To cleanse our palate from the writing of Huntington’s…

… attorney (SOS post here), let’s sample some good writing. Here the author must make repeated reference to the scads of recently-built zillionaires’ apartments in New York City, half of which sit empty.

Yes, half.

Today, nearly half of the Manhattan luxury-condo units that have come onto the market in the past five years are still unsold

(To be sure, even when they are sold, they’re usually – some of them always – empty. They’re someone’s seventh home; they’re strictly about money laundering; they’re investments. So that postmodern simulacral vibe hums on… But put that aside. That’s only about the hollowing out of a great city’s culture.)

Here’s America’s premier city, with a terrible homeless problem and a just as terrible lack of middle class housing, and the place bursts with high-end residential nothingness. Let’s look at how a good writer finds different ways to refer to his subject throughout his essay.

He calls these typically high and very narrow buildings

colossal stalagmites

empty sky palaces

Manhattan’s glassy spires

Dude has actually gone to the trouble to look at stalagmites, which do in fact resemble quite eerily NYC’s clinic of bloodless needles. Empty sky palaces, with its assonance on the p and y, is positively poetic; and Manhattan’s glassy spires, while the least exciting of the three, offers nice assonance on the a‘s (Manhattan, glassy).

‘Bellaire High School [is] trending nationally on Twitter for the wrong reasons. There have been multiple incidents of students with guns in the first semester at Bellaire — obvious signs that something need[s] to be done. But yesterday, a JROTC student was accidentally killed. Why does a student have a loaded gun on campus?’

Some people claim it wasn’t accidental. The 16-year-old shooter shot a fellow student right in the chest, has a reputation as a bully, and isn’t cooperating with authorities.

And the student who wrote the opinion piece I quote in my headline adds another element to the story: Already, in the first semester of the year, there have been “multiple incidents” of students bringing guns to school. This was just the first incident to end with someone dead.


After they decide to stop lying; after they finally admit they’ve been robbing their university and the government blind for years…

UD is fond of tracking down the glorious newspaper articles about how glorious certain criminals are. Were. I just linked to one such article, from 2015, featuring about to be sentenced Professor Geoffrey Girnun — who, in sporting his yamulke for his perp picture today, has done quite the service for Orthodox Judaism.

In the 2015 article, he’s smiling broadly and climbing a mountain; in the 2020 article, he looks all gone to ground and sad and pale and ashamed that he’s been a criminal hiding under religious piety for as long as he could possibly get away with it and now – despite lying through his teeth when caught – he has been forced to confess.

Confess to what? Stealing cancer research funds. That’s right, kiddies. The mortgage on Girnun’s close-to-million-dollar house will have to take precedence over people with cancer because… because he has a mortgage to pay! His salary at Stony Brook?

The theft scheme began in 2013, with his submitting false invoices, just weeks after Girnun was hired by the medical school, according to officials. Girnun earned a salary of $145,000 a year at Stony Brook.

Yes, folks, he was up and running with the theft scheme minutes after he was hired at that pathetic, hopeless salary…

My favorite part of the glorious 2015 article about Girnun? Its halfway-there headline:

Stony Brook University Professor Seeks to Starve Cancer.

Seeks to starve cancer of funds. Of funds.

More on Teaching and the Burqa.

Jocelyn Maclure and Charles Taylor write:

[A teacher cannot wear the] burqa or niqab in class and still adequately [discharge] her duties as a teacher. On one hand, teaching necessarily entails communication, and covering the face and body does not allow for nonverbal communication. On the other, one of the teacher’s missions is to contribute toward the development of the student’s sociability. It seems reasonable to think that wearing a full veil establishes too much distance between the teacher and her charges. In short pedagogical reasons may be involved to justify the prohibition of the burqa or niqab among teachers.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm says: If you can’t write, and you MUST write, find someone else to write for you.

If you’re Huntington West Virginia’s attorney, and you have to write a piece in the local press defending the city against charges that its inept appeals board let a pretty obvious criminal open a bar where a mass shooting gained national attention, you need to know how to write English. You need to know how to write what writing instructors like SOS call a persuasive essay.

In the case of this obviously botched process, you need to begin by conceding that the city could have done better; after that, you can go to town defending Huntington as having done not that badly, or whatever.

Huntington’s attorney has instead produced a miserable mess, a blahblah brew that (as comments on the article suggest) only confirms everyone’s prejudice that lawyers are people who produce double talk and bullshit on request. On the simplest level of word meaning, this writer fails.

The frightening prospect of a dispute resulting in the shooting of several people that occurred between the prosperous downtown area and Marshall University warrants our collective focus and resolution that no similar event can occur here again.

Put aside the indecipherable wordy weirdness of the sentence altogether – the redundancy of the passive, ugly “occur,” the bizarre placement of the shooting’s location not at the Kulture Hookah bar but I dunno somewhere between the prosperous (why is prosperous relevant?) downtown (you don’t need area, unless your goal is to lard and muddy and fog and vagueify and pass the buck and pretend what happened didn’t sorta actually happen), the tea party word dispute instead of fight… Seven people aren’t left crawling among broken beer bottles inside and bullet casings outside after a dispute. Put all of that aside and notice that the writer thinks prospect means fact.

This event wasn’t in some cloudy future, much as the writer clearly wants it to be; it happened. Hence the word he ‘s looking for is fact, or event, or episode, or incident.

Of course, if he knew how to write he would have avoided this problem altogether: The frightening shootout at Kulture Hookah can never happen again. That’s all the poor man needed, not all those other words. But writing like that communicates an open straightforward grounding in reality, which is the last thing this guy wants, has, or is capable of expressing.

The rest of the opinion piece dances around the failure of the city to check the bar owner’s heroin distribution background before granting her a permit.

The writer ends in this way:

Every person who had a hand in addressing the matter performed his or her job with competence. The shooting occurred because of unpredictable criminal behavior…

Nothing to see here! We concede nothing! Absolutely everyone who runs the second largest city in a state with the highest opioid death rate in the United States is doing a great job!

for reasons unknown in spite of the tennis on on the beard the flames the tears the stones so blue so calm alas alas on on the skull the skull the skull the skull in Connemara in spite of the tennis the labours abandoned left unfinished graver still abode of stones in a word I resume alas alas abandoned unfinished the skull the skull in Connemara in spite of the tennis the skull

Player Forced to Retire at Australian Open With Coughing Fit Caused by Bushfire Smoke


“Welcome to a safe place”…

… it proclaims over and over again on the Bellaire, Texas website.

But hey.

It’s Texas.

The mayor is “utterly shocked” you can’t go to high school in Bellaire without risking a fatal gunshot wound. But what does Don’t Mess With Texas mean? It’s means Texas has more registered guns than anyplace else in America.

And hyuk! That’s just registered guns!

What I’m trying to say is Texas has a lot of guns and Texas is always talking about guns and showing off guns and taking guns to church and all and how utterly shocking that the state is one big ol’ shootout.


The details are just great. Little kid brings loaded gun to school; shows other little kid. Shoots other little kid to death.

Listen Up, Kiddies: If you’d been smart enough to follow the Gabriel Bitran story on this blog…

... (scroll down; read the whole page) you’d be SO not surprised at the Jeffrey Epstein story! Boys’ clubs will be boys’ clubs – they’ll ignore bad boys forever cuz they kinda like them.

The ‘Fuck the Veil’ Movement Proceeds Apace.

Not that Iran cares about so many of its women – including a high-profile Olympics champ, who has defected to the Netherlands – very militantly casting off compulsory veiling. Put them in jail if they’re here; ignore them if they’re there… But swaddled masses yearning to breathe free can prove quite pesky if they’re truly able to… mass. We shall see. Indications are excellent. Even in places you’d never expect it.

“Even when it turns its thoughts to death, true art…

… seeks a path to affirmation. Schubert’s meditations on death, in the last piano sonata, D960, the slow movement of the String Quintet in C, D956, and the incomparable String Quartet in G major, D887, are among the profoundest testimonies in art to the beauty of life and the pain of losing it; they are also true gestures of acceptance – since that which is accepted is neither sentimentalized nor set aside, but confronted in all its unspeakable darkness.”


[A] man of extraordinary intellect, learning and humour, a great supporter of central European dissidents, and the kind of provocative – sometimes outrageous – conservative thinker that a truly liberal society should be glad to have challenging it. Timothy Garton Ash


Roger Scruton, 1944 – 2020

So, if you want UD’s long-ago take…

… on the crisis Ross Douthat is writing about here, go here. UD said quite the same thing fifteen years ago.

And by the way. Read the post directly under this one, which has to do with a crisis in another discipline – psychiatry – and you’ll see that the same principle is in play, whether the field in tatters is English studies or psychiatry. If you lack any agreement about the specific set of things you are collectively studying, and about how to use and value those things, your discipline is going to expand and expand until it explodes. A late-stage, pre-eruptive sign is that your discipline is increasingly taken over by amoral political actors. Note that responsible psychiatrists are indeed trying to respond to Bandy Lee (and by extension Justin Frank and other ideologues) by reasserting the discipline boundaries and ethical rules of psychiatry.

Specifically: You do not abuse the integrity and credibility of your profession by weaponizing it against people and ideas you hate.

Mondo Bizarro

UD once sat on a committee, at George Washington University, with a colleague from psychiatry who, whenever it was his turn to talk, mainly recited his cv. I got this award; I’m noted around the world for that… We all stared at each other and shifted uncomfortably when he spoke…

Regan Books published this man’s masterwork, Bush on the Couch, an idiotic psychoanalysis of George W Bush (UD, a deep-blue democrat, has nothing good to say about that president, but knows a hatchet job when she sees one). Discerning readers from Fidel Castro to some LaRouchie loved the book and it’s become an instant classic among people who couldn’t give a shit about the Goldwater Rule (you’re not supposed to psychoanalyze people you’ve never even met, let alone exchanged two words with). In her naivete, UD thought she’d seen the end of this hugely embarrassing genre.

Now another president UD can’t stand – the current one – is on the receiving end of a far more insidious psychiatrists’ campaign, one that – as Jeffrey Lieberman points out – does significant damage to a discipline whose scientific status – with people like UD‘s colleague around – is already mighty shaky. Led by Yale’s Bandy X. Lee, a bunch of psychiatrists published a … multivariate? … psychoanalysis of Trump, with Lee insisting he’s so nuts he has to be butterfly netted or the world will come to an end. As Andrew O’Hehir puts it, in Lee’s “strand of the multiverse, Trump is heading for a catastrophic health crisis or … an involuntary psychiatric hospitalization, and we won’t have to worry about defeating him in the November election because he’ll be dead or on a ventilator or shouting at the walls in a padded room.”

Amy Barnhorst, a UC Davis psychiatrist who works with people who really do need involuntary psychiatric holds, comments:

I think it’s a really bad way to go. It’s not just inappropriate and would be really ineffective, but I think it’s very damaging to our profession and the patients we take care of to suggest something like that.

A mental health hold is a very delicate tool that we use for people who very badly need treatment but aren’t able to accept that treatment. It’s not something that should be thrown around as a punishment for your enemies.

… Surgeons don’t go around lopping off the feet of their enemy in order to debilitate them. We shouldn’t go around applying mental health holds to people we don’t like in order to debilitate them.

A writer at WBUR, a person with mental health problems, amplifies her point:

Lee’s comments are … disturbing because they paint with such a broad brush. Like Trump’s insults being parroted by his followers in everyday conversation, it is easy to take Lee’s words and swing them in any direction, not just at Trump.

What is astonishing is the degree to which we embrace this kind of [thing]. We seem unable to accept the idea that the president’s behavior is not abnormal even if it is abhorrent.

Indeed, Lee does seem rather in the line of the notorious Soviet psychiatric establishment, swinging damaging charges of mental illness in any direction.

And there’s some sort of mondo bizarro logic in her having now swung directly into the tortured path of none other than Alan Dershowitz. Dershowitz has sent a formal complaint to Yale about her, because she called him nuts too. In response to Dersh, she’s gone full Joan of Arc and I tell you, mes petites! It’s a mad mad mad mad world.

Ho! Minibus.

Should provide interesting ultrapissed ultraorthodox viewing.

‘“They were supposed to take their harsh revenge against America, not the people,” wrote Mojtaba Fathi, a journalist.’

The fog of war.

Sports Illustrated opens the new decade with a LONG article about tanking attendance at college football games.

We’ve been talking about that forever on this blog; but while everyone else sees it as a problem, we see it as intellectual progress.

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Dr. Bernard Carroll, known as the "conscience of psychiatry," contributed to various blogs, including Margaret Soltan's University Diaries, for which he sometimes wrote limericks under the name Adam.
New York Times

George Washington University English professor Margaret Soltan writes a blog called University Diaries, in which she decries the Twilight Zone-ish state our holy land’s institutes of higher ed find themselves in these days.
The Electron Pencil

It’s [UD's] intellectual honesty that makes her blog required reading.
Professor Mondo

There's always something delightful and thought intriguing to be found at Margaret Soltan's no-holds-barred, firebrand tinged blog about university life.

You can get your RDA of academic liars, cheats, and greedy frauds at University Diaries. All disciplines, plus athletics.
truffula, commenting at Historiann

Margaret Soltan at University Diaries blogs superbly and tirelessly about [university sports] corruption.

University Diaries. Hosted by Margaret Soltan, professor of English at George Washington University. Boy is she pissed — mostly about athletics and funding, the usual scandals — but also about distance learning and diploma mills. She likes poems too. And she sings.
Dissent: The Blog

[UD belittles] Mrs. Palin's degree in communications from the University of Idaho...
The Wall Street Journal

Professor Margaret Soltan, blogging at University Diaries... provide[s] an important voice that challenges the status quo.
Lee Skallerup Bessette, Inside Higher Education

[University Diaries offers] the kind of attention to detail in the use of language that makes reading worthwhile.
Sean Dorrance Kelly, Harvard University

Margaret Soltan's ire is a national treasure.
Roland Greene, Stanford University

The irrepressibly to-the-point Margaret Soltan...
Carlat Psychiatry Blog

Margaret Soltan, whose blog lords it over the rest of ours like a benevolent tyrant...
Perplexed with Narrow Passages

Margaret Soltan is no fan of college sports and her diatribes on the subject can be condescending and annoying. But she makes a good point here...
Outside the Beltway

From Margaret Soltan's excellent coverage of the Bernard Madoff scandal comes this tip...
Money Law

University Diaries offers a long-running, focused, and extremely effective critique of the university as we know it.
Anthony Grafton, American Historical Association

The inimitable Margaret Soltan is, as usual, worth reading. ...
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I awake this morning to find that the excellent Margaret Soltan has linked here and thereby singlehandedly given [this blog] its heaviest traffic...
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As Margaret Soltan, one of the best academic bloggers, points out, pressure is mounting ...
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Many of us bloggers worry that we don’t post enough to keep people’s interest: Margaret Soltan posts every day, and I more or less thought she was the gold standard.
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University Diaries by Margaret Soltan is one of the best windows onto US university life that I know.
Mary Beard, A Don's Life

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More magazine, Canada

If deity were an elected office, I would quit my job to get her on the ballot.
Notes of a Neophyte