

Read more here:

... The ocean-going marine mammals come from growing colonies in New England and Canada, it is reported.

Thanks as always to alert fruit-spotters in the Old Home State. And, because the elongated yellow fruit AND the popular orange vegetable both come in bunches ...

In the first study of its kind, the researchers carried out an in-depth audit of various sandwiches throughout their life cycles and found the triangular meals could be responsible for the equivalent annual carbon emissions of 8.6 million cars in Britain alone.

Read more here:

More about that one later.


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Get off my lawn. Here's why.

I'm not suggesting that a single screenshot actually means that Great Cthulhu is loose again and ravening for delight, but -- supposing he was, do you think we could return to the days when headlines told you what happened, rather than what the story was likely to contain?

That, after all, used to be the real challenge of hed writing: "Amazon to city: Too many morons, too few trains" would have been fun, as would "Amazon: Worst corporate suck-up since the NFL." So I'd like assent to add "Here's why" heds to the list of constructions that are banned under all circumstances, forever.

I'm not especially persuaded by the clause-now-clause or clause-then-clause that you kids are using these days, either. Oh, for the days of "Hotel agrees to settle with poisoning victim's family." And with the whole third line to spare there, is there any particular reason not to tell people which town near Charlotte?

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Death to all modifiers, he declared one day

Headlines 'round the world continue to march to the music that only their creators hear. I'm tempted at first glance to call the BBC example above a noun pile, except that it isn't one. It doesn't stack nouns up to modify each other (as in "Bannon Congress Trump Russia hearing row"*); it just throws some nouns at the wall to see if they stick.

Drudge, as usual, simply does stuff that Drudge readers appear to have come to expect:

* Or  "Palestinian viral slap video teen," downpage.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Baby names: A slight return

Well, here's an old friend back on the Drudge homepage, just in time to welcome Pete Hoekstra to his new job. The name count is sourced here to the vermin press (specifically, ZeroHedge) rather than to the London press, but the end result is much the same:

Dutch mainstream media reported that Noah was the most popular baby name for boys in the Netherlands, but a little digging turned out a different finding.

Pesky mainstream media!

The name Noah was putatively considered the most popular boy’s name for 2017, having been given to 635 new-born boys in the Netherlands. But as VoE reports, a journalist from broadcaster Powned did some research into the database, however, and noticed that another name, a non-traditional Dutch name, was slightly more prevalent.

This journalist checked for Mohammed and its alternative spellings.

Brave journalist! Or whatever you call someone from "broadcaster Powned," which you may now look up on your own. But does the prose seem sonehow -- less like a home-language English speaker than you're used to expecting from Tyler Durden?

He thus counted:

Mohammed 221, Mohamed 211, Muhammed 110, Mohammad 51, Muhammad 43 and reached a total of 636. Other forms like Mohamad, Muhamed, Muhammet, Mouhamed, Muhamad and Mahamuud could not be checked for “privacy reasons”.

Of course, other forms of Noah like Noa and Noach should be checked as well for the sake of fairness: both, however, were not listed according to the Dutch journalist.

The author says, it is the second year in a row that Mohammed is the most popular name for baby boys: In 2016 there were 724 baby’s named Mohammed (or one of it’s Arabic alternatives) in the Netherlands.

Well, no. If you can get over cringing at the apostrophes, those aren't "Arabic" alternatives; they're Dutch, English and French ones, and probably a number of other languages as well.

He also mentions that the same tendency was seen in England in 2016: It is not Oliver, but Mohammed (with all its permutations), that is the most popular name for baby boys.

That's a little odd, in that -- to hear the redtops tell it -- 2016 was the year little Oliver knocked Muhammad out of the top spot. But we still have a bit of a question: Other than a minor tweak to the second graf (not well enough done to avoid the "but ... however" problem), did our little friends at ZeroHedge do anything here besides putting their name on someone else's work?

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Management is angry, labor mocks

I suppose someone should log it in it for the record, so -- how would you cover Massster's most recent deranged outburst if you were the network that lived and died by Massster's every word?

President Trump lamented “s---hole countries” during immigration negotiations on Thursday with lawmakers in the Oval Office, Fox News has confirmed.

“Why are we having all these people from s---hole countries come here?” the president said, in comments first reported by The Washington Post.

The president was referring to people from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and African countries in the temporary protected status program, a source in the meeting told Fox News.


The hed seems closer to a literal representation of the truth; at least, he's closer to lamenting (a lexical choice that must have burned up a few Fox brain cells around the old thesaurus) immigration from those countries, rather than the countries themselves. But, by way of comparison, you'd like a look at Thursday evening's No. 2 story -- to wit, Nancy Pelosi's bloodthirsty attack on the "five white guys":

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., took a shot at immigration negotiations involving her top deputy, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, slamming them as “the five white guys” -- and drawing a rebuke from Hoyer himself.

Speaking at her weekly press conference, Pelosi complained that the immigration talks did not include any minority members of Congress which she said was done intentionally to delay any agreement “since it would need sign-off from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and others.”

The California Democrat compared the group of men, including Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, to the popular hamburger and fry chain Five Guys.

“The five white guys I call them, you know,” Pelosi said. “Are they going to open a hamburger stand next or what?”

Management always "offers" and labor always "demands"; Liebling, thou shouldst be living at this hour.

Just for the heck of it, enjoy these claim quotes from the BBC. First, the top story on the homepage:
... then the inside version
"Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" Mr Trump told lawmakers on Thursday, according to the Washington Post.

Enough of that. I'm done.


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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

And their music? It's just ...

Dear Detroit ("On guard for 186 years") Free Press:

Just checking here. Your readers are supposed to know who Jimmy Page, Buster Poindexter and Dave Matthews are, but you need to remind them Joan Baez is a "singer"?

Kids these days.

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Sunday, January 07, 2018

What we drink about when we drink about war

This ad is sort of how we talk about beer, but it's really more how we talk -- or don't -- about the state of exception. It's from Life's April 13, 1942, issue, and it appears (make of that what you will) in the middle of a big spread about the "vermin press":

In times like these, all of us feel increasing need to be together in friendly groups. Courage and stamina are bred in the circle of good companionship. But certainly we are not in the mood for big, lavish parties. 

Beer and ale are very naturally the basis of today's simple hospitality. Beer is the very symbol of friendship ... of rest and peace after work and strain.

It is the beverage of thoughtful and tolerant people who live sanely and wisely. Most important of all, beer is the beverage of moderation for a self-disciplined people.

Well, and it's also how we talk about gender:

... Remember that beer and ale can do much during these strenuous times to bring relaxation and pleasure to your husband, your family, and your circle of friends.

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Friday, January 05, 2018

On getting both sides

Oh, how to keep the faithful at a fever pitch when things are looking a little rocky for the home team? I know! SQUIRRELS!

A Marine Corps veteran and his wife are fighting their Texas homeowners association after the group refused to allow them to fly their American and Marine Corps flags outside their home.

It's been a while since this classic outrage theme has cropped up; Fox seems to have been preoccupied the past year or so with teacher-student sex. But you can see where it gets its staying power. Relax your vigilance for a moment and the  enemies of freedom will lop off another stray limb of our American heritage, or something like that.

Cpl. Michael Pereira, who served three tours in Iraq from 2002 to 2009, moved into a Kingdom Heights subdivision in Rosenberg, Texas ,*about two months ago with his wife.

After moving in, they proudly displayed the two flags in the driveway of their home.

“They represent this county. They represent a brotherhood I was a part of,” Pereira told KPRC. “[They] show respect for all the people I went to war with and the ones that didn’t come back.”

Pereira said he would raise the flags every morning and would lower them every night. He never expected it would be a problem with the homeowners association.

Until now.

Cue dramatic music. Although at this point, you might be wondering ... OK, when do we bring the malefactors to justice?

Read more »

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Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Today in framing

Now that President Tinybutton has made the airways safe for travel again, is there anything he can't fix? Well, maybe. Here's the lede from the AP auto sales story linked above:

DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. auto industry’s historic growth streak may be ending, but demand for new vehicles — especially SUVs — remains healthy as the new year begins.

... not great?

U.S. auto sales are expected to fall 2 percent to 17.1 million in 2017, according to Kelley Blue Book. That would be the first year-over-year decline since 2009, ending an unprecedented seven-year expansion.
Speaking of healthy, it's actually kind of salubrious for the AP to put a statistical trend into context. Detroit's homicide rate is its lowest since 1979, but violent crime overall is up:

The FBI has released new numbers that show violent crime in Detroit has spiked more than 15 percent in 2016. The numbers show 13,700 violent crimes which include murder, rape, assault, and robbery. Chief James Craig says they don't tell the whole story.

There's a whole framing book to be written on which numbers stand by themselves and which get a "don't tell the whole story," but overall, he's right -- largely because no set of numbers in any lede has ever told "the whole story." Please do your best to resist suggesting that, rather than "Auto sales strong," Drudge had gone with something like TRUMP DESTROYS YEARS OF OBAMA GAINS IN AUTO SALES!!1!!!!1!1!!

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Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Mind if we dance with your dates?

Q: Is the Murdoch press really, really scared of black people?
A: You make the call!

The federal grand jury handing down indictments for special counsel Robert Mueller doesn’t appear to include any supporters of President Donald Trump, according to one witness who recently testified before the panel.

“The grand jury room looks like a Bernie Sanders rally,” my source said. “Maybe they found these jurors in central casting, or at a Black Lives Matter rally in Berkeley [Calif.]

Well, thanks for the brackets. Could we go into some journalistic detail?

Of the 20 jurors, 11 are African-Americans and two were wearing “peace T-shirts,” the witness said. “There was only one white male in the room, and he was a prosecutor.” Mueller was not present.

This wouldn't be one of those unnamed sources, would it? Because everybody knows those are fake.

... My source said, “That room isn’t a room where POTUS gets a fair shake.”

And what kind of tabloid is it where the prescriptive ghost of Hildy Johnson doesn't slap you around with a wet AP Stylebook for saying indictments are handed "down"?

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Monday, January 01, 2018

Truth in advertising

What could possibly go wrong when you turn a brite from the hinterlands over to the general assignment desk for some writering? Take it away, The Washington Post:

On late Saturday morning, a bird flew out of the cold Detroit sky, across an airfield and into the cockpit of a jetliner bound south for Atlanta.

Some believe it was a sparrow. Some, a hummingbird. A Delta Air Lines spokesman referred to it only as a “stowaway” — and, in any case, it would be a long delay before anyone on Flight 1943 could catch the thing to get a look at it.

The cold Romulus sky, maybe. The terminal Delta uses is a bit over 20 miles* from Charles Lindbergh's birthplace in midtown Detroit. Whether the bird flew "across an airfield and into the cockpit of a jetliner" is a matter of speculation, to put it politely. The days of the open cockpit are largely behind us, but wherever in Wayne County you were, it was at least pretty cold.

Which gets to the dueling belief systems, sparrow vs. hummingbird. If you were writing cutlines in the good old days of journalism and you didn't know whether the scary thing in the picture was a rifle or a shotgun, you would find someone in the building who knew the difference and ask. Everyone's short-staffed at holidays, but maybe the nice folks at the Cornell Lab could help improve the odds a bit. Having a birder in the next room, I took the old-fashioned route: Hey, those birds in the terminals at Metro -- what are they? (Answer: "Mostly sparrows.") The closest the story itself gets is that someone thinks the pilot might have said "hummingbird."

So, since "we were just outside Barstow, on the edge of the desert" is taken, maybe we could try "A stately, plump sparrow found its way to gate A4 at Detroit Metro Airport and down the jetway sometime Saturday morning." Or, if we insist on not making stuff up,** stick with the AP's "It's a bird. It's a plane. No, it's a bird on a plane." And, basically: Forget flood. Interview hummingbird in suburban Detroit at the end of December.

I'm kind of stuck on the not-making-stuff-up part, because this does seem rather a lot of time and effort to put into a story that's already been covered elsewhere. The hed promises a "how" story, but the only "how" part seems to be the fictionalized lede. Shouldn't we be off writing about hunger, world peace or the price of checked baggage instead?

OK, that's not entirely fair. Come to that, I ought to be writing about Fox's coverage of Iran, rather than complaining about long-range featurization.*** But this story is No. 4 on the "Post Most" morning newsletter, the top story being "Niagara Falls is coated in ice — and absolutely jaw-dropping."**** So I'm a little concerned about handing your news judgment over to the "most popular right now" algorithm, but I really don't want to think about what's going to happen if Iran is given to rewrite with instructions to pep it up a little.

* Dulles is 27.5 miles from the Washington Post (per Google Maps), if you're scoring along at home.
** Meaning "I've had it up to here" probably wouldn't qualify, so don't.
*** I think the preposition is out of place, too. The modifier can replace the (optional) preposition, so "on Thursday" becomes "early Thursday," but if you keep the preposition, it's "late on Saturday morning," not "on late Saturday morning."
**** Which, given that you have a picture of Niagara Falls coated in ice, is why trainees are told to show, not tell.

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