Passive voice involved in mayor’s statement on officer-involved shooting

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges

If you asked me what happened in Minneapolis Saturday night, I would say the police shot a woman after she called 911. Around 11:30pm, Justine Damond summoned police to address what she thought might be an assault in the alley behind her home. “Sources with knowledge of the incident” told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Damond, in her pajamas, was talking to one officer through the driver-side window of his patrol car when the other officer shot her from the passenger seat. It’s hard to understand how or why that happened—especially since both officers’ body cameras were turned off, as was the dashboard camera of their car.

Anyway, that’s what I’d say if I were a normal person describing what happened in Minneapolis this weekend. Here is what Mayor Betsy Hodges said about it, excerpted from her statement on Facebook:

Late last night, an officer-involved shooting occurred in the 13th ward, following a 911 call that two Minneapolis police officers responded to on the 5100 block of Washburn Avenue South. Tragically, a woman was fatally shot when one of the officers discharged their weapon.

I recognize that Hodges has a legal incentive not to assign responsibility to city employees, but come on. To say that “an officer-involved shooting occurred” during which “a woman was fatally shot when one of the officers discharged their weapon” is an extremely roundabout way to say police shot someone.  It’s disrespectful to the loved ones of the woman they shot. It’s disrespectful to the reader, who understands what happened but is forced to interpolate it from Hodges’s subject-free juxtaposition of events. And considering the occasion for this statement is that a citizen called the police and they came over and shot her, it seems tone deaf.

This moment is when the mayor does not want to present city government as a mindless bureaucracy. She should speak in the language of ordinary people, not of death-notification robots. Now is the time to acknowledge how terrible this situation looks. I’m sure there is a good reason the officer A) didn’t want to shoot this woman but did have his gun out, with the safety off, in the car, or B) did want to shoot this woman, and C) turned off his body camera along with every other camera at the scene. Hodges should acknowledge the urgent need to know why these officers did what they did, instead of pretending it was a tragic event that just happened.

Look what Trump wrote in the guest book at the Holocaust Memorial

Photo by Raoul Wootliff via Twitter

Times of Israel Knesset correspondent Raoul Wootliff took this picture of Trump’s entry in the guest book at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to victims of the Holocaust. The president visited that site today as part of his larger Middle East junket, a whirlwind tour that left little time to write in guest books and even less time to think about it. According to Wootliff’s Twitter, Trump wrote:

It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends—so amazing + will Never Forget!

I guess that didn’t need to be a block quote, but I wanted it to feel important. It’s the guest book at Yad Vashem, after all. Here’s a tip for writing in solemn guest books: Don’t use exclamation points. Refrain from all types of exclaiming at the Holocaust memorial, unless you are directly addressing the Hebrew God. Do be sure to include in your inscription the official motto of the State of Israel, Never Forget! Capitalize both words, as you learned at Wharton.

The Washington Post offers this comparison between Trump’s remembrance of his trip with his friends and Barack Obama’s genuinely moving entry from his own visit to Yad Vashem, in 2008. Click on the Post thing, read that, and take a deep breath. Then note that old Max Bearack has been a little unfair to the Trumpster in his lede, which describes his handwriting as “all-caps.” Those are drop caps, in which lower-case letters are clearly distinguishable from initial capitals by their half size. Drop caps are the choice of many of us whose cursive handwriting is straight fucking inscrutable to everyone but ourselves.

Now that I’ve lightened the mood and our minds have shifted from the millions who died in the Holocaust, can we talk about Melania’s signature? That’s a nice signature. Obviously it can’t be bigger than Trump’s. Nor can it be on the opposite page or in the corner or something. It has to relate to his signature. Perhaps it is only because we are thinking in this vein that it look like her signature is perched on his, right where the p’s intersect. Her cramped bubble letters sit perfectly on his giant swoop. It’s like she is the pleasant person who comes along with Trump the way certain birds will ride around on the back of a warthog, theoretically free but dependent on the dumb beast.

A petard is an explosive charge, not a flagpole

The president sits comfortably on a little box he found.

People sometimes asks me why Combat! blog is not more popular. These people are themselves nerds, consumed by questions of esoteric knowledge while carefree personal trainers make their spouses feel attractive and fun. They have no sense of the common reader’s interest, whereas I, who operate without illusions but with Google analytics, know this blog will never be widely read. All sorts of interesting things that the general public wants to know about are happening on the internet, from Kardashians to one weird trick that cuts belly fat. But I can’t stop thinking about this quote from former White House aide Ronald Klaine, in this Times story on President Trump’s lackluster first 100 days:

“If Trump finds himself hoisted on the 100-day test, it is a petard that he erected for himself.”

First of all, way to avoid the natural conclusion of this sentence, “…a petard of his own erection.” That would probably be too good for this world. But I must find fault with Klaine’s locution anyway, because he has made a common mistake. A petard is not erected. A petard is a small explosive charge used to blast a hole in a wall or door. Recondite knowledge after the jump.

Continue reading

Can we talk about this Chelsea Clinton headline in WaPo?

Chelsea Clinton during her R-rated comedy tour “Blue State”

Chelsea Clinton was a featured guest at Variety’s Power of Women Luncheon in New York on Friday. Presumably, she reminded the women in attendance that they could do anything they set their minds to if they worked hard, stood up for their beliefs, and were the daughters of former US presidents. Let us not pretend that C. Clinton has achieved anything. There is nothing wrong with her, but she’s not inspiring. She’s a child of privilege who has held various sinecures. Normally I wouldn’t be a jerk about that, but she’s been all over the news lately, sometimes with rumors she will run for Congress. Let’s not do that, you guys. Let’s not make nepotism a more powerful force in American politics than it already is. And above all, let us not pretend that Chelsea Clinton has been persecuted or otherwise treated unfairly. I direct you to this headline in the Washington Post: An SNL star made an awkward Hillary joke at a luncheon. Chelsea Clinton went high. Props to Stubble for the link. It captures at least three bad narratives currently at large in American public discourse. Close reading after the jump.

Continue reading

United issues statement after dragging passenger off overbooked flight

A seemingly unconscious passenger is dragged off UA flight 3411.

It’s a good thing United Airlines recently changed its slogan from “fly the friendly skies” to “get knocked unconscious and dragged off the plane,” or they might be vulnerable to ribbing. Last night, passengers on flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville were asked to volunteer f0r a later flight so that four members of another United flight crew could take their seats. Two passengers volunteered and received $800 vouchers. The airline randomly selected another passenger for removal: a man who said he was as a physician scheduled to see patients in Louisville the next day and refused. Eventually, security officers pulled the man screaming from his seat, apparently knocking him unconscious before dragging his limp body down the aisle. Seriously. Here’s a statement from United:

Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation. Further details on the removed customer should be directed to authorities.

Classic use of the passive voice here: The flight “was overbooked,” so law enforcement “was asked” to manhandle one of United’s customers. By whom we cannot know—probably the same disembodied forces that created the “overbook situation.” But perhaps the most thrilling part of this statement is its bold new use of the words “volunteer” and “voluntarily.” Close reading and fairly disturbing video after the jump.

Continue reading