Setting the Record Straight

February 11, 2009

Grammar Rant

We Verb You To Quit Saying 24/7

If I were the Grammar and Usage Czar:

–Nobody would be “tasked” to do something. The person would be assigned or directed or ordered or requested or asked or commanded or ordained or appointed.

–Nobody would be allowed to use the expression “twenty-four/seven” or its newest variant “twenty-four/seven/three sixty-five.” It would be at all times or around the clock or all day or every day or always or without end or any of useful alternatives.

–Particularly in television, reporters or anchors would not be allowed to describe something as happening “as we speak.” “Police are investigating as we speak” is redundant; the present tense of the verb takes care of all that.

–“As well” should be consigned to the trash heap. “They sold new models, but also sold used cars as well.” “Also” or “and” or something else would do without the “as well.”

–Speaking of “well,” that would not be allowed to be the first word in every television reporter’s story: “Well, Skippy, the city….” “Well, today was to be the day….”

–Everyone would be assigned to study the objective case and nominative case. They would never again say “It made no difference to Joe and I” or “Mail it to Mary or I.”

—Veritas

(from www.straightrecord.com)

February 10, 2009

Grand Old Partisanship

 

Making Petty Points
      They still don’t get it, the Republicans. With almost-daily reports of harm to the economy, dithering and delay are the mantra of Republicans in Congress debating the economic stimulus.

  sr-stockmanreaganjpeg    Some of them made speeches reminiscent of David Stockman and Ronald Reagan and trickle-down economics: Give the rich a tax break and in their generosity, they will spread the wealth to the lowest. That has not worked. It will not work, but Democrats in Congress have had to accept some portions of that argument just to get enough support to enact the stimulus legislation.

      GOP leader John Boehner said President Obama’s plan for the economy, with its enormous deficits to come, has to be paid for by the current generation’s children and grandchildren. Where was Boehner when our just-past Imbecile-In-Chief, George W. Bush, frittered away a huge surplus left to him by Bill Clinton, and rushed and lied the nation into a trillion-dollar war in Iraq? Republicans did not whimper about deficits or future generations then.

      Where was the Republican leadership when Bush’s hatred of federal oversight and regulation led to the excesses that brought the “meltdown” to Wall Street and the banks? Where were the howls about golden parachutes and billions in bonuses?

      We would not be debating a recovery, let alone one that will cost record deficits, if Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress had not led the nation down those paths.

      Lost in the shouting is a basic fact of spending: A person of modest income gets $1,000, whether in a new job or an outright grant, and spends it mostly on necessities, across a broad spectrum of labor-intensive goods, produced in ways that create jobs. A super-rich person gets $1,000, say from a tax cut, and his high-end spending goes out to a more limited spectrum of goods and labor force.

      Some of the arguments are just silly. Some critics say that giving a boost to the arts, for example, is not productive because it does not create jobs. Just taking my city as an example, spending on the arts brings tourism that is the biggest generator of jobs and prosperity.

      Just from the standpoint of practicality, tax cuts are heavy on paperwork and delay, compared with the more direct effects that come with generating new jobs, boosting aid to localities, helping the homeless and poor, or boosting working families’ purchasing power.

      The hubbub over recovery has forced a new definition of pork barrel. Some of what is “pork” in ordinary times could be recast as “recovery projects” in the deep recession. So members of both parties should be careful not to allow too much of the necessary infrastructure spending to become dismissed as “pork.” There is still inexcusable pork-barrel spending, of course. Alaska’s “bridge to nowhere” would still be “pork,” even under a shifting definition. But a meritorious public works project long postponed only because of the recession could add to the recovery by creating jobs.          –Veritas

(from www.straightrecord.com)

February 2, 2009

Same Old Party

GOP Still Doesn’t Get It
     The Republican Party took a big hit in the Nov. 4 elections, all across the country and not just at the top of the ticket. Subsequent hand wringing within the party suggested there was a widespread realization the party needed a major change.
     Republican behavior since then shows the party still does not get it. From Nov. 5 on, Republicans around the country have spouted the same old lines they have always had, most of them Pavlovian responses, led by the same old “tax cuts!
sr-steelejpeg6     Choosing Michael Steele as chairman of the national GOP is not going to help the party change. Steele embodies two elements sacred to the party and its old thinking—Christianity and business. He was born on an air base (to a widow, but with no reference to a military father or the circumstances), he was educated in Catholic Schools and even attended a seminary set to become a priest, and most importantly from a political point of view, he was a corporate lawyer who helped the Wall Street gang that built the unsupported economic bubble that just burst.
     Republicans probably chose Steele because he is black, a token they hoped would attract African-Americans, and presumably Hispanics, away from the Democratic Party they so overwhelmingly backed in the election.
     The wealthy black face that stood out when he addressed a sea of white faces at the Republican Convention is not likely to understand any more of the needs of the nation’s poor and minorities (shamefully, usually the same) than his audience. His only public break with party doctrine has been that he supports affirmative action.
     The GOP response to the stimulus package offered by the new administration to help fix some of the mess left by the previous Republican administration was just about the same response it would have made 10 years earlier. Ditto the response to bringing back some regulation to help balance the greed that has been driving the nation.sr-rushlimbaugh2
     Even before Barack Obama was sworn in as president, the GOP was hurling negative invectives his way and Rush Limbaugh, whose ability to generate interest declined as George W. Bush brought the party down, returned to set the same petty oral agenda for at least the next four years.
     The GOP has never served the interests of the poor, the minorities or even much of the middle class and indicated in the first three months after the election it probably never will.
     The Republican Party’s only salvation may be to split into two parties, ceding one part to the right-wing nuts who salivate at the mention of key words to wallow in the world of hatred and meaningless issues. The remainder would work to build party of moderates that just might attract enough voters away from the Democratic Party to be viable once again, representing not only business interests, but the interests of the customers of business as well.

 

January 19, 2009

The Bush Legacy

His Best Effort

     The exiting Bush crowd, including his dwindling supporters and apologists, spent the final days of the administration in one last attempt to put a favorable spin on the past eight years.
     He and Dick Cheney even attempted to move back the period through which a historical look at their failed presidency would be viewed. Historians generally agree that because of the emotions of the time and disclosures not yet made, a period cannot be judged honestly until about 20 years after the fact. Bush and Cheney kept mentioning 50 years for a reasonable look-back, no doubt because they figured most of us who lived through their mess would be dead by then.
     Much of the spinning got to be downright ridiculous. It also led to more Bushspeak, as in this sentence in one of his many departing interviews, during which he apologized for nothing: “I am disappointed that weapons of mass destruction were not found” in Iraq.
     If one takes a good look at that sentence, it is an amazing admission that his detractors were correct—that he wanted any excuse to invade Iraq, for whatever reason we still don’t really know. He is not apologizing for or seeking an excuse for what his defenders blamed on bad intelligence; he actually wanted there to be WMDs in Iraq to justify his invasion.
     There were many other such moments, many that evoke laughter among his detractors, others that prompt puzzling headshakes, and other misstatements and mischaracterization of the truth.
     One of the worst mischaracterizations, however, occurred during his own recounting of his administration’s achievements and similar lists compiled by his supporters. He claimed one of his major achievements was the adding prescription coverage to Medicare.
     As supporters of national health care, we also believe that was an excellent move, but only if done correctly. But because it was passed at a time when Republicans virtually controlled all three branches of government, it was deeply flawed and has become one of myriad problems left for a new Democratic administration and Democratic Congress to repair.
     Because the GOP exists chiefly to serve the rich and big business, its leaders left out of the Medicare prescription drug package a practical way to pay for the massive addition to an entitlement program.
     That also is one of the many ironies afflicting the exiting crowd that always railed against budget-busting entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. The Bush/Gingrich leadership is replete with such contradictions, but Medicare Part D takes the cake. sr-bushexitexitjpeg
     Understandably, the pharmaceutical industry, already one of the nation’s wealthiest industries, wanted drugs covered under Medicare insurance to create a huge expansion of their domestic market. But they wanted to sell them at the prices they set.
     Democrats tried and failed to get some type of provision added to the benefit to keep down the cost, so they offered amendments all along the way to ensure that the government, through the Medicare program, would negotiate with the drug makers for the same volume discounts it negotiates with other suppliers.
     Not only did the Democrats fail to win that provision, the Republican majority flipped that proposal around and added language to the bill specifically barring Medicare from negotiating lower prices. So much for labeling Democrats as the “tax and spend” party.
     Thus, we have another growing mess from the Bush legacy, one he and his supporters say is one of their best efforts.
     Thank you, Mr. President—and don’t let the door hit you in the behind on your way out.

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.”

—Veritas  

(from www.straightrecord.com)

January 1, 2009

Part II: Rethinking Israel v Palestine

Israel is There To Stay, Get Over It

     The United States was only 85 years old when it fought a Civil War over a fundamental split of the populace. Why would we expect countries in steady conflict for more than 85 decades to come to terms with differences even broader.

     The three religions had been at war with each other for nearly two millennia, so why would a collection of countries created after World War II as the United Nations believe that dividing, with Resolution 181, what was then Palestine between Jews and Arabs would work.sr-jpalestine

     Not only were lands of the Palestinians taken from them to create a state at odds with their religious beliefs, the land happened to contain Jerusalem, seen by all three of the area’s religions as their home base. Of course the Palestinians would resent the action and not go quietly into a goodnight.

     Six decades later, what is left of Palestine and the artificial state of Israel thus remain at loggerheads, both employing the eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth attitude that is doing nothing to resolve the crisis.

    The dispute is not going to be resolved by giving a scrap of land called Gaza, all that is left of Palestine, its own statehood, even though that would be a fair concession. There remains this wedge of land now known as Israel from which ancestors of Palestinians were driven and which continues to be a thorn in their offsprings’ sides.

     The U.S. position of defending Israel at all costs is a holdover from the Cold War days when the Soviet Union sided with the Arabs and the United States with Israel—our disastrously failed enemy-of-our-enemy-is-our-friend policy.

     This isn’t to say we should abandon Israel; it is to say we need a new way of thinking about the situation and to move away from the same policy that has failed for the past 60 years.

      Who knows what foreign affairs geniuses might come up with once challenged. Perhaps the right answer is a demilitarized zone similar to the one that has been successful for about the same length of time in keeping the two Koreas apart. Perhaps it is a corridor to Jerusalem cut across Israel from Gaza similar to the one from West Germany through East Germany to Berlin that lasted almost as long.

     The partition cannot be undone. Much as Palestinians and their supporters in the region may like it, the rest of the world is not going to support erasing Israel or moving it. It is there to stay and the Palestinians need to face the music and try to accommodate themselves to the reality and see what they can negotiate for themselves.

     New thinking is the challenge of the Obama administration, which in turn must convince the rest of the United Nations to think outside the box.

(from http://www.straightrecord.com)

December 31, 2008

Israel v Palestine at 60+

Same Problem, Same Thinking, Same Result

     One of the dumbest decisions a collection of nations ever made occurred in the years immediately after World War II. The consequences of the decision, which was based as much on emotion as anything else, is playing out today as it has been for 60 years.

     The conflict between the muslim Arabs of the Middle East and Jewish Israel has no end as long as those who might have an impact on a resolution continue to try to make a dumb decision work. If ever there was an up-to-date illustration of trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, it is the Bush administration incursion into Iraq.

     The Barack Obama administration needs some new thinking on the issue and the rest of the involved world needs to take heed. We do not know what the solution is, we only know there needs to be a new way of thinking about the situation.

     We do know that this back and forth revenge, retaliation, tit for tat, whatever you want to call it, has been going on since 1948 without a solution, so why continue looking for one in the same old worn-out policies.

     The time to think outside the box is becoming urgent as Russia works to restore the cold war, meaning aid and support on the side of opponents of anything the United States favors, in this case, Israel.sr-jpalestine_british_mandate_1920

     The region between Syria, Iraq, Arabia and Egypt to what is now the Suez Canal was handed over to the British Empire to administer after World War I. That empire has a poor history of preparing any of its minions for independence.

     Also, as we have learned most recently with the fall of the Soviet Union and other empire collapses of recent decades, artificial mergings of conflicting ethnic, cultural religious, historical or any other pairings of groups that have their own ways of life simply do not work.

     In Iraq today, it is the Shiites vis a vis the Sunnis, kept unified, as usual, through dictatorial means. That is no different than the British attempt to keep India unified as one country, even though present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh were totally unrelated to India, even hostile to it. Pakistan still is, Bangladesh is just trying to survive.

     What could world leaders have been thinking when they created a Jewish state in the aftermath of discovering the holocaust? To give Jews land, they had to take it from someone else. The someone else lived in the British Mandate of Palestine.

      There probably is no greater conflict in the recorded history than the religious schisms of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which came about within a few hundred years of each other in the same area before and during the Dark Ages, a period when nothing rational ever was accomplished.

Next: Part II, Israel v Palestine Rethink

(from http://www.straightrecord.com)

December 30, 2008

Deny Away Home, Dubbya

Denial Ain’t Just a River in Egypt

     A front-page newspaper headline summed up not only 2008, but the eight years of the presidency of George W. Bush: “Bush not worst president, say wife, Rice.”sr-laurarice
     Separate Associated Press interviews with Laura Bush and Condoleezza Rice elicited the denials, but the reporter apparently did not bother to ask, “Who was worse?”
     Bush and soul mate Dick Cheney made interview rounds in the waning days of their disastrous administration, trying to spin a good face on the administration one last go-round.

     All four repeated that history is yet to be written. It is true most historians would tell you an accurate historical judgment needs to wait until at least 20 years after the fact to avoid mixing in the emotions of the time.
     In this case, however, it is likely that 20 years later the Bush administration’s ineptitude will be the focus of historians in 2028 just as the opinions about Richard Nixon held true through 1994, 2004, and, we dare say, will be the historical opinion far into the future.

(from www.straightrecord.com)

December 22, 2008

Gift Card From Your Government

Trickle-Up Bailout Card—Part II

     Instead of bailing out the economy by spreading government money at the top of the income pyramid, we suggest the government concentrate instead on the bottom of the pyramid, spread the bailout money there and let it trickle-up through the economy.

     But our proposal also relies on some social engineering attached to the funds. Since the ails of the domestic auto industry are front and center now, we will begin with that.

     Call it a bailout by gift card, the giver being the store of last resort, the federal government. The givees would be American households, each with a choice of which gift card to receive.

     Under the plan, the household would receive a huge amount of the equivalent of cash (huge having much more meaning at the bottom of the scale than at the top) they could not spend frivolously (except in the many instances of buying an unnecessary car), and that in turn would stimulate the neediest segments of the economy as well as benefit the societal problems of the environment, alternative fuels, credit, savings and many others.

     As we saisr-giftwrappedcar2jpegd in Part I, there may be many problems with the proposal, but the thinking in Washington has been nowhere near considering a new way of dealing with the financial crisis while at the same time steering the American public in the direction they as well as the U.S. automakers should have been moving before the economic bubble burst.

     1. Gift card for a car, $20,000 for one of the “big three,” $5,000 all others. The card would be good only for cars that meet government-set criteria, the social engineering part of the proposal. They must meet some combination of a minimum mileage standard, carbon footprint standard, reliance on alternative fuels, safety and a few other concerns. Those cars currently produced have been rated on most of those standards by the Environmental Protection Agency.
      The U.S. automakers were selling about 3.6 million cars a year in 2000 when they were riding high. In November of this year, the month they went begging for a bailout, they were selling about 2.1 million. Thus, if the $20,000 stimulus led to 1.5 million sales, presumably the automakers would be out of financial trouble with time to retool and begin making only cars that meet those government criteria. There is $30 billion of the $700 billion bailout funds, leaving $670 billion.
     2. Gift card to pay off credit card debt, but coupled with new usury laws at the federal level more stringent than new ones scheduled to take effect, perhaps limiting the cards to pay off debt capped at a certain interest rate. The average American household has $8,000 in credit card debt and 48 million spend more than they earn. That amounts to $384 billion, trimming the bailout fund to $286 billion if all 48 million took that option.
     3. Gift card to pay off student loans, recover mortgage stability, cover the cost of alternative energysr-foreclosurejpeg sources or a variety of other “green issues.” Recent figures put 2 million homes facing foreclosure because of the credit crisis, and at an average of $35,500 to save each household, the cost would be $71 billion. About 6 million outstanding student loans amount to $85 billion, or an average of $14,600 each. A $10,000 card would cost $60 billion. Those two programs would cost $157 billion, leaving $129 billion worth of cards for those who select from other government priorities.
     4. Subject the gift cards to taxes, but couple that onerous requirement with a supplementary card in the form of a certificate of deposit, treasury bill or federal bond that would not be redeemable for at least another year, to cover those who do not plan well for the extra tax burden of having thousands added to their tax bill the filing period after they receive the gift card. The forced savings also would be beneficial in introducing some people to the idea of the value of having savings to help them weather crises such as this one.

(from http://www.straightrecord.com)

December 20, 2008

Bailout or Gift Card?

Bailout by Trickle-Up Gift Card—Part I

     The effort to correct the financial crisis in the United States has been largely ineffective, and for good reason. The people in charge, mostly at the top of the economic arm of the Bush administration, but aided and abetted by similarly minded people in Congress, continue to focus on the top of the pyramid instead of thesr-giftcardjpeg bottom.
     We continue to beat the drum here in favor of some “trickle-up” economic thinking instead of “trickle-down.” So here is a proposal for consideration that is outside the box of what everyone has been hearing from those in charge.
     This proposed solution, as with much of outside-the-box thinking, probably has some holes in it others will be quick to point out, but at least consider it as a possible point of departure for figuring out a solution.
     This proposal was inspired by one of a series of off-the-wall suggestions from largely uninformed and somewhat naïve people (and this proposal may give us membership in that group) in response to proposals from the top.
     Most are based on faulty math and false statistics, so let us begin with some true figures. The $700 billion bailout package the federal government currently is sitting on is equivalent to nearly $7,000 for each of the 111.2 million U.S. households. There are 138 million taxpayers, but millions who don’t earn enough to pay taxes.

     Throwing that much money at every U.S. family without strings attached would only encourage more of the same reckless spending without solving the financial or any other problems. But the idea does suggest a trickle-up solution that inspires us to give some serious thought to the basic idea.
     We see a possibility of solving not only the financial crisis, but many other social crises in America with that $700 billion. Unfortunately the people in charge of those funds don’t see the little people way down there at the bottom of the pile have looked only at the top of the financial pyramid because of trickle-down groupthink. Even our suggestion begins with the classic Republican economic model of tax credits to be filtered back into the economy through private enterprise.
     The stimulus checks so far have been ineffective in overcoming the financial collapse, in part because they are too little at a maximum of $600 per taxpayer and totally unstructured. Even if those checks had stimulated anything, they would have had only a narrow impact.
     The incoming Obama administration faces many more problems than the financial crisis, although it currently takes first place in concern. The major issues include the climate crisis, the associated issue of U.S. dependency on both foreign and domestic oil, the individual-based credit crisis, the savings crisis, foreclosure crisis and on and on.

     So what if the government, instead of worrying about big business and those at the top of the financial pyramid, it focuses instead on a “trickle-up” plan, beginning at the bottom of that pyramid.
     That brings us to the proposal. Shoot holes in it as you will, but at least consider it as a takeoff point for considering a solution to the crises at hand. We can already see some problems with foreign trade agreements, political problems and other likely attacks on the proposal, but let us consider it as a new way of looking at the situation.
     Instead of bailing out anyone, give not a three-figure stimulus check to each American taxpayer, give each of the 111 million households (rather than each of the 138 million taxpayers, since the very bottom does not make enough to pay taxes) a gift card similar to those offered by stores and good only in that store, valued at $5,000 to $20,000.

Next: Part II–Gift cards for, cars, cards, loans and green 

(from http://www.straightrecord.com)

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