Archive for December, 2008

I Cannot Lie, But I Lay Like a Rug

19 December 2008

I am not sure where all the English teachers are on this, but do you all remember learning that the verb present tense for stretching oneself out on a horizontal surface is “lie”, not “lay”? Try to find someone using “lie” in this sense anymore. Do people even understand the expression “lie like a rug”?

Here’s an Associated Press instance of this misusage:

His warnings were heard too late, and he’s become a symbol of a botched oversight of Madoff by the SEC. His mother says the father of three boys under 5 has been bombarded by media requests. Now, a man who tried to be heard for years is going to lay low for a bit, she said.

I would have figured that people would at least retain familiar combinations like “lie low”.

Not to be completely boring about this, I will mention the German cognates, which I suppose to be in no danger of being lost: liegen and legen. Germans do have the advantage of having another different word for “lie” in the sense of telling a falsehood; that is lügen.

On to see how my umlaut looks in my browser when I publish this post.

Word Rescue: Inane

17 December 2008

Oh, twenty-some years ago it was, I guess, when I read someone criticizing sportscaster Chris Schenkel as “inane”. Hell, it could have been thirty years ago. Thanks goodness I have so much of this stored material to fluff out the blog.

Anyway, I am not sure whether I had to look up “inane” back then, or if I already knew what it meant. If you do not know, it means “not going anywhere”. That is an “in-” for “not”, and a root “ane” related to “animal” and “animate”, meaning “moving”. I never listened much to Chris Schenkel to tell whether his sports commentaries went anywhere, but it is easy to believe they did not.

Now, if you did already know what “inane” means, I commend you. It would be hard to pick up that meaning from the way the word is used in political blogging, where it seems to mean “illogical” or “baseless” and is usually applied to dumb political reporting. Here is an example fresh from Tapped:

Today she makes the inane argument that Obama “mishandled the media” in the ongoing Blagojevich scandal and that’s why they’ve been making so many assumptions about the president-elect’s conduct without any evidence of wrongdoing, and considerable evidence that there was none.

Literary Standards

15 December 2008

I think I have to let my page views be constrained by my principles and stop reading blogs of people who do not write well, from spelling to grammer to coherence to originality.

Also, many blogs’ comments are depressingly brutish, and that is enough to turn me off of a blog. I could just skip the comments, but in some cases the posts themselves are not interesting enough

Sure, OJ, Too

13 December 2008

After so generously expressing compassion for corrupt politicians and child molesters, I challenged myself: what about OJ Simpson? He has been sent off for a few decades in prison, now, ostensibly for the armed assault where he demanded the return of some personal possessions, but really as a delayed punishment for the murders he committed years ago. Do I feel sorry for OJ?

Yes. I do. For one thing, I am not afraid of what he might do. I do not think he is dangerous. For another, he had a great escape. He was on the hook for murder, and he got loose. Think of the relief! Once you are acquitted, that is supposed to put you in the clear. He had a chance to make a clean break, maybe atone somehow, but then he had to be hounded and hated and reminded and hassled, everywhere.

It may have been no worse than he deserved, but might we all have been better off to leave him with some room and some peace?

Sorry for Blagojevich and Other Wretches

10 December 2008

I feel sorry for Rod Blagojevich. At least, I am not as delighted with his arrest as a lot of other people whose comments I have read. He should not spend more than a year in prison.

I fell sorry for George Ryan, too. He should be let out of the penitentiary.

I also feel sorry for the weirdo who got schoolgirls to put on blindfolds and unwittingly perform what seem to have been simulated sex acts (or maybe they were actual sex acts; I think the evidence was not clear). They put him away for forty years. No doubt the guy deserves two years behind bars, and mandatory counseling and some careful monitoring, but he’s just a sociopathic, irresponsible, and reckless sex freak, not violent and with little prospect of ever being in a position to repeat his crime.

People like to come down hard on the sensational crimes by people they cannot relate to. So if you are a powerful official or just very weird and disgusting, justice is stacked against you.

Defending the Adjective “Democratic”

9 December 2008

I think it was Al Franken whom I first heard remarking that Republicans like to say “the Democrat party”, to be annoying to Democrats. That is indeed what they do. It would be merely silly, except it feeds just the kind of linguistic sloppiness that bugs me, apart from political sensibilities.

Now there is a growing frequency of “Democrat” as an adjective. Let me be clear: “Democratic” is the adjective that is applicable to a member or event or political action of the Democratic party. “Democrat” is a noun that may be used for a member of the party. Not only is “Democrat Party” a bastardized name, but “Democrat candidate”, “Democrat bill”, “Democrat advantage”, and “Democrat spin” are all bastardized language. Also, not only Republican partisans but also neutral news agencies and pollsters are guilty.

It takes a poorly schooled writer to be confused by this, but some subtler cases catch lot of highly trained people. If you classify the population by their preferred party and the intensity of that preference, you might well classify their leanings as “strongly Democratic”, but “strongly Democrat” is wrong. Furthermore, even though it is fairly conventional to shorten the term to “strong Democratic”, “strong Democrat” is not right. Remember, you are talking about people’s preference, not which party they belong to. They can call themselves independent, libertarian, or even Republican and still express a “Democratic” leaning, be it “strong Democratic” or “weak Democratic”. “Strong Democrat” should mean a Democrat (member of the Democratic Party) who is strong in some way, perhaps in the sense of having good popular support.

Compare to a characterization of people as “strong pro-life” or “strong pro-choice”. I do not think I have ever seen anyone label these categories as “strong pro-lifer” and “strong pro-choicer”. Those would be noun phrases describing individuals. The category labels are adjective phrases.

Sorry, this is the kind of point that will elude many people, maybe most. The label for a category of people, and a label for an individual in that category—what is the difference? some will ask. There is a difference. Call it a petty and pedantic peeve of mine, if you will, but do not chalk it up to witless reflexive defense of the Democratic Party. It hits my language-dude nerve.

Condoleezza the Day after the Election

7 December 2008

Partly I just want to see if embedding a YouTube video works, but I was just thinking about this clip of Condoleezza Rice looking happy about Barack Obama winning the election. It just feels good to me.

Appel Subbing, Update

6 December 2008

It looks like Patrick Appel is conducting Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish just like I thought he should. This makes me wonder if I had some other past substitute in mind when I worried about Appel putting too much of his own personality into the blog while Sullivan rests. Or maybe he just decided this time that he should keep the spotlight off himself.

By the way, does it not seem as though Andrew likes to focus on doubts about Sarah Palin’s childbearing history before he kicks back for a while? Fair enough, I can imagine he feels pressure about it whenever he says too much on the subject.

Appel Subbing for Sullivan

6 December 2008

I do not begrudge Sullivan taking a few days’ break now and then, but I hope his understudy does not bore us too much with his persona. No matter how much work he does behind the scenes the rest of the time, I cannot get into him as a personality in his own right.

There is a way for a fill-in like Patrick Appel to keep a blog’s regular patrons fed, I think. That is to keep his own profile low, while throwing us the same kind of links and topics and raw material that he usually hands to Sullivan.

I could be wrong; maybe lots of people are thirsting to know Patrick better.  Maybe no one cares too much and his personality is not expected to be interesting to Sullivan’s regular readership, and the idea is just to indulge him, give him something toward a potential career on his own blog.

Why I Am Not an Economic Conservative

5 December 2008

I know I do not fit in as an economic conservative/libertarian, because of stuff like this entitlements-doom-us article from a “National Center for Policy Analysis”, and the folks at reason.com who readily buy it, and Andrew Sullivan, who seems inclined to buy it.

Smart, credible people have convinced me that Medicare is an unsustainable course, financially, but also that Social Security is sustainable, either as is or with minor adjustments.  However, people like the National Center for Policy Analysis find it rhetorically convenient to lump the two programs together, apply somewhat pessimistic projections and seriously warped analysis, and thus declare the combined system a basket case and a threat to life as we know it.

It bears repeating: In 1983 a bipartisan major reform turned Social Security from a pay-as-you-go time bomb into a financially sustainable pension system. It did that by raising Social Security taxes to where they needed to be to fund the expected future benefits to the workers paying the taxes, and by raising the retirement age. It is no longer pay-as-you-go.  Surplus money is being accumulated by Social Security by design, as baby boomers continue to pay in big aggregate bucks now, as needed to provide for the big aggregate payouts that will be needed by that generation in retirement.

I would give econ libertarians this: Social Security ought not now be puffed up by instituting new Social Security taxes on higher incomes. If any fixes are needed, the impact should be fairly and sensibly distributed over the entire population of past, present, and future workers. The principle should remain, you pay in an amount sufficient to cover the benefits you are promised.