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Iran, Graham, Bharara…and horrifying ellipsis…

Updated: Nov 12, 2019

Am I the only one who is puzzled by the characterization of Iran's nuclear enrichment activities as violations of the nuclear accord? What nuclear accord? Donald Trump blew that up when he pulled the US out and imposed sanctions that the remaining signatories have been unable to circumvent. Iran was in compliance with the accord until the US withdrew. Its response to the US provocation is misguided and dangerous but understandable. From the Iranian perspective, why should they comply with the agreement when their reason for entering into it in the first place, relief from sanctions, has been taken away? There is plenty for which the Iranian government can be rightly criticized and condemned. On this point the criticism and condemnation should be directed squarely at Donald Trump and the US.

Lindsey Graham dropped all pretense with his declaration on Tuesday that he will not read any of the transcripts released by the House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry. Don't bother the dishonorable senator from South Carolina with facts. He does not want to see them.

Kudos to Margaret Hoover for a fine interview with Preet Bharara, former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, on last Friday's edition of Firing Line. Bharara is really good on the impeachment process and the attorney general's criminal investigation into the origins of the counterintelligence probe. As I watched I found myself wishing he had a role in the House impeachment investigations, maybe as a committee chair. The Democrats could use him.

I usually have the radio on in the kitchen while preparing dinner in the evening. OFten as not Marketplace is on the air. Recently the show featured a segment about how email communication styles differ among generations.

The piece related the experience of a millennial operations manager at a tech startup in Boston whose weekend was ruined by his 56-year-old manager's use of ellipses in a Friday afternoon email. To be fair, the young fellow says he does not buy into a lot of generational stereotypes. An exception is the way older colleagues use punctuation: "They use periods a lot…they sound very stern, like very final." And worse, they sign off messages with an ellipsis, "which for a millennial is just like the height of passive aggression."

He had sent off a big presentation to his manager, who responded, "Thanks … enjoy the weekend…" Whereupon the operations manager "looked at the presentation for probably like six hours that weekend trying to figure out what was wrong with it."

An ellipsis is used to show an omission in quoted text. More informally it can indicate a pause in speech or show where a sentence trails off, as in the manager's email. In most cases a halfwit can figure it out from context. The bizarre kink in the Marketplace story was the presumption that the poor, benighted old guy was somehow at fault.

Email is a treacherous medium. It is all to easy to dash off a message that ends up being taken in a way at odds with the intent of the writer. Many of us have done it. The email in question looks to me to be about as innocuous as it gets.

Stern periods. Passive-aggressive ellipses. Millennials seem to be sensitive creatures. Delicate. Fragile.

Memo from the Editorial Desk

The paragraph beginning "Email is a treacherous medium" was added shortly after this piece was published.


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