Saturday, May 31, 2008

When Words Lose Meaning

Dear Gentle Reader(s), one of the insufficiently discussed issues of the primary run-ups to the 2008 election is the loss of meaning for some words.

Dear, sweet Andrew Sullivan, for instance, has somehow managed to expand the meaning of sociopath from "a person suffering from psychopathic personality, whose behavior is aggressively antisocial," (Webster's New World College Dictionary, 3rd ed., Macmillan) to include Senator Clinton and her campaign staff because of his personal distaste for her.

It's absurd for Sullivan to throw words around without regard to their application. What a disappointment.

In another few years Sullivan will become a person who has lived for more than half a century. He ought to begin to think of how his work and the words he used in his work will be regarded at that time.

Sullivan is too old to be so immature.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Heroes--Past, Present, and...? Really?!?


Dear Gentle Reader(s), recently there was, over at Trust, but Verify, a small step wondering about the definition of "war hero."  No one over at that modest effort has ventured an opinion, so let us see if someone here would care to offer an opinion.

The question arises from the oft-repeated phrase of "military" experience as being a qualification for the office of president of the United States.  So, one is forced to ask, in the face of three potential nominees, only one of whom has any military experience, if that experience is absolutely necessary, and, if so, why?  What does it add which is so essential?

A brief history:  President Clinton had no military experience.  President George W. Bush did.  He served in the Texas National Air Guard during the Vietnam war.  He most famously "disappeared" for several months, after flying sorties over the Gulf of Mexico.

Neither of the two leading Democratic nominee-seekers served.  Senator McCain served, but his most prominent military experience was that of a prisoner of war.  What about being a prisoner of war, aside from the emotional content which one remembers virtually all Americans felt at the time, is a requisite for the Commander-in-Chief?  As a colleague of mine at the Palm Springs "Condom Club," another story at another time, commented:  "That shows he wasn't very effective.  He got shot down."

What, then, is a war hero?  I'm thinking the grunt who followed orders.  I'm thinking the G.I. who followed orders and charged the beach on Normandy, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor, who peeled spuds to feed the troops.

What think'st thou, Dear Gentle Reader(s)? 

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Paying Paul by Pissing Off Peter

(Oh, Dear Gentle Reader(s), I feel I must apologize for the heading.  I apologize, but I really like it--alliteration is the joy of the poet, and the listener.)


The topic is the use of Red Light Cameras. 

The Los Angeles Times today has an interesting story about the use of red light cameras in L.A. County.  It's an interesting reading experience, all the more because it validates what many have believed--those cameras are more of an ATM for quick cash than they are for safety.

California drivers have long enjoyed the oxymoronic "rolling stop."  Mostly used for the right-on-red turn, it consists of reducing speed, keeping one's foot on the brake pedal, looking for pedestrians and other cars, seeing no potential collision, removing the foot from the brake pedal, and transferring said foot to the gas pedal and driving merrily along to the corner store for a bag of potato chips.

The red light camera is bringing this joy to a slow demise.  Here's a quote, "The city of Los Angeles issued more than 30,000 photo tickets last year at 32 camera-equipped intersections. About eight in 10 involved right turns..."  Here's the kicker:  in Los Angeles, the fine is "only" $159 for a right turn violation caught on camera.  (Only because the left-turn or straight through violation is considerably more--$381.)

Here comes the pissed off  irritated part:  The next time the city council of an L.A. county municipality using red light cameras, and the right on red option, puts a tax measure designed to support the police on a ballot, how likely is it that those 8 of ten are going to be thinking, "I've already contributed my share; I'm voting NO."

It is good to made drivers more aware of the dangers associated with lax driving habits.  It would be more efficacious, in the long run, if there were an educational program with less of an annoying factor to do the teaching.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Words! Words! Words!*


How's this, Dear Gentle Reader(s), for a headline:  "Obama Admires Bush"?

Well, since it appears in the only-slightly-less-esteemed New York Times, it immediately strikes one as implausible.  Ergo, one hies to the page and discovers that good ol' David Brooks has snookered us once again, albeit rather pleasantly.

The article is a discussion of the teapot tempest swirling around President G. W. Bush's recent speech to the Knesset of Israel in which he spoke of "appeasement" in such a manner as to suggest he was interjecting criticism of Senator Obama into a speech on foreign soil. 

Mr. Brooks relates parts of a conversation he recently had with the Senator, and in it Obama, much to Brooks' approval spoke words of admiration for the policies of President George H. W. Bush during the Desert Storm period in 1991.

The column speaks well of the Senator's understanding, as Brooks sees it, of the use of diplomacy as a tool, along with the military, to be used in the effectuation of foreign policy.

Would the current Administration had as much understanding.


*Intro to "Show Me" from My Fair Lady.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008



Language, Dear Gentle Reader(s) is fungible, but it oughtn't be. Take, for instance, the word sacrifice

The sacrifice of the Mass; the sacrifice of the Cross; the sacrifice of a mother and father in raising a child; the sacrifice of a serviceman or woman in blood, limb, or life in the Iraqi war.  These are examples of sacrifice which stir the blood.  On the other hand--

We have the media announcement that George W. Bush, President of the United States, has given up/sacrificed his golf game because of the Iraqi war.  He doesn't want a mother who has sacrificed a son for her country to see "the Commander-in-Chief" playing golf.

Language.  If you're not careful with it, Dear Gentle Reader(s), it can come back and bite you on the ass.  Or at least solidify the negative impression people might have of you.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

When is a draft not a draft?


Long have we argued, Dear Gentle Reader(s), for a revival of the Selective Service System.  As a matter of fact, we feel it should be universal. 

Current political leaders claim the "draft" is not necessary.  Some even go so far as to say that the current armed forces are better for not being a mixture of "Regular Army" and "U.S."  (Army service identification numbers began with RA--volunteers--or US--draftees--ours was RA--a draft dodger!)

The Los Angeles Times reports today that the Pentagon's program of "stop loss," that is, those volunteers whose enlistment is about to end are prevented from leaving the active duty military and are liable to be re-deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, reached a high of 12,235 in March of this year.  From the beginning of theIraqi/Afghanistan military operations until the end of 2007, a total of 58,300 were issued a stop loss order.

That pretty much sounds like a involuntary draft.

If we are in this struggle, we should all be in this struggle.

A universal draft is the only fair manner in which to provide troops for the effort.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Automatic Honorific Epithets

Over at Trust, But Verify, Dear Gentle Reader(s), one might find modest efforts at saving such words as Reverend and phrases such as War Hero for those rare instances where they are, indeed, applicable.

Not to let Logorrhea go unnoticed, there is one more which might be mentioned: holiness.

The last such person to occupy the papal throne at the Vatican, in one's humble opinion, was John XXIII. All those introductions which included "His holiness, X.." since the mid-60's were more wishful thinking than fact.

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