The American Dream hangs in the balance - Politico - Part II

Gordon Gecko

As promised, I will continue my fight against this article that’s full of shit that just ain’t write. The piece continues:

Today, I still remember those Sunday morning trips to church — not because my parents were striking out at the inequities of a system that created such economic winners (them) and losers (us) — but because of what my mom would say as we drove past the glorious homes of doctors, bankers and lawyers.

“You see that house, Joey?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“If you work hard in school and keep fighting every day to improve yourself, you can live in a place like that when you grow up,” Mom would say with admiration in her voice.

My Mom and Dad believed in the American Dream even when they were dealt a pretty bad hand themselves. And their faith in America paid off, not only for themselves but for their children as well. 

1. “…winners (them) and losers (us)…" Welp, you sure got the loser part right! C’mon Joe, how much pity do you honestly expect us to have on you? You had a loving family, a car, a home, and much more. I think calling yourselves economic losers is losing sight of what it really means to have nothing. 

2. “…Mom would say with admiration in her voice." This line is so cheesy and cliche that it (unfortunately) detracts from your readers’ sense that the story you tell could possibly be true. As far as "good writing" goes, this line is simply horrid. Horrid. I want to scream, man! Reading it is KILLING ME, Joe. This line makes me wish that I had the flashing device that instantly erases your memory, you know, the one Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith use in Men in Black? I need that. Now.

The images of these massive homes and $100,000 cars seemed to clash with the morning headlines announcing a downgrade of the United States’ credit rating and the death of 30 U.S. troops in an endless, expensive war. And while America stumbles toward default, millions of Americans are unemployed and the middle class keeps getting squeezed.

1. “The images…expensive war." The author does a particularly poor job here in explaining why $100,000 cars clash with the United States debt load. If anything, I’d argue that the two do not clash at all, but are closely correlated. What I mean is that the massive homes and $100,000 cars represent the reasons behind our debt load.

2. “And while America…keeps getting squeezed." Again, the two things you try to juxtapose against one another as not supposed to be happening at the same time…should in fact be happening hand in hand (as they currently are). So tell me: Would it make sense to say that while America stumbles toward default, we should expect our country to have a low unemployment rate? See what I mean.

In late 2009, Business Week reported that the divide in corporate America was only getting worse: “While we’re seeing record-low budgeting for base salaries, we’re seeing record-high budgeting for bonuses.”

The article showed evidence that CEO bonuses were at their highest levels in the 33 years the data have been recorded. 

“What’s counterintuitive,” according to a compensation expert interviewed by Business Week, “is that the highest level of funding for bonuses is occurring in the heart of the recession.”

“Counterintuitive” seems to be a bit of an understatement. Shortsighted and stupid better describes a trend that cannot be seen as good for the long-term health of America’s economy.

While these income disparity trends were bad under George W. Bush, they have only gotten worse over the last three years.

Since 1970, executive pay has increased 430 percent while workers’ wages have crept up at a pace that barely kept up with inflation. The average executive’s pay has jumped over that time period to 158 times that of the average worker’s pay in those companies. It’s no wonder that the top 0.1 percent of income earners get richer by the day while millions of Americans are seeing their situations get worse.

This is not John Wayne’s America. This is Gordon Gekko’s America.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that if the Duke faced one of these CEOs in a John Ford film, he’d kick some ass and force the leech to start treating his workers fair. And you can bet that my Republican father would be cheering him on from the front row of the theater. 

That’s not to say that Dad would ever want the government to step in and tell companies what to pay their executives. He wouldn’t — not in a million years. But he would ask what became of the America that he knew, where working hard and playing by the rules always paid off.

This weekend I began to wonder, 40 years after those Sunday morning drives, whether parents across the country still embrace the American Dream with the evangelical fervor that made a 7-year-old boy sitting in the back of a Buick believe that in America, anything is possible.

For the sake of time and my sanity, I’ll say I agree (from a critical reader’s point of view) with everything that I have not bolded, as they are facts. They are facts that I admit are not something for our country to be proud of. But I’m here to comment on your writing more so than the meaning behind the content. That being said:

1. “In fact…workers fair." Right. Instead of offering an intelligent solution, simplify what your idea of a "problem-fixer" would be by evoking a John Wayne character "kick[ing] some ass" and making everything all right. I thought you were once a Congressman? Oh, OK, makes sense now. You’re a silly cartoon of idealogical dogma. And oh yeah, the last word there should not be “fair,” but “fairly.” That’s minus five for grammar, young man.

2. “That’s not to say…paid off." So your dad would not question what the CEO pays himself (for he is a staunch conservative I imagine) and so would not be a union worker picketing and complaining, but would simply reflect a question upon himself and ponder… Hmmm…. I really don’t see your point here about what your dad would and would not do outside of just mulling things over and being sad about the state of corporate America. (But remember! Joe’s dad would NOT be against the CEO paying himself millions if he wanted to).

3. “This weekend…anything is possible." I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect ending to this article. This last paragraph makes me want to see Joe Scarborough stand up and sing and shake his booty to an original cover of 2 Live Crew’s “Me So Horny” with Joe changing the words to "ME SO CORNY." 

…And I’m spent.

Shit just ain’t write.

http://politi.co/pM3yDK

The American Dream hangs in the balance - Politico - Part I

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First, a little bit about this article’s author, Joe Scarborough:

Joe is an American cable news and talk radio host, author, and former politician. He is currently the host of Morning Joe on MSNBC, and previously hosted Scarborough Country on the same channel. Scarborough served in the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001 as a Republican from the 1st district of Florida.

I respect and like Joe, I really do. I even like his show. But that does not excuse him from penning a piece that just ain’t write. You see, every dog has his day. And today, Joe Scarborough is that dog.

This opinion piece (originally published on 8/9), typifies a theme that has been making its rounds through the media for some time now. Namely, the theme of “The American Dream is gone, and now let’s exaggerate that Dream like everything was perfect, and then let’s melodramatically juxtapose it against America’s current state of hopelessness and despair.” Fine. But as of late, this theme has reached critical mass, and has been spewing out of our news outlets, intelligentsia, and talking heads ad nauseam. And I’ve had enough. 

The article begins:

My mom and dad were born in the middle of the Great Depression, came of age during World War II and graduated college when Eisenhower was president. American power was at its zenith, millions of troops were joining the work force, our old rivals’ factories lay in ruins and interstate highways were springing up across the USA. 

1. Remember when I said that every dog has his day? Well, Joe’s opener here is so corny, that I should have instead said that every corn dog has his day. (Yes, I realize that that joke in and of itself is corny). This reads like the beginning of a Disney movie for god’s sake (unfortunately, minus the Elton John soundtrack).

2. "…millions of troops were joining the work force…" True, millions of troops were joining the work force. But how about the hundreds of thousands of troops America had forced to fight in World War II, and consequently could not join the work force because they were dead? Oh yes, Joe, everything was just peachy perfect.

3. “Our rivals’ factories lay in ruins and interstate highways were springing up…" Gee, Joe, that is great. We not only destroyed entire countries and killed their people, but we even built highways, too! C’mon. Yes, today we are (regrettably) in many wars; but there is no forced draft, and though there has been a great toll exacted on our country and its people, I don’t think you can argue it was any better back then. Perhaps it was even worse.

The article continues:

Regardless of my family’s financial challenges, my mother and father always believed that in America there were no such things as short cuts, hard work was always rewarded and the good guys always won in the end.

1.  Financial challenges? Check. Sounds a lot like today, don’t it?

2. Unless by “mother and father” Joe literally means “nun and priest,” the above bit about believing that there were no such things as short cuts, hard work was always rewarded, and the good guys always won in the end is the biggest bunch of hyperbolic journalism bullshit I’ve ever read. What Joe writes here is not true, if only because it can’t be true. Why must you make the American narrative into a bedtime story? Quit treating your readership like naive children. 

Then:

Dad was a true-blue member of what historian Garry Wills called John Wayne’s America. But unlike Wills, Dad saw no dark undertones in a country that had blessed him with a job, a home in the suburbs and a Buick in the driveway.

Even when Dad was unemployed for 18 months, his faith in America never wavered. He still believed that hard work and prayer could knock down any obstacle standing in his way.

1. John Wayne “epitomized rugged masculinity and became an enduring American icon." For that, I give him credit. But let me tell you something about "John Wayne’s America": It was an America where, for example, women faced innumerable social obstacles in the workforce as well as in their educational pursuits. John Wayne’s America was one where African-Americans still lived under the Jim Crow laws. To clarify, that meant the segregation of public schools, public places and public transportation, and the segregation of restrooms, restaurants and drinking fountains for whites and blacks. And the U.S. military was also segregated.

2. How your dad “saw no dark undertones" in John Wayne’s America is beyond me. Yes, he had been blessed with a job, a home in the suburbs, and even a Buick in the driveway. And yes, for that he should have been thankful. But to pretend like John Wayne’s America was void of dark undertones, when (to just name one example) we still expected women to stay at home in the kitchen, and black people to ride on separate buses, is grossly irresponsible in your role as a journalist, and as a purveyor of American history.

3. Unemployed for 18 months? Check. Sounds a lot like today, don’t it? And it’s great that prayer and his belief in America sustained your dad through those tough times. But that is more a reflection of your father’s attitude than a reflection of America as a whole. The article continues:

I remember our Sunday mornings in Meridian, Miss., when Dad was searching for a good-paying job while Mom was trying to help pay the bills working as a music teacher and church organist. The route that took us from our neighborhood to First Baptist Church in Meridian took us down a long, winding street called Country Club Drive.

It was the kind of street you would see in most Southern towns in 1970, with beautiful homes framed by perfectly manicured lawns. The garages of those houses usually held more Cadillacs than Buicks, and the golf course that wrapped around that neighborhood was the type my brother and I were never allowed to play on because our family had no chance of becoming members.

1. Ok, I’m losing my shit now. I’m going to puke. I am puking. Hold on… Ok, I’m done. Where was I? Oh yeah: “Long winding street…" I just threw up again.

2. Oh, so it was the kind of street you’d see in most Southern towns in 1970… You mean the one “with beautiful homes framed by perfectly manicured lawns”? No, you must be talking about Forrest Gump’s home or something. Or maybe you just mean most Southern streets where only white people lived. The South was poor. People were poor. And not only your family couldn’t become members at a golf club! I think I’m gonna be sick again…

So that concludes Part I of this post. I want to comment on all of it, because it only gets worse. But alas, for now I can take no more. One thing’s for sure:

Shit just ain’t write.

http://politi.co/pM3yDK

Alcohol Math: Who Gets Drunk and Why - WSJ.com

Keg Stand

I would rather not continue to bash The WSJ, but I just can’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Especially considering that this article has maintained the top spot as the “most read” article on wsj.com for some time now. 

As the title suggests, in this piece (originially published 8/2/11) Melinda Beck explores the varying effects of alcohol, and does so through “a party experiment” of sorts. But calm down, children, because this party experiment isn’t your typical experiment involving alcohol at a party. No, people did not take their clothes off and chant, “Keg stand! Keg stand! Keg stand!” (or at least the author chose not to write about it!).

So the full header to the article, including the subtitle, is:

Testing the Limits of Tipsy: Many Factors Alter the Effects of Alcohol; A Party Experiment

1. “Many Factors…” Wait, you mean to tell me that more than one factor can alter the effects of alcohol? You don’t say! Question: Assuming that the WSJ readers are over 12 years of age, how could anyone not already know that more than one factor alters the effects of alcohol? You are a journalist, writing to group of humans that, collectively, are known as your “audience.” Remember them, remember us, and please don’t treat us like dumb-dumbs who have never (gasp!) had a beer before.

We haven’t even started on the actual body of the article yet. There is a video and a report of sorts that accompanies the article, and under the video is the following subtitle:

How much alcohol does it take to reach a blood-alcohol level of .08%, the legal intoxication level in all 50 states? Since Alcohol clearly affects some people more than others, Melinda Beck looks at whether that affects their blood-alcohol level?

1. The sentence that I bolded above is by far and away one of the worst (and funniest!) sentences I’ve encountered in my brief career. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry…so I’ll just do both! First, notice the question mark at the end of the sentence.  Melinda, putting question marks at the end of sentences that aren’t questions makes you sound like a teenager? I believe the term for this is “uptalk” or “upspeak,” amongst others. Now, I ask that you read the entire sentence to yourself and ask yourself this: Does this sentence make any sense whatsoever? Let’s break it down. What you are saying, or trying to say, is that a) because alcohol clearly affects some people more than others, then b) Melinda Beck looks at whether that affects their blood-alcohol level. Huh?  Melinda I don’t even know what to do with this one because it makes no sense on so many levels. Like, OMG I am rofl so hard right now.

At long last, the article begins:

How much alcohol does it take to get intoxicated?

Many people figure a few beers at a ballgame or a couple of glasses of wine with dinner won’t put them over the legal limit for driving. But how alcohol affects people is highly individual, with a number of factors in the mix.

1. "How much alchohol does it take to get intoxicated?" Um…is that a question or a challenge?

2. “Many People…” Not to be a party experiment pooper here, but where are you getting this info from? Many people, as far as we know, could very well mean “your buddies that you play checkers with.” You might want to list a source before basing your article off a point that could easily not be true at all.

3. Just by judging the tone of your writing, I have to assume that you inadvertently put a wonderful pun here (…with a number of factors in the mix”). Actually, that’s a pretty good one! I just think you missed it. But I don’t know. At least I want to point it out to my readers because they deserve to see a good pun, especially one that was truly not intended.

A few lines down, she continues:

Carbonated beverages raise alcohol levels faster, because the gas irritates the stomach lining, causing alcohol to be absorbed faster. (Sweet or caffeinated alcoholic drinks aren’t absorbed any faster, it just seems that way because people often consume more of them than they realize.)

Many Asians have a genetic variation that gives them a flush and a very rapid heartbeat from even a small amount of alcohol.

And factors like fatigue, stress, illness and depression can magnify alcohol’s impact.

1. The only reason I put this in here is because I want to point out just how out of place and awkward her line about Asians are. Maybe you have to click through and see the actual article to fully understand how utterly strange this sentence feels in the flow of reading. Ha ha! It is funny though, I must admit.

Then, a bit later, she writes:

In the U.S., it is illegal for adults to drive with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above .08%, which represents the percentage of alcohol in the bloodstream. For drivers under 21, any alcohol in the blood is illegal.

1. That just ain’t true! A simple Wikipedia search would have told you that. Wikipedia says: “Drivers under 21 (the most common US legal drinking age), however, are held to stricter standards under zero tolerance laws. Adopted in varying forms in all states, these laws hold the driver to much lower blood alcohol content levels for criminal and/or license suspension purposes, commonly 0.01% to 0.05%.” (Blood alcohol content. (2011, August 3). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 02:31, August 4, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Blood_alcohol_content&oldid=442918106)

The fact that you misrepresent this simple fact proves (at least in my mind) that this entire article is based off of the plain assumptions of one individual.

Shit just ain’t write.

http://on.wsj.com/oFFEWF

Toying With Default - WSJ.com

President Obama

This article, originally published 7/25/11, appears in the Opinion section of WSJ.com. There does not appear to be a specific human author of the article, so I am left to assume that this is the opinion of The WSJ, in general. This is great news because now I can scrutinize the entire Journal, instead of one lone mortal (I’ll find you wherever you are!). The piece begins:

Barack Obama was in full-scold mode Friday night, summoning Congressional leaders to the White House to "explain to me how it is that we are going to avoid default." It’s a terrific question, albeit one the President refuses to answer.

Not half-scold mode, or ¾-scold mode, but full on freakin’ scold mode!

Wrong! “Congressional” is NOT supposed to be capitalized unless it is a part of a proper name. (Or, in my case, at the beginning of a sentence.) If the author was to argue that this instance is a proper name, then “leaders” should have been capitalized as well.

The way this is written is so confusing it makes me think that whoever wrote it did not go back even once to read over what he or she had written. I mean, seriously, just try saying this sentence aloud or to a friend and see just how awkward you sound. I get the point, but considering how often people are quoted in news articles, I am surprised that the author couldn’t figure out a clearer way to put this on the page.

A few lines down:

Now House Republicans and Senate Democrats are each working to craft their own plans, and it says something that the country has a better shot of getting something out of a divided Congress than it does out of the Oval Office.

Pray tell, what exactly is the “it” that “says something”? In other words: What says something, and what is it saying? Don’t imply your opinions, state them clearly.

Behind the scenes the White House has only ever agreed to token reform and cuts. Here’s a number for the debt history books: Mr. Obama’s final offer in the Biden talks was a $2 billion cut in 2012 nondefense discretionary spending. The federal government spends more than $10 billion a day.

Oh, I get it. You must have unique access to the behind-the-scenes action of the White House. Wait, is that you I see on TV waiving behind the President? It is! Here’s the point: you don’t know what you’re talking about, because you are in front of the scenes, not behind them. Trust me.

I’ll give you a number for the debt history books: 0. That’s the amount of brain cells you have you hacky-sack playing sack sucking hack. You distort by writing “…$2B in NONDEFENSE discretionary spending.” It’s funny that you forgot to mention that the government spends nearly $3.5 billion a day on DEFENSE spending, as if that is not spending. Then you shock and awe by spewing a big $10 billion to scare the folks at home. I am not disagreeing politically here, but am disagreeing with journalistic flim-flammery and shameless number-pulling tactics.

There so much crap in this article, and I just don’t have time for it all. You can see for yourself though. 

Shit just ain’t write.

http://on.wsj.com/qRQeP3

Let’s Ban Books, or at Least Stop Writing Them - NYTimes.com

Bill Keller

Bill Keller (pictured above as he glimpses up from his book of choice), who recently resigned from his post as NYT editor, penned this beauty. The article begins:

There was exciting news last month among the Twitterati. Brian Stelter, The New York Times prodigy and master of social media, announced to his 64,373 followers that he is going to write a book. The obvious question: What’s up with that?

Not that I doubt he can do it. The man The New York Observer calls our “Svelte Twitter Svengali” has a history of setting the bar high and vaulting over it.

Admittedly, I don’t know much about Mr. Keller. But from what I can tell, he is kind of an a-hole who hasn’t exactly embraced “new media” in the past. So it comes as no surprise that this piece is sprinkled with sarcasm, as Bill seems to take issue with the boatloads of books that his NYT staff has written, and subsequently put before him to read (In his words, “But still the reporters — and editors, too — keep coming to sit in my office among the teetering stacks of Times-written books that I mean to read someday and to listen politely to my description of book-writing Gethsemane, and then they join the cliff-bound lemmings anyway.”).

“There was exciting news…” Oh, Billy Boy, you sound simply thrilled. (Attention staff: Genuine emotion on aisle 3.)

“…among the Twitterati.” Aka, the news was exciting for other people, but definitely NOT ME. But at least I use Twit-savvy lingo, right?

“…prodigy and master of social media…” Let the sarcasm flow like the sweet tears of this guy.

“…64,373 followers…” But really, who’s counting?

“The obvious question: What’s up with that?” Bill, you are obviously using the word obvious in jest, because no one, and I repeat NO ONE, ever defers to “What’s up with that?” as being an obvious question.

Not that I doubt he can do it.” At this point, I think that’s about the thing you doubt most.

He continues:

For years now the populist prophets of new media have been proclaiming the death of books, and the marketplace seems to back them up. Sales of print books in the U.S. peaked in 2005 and have been in steady decline since, according to publishers’ net revenue data reported to the Association of American Publishers. (his hyperlink, not mine)

Wait, whaaa? Please don’t tell me you are going to throw out stats about print books as if that is the only kind of format your staffers intend to publish. You used the word Twitterati for crying outsoftlytomyselfeverynightaloneinmybed! Now you’ve just jumped back forty years in time…and in our hearts.

There is some fluff in between, a few wise cracks, but here’s how the (near) end goes:

But that does not explain why writers write them. Writers write them for reasons that usually have a little to do with money and not as much to do with masochism as you might think. There is real satisfaction in a story deeply told, a case richly argued, a puzzle meticulously untangled. (Note the tense. When people say they love writing, they usually mean they love having written.) And it is still a credential, a trophy, a pathway to “Charlie Rose” and “Morning Joe,” to conferences and panels that Build Your Brand, to speaking fees and writing assignments. After Brian’s book, he will be an even more stellar Stelter. (Reminder: Brian Stelter is the guy he talks about in the beginning of the article)

What you really mean is writers write books “for reasons that usually have little to do with money and not as much to do with masochism as I, Bill Keller, might think.”

Stellar Stelter? You sir, are a comedian. I should book you a tour. No seriously, Bill, hit me up. I know a guy who is an agent for all the top comedians. Now that you’re done with The Times, why not? I know I’d pay to see it.  (That’s a lie.)

Shit just ain’t write.

http://nyti.ms/njVcsF

Watching Nuts and Bolts for Clues to the Economy - WSJ.com

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This WSJ article begins:

No soft patch here.

Recent concern over the health of the U.S. economy has somehow left sales—and shares—at Fastenal Co. unscathed. This is no small feat. Fastenal, which is due out with second-quarter earnings Tuesday, is one of the biggest publicly traded industrial distributors in North America. Quite literally, Fastenal sells the nuts and bolts of the economy. So if anyone should suffer from even a small hiccup in economic output, it would seem a prime candidate.

1.   Um, no soft patch where? 

2.   “Recent concern over the health of the U.S. Economy has somehow left sales…” Somehow, eh? Well, gee, Ms. Evans, I wonder how? You wouldn’t happen to know how, would ya, Ms. Evans? Of course you know how, and now it’s only a matter of time before you tell me. Please tell me. Please.

3.   You’re very close to correctly using the word “literally” in this sentence, but in the (figurative) end, you are just a wee bit off.  If, however, you wrote, “Quite literally, Fastenal sells nuts and bolts in the economy,” then you’d be (figuratively) cookin’ with gas. (Note: You still make your point, I’m just being a nit-picky sonuva gun.)

4.   Going back to point 2, what’s with these leading phrases? “…it would seem…” When you say that, what you are really saying is: “It would seem…TO EVERYONE BUT ME BECAUSE I KNOW SOMETHING YOU DON’T KNOW!” Listen, there’s simply no need to brag.

The writer continues:

Yet Fastenal shares are up 21% since January. And they have jumped nearly 15% since early June alone, when the company posted surprisingly strong May sales, which were up 22.6% from a year earlier. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect Fastenal will report earnings of about 30 cents a share, up 25% from a year earlier.

Ok, now we’re getting warmer, and I get it. Fastenal should be hurting, and it would seem a prime candidate to be suffering, but somehow it isn’t. For the love of nuts and bolts, please, pretty please, tell me why!

The key, says Morgan Keegan analyst Brent Rakers, is that the company has little exposure to the auto sector, which has been roiled by Japan-related supply disruptions.

Whew. Thank you Ms. Kelly Evans, thank you. 

Shit just ain’t write.

http://on.wsj.com/qSHEsZ

Tough Line: US Suspends Military Aid to Pakistan - ABC News

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This AP story begins:

The Obama administration’s decision to suspend $800 million in aid to the Pakistan’s military signals a tougher U.S. line with a critical but sometimes unreliable partner in the fight against terrorism.

I’ve highlighted the word “but” because using it in this instance might very well be the reason that the children scream “uh-oh!” in those Spaghetti-Os commercials. “…a critical but sometimes unreliable partner…” Huh? Hear me out: I like buts and I cannot lie, yet the word “critical” and the phrase “sometimes unreliable” are not contradictory in any way. If anything, I would have opted for the word and in this case (“…a critical and sometimes unreliable…”).

If the AP wrote something like “…a critical but sometimes cooperative partner…” then they’d be making sense.

Shit just ain’t write.

http://abcn.ws/nCXzwm