To comma or not to comma?

The comma is a very useful punctuation mark enabling the writer to make their point much more clearly and avoid confusion. I have read passages where, due to the lack of a comma, the meaning was ambiguous.

I do not have hard-and-fast rules for commas. My guiding principle is to ask myself whether it adds to the clarity or the rhythm of the sentence. Typically I use them to separate ideas or lists of objects or, in the case of a long sentence, insert parenthetical remarks, as I just did.

But there are others who overdo it, as in the passage below. (Ignore the various typos and spacing errors because this looks like it was written in a rush and not proof-read before printing.)

Well,I decided to get up early,at my central London Hotel, and walk,my dog,until breakfast time.

No sooner had I got out the holtels front doors, my dog ,got spooked by the door man,and consequently, I stopped in my stride, causing the young man behind me ,to bump in to me.

Obviously I immediately opologized,and said” sorry my dog got spooked.

The guy bend down,to say hello to her,and she was taken by his kindness.

Most of those commas are unnecessary and make the meaning more obscure. Here is my rewrite, where I have eliminated eleven of the fourteen commas.

Well,I decided to get up early at my central London Hotel and walk my dog until breakfast time.

No sooner had I got out the holtels front doors, my dog got spooked by the door man and consequently I stopped in my stride, causing the young man behind me to bump in to me.

Obviously I immediately opologized and said” sorry my dog got spooked.

The guy bend down to say hello to her and she was taken by his kindness.

Much clearer, no? Definitely a case where less is more.

Did Trump really want Pence, Pelosi and other members of Congress murdered?

Thanks to the congressional hearings, we know that when the mob on January 6th shouted “Hang Mike Pence!” and looked for Nancy Pelosi to kill her and ran through the halls of the Capitol seeking to find them and others whom they felt were preventing Trump from getting a second term in office, Trump was fully aware of the mob’s intentions because he was watching those three hours from 1:10 pm to 4:17 pm unfold on the TV in his private dining room. Not only did he not lift a finger to stop the mob, he egged them on, sending out this tweet at 2:24 pm.

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Samantha Bee’s show canceled

I have frequently linked to clips from her show Full Frontal because they were topical, funny, hard-hitting, and biting. So I was saddened to learn that after seven seasons, it will not be renewed this fall.

Over the course of seven seasons, Bee’s “Full Frontal” brought an aggressive and saucy voice to TV’s late-night arena, and one of the few programs led by a female point-of-view. Bee captured attention with outrageous humor and monologues that pushed the usually genial cable network to embrace hefty amounts of profanity and tackle political issues that are often polarizing.

“We do a show to please ourselves,” Bee told Variety during an interview in 2016. “This gives us an opportunity to say the things we want in the exact way we want to say them.” In the process, her viewers get a few laughs, but also can exorcise their frustrations with modern politics and culture.

The end of “Full Frontal” comes as Warner Bros. Discovery has been cutting back on its content spend for big cable networks like TBS and TNT. To be sure, the outlets continue to feature movies and have added more nights of sports, thanks to a recent rights deal struck between Warner Bros. Discovery and the NHL. But TBS has been cutting back on scripted series, with shows such as “Chad” and “The Last O.G.” scrapped in recent weeks. Brett Weitz, general manager of TBS, TNT and TruTV, left the company in May after the cable networks were consolidated under the aegis of Warner Bros. Discovery executive Kathleen Finch. Weitz had been a strong backer of “Full Frontal.”

It seems like scripted shows are giving way to cheaper alternatives like sports and reality TV.

Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj and Conan O’Brien’s show were two very good comedy programs that also are no more.

“Yesterday is a hard word for me”: Committee is now trolling Trump

It is becoming obvious that the televised congressional hearings are infuriating Trump. After each session, he issues long rants about them essentially repeating the same things, that it is a partisan witch hunt aimed at him, and that he really did win the election. The problem for Trump is that he is a narcissistic TV addict and so he cannot resist watching a show in which he is the main character, however unflattering it is. So he essentially rage-watches.

It is clear that the members of the committee have noticed this and the last prime time hearing on Thursday, in addition to focusing on Trump’s culpability in inciting the riot and his deliberate and inexcusable passivity while it was going on, also took the opportunity to needle him with outtakes of the video statements Trump put out on January 6th (after doing nothing for more than three hours and instead just watching the riot unfold on the TV in his private dining room) and on the following day, both of which reveal his deep reluctance to condemn the violence of his supporters.

His White House advisors were apprehensive about Trump going on TV and ad libbing because they feared that he would say further inflammatory things and so they prepared a script for him to read. But he ignored it and ad libbed anyway and you can see the result below, where he called the rioters “very special” and that “we love you'”. Who did he mean by ‘we’ anyway?
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Stories I like

A pizza delivery man risked his life to save five children from a burning house. He saw the house on fire while driving past and stopped. After entering through a back door and walking four of them out, he learned that another child was still inside so he went back in, broke a second floor window, and climbed out with the child, hurting his arm and getting burns.

Dinosaurs may have used fire

In my book The Great Paradox of Science, chapter 1 has the title Did dinosaurs have tea parties? in which I speculate about possible dinosaur culture.

We think of many of the dinosaurs as impressive in their size and the way they dominated the world in their time, roaming freely over the Earth with everything as their prey and with few predators to fear. But we don’t associate them with any culture. We don’t associate them with discovering fire or building homes or creating artifacts such as pottery and tools for their use.

But [how do] we know that they didn’t do any of these things. Could it be that they were actually more advanced than we give them credit for and did at least some of those things but that all the evidence has disappeared over the long time since they were wiped out?

After all, humans have been around for a mere two million years (and modern humans only for 200,000 years) and thus produced all these things in a much shorter period than the dinosaurs who roamed the Earth for around 150 million years. Why do we believe that dinosaurs did not do anything at all during that time other than eat, sleep, and reproduce? Why could it not be that they too developed some kind of society, however rudimentary, whose traces have disappeared in the 65 million years that have elapsed since they went extinct?

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New polio case in the US

The concerted global effort to eradicate polio has been one of the greatest success stories in vaccinations, science, and public health in our lifetimes. Almost the entire world, with the exception of Pakistan and Nigeria, where anti-vaccination fears are prevalent, are considered polio-free,

So I was alarmed to read that a new case has been detected in New York.

An unvaccinated young adult from New York recently contracted polio, the first US case in nearly a decade, health officials said Thursday.

Officials said the patient, who lives in Rockland county, had developed paralysis. The person developed symptoms a month ago and did not recently travel outside the country, county health officials said.
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Brutal crackdown begins in Sri Lanka

Less than 24 hours after he was sworn is the new president of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe set in motion just what I feared, a brutal crackdown on the largely peaceful protest movements. In a predawn attack early Friday morning at around 1:00 am, a large number of police and military units descended upon the protest camp that had been set in front of the president’s office and attacked protestors, journalists, lawyers, and other observers, injuring many who had to be hospitalized. They also destroyed the camp site.

Here is a BBC reporter whose colleague was also attacked.

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Latest hearings show Trump’s responsibility for the riot

The seeming purpose of the latest hearings of the congressional committee looking in the events of January 6, 2021 was to make it very clear that the invasion of the Capitol on January 6th was instigated by Trump and that the rioters were following his lead when they stormed the Capitol, threatened members of Congress, and defaced the premises. The hearings focused on the 187 minutes between the end of Trump’s speech at the rally and when Trump finally succumbed to the pressure he was getting from his staff and gave a weak statement on TV calling on the rioters to ‘go home’ but saying that he loved them. In addition to previously recorded testimonies, they had two witnesses, the deputy national security advisor Matthew Pottinger and the deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews, both of whom were so disgusted with Trump’s behavior on that day that they resigned immediately.

After inciting his followers at the rally, and later inflaming the situation even further with a tweet when it was clear that vice-president Mike Pence was not going along with the hare-brained scheme cooked up by the crazies like Rudy Giuliani, Sydney Powell, and John Eastman that Pence deny certification of the electoral college votes and instead allow fake slates of electors to be accepted, Trump then did absolutely nothing while the riot was going on, instead watching events unfold on the TV while in his dining room and resisting calls from his staff, family, and even his Fox News TV allies to call off the mob. Clearly everyone believed that the mob was under his control. Trump gave his mealymouthed call for the mob to to leave only after it was clear that the attempt to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as president was failing.
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