Scathing Online Schoolmarm says:

Hana Schank’s essay about being in a car accident is first-rate.

Before the accident I went to yoga retreats and tried meditation. I said things like “I just need to unplug.” Apparently what I needed was to get hit by a truck. Perhaps I have discovered the secret to a peaceful mind, and it is traumatic brain injury.

UD’s ‘thesda Jollies

A lifelong denizen of Bethesda, Maryland (she remembers going to downtown ‘thesda with junior high school friends when it was a post office, a Hot Shoppes, and the Baronet Theater), UD enjoys the way ‘thesda’s wealth is threaded into news stories, especially in populist rags like The Daily Mail. You recall that, during Kavanaugh’s confirmation, his ‘thesdanienne provenance was, for some, just on its own, proof that he’s an entitled asshole.

And look at this breaking story from England. Look how ‘thesda plays a recurrent cameo role. And note UD’s bolding throughout.

A 25-year-old Stanford graduate who attended the prestigious DC school Sidwell Friends and is the son of a top commercial lawyer has enraged British politicians and sparked a free speech row in the UK by removing a portrait of the Queen from the students’ room at the Oxford college where he is getting his PhD. Matthew Katzman grew up in privilege in Bethesda, Maryland, a rich suburb of DC where he attended school with the Obama daughters, the Biden grandchildren and countless other politicians’ kids. After graduating from Sidwell in 2014, he studied math and theoretical computer science at Stanford, obtaining a masters in 2018. Katzman is now getting his PhD in computer science from Oxford, the historic university attended by British Prime Ministers.

This week, he sparked fury by leading calls to remove a portrait of the Queen from the common room at Magdalen College in his role as president of Magdalen’s Middle Common Room, an organization of around 200 graduate students. They decided between them that the portrait was ‘unwelcoming’ and represents ‘recent colonial history’. They’re going to replace it with ‘art by or of other influential and inspirational people’.

The decision has been blasted as ‘absurd’ by British politicians who say the young students ought to ‘show some respect’ for the 95-year-old Monarch. British Education Secretary Gavin Williamson tweeted: ‘Oxford University students removing a picture of the Queen is simply absurd. She is the Head of State and a symbol of what is best about the UK. During her long reign she has worked tirelessly to promote British values of tolerance, inclusivity & respect around the world.’

Katzman is the son of Scott and Sandy Katzman, both 65. His father is a partner at the commercial law firm Steptoe & Johnson. The family lives in a sprawling, $4million home in Bethesda. They have not yet commented on the row their son has unapologetically caused.

Let’s start with numbers. Between refers to something involving only two people; the writer should have used among, says Scathing Online Schoolmarm. And about that house value: Achingly, it’s only valued in the mid-threes (or even lower) rather than four by most of the assessment sites UD checked. On the other hand, it does indeed seem to sprawl.

Okay, so note how The Daily Mail has laid it on real thick, ‘thesdawise. Katzman’s top, rich, privileged and prestigious, with his race horses and castles and land … I mean with his fancy schools and affluent parents; and with all those advantages he still takes down a portrait of the Queen…

Amid the British rage Katzman has excited (the story’s burning up the wires), the president of Oxford College issues a calm and lucid statement of support. Short version: The kids are alright.

Ah hell. Let’s do the long version.

Here are some facts about Magdalen College and HM the Queen. The Middle Common Room is an organisation of graduate students. They don’t represent the College. A few years ago, in about 2013, they bought a print of a photo of the Queen to decorate their common room.

They recently voted to take it down. Both of these decisions are their own to take, not the College’s. Magdalen strongly supports free speech and political debate, and the MCR’S right to autonomy. Maybe they’ll vote to put it up again, maybe they won’t. Meanwhile, the photo will be safely stored.

Oh, and back to numbers for a minute. Most young Brits would like to do far more than take down the Queen’s portrait, so it clearly falls to the old farts to collapse onto their fainting couches when some college students start to mix things up. And while the Queen is indeed an impressive and even inspirational person, the larger royal family… ain’t as grody as the Spaniards, to be sure, but the Windsors have long contributed more than their share of louche behavior to the commonwealth, and people have a right to oppose them as heads of state if they like. UD understands that the prospect of Charles The Next has alarmed enough Brits that many would like the crown to leapfrog over him to his blander, grander, son.

Anyway, what you’ve got here is dueling elitisms – premodern and postmodern. Katzman embodies the global reign of the symbolic analysts; Elizabeth is… from another time.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm says: Some people are just good writers.

And they pop up in the strangest places. Hunter Biden – assuming he wrote his memoir; and it looks as though he did – turns out to be a good writer. One sentence from his book has been quoted rather a lot, and if we look at it closely, we can see why.

“Our relationship began as a mutually desperate grasping for the love we had both lost, and its dissolution only deepened that tragedy.”

He’s talking about his affair with his brother’s widow.

Why is this a very good sentence? Well, concision would be part one. See how his complex sentence manages to cover a lot of time, a before as well as an after, without going on and on, or needing to break into multiple shorter sentences? That one little comma after “lost” does all the work, balancing the reader on an edge of expectation (comma? what next?), and then fulfilling in a very satisfying way that expectation. Note that the sentence is both straightforwardly chronological (this happened; then that happened) and emotionally, philosophically, chronological (we were naive; now we are sadder but wiser). The sentence delicately captures a complex, uber-proustian irony: those who go desperately grasping after lost love will only learn all the more painfully just how lost that love is. Biden throws in alliteration, too, to lend the sentence rhythm: love/lost; dissolution/deepened. And a lesser writer might not have known to end the sentence on its strongest word: tragedy.

In its dissolution, the tragedy only deepened is less interesting – indeed, it’s inching toward the maudlin. And that’s the last point SOS will make about this sort of content: it’s rife with maudlin-danger. Note how Biden avoids that throughout, offering a simple, direct, stoical, controlled, dignified tone.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” The last line of Gatsby captures the beat of Biden’s sentence, its terrible and true two-step.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm Scathes Through a Statement from Shamima Begum’s Lawyer.

She’s stuck in a rancid ISIS prisoner camp, and England won’t take her back. Intelligence services believe that this fanatic (she says that’s all over) continues to represent a threat to the country.

Here’s her attorney on the subject:

What happened to Christian forgiveness? Does it not apply to a woman — and a dark-skinned one at that? It seems that different rules apply… Is it perhaps that some of us are more British than others of us? Shamima is of Bangladeshi descent, does that change her right to British nationality? I am tempted to think it does…

SOS says: Manifold are the ways one can speak up on behalf of one’s client. Admittedly, this attorney has a superjumbo problem on her hands, since her client not only renounced her British citizenship when she embraced Islamic State citizenship, she also committed vile acts (suicide vest sewing; slave-ownership; public support of mass murder in Europe and beheadings in the caliphate, etc.) and has expressed little remorse for her extensive blood-thirstiness. But SOS wonders whether lazily pushing certain buttons is the best one might do for Begum.

The lawyer’s weakest button is the Christian thing. Not sure she’s looked around at England lately, but it’s the land of empty churches. It rivals France for empty churches. If you’re going to go the Christian route, try getting her American citizenship. We’re the land of full churches…

But, you know, 135,000 slaughtered Assyrians later, I’m not sure you’re going to have much success in that direction either. Better drop the whole Christian thing.

That leaves sexism and racism. UD readers already know my take on the there there little woman you can come back cuz you’re a stupid harmless li’l thing approach to this problem. The sexism in the Begum story locates itself firmly in defenders who believe – claim to believe – that women are just too nice to be mean, and too dense to form serious, protracted, ideological commitments.

There are of course many light-skinned people among those that various countries have refused to repatriate. ISIS enjoyed a broad appeal.

Finally, yes: Begum is of Bangladeshi descent. And it is to Bangladesh that her lawyer should direct citizenship claims.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm scathes through…

this response, by Human Rights Watch, to the Shamima Begum decision. (Put “Begum” in my search engine for background.)

The first mistake Yasmine Ahmed makes has nothing to do with her writing. It’s about timing. The British court threw out Begum’s appeal almost a week ago, and the news cycle on this latest rejection is basically over. I’ve got no idea why HRW waited so long to weigh in, but their outrage on Begum’s behalf is getting much less attention than it might have simply because responses to the decision have already happened.

Okay, so first sentence:

The United Kingdom’s highest court delivered a shocking blow to justice when it ruled that Shamima Begum, who was just 15 when she left for Syria to join the Islamic State (ISIS), could not return to Britain to challenge the government’s stripping of her citizenship.

Where to start? No one is shocked by this latest unanimous (shocking!) decision; it followed many other forms of rejection Begum has experienced since her citizenship was… stripped? Stripped is a wonderfully nasty word, so bravo Ahmed; but she might have mentioned that in becoming a citizen of the Islamic state Begum basically stripped herself of British citizenship. And when you consider that Britain has revoked the citizenship of several other ISIS enthusiasts, things become even less shocking.

The shocking thing in Ahmed’s sentence is that a fifteen year old girl, excited by watching Youtubes of ISIS beheadings, secretly left England for a life of Yazidi slave-owning, suicide vest-sewing, and ISIS brood mare sex. That. Is. Far. Out.

Another sentence:

With the Supreme Court’s blessing, the UK government has left Begum de-facto stateless and prevented her from effectively challenging the decision that did so. If Begum did commit crimes during her time with ISIS, she should be brought home and given a fair trial.

Begum’s mother is from Bangladesh, but there’s no indication she has attempted to get citizenship there. I don’t know why she hasn’t. She is not stateless until she finds out whether Bangladesh – which, according to some legal experts, is compelled to take her – will take her.

If Begum did commit crimes there is little chance a court will be able to find that out. Do you think ISIS kept records of her “crimes”? The slaves and beheadees who might have testified against her are dead or scattered. She’ll be released back to the community due to lack of evidence.

To turn [our] back on [people like Begum] is not only a legal and moral aberration, but a long-term security risk.

Maybe. Maybe. But here’s one thing we know: As long as dangerous people like Shamima Begum are in prison camps, they’re not free to kill us. It’s sheer sexism to cluckcluckcluck about what a poor misguided babe she is. Why do feminists like Ahmed deny women like Begum ideological agency? She herself has said repeatedly that the decision to join ISIS was hers alone. She spent years as a serious adherent. Grotesque as it is for normal people to imagine commanded sex with one stranger after another for the sake of the caliphate (her “husbands” kept dying in combat), it seems not to have been the slightest bit extraordinary to Begum. She was – and probably still is – a twisted, risky person.

I’m perfectly willing to listen to her argue that she has undergone radical moral reform; but that argument should be broadcast from Bangladesh.

‘During his speech, [Donald] Trump Jr made numerous false claims about November’s election results and President-elect Joe Biden’s cognitive capabilities, ironically saying: “The guy can’t conform a complete sentence.”’

This sentence, in an article about a speech Don Jr gave to a Trumpian youth group, is itself problematic. It fails to clarify that Don Jr did not intend to be ironic; the irony derives from the weirdness of a speaker who is himself semi-literate attacking another speaker for being semi-literate.

As to what Trump’s lad could have meant by “conform a sentence” — Let Scathing Online Schoolmarm start with this: Poetry is always an option. Poetry can always be deployed politically if people would like to do that, if people think it might be effective. Look at the way Anthony Hecht used not “conform,” but “inform” in this excerpt from a poem about his wife’s miscarriage:

[C]ould it be
That Jewish diligence and Irish jest
The consent of flesh and a midwinter storm
Had reconciled,
Was yet too bold a mixture to inform
A simple child?

If Hecht can twist that word cleverly, can play with connotation and pun (why were we unable to form within her a child; to in-form; to transmit our genetic information…), Don Jr can certainly poeticize “conform” … although SOS is having trouble detecting the connotation/pun/whatever that makes the phrase “conform a sentence” poetically suggestive…

The lad simply means “form,” doesn’t he? What has led him astray is too strong a love for the art of the con.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm Says…

… good writers like Caitlin Flanagan know how to tackle hopelessly tacky pointless topics. Faced, for instance, with writing about Melania Trump’s former BFF‘s tell-all, a publishing event registering magnitude minus one on the Richter Scale, Flanagan executes perfectly that old standby, the hilarious juxtaposition of high and low.

C’est entendu after all that her empty subject matter degrades anyone who approaches it; the only way to emerge unfilthed is to stop moaning and go the other way: resplendent-ify it by situating the nothingness within the world’s greatest, most substantive, cultural expressions.

The all-time great model for this approach, in SOS‘s humble opinion, is Drew Jubera’s piece on East Mississippi Community College (read and learn). When they go low, we go high is the technique. The lower the setting, the higher the cultural references. Try it and see if you don’t piss yourself laughing.

Now of course you have to be an extremely good writer (not to mention culturally literate) to do this thing. If you clicked on the Jubera link, you see how he did it. This is how Flanagan does it.

[A]t last we have a glimpse into the feelings and nature of our first lady, who has stalked through these past four years in high heels and a perfect blowout, her gaze pitiless as the sun.

Okay, hands? Do I see hands? Yes? Question over there?

What is the most famous line from Yeats’s The Second Coming doing at the end of this sentence? And why didn’t Flanagan write “slouched” instead of “stalked”? Though stalked is good super-modelogically, Yeats writes “slouches,” and supermodels also slouch…

But this is a quibble: By tossing into her review without comment this phrase from the crisis-ridden twentieth century’s highest-cultural poetic expression, Flanagan signals the base futility of her endeavor as well as the fun that might be had with it. Readers appreciate this sort of thing: The reduction of Yeats’s terrifying apocalyptic heartless beast to the runway robot’s belle indifférence … See what our world has come to kinda thing…

“I was there at the beginning,” [the ex-BFF] tells us, as though she had witnessed the separation of the Earth from the firmament, not bumped into a model in the Vogue offices.

Again grand Biblical/planetary language of inception is invoked in the context of the start of a chick flick.

[The BFF] describes working the inauguration as the 13th labor of Hercules…

Grand mythic sweep…

When [the BFF] explains that [Melania] will have to wear the clothes of an American designer to the inauguration, Melania is horrified. Her soul wounded, she cries out to the gods: “But I want to wear Lagerfeld!”

You get the idea.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm Says: Sometimes the best writing is of the moment, very simple, and very personal.

An ultraorthodox Jew writes about his uncle’s death from covid.

“He didn’t die because of antisemitism. Or because New York Governor Andrew Coumo is inept or because New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is a hypocrite…

He died because many of our rabonim, leaders and askonim are too afraid or lazy to do their damn jobs.

He died because Boro Park, N.Y., where I grew up, is now run by the mob and not by rabbis.

He died because he had so much respect for daas torah that he believed them while they downplayed the seriousness of the virus.

He died because we were completely negligent.

He died because it was more important to say tehilim for Donald Trump than it was to care for the health of our elders…

He died because we were just too lazy to put on a simple mask to protect one another…”

Prezem Omnimpotentem…

in feras.

***************

He does tend to stir the creative imagination. Also really great writing. This, says Scathing Online Schoolmarm, is unbeatable. Highlights from a tightly organized, tonally controlled, brilliantly concise, little masterpiece:

no pollster left to lie to him

listened to the lethal quackery

harmful and bizarre

result of a country run by a crackpot

dereliction of duty, son.

fevered with viral hot spots.

Of late, Trump has been itching for a riot.

Nixon is a notch higher in the hell-scape

He’s Trump with a pious veneer

a timely bootlick.

*******************

And see what he’s about in his final paragraph? See all the ys, all the ee sounds that come off the page? The writer knows how to make prose poetic, and therefore much more coherent and powerful.

But there’s another image, equally satisfying. Trump could play one last gambit in the dictator’s checklist and refuse to leave office on Jan. 20 — election or no election — as required by the Constitution. If he does this, a weary nation would be rewarded with a presidential perp walk, as Trump is escorted out of the White House and into infamy by the military police.

If you lack the alliteration, assonance, perfect-wordism, and tonal cool this writer enjoys in abundance, sorry. Not everybody gets the style goodies. But you can learn a lot by reading him carefully.

SOS says: Whether Depp or Depardieu, it’s not easy to know how to write about, uh, le phénomène Elvis …

This is a pretty good try.

As [John] Waters told NPR’s Terry Gross in 2019, “Bitter and old age really is a depressing moment. And when you’re 23, you can be angry, you can be a drug addict, a drunk, and you can be sexy. But [when you’re older], it doesn’t look so good.”

This is the Johnny we’re seeing now. The movie star who would turn talk show hosts David Letterman and Charlie Rose into babbling idiots, murmuring “You’re so cool” over and over to his face; the Johnny Depp who, once he decided to go mainstream, horrified Disney execs by playing Captain Jack Sparrow as a drunk Keith Richards and turning the “Pirates” movies into a global juggernaut anyway; the Johnny Depp who would quietly dress up as Captain Jack and visit children’s hospitals, never for publicity but because his own daughter nearly died when she was little — that still-crushworthy Depp is gone.

It’s painful to see the Depp we’re seeing in court, pushing 60 with bad teeth, evidence submitted that he’s taking booze and lines of coke for lunch, passed out on the floor and finding poop in his bed.

Good use of details.

More on the social significance of country club golf.

A recent post considers why the following sentence –

This matter is already well known in the golfing world, domestically and internationally, and our Club has become a laughingstock.

– is itself something of a laughingstock. The sentence comes from a super-serious protest letter, whose writer announces his intention to resign from his country club because the club retains as members two soon to be incarcerated felons.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm suggested in that post that since the public mind identifies country club golf as the ultimate trivial pastime of the idle rich, attaching heavy geopolitical language to it just sounds funny, jarring – it’s the sort of juxtapositional (mixing the serious with the superficial) humor we associate with Oscar Wilde (divorces are made in heaven, etc,. etc., etc.). The more trivial the activity, in other words, the more susceptible it is to the rather easy comic operation involving its assimilation into the world of weighty things. (“Algernon: Well, one must be serious about something, if one wants to have any amusement in life. I happen to be serious about Bunburying. What on earth you are serious about I haven’t got the remotest idea. About everything, I should fancy. You have such an absolutely trivial nature.” “Algernon: Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. … When I am in trouble, eating is the only thing that consoles me. Indeed, when I am in really great trouble, as any one who knows me intimately will tell you, I refuse everything except food and drink.”)

Of course, it goes the other way too. When a person powerfully identified as the idle golf-playing rich assumes a very serious job indeed, he makes himself vulnerable to a special sort of critique. Among the responses to a New York Times article about Trump’s apparent indifference to information he received about the Russian government giving money to Taliban soldiers for killing American fighters is this one, from the father of a combatant:

Perhaps if Trump is not too busy playing golf … he could find time to attend [an intelligence] briefing?

My kid is in a combat zone and I’d like to see him again. My kid is important to me.

Nothing against playing golf. But if you’re lining up a putt while Rome burns…

For UD, country clubs have the status of Easter Island mo’ai:

They represent one of humanity’s most enduring mysteries.

$300,000 (initiation fee only) for access to a golf course + Bernard Madoff… (You’re also guaranteed a glimpse of the president). (Or at least some of his supporters.)

And speaking of Madoff , the just-resigned felons at the Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles – Varsity Blues alums Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli – had worked it out that they’d be suspended from the club for the duration of their stay in the local lockup, and then, the moment they got sprung, the suspension would be over. Nice!

A member of the club’s all-male board, however, has “fired off” (this cliche feels unavoidable) a letter to all the other males to complain that this does not sit well with him. Scathing Online Schoolmarm says: Let’s take a look!

(SOS is aware that the super-secret boys’ club thing of boys’ clubs like Bel-Air makes it wet-your-shorts shocking that this letter came out at all into the light of ungated day; and SOS is thinking that the author maybe leaked it but who knows. We need only register here, preliminarily, the shock of this enigmatic island having let escape a loud epistolary fart.)

Gentlemen:

[In its very mode of address, the letter is already a reprimand. The letter indeed will turn out to be a meditation on the word/concept gentleman.]

On June 1st the membership was notified of the disposition of the “Varsity Blues” matter wherein two members of the Club have plead guilty to felony charges. “The Board has unanimously voted effective immediately to suspend both Members involved in their personal legal challenges until [emphasis added] they have completed their obligations to the government.”

[This guy gets right to it – no throat-clearing, no pleasantries, right into it. SOS says excellent. She’s always telling you to be surgical and direct.

Now, this is a country club guy, and I’m guessing he’s a lawyer, so we get words like disposition and wherein and matter. He’s penning the sort of letter Peter Wimsey might receive from his club in Gaudy Night. Fine. It’s not bad writing; and it neatly conveys the writer’s sense of himself.]

The above statement is misleading. What it does not clearly state is that the memberships of these felons continue essentially unabated. Suspension implies that a member otherwise capable of using the Club is prohibited from access for a period of time as punishment for a serious infraction. However, these individuals will be incarcerated for most, if not all, of the suspension period and will continue as members in “good standing” when released.

[No need for the quotation marks around good standing. We remain in the world of faintly legal and definitely Edwardian prose. No problem.]

This unprecedented board decision to allow felons to continue as members causes irreparable reputational harm to the Club and its members. Will we any longer be able to deny membership to convicted felons sponsored for membership? If the denial is based on the candidate’s felony conviction the answer would now appear to be no. Will the Club now be perceived as one that welcomes felons? Undeniably, the answer to that question is now yes.

[As with so much of this letter, this paragraph has a sweetly scented whiff of obsolescence to it, assuming as it does that the sort of character willing to shoot out millions for occasional visits to a golf course is going to be mentally and ethically sharp enough to comprehend/give a shit about felonious behavior.] [Note, for instance, how the sentence “We need to send this draft dodger back to his golf courses.” functions in this political ad.]

Let me point out the obvious. BACC is a Club of gentlemen and gentlewomen. Gentlemen are not felons, and felons in turn are not gentlemen. You cannot be a member in good standing and guilty of a felony at the same time, it is a non sequitur. Referring to felons as gentlemen in good standing is nothing more than an attempt to legitimize their continued membership. That “this situation” resulted from “their actions outside the Club” can only be considered a failed attempt at misdirection as it is completely irrelevant. These felony guilty pleas are of their own making and reputational harm comes from their continued “membership” affiliation with the Club. Suspending membership, while the offender is imprisoned, is an illusory penalty and does nothing to address the reputational damage brought on by their continued membership.

[Okay, now we’re into some seriously snippy shit. Remember that you should never write mad. You can feel as mad as you like, but your writing needs to be under tight emotional control. SOS would have thrown out the first sentence of this paragraph, since it conveys little beyond condescending rage.

And there are other problems. Note the string of very short sentences coming up. This rat-a-tat-tat business is risky, conveying as it does in this instance an annoyed parent’s series of simple statements to a child – something liable to piss off people who think of themselves as your equal. And he’s getting a little sloppy. Plenty of felons are gentlemen, and charming gentlemen at that, so the author needs to gesture in the direction of a definition of gentleman that would exclude some of these (only the most notorious are featured), not to mention gentlewomen like Martha Stewart. It seems awfully mean of the writer to exclude so many from his gentlemen’s club. Country clubs after all couldn’t exist without the super-rich, and, without wanting to sound like a commie, SOS will note the very strong correlation between personal billions and bad behavior. (Variants of You don’t make a billion dollars; you steal it are all over contemporary English usage.)

I’m not sure ‘good standing’ / ‘felony’ is a non sequitur; maybe better to call it a contradiction in terms.

Love the fact that the other all-males reasoned that since the felons failed to drop their doodoo directly on the golfing green it doesn’t count.

Okay, we’ll skip a bit of the letter here, because he becomes quite redundant, saying more than he needs to say it that keeping felons in the club damages its reputation. I’m sure he’s wrong about that, but anyway.]

This matter is already well known in the golfing world, domestically and internationally, and our Club has become a laughingstock.

[Here’s how you know it’s an internal letter. Phrases like the golfing world, domestically and internationally are themselves kind of a laughingstock to … okay, well, to SOS. And whatever the global golfing world may be, I really doubt it’s fanning itself with its hanky over naughty behavior.]

I have heard that some members believe the board has substituted its judgement for that of the law and the courts in determining whether felony crime is serious. That white collar crime does not count. This surely cannot be the case. The board could not be so unwise as to put itself in the position of judging felonies on a subjective scale, deeming some acceptable and others not.

[LOLOLOLOLOLOL.]

As a 25-year member in good standing, and a gentleman by act of Congress, I choose not to be associate with known felons. This board decision, however, forces acceptance of felons upon the membership – grata catalla felonum.

[Again, very much an insider’s letter, but SOS thinks gentleman by act of Congress means the guy has a military background; and she thinks grata etc. means something like Welcome, felons. The Latin phrase, the by now incredibly redundant insistence on moral uprightness – it really is The World of Sir Peter Wimsey.

Also note typo: Should be associated.]

I have been informed that the board is not willing to set aside this decision and take the cleansing action so desperately needed, namely terminating the memberships of the offending parties. That being the case, I am sadly left no choice but to hereby resign from the club I have long loved.

[By this last paragraph, the excellent straightforwardness of address with which the writer began has fully deteriorated into wordy self-aggrandizing pretentiousness. Get a load of all them adjectives and adverbs clogging things the hell up!

cleansing

desperately

namely

offending

sadly

hereby

long

Let us translate the two sentences down:

Since you will not end these memberships, I’m resigning.]

Scathing Online Schoolmarm says….

… if you’re going to write super-duper-snob prose, get it right or risk being laughed out of the gated community. Here’s the ad copy for a six million dollar house a couple of miles away from ol’ UD in Bethesda, Maryland. Can you spot the problems? Let’s scathe through this, shall we (sniff)?

*********************

Quintessentially luxurious in every aspect, the stunning residence is the perfect retreat nestled in verdant Bethesda, Maryland. [So far utterly cliche-driven, but okay. Nestled, verdant – the writer makes use of every stilted, long-dead upscale real estate adjective, but you don’t lose marks for writing generic prose.] Short drive to downtown Bethesda and less than ten miles away from the hustle and bustle of Washington, it is the idyllic cross between peaceful suburbia and city living. The property is just steps away from the prestigious Burning Tree Golf Club, host to numerous American presidents. [Prestigious – of course we’d make use of this embarrassing term. And be one of the lucky few to catch a peek of Donald Trump grunting through a round.] Regarding quality, the sophisticated residence knows no compromise. Perched atop a hill with two separate gated entrances, the home possesses the distinct architectural quality of an eastern castle with a modern panache. [Which is to say that, like a lot of megaostentatious megahouses in ‘thesda, it reaches out desperately, in any and all cultural directions, for imperial transcendence of its debased democratic surroundings. Some kinda … eastern? … castle? (“Yonda lies my faddah’s castle.”) is what the pile looks like.] Each unique feature of the house compliments the abode’s unparalleled architecture, [The writer means complements. Before trying to impress people with your stunning sophistication, learn to spell.] with Burma Teak windows and solid oak doors, towering ceilings, and a romanesque [Just to add yet another culture.] indoor pool and elevator to accommodate the three story building behind a custom wrought iron fence. [After all the Nicholas and Alexandra flouncing, the proletarian word building is a let-down… Although the house is probably in a gated community, note how many security walls and fences we’re featuring. No one will be able to get anywhere near you behind your modern panache golf view battlements.] The property possesses a stunning [Second use of stunning: At this point, we are knocked out flat.] floating staircase, an enclosed courtyard situated beside a double-level deck, a privately tiered backyard that meets an arbor with hand-carved rosewood corbeling. Bathrooms include a lavish display of marble inlay and a lapis lazuli sink. Furthermore, the property boasts a veranda complete with outdoor fireplace and pillars erected over 150 years ago, which elegantly compliment the state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor amenities of the palatial abode. [There’s that pesky compliment again. And while it’s impressive to contemplate a pillar that has remained erect for 150 years, the writer might have been better off with the word built... Plus: What’s a palace doing in my castle?]

A Superficial Scathe through a Superficial Take on Israel’s Viral Hotspot: Its Ultraorthodox Communities

Given that the priorities of public health and Haredi leaders are not in opposition…

Uh, yes they are.  Examine long-standing haredi attitudes toward vaccines too, if you’d like.  And the physical treatment of women and children. Plus hey: No education in science plus patriarchal prudery equals raising people who don’t understand their bodies and how to keep them alive.


Public health authorities and Haredi religious leaders have seen that the price of not collaborating effectively is tragically high…


No they haven’t.  The authorities didn’t have to see this, because they already knew, having been educated in history and empiricism.  They had no need to ‘see’ the tragic price this go ’round because they are familiar with the tragic price paid in, I don’t know, the bubonic plague era.


As for the haredim (Why does the writer speak exclusively of haredi leadership, by the way?  Have ordinary ultraorthodox Jews no independent agency?  If they don’t – if the modern state of Israel has generated a large, growing minority of people who are completely passive morally – then the problem of coronavirus infection in Israel is really just an itty bitty problem.), like a lot of ignorant cults they don’t see avoidable death as tragic but as one of many mysterious divine blessings.

Scathing Online McWhorter Gets it Said.

At some point, everyone has to be held responsible for at least some of their own behavior. This would seem thunderingly obvious, but it ain’t.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams is on the hot plate. His sin? With new indications that the coronavirus is disproportionately killing black and brown people, he suggested that we refrain from alcohol and cigarettes… [A number of] commentators were appalled that Adams had had the nerve to urge people of color to change their behavior, rather than resting with his acknowledgment that societal inequality exposes them to more risk from the virus.

… Barack Obama, then a presidential candidate, was roasted for supposedly condescending to a black audience in urging black men to take a larger role in rearing their children. Even though he did this with a vernacular warmth that his audience ate up with a spoon, legions of black thinkers reviled the president for addressing behavior rather than the broader causes that made counsel such as his necessary in the first place. [Similarly,] why is Adams not allowed to remind black and brown people to hold off on the smoking?

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