The Transcript Isn’t A Transcript

The White House said it was going to release a transcript of the phone call between Trump and President Zelenskyy of the Ukraine. They’ve now released a document, but the document itself gives us a pretty strong warning that should give us all pause about how this disclosure is being reported:

CAUTION: A Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation (TELCON) is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion. The text in this document records the notes and recollections of Situation Room Duty “Officers and-NSC policy staff assigned t_o listen.and memorialize the conversation in written form as the conversation takes place. A numper of factors can affect ‘the accuracy of the record, including poor telecommunications connections and variations in accent and/or interpretation.

The word “inaudible” is used to indifate portions of a conversation that the notetaker was unable to hear.

Nonetheless, USA Today gives us this:

Trump administration releases transcript of call with Ukraine’s President Zelensky amid impeachment inquiry

CBS News gives us this:

Trump call transcript shows he pressed Ukrainian president to probe Biden — live updates

CNBC’s article is headlined:

Trump authorizes release of transcript of controversial Ukraine call that mentioned Joe Biden

And no less than that vaunted bastion of journalism, the NY Times writes their headline without any ambiguity:

Transcript: Trump’s Call With the Ukrainian President

Forbes, of all sycophantic outlets, is actually the voice of reason and caution here, despite calling the document a “transcript” in the headline:

Trump’s Ukraine Transcript Reportedly Won’t Contain Entire Conversation

What Forbes says is actually a fair summary of the problem

President Trump said he would release the “complete” and “unredacted transcript” of his July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president Wednesday, but multiple reports state that what gets released is unlikely to be word-for-word, per longstanding White House rules.

  • According to Reuters, White House rules on phone calls between the president and a foreign leader would likely mean a transcript would be put together from notes taken by several U.S. officials who listened in.
  • The note-takers are typically National Security Council or Central Intelligence Agency officials.
  • The final official document of a phone call can range from what looks like a word-for-word transcript, a memo or a short summary.
  • And the Washington Post reported that Trump is unlikely to have tape recordings of the phone call. Recordings have not been made since the 70s.

So when you hear that a “transcript” has been released, don’t believe it. Maintain your skepticism. There may very well be no recording back to which we can compare Trump’s document and every single person involved in the preparation of the document we do have answers solely and ultimately to Trump. If in conversations with others who refer to it as a transcript, it might be useful and appropriate, depending on context, to correct the “transcript” language of the person or persons with whom you’re speaking.

And if they doubt you, refer them right back to the official warning on the actual document released:

CAUTION: A Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation (TELCON) is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion.

 

 

 

Steve Bannon Engaged in Sex Robot Congress, But Pulls Out Early

I’m not sure which that headline evoked more: fun or emesis. Nonetheless, Bannon was engaged as a speaker for the 4th annual Sex & Love with Robots Congress or something like that. However, the notoriety of the event was costing Bannon other speaking gigs. Bannon will not now be speaking, and the entire “Congress” has been canceled. However, it has been suggested that Bannon pulled out even before the cancelation.

In any case, quite a number of people are now talking about this – frequently tittering as they do. One take is at RawStory.

Rush Limbaugh: Sharknado is Real!

I kid you not, Rush Limbaugh fell for a satire article about oncoming Hurricane Florence, discussing it on air (and retweeting it? – I can’t find the source on that) to let his followers know that sharks

are being lifted out of the Atlantic Ocean and dumped into the storm because it’s so strong it’s sucking them in there.

The longer version might be even more laughable:

In addition to the pig manure, in addition to the slop, in addition to the floods, in addition to the cars rolling around on the waters in front of your house, in addition to the mudslides and the landslides, now you might end up with a shark in your front yard. I’m telling you right — you think I’m making this up? This appeared somewhere!

Yes. It appeared in the prestigious Pulitzer Prize-winning media outlet, “somewhere”. Oh, Rush.

Bizarrely, after asserting the sharks might end up in your front yard, he later added:

Of course the only water that might contain sharks would be storm surge. It isn’t going to be raining sharks. And that’s — The predominant water source in a hurricane is rainfall.

How sharks are being “lifted out of the Atlantic Ocean and dumped into the storm” without ever leaving the oceanic waters is a conundrum, surely. But if anyone can find a way to make a dumb “Sharknado is real!” fake news story even dumber, rest assured that Rush is the one to accomplish that feat.

Science Magazine is Failing Us

Science journalism is failing us in important ways. This post will be far shorter than I might like it to be, but I want it to be readable, and in any case I plan on following up soon with more information and also, I hope, a detailed action plan.

Here I simply want to point out a single article. In another post, I’ll also be discussing an article on the dismissal of Francisco Ayala from UC Irvine and the pattern of sexual harassment that led to that dismissal. But right now, let’s tackle an interesting article with a headline that is … terrible, in ways we will investigate later. The headline reads thus:

[Read more…]