Category: Politics

Nov 26

Euphemisms: In War & Peace

When I took my last long trip, I took along George Carlin’s “When Will Jesus Bring the Porkchops.”  I’ve been a fan for years, but was particularly struck by his treatment of the prevalance of euphemisms.  For a long time, I’ve noticed sanitized language used to talk about war (eg. “collateral damage” or “precision bombing”).  It’s not hard to find it when reading history (eg. “Indian removal” or “internment camps”).  I’ve been thinking about the propaganda and the framing of messages we’ve seen in the more recent past, and it all fit.

As George points out, euphemisms obscure meaing rather than enhance it; they shade the truth.  They may replace words that people are uncomfortable with or simply put a better face on things that sound too negative.  They may also dress up something that seems too ordinary.  “Thighs” become “drumsticks,” “crow’s feet” are “laugh lines,” and “pimples” are “blemishes.”

“Toilet paper” is “bathroom tissue,” and “sweatpants” are “active wear.”  “Second-hand clothing” is now “vintage apparel.”  “Toupees” have been referred to as “hair appliances” or even a “hair replacement system,” much as an “answering machine” is an “answering system” or a “mattress and box spring” is a “sleep system.”  Cars now have “braking systems” rather than just brakes, and the seat belts and air bags are an “impact-management system.”  We watch “animation” rather than lowly “cartoons” or “daytime dramas” rather than “soap operas.”  

Theaters have become “performance spaces,” and arenas are now “event centers.”  Hospitals are “medical centers,” libraries are “learning resource centers” and so on.  “Profits” are “earnings,” “criticism” is “feedback” and “special delivery” is now “priority mail.”  “Trailers” are “manufactured homes,” “mouthwash” is a “dental rinse,” “soap” is a “clarifying bar,” and “hair spray” is a “holding mist” or “sculpting gel.  “Cough drops” are “lozenges,” and “constipation and diahrea” are “occasional irregularity and lower gastric distress.”

Euphemisms have been used to “soften the language” when it comes to the condition in combat where a soldier’s nervous system has reached the breaking point.  In World War I, it was called “shell shock.”  In World War II, it became “battle fatigue,” definitely less harsh-sounding, though two syllables became four.  

By the Korean War, the condition became known as “operational exhaustion,” nice and sterile sounding, like something that might happen to your car.  Finally Vietnam, and “post-traumatic stress disorder.”  It still has eight syllables, but has been hyphenated.

Published also today at Democracy Cell Projectand Silenced Majority Project

Nov 21

Krongard Brothers Update – Meta

After our Monday Morning News Drop story appeared here and on Kos, Keith Olbermann and John Dean ran with it as documented on Raw Story.

“It is a component of a larger investigation,” Dean asserted, “and I cannot escape the metaphor that has been running through my head, that we might see Waxman running into a cookie that is starting to crumble because it’s run into a buzzsaw brother. … Waxman isn’t one who will turn away from digging this entire matter out.”

Since then it was discovered that Mother Jones has been doing their own research on the issue where we learn some of the corruption charges:

Krongard stands accused of inadequate oversight of construction contractors at the new, $600-million U.S. Embassy in Baghdad; refusing to pursue procurement fraud charges in a case related to a DynCorp contract; intervening in an ongoing investigation of former Broadcasting Board of Governors Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson; questionable auditing of State Department financial statements; and an “abusive management style” that has contributed to an almost wholesale revolt against him by his own staff.

Nov 19

“It’s self interest” said Buzzy Krongard

On Friday at 4:43 pm this report,  regarding conflicting accounts from a State Department official and his own brother,  hit the news wires.  The most interesting part of this article is that Krongard, the official in jeopardy,  “had begun the hearing by denying the “ugly rumors” that his brother was associated with the company, which is under scrutiny for a September 16 shooting incident in Baghdad in which 17 Iraqis were killed.”  According to the article he then took a break and came back into the same exact room and recused himself from the probes into Blackwater.

This is a clear example of a Public Official  so used to doing things the Bush/GOP way that he didn’t even bother to check his facts before taking part in a hearing of this magnitude.   I’ll say that again,  this is a clear example of a Public Official  so used to doing things the Bush/GOP way that he didn’t even bother to check his facts before taking part in a hearing of this magnitude.

Did it sink in?

Nov 16

writing in the raw: the velveteen rabbit


“What is a LEADER?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“A LEADER isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. It’s realizing that every experience develops some latent force within you.1 You begin to understand that vision is the art of seeing the invisible2 so that when you want to build a wagon, you don’t gather the other toys to collect wood or assign them tasks, but rather you teach them to long for ways to traverse the endless immensity of the backyard.3 Then you become a LEADER.”

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Nov 14

A Narrow History of Dollar Hegemony: Hudson’s Super Imperialism

(Crossposted at

Book review: Hudson, Michael.  Super Imperialism.

Second edition.  London: Pluto, 2003.

I thought that a discussion of Hudson’s book book would be pertinent in terms of recent discussions of indebtedness and in terms of Hudson’s role in the run-up to next year’s elections.  Michael Hudson’s site says he is “President of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends (ISLET), A Wall Street Financial Analyst, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and author of Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (1972 and 2003) and of The Myth of Aid (1971).

In 2007, Dr. Hudson has been appointed Chief Economic Policy Adviser for the Kucinich for President campaign and is writing a new tax policy for the United States.

Nov 14

An Unenviable Place In History

An article by Magnifico today included the following:

The Age reports Vital facts ‘deleted’ from UN report on climate change. “A major United Nations report on climate change has been watered down as a result of influence from government officials from countries opposed to taking radical action, conservation group WWF claims… The group fears that the report will play down the need for deep cuts in emissions. The report, which will be released on Saturday, will say that almost a third of the world’s species will face extinction if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. A draft copy of the report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also warns that if temperatures rise by more than two degrees – now expected before 2050 – 20 per cent of the world’s population will face a great risk of drought.”

It’s time to memorialize those ignoble “leaders” of nations who fear taking the first step toward responsible actions with a plaque — one per nation — hung prominently in the UN.

Nov 12

The Myth of the Straight Talking Pol

Booman writes:

Which gets straight to the problem with so many Democratic nominees. Was Michael Dukakis a tough guy? Could you believe Bill Clinton? Which Al Gore was going to show up to which debate? Where did John Kerry stand on the war? As Terence Samuel notes, this is not the kind of image that we need in our next nominee.

Hillary has worked hard to project an image of toughness, but she hasn't mastered it at all, the art of creating trust. . . . [S]he isn't really all that tough and, more importantly, she isn't trustworthy. She doesn't project trustworthiness. . . .

What nonsense. There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton is perceived as tough. Indeed, that is one thing the “castrating bitch” GOP meme has accomplished. But she has been attacked as untrustworthy. The funny thing is Booman notes that no Dem GE Presidential candidate seems to have figured out how to be viewed as trustworthy. But he thinks Clinton is the problem. What myopia! Bob Somerby has covered this extensively and it is amazing that Booman does not seem to know about it:

P]onder this statement by the New York Post’s Charlie Hurt. The boys were discussing Saint Rudy:

HURT (11/6/07): You know, because [Giuliani] is such a gun-slinger, and because he is such a straight-talker, people believe him . . .

Giuliani’s endless, howling misstatements are becoming the stuff of legend—but to Hurt, he’s still a “straight-talker.” But then, Time’s Mike Allen had stated this view roughly one minute before:

ALLEN: . . . It turns out they like his gun-slinging, straight-shooting swagger, that he comes across—he will answer a question, he will say, “No way, no how.” People like that.

To Allen, he’s a “straight-shooter.” . . .

All week, Clinton’s “evasiveness” and “double-talk” have been trashed on Hardball—like Gore’s lies and Kerry’s flip-flops before her. But Giuliani is still a “straight-talker!” There is absolutely nothing on earth that will keep these lads from their Group Tales.

Apparently, Booman knows nothing of this. And let me be clear about something, there are no straight talking pols. Never have been, never will be. Not George Washington. Not Abraham Lincoln. Not FDR. My gawd, are we so far gone in our naivete about this? Don't believe me. Well, watch this:

We need to stop putting these folks on pedestals. And understand that pols are vessels for political interests. Best fight for your own political views to be adopted by the pols you can choose from.  For pols, it's hard to be a saint in the city.

Nov 09

writing in the raw: what i love

there are times for anger. and action. there are times for confusion and catastrophe. there used to be… time for love.

yet is seems much of my time has been spent feeling overcome by the weight of so many bad things happening all at once that it….

… makes me forget why i’m so angry… because i love.

or why i feel this need to fight against changing winds, rising seas, cultural hatred, and eve_vree_thing else that darkens the sun… because i love

Nov 06

One Thing Leads To Another

So I’m scrolling along at Docudharma, and I find (and promote) this great essay by Pico, Fragile Coalitions: Lessons from ENDA and McClurkin, part 1.  A number of us have been thinking about coalitions lately, and many of us have witnessed the recent flamewars over at the Big Orange on the Obama/McClurkin fiasco as well as the ENDA fiasco (which Robyn has written about as well).

Pico asked some good questions on how we can go from splintering factions to real coalitions:

I’ll have more to say in the second half of this post. In the meantime, some questions for you all:

What interest groups and/or ideological groups do you think pose the greatest challenge to unified party fronts? Are some more polarizing than others?

When the opportunity arises to meet the demands of part of a coalition group, is it better to fight for who you can or to maintain group solidarity (basically, do you agree with Frank’s argument for incremental change, or with his opponents)?

While each coalition can flame out in its own spectacular way, are there overall strategies for getting non-aligned groups to work together?

I think these are excellent questions to consider, especially in light of the next essay to arrive on the front page, Armando’s Why I Concentrate My Critiques On The Non-Clinton Candidates.  Armando urges us all to press the candidates on the issues:

That is why I focus my attention on her rivals. That is why I support Chris Dodd. He has paid attention to the issues that matter to me. He has brought them to the fore. He has made his rivals move on those issues. Barack Obama, on the other hand, has moved NO ONE on any issue since he became a Senator. From my perspective, his candidacy has been an utter failure. I think from his perspective, he wants to win, it has been as well.

I deplore this focus on “doubletalk” (as if all them do not engage in it.) Press Clinton on the issues. Indeed, press Clinton’s RIVALS on the issues. Asking them why they want to be President is not only a waste of time, it distracts from what I think most of us want – attention to the issues we care about.

Nov 05

Fragile Coalitions: Lessons from ENDA and McClurkin, part I

The last month has not been a good one for the loose confederacy of interests usually filed under progressive causes.  First, LGBT activists nearly devoured themselves over the proposed changes to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), in a struggle that challenged the commitment of ostensibly queer activists to the T part of the acronym and eventually resulted in public resignations from the nation’s most powerful LGBT lobby.  Second, the Obama campaign’s ill-advised decision to launch a gospel tour with publicly outspoken anti-gay singers led to a series of campaign flubs, bitter exchanges, and an epic flameout on Daily Kos that really has to be read to be believed. 

Though I don’t doubt the general commitment of everyone involved to the same umbrella set of goals, the fissures and lack of well-articulated overlap between interest groups has the potential – especially when lacking a strong central figure to act as leader – to turn nasty.  That’s exactly what happened this past month, and I want to perform a brief autopsy to show where things went wrong, and whether it’s possible to avoid these kinds of explosions in the future.  Spoiler alert: I really don’t think so.

Nov 03

Buh Bye Middle Class

The shirking and shrinking middle class is not a new item for anxiety. Part of the reason the illegal immigration debate has suddenly sprung forward in the last few years is because it is being framed in terms of how it directly affects the middle class, it is being sold as an explanation as to why the middle class is suffering. Illegals are taking middle class jobs. It is a great way for Republicans and Dems to transform themselves into populists and divert questions of the other ways in which the middle class has been subverted.

Nov 02

writing in the raw: stop.making.sense.edition.

If you’re ready to stop making sense… then take a jump below the fold…

part II

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