Supplemental: The Times thinks it spotted some policy talk!

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 12, 2015

Kindergarten (press) corps encounters Candidate Trump:
Later today, we’ll finish our award-winning series from last week, “23 Years Later.”

This morning, let’s look at something completely new. Let’s review a news report from this morning’s New York Times—a news report concerning the latest from Candidate Trump.

Accompanied by a large photograph, the news report consumes the top third of page A13 in our hard-copy New York Times (“Washington Edition”).

On-line at the New York Times, the report now appears in “Updated” form. By clicking this link to the Santa Fe New Mexican, you can see the text of the original news report, exactly as it appears in our hard-copy Times.

Below, you see the start of the news report which appears in our hard-copy paper, headline included. As we read the fuller report, we were stuck by the famous newspaper’s low intellectual standards:
RAPPEPORT (8/12/15): Intent on Life After Fox, Trump Turns to Policy

After days in which Donald J. Trump engaged in a tense war of words with Megyn Kelly over her questioning of him at last week’s Fox News debate, he spent Tuesday trying to steer the campaign conversation toward policy issues.

In a series of television interviews, Mr. Trump shed light on his tax policy...
According to reporter Alan Rappeport, Candidate Trump had spent the day “trying to steer the campaign conversation toward policy issues.” In particular, he had “shed light on his tax policy,” the Times reporter said.

Below, you see the fuller start to the news report. At the New York Times, this is said to represent an attempt at “defining tax policy:”
RAPPEPORT (continuing): In a series of television interviews, Mr. Trump shed light on his tax policy, explaining on Fox News that he would seek to simplify the existing system before overhauling it and trying to create a flat tax or an entirely new structure.

“Put H & R Block out of business,” Mr. Trump said, calling for a simplified tax return.

In a separate interview on CNN, Mr. Trump said that he would consider partly defunding Planned Parenthood. He said that while he takes an anti-abortion stance, he supports exceptions for rape and incest. And he dismissed suggestions that his previous statements about women would harm him at the polls.

“I’ve always been good to women and there will be nobody better to women as president,” Mr. Trump said, noting that he has put women in charge of major construction projects and that he pays them the same as he pays men at his company.

Besides discussing policy, Mr. Trump dismissed reports that he might take a pledge to run as a Republican...
The news report continued from there. The passage we have posted represents the full discussion of Candidate Trump’s alleged attempt to “shed light on his tax policy” and “discuss policy” in general.

We were struck by the simple-mindedness of Trump’s supposed attempt, at least as reported by the Times. More significantly, we were struck by the simple-minded way the Times described his discussion.

Can we talk? In any good Republican home, an alert third-grader could offer those same talking-points about “tax policy.”

An alert third-grader would know to say that the tax code needs to be simplified (which it almost certainly always does). That same third-grader would know that he or she should also call for a “simplified tax return” form.

He or she would proceed to mention the possibility of a “flat tax.” Whatever the possible merits of such ideas, nine-year-old children can recite these familiar old bromides as they sleep.

That said, how much light do such bromides shed on a candidate’s tax policy? Let’s review them one by one:

A simplified tax code? At least since the dawn of time, every politician in America has offered such a prescription.

Frequently, the tax code has been simplified to some degree. But offering this as a general prescription requires exactly zero IQ points.

A tax return so simple it could fit on the back of a postcard? That has been Republican rote since roughly forever. It’s very, very hard to imagine that any such project could be accomplished. But it always sounds good to make the suggestion.

Might a “flat tax” be a good idea? Everything is possible, not excluding that! But the “flat tax” is one of the fuzziest prescriptions in the entire lexicon of policy chatter. Until a candidate describes some particular “flat tax” plan, no one has the slightest idea what this sweet-sounding phrase really means, or if the program he says he has in mind is actually “flat” at all.

We don’t mean to criticize the nation’s third-graders in anything we’ve said! But Rappeport is a political reporter for the New York Times.

Unless a reporter is entering kindergarten this fall, those recitations do not represent a serious attempt to “shed light on a candidate’s tax policy.” Nor do they represent a more general attempt “to steer the campaign conversation toward policy issues.”

At best, they represent an attempt to pretend that a candidate is doing those things. But alas! From its hard-copy headline on down, this morning’s New York Times advanced those bogus representations of Candidate Trump’s remarks.

Yesterday morning, we met with top-level federal managers in a top-secret facility somewhere on the western edge of the greater Shepherdstown, West Virginia metropolitan area. At one point, we may have offered some version of a significant point:

The New York Times is a very famous American brand. As it promotes its brand, the Times represents itself as perhaps our smartest major newspaper.

In comment threads, it’s clear that Times subscribers believe they’re subscribing to a very smart newspaper. But alas:

In its domestic political work, the New York Times just isn’t especially “smart.” Indeed, in its domestic political work, the New York Times’ intellectual standards are routinely quite low.

By now, Americans are accustomed to discussions of the Times’ alleged “biases.” It’s much, much harder to think of the Times in terms of this other problem, which infects so much of its political work.

Because of its stature, the Times’ low intellectual standards will often spread through the rest of the press. This morning’s news report comes from a kindergarten (press) corps. At this link, you can see it reproduced, word for word, in the oldest daily newspaper west of the Mississippi.

Needless to say, we need reporters who are free from various kinds of “bias.” But as our endless campaign proceeds, we also need political reporters and editors who are prepared to be smart as they limn matters of policy.

72 comments:

  1. "Yesterday morning, we met with top-level federal managers in a top-secret facility somewhere on the western edge of the greater Shepherdstown, West Virginia metropolitan area. At one point, we may have offered some version of a significant point:"

    Your federal tax dollars at work.

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    1. Totally clueless troll.

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    2. Your Bob defense dollars at work.

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    3. The Times screws up again but Somerby is the problem.

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    4. "The Times screws up again" is the value Bob and his fans see he added to the management of the federal workplace?

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    5. Today's post is not about what Somerby did while gone. He made a small joke which you seem to be taking seriously in typical troll fashion.

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    6. Bob's revelation of federal government waste is as worth mentioning in the comment box as he felt it was boasting about it in the main post.

      That said, if you are right about it being a joke then he is shedding light both on the failure of federal executive management training and his comedy career.

      Delete
  2. Supplemental: Bob Offers High School Journalism Discourse

    We love getting a secondary school demonstration (sans explanation) of how small city papers utilize their big city papers news services because they can't afford their own national reportorial staff.

    Let's see what Substitute Teacher Bob Somerby failed to offer his students in his tour of Page 5 of the Santa Fe New Mexican. Getting equal billing (and better placement) than New York Times article with Trump and containing a full color photo of candidate Sanders was an article with this banner headline:

    SANDERS DRAWS BIG CROWDS, 5 TIMES MORE THAN CLINTON'S.

    The article appears to be from the Washington Post.

    http://www.pressreader.com/usa/santa-fe-new-mexican/20150812/281655368802566/TextView

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    1. What exactly did you find troubling about the way Sanders was covered?

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    2. Of course a small clip is headed:

      CLINTON TO TURN OVER PRIVATE EMAIL SERVER

      As mm would probably argue, the article is not about Clinton's private email server.

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    3. I see, more conservative shilling. Why not go get a real job?

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    4. Wasn't what you called "conservative shilling" called "triangulation" during the celebrated competency that was the Clinton Administration?

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    5. March, 2015
      11:08 into video:
      "The server will remain private" HRC

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fe_y72TDB_M

      August 11, 2015
      "Hillary Clinton announced Tuesday that she had directed her aides to turn over her personal e-mail server to the Justice Department, giving in to months of demands that she relinquish the device she used to store her correspondence while secretary of state."

      Will the DOJ turn over Benghazi subject emails to U.S. Representative Trey Gowdy?

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    6. Sez @ 11:30 "Why not go get a real job?"

      Please describe your real job.

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    7. @ 11:13 I found the Sanders coverage.about as empty of content about policy as a Somerby post reciting word counts. I found it enlightening that Somerby found it troubling enough to omit it. It might be because he finds the headline accurate enough for an elementary school Democrat to understand.

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    8. cicero's blowup dollAugust 12, 2015 at 1:03 PM

      @ 11:56

      ...blahblahblah ...HRC...blahblahblahblah...BENGHAZI!!!.........blahblahblahblah ...[newsbusters link or HRC youtube link] ...blahblahblahblah.

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    9. At least cicero is covering HRC.

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    10. "At least cicero is trashing HRC and getting paid for it."

      FTFY

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    11. Just spell the Acronym right.

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    12. "As mm would probably argue, the article is not about Clinton's private email server."

      No, actually mm is very aware of what this article is about. This is just another episode of the wearisome and interminable (in the words of Charles Pierce) "public flogging" of Hillary Clinton.

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    13. @12:03

      Founder & CEO of Worldwide Oligopoly & Conglomerates Unlimited. It's a rapid-growth segment of the finance industry and it keeps me out of trouble, especially with the current Congress.

      Delete
    14. You must have lost your previous position as a "real" reporter. But it's good you are keeping up your creative writing skills as a hobby.

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    15. Anything to help the cause.

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    16. @mm

      HRC must be into sadomasochism as she is solely responsible for electing to use 15 year-old private server in her Chappaqua cellar to keep TOP SECRET government information.

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    17. What does the age of the server have to do with anything, ir the location in Chappaqua? She has denied the rest of your accusation. I'll believe her over you any day.

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    18. Cicero, are you aware that the past four secretaries of state were all asked to turn over their emails and Clinton is the only one who did so? Don't Republicans believe in transparency or compliance with voluntary requests?

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    19. @ 6:35

      Are you aware that outside of HRC, only Powell did not turn over his emails as he destroyed them, but he did not use a private server stashed in his home either. Powell voted for Obama, twice. He is also not running for POTUS or being investigated criminally by the FBI, or by Obama's DOJ and Inspector General

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    20. @6:30

      That you believe anything HRC says is typical of her supporters. The problem for those like yourself is that is no longer only the Judicial Watch FOIA request HRC has to contend with. Her server and thumb drive will finally be the property of the FBI and DOJ. If HRC's story about only deleting personal emails is true she has nothing to worry about.

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    21. Why would anyone believe anything a fox-loving conservative troll days about political opponents?

      You haven't explained why none of the Republicans have turned anything over.

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    22. @7:22

      Madeleine Albright, secretary of state from 1997 to 2001, did not use personal or professional e-mail while in office,

      Condoleezza Rice never used personal email at State Dept."

      "Condoleezza Rice reportedly had a State Department email address that she used for official business, an aide for the former secretary of state says."

      http://www.politico.com/story/2015/03/condoleezza-rice-emails-state-department-115941.html

      Here is Powell's complete explanation of the email system he used while at Foggy Bottom:

      POWELL: I — I can’t speak to a — Mrs. Clinton and what she should do now. That would be inappropriate.

      What I did when I entered the State Department, I found an antiquated system that had to be modernized and modernized quickly.

      So we put in place new systems, bought 44,000 computers and put a new Internet capable computer on every single desk in every embassy, every office in the State Department. And then I connected it with software.

      But in order to change the culture, to change the brainware, as I call it, I started using it in order to get everybody to use it, so we could be a 21st century institution and not a 19th century.

      But I retained none of those e-mails and we are working with the State Department to see if there’s anything else they want to discuss with me about those e-mails."

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    23. "Condoleezza Rice reportedly had a State Department email address that she used for official business, an aide for the former secretary of state says."


      Then where are they? I demand to see every last one of them!

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    24. "But I retained none of those e-mails and we are working with the State Department to see if there’s anything else they want to discuss with me about those e-mails." Powell

      Well, that's just wrong. Those emails were work product. They should have been preserved for all those future FOIA requests. How can you just stand there and let him get away with this? Those emails belong to us, the USA citizens who he worked for.

      Hillary Clinton is the only SoS who preserved her emails. Ain't that a kick!

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    25. @mm

      Easy. File a FOIA request with the State Department to get copies of Dr. Rice's Foggy Bottom emails. Let us know what you find.

      You want Powell prosecuted for destroying emails that are the property of the American citizen but you do not want to see HRC prosecuted? Ok. How about prosecuting both of them?

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    26. Why would I want Clinton prosecuted? She is the only one who has preserved her work related emails.

      The point about Rice, which obviously went right over your pointy head, is that apparently the State Department doesn't have them since they asked her for them and she has not produced a single one.

      Only Clinton preserved the work product.

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    27. @mm

      You seem to be deliberately obtuse to the crux of HRC's unique problem with communications through electronic mail. She exclusively used a private server stashed in her cellar. She reprimanded her staff for not using .gov emails for business and yet that is how she operated herself. Why?

      Guess what, HRC didn't provide the 15,000 out of 30,000 emails to Foggy Bottom until she had been gone from the job 22 months. She did not preserve her emails as she deleted 30,000 of them. If you believe she had that many emails about Chelsea's wedding and yoga classes you should be working for David Brock. Bill Clinton admitted he had sent a total of two emails in his life. HRC claimed much of the correspondence on her sever was with him.

      Rice had a state.gov email address that she occasionally used, but not very often. That means Foggy Bottom does have her business emails if they wished to look for them, but they are not eager to release HRC's emails after she finally turned them over to them.

      Delete
  3. Digby, who used to be an astute political commentator, thinks it means something that Bernie Sanders is leading into New Hampshire polls. That is like getting excited because Obama led in Illinois. What this actually suggests is that Digby has become a true believer who thinks saying the right liberal things on hard issues makes a candidate electable. Sanders should be the conscience of our party, but not its standard bearer. If he were to be elected (unlikely), he would be a worse president than Obama, for many of the same reasons. Our country cannot afford that. Digby and other Dems need to stop fantasizing.

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    1. Trump is leading in the polls too. Does anyone think he will be the nominee?

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    2. A good point @ 11:31. A better one would be to ask @ 11:10 to give you a link that justifies anything she said about Digby.

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    3. Who doesn't know how to find Digby's blog?

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    4. @ 11:56 demonstrates once again that she has no link to justify anything she said about Digby @ 11:10.

      Sadly there is no way to tell if @11:10/11:56 "used to be an astute" blog commenter.

      Delete
    5. "Trump is leading in the polls too. Does anyone think he will be the nominee?" asks @ 11:31.

      According to one of the polls which has him in the lead, the vast majority of those who support him think he will be.

      https://medium.com/@EchelonInsights/new-poll-trump-leads-post-debate-fiorina-rubio-carson-and-cruz-rise-b1ef09b82b24

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  4. A flat tax is not a simplified tax! I regret admitting that is is mostly Republicans who make this mistake. A "Flat Tax" essentially means reducing the number of tax brackets to some small number. But, regardless of the number of tax brackets, you find your tax by simply seeing where your taxable income fits in a tax table. And, of course, for those of us who use software, this happens automatically.

    No, the complexity of income tax is the zillions of rules involving what income is taxable, what's deductible, what records are required, etc. These problems are not ameliorated by reducing the number of brackets.

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    1. A flat hair piece is not a simplified hair piece either. It happens automatically after days of wearing a "Make America Great Again" gimme cap.

      I regret admitting I have no regrets about pointing this out.

      Delete
  5. Supplemental: As Best We Can Tell....or...Correct Me If You Think I Am Wrong

    Based on everything found in this post, this is the best I can rewrite the Times article based on criticism of it offered by Bob Somerby. Changes are highlighted.


    RAPPEPORT (8/12/15): Intent on Life After Fox, Trump Turns to Policy

    After days in which Donald J. Trump engaged in a tense war of words with Megyn Kelly over her questioning of him at last week’s Fox News debate, he spent Tuesday trying to steer the campaign conversation toward an elementary school level discussion of policy issues.

    In a series of television interviews, Mr. Trump shed no real light on his tax policy, offering on Fox News talking points an alert third-grader could offer in any good Republican home: simplify the existing system before overhauling it and trying to create a flat tax or an entirely new structure.

    “Put H & R Block out of business,” Mr. Trump said, calling for a simplified tax return, which every politician in America has offered as a prescription at least since the dawn of time and which nine-year-old children can recite as a familiar old bromide as they sleep.

    In a separate interview on CNN, Mr. Trump said that he would consider partly defunding Planned Parenthood. He said that while he takes an anti-abortion stance, he supports exceptions for rape and incest. And he dismissed suggestions that his previous statements about women would harm him at the polls.

    “I’ve always been good to women and there will be nobody better to women as president,” Mr. Trump said, noting that he has put women in charge of major construction projects and that he pays them the same as he pays men at his company.

    Besides discussing policy, Mr. Trump dismissed reports that he might take a pledge to run as a Republican...

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    Replies
    1. A real reporter would ask Trump questions to get him to be more specific. He or she would not let him get away with platitudes. Failing that, a real reporter would not emphasize that Trump was focusing on policy, something he is clearly not doing.

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    2. Name any publication you have worked for as a real reporter.

      Name any publication Bob Somerby has worked for as a real reporter.

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    3. You don't have to be a "real reporter" to offer the kinds of criticism @1:47 wrote, jackass.

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    4. A real blogger would never allow the comments you get away with mm.

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    5. Sure, I'm one of the few people here who even attempts to comment on the topics Bob writes about.

      Otherwise this place is infested with trolls and saboteurs who just can't wait for Bob to write something so they can post their juvenile smartass insults.

      You don't like my coarse language? I don't think it's anything worse than what one sees on a normal episode of John Oliver.

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    6. Hey, mm. You don't have to be "real smart" to offer a defense of the kind of criticism @ 1:47 leveled. In fact you don't need to be any smarter than @ 1:47. And @ 1:47 only needs to be as dumb a rube as Bob assumes his readers to be when he tries to fault a reporter for writing a campaign brief covering Trump answering questions by phone put to him by talking heads on television.

      Delete
    7. mm was spot on with part of his analysis:

      "...I'm one of the few people here..."

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    8. mm, do I take it you think @ 12:30 did a pretty good job of incorporating the Somerby suggested changes to the NYTimes article? Thus far she/he is the only one who initiated a comment dealing with the topic.

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    9. I see a lot of the Trump defensiveness in mm.

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    10. @3:37,
      I think the article in the NY Times that Somerby wrote about is an insult to its readers - par for the course. If the NY Times wants to be a partner in Trump's political campaign then they should get out of the news business. Howard Dean noted this morning on Morning Joe that the supposedly straight political reporting one finds in the NY Times is very often opinion masquerading as objective fact.

      I kind of understand the dilemma the NY Times is in right now. They love them some JEB(!), but they have to be very careful not to insult the Prince of New York.

      "Intent on Life After Fox, Trump Turns to Policy"

      That was the title of the article that Somerby cited. Trump gave a short press conference last night followed by a speech, which any idiot listening to would be able to conclude that Trump is a blustering blowhard without a clue about real "policy".

      I guess that leaves out NY Times political reporters.

      Delete
    11. @3:04,

      "Donald Trump, Pivoting Toward Policy, Urges Simpler Tax Code"

      That's the title of the article now online. Wow! That Trump is some kind of political dynamo, pivoting and everything! Reading that title one would almost think they were writing about a substantive candidate rather than this circus clown, blowing hot air at dumbfounded political reporters.

      Somerby uses critical thinking skills to analyze the way the news is presented to the public. That must annoy the frauds that push the bullshit on the pages of the NY Times.

      Delete
    12. You might check out the coverage they replaced the piece that is in their on-line First Draft coverage with in their main edition. Oh, Somerby didnt tell you his national version DC hard copy is what happened early in the day, and that it was bumped by what happened last night? The Title First Draft doesn't give you a clue?

      http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/12/us/politics/intent-on-life-after-fox-trump-turns-to-policy.html?ref=politics

      Delete
    13. @4:52,
      The link you provide goes to a completely different political article by a different reporter. Somerby analyzed the report by reporter Alan Rappeport. You link to an article by JEREMY W. PETERS. These are two distinct articles that appear in separate sections right now online.

      Hint: The title "FIRST DRAFT" doesn't mean what you think it means.

      Delete
    14. You are giving out hints? Lord, you make cicero look half way intelligent.

      Somerby devoted his post to an article which did not even appear in the main edition of the New York Times.

      Alan Rappeport is called the "anchor" of their First Draft feature, which the Times describes as an on-line Monday-Friday newsletter. Obviously they may take the brief articles written for it and use them in the early editions, which is apparently one that Somerby got ahold of. The reporter who wrote it is called "the anchor" of First Draft, which indicates he is an office based writer who would get assigned to watch Donald on TV and write about what he said, which is all this article is.

      The article I linked for you is the one which actually ran in the main edition of the Times this morning. It was written by the beat reporter assigned to cover the Trump campaign.

      A key sentence or two from it:

      "For a man of so many words, Mr. Trump still has relatively little to say about the kinds of policies he would pursue as president.

      Even as he seeks to give his presidential campaign the kind of serious agenda befitting a candidate who is leading in the polls, so far the Trump Doctrine is not much more than this: “Trust me.” "


      Now go back and let Somerby treat you as the rube you are.

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    15. So if Trump was a man of few words and said relatively little about anything why did the Times puff his remarks up into policy statements?

      Delete
    16. @mm
      Oliver's wife Kate Norley, former U.S. Army combat medic and veterans-rights advocate who enlisted right out of high school, in direct response to the 9/11, would appreciate B.S. allowing conservatives to post their pov here.

      Delete
    17. What are you talking about? Is this on topic?

      Delete
    18. @ 7:18

      mm brought up Oliver Hudson as his/her inspiration for injecting colorful metaphors in all posts.

      Delete
    19. @6:12,

      Thank you for that. You begin with an insult and end with an insult.

      "Lord, you make cicero look half way intelligent."

      "Now go back and let Somerby treat you as the rube you are."

      Now I understand. The NY Times is free to publish a gibberish laced press release for Donald Trump as long as it doesn't make it into the print edition. Got it.

      Oh yes, I see the disclaimer now, directly under the title, "Donald Trump, Pivoting Toward Policy, Urges Simpler Tax Code", where it says very plainly,

      Dear readers, pay no attention to the gibberish in this article. It was written by a nobody who isn't even allowed to leave our building.

      Seriously, it seems like you are actually agreeing with Somerby's criticism that the report he wrote about was pure garbage. Do I have that right?

      Delete
    20. As a latecomer to this exchange I will note that it started with someone simply reprinting what Somerby copied from the Times and incorporating the specific criticisms Somerby made about the article.

      I think that commenter got the gist of Bob's acting like a second grader while calling the press kindergartners and the candidates ideas those of a third grader.

      and mm doesn't like anyone throwing around insults other than himself because he is one of the few who is on topic and they are jackasses.

      Delete
  6. Yesterday @ 5:22 I wrote:

    "I can't wait for Somerby's return. Surely he will devote several days to the mainstream media coverage of the first Republican debate. He already has the big scoop: failure of Chris Matthews to debate Carly Fiorina while interviewing her after the debate. It will be fascinating to see what angle he uncovers next."

    It would appear, going from a screed about Chris the Castrated Canine's pre-debate Fiorina interview to a whine about routine Tuesday campaign coverage in the New York Times, nothing else caught Somerby's attention in the mainstream media debate discourse.

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  7. Bob must be carefully reviewing Chapter 7 of "How He Got There" to see if there is any material he left out that would amplify the final chapter of "23 Years Later."

    I hope so, because so far "23 Years Later" has not had enough Gore for my tastes.

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    Replies
    1. "25 Years Later" would have been a catchier title.

      Delete
  8. As someone was discussing above, Howard Dean also made his point about political reporting in the NYT being basically opinion while talking with Chris Hayes last night. I thought Hayes, the shameless climber, was going to fall off his chair while squealing something about it being Dean who was criticizing the Times. "Not me, not me..."

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  9. I think Bob's point is valid enough here but really could be solved by some decent Op Ed work. Oops.

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  10. TL; DR

    Somerby highlights more NYT laziness and/or stupidity.

    Somerby's trolls struggle -- and ultimately succeed! -- to prove they are at least as stupid.

    ReplyDelete