Ten years in the research and writing, Presidents of War is a fresh, magisterial, intimate look at a procession of American leaders as they took the nation into conflict and mobilized their country for victory. It brings us into the room as they make the most difficult decisions that face any President, at times sending hundreds of thousands of American men and women to their deaths.
From James Madison and the War of 1812 to recent times, we see them struggling with Congress, the courts, the press, their own advisors and antiwar protesters; seeking comfort from their spouses, families and friends; and dropping to their knees in prayer. We come to understand how these Presidents were able to withstand the pressures of war—both physically and emotionally—or were broken by them.
Beschloss’s interviews with surviving participants in the drama and his findings in original letters, diaries, once-classified national security documents, and other sources help him to tell this story in a way it has not been told before. Presidents of War combines the sense of being there with the overarching context of two centuries of American history. This important book shows how far we have traveled from the time of our Founders, who tried to constrain presidential power, to our modern day, when a single leader has the potential to launch nuclear weapons that can destroy much of the human race.
The first thing you need to know about the Oxford Comma is actually a thing you need to know about Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a special place on the internet where the conversation the rest of us are having about many topics can’t actually happen. In this case, Wikipedia has determined that the Oxford Comma is actually called the Serial Comma, even though nobody in the whole world calls it this. Somewhere in the history of the current Wikipedia article on this topic, somebody discovered primacy of the word “serial” and insisted that since that word was used first, in 1121 or something, it beats “Oxford.” This silly sort of thing is common in Wikipedia, and I’ve discussed it before. But, I digress.
The Oxford Comma, also known as the Harvard Comma, is that last comma in a list before the “and” or the “or.”
You need it in sentences like this:
“I took a picture of my parents the president and the first lady.”
There are different ways to put commas in that sentence. In one version of this sentence, I am Chelsea Clinton. In the other version of this sentence, I’m a visitor to the White House and the President and First Lady are standing there next to my parents, and I snap a photograph.
Most style guides for writers, including the Oxford Style Manual, the APA, Chicago Manual of Style, MLA, Strunk and White, the USGPO and others mandate the use of this ultimate comma. It is less often used in the UK, but the Oxford guide does require it. Overall, the total number of words printed under stylistic guidance use it, though the Oxford comma is not accepted stock and barrel.
The AP style guide eschews the Oxford comma, and generally, journalistic style guides recommend against it.
The reason a style guide would require it is simple, in my view. A missing Oxford comma is an abomination. You can really screw up the meaning of a sentence by leaving it off. But it is hard to mess up a sentence by using it when it is not needed. Most of the time, the only reason to not use it is because you are short of commas. In the old days, when commas were an actual thing, made out of lead, maybe it was worth having a rule that helped conserve them. Perhaps that is also why American spelling tends to diverge from British spelling in the use of fewer letters per word. They had lots of lead type in Great Britain because of a longer history of of type use, or because they shifted to fighting all their wars overseas.
The point is, if you tell your writers to always use it, mistakes will rarely be made.
There are, of course, times when the Oxford Comma adds, rather than subtracts, ambiguity from a sentence.
“I am going to say a prayer for my dog, Jesus, and my cat.”
Am I praying for three entities (two of which exist), or am I praying for my dog, named Jesus, and also, my unnamed cat?
Which brings us to my own personal conclusion about the Oxford-Harvard comma. Which, by the way, is not too different from what each and every style guide actually says.
Most style guides say, “Use/Don’t use the Oxford Comma, unless you must, to make your meaning clear.”
My preference is to say, “Use/Don’t use the Oxford Comma as you please, just make sure your meaning is clear, unless, as a writer, you chose to be unclear.”
This sort of approach is true with punctuation generally. You really should start your sentences with Upper Case letters, and end them with periods. But, you don’t have to. You can be e E cummingS. How does a writer handle quotes within quotes? Up to you. According to many style guides, when you shift paragraphs within dialog, normal quotation rules fly out the window. But, you can do it differently if you want.
Some writers use a lot of semicolons; others do not. There is no rule that forces you to do so, but there are guidelines for when you could. Which you can ignore; I don’t.
Is your text meant to be read aloud, even if just in the head of the reader? Is there cadence that affects the way the words feel? If so, you might find yourself using, as needed, commas that technically should not be there. Or you might leave some off to change the sound your words make in someone’s head. That is your choice as a writer. Seriously. That is your choice, as a writer.
Non fiction that is actually published almost always has to pass through the style guide process, so writers are advised to know the guide they are working under, and adapt accordingly, even if it hurts. Fiction, even if processed by a publishing system, is more personalized. You should be able to argue for your own style because that is the whole point of getting a writer to write something instead of just doing it yourself. Right?
The truth about the Oxford, Harvard, or Serial comma is that there is always optional but usually recommended. Saying you can’t use it unless necessary will cause people to err on the side of caution with their editor, but against caution with their readers. Saves you commas, but in the long run, causes you more trouble than it is worth.
Twenty five centuries ago, long before the start of the common era, the written record about the spoken language began. The ancient Greeks were not likely the first to study speech and communication, and they certainly were not the first to write stuff down, but among the early writers, they were probably the first to write about how we construct messages and stories with words.
Today we are engaged in a great battle between those who respect, even demand, the truth, and those who care more about partisan power than advancing or even using knowledge.
Perhaps this is why we tend to quote the dead more than ever. During the current election season, I’ve heard the late great Senator Paul Wellstone (1944-2002) quoted at nearly every meeting of loyal Democrats. “We all do better when we all do better.” “The future will not belong to those who sit on the sidelines. The future will not belong to the cynics. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” “I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.” “I’m short, I’m Jewish and I’m a liberal”
We remember the inspiring words of JFK. “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” “A child miseducated is a child lost.” “Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.” “Ask not what your country can do for you… ask what you can do for your country.”
To turn to the living for one moment, Gloria Steinem. “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” “Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry.” “Childbirth is more admirable than conquest, more amazing than self-defense, and as courageous as either one.”
What do these memorable, moving, or emotive missives have in common? They all rely on rhetorical practices that have been part of language since, possibly, some ancient early stage of this unique human ability. Alliteration, Allusion, and Analogy are to language what a good set of planes and saws it to a carpenter. Parallelism, balance, and anaphora are used repeatedly. It is not hyberbole to suggest that metaphor underlies all of these statements. Human language, when used well, can shape minds, steer conversations, and cause more change than any military weapon.
Yet progressives, Democrats, and others on the left, even with their deep respect for and love of education, can’t seem to create a message that serves the struggle of keeping civilization on track. Why? I might guess it is because the eschewing of rhetorical forms has become the style of the day. Or, it could be because learning the rhetorical forms that work is hard to do, and our school systems, burdened under the ever increasing weight of standards across a wide range of subjects, had to squeeze something out, so rhetoric had to go. Whatever the reason, we are paying a cost. We need to dedicate serious effort to changing this.
Maybe it is a difference between private and public schools. Maybe the people who write for Republicans are from Exeter and the people who write for Democrats are from Stuyvesant High. This is not necessarily a difference in quality of education, but perhaps the elite prep schools know to teach about metonymy, epizeuxis, and enumeratio, because they know to weaponize the young else the efforts of the ascending generation would be in vain.
And yes, those forms of speech do sound like JK Rowlings-conceived spells one would cast with a unicorn-core wand made of ash. And they are, in the sense that powerfully crafted words are the original powerful magic.
Everybody left of center would do well to embrace tried and true ways to communicate, else that side of the political spectrum becomes extinct.
Notice that the title of the book is rhetorically structured to attract readers.
Joe’s book does the rarely done task of integrating, as I imply above, the thinking of the ancient Greeks, the practice of rhetorical greats like JFK and MLK, and the more recent battle over messaging between Republicans and Democrats. This is further informed by reference to modern social science and psychology research.
This is really more of a war than a single battle, and the Republicans famously win most of the battles. Romm provides key insight as to how they do this, and how those on the left can to better. And when we do better, any of us, we all do better. It is said.
I’ll have to go back to see if Joe Romm explains why most of our paragraphs are so short these days.
Romm’s book is informative and offers inspiration, but it also offers very specific advice and guidance. It is well researched, authoritative, accessible, and memorable. Unlike so many other books on communication, it is a good piece of communication.
As an added bonus, Romm talks about his own experience with the publication process, an excellent source of helpful advice and perhaps inspiration for potential self-published authors.
Finally, a challenge to Joe Romm himself: If you come across this post, can you suggest a better headline than my original? (“How to put together a message that will be clicky and sticky”)? One of these days, I’ll install a headline tester plugin. For now I’m flying with the stick. Which is probably a metaphor that went out of style about the time they invented sliced bread.
The US Southeast has a lot of nuke plants. Like this:
It is highly unlikely that a direct hit from the most energetic part of a hurricane would affect a nuclear power plant, as they are very well built. I don’t know what major flooding would do for any given plant. I suspect that most or all nuclear power plants in the region are not as well protected from floods ad they need to be, since a typical year now has flooding that no one ever thought would occur commonly. With climate change, 100-year and 500-year floods happen a couple of times a decade in some areas, and the hypercharged hurricanes we now have, with Houston style flooding (see how “Houston” replaces “Biblical” since we no longer have to imagine the epic flooding!), I think we simply don’t know what will happen at nuclear plants affected by three foot rainfalls in their upper catchments.
The biggest and most likely problem with nuclear plans is this. They need to be cooled. Cooling normally happens when they are operating and producing energy. But when the distribution and transmission grids they serve are obliterated, the plants have to shut down since they can’t send electricity out. They then have to cool themselves using alternative fuels. (I’m oversimplifying a great deal here but I assume people will chime in with plenty of distracting details).
Many, perhaps all, nuke plants in the US Southeast have over recent years (since the Fukushima disaster) upgraded their alternate cooling plans, which mainly involves big generators and supplies of liquid fuel for them.
Florence, now a hurricane for the second time, is a strengthening hurricane likely to affect the US east coast south of New York and north of Central Florida, where tropical force winds may arrive by late Wednesday. The exact area to be affected is not yet known. Florence is likely to be a very strong hurricane.
There are now very few models that show Hurricane Florence not hitting the east coast of the US.
Florence is fairly likely to come ashore on the east coast somewhere between the Georgia-South Carolina border, north of Savannah, and Chesapeake Bay south of the Maryland-Virginia border. The current bull’s eye is near Wilmington North Carolina.
If the storm turns way to the north, regions including Maryland and Southern Delaware would likely be affected. If the storm turns way to the south, regions in Georgia would be affected. In all cases, how far the storm heads inland, over what time, and now wet it is, will have an impact on interior flooding, which is very likely to be be significant.
The storm surge near the point of landfill is expected to be significant.
Almost all Atlantic hurricanes reach a maximum strength while still at sea, then slow down a bit as they head inland. I believe this is in part because the warmest waters are usually a bit off shore, as well as other factors. Florence will be passing over waters that are quite a bit warmer than normal, due to global warming. It may also be the case that those waters are warm at depth, a feature of climate change that enhances storms. So, we can expect Florence to become a very strong storm, then reduce in strength to be merely a very strong storm.
In other words, there will be breathless reporting that a Category Four storm is heading for the US but the US will actually be hit by a strong Category 3 storm. Don’t be fooled that this storm is not going to be powerful.
One of the things Florence is likely to do is to curve northward as it approaches the bulging Carolina coast. The exact angle at which the storm makes landfall, and the exact location, will make the difference between a very bad hurricane and an epic disaster the likes of which have not been seen since whenever. The front right quadrant of the storm could push a huge storm surge into a restricting estuary with a city on it. One way or another, someone’s gonna lose themselves some barrier island.
By late evening Wednesday or a bit later, tropical storm force winds are likely to be on shore somewhere along the east coast. That will make being at the beach dangerous, and damage from winds and waves will commence here and there.
Early in the morning on Thursday, September 13th, Florence will be off shore and close enough to be having a strong effect on land. At that point we’ll know a lot more about where the most dangerous places to be are, but evacuations will have hopefuly already been started over a larger area. By the next morning, Friday, Florence will likely have made landfall somewhere. Starting in the wee hours of the morning on Friday and extending for the next few days, inland flooding will be severe, somewhere.
However, the forward speed of the storm can change quite a bit, so maybe this will all happen a bit earlier. Or later.
Estimates of intensity show the storm peaking in about 96 hours at 125 knots (144 mph), putting Florence in the middle of the Category 4 range. There is a very good chance the storm will be just transitioning from Category 4 to strong Category 3 at about the time of landfall.
The National Hurricane Center says:
There is an increasing risk of two life-threatening impacts from Florence: storm surge at the coast and freshwater flooding from a prolonged heavy rainfall event inland. While it is too soon to determine the exact timing, location, and magnitude of these impacts, interests at the coast and inland from South Carolina into the mid-Atlantic region should closely monitor the progress of Florence, ensure they have their hurricane plan in place, and follow any advice given by local officials.
Charles L. Black Jr.’s classic guide to presidential impeachment, now in an updated edition with new material by Philip Bobbitt
Originally published at the height of the Watergate crisis and reissued in 1998, two months before the second impeachment of a U.S. president, Charles Black’s Impeachment became the premier guide to the subject of presidential impeachment. Now thoroughly updated, it is essential reading for every concerned citizen.
Praise for earlier editions of Impeachment:
“The most important book ever written on presidential impeachment.”—Lawfare
“A model of how so serious an act of state should be approached.”—Wall Street Journal
“The best essay written on the subject.”—Jeffrey Rosen, New Republic
“A citizen’s guide to impeachment. . . . Elegantly written, lucid, intelligent, and comprehensive.”—Mary Ann Gale, New York Times Book Review
I have been South Africa many times, and have essentially lived there in a variety of circumstances for quite a bit of time. South Africa is a large, complex, and diverse country with an incredibly complicated history, so I won’t pretend to fully understand the place. But I’m sure I get South Africa far more, and with more nuance and detail, than the vast majority of Americans. So, allow me to tell you something about that beautiful country.
I don’t know how many times I’ve found myself at the listening end of roughly the same sequence of stories, more or less, from always white, usually but not always male, generally older, always Afrikaner (that is one of the cultures) there. There are several stories you hear again and again. The way this white South African lady killed a black with a rigged right side mirror on her backie. The way some blacks hid under the leaves to hijack a white driver but got run over several times instead. And so on and so on.
Make no mistake, South Africa, at the time I was there, before, and since, has had more than its share of brutal crime. The place is a real mess. Large swaths of the society have a huge percentage of fetal alcohol syndrome because wineries paid employees in “tots” (drinks) rather than money. Poverty is deep. The rich and the poor tend to be very far apart. International outrage about apartheid was significantly larger in magnitude than international help after apartheid. And so on.
But the story that Donald Trump is trying to sell, about the violent attacks on white land owners and the taking of their land, is nothing other than yet another steaming pile of shit dished out but post Apartheid angry white supremacists, and picked up and amplified by Fox News.
I have a feeling we are going to need this tidbit of grammar with increasing frequency over coming weeks or months.
It is said by grammar mavens that pleaded is more correct, but pled seems to be more often used in spoken language, and frankly, sounds way better to me.
I google N-gramed (or is that “Ned-gram”) the two words and got this interesting chart:
So, pleaded wins by a mile.
But what about that long term change over time? I’m thinking this means that the word “plea” in all its forms was being used in regular English text (“I plea you give no truck to the wasterel, me’lord,” and the like), where now it is mostly used in phrases like “Trump’s lawyer and fixer, wise-guy Michael Cohen, pled guilty to helping Trump fix the election,” or “Trump’s former campaign manager and well known wise guy Paul Manafort could have pleaded guilty and gotten a deal, but he may have been more concerned with being rubbed out by the Russians than about a few years in jail” or “Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, pled guilty rather than stand trial” and so on.
Anyway, pleaded is more correct, pled is preferred. Now you know. Now, you can no longer plea ignorance on this question.
I’ve noticed that many file managers in Linux are changing in the way many Linux desktop environments are changing. They are becoming simpler. That is a bad thing. File management has not gotten simpler. If anything, it has gotten more complicated. I need a powerful tool, not a dumbed down stick. That’s why I like the KDE file manager, Dolphin.
Here are a few tips and tricks to tweak the dolphin.
Some of the most obvious things you can do are right in front of you, but this will depend on exactly what version of Dolphin you have. When I open Dolphin, I see a “preview” and a “split” icon on top. The utility of these buttons is obvious, and both are useufl. Note that with preview you can use a scaling bar at the bottom of the window to change the size of the preview.
I also see a “control” button over to the right. That leads to the menu that does most of the work in configuring the software. Play around with it. Below are a few specific suggestions that generally involve diving deepish into the menu structure.
Also, don’t forget to right click on everything until you’ve found out what all the right clicking mojo is. There is a lot of right-click mojo in KDE generally, and in Dolphin in particular.
Adding information to icons in Icon View
Dolphin has three modes for viewing files. One is “details” and to be honest, that’s all I want to know most of the time. But if you use the “Icon view” you may want to see the file size under the filename (below the icon) and the number of files under the folder icon, for each item. Or, you might want other info, like creation date, or file type. If you do, change the view mode to Icon, then under Control pick “Additional Information” and click whatever info you want to appear with the icon.
Obviously this also works with the detailed view to give you new columns on which to sort things. It also works with “compact” mode.
Making all folders behave the same way
One of the nice things about Dolphin, and this is true of many file managers, is that you can set individual folders to have specific behaviors, and those behvaviors will be there when you reopen the folder at another time. You can always change the behavior if you need to. But, an even nicer thing in Dolphin (but not in many other file managers) for some people is this: You can tell Dolphin to “Use Common Properties for All Folders” by going to Control, then Configure Dolphin, then under the “General” page, pick the Behavior tab, then check “Use common properties for all folders” as opposed to “Remember properties for each folder.”
Personally I prefer to have each folder remember its properties, but you may prefer the consistancy across all folders.
Group folders and files
Under “Control” you can select “show in groups.” Interesting things happen. Mainly, the files and folders get grouped up either alphabetically or by time. It is kinda freaky. You might like it.
Panels that show more information
Under Control >> Panel you can select several cool options.
A “details” panel appears on the right, and is like a “properties” tab, with information like file size, type, when it was modified, etc. There is additonal information that depends on file type. A picture will show the size of the picture, a video the length of the video, etc. This panel allows you to add tags and comments, and rate a file.
A “terminal” panel appears down below the file manager. As you switch around between directories, the termnial changes directory (and you can even see the cd [directory] command being implemented).
The “Places” Panel is probably on by default, and that is the strip to the left of the icon or details area. A navigation tree is also a panel, and it apears on the left.
You can resize the panels. And, if you unlock them (right click) you can move them around to a certain extent!
Depending on where on Dolphin you right click, you can bring up a menu with the various panels listed, as well as the main tool bar.
So, one thing you can easily do, is to set Dolphin to show previews, be in a folder with pictures you want to review, then turn off all the panels so your pictures can take up maximum room on your screen. Then you’ve got what acts like a dedicated photo album viewer, sort of.
Seems pretty clear to me that Trump is guilty of violating the US Constitution’s Emoluments clause. Ideally, the Congress would do its job and investigate, and likely impeach. But since the Congress is controlled by Republicans, and they are bunch of crooks, that is not going to happen.
But, there is more than one way to skin a Trump. There are law suits making their way through courts, going after Trump in a number of different ways, including over emoluments. Just today, a federal judge allowed an emolument related law suit to continue, according to the Washington Post.
The ruling, from U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte in Greenbelt, Md., will allow the plaintiffs — the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia — to proceed with their case, which says Trump has violated little-used anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution known as the emoluments clauses.
This ruling appeared to mark the first time a federal judge had interpreted those Constitutional provisions and applied their restrictions to a sitting president.
If the ruling stands, it could bring unprecedented scrutiny onto Trump’s businesses — which have sought to keep their transactions with foreign states private, even as their owner sits in the Oval Office.
Here is a Georgetown Law professor talking about Trump and emoluments.
I’ve never read Terry Goodkind’s books. I’ve heard he is a very good writer, but also, politically on the iffy side. But a lot of people like his books, and they seem to fit with a signfiicant subset of readers of this blog. So, I’m here to tell you that a whopping load of Goodkind’s work is now available, temporarily, on Kindle, cheap. Now’s your chance!