Wednesday Writs for 4/3

Em Carpenter

Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

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17 Responses

  1. Kolohe says:

    L8 – nitpicky style guide feedback. ‘Afghan’ is the term for a person (in either noun or adjective form) from Afghanistan, ‘Afghani’ is the money.

    Eta – tho I see now that the LA Times uses Afghani there too. (I thought most major papers don’t anymore)Report

    • Em Carpenter in reply to Kolohe says:

      Appreciate the correction. Fixed.Report

      • George Turner in reply to Em Carpenter says:

        I’ve seen an insistence that the proper term for a person was an Afghanistani, which is quite cumbersome and seems to have never really caught on. Webster’s and the OED don’t even list it, but some dictionaries do.

        We only differentiate “Afghan” from “afghan” (rugs and dogs) because we can capitalize, but Arabic has no capital letters. I can see this causing confusing when someone texts that they’re snuggling on the couch with an afghan. “Serina, what do you mean? A pashtun? tajik? uzbek? furry hound? shawl? blanket?”

        However, there is a very interesting related word that is in the OED.


        Afghanistanism: noun – Preoccupation (especially on the part of journalists) with distant events, as a diversion from controversial domestic issues.

        1940s. From the name of Afghanistan (Persian Afġānistān, Pashto Afġānistān), used as a type of a distant land + -ism.


        How did that term not make a comeback?!

        Instead we were treated to endless repeats of the term “quagmire”, which was used to refer to Vietnam because we kept seeing images of infantry wading up to their chests, and “quagmire” means “swamp”. It shouldn’t be a good fit for Afghanistan.

        The online etymology dictionary says that the modern usage, with reference to Vietnam, was popularized in the book title “The Making of a Quagmire” by David Halberstam (1965).

        However, I wonder if he got the term from WW-I, as it also appears in the Jan 18, 1918 edition of the Brisbane Courier.


        Enemy troops still arriving.
        Germans conserving ammunition
        LONDON, Wednesday.

        The United Press correspondent on the
        West Front telegraphs: Rain, driven
        before a gale, is drenching the Front,
        and has transformed Flanders into a
        quagmire. Captured documents show
        that enemy troops from the East are
        arriving, and in the meanwhile the
        enemy is conserving his ammunition and
        other material wherever possible. An
        order to Prince Ruprecht’s army group
        blames the commanders for wastage in
        the recent fighting, and declares: “Some
        field gun batteries fired 3450 rounds on
        Monday, lights field howitzers 3100
        rounds, and heavy field howitzers 1600
        rounds This is overmuch, rendering
        accurate shooting impossible, and wears
        out the guns, hence an unusual per-
        centage is out of commission.” The
        order demands the most careful con-
        servation of material throughout.


        The body text uses “quagmire” to specifically mean a muddy bog, but the headline “The Flanders Quagmire” seems to be a fully modern usage. I imagine a lot of later books covering the fighting in Flanders and Ypres similarly used the term, and it stuck in Halberstam’s head, or in the head of someone else he talked to, to denote an army that is stuck in the mud, forever, and unable to move forward or extract itself.Report

  2. Oscar Gordon says:

    L3 – I heard about this from this rather hyperbolic take. Personally, I’m not a fan of the death penalty and I don’t trust our CJ system to get it right consistently enough to guarantee that innocent people aren’t put to death, but I try not to hyperbolic about it.

    L5 – Another victory for Hovercraft Rights!

    L10 – Is there a public site where one can check for warrants out for themselves or others?Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      Do the eels stun the moose, or do they have another purpose?Report

    • PD Shaw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      L3: Back when I worked at the Death Hut, the chief counsel told me that execution by the electric chair had been outlawed in the state due to compelling evidence that it was more painful than by injection. His descriptions were rather vivid, and there was video of executions in the office.

      My hyperbolic take on people trying to outlaw or hide the chemicals used for execution is that they want to torture people to death with electricity.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to PD Shaw says:

        Wouldn’t a bullet to the back of the head be quick, painless, and reliable? I’m not being sarcastic; it seems like a simple solution.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:


          It’s not like law enforcement can’t get their hands on it.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          Utah permits firing squads.Report

        • PD Shaw in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          Don’t know. Quick google finds a SCOTUS decision in 2017 not to accept an appeal from a man who wants to be killed by firing squad instead of lethal injection. Sotomayor (joined by Breyer) wanted the court to take the case. She wrote:

          “As an alternative to death by midazolam, Thomas Arthur has proposed death by firing squad. Some might find this choice regressive, but the available evidence suggests “that a competently performed shooting may cause nearly instant death.” Denno, Is Electrocution An Unconstitutional Method of Execution? The Engineering of Death Over the Century, 35 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 551, 688 (1994). In addition to being near instant, death by shooting may also be comparatively painless. See Banner, supra, at 203. And historically, the firing squad has yielded significantly fewer botched executions. See A. Sarat, Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America’s Death Penalty, App. A, p. 177 (2014) (calculating that while 7.12% of the 1,054 executions by lethal injection between 1900 and 2010 were “botched,” none of the 34 executions by firing squad had been).”

          So, maybe?Report

        • Oklahoma’s preferred method now is inert-gas asphyxiation. They haven’t done an execution since they changed yet, so the first one will undoubtedly have to run up to the SCOTUS. Unless the Court decides to boot the death sentence, there probably won’t be a problem: people die of inert-gas asphyxiation every year without noticing that it’s happening. Ranked by annual deaths, dry nitrogen is the most dangerous industrial gas in the US.Report

  3. Mike Schilling says:

    L3: It was a Citizen’s United type decision, where instead of just deciding what was in front of them, the majority killed as much of the 8th Amendment as they could drag in.Report

  1. April 22, 2020

    […] that if you are a regular reader of Wednesday Writs; it was discussed last year around this time when Apodaca v Oregon was featured as case of the week.  Apodaca was a 1972 Supreme Court opinion which upheld Oregon’s unusual allowance of […]Report