Setting the Record Straight

January 14, 2009

What’s That, You Say?

Mean What You Say, Say What You Mean

     The beginning of a new Congress brings to mind the title of the set of parliamentary rules by which that body operates (that is, when it operates) and the importance of that poor, ignored, misused orphan, the apostrophe.
     The book is “Robert’s Rules of Order.” A person (a family, actually) named Robert wrote the compendium of rules for the conduct of assemblies, etc. Hence, “Robert’s Rules.” But people who write about the rules usually call them “Roberts Rules” or worse, “Roberts’ Rules.” This relates also to my friends the Richardses, erudite journalists who nonetheless refer to themselves as “the Richards.” Others are “the Roberts” and “the Cheevers.” Why? Mostly carelessness, I think; they know better. But then, a family named Morris never uses “the Morris” for the plural, or Joneses “the Jones.” Why would they get it right? Go figure.
     Does all this laziness do any harm? In some cases, yes. A recipient of an invitation to visit “the Cheevers” (instead of “the Cheeverses”) may forever have the impression their last name is Cheever, not Cheevers.
     This doesn’t even get into the maddening habit of many painters of house numbers and welcome mats of making it “The Smith’s” or “The Johnson’s.”
     What grammar sloppiness really hurts understanding? Well, for example: If someone promises to “ensure compliance” with a regulation, that has (or should have) a different meaning from “insure compliance.” The first means the person will make sure compliance happens, the second means the person will provide financial backup in the case of noncompliance.
     Harm is also done by misuse of words whose meanings are clear opposites, such as “average” and “median.” If you promise a worker the “average” wage for the region, that would be different from the “median” wage.
     A humorous sidelight to all this is the regional variation of the meaning of “next.” A southerner, speaking on a Wednesday, may say “next Saturday” meaning “a week from this coming Saturday.” In other regions, “next” means “the very, absolute, coming-up NEXT Saturday, three days from now,” etc.
     Aside from all this, it is sometimes difficult to discern a train of thought, a rational discourse, in some contemporary language. “Well, it’s like we were, like, there, and I, like, did not actually like the, like, mood, y’know. So, like, I freaked, know wha’m sayn?” WHAT?
     Many people, including many in the military or in communications businesses such as television, would be surprised to learn there is no country pronounced “Eye-rack.” Iraq is “Ih-rack” or “Ih-rock,” but not “Eye-rack.”
     With Iran, the long “i” sound is permitted only as a second or third pronunciation, with “Ih-rann” the preferred, or “Ih-ronn.”
     And then there is the world of overuse. Nowadays, everything seems to be “great.” “Great food at Great prices,” one restaurant trumpets in its advertisements. I have had many restaurant meals in my day, but only one or two I would call “great.” I have never encountered “great” prices and am unsure what that means. The Great Wall of China is truly great, but few other walls are. Only a handful of movies could be considered “great.” So, how about being precise? The food was delicious or remarkable or plentiful or tasty or scrumptious, but hardly great. The prices were reasonable or a bargain, but hardly great. A party could be festive or enjoyable or lively or even memorable, but how many are great?
    Why does something have to have “an adverse effect on” something else? Why not harm, hurt, diminish, injure, or any of several worthwhile words with more precise meaning?
    Why are we confusing “lie” and “lay.” (I know “lie” has been a prominent part of the political discourse these past several years, but here I am talking about “lie” as in “lie down.” A person “lies low,” not “lays low.”
    Why did we allow one popular movie to help make “I shrunk the kids” accepted? “Shrank” is still a perfectly accepted and correct use for the plural. Also, “sank” and “drank.” As yet, nobody is saying , “He drunk his fill.”




September 6, 2008

Blowin’ In The Wind

Letting Our Guard Down

         In the hurricane season, more threatening it seems than in recent years, we are alerted to the deep and dismal shortage of National Guard for domestic emergencies. Guardspeople are sent in too many numbers over to the futile war in Iraq. One Guardswoman was quoted as saying, “When I was in Iraq, the hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.” We all know the result of that.
        The witless, ineffective, anti-federalism Bush administration fiddled while New Orleans drowned. And since, repeated domestic emergencies have put many Americans in peril and poverty, without the extent of help the National Guard would normally give. And with it all, National Guard people’s families are driven to food banks and welfare by a government that has sold them short.
        Many, many Guardsmen come back from Iraq with mental and emotional problems. We have heard the scandals about care for returning service people. This, too, is a result of the shortsighted, narrow-minded policies of the worst president in history.
        In this election season, we are struck with the reality that whoever succeeds the worst president in history has to set about repairing his damage for many years. We should make our choice for president based on the candidate who has the policies that best promise the right course.



September 1, 2008

Dan Quayle In A Skirt?

Oh, No! Not Again!

     In her first speech as a national candidate, John McCain’s pick for running mate sounded too much like the current White House occupant.
     Sarah Palin referred to nuclear as “nuke-you-ler” and identified the country in which the United States illegally and foolishly invaded as “eye-rack.”
     Do we really have to listen to this for another two months, or, gasp, for another four years?

How a Vice
President Speaks  

     We deal with personal scandals as just that, personal, and leave it to tabloid-cable to exploit except when a possible abuse of office or policy is involved. We always deal with grammar.
     In one of her first statements on the subject of being vice president, she asked, quite sincerely, what the vice president does all day. Well, one of the things the vice president does is serve as the president’s personal ambassador, meeting exquisitely educated leaders all over the world.
     But one of the e-mails she wrote during her family dust-up that might lead to something we will need to consider, was this: “lack of action towards a trooper whom is described by many as ‘a ticking time bomb’ and a ‘loose cannon.’”
     Give her credit for trying, but she misses the point of the difference between “who” and “whom.” The action she is referring to is about him, and since “who” is the subjective case, even though the part of the sentence in which he is mentioned would appear to put him in the objective case, the phrase should have been: “a trooper who is described by many as a ‘ticking time bomb’ and a ‘loose cannon.’”


August 29, 2008

Two Blows to U.S. Sports

Filed under: life,news — straightrecord @ 9:41 am
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Bye, Bye Baseball,

Annyong-Hi Kashipshio Ladies Golf

         In the same recent week, two major U.S. sports took a pair of shameful PR steps, shameful even for an American industry that already should be embarrassed by highly paid “super- stars” and bottom-line team owners more interested in the name on the stadium or tournament than the players who work in them.
          Major League Baseball–don’t say it without adding “Inc.”–has decided to denigrate one of the most valuable aspects of major sports, the referee.
     The league already had brought shame on itself by tolerating steroid usage in the league and tearing down multi-million dollar stadiums and blackmailing municipalities to help replace them with multi-billion dollar venues for some of the world’s highest-paid athletes.
     Because some of those Hollywood-style incomes depend on endorsements, which in turn are based on sports-page statistics, baseball umpires have come under increasing attack when they make the wrong calls; wrong, that is, based on television replays.
     Anyone who has ever played baseball, along with other sports that require umpires or referees, knows they are keys to the games, even when they occasionally make a bad call. As an athlete, you complain, but learn to suck it up and go with the fact the umpire is just as human as you are.
     Well, major league baseball has decided to sell out to the television empire by allowing TV replays to decide if an umpire is right or wrong.
     Next in the same week came the Ladies Professional Golf Association, which ruled that all participants in its tournament must be able to speak English. That apparently is a response to the dominance in the distaff side of the sport by Korean women.
     What does speaking English, indeed, speaking at all, have to do with playing professional golf, either as a woman or a man? We live in a global society; let the international players in our sports speak their own language. Unless their lack of English is preventing them from being articulate spokeswomen or repre- sentatives the LPGA prefers to present to the world, we have to ask, other than being able to translate meters in to yards and centimeters to inches, what the deuce does speaking English have anything to do with playing golf?


August 22, 2008

Pavlov & Presidents

How Would Pavlov’s Dogs Vote?

     Feel like salivating when you hear a campaign speech? Whether the response is drooling, anger, joy, whatever, the response is no accident, because as far as the two presidential campaigns are concerned, you are little more than one of Pavlov’s dogs.
     Just over a century ago, Ivan Pavlov, a Russian scientist whose biggest achievements were in the fields of medicine, became eponymus for conditioned reflexes when he conducted experiments on training a dog to salivate at the ringing of a bell.
     Pavlov won the Nobel Prize for showing that a dog, conditioned to expect a treat whenever a bell rang, actually salivated at the ring of a bell in anticipation of a treat, regardless of whether the treat was proferred.
     The Pavlovian bells in a presidential campaign are certain phrases, known as propaganda techniques. We’ve already heard many, we are about to be inundated the rest of them. Some lists have up to a dozen items, but the major ones we’ll see in the campaign are: glittering generalities, assertion, lesser of two evils, plain folks and transfer.
     To be a responsible voter, one needs to be able to recognize those and other lures in the candidates’ speeches and statements intended to ring whatever bell they believe you want rung, and make you salivate for their election.
     Thanks to the early primaries, we have been inundated already with a plethora of propaganda techniques that can be classified as Pavlovian bells. More are coming. We are not talking here about the moronic tabloid-cable gotcha quotes, mostly taken out of context.
     Most of the moronic stuff you have heard so far comprises the “transfer” propaganda technique. It includes tying the statements of Barack Obama’s former minister to Obama himself; tying the incumbent president to John McCain, even the positions of the president with which McCain disagrees.  
     The serious Pavlovian statements are the ones candidates, both McCain and Obama, make to tweak your patriotism, prejudices and similar feelings, but mostly to take advantage of your ignorance.
     You have McCain saying early on, “I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.”
         First, let it be known Obama did not say he would rather “lose a war in order to win a political campaign,” this is a phrase inserted into Obama’s mouth by McCain (assertion). But McCain did say he would rather lose a campaign than lose a war (lesser of two evils).
         This is a rah, rah statement (glittering generalities), meant to appeal to your patriotism, a false patriotism. The United States has not won a significant war since World War II. The best it has done is fight to a draw in Korea. In making the statement, McCain may feel it in his heart, or he is simply counting on the outcome of the Iraq war not being decided by Nov. 4.
     Do we really want a president so gung ho he would have had us fight on and on and on in Vietnam, far beyond the 58,000 American dead? If a president had had the guts to admit defeat and leave Vietnam (as we eventually did) years earlier, tens of thousands of American lives would have been saved.
     You have Barack Obama saying, “We meet at a moment when this country is facing a set of challenges unlike any we’ve ever known. Right now, our brave men and women in uniform are fighting two different wars while terrorists plot their next attack.”
         Today’s situation is bad, but we have faced worse times, and recently (card stacking). Candidates never talk about the military, whether it is engaged in a dust-up or all-out war calling them “brave,” (glittering generalities) even though they have not had a choice but to follow orders once they’ve signed up.
         And Obama is counting on a Pavlovian response to the fear of terrorists plotting a new attack as evidence the United States needs a new way to deal with threats (pinpointing the enemy).
         Finally, in most of his speeches, Obama attempts to characterize himself as an outsider who wants to bring about change (plain folks). He is a U.S. senators and that makes him an insider, but talking against “Washington,” of which he is an elite part, elicits a Pavlovian response from the voters.
     Not that more than a few dozen wise voters will ever get the chance between now and November to ask a candidate a question, much less challenge him on his statements, but these statement carefully intended to elicit Pavlovian responses are the very ones that need to be challenged.
     It is the news media, which has its access as representatives of the public, that must ask these questions, challenge these statements and, force responsible answers to the real issues of the day.
     Don’t bet on it. This is the age of tabloid-cable and blogging—the campaign will be about little more than how many houses a candidate knows his rich wife owns (name calling) or whether the other candidate is enough of a Christian to lead this supposedly secular nation (name calling).
     Other propaganda techniques, already professionally massaged in the commercials and programming that floods the airwaves, include bandwagon and stereotyping. There is one other.
    Where did both candidates plan to be on September 11? Of course, in New York City as each attempted to elicit the same Pavlovian response by the voters (testimonials).


August 4, 2008

The Big Energy Crisis Lie

One Last Scam for the Sleazy GDB Era

     One of the most sordid 14-year periods in U.S. history is about to come to an end, but not without one last scam about to be perpetrated on the American people.
     The Gingrich-Delay-Bush era that began in 1995 is not ending before its members try to line the pockets of their friends in the oil industry, and probably eventually themselves, describing their cause as independence from foreign oil and lower gas and heating oil prices. This is as big a lie as those told to get us into the Iraq fiasco.
     Newt Gingrich and Tom Delay resigned from Congress under scandal clouds, but George W. Bush remained untouched because Democrats would not undertake impeachment proceedings. And now Gingrich is trying to get his finger back in the political pie once again.
     The scandal now swirling around the arrogant and hateful Sen. Ted Stevens is not just a coincidence. As with most other sordid deeds of the GDB era, this one is connected to the oil industry and personal greed.
     The earlier GOP lobbying scandal centered around some of the most cynical people ever to operate in the nation’s capital–Jack Abramoff, Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed–was tied directly to the GDB crowd and their Republican friends state and federal politics. They sweet-talked clients and then took their money to fund special interests, provide bribes and basically buying elections unrelated to their clients’ interests.
     Not content with leaving town with their tails between their legs, the GDB crowd, this time aided by Republican presidential candidate John McCain, is trying to convince the American people they can ease the energy crisis by opening more federal land to drilling by the U.S. oil companies.
     Democratic opponents of the proposal note it would take 10 years for any oil from newly opened sites to reach the consumer. That argument is irrelevant. Opponents should be noting that in reality, it would more likely be their children who would see the first benefits, assuming there would still be benefits to anyone other than the oil industry in more oil pro- duction.
     The American oil industry is the father figure to those who participated in the Enron scandal. What those in Enron did, the oil industry has been doing for years and apparently plans to continue doing—manipulating supply and demand and bamboozling the public.
     The industry’s plea for lifting a moratorium on leasing federal land for oil and coal mining so more resources are available to the industry has nothing to do with the present. It is part of a long-term strategy to ensure more oil resources will be available to the industry in the future, the future as in decades from now.
     For some reason, the truth is not being absorbed by the American people. Even some Senate Democrats appear not to be absorbing the truth, for they have offered a compromise that would open some additional land. And Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has naively endorsed that compromise.
     That truth is the oil industry already has access to enough oil on federal land to double its current production of about 4.8 million barrels of oil a day. But the industry is not taking advantage of that access in the form of leases.
     During the past four years alone, the government has issued 28,776 permits for companies to drill on public land, but only 18,954 were used. That leaves unused about 10,000 permits, a third of those available, while the oil industry pleads that it needs more and more public land opened while gasoline prices remain at price-gouging levels and home heating oil is about to skyrocket to fatality-causing levels.
     It is no coincidence the major domestic oil companies such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron reported record net income during the April-June period. And there is no coincidence within a coincidence that those same companies would have seen greater profits if their refining and production sectors had not lagged. They lagged because the industry did not choose to use the refining and production resources it already has to put more gas on the market.
     Hmmm. Could the weak refining and production parts of their busi- nesses and the inactive leases they hold for drilling on public land have anything to do with keeping the supply tight and prices in the $4 per gallon neighborhood?
     Foreign oil producers see the same scam and that is why they have declined to increase their own production. That’s right; foreign oil com- panies know what is going on while the American public remains ignorant.
     Much of the GDB crowd will be out the government after this year. Keep an eye on where they end up in the private sector.



August 1, 2008

Of Pigeons & Peanut Butter

Filed under: life — straightrecord @ 1:56 pm
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More Random Musings from Veritas


          ‘Splain to me this:

          –It is said that peanut butter sticks to the roof of your mouth. But isn’t that the CEILING of your mouth?


Squab anyone?

          –When was the last time you saw a baby pigeon?
          –When a street is level, do we speak of neighbors “just up the street” or “just down the street?”
          –Why do authorities close down a highway, but close up a business?

          –What is the need for so many euphemisms for “died” and “dead?” A friend “passed” or “passed away.” Soldiers were “taken” or they are among the “fallen.” A crime victim was “gunned down.” Our beloved auntie is “deceased.” Some form of “to die” would take care of all these.


          –Why do some people, I guess mainly southerners, speak of a week from Saturday as “next” Saturday? To them, the very next Saturday that will occur is “this Saturday.” Go figure.




July 15, 2008

Rants Update

Random Thoughts of a Curmudgeon
     Ben Bernanke, the head of the Federal Reserve, has broken ranks with investors, economists and the Bush administration and stopped sweet-talking the state of the U.S. economy. Now say, “We have stagflation.”
    As we’ve said here before, the average American was aware long ago that economic troubles were afoot. The administration and others took the position, and still do post-Bernanke, that simply talking about a recession would lead to responses by investors and corporations that would just deepen the recession, so everybody kept their mouths shut.
    Now that someone in a high place is acknowledging reality, perhaps somebody in the government will take off the Herbert Hoover hair shirt and try to do something about it before we need another FDR.


    When this site was first put up last year, it laid out far ahead of the primaries the qualifications voters should seek in a president. We began with intellect, followed by, in order, experience, ability to get the job done, willing- ness to compromise, leadership, concern for the common weal and adherence to the Edmund Burke philosophy: “elect me for my judgment, not for pandering to your opinions.”
    As stupid as Wesley Clark’s recent remark was, he was correct in saying that getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is not a qualification to become president, a shot at John McCain. But neither is being a general in the field as Clark once was, and the only thing he has ever achieved.
    McCain does have, however, some real qualifications that Clark does not possess, including most of the seven points enumerated above, outshining all of his Republican primary opponents. McCain also has more qualifications on our list than Barack Obama, but as we said in that same posting, choosing the best qualified to run is just the first criterion, you then need to pay attention to policy in choosing between the two.
    That is why the American voters need to blow up their TVs, stop listening to trash talk by surrogates and screaming tabloid cable and start learning how to absorb the real news of presidential campaigns.


    We also ranted about the fact that after nearly 5,000 lives lost and tens of thousands more maimed, billions of wasted dollars and a country in shambles, we still do not know why the Bush administration invaded Iraq.
    Most people speculate, with a great deal of evidence to support the contention, that we invaded for oil. The same people point with fear to the saber-rattling with Iran, noting it also sits on a lot of oil.
    If that is so, it would appear time for Congress to try to pass a law barring any member of the government, once he or she has left that service, from benefiting directly or indirectly from decisions he or she made during those terms in office.
    In the case of Bush and Cheney, that would cover just about everything and force them into retirement. Most importantly, they would not be able to return to the oil business from whence they slithered and which they are seeking to enrich further by taking the shackles off domestic exploration years into the future.



July 9, 2008

Tongue-Tripping Candidates II

What Did That Bill Say? 

          And that brings us to authorship of legislation. At all levels of legislative candidacy–federal, state and municipal level–claims are made of “my bill” or “his bill.”
         The public’s ignorance of what this claim is all about was no more obvious than during the 2004 presidential election when the Democrats’ presidential candidate, John Kerry, said in a statement that would forever damn his chances because the public did not understand the process, that he voted for a piece of legislation to add funds to the war effort in Afghanistan and Iraq “before I voted against it.“
         That statement became the equal to the “swift-boat” campaign that added to the type of electoral ammunition Obama is about to face and that eventually doomed Kerry and the nation to another four years of George W. Bush.
         As inartful as Kerry’s statement may have been, he was simply being accurate.
         At all electoral levels, incumbents and those who run against them are going to be citing legislation, bills, proposals, measures, and all the other nouns used to describe them, that they authored, sponsored, co-sponsored, voted for, backed, whatever.
         There is safe haven in most of those words. The bill may have turned out to be junk, but if you think the result will win you votes, you can say you supported it. If you think it will lose you votes, you can say you were against it. How? Because no, or at least precious few, pieces of legislation make it through the mill without being altered.
         For example, members of Congress regularly put out press releases about bills they “co-sponsored.” Most of these are nice-sounding bills with even greater-sounding titles, such as Rep. A’s bill: “The Apple Pie and Motherhood Act of 2008,” but which might contain a hidden Jesse Helms provision. Rep. B either is an ideological ally of Rep. A, or more likely, Rep. B wants support for his “Motherhood and Apple Pie Act of Infinity and Beyond,” so he signs on as a co-sponsor of Rep. A’s bill with the expectation Rep. B will sign onto his.
         The bill is introduced with whatever number of clueless cosponsors and is referred to a committee. The committee refers it to a subcommittee. Depending on the chairmanship of the full committee, the bill receives attention or it does not.
         If the bill is among the small minority that gets any attention at all, it would receive a hearing at the subcommittee level and that panel would work its will on the piece of legislation, perhaps even, for the sake of this example, changing the title to the “Mother Pie and Apple Hood Act of Our Grandchildren.” The original author did not have that in mind, so, if he is a member of the committee, or even the subcommittee, he naturally votes against the bill. If he is not on the panel to which the legislation was referred, chances are it would not have been brought up in the first place, at least not in his name.
         That, or something more similar than you would like to know, is what was behind a presidency-losing Kerry statement: “actually, I did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”
         The simple-minded explanation of the tabloid-cable types and thus the thinking of more than half of the American electorate: “flip-flop.” Result: four more years of George W. Bush, four more years of Iraq, four and more thousand Americans dead, four more years of……………….”
         Who can say what the outcome of that election might have been if Kerry had explained, and the electorate understood, “I strongly supported that proposal early in the process, but when it got chopped up and distorted beyond all recognition, I could not support it any more.” Obama already is discovering the need for artful language with his shift that was is not a shift on the Iraq war issue.
         And finally, a word on another legislative item bandied about during campaigns. The outs always accuse the ins of voting for a bill they never read. You should hope your incumbent is not wasting time reading, or trying to read, bills.
         Bills, the proposals that become laws if they garner enough support, are written by lawyers according to a carefully designed legal procedure. Most proposals are attempts to change or add to existing law, so the bills actually refer to specific clauses, lines, paragraphs or sections of the U.S. Code or some other law. Reading a bill usually requires sitting down with the dozens of volumes of the U.S. Code at hand as a cross-check.
         What incumbents actually should read are the explanations prepared by able staff or their party leaders who lay out in fine detail what the bill is all about and what it would or would not do according to the preferred interpretation.
         This lesson was intended to be a primer on how voters should follow what is said in political campaigns, but with the ubiquitous presence of tabloid cable screamers, YouTube and the rest of the Internet, candidates themselves might want to avail themselves of a similar primer and alter their tendency to speak in shorthand.  
         Even a fairy dreamed up by Shakespeare half a millennium ago could say, “Lord, what fools these mortals be.”



July 8, 2008

Tongue-Tripping Candidates

Voters and The Art of Losing Elections

         What did that candidate just say?
         Whether it is a straight-out lie, willful deception or an artless attempt to provide a shorthand explanation, many candidates are hitting the campaign trail ill-prepared to address an electorate that is woefully ignorant. Voters are looking for simplicity and receiving too much of it delivered with careless language, and are not bothering to be discerning about the source of their information.
          We do not endorse the old shibboleth that all politicians, including those running for president, are crooks and are the same, blah, blah; the cop-out excuses of the non-electorate. We’ve met far too many of them to dismiss them as a class.
         But how they make their promises to you should be looked at carefully. It is all about being a good voter. We present here not only a few of the ungrammatical claims, but also the bald-faced claims and how to recognize them.
         We offer these two links to claims of presidential candidates as a start: Obama on the economy and McCain on the economy.

          Only the weirdest of political junkies would actually wade through these economic claims of the two presidential candidates we expect to be offered Nov. 4. Being somewhat junkie-weird ourselves, we offer them as part of the forthcoming lesson on how to read or, if your iPod is not working, listen to the candidates. These lessons apply to the presidential race, but one can apply them to political offices right down to dog catcher (is there really such a job today?).
         First, each of the economic-issue statements on the Web sites makes the same claim, “I will.” We get a bit schoolmarmish on this site, so for a bit of relief, we shall avoid in this item pointing out the verb “will” is applied only to the second and third person, “shall” to the first. Even we “shall” acknowledge that is a bit formal, but it would be nice to hear the usage from a presidential candidate, particularly after the past eight years of gibberish.
          A person saying “I will” do something is someone who is making an unconditional promise to you. Both of these guys are not going to be president, so one of them is lying to you. Grammatically, each should be saying, “I would,” as in “if elected, I would” do this and that. Neither is going to keep that promise if you do not elect him, ergo: lie.
         That brings us to the next big type of lie, that of past and future tense.
         We begin with Barack Obama, the newer of the politicians seeking the White House. To his credit, Obama’s site begins well and qualifies some of his promises as “calling for” and “we should,” but then it, representing him, gets a bit power-hungry.
          “Obama will cut income taxes by $1,000,” “Obama will restore fairness to the tax code,” “Obama will eliminate all income taxation of seniors making less,” “Obama will dramatically simplify tax filings” and on and on.
         Those claims are not true. Obama as president, just as John McCain as president, neither will (would) nor can do any of those things. In the United States, at least not yet, the president is not king–he, or eventually she, is just president.
         The U.S. Constitution, the right-wing anti-tax nuts notwithstanding, puts the power of taxation in the hands of the Congress (“Section 8: The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises,..,”), not the presidency. All the president can do is sign into law or veto tax bills passed by Congress.
         Similarly, McCain begins with some “we shoulds,” but then gets power-hungry himself and starts saying what he “will” do, paying no heed to the subjunctive form of the verb or to his lack of power to fulfill the promise. Even if you have to shout down a speech, make the candidate use the subjunctive form of a promise. (By the way, the security person who then wrestles you to the ground will not [we promise] be the Secret Service [that’s not its job], it will be a local thug hired by the local party.)
         Incumbents, at the very least incumbents of lesser jobs they no longer wish to “incumb,” often will tell you, usually through an advertisement, how great they were in a past political job or the one they wish to leave. “He passed legislation that…,” or “She passed new housing legislation.…”
          Why is this person not already a king? Because he or she did not pass the legislation alone. He or she was only one of a multitude of those on the winning side for the legislation. Yes, a mere cog in the wheel–no single person “passes” legislation alone.
         What really counts is the amount of effort, influence, creativity, muscle-power, elbow-grabbing, what-have-you, the office-seeker used in bringing about a majority vote for that legislation. Only a journalist is likely to be able to tell you the actual role played.

Next: What Did That Bill Say?



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