Tuesday, March 26, 2019


Any lede of the form "and then there were [n]" is presumptively a thumb lede, so there's one line you can save. But pause a moment on the second paragraph: yes, that's how this sort of tournament works. You could actually begin at the third paragraph with no damage to the integrity of the story -- the rare double-thumb lede.

Also time for the annual reminders: No "still dancing." No "sweet" or "elite" in headlines. And a particular point for this year: Basketball as a rule involves 10 players on the court at a time (five per side). In any game scheduled for this weekend, then, at least nine, and perhaps as many as 10, of the players on the court at any given time are not Zion Williamson. Please adjust all broadcast commentary accordingly.

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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Fear and balanced: The week in AOC

It wouldn't be the Week in AOC without some AOC -- here's an especially nice double-dip from in which Fox changes its mind over a few hours about how best to illustrate Tuesday's investigative gem from the Daily Caller -- but the real story last week seems to be another candidate moving up in the Fear and Balanced rankings. Indeed, there was no AOC until Tuesday, because Monday was all Beto, led by the ever-popular "faces questions":
 Reuters is facing ethical questions after admitting that reporter Joseph Menn sat on an unfavorable story about media darling Beto O’Rourke until after his crucial Senate race against Ted Cruz.

... But the reporter, it turns out, knew about this history since 2017 -- and sat on it. According to Menn, members of the hacking group were protecting O'Rourke's identity and wouldn't confirm his affiliation unless the reporter promised not to write about it until after the November election. They apparently struck a deal.

We seem to have been over this one before, back in the days when Fox News still worshiped John McCain: When you get information by giving a promise, you have an obligation to keep that promise. You're welcome to your own view about how to weight that against other duties, but if you were expecting Fox to win a prize from the ethics division this year, you might want to keep waiting a while longer.

Anyway, former Rep. O'Rourke had two other appearances Monday: A fairly standard commentary and a reminder of why things aren't always as rosy as they seem:

Beto O'Rourke raised a whopping $6.1 million in his first 24 hours as a presidential candidate, while drawing big crowds -- and a herd of reporters -- as he campaigned across Iowa and Wisconsin after launching his 2020 bid.

But despite riding a wave of media fanfare, the former three-term congressman from Texas has stumbled out of the gate with a string of apologies and clarifications.

Hang on for more about those apologies and clarifications; they're back on Tuesday as Beto has to share the front with other Democrats ("called out" is sort of a passive version of "faces questions"):
If you already thought the Democratic 2020 candidates were a frightened pack of cocktail weenies, get a load of Beto, a guy as sturdy as a gummy worm.

You want pathetic? Here's pathetic: He felt he had to apologize...over a joke he made about his wife.

Though clearly other Fox commentators take a different view:

 ... The usual cries of “white male privilege” and O’Rourke’s almost ritualistic admission of guilt make it easy to dismiss the issue as just another example of social justice warriors and the radical left overreacting with criticisms of every little thing any public figure says. But although I’m generally inclined to defend people who are under attack from the "PC police," I think O’Rourke’s liberal critics have a fair point.
On the bright side, Fox has found some reason to write about Elizabeth Warren besides channeling its masters' barely veiled racism. So that's something.

O'Rourke provides an especially striking lead story on Wednesday, though as usual some other outfit has done the legwork:
Beto O’Rourke didn’t eat crow, humble pie or even his words after losing to Ted Cruz. He ate dirt instead.

O’Rourke, who came up short in his bid to unseat Sen. Cruz, R-Texas, despite raising $80 million for the Senate push, told the story of his earthy snack in a sprawling 3,000-word profile published by The Washington Post.

He also rates another commentary and manages to get in a little lese-majeste against one of Fox's most important friends:

PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Beto O’Rourke is taking aim at embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, claiming the steadfast ally of Republican President Trump “has openly sided with racists.”

The Democratic presidential candidate and former congressman from Texas – on the campaign trail in New Hampshire – also criticized negotiators ostensibly trying to end the generations-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Right now we don’t have the best negotiating partners on either side. We have a

prime minister in Israel who has openly sided with racists,” he charged.

Given that AIPAC has said more or less the same thing about Netanyahu's preferences in coalition-building, you'd think Fox would want to tone it down a bit. Then again, lots of things about the fractious Near East seem kind of new to Fox:

... O’Rourke once again called for a “two-state solution” between Israel and the Palestinians to achieve peace in the Middle East. “I believe in peace and dignity and full human rights for the Palestinian people and the Israeli people. The only way to achieve that … is a two-state solution,” he emphasized.

He's back to the lead on Thursday, with some friends (and a Clinton story below, in case anyone has forgotten who the Main Enemy is):

 ... but Fox can't pass up the chance for a "mockery on social media" moment for a lesser-known Democrat:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., a 2020 presidential candidate, is facing blowback on social media for sharing a video of herself working out during a return campaign visit to Iowa.

The clip shows Gillibrand, 52,  lifting weights at a gym in the Hawkeye State, wearing a shirt that reads, “Just trying to get some ranch.”

... On Wednesday, Gillibrand’s tweet was the subject of mockery on social media, with some Twitter users accusing her of trying too hard to “relate to the average American.”

And the apologies are back on Friday!
Pretty impressive week for O'Rourke there, but Fox also made space for AOC. In addition to Tuesday, she made the front page Wednesday by being the subject of a Republican ad:

Less than three months after taking office, New York Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose favorability numbers have plummeted in some recent polls, is already front and center in a GOP congressional candidate's upcoming campaign advertisement.

Actually, that'd be one "recent poll" (the link is as provided by Fox), and it found that her "favorability" had risen by 7 points against a similar pre-election poll, but that's just Fox lying about other people's statistics again.

AOC has three appearances on the frontpage Friday, starting with a lead:

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., appeared on a late-night comedy talk show Thursday night but was stone-cold serious in her defense of the Green New Deal, the cornerstone of her progressive agenda.

When asked by “Late Night” host Seth Meyers if President Trump’s claims that “cows farting” and “hamburgers” would be outlawed were true, Ocasio-Cortez firmly answered “No.”

The same program is good for another story later:

Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., compared President Trump to a worm during an interview on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” on Thursday -- but you'd need your dictionary to know that.

The 29-year-old congresswoman used an obscure term to take a swipe at Trump toward the end of her appearance, when Meyers asked her about winning the second-place prize as a teen in her high school science competition.

“Science was my first passion,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “I studied microbiology and the impacts of antioxidants on a model organism known as the C. elegan, which is of the nematode family.”

Meyers compared Ocasio-Cortez’s interest in science to that of Trump, interjecting “I think he did that, too.”

“Because he’s a nematode?” she retorted while the crowd roared in laughter, comparing the president to the roundworms found as parasites in animals and plants.

And, of course, illustrating a story about her party's Stalinist tendencies (as is often the case, she's not mentioned late -- here, the eighth paragraph).

The Green New Deal is back on the front Sunday, which also features the return of arch-villainess Ilhan Omar:
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar faced hundreds of protesters Saturday outside a Southern California fundraising event for the local chapter of a major advocacy group representing Muslim-Americans.

“Burn the Quran!," “Ilhan Omar, go to hell!” and “Shame on you, terrorists!" were among some of the messages shouted outside a Woodland Hills hotel where the Minnesota Democrat spoke at a fundraiser for the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of Greater Los Angeles, according to a report. The town is about 25 miles northwest of downtown L.A.


Weird. You'd think Fox might have other stuff to worry about on Sunday besides reminding everybody that Islamophobia is its favorite indoor sport. To each his own, one supposes.

You have to call this a pretty good week for young O'Rourke, though AOC is still looking like the consensus Rookie of the Year. And some ideas start to suggest themselves for narrowing down the primary field at debate time. Maybe they could all just sit around and watch Fox slideshows until they fall over laughing.

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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Clickbaiting, 1914-style

Or: Here's what you need to know about the Column Selector!

Long story short, this exclusive feature is bound to save you 15%-20% just in ordinary letter-writing! Why? "Figured on the value of your time, or your operator's time, that means a new saving which, in a few months, will amount to more than the total cost of the machine."

From The Rotarian magazine, January 1914.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Open dictionary. Consult dictionary. Start over.

Sigh. Dear CNN: Did you mean in the sense of the OED's "to lend or add grace to (a person or thing); to adorn, embellish, set off," or did you have something else in mind with "graces"?

What the "second most talked-about politician in America" is doing in the headline is anyone's guess. The Time story doesn't seem to offer any evidence for that, but CNN is hardly the first outfit to repeat a bogus (or, more kindly, "unsupportable") claim in a headline. The real problem, though, is the verb. When the bad guys are going to blast away at your librul bias every chance they get, is there some specific reason you think it's a good idea to gift-wrap more ammunition and send it to them?

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Let not the left hand ...

How do we suppose this "editing error" came about, Nation's Newspaper of Record?

Because of an editing error, an article on Monday about the police response to the Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque attacks referred incorrectly to which side of the gunman’s vehicle he was pulled from by two arresting officers. It was the passenger side, not the driver’s side.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Who is Fox scared of this week?

OK, trick question. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is last week's Scariest Person on Planet Fox -- but keep an eye out as the week wears on for some new entrants in the fear field. First, though, a lead story from March 11:

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D, N.Y., said workers should be excited by the prospect of job automation and blasted capitalism as irredeemable at the South By Southwest festival in Austin this weekend.

In response to a question from the audience about the threat of automated labor, the firebrand liberal said workers should be "excited" about having their jobs automated, but were not because of larger systemic issues in American society.

Read more »

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Friday, March 15, 2019

Shut up, he unfolded

Did the nut graf in Friday morning's 1A tale about a lawsuit from Ferndale look familiar?

In a he-said, he-said tale unfolding in federal court, retired police detective William Wilson claims he was denied a promotion and forced into retirement as part of a bigger strategy to prevent an African-American from potentially being named police chief in Ferndale.

Maybe it's because you read the front page on March 6:
In a classic he-said, she-said tale unfolding in federal court, ex-Uber driver David Shaw, 38, is suing the City of Ferndale, alleging three police officers wrongfully arrested him the night he picked up six drunk patrons from Rosie O'Grady's. And he's suing the passengers, too —  five of them women — for emotional distress, alleging he was racially taunted and physically assaulted after ordering them out of his car for their behavior.

In the Good Old Days (pre-War on Editing), we could worry about whether whether anyone was still listening to the rule about the Oxford comma, and lessons would be drawn about attention to detail. Mere attention to detail seems quaint now. If the robots are actually going to take over the reporting world, could we ask them politely to search the old memory banks for cliches used within the past three months and EXTERMINATE EXTERMINATE EXTERMINATE?

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The oxygen of publicity

Remember that cable network whose biggest issue last week was whether the opposition party moved fast enough to denounce antisemitic tropes? Here's your occasional reminder -- the No. 2 story on the homepage Wednesday, say -- that it's still pretty good at rolling around in the stuff itself. Let's start with a little paranoia:

Ever notice how certain people have started to disappear? Not vagrants or runaways, the usual missing persons. But fairly prominent, well-educated people with dissenting political opinions. One day you’re watching or reading them online. The next time you check, they’re gone. You can’t find their videos. They’re not showing up in your Facebook feed. Suddenly you can’t buy their books on Amazon.

You Google them to find out what happened and discover they’ve been banned. They’re being called dangerous extremists, bigots and Nazis. For the public good, they’ve been shut down. Disappeared.

You’re a little surprised to hear this. They didn’t seem evil or radical to you. They were just free thinkers, saying something a little different from the party line on CNN. You don’t complain about it, though. You don’t want anyone to know you were watching forbidden videos. There’s a penalty for that.

This is what an authoritarian society looks like. It’s a place where the group in charge will tolerate no criticism at all. That’s what we’re becoming.

It was only a matter of time before they came for Fox News. Of the top dozen news networks in the United States, only Fox has an alternative view. The other channels speak with one voice. They are united on every issue, every time. They’re in almost perfect sync with the priorities of the Democratic Party.

Reminding one a little of the finest tweet of 2017: "First they came for Katie Hopkins and I did not speak, because I'd been waiting ages for them to come for Katie Hopkins." But back to the story at hand, because you'll need to keep wading another four paragraphs to get to its lone mention of the evildoer in the photo:

... That’s where Media Matters comes in. Media Matters is a George Soros-funded lobbying organization whose sole mission is to punish critics of the Democratic Party. Media Matters often uses propaganda from the Southern Poverty Law Center to bully corporations, news executives and tech companies into punishing people it doesn’t like. Not surprisingly, the media love Media Matters.

Nothing like a little worldwide conspiracy to get the fans going, huh?

For the record, should anyone care, I don't think Tucker Carlson ought to be silenced. (Not that he or his viewpoints at at any risk of such a fate, but that's a different matter.) I'd much rather he be ignored -- starved of the oxygen of publicity, as Maggie Thatcher put it. Maybe he'd have a different attitude if he went to bed hungry and cried himself to sleep.

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Please make it stop

Once upon a time, children, some editor working in quiet anonymity on a feature about suburban libraries would have spotted a random relative clause as it wandered into traffic and stopped it. Terminated its command with extreme prejudice, maybe, if it was movie night at the library, but by all means kept it from afflicting readers whose only offense was to start reading in the first place.

Truth be told, of course, we used to lose those battles as often as we'd win them. Someone up the food chain might like the flow of it, or want to lighten up and have a little fun, or complain that boring editors are driving away the readers who will sustain us in the future.  To which -- fine, but if you have to drag your innocent restaurant critic into your orgy of writering, could you at least spell his name the same way he does?

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The perfect Fox page

The New Yorker raised an entertaining question last week: "Fox News has always been partisan. But has it become propaganda?" For all the fine reporting in the article (and there's a lot), the hed is still sort of a riddle wrapped in an enigma inside a distinction without a difference. Fox hasn't changed anything about its newsgathering, sourcing, editing,presentation or framing practices (OK, except that now it's using actual cartoons occasionally, which I find charming.) Fox is in a different sort of relationship with the executive because we have a different sort of executive branch, not because Fox is any more or less of a propaganda outfit than it was three, or seven, or 12 years ago. 

Enjoy, for example, the top of the Tuesday morning front page. Is there a particular reason -- given that the Kenyan usurper left office at the beginning of 2017 -- that Rahm Emanuel is at the top of the page? Well, he's joining in the chorus calling on the Democratic Party not to give in to those pesky socialists. The No. 2 story -- no, we are not trying to get a head start on The Week In AOC -- reminds us again that the Bronx sorceress does not know her place and needs to sit up straight and learn from her betters. Which, as the No. 3 story reminds us, is not going to happen because (in another of last week's consistent themes) the junior witches already have Hecate captive.

So Fox's themes are converging on the menace of socialism, as carried out by the  revolutionary youth brigade of the opposition. What strikes me as a bit odd, and what to me supports the idea that mere partisanship is not at stake here, is that if you're interested real-life developments Tuesday involving the Menace of Socialism in real life, there's a Foxalicious example waiting:

You'd like to think events that actually portend ill are a bit more interesting than a cartoon of AOC and her weird sisters, but fear at Fox isn't closely coupled with reality.

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Sunday, March 10, 2019

This week in Fox Is Scared Of Girls

It's time for another installment of The Week in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Scariest Person on Planet Fox! This week brings some interesting role variations and renewed salience for some other very scary people, but let's get right to the main question: How long did it take for Ocasio-Cortez to be the foxnews.com lead story on Monday? Answer, until about 10 a.m.:

Patrick Moore, the co-founder of the environmentalist group Greenpeace, ripped into New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over the weekend as a “pompous little twit,” saying the Green New Deal plan she’s advocating is “completely crazy.”

She's a lead story again Monday evening, with two variations Tuesday morning as Fox tried to figure out how seriously to take its latest scandal-for-hire:

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Saikat Chakrabarti, the progressive firebrand's multimillionaire chief of staff, apparently violated campaign finance law by funneling nearly $1 million in contributions from political action committees Chakrabarti established to private companies that he also controlled, according to an explosive complaint filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and obtained by Fox News.

Here's how things looked Tuesday, at about 7:30 and again at about 9 a.m.:

And she rates the lead position for two more stories on Tuesday. Around 1 p.m., we're foreshadowing one of the week's main themes -- turmoil in the enemy camp -- by rehashing another story from the previous week:

Moderate Democrats are fuming over New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s closed-door warning last week that Democrats who vote with Republicans are "putting themselves on a list" – a comment interpreted as a primary challenge threat.

Ocasio-Cortez has since downplayed her comments, made in the wake of 26 Democrats joining Republicans to vote for a provision requiring Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be notified if illegal immigrants attempt to purchase guns.

And by evening, she's in a slamming match with her betters again:

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. and Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. got into a sparring match on Twitter on Tuesday over a comment he made about the congresswoman at CPAC last weekend.

By Wednesday, the stage is getting crowded. More of the "Dem frosh" are being called on the carpet, others are committing the sin of lese-majeste, Fox's concern with the challenge to the Democratic leadership is growing, and it's still 2016 at Planet Fox:

Let's take a bit of a detour here, because it's not just 2016 all over again, it's 2000 all over again. Here's the Tuesday lead story:
Bill and Hillary Clinton are facing fresh accusations of nepotism and revenge politics after a Democratic foreign policy adviser claimed they tried to obtain a scholarship for Chelsea Clinton’s boyfriend, and later punished the adviser for backing then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008.

... Tn the book, Vargo claims that in 2000, Mitchell told her that then-President Bill Clinton called him to say he was "very unhappy" that Chelsea’s boyfriend was not on the shortlist for the grant -- despite a letter from the White House.

And one from last Sunday evening, when -- one might think -- more salient things were happening in Alabama:
Former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton offered a stark view of the country on Sunday, comparing the current “crisis in our democracy” to the turbulence that occurred amid the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Speaking during a reception in Selma, Ala. to mark the 54th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday” and to receive the International Unity Award at the Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King Unity Breakfast, Clinton said that the United States is facing a "full-fledged crisis in our democracy."

And, of course, the former senator is frontpage news (also Tuesday) when she indulges in a little lese-majeste herself:

President Trump on Tuesday said his former opponent Hillary Clinton would “be sorely missed” from the pool of contenders vying for the Oval Office in the 2020 election.

The president, using the nickname he gave Clinton during the campaign, reacted to news earlier this week that the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate would not be making another go for the White House.

“'(Crooked) Hillary Clinton confirms she will not run in 2020, rules out a third bid for White House.' Aw-shucks, does that mean I won’t get to run against her again?” Trump tweeted. "She will be sorely missed!"

Seemingly in response to Trump's comment, Clinton tweeted a "Mean Girls" movie reference. 

But back to the main event -- Rep. Pelosi's loss of control over her rank and file -- for Thursday:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is "taken aback" by the growing dissent and anger among rank-and-file Democrats over a possible resolution to formally condemn anti-Semitism, a Democratic source told Fox News on Wednesday -- highlighting Pelosi's tenuous grip on control over the House and underscoring the growing power of the party's nascent far-left progressive wing.

Though -- look out, Indy! -- the evil ones are still coming for Your Favorite President, and there's another commentary to remind us that all Democrats are hypocrites.
And Fox's favorite newly minted ethics watchdog group is back on the email case from two weeks ago:

EXCLUSIVE — A conservative group that filed a complaint with the FEC alleging Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's campaign may have illegally funneled thousands of dollars through an allied PAC to boyfriend Riley Roberts on Thursday lodged a fresh complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics.

But the main story of the day is still the Omar resolution, and Fox lets the mask slip a little for that:

As it does again on Friday morning, to the point of defending a member of the McCain family:

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., was apparently unmoved Thursday by Meghan McCain's tearful remarks about her on "The View."

McCain had become emotional during the ABC talk show, discussing Omar's recent criticisms of Israel and its supporters. She said Omar's remarks were hurtful to many of her Jewish friends.

... But instead of responding directly to McCain, Omar retweeted a post that criticized McCain for "faux outrage" and referred to past statements attributed to McCain's late father, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who died last August at age 81.

By early afternoon, Omar has reached that unusual stage at which she can be represented in the main hed by just a pronoun (note the three witches dealing another blow to their aging leader's grip on power in the No. 2 position):

Rookie Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, fresh off igniting an intra-party uproar with comments widely viewed as anti-Semitic, took a swipe at former President Barack Obama, saying in an explosive interview the 44th president's message of "hope and change" was a "mirage" and blasting his administration's drone and border detention policies.

Another commentator reminds us of the radical takeover on Saturday, even as Fox finds a way to keep the Obama story alive:
Rep. Ilhan Omar’s attempt to shame a news outlet for misquoting her blistering attack on former President Barack Obama backfired after she released audio of the interview that only served to confirm her remarks.

Yet another commentator checks in Saturday night to keep the campaign finance issue alive:

An investigation is needed to determine if socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the media magnet on the far-left fringe of the Democratic Party, has broken federal campaign finance laws. If convicted of criminal conduct, she could get up to five years in prison for each violation.

And by Sunday, there's fresh outrage as "far-left AOC" goes after everything in sight:
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slammed political moderates at the South by Southwest Conference & Festivals in Austin, Texas, calling their views “misplaced” as she defended her progressive politics in a room full of supporters.

“Moderate is not a stance. It's just an attitude towards life of, like, ‘meh,’” the New York Democrat said Saturday during an interview with Briahna Gray, senior politics editor for the Intercept. “We’ve become so cynical, that we view ‘meh,’ or ‘eh’ — we view cynicism as an intellectually superior attitude, and we view ambition as youthful naivete when ... the greatest things we have ever accomplished as a society have been ambitious acts of visions, and the ‘meh’ is just worshipped now, for what?”

Despite stern competition from the both the old guard (in the form of Clinton) and her fellow newcomers, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez managed to be the lead story at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network four days out of seven. Tune in again next week for another installment of Fox Is Scared Of Girls!

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