BREAKING: What does it mean to talk to a house?

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2018

The New York Times' latest sad mess:
Did it all start with Richard M. Nixon? Is that when the press corps decided that its sole mission was reporting on the "character" of major pols, narrowly conceived, with no bullsh*t left behind?

We don't know how to answer your question. But by 1987, major reporters were staking out Candidate Hart, overnight, trying to see if he (gasp!) had a girl friend. Around that same time, they started calling around to old college roommates, trying to learn if other major candidates had smoked marijuana as teens.

By 1992, they were falling for the Whitewater fraud, a fraud which got its start in mainstream circles on the front page of the New York Times. In succeeding years, Reverend Falwell pushed his film about the many murders the Clintons committed, and our Potemkin mainstream orgs were too afraid to complain.

Starting in 1999, they spent two years pretending that Candudate Gore "had a problem with the truth." In 2015, there the New York Times went again, with (to cite just one example) a fraudulent, 4400-word "news report" about Hillary Clinton's troubling conduct concerning Uranium One.

What turned them into such lazer-focused moral and intellectual idiots? We don't know, but we do know this—career liberal journalists won't tell you about the bulk of this, and the conduct continues today. Consider what you've heard on cable news in the past week.

You've heard about the failure to fire Rob Porter and you've heard about nothing else. You've heard our "journalists" trying to prove that their latest targets are liars. They care, and they talk, about nothing else.

You don't hear them talking about Donald J. Trump's proposed budget, or about its implications concerning his character. You don't hear them talking about his infrastructure plan.

You hear about the latest moral panic, and you hear about nothing else. That of course would be bad enough, but the things you hear them saying rarely make any clear sense, and Trump supporters are able to notice.

Consider this front-page report in today's New York Times. Excitedly, Davis and Shear make this exciting claim:
DAVIS AND SHEAR (2/14/18): At a previously scheduled Senate hearing on Tuesday about threats against the United States, Mr. Wray, in response to a question about Mr. Porter, said the F.B.I. had given the White House final results in January of its background investigation into the former staff secretary. Mr. Wray’s account was directly at odds with previous assertions by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, and other White House officials who said Mr. Porter’s background check was still underway when the domestic violence abuse allegations from his two former wives came to light last week in news reports.
Wray’s account was "directly at odds" with previous assertions by Sanders? We're sorry, but that isn't exactly true—and the Times' pathetic attempt at a news report makes no such demonstration.

How inept is this news report? Let's start with today's hard-copy headline:

"White House Admits It Knew Of Red Flags in Aid's Record"

At the risk of stating the obvious, the "White House" is a building. A building can't "admit it knew" something. Only persons can know things and admit to knowing them.

That said, all through the Times report, Davis and Shear create a web of confusion by their use of the term "the White House." To some extent, this problem carries over from yesterday's Senate hearing, in which the senators, as is their wont, failed to ask sufficiently specific questions—in particular, failed to ask Director Wray to name the persons to whom the FBI conveyed its reports about Porter.

Did they give their reports to Don McGahn? Did they give their reports to Kelly? Wray didn't say, and the senators didn't ask. This is typical of the way these solons conduct their business.

Yesterday, Sanders said the FBI conveyed its information to a bunch of career bureaucrats inside an obscure office called the White House Personnel Security Office. She seemed to say and/or suggest that the people in this office didn't pass the information along to the major players now being challenged—to folk like McGahn and Kelly.

The Times reporters know that Sanders said that. In this passage, they even report what she said:
DAVIS AND SHEAR: Ms. Sanders insisted Tuesday that senior West Wing officials had not learned about the allegations against Mr. Porter until they surfaced in The Daily Mail because the F.B.I. gave the information to the White House Personnel Security Office, which handles security clearances. The office is in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door to the White House and is overseen by Joe Hagin, the deputy chief of staff.

Ms. Sanders said that the security office—which she repeatedly noted was staffed by “career officials,” who would not have been appointed by Mr. Trump—had not yet made a final determination on whether Mr. Porter should receive his security clearance at the time of The Mail’s article.
"The security office...had not yet made a final determination?" In that sense, Sanders stuck to her original story, in which she'd said that the probe of Porter had continued right through last week.

At no point does the Times report demonstrate that this claim was wrong. Let's review the Times' remarkably peculiar account of what actually had transpired.

David and Shear sourced their account to "two people briefed on the matter." They never suggest that this account is actually wrong or peculiar.

That said, the account which they present is extremely peculiar. Here's how the reporters start:
DAVIS AND SHEAR:According to the two people briefed on the matter, the White House security office reviewed the allegations about Mr. Porter in July and saw that the F.B.I. had interviewed Mr. Porter’s two former wives but not Mr. Porter himself. The office asked the F.B.I. to go back and do so, said the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.
Nowhere do Davis and Shear report that McGahn or Kelly were told about this at this time. According to Davis and Shear, the career players inside that office asked the FBI to interview Porter—full stop.

So far, Davis and Shear report no major player being told about this. As their report continues, it becomes extremely peculiar, but the pair of ace reporters don't seem to notice this fact:
DAVIS AND SHEAR (continuing directly): In November, the F.B.I. provided another report to the security office, the two people said, adding that at that point, a final review began to determine whether to grant Mr. Porter a security clearance. As part of that review, three officials in the personnel office, including its head, were supposed to come to their own conclusions about whether to grant the clearance, the people said.
Say what? In July, the career bureaucrats asked the FBI to interview Porter. Four months later, the FBI reported back?

That time lag seems amazingly strange, but Davis and Shear don't seem to notice. At any rate, they report that the obscure career-staffed security office was then supposed to reach their own conclusions about granting a clearance for Porter.

Unless you want to split thin hairs, none of this directly contradicts what Sanders has said. Davis and Shear continue as follows:
DAVIS AND SHEAR (continuing directly): By the time The Mail published its article last week, only one of those officials had made a determination, the two people said, although it is not clear what the official had concluded.
Unless you want to split this hairs, this is all consistent with what Sanders has said. David and Shear present no reason for believing this account is wrong.

The scribes continue as shown below. At this point, their report becomes transparently weird:
DAVIS AND SHEAR (continuing directly): In late November last year, a distraught girlfriend of Mr. Porter’s contacted Mr. McGahn and told him Mr. Porter had been unfaithful to her by dating Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, and had anger problems, according to several people familiar with the discussion. Mr. McGahn, who knew Mr. Porter’s girlfriend, at that point suggested to Mr. Porter he should consider leaving the White House, the people said. But Mr. McGahn did not follow up on the matter.
As presented, does that make any sense at all? McGahn told Porter to consider leaving his post because a "distraught girlfriend" told him THAT Porter "had been unfaithful to her by dating Hope Hicks?" And had "anger problems?"

Does that even seem to make sense? Would you expect McGahn to rush to Kelly and announce that Porter's girl friend thought he'd been unfaithful?

This is an utterly hopeless attempt at a news report. At this point, the Times scribes hand us this manifest propaganda:
DAVIS AND SHEAR (continuing directly): One former White House official, Anthony Scaramucci, who lasted 10 days last year as White House communications director before being removed by Mr. Kelly, weighed in on Tuesday on Mr. Wray’s testimony. Mr. Scaramucci posted on Twitter that Mr. Kelly “almost certainly knew about credible allegations of domestic abuse against Rob Porter at least 6 months ago—then recently forced others to lie about that timeline.”

“Inexcusable,” Mr. Scaramucci added. “Kelly must resign.”
Having presented zero evidence that Kelly ever knew anything, the reporters compensate by quoting Scaramucci, a ludicrous person, who presents no evidence that he has any idea what he's talking about.

This morning's news report reeks of mental incompetence. But so what? On page A3, we're told that it "became a top story as soon as it was published shortly before noon E.T. on Tuesday."

That was before the Sanders presser which was later inserted into the copy. But this attempt at a report is incompetent from beginning to end, like so much Times reporting.

What actually happened with respect to Porter? We have no idea. Here's a guess:

Someone told Trump there was a domestic violence problem. Trump said go pound sand.

What actually happened? We have no way of knowing. But the senators failed to pose competent questions to Wray, whose testimony didn't directly contradict Sanders. At that point, Davis and Shear (and their editors) took over.

Meanwhile, our cable clowns discuss nothing else. They don't care about anything else, surely including that budget.

They're staging an entertaining chase. They don't care if their presentations don't exactly make sense, and they're assuming that you won't notice or care.
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Long ago and far away, we saw this pattern take shape. In their first debate in 1999, Candidates Gore and Bradley gave erudite, detailed discussions of health care.

In response, Mary McGrory wrote a pair of insult-laden columns about Gore's funny clothing and shoes.

Mary McGrory didn't care if the lesser breed lacked health care. She only cared about The Chase, which was then aimed at Gore. He was their surrogate for Clinton, who had survived impeachment.

That same general pattern obtains today. Trump supporters are able to notice, even if our own embarrassing team cannot.

Who actually said that Porter could stay? Did Trump just say go pound sand?

Journalistically, Davis and Shear should have asked the head of that obscure office if Sanders' representations are accurate. Go ahead—read their report. Do you see any clear sign that they approached the head of that office? Do you see any attempt to report what happened when they did?

It's all incompetence, all the way down. It's been this way for decades now. It's plain that nobody cares.

Talk to the hand, Martin Lawrence once said. Today, you can talk to a house!

47 comments:

  1. Agreed. Porter is gone. Good riddance. Syria has 100 or so dead Russians from US bombs, Israel lost an F16, the NATO Turks are killing US backed Kurds, Israel downed an Iranian drone built based on a recovered US drone, Russia seems to be calling all the shots for the Shia states, Israel is not talking to the USA for strategery 'cause we blab secrets, and also too ISIS. But what about Porter again???

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    1. Just wait until the 2018 and 2020 elections. It's going to be all about alleged sexual improprieties. And just that.

      Democrats are fooling themselves to think that their sex-scolding outrage right now isn't going to turn around and bite them in the ass.

      Al Franken was just the start. If the Republicans get desperate enough they'll even find some woman to claim that Adam Schiff pawed all over her in the 1980s.

      It's inevitable.

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    2. What Democratic office holder or candidate has been accused since Franken (don't say Bill Clinton)?

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  2. The NYT and other establishment rags have an agenda to push. And to that end they will mislead and they will lie, lie and mislead, rinse, repeat.

    And that's all there is to it.

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    1. This is a far more succinct, and in my view, honest rendition of what Somerby is saying in his 1000-word post.

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    2. ".they will lie, lie and mislead, rinse, repeat."

      Just like you and your comrades from St. Petersburg.

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    3. Whether he is from St Petersburg or not, he really just giving you the gist of what Somerby is saying.

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    4. And this is the 3rd "honest and succinct" type comment you've made about this troll in the last two posts. Are you feeling alright, or are you just in love?

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    5. Says Mao, the guy who tried to sell Trump as "anti-establishment" and "anti-authoritarian".
      Mao's lies are nonsense, but I can't tell if the Russians should fire him, or give him a raise.

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    6. @Anon 7:53: I'm just pointing out that Mao and Somerby are saying the same thing.

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  3. One would think that Kelly and Trump would have an interest in vetting their employees properly. At any point, could they not have expressed some interest in the background check of Porter, and ordered it expedited, since Porter was handling the most sensitive data? Trump as President is the head of that "obscure" White House Personnel Security Office, not some poor, incompetent boob subject to the whims of that devilish White House Personnel Security Office. Or is he?

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  4. Various members of the white house staff tell a bunch of confusing lies, but it is the fault of the press that they cannot write a clear narrative.

    Sanders never gives a clear statement on any topic. Trump contradicts whatever is actually said by anybody. No one wants to admit their own wrongdoing in any situation, so they tell confusing lies. It is not possible for the press to make sense of this kind of information, on any topic. That is not the fault of the press. It is the fault of an administration that has no respect for truth or transparency or the American people, no sense of what their job is, no duty to perform their work properly.

    Porter resigned because domestic abuse is a crime and pictures were being circulated of his ex-wives' injuries. His stories are even more ridiculous than the ones being told by White House staff. Porter's girl friend was more explicit in her statements about his abuse of her. She wasn't simply distraught because he was cheating on her. She has described actual physical abuse.

    Porter resigned because he is guilty of abusing women. That makes the rest of this confusion a smoke screen intended to excuse White House staff for their failure to (1) deny his security clearance, (2) fire him, (3) issue statements supporting his victims who were physically assaulted. Instead they closed ranks to protect him as long as possible and are now scrambling to avoid responsibility for doing so. This is what the press is saying, in so many words.

    It is troubling that Somerby cannot see the clear meaning of words that are not intended to be read literally. Of course the words "White House" refer to the people who work there, not the house itself. Somerby insults our intelligence when he suggests that anyone intends that meaning. The "White House" is not telling reporters anything with which to write a clear story. Somerby pretends the reporters are not asking the right questions. We all know that isn't true. We've all see the press conferences and interviews.

    Why is Somerby once again giving aid and comfort to Trump and his crew of despicable staff members who have colluded to shelter a wife beater? Trump won't even condemn the acts of Porter and he has said nothing still about Porter's victims. Protecting a felon is not presidential. Why does Somerby not decry Trump's actions? Why does he not recognize that the press is doing so, in the best way it can, by making clear the obfuscation that is occurring at the White House.

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    1. Somerby's blog is a criticism of the media. His entire point is that if the press would do a better job, then Trump's administration wouldn't be able to get away with lies and obfuscations.

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    2. Interesting idea. It just omits the Republican Party, the Republicans in Congress, Fox News et al, and Republican voters as responsible parties. Why do they let Trump get away with his lies and obfuscations?

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    3. “It is not possible for the press to make sense of this kind of information, on any topic.”

      Yes. But they pretend to. Which is the gist of this post, in case you didn’t notice. You wrote some 400 words, and somehow failed to get that very point.

      Talk to my house.

      Leroy

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    4. The press does its best under the circumstances. That is a valid point too.

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    5. It's not Bob's job to make sense of this kind of information either. Bob's job is to run interference for the GOP and repeat their nonsensical idiocy about liberals.

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    6. "They pretend to..."
      Somerby knows when someone is a true progressive or a pseudoprogressive. Somerby knows when someone is a careerist. He knows when certain liberals don't care about a specific issue. He doesn't *pretend* to know these things....he KNOWS them.

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  5. "What actually happened? We have no way of knowing."

    Well, "we", all of us including Somerby, do have a way of knowing, by holding hearings and compelling people to testify. But the Republican solons aren't interested in oversight of Trump.

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  6. "You don't hear them talking about his infrastructure plan. "

    Will it distress Somerby fans to know that "they" did talk about Trump's infrastructure plan? (I heard it myself). Also, there was discussion of his budget plan, including the delivery of food boxes to SNAP recipients.
    Maybe some, including Somerby, didn't hear this, but it was there.
    Why does Somerby feel the need to make these inaccurate statements?

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    1. Who was "they," and what did they actually talk about?

      Thanks,
      Leroy

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    2. Leroy, Somerby used the word "they" to refer to "cable news" and "our journalists" as his two antecedents.
      Here:

      ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES 2/13/18
      Trump plans to cut food stamps, deliver boxes of food
      President Trump is exploiting the conservative myth of the food stamp leech with a new policy that solves no problems but creates plenty.

      THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL 2/12/18
      America's crumbling infrastructure under Trump
      Trump has repeatedly promised to fix America's failing infrastructure. He tried to fulfill that pledge Monday by sending Congress an infrastructure proposal... one that does not guarantee any repairs. Ezra Klein debunks the Trump proposal with Lawrence O'Donnell.

      I read about the budget in Kevin Drum's blog, but just google it and you'll see it in the Post, the Times, everywhere.

      My point is: All Somerby has to say is "They spent, or seem to have spent, more time talking about Porter than about Trump's budget or infrastructure." This would have been a more or less true statement. You tell me why Somerby does this.

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  7. I'm struck by how a particular bad act suddenly becomes infinitely damning. Today, there's a movement to allow ex-felons to hide their crime convictions. The idea is that if this ex-con can do the job he's hired for, his past crime shouldn't prevent him from having that job. And, the elections of Clinton and Obama show that past illegal drug usage is not a bar to being President.

    Meanwhile, Porter, who has not been tried for any crime, let alone convicted, is radioactive. He's so radioactive, that anyone who hired him is radioactive.

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    1. First, he was never tried because his wives were intimidated into not pressing charges. Second, those who covered up for him are radioactive, as they should be. Third, there is no comparison between smoking a little marijuana and wife beating. Neither Clinton nor Obama committed a felony, their "crime" was victimless, and they didn't hide it. Porter is guilty of assault with bodily injury against at least two women, possibly his ex girlfriend too, and perhaps other women. His behavior shows a pattern. Because he was never charged or tried, he has certainly not paid for his crime, as those ex-cons have done.

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    2. Life just ain't fair.

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    3. " ... anyone who hired him is radioactive."

      That fat, orange piece of shit was radioactive long before he hired Porter.

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    4. In David's defense, he truly believes a black person inhaling marijuana smoke is a crime. Of course, as a Republican, he also believes a black person inhaling oxygen is a crime too.

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    5. I'm struck by what a tedious insufferable troll you are David.

      Let's take a look at just another remarkable headline from today, shall we?

      Trump Lawyer’s Payment to Porn Star Raises New Questions

      Just another day in the life of the new America, where a lying sack of shit bullshit artist flimflam man was made the leader of the free world, just cause.

      The election of Donald J. Trump proves that bragging about sexual assault and being a proven fraud and Russian money launderer in addition to being a tax cheat, a pervert and a proud racist is now no longer a bar to being president.

      Congratulations, shithead. Don't you have a Veterans of the John Birch Society meeting to go to today?

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  8. "our Potemkin mainstream orgs were too afraid to complain."

    They were "afraid" to complain about the Whitewater fraud or the Clinton murder tapes? I thought those stories were eagerly embraced and promoted by our mainstream orgs, because the press decided to go after Clinton and Gore.

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    1. I assume by "mainstream orgs" he is referring to mainstream news orgs. Potemkin himself was not a fraud but an important statesman and right hand to Catherine the Great of Russia. The term is "Potemkin village" and refers to fake towns built on a river to convince Catherine of nonexistent progress. There is some doubt whether that ever occurred. But just as Somerby omits the word "news" he also omits "village" and that makes a huge difference in the meaning here.

      It is annoying when Somerby churns out these shorthand phrases as if their accuracy didn't matter as long as we get his tone of complaint. He should put a little more thought into what he writes here, in my opinion.

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    3. These excessive displays of a little bit of knowledge are revealing to anyone who is not all ready wise what poseurs our resident oh so necessarily incognito revolutionaries are. From The Oxford Living Dictionary [LINK]:

      Potemkin^2
      ADJECTIVE
      informal
      Having a false or deceptive appearance, especially one presented for the purpose of propaganda.

      ‘a Potemkin news network, set up only to give the appearance of a free press’

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    4. Yes, we know you can google stuff.

      Now explain what a Potemkin mainstream org is. A deceptive org created for propaganda purposes? So the NY Times, for example, doesn't actually exist? Somerby wrote something lazy that makes no sense. You added free press. Somerby didn't say it and I see no reason to put words in his mouth when he is utterly devoid of linguistic charity toward anyone else.

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    5. The revolutionary at 12:48 AM whose identity is so secret the use of a pseudonym would be too dangerous writes:

      You added free press.

      I didn't add anything. The term "free press" was in the usage example posted by the online dictionary I linked to, a link you didn't click on and hence ended up in error- again. Potemkin has a modern meaning, if after reading the definition from that source you can't admit you were foolish in getting offended by Somerby on Grigory Potemkin's behalf let your mother deal with your maladjustment issues- she's the responsible party.

      (If you know I can google stuff, why don't you see if you can too before pulling the trigger the next time you have a gun pointed at your foot?)

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    6. CMike, you don’t understand that the same doubt about the Potemkin villages (the original usage) can occur with Somerby’s press complaint. Since all you know about Potemkin came from Google, not any knowledge of Russian history, this is all black and white to you, simplistic, and you feel confident calling others names.

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    7. You have a knowledge of Russian history which distinguishes you in some way? Ha, ha, ha- ya poseur LINK.

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    8. You are stubbornly misunderstanding what I said. Some people would call that stupidity. I think you are so enamored of your own thoughts you don’t bother listening to anyone else. Its why no one likes talking to you here.

      Have you read Massie’s book on Catherine the Great? I have. That’s why I object to the way Somerby refers to Potemkin.

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    9. No, but I did read both Robert Massie's Peter the Great and his Nicholas and Alexandra. (You still won't admit Somerby used "Potemkin" correctly- boy you're fouled up.)

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    10. You didn’t read the Massie book about Potemkin but you’re sure I have no point.

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    11. Yes, I'm sure you have no point. I'm sure of a couple of other things about you, too.

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    12. Just for the record, I think CMike’s comments here were both amusing and spot on, especially this one: “The revolutionary at 12:48 AM whose identity is so secret the use of a pseudonym would be too dangerous writes...”

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  9. Happy St. Valentine's Day, NRA: Parkland is the SEVENTH school shooting in 2018!

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  10. Update: the BBC has reported 19 school shootings in 2018. Well done, NRA and its political enablers.

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  11. When Bob starts by clarifying that The White House is not a person, we can assume we are on shaky ground. He does not disappoint....

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  12. How about if reporters went back to quoting exactly what was said by White House personnel (who are all paid by taxpayers and thus have a duty to let their actions be reported on)?

    Then everyone can review the facts at election time.

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    1. Dave the Guitar PlayerFebruary 15, 2018 at 12:37 PM

      Repeating what the government says is commonly called "propaganda". Any news organizations who consider themselves journalists have an obligation to the public to inform. This means repeating what anyone says, without consideration as to whether the statements are true, is irresponsible and wrong. Without a vigorous free press that seeks the truth, when election time comes along there will be no facts to review. We are perilously close to this reality.

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  13. I think it's a fair complaint to point out that if the New York Times reporters asked the head of that obscure office if Sanders' representations were accurate then the report itself would be more accurate and broad terms like "White House" would be precised in such a way that we would all understand the issue better. And it would be more interesting.

    I agree that it's strange or lazy or curious that they didn't ask them and seemingly didn't consider adressing the distinction beyond the brief passing mention.

    Search nuance is obviously simple but it would require the writers and we readers break out of the black and white, Cowboys and Indians, us against them human mold of storytelling and understanding life which obviously is a difficult thing to do but I do agree that it would be better and more interesting and would be more in keeping with a high standard that you would expect out of the world's most prestigious news organization.

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