Sunday, January 31, 2016

Mic drops of 1934

Clearly not the same flavor of dropping the mic we see today, but still worth a note. It's January 1934, and a popular radio personality is in Washington:

Father Charles E. Coughlin, Detroit radio priest, forsook the microphone today to deliver a typical Sunday afternoon sermon in the vaulted caucus room of the house office building.

His text was money; his audience, the members of the house committee on coinage and some three hundred of his radio fans, who filled every available seat and stood lined two deep along the walls to hear him.

This was back in Coughlin's pro-FDR days, so:

... "God Almighty is guiding Mr. Roosevelt: there's no question about that! And we're headed for a proisperity such as we've never even dreamed of."

I admit to a touch of longing for the days when we spelled "mike" the good old way, though given the Trib's spelling rules* of the time, I'm almost surprised that Col. McCormick didn't give "mic" a try.

* Capitalization is as in the original.

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Out of the mouths of babes

Kind of nice of the Washington Times to come right out and admit it, wouldn't you say?

The two most powerful voices in the Republican presidential primary are now in open warfare after Donald Trump withdrew from Thursday’s high-stakes debate hosted by Fox News, spurred by the network’s startlingly snide statement challenging the billionaire businessman’s ability to handle the presidency.

Imagine the fun if open warfare breaks out within the party press!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Eyes 1, Brain 0: Try, try again

Your first question about the story at the top of the Drudge Report on Monday morning might well be: And how many times is the feckless Kenyan mentioned in the 539-word story linked from the headline? ("PAPER: Passengers Allowed to Skip Customs at JFK Airport -- AGAIN!)

Regular readers have probably guessed that it's the key to the right of "9" on the standard keyboard. Here's the Daily News's lede:

Passengers arriving at Kennedy Airport on an international flight were allowed to exit the busy hub without going through Customs — for at least the second time in recent months, the Daily News has learned.

Must have been direct orders from Soros or Huma or Valerie, then.

Bumbling airline and security officials let travelers on American Airlines Flight 1223 from Cancun, Mexico, out of the airport on Monday morning without having their passports or bags checked, sources told The News.
Read more »

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Feather-footed through the plashy fen ...

An article on Jan. 3 about the final season of “Downton Abbey” referred incompletely to the architecture of Highclere Castle, the mansion that serves as the set for the show.

And how might the article have done that, Nation's Newspaper of Record?

While the castle was once a classical Georgian mansion, as noted on its website, Highclere’s look has evolved over the many decades — buffeted by the winds of history and culture, much like the characters on the television series — and has assumed the characteristics of a range of architectural styles.

The corrections desk of all places should heed the wisdom of Elmore Leonard: If it sounds like writing, rewrite it. (Attending, we can only hope, to the squinter in the second sentence: does "as noted on its website" refer to what the castle was once, or to how its look has evolved?)

This one's worth noting too. I think the math blunder toward the end is the most charming (700,000 square miles would be bigger than Alaska), but Autological Ramen Shop would be a really good band name.

An article last week about 52 places to go in 2016 misstated the timing of a visit Pope Francis will make to Mexico City. He will be there in February, not in the spring. Because of an editing error, the article misstated the name of a restaurant in Oakland. It is Ramen Shop, not Autological Ramen Shop. In addition, the article misidentified a wine museum that is opening this year in Bordeaux. It is La Cité du Vin, not the Bordeaux Wine and Trade Museum. And, because of an editing error, the article misstated the size of the waterfront expansion in Bordeaux. It is over 7,500,000 square feet, or about 700,000 square meters — not 700,000 square miles. And also because of an editing error, a report on the east coast of Sri Lanka, one of the recommended places, carried an erroneous credit. It was written by Daniel Scheffler, not by Shivani Vora.

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Today in noun piles

How kind of the BBC to provide a translation for its overseas readers:

A man left brain-dead after an experimental drug trial in France has died, local media report.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Which is it, young feller?

Spare a thought for our friends in the trenches of the party press machine, desperate for some guidance as the powers that be argued about bigger things. Is the problem that the Kenyan usurper doesn't have a story (that's the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal, above), or that he does?
The Obama administration rushed Wednesday to portray the swift return of 10 U.S. sailors taken captive a day earlier by Iran as a vindication of the president’s diplomatic outreach to Tehran, but a video showing the disarmed, kneeling American sailors being watched by Iranian guards and one of the sailors apologizing to his captors quickly undercut the administration’s self-congratulatory message.

The "apology video," as it seems to be known at the Times, seems to be the core of the problem. No matter how much officialdom might have denied offering an apology, there's this, as reported by Fox:

“It was a mistake. That was our fault. And we apologize for our mistake,” the sailor said, in a brief state TV clip posted on Twitter by a journalist with Iran’s Tasnim News Agency.

Which sounds a lot more like trying to talk yourself out of a traffic ticket than -- what do you suppose a real state-to-state apology would sound like, The Washington Times?

China released the 24 hostages of a U.S. surveillance plane held for 12 days after receiving a Bush administration letter saying the United States was "very sorry" for the plane's landing on Hainan island without verbal clearance. 

Oh. Well, back to that in a second. As a serious national news organization, of course, the Times is careful to let the usurper's minions deny their guilt:

Top administration officials pushed back strongly at the notion the incident was a sign of weakness and an indictment of President Obama’s approach to Iran. Mr. Kerry credited the incident’s fast resolution to the “critical role diplomacy plays in keeping our country secure and strong.”

“We can all imagine how a similar situation might have played out three or four years ago,” when the level of trust between the two capitals was far lower, Mr. Kerry added.

Instead of imagining, why don't we just look back to 2001 and see how a real American president handled things:

President Bush stepped up pressure on China yesterday, telling Beijing "it is time" to release 24 U.S. service members held from what China is calling "protective custody" but which the United States says is detention.

"We have allowed the Chinese government time to do the right thing," Mr. Bush said. "But now it is time for our servicemen and women to return home. And it is time for the Chinese government to return our plane."

President Bush would have disappointed, for example, Ted Cruz, who just proclaimed that anybody capturing US service personnel is gonna pay for it. On the whole, though, which case do you figure might have the evildoers feeling more nervous: the one where the US keeps quiet in public and gets its sailors back the next day, or the one where two weeks of posturing ended in an actual apology? 

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Today in realism

It's kind of entertaining that pointing out the obvious -- you can be a national security threat without being an existential threat -- is the big takeaway point for (ahem) some networks:

President Obama, with an eye on cementing his legacy and countering the narrative on the Republican campaign trail, used his final State of the Union address Tuesday night to staunchly defend his economic record – and, in stark language, downplay the threat from the Islamic State.

“Over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands,” the president said, arguing that ISIS fighters “do not threaten our national existence.”

Monday, January 11, 2016

Look at the nameplate, please

In the Good Old Days, you could at least expect the people who wrote the headlines to have read the morning's* paper before showing up for work. Thus, they'd know not just the specifics (whether the leader of Freedonia was a "president" or a "dictator") but the broad details that enabled success in the journalism business: a mere glance at the top of the front page could tell you not only what year it was, but which fount of knowledge (in which city) you were supposed to arrive at for the day's labor. So, for the folks downtown who thought all this would magically show up on their phones, a few reminders:

  • This state is called "Michigan"
  • This month is called "January"
  • "Winter" technically began three weeks ago
  • Granted, I'm kind of the new guy (this is my ninth winter here**), but preliminary observation is starting to suggest that nobody even thinks of putting those snow shovels away before they put their damn tomatoes in. Sheez

It's early days in a presidential election year; we could be looking at another 10 months of "X Trumps Y," notwithstanding all the times the gloves will come off or go on during the primary season. Let's try to avoid closing the Stupidest Headline competition before most j-schools even start classes, shall we?

^ Or the previous day's; the majority of American dailies were pyems into the late 1990s. Weekday morning circulation didn't exceed weekday afternoon circulation until the early 1980s.
** Though Language Czarina and her mom were both born in Detroit proper.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Dumb rednecks with Twitter (a slight return)

Dear Texas: Does Greg Abbott always get to be the meanest drunk in the bar, or do other elected officials get to share?

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama is planning to move forward with executive actions on guns in the next week or two, but Texas Governor Greg Abbott isn't waiting for any form of action dealing with guns to come from the White House before he expresses his opposition.

And how did he, um. peacefully petition for redress of his grievances?

"Obama wants to impose more gun control. My response.#? COME & TAKE IT @NRA #tcot #PJNET," Abbott tweeted from his personal Twitter account on New Year's Day.

What do you suppose the Kenyan cannon-grab is going to look like?

According to Politico, the proposals could include requiring an expanded number of small-scale gun sellers to be licensed which would force them to conduct background checks when selling a weapon. Politico said that wouldn't close the gun-show loophole, but could make it a little tougher to deal with.

I guess the shortcut makes sense: "you can have some of my freedom to conduct unregulated business when you can pry it from my cold, dead hands" is going to have trouble fitting on the T-shirt. Still, it's interesting to note that this is the same guy who, as attorney general, was ready to prosecute any UN observers who got too uppity looking at Texas election procedures back in 2012:

On Twitter, Abbott didn't sound reassured.

He tweeted: "UN-related vote monitors warn Texas: Don't mess with us. My response: BRING IT."

Hope you still have the gold and freeze-dried food!

Anyway. Dear Texas: Please stop screwing it up for the rest of us. Love, The South.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Process and substance

We don't do the Banished Words thing around here, but if you're in the mood for a few concepts you can mock on sight during the onrushing year, come on in:

I have not seen a political cycle so confounding in my lifetime, and it could continue into a year of the most historic kind. If you love politics—the excitement, the unknowability, the to-and-fro—this is the year for you. If you take unhappy U.S. political trends seriously—the shallowness, the restiveness, the division of our polity—you will feel legitimate concern.  

This is a category error in journalism that's reflected in the sort of people we award pundit status to. People who say "I'm a politics junkie" usually mean something like "I'm a campaigns junkie," and campaigning is a small -- if admittedly loud and dramatic -- part of "politics." It accounts for the bulk of political coverage in part because campaigns are contests, and journalism writes about contests very well. That's why we have sports sections, and once you know that American debates are scored more or less the same way as professional wrestling, you too can be an expert on their carefully planned spontaneity.

We do less well with policy. That requires some knowledge at a level above scorekeeping: not just whether Eye-ran is an issue, but whether the gloves actually come off when two candidates are arguing about whether to bomb Eye-ran today or give it a fair trial and bomb it in two weeks. A year in which a moderate to large portion of the electorate -- and the commenting class -- can't tell the difference between "policy" and "deranged racism" is not one made for people who love politics.

Or even those who like politics, the slow-moving, unexciting and often bureaucratic process of figuring out what to do when there isn't enough stuff to go around. It is not a sport for the dashing. (Everyone wants to be the lead guitar player; nobody wants to file the contracts and change the oil in the van.) But it is important, and if we want it done well, we can make a small contribution by not getting it mixed up with the craft of campaigning.

While we're on the subject of Peggy Noonan, let's go ahead and get a little prescriptive: No more plays on "Trump" in heds. (This isn't actually a word ban, just a reminder of the existing rule against stupid name puns in heds. No "Cruz control," no "Cruz missile" and nothing Trumps nobody, period, forever, amen.) And if columnists must review their brilliance from the previous year:

I asserted his appeal was not limited to Republicans. My highly scientific reason is that in talking to Trump supporters it often emerged that they were Democrats or independents. 

... you may remind them that it's rarely a good idea to generalize from "people who talk to Peggy Noonan" to the public at large.

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Friday, January 01, 2016


OK, if you guys are actually going to flaunt an elongated yellow fruit at year's end, we're going to have to report it to the proper authorities:

If you're among the millions with a sweet tooth for chicken chain Chick-fil-A's sugary cole slaw, you have 18 days left to get your hands on it. Unless you want to make it yourself.
The Atlanta-based fast food company said Thursday that it's dropping the cabbage-based side dish Jan. 18 as part of a move to add "variety" to its menu

Oh, come on. Did your audience really think it's made with the popular orange vegetable? (Be sure to click through to the POV quiz.)