Frankentrump’s monster: It’s alive!

 

The Republican Party has created the most oafish presidential nominee ever as surely as Dr. Frankenstein created his monster.

Start with dead ideas and keep digging them up, no matter how rotten: tax breaks for the rich, benefit cuts for the poor;  unlimited campaign funding for corporations, voting restrictions for people. Cobble together with beliefs, not facts.

Stoke the anger of voters by blaming the powerless. Deny reality. Refuse to leave the isolated echo-chamber of angry old white men. Expel those who sound warnings.

Zap the campaign with high-voltage fearmongering and watch this give life to an unnatural creation who appalls and frightens. It’s alive!

Voters naïve enough to go along with this are, like Little Maria, putting themselves in peril. The rest of us hope to kill the monster at the ballot box.

Failing that, we’ll see angry villagers storming the White House, and every other Trump property, with clubs and torches.

Customer disservice from the Chicago Tribune

photo from Wikipedia

photo from Wikipedia

The Chicago Tribune wants to dump its print-delivery customers, but doesn’t want to say so.

It’s the only explanation that makes sense.

Or maybe they only want to dump Northwest Indiana, typically treated as the unwanted bastard child of the region.

For months, papers for Tribune subscribers here have arrived very late, then not at all.  Local retail outlets such as Walgreens would be allocated only one or two copies.

Sometimes I’d find a Wall Street Journal or a Post-Tribune in the driveway, neither of which I subscribe to, with these words scrawled on the plastic bag: “Sorry ran out of Tribunes.”

I finally cornered a carrier on one of the occasions he showed up with a Tribune, about 11 a.m. He said the Tribune had transferred its delivery duties in this area to the Northwest Indiana Times, headquartered in Munster. He said some carriers had quit. Those remaining, accustomed to having 500 papers to deliver, found themselves trying to deliver 1,000 papers. Since that many won’t fit into a carrier’s personal vehicle, they’d run out and have to drive back to the distribution point in Portage for more, then drive back to their customers in Lake County.

The Tribune’s customer-service phone number rang unanswered this morning before disconnecting itself. The message at the NWI Times customer-service number was, “Due to delivery challenges in recent days, your wait time may exceed 15 to 20 minutes.”

As in other crumbling relationships, the Tribune has been behaving badly for a while, probably hoping that its print-delivery customers would give up and go away because the paper lacks the courage to tell us it’s over.

Things probably aren’t much better in the newsroom, where many jobs have been axed and others outsourced. The remaining reporters continue to produce first-class journalism, but their heroic efforts are undermined by a system so shoddy it can’t deliver their work to customers. We’re being herded to the online version, kicking and screaming.

I’ll ask a few people at both papers if they’d like to comment on this. Maybe someone actually will.

 

Another new low at the NY Times: Imagine what news is true

The top news editor at the New York Times has revealed an alarming new standard for what now passes as news in that paper.

The Public Editor’s Journal of Oct. 27 quotes him explaining why a news story containing an error should not be thought mistaken: The Times, he said, was only reporting what was common knowledge and that “It’s hard to imagine some version of this is not true.”

Just not the version reported.

Previously, the basic standard for publishing news required reporters to confirm facts. Specific, concrete, verifiable facts. Only talking heads and bloggers spouting fringe opinions relied on assumptions about what is common knowledge or the comforting excuse that surely some version of the events in question must be true.

Every old-school journalist has heard the saying, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

From now on, readers of the Times will have to do their own fact-checking before relying on news that’s printed whether it’s fit or not.

Up in smoke: The New York Times lowers its standard for the front page

No less an institution than the New York Times has begun violating the traditional separation between news and advertising on what used to be considered sacrosanct space – the front page.

It isn’t the first to do that, but following the herd isn’t what made the Times into one of the world’s best newspapers.

“Stories from our advertisers” now appear on the Times’ digital front page. These are not news stories, which are researched, written and edited by professionally impartial journalists, in which facts are laid out as accurately as possible regardless of whose ox may be gored.  These front-page entries are advertisements, meant to manipulate consumers into buying products they may or may not need.

Thus, they skew information to be convincing. One of today’s “stories” is from a maker of digital home devices that purport to turn your lights on or off, adjust the thermostat and lock or unlock your front door with the touch of a button on your smart phone.

“In a Flash” weaves impressive graphics of raging flames and quotes from expert, supposedly neutral sources into a story about how internet-connected smoke detectors are critical to saving the lives of you and your loved ones if a fire breaks out in your home. Its use of scare tactics is like that often seen in political campaigns, an overwrought insistence that disaster will surely befall anyone unwise enough to vote for the other candidate or chose a different brand of smoke detector.

The Times, of course, is paid for shilling this product to its readers. What used to be the premier newspaper in the United States has chosen to compete for advertising dollars by mixing the slickest ads into space once reserved for the most important news. The front page was the last place where Times readers could be assured that their interest in being informed of the facts – “impartially, without fear or favor,” as its founder put it – came first. Now they’re just another commodity to be shilled to advertisers.

Women’s lives don’t matter enough

Once again, the story of a man killing a woman he was dating has made front-page news, and for a familiar reason – police and judges failed to do their duty.handgun

The day he shot Dena Seymour dead, the offender had racked up three orders of protection, was on probation for aggravated assault, had violated probation with an arrest for soliciting sex, had failed to show up in court, had failed to attend a court-ordered class in anger management and had just been charged with rape.

Felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors (allowing him to legally keep his gun) and he was released without bail despite the pending rape charge.

This happens over and over because men simply don’t value women. Instead, they operate from the often unarticulated but bone-deep belief that they must control women or risk being seen as emasculated.

This is especially true among police officers. Rates of domestic violence among their families is three times higher than in civilian families – 40 percent compared to 10 percent.

“Victims of police family violence typically fear that the responding officers will side with their abuser and fail to properly investigate or document the crime. …most departments across the country typically handle cases of police family violence informally, often without an official report…,” according to the National Center for Women and Policing.  But this isn’t limited to police families.

After my sister separated from her soon-to-be-ex-husband, she met him at his office for a talk. His employees heard her scream when he tried to yank her out of a chair by her long hair. She called the police. But they spoke to her husband first, who told them that they were going through a divorce. They examined her neck and found no bruises. They dismissed her accusation as a “civil matter” that didn’t warrant their intervention and wouldn’t even take a report. She had to call the police station and insist on filing one. Now she’s getting treatment for the whiplash injury that showed up not long after he manhandled her.

Even her lawyer and her marriage counselor, both women, discouraged her from filing for an order of protection because there were no bruises and no witnesses. Shamefully, they even suggested he hadn’t really hurt her. This shows how deep and pervasive is the attitude that devalues women.

Her husband has subjected her to angry outbursts, extreme verbal abuse and constant belittlement, has a history of drug addiction and owns several handguns. Even if she had an order of protection,  she could still be attacked because he has no reason to think he’d be punished.

The Chicago Tribune article “Red flags before woman’s shooting death” describes how authorities caused Dena Seymour’s murder by failing to take violence against women seriously. One judge had dismissed a fourth woman’s request for an order of protection against the man because she came across in court as too excitable, while he maintained calm composure.

Easy to do when you know the charges won’t be taken seriously.

 

 

 

 

To silence a jerk, whose name will not be published here, ignore him

If someone bullies you with insults and mockery, as did a rival to Carly Fiorina – “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” –  you should:

A) call him on it using the words “sexism” or “offensive,” thereby demonstrating your weak, feminized, grievance-based victimhood;

B) get over it, toughen up and refuse to be an oversensitive ninny or a loser.

Option B is what one columnist urges Fiorina to choose when she faces that loudmouth tonight in the debate of Republican candidates for the party’s presidential nomination. According to the columnist, the loudmouth’s supporters like him because he has the balls to offend people. Those who object to being accosted by a jerk, whom the columnist describes as “walking testosterone,” simply invite further abuse and weary those who aren’t oversensitive losers.

What a great way to collude with abusers while burdening their targets with a phony stigma.

This view associates being a rude jerk with manliness, or at least with testosterone. Are there any men out there brave enough to dispute that, despite the risk of being jeered by rude jerks?

The best way for anyone to respond to such boorish behavior, writes the columnist, is to avoid using terms sneeringly deemed as “politically correct,” since that will only spur jerks on. But instead of hobbling one’s vocabulary, I suggest a different course: regal silence. Do not deign to acknowledge jerks.

Attention of any kind fuels them. Their greatest fear is to be ignored. Deal with them as you would a bad smell from someone deliberately and delightedly farting in a crowd. Ignore him until he and the smell go away.

 

Religion kills again

In Kabul, a mob of men killed a woman accused of having burned pages from the Koran. In Brooklyn, seven children burned to death after a hot plate malfunctioned and sent flames racing through the house. Their mother had left it on all night so she could warm food for them the next day. It was a way to circumvent religious restrictions on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest.

Those children and the woman in Afghanistan, along with countless millions during human history, died because people confused obedience to rules of religion with moral behavior. Mindless adherence to arcane, arbitrary dictates never elevated anyone. But it does let those men in Kabul believe the murder they committed was sanctified, while the grieving parents in Brooklyn try to convince themselves that their loss was “God’s will,” instead of a choice that gave the physical hazard of a hot plate left on too long less importance than the perceived spiritual peril of cooking a meal.

In all cases of religious-based violence and suffering, the perpetrators thrust responsibility for the mayhem on the demands of obedience to rules or the failure of others to obey. It’s the victim’s fault, or part of a deity’s mysterious plan. In truth, we kill each other by our own choices in the here-and-now.

The way we treat others is the best measure of morality. And by that measure, religions have failed.

(This links to a 2-minutes video showing the Afghan victim being beaten and stomped: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6SjE9EslKA)

Glazed and confused

Photo from veryveganrecipes.com

Photo from veryveganrecipes.com

Margaret Holt, standards editor at the Chicago Tribune, kindly responded yesterday to questions about why errors recently have plagued the paper’s weather page.

“The weather page is produced for the Chicago Tribune through a collaborative effort with the WGN-TV news department,” she wrote in an email. The Chicago Tribune owns WGN. “I asked the producer who coordinates the project for WGN about these errors.”

That person, she wrote, “explained that WGN editors had some recent schedule shifts and production issues that, in combination, reduced the amount of editing time on deadline. As a result of these problems, he says, a new deadline schedule has been implemented and he has been working with Tribune editors to give the desk more time on the print product.”

It will be gratifying to see the Chicago Tribune’s weather page meeting professional standards again, but it won’t be as much fun. Each day of reading it was like panning through the usual drab verbiage for gold, and these are the latest nuggets:

On 1/31: “Some lake effect flurries early the mixed sun and clouds.”

On 2/5: “High peak in the middle 30s then slide into the 20s as wind shift into the north and increase to 15-25 mph.”

On 2/6: “Some glazing late and overnight as temps slowly fall below freezing” and “Drizzle and light rain will develop this weekend, resulting in some glazing…”

It’s probably tough on weather-page wordsmiths to confine their writing to the repetitive phrases of forecasting. Boredom must tempt them to liven up the page with an occasional flourish such as “glazing,” which the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as, “The action, process or trade of fitting windows with glass.” Not mentioned is this commonly understood meaning: “The process of adding a delicious, sugary coating on doughnuts.”

Readers aren’t likely to think that rain and falling temperatures will cause windows or sugar coating to appear on the landscape. But to eliminate any possible question about the substance, the word “iciness” would do nicely.

 

New low recorded on Chicago Tribune weather page

“Thursday’s Highest: 8° at Laredo, Texas”

Only 74°off, because someone accidentally left off the second digit, 2, and someone else didn’t catch the error before publication.

I was really hoping that today would be another one of those rare days when the Chicago Tribune weather page didn’t contain a single mistake. Honestly, after chronicling errors on that page on seven of the past nine days, I was rooting for them.

This is what high school English teachers must endure while grading essays for advanced-placement classes, in which kids too bright to be making such ridiculous mistakes are sometimes too lazy to proofread properly before turning in their work.

It’s easy to imagine their excuses: “I didn’t have time,” “I did proofread it,” “What’s the big deal?”

It would be great if someone could honestly tell them that, in the real world of professional, grown-up endeavors, that kind of sloppiness isn’t allowed. But readers of the Chicago Tribune weather page know better.

Chicago Tribune standards editor elevated to mystery job

Today’s weather page in the Chicago Tribune looked free of errors for the first time in days, until I got to the forecast for Monday, Feb. 2: “Light southerly winds strengthen and become more SE at”

On today’s business page, the paper announced that “Margaret Holt, 63, will be elevated to recognize her role as standards editor for the newspaper.” This brief clause in one sentence is the only mention of Holt in the article, a lengthy description about five senior editors and their new jobs at the paper. The other four editors got a lot of attention: detailed descriptions of their past experience, explanations of their new jobs, compliments from upper management and quotes from the newly promoted editors about how they view their jobs.

How curious that Holt got none of this treatment. The article didn’t mention what her “elevated” role is to be, whether it will include her current duties or if the role of standards editor itself is being elevated.

Her Tribune bio says that as standards editor, she “works closely with reporters and editors about issues of accuracy, fairness and ethics.”

Too bad that the announcement of her promotion didn’t, in all fairness, give readers the same thorough reporting about her as about the other four. Perhaps an insult was unintentional, but an oversight of this size smacks of a put-down. Of course, someone whose job is to wield a critical red pencil and a sharp eye for mistakes is handicapped in any popularity contest. Or, perhaps she is held responsible for the frequency of errors and the paper didn’t want to raise that question in any description of past performance or future duties.

At a 2005 conference called “Editing the Future: Helping Copy Desks Meet the Challenge of Changing Media,” Holt described how the Tribune in 1995 began focusing on eliminating errors. It carefully tracked mistakes, categorized them and devised staff training to prevent them. Judging from its track record lately (and not just on the weather page), the Trib appears to have lost that focus.

The prevalence of typos, spelling errors and mangled syntax could be a result of the Trib’s squeeze-the-newsroom business model, rather than deficiencies in individual staffers, who probably feel frustrated and discouraged. These kinds of errors are characteristic of a business whose standards have slipped far enough to damage credibility with its readers and its industry.

As Holt wrote in a “Focus on accuracy” essay for that 2005 conference website, “We can never take these basics for granted. They jeopardize our business.”