Thursday, December 29, 2005

Ms. Didion Shows No Mercy; Will, Yoo, Glater, and Rich Falter

I read only Joan Didion’s Fixed Ideas and ordered the book on loss of daughter and husband within a short time, poor woman.

Curious about this writer’s remarks on Woodward after Frank Rich’s recent citation, I read “The Deferential Writer,” wonderful title that summarizes the article.

I know Didion is a kind of holy figure in the writing racket, though I don't know why. Her style surprised me in the Review-of-Books piece. It’s 19th century—long sentences clotted with subordinate clauses and phrasal modifiers, parenthetical interpolations, and punctuation that throws no lifeline to the struggling reader. Here’s a sentence from “The Deferential Writer” that daunts:

This account of Mrs. Clinton's not entirely remarkable and in any case private conversations with Jean Houston appeared under the apparently accurate if unarresting headline "At a Difficult Time, First Lady Reaches Out, Looks Within," occupied one-hundred-and-fifty-four column inches, was followed by a six-column-inch box explaining the rules under which Mr. Woodward conducted his interviews, and included among similar revelations the news that, according to an unidentified source (Mr. Woodward tells us that some of his interviews were on the record, others "conducted under journalistic ground rules of 'background' or 'deep background,' meaning the information could be used but the sources of the information would not be identified"), Mrs. Clinton had at an unspecified point in 1995 disclosed to Jean Houston ("Dialogue and quotations come from at least one participant, from memos or from contemporaneous notes or diaries of a participant in the discussion") that "she was sure that good habits were the key to survival."

"Box's explaining" for possessive before the gerund

This sentence runs to 156 words and puts Proust in the shade. Three readings let me extract base sentence: This account …occupied 154 column inches, was followed by by a six-column-inch block, and included the news that she was sure that good habits are the key to survival.

The remaining 127 words comprise modifying underbrush for the hapless reader to whack through to access the basic sentence. Ms. Didion doesn’t use semicolons to separate major sections in this metastasis of a sentence; she sticks to commas, which the reader must distinguish from commas that adorn clot of clause-and- phrase modifiers. Her passive verb “was followed” breaks parallel structure and adds difficulty for the reader.

Broken down, this dense sentence-paragraph provides more access. I offer the following edit. Doing so probably ranks lese majeste due to Ms. Didion’s literary-world holy status:

This account of Mrs. Clinton's not entirely remarkable-- and in any case private-- conversations with Jean Houston appeared under the apparently accurate if unarresting headline "At a Difficult Time, First Lady Reaches Out, Looks Within.” It occupies one-hundred-and-fifty-four column inches. A six-column-inch box's explaining the rules under which Mr. Woodward conducted his interviews included, among similar revelations, the news that, according to an unidentified source, "she was sure that good habits were the key to survival." Mr. Woodward tells us that some of his interviews were on the record, others "conducted under journalistic ground rules of 'background' or 'deep background,' meaning the information could be used but the sources of the information would not be identified." He adds that "Dialogue and quotations come from at least one participant, from memos, or from contemporaneous notes or diaries of a participant in the discussion."

Didion’s article makes the case against Woodward’s ersatz iconic stature, something other members of the writing tribe have shrunk from doing. For that bold service, Ms. Didion--whose picture suggests she weights eighty-five pounds tops--gets a salute for guts from me. Also commendable is her wading through all those badly written books Woodward churned out that people have read as if they were holy writ and that have made him a millionaire. These badly written books have heretofore got universal praise and no murmur of opposition until Ms. Didion’s salutary blast. I trust her pointing out that Emperor Woodward lacks clothes will embolden her colleagues to rethink their worship of this stolid fraud.

Besides an addiction to long sentences, Ms. Didion makes occasional punctuation and grammar errors, samples of which are “…by Dan Balz, running seventy-nine column inches, and headlined "Dole Seeks 'a 10'…,” in which Ms. Didion separates compound participial phrases with a comma; or “…with the candidate telling the head of his search team…,” in which Ms. Didion fails to make “candidate” possessive before a gerund.

I don’t know why Ms. Didion indulges herself in such difficult-to-read style from another era. She may do so from her sense of the privileges of age. Longevity perhaps leads her to claim right to crochety writing style. She means to make the reader work to glean meaning of such willfully dense sentences as the one quoted. She counts on the indulgence of her readers, who are as non-questioning of her venerable status as they were of Woodward’s iconic one.

I refute beforehand the charge that I grannybash Ms. Didion. My status as the granny of ten inoculates me. I also enjoy the trump of being older than Ms. Didion and advise my junior to cut down the length of her sentences, go easy on commas, and use the possessive-before-the-gerund rule. My most potent weapon in daring to dissent, however, is my teaching English to reluctant freshmen and sophomores, every bit as recalcitrant as Ms. Didion may be and probably as loathe to change, for twenty-eight years.

George Will

Searching for Labor's Role

Stern understands the perils of labor becoming perceived as an interest group that lobbies itself.

Le Will misses the possessive before the gerund. This flossy, esoteric punctuation rule should appeal to a guy who wears a bowtie.

Stern would, of course, rather bury Republicans than praise them, but his Democratic allies cannot do the former until they pay attention to him doing the latter, which he does, if only to a point.

Will uses the objective pronoun when he should use the possessive “his” before the gerund.

Steve Chapman

Chicago Tribune

Beyond the imperial presidency
Published December 25, 2005E-mail:

This is hardly the only example of the president demanding powers he doesn't need.

Mr. Chapman flouts possessive-before-the-gerund rule. This error rages pandemic in newspapers.

At times like this, it's apparent that Cheney and Bush want more power not because they need it to protect the nation, but because they want more power.

Chapman omits a contrasting element coma before "not" and inserts a superfluous comma in a correlative.

By the President’s Hand
By John Yoo
Last update: December 22, 2005 at 3:46 PM

Most would agree now that congressional isolationism before World War II harmed U.S. interests, and that FDR should have been able to enter the conflict much earlier.

The guy who writes "Talking Points" on Daily Kos asked readers to comment on Yoo's evading definitive statment on the constitutionality of Bush's wiretapping. I defer that task to others but insist that Professor Yoo inserts a superflous comma between two dependent clauses. If he can be wrong about commas, he can be wrong about the Constitution’s granting the president imperial war powers.

In Criminal Cases, a Court Nominee Hews to Rules

Published: December 25, 2005

"Trial counsel conducted an extensive investigation for mitigating evidence," he wrote. "According to their testimony, trial counsel got to know Rompilla well during the course of their representation and established a good relationship with him.”

Glater makes a pronoun-antecedent-agreement error. “Counsel” here is a collective noun. So the counsel pronoun reference should be an “its,” not “their.”

I Saw Jackie Mason Kissing Santa Claus

Published: December 25, 2005

…that ended with a federal judge banishing intelligent design from high school biology classes.

Mr. Rich joins the gang in omitting the possessive before the gerund.

Mr. Frist played God on national television by giving a quack diagnosis of Ms. Schiavo's condition based on a videotape, and then endorsed a so-called Justice Sunday megachurch rally demonizing "activist" judges - including, no doubt, any who may yet pass on the legality of his brilliantly timed stock sales.

Rich double error: he divides with a comma a compound verb; then he misses another possessive before the gerund.

John Kerry told a gathering that he "went back and read the New Testament the other day" - which presumably will prevent him from erroneously citing Job as his favorite New Testament text, as Howard Dean did in 2004.

That trailing adverbial clause gets no comma before it. It is restrictive. Howard Dean cited Job, not Tom Delay.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Communications Officer Stephen Hegarty Flunks Communication


Stephen Hegarty moved from long-time St. Petersburg Times reporter to communications director for Hillsborough County School Board. He makes $91,000 in the new position, more than his reporter's job one infers.

His writing below makes one marvel that he was reporter. He does not know comma protocol; his style is flatulent bureaucratese. You see comma errors in newspapers, but you don't see pompous, wordy text such Hegerty must consider condign for his new position. One wonders how he changed so fast from succinct reporter style to gaseous bureaucratese festooned with commas.

This message represents response to a Sunshine-law-public-information request. Mr. Hegarty delayed sending it for a month because, I infer, he has to admit in as oblique language as his meagre skill can muster that the School Board's unfair and probably illegal policy sanctions hiring favorites without competition.

Mr. Hegarty's bloated salary would pay three teachers. And teachers would know how to use commas. His is textbook case of the administration's parasitic use of education to line its pockets. Before a penny goes to students or teachers, the administration skims its raises and perquisites off the top. School Boards are complicit in this scam. The Hillsborough County School Board raised its salary recently for a part-time job during budget shortfalls so that its members make more than a teacher with seven years in the system and two master's degrees.

Nepotism Policy

In terms of the School district's nepotism policy, I would refer you to the Policy Manual, which is available at the District's website ( 24 words (wordy: Edit: See the district web site for nepotism policy []). 9 words As you'll see (comma: introductory adverbial clause) there are no prohibitions against spouses working (spouses' working: possessive before gerund) for the district. 12 words (Edit: No rules prevent spouses' working for the district.) 8 words However, there are clear guidelines to prevent an employee from supervising a family member or spouse. 16 words (Edit: Guidelines prevent an employee's supervising a family member.) 8 words I think you'll find that (no antecedent) is a common policy in large businesses as well as School Districts.15 words (Edit: Large businesses use this policy as well.)7 words

Chapter 6.27 reads, in part:

No employee may be appointed, (passive verb) transferred (comma for items in a series in academic English) or promoted into a position at a work site in which his or her father, mother, sister, brother, husband, wife, son or (comma: Academic English requires this comma in items in a series.) daughter is employed as a supervisor or administrator. No employee may be appointed, transferred, or promoted Passive verbs into a supervisory or administrative position at a work site in which his or her father, mother, sister, brother, husband, wife, son comma or daughter is employed in a subordinate position. (A pile-up of passive verbs, always longer and less clear than sentences with active verbs, reduces clarity: Edit: The School Board may appoint, transfer, promote…)

List of "paired jobs"

I offer a two-part answer. (redundant 1) No such list exists. If I were to request that such a list be created, (Edit: its creation) the District would charge a fee, (redundant comma before trailing restrictive adverbial clause)as we would do for any other person (possessive before a gerund) requesting that we create a record that does not already exist. 36 words (Edit: The District charges a fee to create a record.) 9 words Typically (comma for sentence adverb) the fee for such a computer search and the creation of such a record is in the range of $61. 23 words (Edit: A typical record-creation fee is about $61.) 7 words It could be higher. (Your first and last sentences avoid wordiness. Use them as models.)

2) I see no clear strategy for way to create such a list. Let me explain why. (redundant talking down.) We do not have computer records that track employees' spouses. 10 words (Edit: District computer records don't track spouses.) 6 words How would we capture such a list? It would be possible to check on people with the same last name, the same phone number (comma: items in a series) and the same address.26 words (Edit: Tracking people with the same surname, phone number, and address is possible.) 12 words However, we have some (delete) married couples with different last names. And we might very well (delete in obeisance to Strunk & White) have some parents whose sons or daughters work for the school district and share the same address and phone number. 25 words (Edit: We might have parents share last name with sons and daughters who work in the school system.) 17 words

Request for information

You point out, correctly,(Omit redundant modifier in memory of Strunk & White.) that a request for information does not need to be written (Edit: need not be written.) I'm not sure why you think the Board comment you cited states otherwise. The comment to which you refer is a standard warning to email writers that their correspondence to and from public officials is a public record. Some people forget that (pronoun reference: that what?), and we think it is only delete fair to (delete) remind them.

Records Retention

In an earlier request, you asked for employment applications for the applicants who did not get the jobs in question. By law, we are required (Edit: Law requires us) to keep such records for two years, not the 30 years that you cited. Therefore, we no longer have those applications. Let me be clear: (patronizing talking down) We keep application records for employees. But law does not require that we are required to keep those application records for unsuccessful applicants.

Hiring information

Linda Kipley was appointed (passive verb's sneaky function: to hide the culprit Who appointed her?) to her current position as part of a reorganization. The job was not advertised (sneaky passive verb: was not advertised by whom? Comma goes here for compound sentence.) and there were no other applicants.
As for the applicant (hyphen) pool file on Connie Milito (I assume you mean Connie Milito. Your correspondence refers to a "Connie Alito," but we have no one working here by that name.) (Edit: The period goes outside the close of the parentheses.) She holds her current position as a result of (Edit: from) an upgrade.
Her job duties were expanded (sneaky passive verb: expanded by whom?) and (comma needed for a compound sentence) therefore her title was changed. (Passive verb hides the actor. By whom?)

There were no other applicants. In effect, the District's lobbyist was asked (passive verb: by whom?) to do more jobs (comma needed: compound sentence) and her job description was updated (by whom?) to reflect that. (that what? No antecedent)

As for Ms. Milito's original appointment, we no longer have the files of the unsuccessful applicants. That appointment occurred in 1993, which is well outside of the records (hyphen) retention period. I can tell you, however, that Ms. Milito's personnel file contains documents that indicate ("indicate? Does this flossy word mean "say" or "show"?) 18 people applied for that position.

Personnel files

Some time ago, you asked to see the personnel files for Linda Kipley and Connie Milito. You were invited (passive verb) to come to the office (at 901 East Kennedy Boulevard) any time. The invitation stands. We would be happy to find a comfortable place for you to peruse the files and would gladly (Strunk & White's superfluouss modifier) make copies for you.

Ads for Lennard & Elia Superintendent Positions

Earlier you asked who wrote the advertisements for the last two superintendent searches. I believe we already responded to that inquiry, but I'll include the response here as well. (Edit: To repeat our earlier response:)

With regard to (Edit: In) the superintendent search in 1996 when Dr. Lennard was chosen, the advertisement was worked (Writer has passive-verb addiction. Writer's resorting to passive verbs makes a reader suspicious of writer's hiding something. The reader is right to be suspicious.) on by a committee. John Miliziano, Administrative Assistant to Supt. Sickles, was instrumental (This blowsy expression is so bad that you must replace it with something that sounds like human speech, not like that of an android.) in getting this (antecedent: what?) done. The committee and others who had input on the advertisement brochure (Edit: contributed) were Supt. Walter Sickles, John Miliziano, Donna Reed (Director of Communications), Dr. Wayne Blanton (Executive Director of the Florida School Boards Association), School Board members Doris Reddick, Carol Kurdell, Glenn Barrington, Yvonne McKitrick, Candy Olson, Carolyn Bricklemyer (Comma in standard English for items in a series.) and Joe Newsome.

With regard to the advertisement of this year when Mrs. Elia was chosen, that was drawn up by the search firm (PROACT). 22 words (Edit: Search firm PROACT devised the ad for Ms. Elia's selection.) 10 words During the process (delete) the Board had input as well as final approval.

You also asked who was on the School Board when Dr. Lennard was hired. (passive verb) School Board members at that time were Doris Reddick, Carol Kurdell, Glenn Barrington, Yvonne McKitrick, Candy Olson, Carolyn Bricklemyer Comma and Joe Newsome.

Stephen Hegarty, Public Information Officer, School District of Hillsborough County

Friday, December 09, 2005


Thursday, December 08, 2005

St. Petersburg's Poynter Institute hustles ethics drive-by for journalists. Its web page features emergency ethics hyperlink for members of the greenshade priesthood in need of ad-hoc-ethics coaching on the fly. Nobody asked the Poynter ethics mandarins about the ethics of sitting on one's lazy, gutless ass during the run-up to the Iraq war and taking dictation from White House apparatchiks.

Nor has Poynter yet issued a white paper on Bob Woodward's sell-out to become press flunky for Cheney et al.

Le Mark D. Ludwig, cardinal of Poynter's Holy See, gives himself gloss of assistant-professor from California State. He poses as expert in communications. I may file official Poynter ethics charge against Le Ludwig for offenses against language despite his claim of expertise in communications.The fellow suffers wordiness and ignorance of subjunctive mood. Until he masters these afflictions, I can't endorse him as writing or ethics wise guy.

I feature only one of Professor Mark'ss unlovely sentences below since I must forge on to George Will's and David Brook's flawed productions.

The Poynter faculty has fifteen members, eleven of which are male. I tussled with Vice President Dr. Roy Peter Clark about faculty sexist disparity. Dr. Clark is tetchy about his right to chauvinist hypocrisy and waxed wroth at St. Petersburg Tiger Bay when I confronted him. He accused me of racism because Poynter director is Black woman Dr. Karen Dunlap. I told sexist Clark not to try to hide behind a Black woman's skirts. Things went downhill from there.

Mark D. Ludwig (from the Poynter Institute site), Assistant Professor of Communication, Studies California State University, Sacramento

When I worked as a copy editor, it was my fantasy that the newspaper would go--condition contrary to fact: subjunctive, not indicative, mood to press once -- just once -- without the benefit of having gone through the copy desk. 33 words Edit: "My fantasy as copy editor was that the newspaper go to press just once without copy-desk review."17 words

The Inalienable Right to a Remote By George F. Will Thursday, December 8, 2005; Page A33

Feeling, evidently, flush with (other people's) cash, the Senate has concocted a novel way to spend $3 billion: create a new entitlement. The Senate has passed Tense sequence: should be past tense, not present perfect. and so has the House, with differences -- an entitlement to digital television.

"Evidently" is a stocking-stuffer adverb that Strunk & White would condemn. "Other people's" contributes to wordiness. The comma after "House" is redundant: the prepositional phrase "with differences" is restrictive. The House passed the entitlement "with differences," not with concurrence.

If you think America is suffering an entitlement glut, you may have just hurled the newspaper across the room. Pick it up and read on, because this story illustrates the timeless truth that no matter how deeply you distrust the government's judgment, you are too trusting.

The comma after "on" is redundant: the trailing adverbial clause is restrictive. Most trailing adverbial modifiers are restrictive and merit no comma before them. "Timeless" is a redundant modifier (Strunk & White). "Truth" requires no qualifier. A comma after "timeless truth" would encircle the adverbial modifier "no...judgment." The writer has the latter, but not the first, comma right.

Why is this a crisis? Because, although programming currently is broadcast in both modes, by April 2009 broadcasters must end analog transmissions and the government will have auctioned the analog frequencies for various telecommunications purposes. For the vast majority of Americans, April 2009 will mean . . . absolutely nothing. Nationwide, 85 percent of all television households (and 63 percent of households below the poverty line) already have cable or satellite service.

Using "this" without an antecedent is ok if the reader doesn't have to plow through the preceding paragraph or infer antecedent as is the case here. A careful writer would provide something such as "this boondoggle." Mr. Will should move one of his redundant commas to after "transmissions": two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction require a comma before the coordinating conjunction. "Vast majority" is moss-grown cliche. "Absolutely" is another flatulent adverb that would make Strunk & White's authors cringe.

What will become of households that do not? Leaving aside such eccentric alternative pastimes as conversation and reading, the digitally deprived could pursue happiness by buying a new television set, all of which will be digital-capable by March 2007. Today a digital-capable set with a flat-screen display can be purchased from -- liberals, please pardon the mention of your Great Satan -- Wal-Mart for less than $460.

"Alternative" is a redundant adjective: Strunk & White doesn't like redundant adjectives any more than it likes redundant adverbs. Logic: "all of which" refers to one televsion set. The passive verb exacerbates Mr. Will's bow-tie aura of prancing preciosity. He should use muscular active verb: "Today people can buy a digital-capable set."

Remember, although it is difficult to do so, that Republicans control Congress. And today's up-to-date conservatism does not stand idly by expecting people to actually pursue happiness on their own. Hence the new entitlement from Congress to help all Americans acquire converter boxes to put on top of old analog sets, making the sets able to receive digital programming. All Americans -- rich and poor; it is uncompassionate to discriminate on the basis of money when dispersing money -- will be equally entitled to the help.

The "although" clause is padding. Avoid flabby "it" construction as in the contorted specimen: Edit: "Discriminating on the basis of money when distributing money is not compassionate, so all get help." "Stand idly by" is cliche hoary from overuse by small-town weeklies, the editors of which take a semester's instruction at the state university and return as intellectual light of the town. Born in White Oak, Georgia, I know this situation first hand.

The "Hence" construction blazons whopper grammar offense: fragment. Redundant modifiers have a malignant hold on Le Will's mind. He should sacrifice "equally" on the altar of Strunk & White.

The $990 million House version of this entitlement -- call it No Couch Potato Left Behind -- is (relatively) parsimonious: Consumers would get vouchers worth only $40 and would be restricted to a measly two vouchers per household. The Senate's more spacious entitlement would pay for most of the cost -- $50 to $60 -- of the converter boxes. But there is Republican rigor in this: Consumers would be required to pay $10. That is the conservatism in compassionate conservatism.

The parenthetical "relatively" adverb ranks stuffing. "Would be required" passive verb should be active "would pay."

Gattuso says defenders of this entitlement argue that taxpayers will not be burdened by its costs because the government's sale of the analog frequencies will yield perhaps $10 billion.

Passive construction: Edit--"Gattuso says that this entitlement will not cost taxpayers."

Le Will suffers addiction to modifiers; weakness for passive voice; wordiness; and a tone that aims for Olympian but comes off stuffed-shirt. His too-frequent parentheses make readers feel he thinks them dumb. He should avoid parenthetical expressions.

Mr. Brooks: I promised not to rebuke your comma errors after you wrote paean to marriage and endorsed gay unions. I lied. This column deserves grammar-punctuation rebuke to ricochet off its smirking triumphalism. The grammar gloves come back off.

Lee Drury De Cesare

It begins in the wilderness, in the early 1950's, with Russell Kirk, Milton Friedman and William F. Buckley Jr. writing tracts for small bands of true believers.

The commas around the adverbial prepositional phrase "in the early 1950s" are redundant. That phrase is restrictive: the wilderness conservative conclave began in the '50s, not the '60s. "Kirk," "Friedman," and "Buckley" all get apostrophe s's: possessive before the gerund "writing."

The Democrats don't even know the state of play.

Misplaced modifier: "even" goes before "the state."

...few Reaganites actually knew how to run a government.

Featherbedding wordiness: dump "actually" for the sake of Strunk & White.

It was only this week that we can truly say the exodus story is over, with the success of the Medicare reform bill.

This is a limping construction beginning with weak expletive " it." "It was only" and "truly" pad. Edit: "With success of the Medicare-reform bill, the exodus story is over." 23 versus 10 words When flabby or crisp expression presents itself: you choose flabby. You lack rhetorical taste, Mr. Brooks.

If you are the AARP, seeking a benefit, you have to go to the Republicans. If you are a centrist Democrat like John Breaux or Max Baucus seeking to pass legislation, you have to work with the Republicans.

The participial phrase after "AARP" is restrictive just as the "seeking" participial phrase after "Baucus" is restrictive. You are right to use no comma in the second instance.

They get to sputter about fiscal irresponsibility, just as the green-eyeshade Republicans used to, as the majority party uses the power of the purse to buy votes.

The adverbial clause "just..." is restrictive: no commas.

The Republicans are now in the habit of winning, and are on permanent offense on all fronts.

You split a compound verb with a comma. Omit it. Redaction: "Republicans' acquiring the habit of winning puts them on offense on all fronts." 17 versus 13 words

They have even come to occupy the Democratic holy of the holies, the welfare state.

Misplaced modifier: "even" should go before "the Democratic." You misplace "even" for a second time here. Review your grammar primer on modifier placement.

This week we saw dozens of conservatives, who once believed in limited government, vote for a new spending program that will cost over $2 trillion over the next 20 years.

The "who..." adjectival clause is restrictive: no commas. The "dozens of conservatives" phrase does not encompass all conservatives.

I begged Mr. Sulzberger to hire a qualified woman to break Ms. Dowd's hold on token-woman status on the op-ed page. He hired you. Now he reaps the punctuation errors of his decision, not that he recognizes them.

Frank Rich

Not only did the White House let that provision die to preserve its main goal, a top-heavy reduction of tax rates, but in fighting for an end to the estate tax it has also eliminated an added incentive for the wealthy to donate to charity.

Mr. Rich, you need a comma after "tax." You have an introductory verbal phrase (preposition plus gerund phrase as its object). These introductory verbal phrases merit a comma after them.

But in truth Mr. Bush hasn't changed, it's just the Washington perception of him that has.

The "in truth" is throat clearing: omit it. You commit a felony comma splice. "It" constructions are weak. "It" lacks antecedent. Suggested replacement: "Washington's perception of him has." Shorter is usually better.

You are right about Mr. Broder. This press Polonius reigns as solemn vector of received wisdom from the empyrean or some exalted place of gas and light. That he sports the title "Dean" says something about the intellectual vacuity inside the beltway.

Lee De Cesare

Mr. Gailey: I espied your essay 'I Came..." during my masthead search to see whether women still repine in The St. Petersburg Times basement. They do.

I read your piece to judge the writing felicity of the pooh-bah second to Woton-Paul Tash.Your tone leaks irascible condescension. You deem as silly reader outcry questioning your not seeing Fahrenheit 9/11 before condemning it. Seeing the movie to shut up the big reader babies confirmed, not challenged, your preconceived opinion.

I won't argue your right to wallow in wrongheaded mind-set and to expatiate on it in a paper at which you reign lord chamberlain and doubtless sport a well-filled stocking and pre-Cialis codpiece whilst preening other emblems of exalted office. Polonius would be pea green with envy. I will, however, dispute language. Excerpted are specimens from your essay:

That said, let me give Michael Moore his due for the last third of Fahrenheit 9/11, which confronts audiences with gruesome and bloody images of death and suffering in Iraq, by both U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians, that they will never see on the network evening news.

Flagged commas cut off a restrictive adjectival prepositional phrase. U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians, not mullahs and belly dancers, model the images. Style: you over-modify passim. Dump either "gruesome" or "bloody."

Moore does not mention that it was Richard Clarke, the White House counterterrorism chief and a holdover from the Clinton administration, who made the decision to allow the Saudis to leave.

The expletive "it" produces flabby writing. Eschew the device. Edit: "Moore does not mention that Richard Clarke...made the decision to allow the Saudis to leave."

...that Bush is using the nation's post-9/11 anxiety for his own re-election purposes and to keep the nation at war to benefit his friends.

Parallelism falters. Edit: "Bush uses the nation's post-9/11 anxiety to promote his election and to keep the nation..."

Or that Clarke has since become one of Bush's harshest critics on both the 9/11 attacks and the war in Iraq. It's clear why Moore didn't use Clarke in the movie.

One allows a genius artful fragments, not newspaper opiners. A standard sentence must replace this fragment beginning with "Or." Another boggy expletive construction appears here, and one mars your essay's exit sentence. Recast both to jettison offending expletives.

Mr. Rodney Thrash must occupy a low rung at The Times, probably little above that of women. The same edition sees his report on the Pacifica speaker's night-time appearance at Tampa Performing Arts Center. Had I known him present, I would have sought the boy out to give him a pat on the head. Sleep deprived, Rodney stumbles into vague pronoun reference and case error in "Critic...."

Goodman said that it taught her that people are hungry for outlets that present all perspectives, no matter who they offend.

"It" lacks antecedent. Mr. Thrash could replace "it" with "the experience." "Who" should be "whom," object of the verb "offend." I have seen big-city-papers make this error. Maureen Dowd did twice in one essay that I recall. She is a woman. Owning up to the error won't bother her.

And "don't pick on Mr. Thrush for lapses. He made fewer than did you, and you have been writing for a hundred years with leisure to learn grammar and punctuation, although this essay testifies that you chose to spend spare minutes at the water cooler.

While straining to take notes in Arts-Center-balcony gloom, Thrush fretted over inability to pay rent on the pittance that The Times vouchsafes him--an instance of wealth transfer from worker bees to augment bloated salary and perquisites for lord-chamberlain- management VIP layabouts. Meanwhile, while Master Thrush toils far into the night, the grandee receiving the let-them-eat-cake largesse bled from proletariat employees lies long abed on 600-thread-count French sheets bought on a Times-reimbursed-executive-privilege-faux-management-tra-la-la-expense-account junket at some pricey Paris Lit, Bath, et LÃ -bas off the Avenue de Breteuil.

In addition to no night duty and voluptuous linens, this cosseted chamberlain has license to make writing errors, cleave to idiosyncratic views, and condescend to readers hey nonny nonny. Drudge affirms him to be on the Saudi payroll as well.

Very, very respectfully yours,

lee drury de cesare

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