Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tweetiquette

Evil communications corrupt good manners.

The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians

It is time for a brief lesson on the art of reporting about tweeting, and how tweeting is affecting the identities of those in the Tweetisphere. Since the tweet is being used almost exclusively by someone who identifies himself as @realDonaldTrump (to distinguish himself from someone who, inexplicably, might seek to establish an on-line presence as @unrealDonaldTtrump or @fakeDonaldTrump), the question assumes an importance it did not have until @realDonaldTrump assumed the office he now enjoys. Although not privy to the complete etiquette of tweeting or what might be called “Tweetiquette”, two things have become obvious over the last few months.

The first is that the tweet does not stand alone when being reported by the print media. It has become accepted that when reporting on a presidential or, indeed, any other tweet, the text of the tweet is reported verbatim in the context of the paragraph in which it is being reported. That paragraph is then immediately followed by an indented, and sometimes smaller fonted, repeat of the tweet. Thus, for example, a recent edition of the Washington publication, The Hill, contains a report by Jacqueline Thomsen about DJT’s description of his brilliant success in helping Puerto Rico recover from the devastation of Hurricane Irma. In her report she quotes the Trumpian Tweet saying: “Nobody could have done what I’ve done for #PuertoRico with so little appreciation. So much work!” That paragraph is immediately followed by the tweet itself. It includes the Trump face, followed by the name Donald J. Trump, followed by the tweet’s text. The same protocol was followed in an article describing the same tweet that appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Another example of quoting and then repeating the tweet, is found in a CNN description of the dispute between @realDonaldTrump and Senator Bob Corker. The CNN report quoted verbatim the @realDonaldTrump tweet saying; “Senator Bob Corker ‘begged’ me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee. I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out . . . .Didn’t have the guts to run.” That report is then followed by the transcription of the three tweets that quote comprises, all from the @realDonaldTrump. The CNN report then continues with another verbatim quote of @realDonaldTrump in which tweet a description of Senator Corker’s efforts on the “Iran Deal” are described followed by the appearance of the tweets themselves. The foregoing practice seems to be universally accepted in the publishing world and, accordingly, one has come to treat it as tweet protocol. Although this is nothing more than speculation, it may have become the custom in the publishing world because so many of the tweets that emanate from @realDonaldTrump are so preposterous, inane, or suggest an unhinged creator that, were the tweets simply reported verbatim without the benefit of publishing the tweets themselves, they would not be credible, and people would accuse the publication of publishing “fake news.” Publishing the tweet itself eliminates any possibility that the tweets were created by the entity reporting the tweets.

Another feature of the tweet is that its handle, as it were, has become a part of the identity of the place being referred to, or the human with whom the tweet is associated. Thus, in DJT’s tweet about Puerto Rico, he doesn’t simply refer to “Puerto Rico” but #PuertoRico. This enables the reader to click on that word and be taken to a source that tells the reader more about Puerto Rico. More difficult to understand is the reason for the use of @ when referring to people such as the president or the vice president.

When Vice President Pence walked out of a football game in Indiana, without waiting to see if his favorite team won or lost, (the walkout reportedly taking place according to a pre-arranged scheme between DJT and Mr. Pence), DJT tweeted that he: “asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.” Playing along with those ways of describing each other and, in this case, Mr. Pence’s wife, after @VP Pence left the stadium he explained his departure. He said: “I left today’s Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.” (It is unclear why the “Flag” was capitalized and “soldiers” was not.) By referring to @POTUS, @VP Pence assumed that tweet readers would know he was referring to @realDonaldTrump.

This piece is not meant to be the final word on the practice of attaching “@” or” #” when naming people or places. By alerting readers to these practices, however, it may make the readers’ journeys through the tweetisphere more enjoyable and give them things to look for. And on the bright side, the advent of these practices are among the least harmful things that have been introduced into our world since @realDonaldTrump became what he has become.


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Clark Kent aka Scott Pruitt

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s . . . .

The mystery is solved. The mystery is why does Scott Pruitt think he needs a $24,750 phone booth installed in his office at the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s because . . . . But I get ahead of myself.

Scott Pruitt is the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The phone booth that is being built for him in his private office, at a reported cost of $24,750, is being built by Acoustical Solutions. That company builds a variety of sound-dampening and privacy products. The booths that the company builds are used for hearing tests where complete soundproofing is important. A sales consultant for Acoustical Solutions, however, said that Mr. Pruitt wanted: “a secure phone booth that couldn’t be breached from a data point of view or from someone standing outside eavesdropping.” The fact that Mr. Pruitt says he needs a sound proof phone booth in order to have private conversations when in his office with the door closed, comes as something of a surprise to those who have entered federal buildings in Washington. Those people know that it is not possible to walk into a federal building and stroll from office to office at leisure, entering private spaces without vetting of any sort. Indeed, to visit EPA headquarters it is necessary to present forms of identification that are prescribed by the agency.

An obvious question presented by construction of a telephone booth in Mr. Pruitt’s office is, why hasn’t one been installed in DJT’s office. Pictures of the Oval Office do not show the presence of a sound proof phone booth. The reason is that DJT does most of his important communicating by means of the tweet, and a tweet is, by its very nature, only effective when it is not distributed quietly. Therefore, a secure phone booth is not needed in the Oval Office. What we have now figured out, however, is that privacy is not why Mr. Pruitt wants a sound proof phone booth. He wants it because he thinks it will enable him, in the future, to avoid the criticism he has received from the press for taking charter flights at taxpayer expense instead of flying commercially. His affinity for charter flights is shared by a number of the swamp like creatures who inhabit DJT’s cabinet. They, too, prefer the elegance of the charter flight to the plebian mode of travel favored by the average citizen.

According to one report, during his first months in office, Mr. Pruitt’s non-commercial airplane travel cost taxpayers more than $58,000. He went home to Oklahoma at least ten times, often flying there at taxpayer expense. On a trip to visit a mine in Colorado with the governor of that state and other officials, Mr. Pruitt declined the offer of a free ride on the governor’s plane, preferring to charter a plane for himself and his staff. And here is why Scott Pruitt, a man who lives in the past and denies climate science, needs a phone booth in his office.

Phone booths, as older readers recall, were formerly found all over the country. The only way of making a phone call, if away from home, was to enter one of those booths, deposit the money in the appropriate slot, dial the number, and proceed to talk with the party on the other end of the line. For one famous comic book character from many years ago, however, it served an even more important purpose. The comic book character was Clark Kent, a man of extraordinary talents, whose day job was as a journalist for the Daily Planet a newspaper in the town of Metropolis. Clark, however, had another persona that he used for the benefit of humanity. When the need for his services arose, he entered a phone booth and within moments emerged from the phone booth as Superman, a man of extraordinary strength who was able to fly all over the world without the aid of an airplane to rescue those in peril. Mr. Pruitt devotes himself in his new day job to help the industries that he, as the EPA’s administrator, regulates. Mr. Pruitt does not believe that climate change is real. He is dismissive of scientists who think otherwise. He has replaced dozens of members serving on EPA’s scientific advisory boards. And he wants to put an end to the criticism he has received for using chartered airplanes to visit and dine with the executives of energy companies he regulates and has befriended. Recalling Clark Kent, Mr. Pruitt thinks that by installing the phone booth in his office, he will be able to follow in Clark’s footsteps and fly as Superman did, thus saving the taxpayer considerably more money than the cost of the phone booth. The odds are that he will be sorely disappointed when he comes out of the phone booth. He will still be Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The rest of us will also be disappointed because we know that the phone booth is nothing more than another example of Mr. Pruitt’s ability to find ways to have the taxpayer fund his foibles.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Sticks and Stones Can Break My Bones but. . . .

False words are not only evil in themselves
But they infect the soul with evil.
— Plato, Phaedo

I should have known, and am embarrassed by my initial reaction. My reaction was triggered by the headline on the front page of the New York Times on September 23, 2017. It said: “Dictator’s Reply Turns Personal.” I immediately assumed it was referring to, among other things, DJT’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly, in which he called North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, “rocket boy,” and said Mr. Kim was “on a suicide mission for himself.” On twitter he said Mr. Kim is “obviously a madman” and “will be tested like never before.” As I said, I should have known. The “dictator” to whom the NYT was referring was Kim Jong Un.

It was, of course, DJT who introduced the concept of “personal” into the verbal exchanges between the two men during the week in which DJT addressed the U.N. General Assembly. Mr. Kim’s rejoinder was considerably more poetic than the DJT insults, and if we were confronted with the possibility of a formal declaration of a war of words between the United States, let by DJT, and North Korea, led by Kim Jong Un, there is little question who the winner would be.

In a lengthy commentary entitled “Statement of Chairman of State Affairs Commission of DPRK,” that was said to come from “Respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, Mr. Kim explained what he had expected from DJT’s remarks. “Shaping the general idea of what he would say, I expected he would make stereo-typed prepared remarks a little different from what he used to utter in his office on the spur of the moment, as he had to speak on the world’s biggest official diplomatic state.” Instead, said Mr. Kim, DJT “made unprecedented rude nonsense one has never heard from any of his predecessors” adding, perhaps for color, “A frightened dog barks louder.”

Continuing his commentary on DJT’s speech before the U.N. General Assembly, Mr. Kim seemed to be anticipating DJT’s address in Alabama that was given by DJT in the evening of September 23, the same day Mr. Kim’s remarks were published. Perhaps as a word of caution, Mr. Kim said that DJT should: “exercise prudence in selecting words and . . . be considerate of whom he speaks to when making a speech in front of the world.” That thought was given voice only hours before Mr. Trump gave free rein to all, to call those of whose actions one disapproves, “sons of bitches.” Parents who, until that moment, had thought that particular pejorative should be reserved for the locker room, were surprised, if not appalled, that it would be used by the president of the United States when “making a speech in front of the world.” Parents were not the only ones who were appalled.

The foregoing were not the only sensible thoughts that emanated from a man known to be a mad man who, as DJT said in a tweet, has “starved and killed his own people” including, but not limited to, his uncle, his half-brother and assorted other family members. Mr. Kim also said that DJT’s remarks “remind me of such words as ‘political layman’ and ‘political heretic’ which were in vogue in reference to Trump during his presidential election campaign. . . . After taking office, Trump has rendered the world restless through threats and blackmail against all countries in the world. He is unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme commander of a country, and he is surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician.” Although those words aptly describe Mr. Kim, they undeniably apply to DJT.

The high point of Mr. Kim’s comments, from a literary standpoint, came when Mr. Kim introduced the word “dotard” into the conversation. Its appearance in his prepared remarks sent many U.S. citizens rushing to their dictionaries to learn its meaning, and it is almost certain that, thanks to Mr. Kim, “dotard “will find a presence on the verbal stage that it has not enjoyed for many years. Mr. Kim first used it saying: “Action is the best option in treating the dotard who, hard of hearing, is uttering only what he wants to say.” Later Mr. Kim again used the word saying: “I am now thinking hard about what response he could have expected when he allowed such eccentric words to trip off his tongue. . . . I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.” Probably knowing that he was losing the war of words in which he was engaged, DJT responded to Mr. Kim’s statement saying: “Kim Jong Un of North Korea who is obviously a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!”

With these two buffoons on the public stage, the public is being tested like never before. So sad.