All my life I have heard conservatives rail against big government, but I have never been sure of the definition of “big government.” Apparently, food stamps, a subsidy to the poor, is big government, but a tariff, another form of governmental subsidy, is apparently not big government. Why is that?


“Wealth beyond one’s comfort has always seemed to me the most boring of possessions, and power beyond its usefulness has seemed the most contemptible.” John Williams, Augustus.


I asked the policeman how the stabbing victim was. He replied, “Ok. He was conscious.” An interesting standard for “ok,” I thought.


After complimenting the chef on one of his dishes, I said to the friend that I had learned that most people like receiving compliments. I continued that, on the other hand, I did not. They make me uncomfortable because I do not know how to respond. The friend, without missing a beat, said that I probably had never received enough compliments to have learned how to respond.


“No one is easier to manipulate than a man who exaggerates his own importance.” Masha Gessen, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin.


An argument broke out across from me on the subway. A young man and an older woman seating next to him were heatedly exchanging words. I did not see the precipitating event, but I gathered that the woman’s daughter, who was standing and clutching a pole in front of the mother, had apparently tried to pet a dog on the man’s lap. He had objected and snapped at the daughter that she shouldn’t pet his dog unless she first asked for permission. The dog owner struck me as harsh because the daughter looked as if she had Down syndrome. The dog itself, one of those tiny creatures, was calm and did not look as if it had been bothered. The yelling continued, and a different young man came over and confronted the dog owner. He shouted that the rules required that dogs in the subways be in carriers. The dog owner shouted back that the dog was in a carrier (it was) and that the dog was a service dog. Then the dog owner shouted an epithet including the word “faggot” at the intervenor. Before things got uglier, another, older, quite large man stepped in between the two young men. At a subway station, some of the fracas participants got off and it ended. And then I thought, “What’s a service dog!” Could have I have ordered from it a dry martini, straight up, with extra olives? But then I realized that the dog could not have served me because it could not have checked my ID. Maybe I just don’t understand the real requirements of all the people who have service dogs.

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