Patterico's Pontifications

10/31/2007

My Latest E-Mail to the L.A. Times’s “Readers’ Representative,” — or, “You Keep Using That Word. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.”

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 10:38 pm

I just sent this to the Readers’ Representative of the L.A. Times:

Jamie,

I’m disappointed with your response in general, on several levels. But I’m especially surprised by your response regarding Tim Rutten’s claim that The New Republic admitted concocting the story about the disfigured woman. This is because corrections are your business, and I would think you would be especially sensitive to a false charge that a media outlet had admitted making up a story.

You may not have read the correction that the editors of The New Republic published. You can read it here. Let me quote for you the relevant paragraphs regarding the disfigured woman:

Beauchamp’s essay consisted of three discrete anecdotes. In the first, Beauchamp recounted how he and a fellow soldier mocked a disfigured woman seated near them in a dining hall. Three soldiers with whom TNR has spoken have said they repeatedly saw the same facially disfigured woman. One was the soldier specifically mentioned in the Diarist. He told us: “We were really poking fun at her; it was just me and Scott, the day that I made that comment. We were pretty loud. She was sitting at the table behind me. We were at the end of the table. I believe that there were a few people a few feet to the right.”

The recollections of these three soldiers differ from Beauchamp’s on one significant detail (the only fact in the piece that we have determined to be inaccurate): They say the conversation occurred at Camp Buehring, in Kuwait, prior to the unit’s arrival in Iraq. When presented with this important discrepancy, Beauchamp acknowledged his error. We sincerely regret this mistake.

I emphasize certain language that makes clear that the editors are making an admission of an error, and not an admission that the story was made up. (In reality, the story may well have been made up, but that’s a different issue from what the editors have admitted.) The editors are attempting to make the case that the story was not made up, but rather is accurate in its essence — supported (they say) by three soldiers. It suffers, they claim, only from an error regarding the location of the incident.

Your columnist Tim Rutten characterized that correction as follows:

The magazine determined that the incident involving the disfigured woman was concocted and corrected that, but also reported that interviews with Beauchamp’s comrades substantiated his version of the other events.

I would like you to put yourself in the shoes of the editors of The New Republic for a moment. Imagine for a second that you wrote the above correction regarding an article in the Los Angeles Times. It shouldn’t be hard to do; you write similar corrections on a regular basis.

In your correction, you take care to note the corroborating evidence supporting the story as reported by your newspaper. The point of your correction is to communicate that the paper stands behind the story, with the caveat that an error was made regarding one fact, and only one fact: the location of the incidents in question.

Now imagine that a blogger named Patterico came along and characterized your correction as follows:

The L.A. Times determined that the incident involving the disfigured woman was concocted and corrected that, but also reported that interviews with Beauchamp’s comrades substantiated his version of the other events.

I think you would be quite angry to see your correction so badly mischaracterized — and rightfully so. You and I both speak the English language, and we both know that the word “concocted” has a specific meaning in this context. Specfically, it means “invented” or “made up.” It is not a word used to describe stories that are accurate, but that suffer from an error. As someone who deals with corrections on a daily basis, I know that you are fully familiar with the difference between errors, and stories that are “concocted.”

It occurs to me that you might not have personally seen the language of the correction that Rutten so badly mischaracterized. That is why I took care to quote the entire relevant passage in this e-mail.

Now that you have seen it, I ask you: do you stand behind this language that you e-mailed me earlier today?

The columnist’s point is that, as a scene in Iraq, it was “concocted” in that it never happened there. The magazine corrected it, which means editors admit it never happened there.

Surely not. Surely you can’t seriously argue that Rutten fairly characterized the nature of the editors’ correction. Surely you can’t support the use of the word “concocted” to refer to what the magazine’s editors claimed was a simple error.

Can you?

Let me put the question to you another way. What if Scott Thomas Beauchamp were the one writing you demanding a correction? And what if he pointed out that The New Republic had never accused him of having “concocted” the story? Would you be as resistant to a correction then?

In other words, does the running of a correction depend upon the identity of the person who brings the error to your attention?

Yours truly,

Patrick Frey

http://patterico.com

Now, as it happens, the “error” we are discussing — locating the incident in Iraq instead of Kuwait — suggests that in reality the story may indeed have been concocted. (Also, it undercuts the whole reason that the story was included in the piece: namely, to suggest that Beauchamp mocked the disfigured woman due to the horrors of war.) But the editors have not admitted that — and that is what Rutten claimed had happened; that the editors had “determined” that the story was “concocted.”

It’s just not so.

Rutten’s insistence to the contrary is just one of the many sloppy errors he made in his column. These errors, taken together, show that he had no business writing this column.

P.S. If this is the new L.A. Times definition of “concocted,” then brother, this paper has concocted a lot more stories than even I had accused them of concocting.

UPDATE: For example, this one.

L.A. Times Editor Denies Having Heard About the Sex Scandal Story — And I Believe Him

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 7:11 pm

As some of you noticed, Matt Welch left a comment on that L.A. Times Suppressed Sex Scandal post this morning, saying he hadn’t heard a thing about it. He sent me a more elaborate denial by e-mail, which I blogged at Hot Air, here.

Update on Olbermann and HuffPuff — What did he say?

Filed under: General — WLS @ 5:24 pm

Posted by WLS:

Here is my post earlier today on Olbermann with HuffPuff last night prior to the Dem. Debate.  Part of their segment was about supposed comments by Giuliani to the effect that Clinton and Edwards would invite OBL to the WH. 

In the passage I first copied from  the Countdown transcript, I changed one word because I thought there was a transcription error based on what Olbermann and HuffPuff said afterwards.  The transcript of Giuliani’s Video Clip had “Assad” which I changed to ”[Osama].”  Since the whole point of Olbermann and HuffPuff’s exchange was to suggest that Giuliani had been serious in suggesting the Dems would invite OBL to the WH, I assumed the video of Giuliani was clear and the transcript was wrong.

Olbermann made a big point of pondering whether Giuliani was engaged in “hyperbole” or “lying” in making this statement, and HuffPuff came right back and said of course he was “lying.” 

 But, the American Spectator blog has the video up, showing that Giuliani did, in fact, say “Assad”, and not “Osama.” 

The video is here — and there is no doubt Giuliani said “Assad”.  

Now, consider those FACTS while contemplating the entire exchange between  Olbermann and HuffPuff — accusing Giuliani of LYING when if fact they were LYING about what Giuliani had said.  They had the video – they showed it. 

Bottom Line — Giuliani said Clinton and Edwards would invite Almadinejad and Assad to the WH.  They are the ones who have mentioned the need for diplomacy and meeting with our adversaries on that part of the world to work out our differences. 

But, contrary to the entire import of the Olbermann-HuffPuff exchange, Giuliani said nothing about OBL.  

Now that is what rational people call LYING.

The American Spectator Blog is all over this here.  

 UPDATE on 11/1:  Apparently this whole matter began with an incorrect quotation of Giuliani’s comments by an AP reporter.   Today the AP has issued a correction stating that Giuliani’s comment was that “Assad” might be invited to the WH, not “Osama.”  

No correction was made last night on Countdown.

Given that Herr Olbermann started his harangue with the claim that Giuliani said Clinton and Edwards would invite  Osama Bin Laden to the WH  — “OLBERMANN:  A year before the election and Rudy Giuliani is already publicly contending the Democrats are willing to invite Osama bin Laden to the White House to negotiate.  Sure they are, buster” — it is clear that the Countdown producer who spotted this story used the AP as his/her source.

What is truly shoddy is that Olbermann played the actual video of Giuliani’s statement in which he clearly says “Assad” and not “Osama”, meaning that rather than simply relying on the AP’s reporting, they searched out the video for use on the broadcase.   Either no one cared to listen closely to the audio when they reviewed it, or they were simply intent on LYING about Giuliani.  

So, either Olbermann LIED about Giuliani lying, or Olbermann LIED about Giuliani’s comment.

Either way, Olbermann is the person for whom truth is a challenging concept.

L.A. Times Refuses to Correct Clear Errors; Justifies Decision with Sophistry

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 4:46 pm

Like Michael Goldfarb, I received an e-mail from the L.A. Times “Readers’ Representative” today refusing to correct numerous clear errors in a recent column by Tim Rutten. (My previous correspondence with the Readers’ Representative on this issue can be read here.)

The e-mail I received answers a question that the e-mail to Goldfarb did not: namely, why is the paper refusing to correct Rutten’s false claim that “Beauchamp has remained in Iraq with his unit and the magazine has been unable to communicate with him” since August? As Goldfarb says, even The New Republic doesn’t believe this.

When you put the two e-mails together, here is the current state of affairs:

  • Drudge included a link to the Memorandum for Record, but Rutten gets to say he didn’t.
  • The editors of The New Republic never admitted that Beauchamp made up the story about the disfigured woman, but Rutten gets to say they did.
  • The editors of The New Republic have talked to Beauchamp since August, but Rutten gets to say they didn’t.
  • Beauchamp gave no description of the disfigured woman as an Iraqi, but Rutten gets to say he did.
  • The L.A. Times believes that trying to run over dogs is the same as running over dogs and killing them.

Here is the full text of the e-mail I received. It is breathtaking in the depth and breadth of the disingenuous arguments it advances.

Thanks for your follow-up notes.

L.A. Times columnists, Rutten among them, are encouraged to use their columns as forums for their fact-based assessments of news events. His assessments might not match yours, but that doesn’t mean that his assessments warrant correction.

Regarding the first point that you raised: With all due respect for your analysis, I don’t think that readers were misled on that point. Even an individual who wasn’t as careful a reader as you couldn’t fail to note that much of Rutten’s column was about the communications between the editors and the soldier. To your other points: While the disfigured woman was not specifically described as being Iraqi, the columnist infers from the fact that she was there (vs. being sent home as a U.S. soldier or civilian would be) that she is Iraqi. Rutten referred to the Bradleys as trying to run over stray dogs, vs. kill the dogs, but I’m not seeing that point as warranting correction (I can’t imagine that a reader thinks that a Bradley trying to run over dogs is any different from a Bradley trying to kill dogs); re: whether, as the column said, the magazine “determined that the incident involving the disfigured woman was concocted and corrected”: The columnist’s point is that, as a scene in Iraq, it was “concocted” in that it never happened there. The magazine corrected it, which means editors admit it never happened there.

Thank you again for raising these points,

Jamie Gold
Readers’ Representative

Gold doesn’t respond to my point that Rutten falsely claimed that “Drudge provided links to the transcripts and report but not to the purported ‘Memorandum for Record.’” But her response can be seen in the e-mail to Goldfarb:

Rutten’s assessment is that it was not clear that the memo at the end of the military officer’s report/summary is the same one to which Drudge’s original post referred. The columnist’s thinking: Drudge lists it apart from the final document, but — as Rutten wrote — Drudge provides no link, nor does he say it can be found at the end of the report, seeming to indicate possession of another document, but providing no link. I don’t believe that Rutten’s column warrants correction on that point.

That is stunningly disingenuous. In the documents Drudge posted was a document labeled:

memorandum-for-record.JPG

Rutten said it wasn’t there. It was. The paper won’t correct it. They should.

In the e-mail to me, Gold is careful to separate herself from Rutten’s argument that he was to correct to say the magazine had labeled the disfigured woman story as “concocted.” Ms. Gold’s job is to deal with corrections. She knows when a media outlet has admitted error and when they have admitted making something up — and she knows that the two are quite different.

This is about Timothy Rutten pigheadedly refusing to admit when he’s been caught with his pants down.

Ms. Gold, Rutten’s assessments don’t have to match mine, but they do have to match the facts. They don’t. And it is a shameful episode for your paper that the editors don’t seem to care.

UPDATE: I sent Ms. Gold an e-mail response, republished here, and focused my complaint on the distortion of the word “concocted.” There is much else I could have said in response. But I’m taking it one point at a time.

Westboro Baptist Church hit with $11M Judgment

Filed under: Law — DRJ @ 3:30 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka KS is well-known for its objection to homosexuality. Church members picket military funerals based on the belief that the war in Iraq is a punishment for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.

One grieving father whose son’s funeral was the subject of a protest sued the Church for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Church claimed it was exercising its right to free speech. Today the jury returned an $11M verdict against the Church:

“Albert Snyder of York, Pa., sued the Westboro Baptist Church for unspecified damages after members demonstrated at the March 2006 funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq.

The jury first awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages. It returned later in the afternoon with its decision to award $6 million in punitive damages for invasion of privacy and $2 million for causing emotional distress.”

The Judge noted that the size of the award for the compensatory damages alone “far exceeds the net worth of the defendants” according to financial statements filed with the court.

Good.

– DRJ

Hey Barack — about that fight you mentioned last night? You should have stuck around for the end of the movie.

Filed under: General — WLS @ 3:23 pm

Posted by WLS:

Rocky loses.

H/T TheNote

For those of you that missed it:

Barack Obama: Well, first of all, I think some of this stuff gets over- hyped. In fact, I think this has been the most hyped fight since Rocky fought Apollo Creed, although the amazing thing is, I’m Rocky in this situation.

Halloween 2007

Filed under: General — DRJ @ 3:16 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Happy Halloween everyone!

– DRJ

I hesitate to even post this, but I find it all simply too amusing for words. Go listen for yourself

Filed under: General — WLS @ 2:49 pm

Posted by WLS:

I’m going to resist the urge to post a link to the National Enquirer’s web site, but if you go to Drudge he has the link to an recorded telephone conversation between bounty hunter Duane “The Dog” Chapman and his son Tucker concerning Tucker’s romance with a certain young woman of African-American ancestry.

The reason this is so amusing is because Chapman has turned himself into this national folk hero with his A&E Television show, but the reality is that he’s a low-life scum opportunist — a fact well known by those that have crossed his path when the cameras weren’t rolling.

Go listen for yourself, and reach your own conclusions.

Update 11/2:  Two days ago A&E announced that production was being suspended on the show — an altogether empty gesture since Dog is spending 100% of his time right now promoting his autobiography recently released, and the show was slated to return to production until January. 

But today A&E announced that it is removing the show from its schedule immediately, until further notice. 

That’s a big hit because that show had to occupy a dozen or more hours of programming over the course of a week for A&E.  

Two sponsors have also pulled their support for the show.

While The Political Universe is Focusing on Hillary’s Implosion Last Night, I Caught a few Minutes of Herr Olbermann’s Mash of a Show

Filed under: General — WLS @ 12:53 pm

Obviously Olbermann knew his msnbc was going to get stepped on by the msnbc Demo debate that was to follow him.  But, he did a segment on Giuliani with Arianna as his guest that was …. well, vacuous and vapid would be kind descriptions of their exchange.

First, there was head-scratcher:

OLBERMANN:  A year before the election and Rudy Giuliani is already publicly contending the Democrats are willing to invite Osama bin Laden to the White House to negotiate.  Sure they are, buster. 

….

OLBERMANN:  And having lambasted his Democratic counterparts on Iraq, Giuliani proceeded to attack them for proposing diplomacy with Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI:  It‘s not like this happy, romantic world in which, you know, we‘ll negotiate with this one and we‘ll negotiate with that one and there will be no pre-conditions and we‘ll invite Ahmadinejad to the White House and we‘ll invite [ASSAD][see Update] to the White House.  I mean, Hillary and Obama are kind of debating you know whether to invite them to the inauguration or the inaugural ball.

OLBERMANN: Arianna Huffington, founder of huffingtonpost.com, author of “On Becoming Fearless,” Arianna, thanks for your time tonight.

OLBERMANN:  Let me first talk to you about technique there.  He misrepresents the positions of Clinton and Edwards about Iran and he takes one leap away from engagement, suddenly—it‘s negotiation.  And all of a sudden it‘s no longer negotiation, now he‘s leap over to inviting terrorists to the White House.  The kind word for this rhetorical advice is hyperbole.  The least kind one is Giuliani is lying.  How does this continue to happen?

HUFFINGTON:  Well, he‘s lying and also every day he reveals more and more of himself.  And you can see that he really has the soul of a thug and the disposition of a tyrant.  It really proves the famous saying by Jimmy Brazlen (ph) when he said that Giuliani is a small man with the search for a balcony.  You can see that every day with what he says, there is no technique that implies some type of rationality.  This is pure savageness (ph), pure testosterone again and again.  And what is amazing to me, Keith, that there hasn‘t been any uproar.  If that was a Democrat saying that they—there would have been demand every for an apology that there would have been an emergency session of  Congress and resolution condemning such remarks.  Remember, after all John McCain said that Moveon should leave the country, should be thrown out of the country because they called General Petraeus – “General betray us.”  And here is Giuliani daring to insult his Democratic opponents by saying that they would invite Osama bin Laden to the White House?  That is really something which should not be accepted.

Huh?  Are Olbermann and Huffington the only two people in the world who don’t understand the use of hyperbole and ridicule in politics?  Didn’t they see the set up where Giuliani made fun of the fact that Clinton/Edwards are being unrealistic in their world view of our enemies?  NO ONE in either party would seriously suggest that any GOP candidate would really claim Hillary or Edwards intended to invite OBL to the WH.     

HuffPuff does the same thing with McCain’s statement about MoveOn and the Petreaus ad.  He’s in a small VFW hall in NH just a day or two after the Ad ran in the NYT, and in a clear pique of anger, he says “Move.On out to be thrown out of this country, my friends.”   How an “.Org” and its couple million members can be “thrown out of the country” isn’t something that HuffPuff dwells on when seemingly expressing her genuine concern for the their continued residency. 

But it got worse:

(more…)

Ehrenstein Slams Obama

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:16 am

Figuratively.

The title does not refer to the Great Unreported Sex Scandal that the L.A. Times is supposedly sitting on. Rather, it refers to an op-ed by our friend David E., complaining that Obama is trying to have it both ways on gay issues.

Go read it.

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