Tag Archives: Semantics

Mr Smith goes to #FuckYouWashington

The netizens are revolting. On the eve of US “austerity measures” the Twitterverse is crowdsourcing its ire against the de facto seat of world government. The unprintable hashtag won’t trend on social networks — it’s alleged, even as momentum builds like a movie title mashup. Typical sentiment: FuckYouWashington for putting profit above people. The laundry list of injustices is staggering and as a political party platform, it’s writing itself. What is democracy but crowdsourced grievances in search of redress? As tweeters hurry to open external floodgates, it’s going to be interesting to see which if any of the social networks decide to unleash its participants from the censorship which constrains the profanity they want to share. #FuckYouWashington for your mass murder, inhumanity, enslavement, penury and usury and then telling me this hashtag is profane.

I just got an email from Pres. Obama

I just got an email from President Obama. He wants me to lead. He says the politicians in Washington won’t do their job unless I do their job for them. At face value, that’s just weird. Are constituents to imagine that stump speeches fall by the wayside when the polls close and representatives develop amnesia from which only lobbyists can deliver them? Does anyone really believe that the public has to jump hoops for good governance? Who drinks crap-flavored Kool-Aid?

Pardon my disrespect. Yeah, Obama writes to me directly, and would you believe, often. He’s practically asking my advice on a daily basis, or that’s the impression he gives with his personable tone. Actually it’s strictly a one-way conversation, telling me what to do, offering gentle encouragement, and asking for money. It’s gotten so I can’t differentiate fund-raising from tax-collecting. I confess I’ve tired of inferring that if Obama is running low on fairy dust, it’s because I’m not clapping hard enough.

The problem is I think Obama is wearing thin with all this intra-constituent communication, and he’s delegating too much of the multi-tasks to Dumbama. In today’s letter, Obama wants me to solve an “Immigration Crisis,” his contribution? Boots on the ground.

Did Abraham Lincoln write the Gettysburg Address? That’s always the impression my teachers gave. No Civil Warmongering William Safire of his day laid claim to coining four score nattering nabobs. When did Americans decide their leaders needed ghostwriters? Why do we accept that an Ersatzbama can come across with the same winning sparkle? Because you know the president is not even reviewing these compositions either. He’s got ghost-readers on staff for that.

Alright, so we like our speeches peppered with wit, and we know not even the most luminous television hosts can tread water without a staff of gag-writers. Fine, if celebrities need personal assistants to hold their phones, we can’t begrudge a busy president his showbiz consultants.

But oh my goodness, why would we countenance forged personal emails?! Who wants a Notobama pretending to give us the inside scoop on the President’s daily thoughts? What kind of charade is that for a presidential parade?

And I ask you, have you yet heard Obama answer a simple question, and you’re left wanting to hear more? If I got an email that confided he didn’t believe the crap vetted for the corporate media, that would be a believable email. Instead we all get Minimebama email numbing us with what we know is the web’s potential for a ceaseless stream of digital drivel.

But I’m making quite an ignorant assumption, that we’re all getting the same stupid email. We assume the White House is spamming a consistent message, but maybe it’s highly customized, and for some reason, and I’d better take it to heart, they’ve pegged me as a big idiot.

If you have to ask for whom the fat lady sings, it is not for Tahrir Square.

–And to really mix my malaprops, she sings for them that bought her. If there was one variable which got away from the underdogs of Egypt’s Jan25 Revolution, it was who would referee the endgame. While Hosni Mubarak’s stunning defiance Thursday night looked like a Hail Mary pass hoping to provoke the protesters to mayhem, as a defensive strategy he was moving the goalposts. Anticipating a capitulation, the Tahrir Square demonstrators made clear it was the entire regime which needed ousting, no Suleiman, no Emergency Law, an inviolate list of demands. Mubarak’s insulting buffoonery focused the great beast’s wrath like a rodeo clown. When the announcement came he was stepping down, who could not help but raise a cheer, drowning out the earlier precautions. Mubarak played Egypt like a fiddle, as he burned it, while the fat lady of state media called the game over.

It’s not over until the fat lady sings
So opera advises American football, in reality a game governed strictly by elapsed time. The expression describes the mutual sense that every competition has a natural denouement. Actually another false notion, as this feeling is not often shared by the side fallen behind at the final score.

I’ve convoluted ask not for whom the bell tolls– and if you have to ask how much it costs–, Hemingway and Bugatti I believe, to stress the obvious, that Wagnerian sopranos are kept in furs by the wealthiest of patrons. As epic as might be your struggle, unless you transcend the stage to torch the theater, the status quo raises and lowers the curtain. Without seizing the state media, if even that had been possible, and without staging a narrative to compete with Mubarak’s Greekest of tragic high dives, the Tahrir Square revolutionaries became mere players to please the king.

How could we have missed the grand theatricality of Mubarak’s televised last stands, lighting and makeup dialed to Bela Lugosi? Anyone who knows to dramatize a campfire tale by holding a flashlight under his chin also knows they don’t do that for their profile pic.

In all three of his televised responses to the Jan25 reformers, Mubarak could be paraphrased to have said “over my dead body.” It was a road map his adversaries probably should have heeded. Where is Mubarak now? He’s not gone, he hasn’t even left Egypt. We are informed Mubarak has stepped down by the same henchmen who told protesters “all your demands will be met,” then meeting none.

We learn now that Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Military is trying to clear Tahrir Square. It’s outlawing those who would cause chaos and disorder, and forbidding labor unions to assemble or strike. It’s refusing to end Egypt’s emergency law, or to release the unknown thousand detained during the protests. What of Suleiman and the regime’s other cronies? We have only Mubarak’s doppelganger in an army cap. Field Marshall “Happy” Tantawi, takes to the microphone with no other agenda it appears than to restore Egypt its accustomed sonorous normalcy. If Tibetan throat-singing has an antecedent we can wager now it was Pharaoh throat-talking.

Dance with the one who brought you
A mantra worth cursing out, when Americans wonder why their elected representatives answer only to their biggest campaign donors. So why would Egypt’s Jan25 upstarts have banked on winning the cooperation of the army? I almost said “their” army, but it’s bought and paid for by Mubarak, actually by the same interests who buy US politicians. Deciding not to challenge the army spared lives, but it’s left the military regime in place. Regime unchanged.

There’s a problem when you harness the protection of the military without knowing the intentions of its leaders. You can win a nonviolent revolution against the schoolyard bully if you’ve got the deterrence of “My Bodyguard,” but when the army does that on a national scale it’s called a “bloodless coup.” I’d be curious to know if nonviolence cultists rank bloodless coups among behaviors they condone.

Egypt’s April 6 Youth Movement, chief instigators of the Jan25 uprising, attribute much of their organizing skill to training with OTPOR, the famously successful Serbian youth rebellion which ousted a Balkan despot. OTPOR is now a “pro-Democracy” consultant group that tours the world to awaken nascent freedom-seeking insurgents aspiring to popular uprisings. OTPOR refutes insinuations rising from the disclosure that it has accepted CIA funding, but curiously OTPOR is more often by happenstance advising malcontents in Venezuela, Bolivia, Equador, Iran, the usual outspoken rivals to US hegemony. What are they doing in Egypt? Had Hosni Mubarak gone rogue and we didn’t know it?

When pan-Arabists think of events in Tunisia and Egypt igniting popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, there’s a line to draw between the common dictators and those more hostile to the West, whose rule is autocratic by necessity of having to defend against CIA and Mossad activities designed to foment instability.

Whether against anti-US foes or pro, it might be safe to say that OTPOR talks a good game, without having yet had a victory. They too deposed a dictator, but not his regime. The problem with OTPOR’s advice has to do with the end game.

I sat in on an OTPOR seminar once. They make a yearly visit to Colorado College to lecture for the nonviolence program. At the conclusion of one lecture I witnessed a tremendously telling aside, which emerged during the Q&A, and definitely wasn’t in the nonviolence syllabus. I wonder if the A6YM got the memo.

This presenter, a veteran of the student uprising that deposed Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, contended that after this victory for Democracy, etc, etc, after the attention span of the media had moved on, the same Milosevic cronies who’d been driven to the shadows, assassinated the opposition leaders and crept right back to power. His lesson, a mere thesis, which I paraphrase to reflect his muted emphasis: we should maybe have taken it one step further and made sure to kill the fuckers.

A6YM is still gambling they can separate the lower ranks of the army from the brass. If Robert Fisk’s report that Egyptian tank commanders refused January 30 orders to make a Tiananmen Square out of Tahrir, there may still be hope in such a strategy. But it certainly won’t work if no one will announce that it has worked. If a tyrant falls in the forest and no one hears, his rule doesn’t fall. The funeral cortege of Genghis Khan killed everyone in its path to keep word of his death from spreading across the empire until his successor could consolidate power. If you’re not going to push him off the cliff literally, perhaps Slavoj Zizek is right to say you’ve got to create a Tom and Jerry moment where despots like Mubarak see that there is no longer any foundation beneath him, where visualizing his own demise brings it upon himself. But can that be done without having director’s cut over the narrative?

What kind of farce are we perpetuating to pretend that Hosni Mubarak must be granted a dignified exit? What dignity commanded firing on unarmed protesters? Are we to pretend men who torture to retain their power can be cajoled to release it?

Instead, the Egyptian rebels find themselves with no ground beneath their feet, their “victorious revolution” now a meme being used to rally dissenters against America’s chief adversary Iran.

Poetry of Barack Obama invokes MLK but pays true homage to Rod McKuen

Jesus what a bore! Remember when SNL lampooned Sarah Palin’s first prime time TV interview by reenacting it verbatim? They could do that with Obama’ humorless addresses, I think it would make great theater, but the joke’s already abysmally old. Maybe we need a drinking game where everyone paying close attention could drink the moment President Obama mouthed a phrase that wasn’t a cliche or platitude. Alright, not a drinking game.

At least George Bush punctuated his utterances with inanities, funny ones. We appreciate Sarah Palin for the same preposterous gaffs. Obama’s meaningless drone is similarly inane really, divorced from meaning but colorless.

I had to revisit Obama’s Mubarak-steps-down speech to see if there was anything there. His usual podium bedside manner now hits me like chloroform. I’m not sure if Obama’s tennis ball red-state blue-state head swings aren’t calculated to hypnotize, or if the vacuity of his bombast is the prescribed anesthetic.

At first I was going to reprint the speech with the cliches highlighted. I opted to simply reformat it like a poem, putting the carriage return after each cliched platitude. I’ve parenthesized phrases which in Star Trek or ER scripts are called tech-speak, expository details whose particularities are actually irrelevant.

I’ve neither added, nor subtracted from this official transcript. I can hardly believe it myself.

There are very few moments in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place.

The people of Egypt have spoken.

Their voices have been heard.

And Egypt will never be the same.

(By stepping down, President Mubarak)

responded to the Egyptian people’s hunger for change.

but this is not the end of Egypt’s transition. It’s a beginning.

I’m sure there will be difficult days ahead and

many questions remain unanswered.

But I am confident that the people of Egypt can find the answers,

and do so peacefully, constructively, and in the spirit of unity

(that has defined these last few weeks, for Egyptians have made it clear that)

nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day.

Well, that’s just the opening paragraph. Obama follows it with more expository blah blah blah. He begins by crediting the nonviolence to Egypt’s military, instead of the incredible restraint of the student protesters.

The military has served patriotically and responsibly as a caretaker to the state and will now have to ensure a transition that is credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people.

You’ll note Obama is advising the military on appearances — very likely his definition of “meaningful.” He continues by listing the demands of the Tahrir Square demonstrators, without crediting them, as if this list was his own.

That means protecting the rights of Egypt’s citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible, and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free.

And then it’s a return to platitudes, encapsulating the admonition that Egyptian forums must give access to secular, “pro-democracy,” pro-Zionist pro-globalist concerns.

Above all this transition must bring all of Egypt’s voices to the table for the spirit of peaceful protest and perseverance that the Egyptian people have shown can serve as a powerful wind at the back of this change.

While he has you almost gagging Obama counterattacks with something to blow your drink through your nose. Obama promises to be the kind of friend to the newly free Egyptians that only the day before was supporting their oppressor Mubarak, and promising there’s more help where that came from.

The United States will continue to be a friend and partner to Egypt. We stand ready to provide whatever assistance is necessary and asked for to pursue a credible transition to a democracy.

And back to cliches:

I’m also confident that the same ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that the young people of Egypt have shown in recent days can be harnessed to create new opportunity, jobs and businesses that allow the extraordinary potential of this generation to take flight.

Isn’t this the same war-on-the Future speech he’s peddling to his domestic audience?

I know that a democratic Egypt can advance its role of responsible leadership not only in the region but around the world.

Oh you can read the rest for yourself. I’m bored.

Egypt has played a pivotal role in human history for over 6,000 years. But over the last few weeks the wheel of history turned at a blinding pace as the Egyptian people demanded their universal rights.

Alright, one more interruption. Below Obama describes watching events of the Egyptian Revolution, AS IF it was a shared American experience. The irony of course is that he watched it on Al Jazeera, while the rest of America could and did not. They would be at pains to draw the same sympathetic conclusions as he. Obama comes off quite the perceptive, humanitarian bastard.

We saw mothers and fathers carrying their children on their shoulders to show them what true freedom might look like. We saw young Egyptians say, for the first time in my life I really count. My voice is heard. Even though I’m only one person, this is the way real democracy works. We saw protestors chant… ‘We are peaceful, again and again.’

We saw a military that would not fire bullets at the people they were sworn to protect. And we saw doctors and nurses rushing into the streets to care for the wound. Volunteers checking protestors to ensure that they were unarmed. We saw people of faith praying together and chanting Muslims, Christians, we are one. And though we know the strains of faith divide too many in this world and no single event will close that chasm immediately, these scenes show us that we need not be defined by our differences. We can be defined by the common humanity that we share.?And, above all, we saw a new generation emerge, a generation that uses their own creativity and talent and technology to call for a government that represented their hopes and not their fears. A government that is responsive to their boundless aspirations. One Egyptian put it simply — most people have discovered in the last few days that they are worth something, and this cannot be taken away from them anymore. Ever.

This is the power of human dignity, and it can never be denied. Egyptians have inspired us, and they’ve done so by putting the eye to the idea that justice is best gained through violence. For in Egypt it was the moral force of nonviolence, not terrorism, not mindless killing, but nonviolence, moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more. And while the sights and sounds that we heard were entirely Egyptian, we can’t help but hear the echoes of history, echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down the path justice. As Martin Luther King said in celebrating the birth of a new nation in Ghana while trying to perfect his own, there’s something in the soul that cries out for freedom.

Those were the cries that came from Tahrir square and the entire world has taken note. Today belongs to the people of Egypt, and the American people are moved by these scenes in Cairo and across Egypt because of who we are as a people and the kind of world that we want our children to grow up in. The word ‘Tahrir’ means liberation. It’s a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom. And forever more it will remind us of the Egyptian people, of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country and in doing so changed the world. Thank you.

US vexed Swiss will support peace not peacekeeping or peace enforcement

In a Dec 2, 2008 diplomatic cable released by Aftenposten, the US ambassador to Switzerland reports that US-Swiss relations “lack the natural intimacy and trust” because, he laments:
 
“U.S. and Swiss soldiers never fought side-by-side in a war, no Swiss town felt an emotional bond to the U.S. for a past liberation or economic assistance program,” which creates the vexing obstacle that the Swiss Army won’t lend their knives to NATO or other USG non-multilateral projects:
 
“The Swiss military is limited by law to participating only in peace support operations (PSOs) — as opposed to peacekeeping or peace enforcement –“ I’ll interrupt here to highlight the distinction which the historically-neutral, tri-lingual, direct-democracy Swiss nation makes, perhaps like the Inuit and their fabled hundred words for snow. Americans are sold only one kind of peace, which has to be kept and enforced. We have only one word for peace and it’s not peace.

In Tennessee, ACLU = Terrorists

The Memphis Homeland Security fusion center has a map listing the Tennessee ACLU as a “Terrorist Event.” Compound that with what a ranking senator (R-AL) has called the “ACLU DNA.” It goes beyond semantics when the label of terrorist means by executive order suspects can be detained without charges, indefinitely and without an enforceable standard of human rights. Think twice about those giving credence to Vice President Biden’s categorization of Wikileaks as more terrorism than journalism. On the lighter dark side, the CIA has set up a Wikileaks Task Force (WTF), prompting comedian Andy Borowitz to suggest the more apt Stop Terrorists From Uniting (STFU).

Hillendale Farm bursts pastoral cliche


The recall of salmonella-tainted eggs reaches half-billion as second farm implicated. Wait a minute, we’re only up to two farms? What kind of “farm” yields 250 million eggs? Not one you’d picture called Sunny Farms, or Sunny Meadow, or Wholesome Farms, or West Creek. These are the pastoral facades behind Hillendale Farm, the latest source of factory food-sourcing contamination. But the mother of all deceptively cruel trade name conjures “over hill and dale,” the expanse of concentrations of cages required to “farm” those chickens.

Futbol or Football, it’s all about us

Americans already have a “football” and so come into conflict with a majority of the world when our television broadcasters have to say “soccer” and assuage the confusion of US viewers when confronted by everyone else’s “football.” And ironic too, the sportscasters like to explain, compounding their error, because it’s about the foot and the ball, unlike domestic football which is about using your hands to carry an un-spherical bladder. But this humor presumes another American overreach: “Futbol” incorporates “foot” and “ball” only if you speak English.

In a preponderance of languages, futbol defines neither foot nor ball, and mimics simply the phonetic term used by the British, whose colonial representatives were responsible for spreading the game across the world. As long time English speakers, the Brits have no difficulty with differentiating football from American Football. But Americans didn’t come by the term “soccer” on its own, which brings to light the other side to the complexity of FIFA’s hope to standardize the World Cup experience. Americans are not alone in resisting globalization’s attack on their cultural identity. A great deal of the world doesn’t call it FOOTBALL either.

To survey just the languages which share our Arabic alphabet, here’s how others refer to what we call soccer: Sokker (Afrikaans), Fodbold (Danish), Voetbal (Dutch), Jalgpall (Estonian), Jalkapallo (Finnish), Labdarúgás (Hungarian), Calcio (Italian), Sepak bola (Indonesian), Putbol (Filipino), Peil (Irish), Pêl-droed (Welsh), Pi?ka no?na (Polish), and Nogomet (Croatian).

What freedom means to me: not what it used to

As the next ships are mobilized to challenge the siege of Gaza, NYC supporters of Israel paraded a “True Freedom Flotilla” around the harbor. This point may already be moot, “Freedom” doesn’t mean what it used to. Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom are exercises in duplicity, and “Freedom of Speech” is hollow. The Oslo Freedom Forum was packed with globalization ringers. Freedom Fries were just embarrassing. The Smithsonian exhibit about America’s wars is entitled “The Price of Freedom.”

Bananagrams true lowercase scrabble

Scrabble competitor letter tile gameSNL’s Weekend Update poked fun at a tragic development in the world of word games. SCRABBLE rescinded its famous prohibition on proper names and places, leaving SNL to suggest that JENGA should let us use glue. Was traditional Scrabble (let’s call it Scrabble Classic) becoming too difficult for today’s wordsmiths? Maybe conjuring anagrams from a modern vocabulary has became too hard a scrabble. The timing of this generous handicap would seem to take aim at viral rival BANANAGRAMS, a faster but no looser crossword game. I think the focus playgroup missed a larger no-child-left-behind incompatibility, math. To square off with Bananagrams, Scrabble needs to dumb down the arithmetic.

Maneuvering the ten-point letter unto the triple-letter square, that’s a challenge best left to our British Commonwealth cousins, our betters at math, science and now, I’m guessing, English as a Second First Language.

Although one could long, with Bananagrams, for a more complicated scoring system than simply who “peels” last. I’d like to see scores for most words formed, or long peel drives, or complexity of words formed. An interesting dilemma develops in Bananagrams between choosing entertaining words versus more interchangeable monosyllabic varieties. But Bananagrams keeps it simple and fast, which I think explains its contemporary appeal.

Which by no means means simple. Newcomers to Bananagrams, as they did for Scrabble, still find themselves well outmatched by players equipped with crossword puzzle vocabularies. Adz, Ait, Axon.. if you’re lacking for despicable examples.

Scrabble had to open the doors to proper nouns probably because today’s television vocabulary consists largely of brand names and trademarks.

A bird in the hand is worth health care and a climate consensus in the bush

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. It’s better than nothing. We’re getting it from all direction now, from Copenhagen to the health care bill. The message is delivered by experienced elder statesmen whose benevolence we do not question because they are retired and have no horse in the race -yet they have access to the halls of power where real stakeholders are denied? Silver hair and silver tongues pitch: “Those who say a bad deal is better than no deal are dead wrong.” You’re kidding me Grandpa.

And what’s this for a perverted adage: “One step forward is better than two steps back?”

I’m seeing Obama being praised for revising his schedule to get to Copenhagen on the last day, for knowing how late is fashionable when the party’s a dud. But that’s not a leader. Obama could have given life to the party, instead he ops to give the Gettysburg Address.

Three meals away from revolution

Brochure from ready.govThe phrase is oft quoted, but no one knows who originated it –or, even if it’s true. It could just be an old pharah’s wives tale. But Obama buys it: from the people who brought you hope.gov we’ve now come to ready.gov. Where the White House assures you there is no need to fear coming plagues and pestilence so long as you “Prepare. Plan. Stay Informed.” and be sure to have food for three days.

Is it three meals or nine? Is the consequence anarchy or revolution? The “truism” is commonly sited as being an old Russian expression, but it’s so pithy, others guess it has a literary source like Dumas. A contemporary scholar placed it back much further:

The Romans believed that civilization is never more than three meals away from anarchy.

Of course, when Stalin or Trotsky are thought to have said it, the dire consequence for civilization is revolution. Which is where the saying catches the popular imagination. Internet sleuths are eager to credit the wisdom to a BBC situation comedy. “[Arnold] Rimmer said it in Red Dwarf.” Although two decades before, Science Fiction authors Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle wrote in Lucifer’s Hammer, that civilization is “only three meals removed from savagery.”

Doubtless in earlier times, you ate well if you could rely on one solid meal every day, which no doubt holds true for the majority of the world still. In the developed nations of course, we cannot see ourselves subsisting on less than three.

The makers of the documentary King Corn interviewed Senator Chuck Grassley about America’s food supply, which is where the expression piqued my interest. Grassley explained: “A society is always nine meals away from a revolution. If you have people going without food for three days and there are enough of them out there, they will revolt.”

Like the “300 pound gorilla” which has now become 900lbs, the units have indexed with man’s inflated prosperity, likewise the vicarious sense that salvation from inequity might come by revolution. A better educated Briton is thought to have coined the nine meals abstraction. At the height of last year’s food crisis, it was recalled that Lord Cameron of Dillington, in his capacity of head of the UK’s Countryside Agency, coined version 2.0 “nine meals from anarchy.”

The distinction between anarchy and revolution was noted by Fredick Upham Adams in 1896, unearthed by Wikiquotes, who speculated on the veracity of the concept:

…I realize that the spirit of liberty does not exist in hungry men. People talked about a day coming when the people would become so hungry and desperate that they would rise in a revolution and sweep all before them. Such a day will never come. Hungry men may fight, but it will be for a bone—not for liberty. The perpetuity of liberty rests with those who eat three square meals a day.

Of course, Maslow would later quantify this with his hierarchy of needs, but I think modern man clings to the revolutionary idyll over anarchy because it gives him imaginary elbow room to believe right could prevail over the totalitarian misrule of the state. For the common man, it grants him reprieve from the likelihood that Orwell was correct to imagine that the future of mankind will be a soldier’s foot on your face forever. For the affluent, thoughts of a revolutionary cleansing assuage their guilt.

But Obama’s crew appears to be taking no chances. They’ve unveiled a website at www.ready.gov which expands on George W. Bush’s plastic and duct tape. Actually, the plastic and duct tape are still there, but at the top Obama wants us to be sure to get our three squares, for three days.

Ready
Prepare. Plan. Stay Informed.

EMERGENCY SUPPLY LIST

Recommended Items to Include in a Basic Emergency Supply Kit:

– Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
– Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
– Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
– Flashlight and extra batteries
– First aid kit
– Whistle to signal for help
– Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
– Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
– Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
– Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
– Local maps
– Cell phone with chargers

Additional Items to Consider Adding to an Emergency Supply Kit:

– Prescription medications and glasses
– Infant formula and diapers
– Pet food and extra water for your pet
– Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
– Cash or traveler’s checks and change
– Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information from www.ready.gov
– Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
– Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
– Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
– Fire Extinguisher
– Matches in a waterproof container
– Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
– Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
– Paper and pencil
– Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

Through its Ready Campaign, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security educates and empowers Americans to take some simple steps to prepare for and respond to potential emergencies, including natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Ready asks individuals to do three key things: get an emergency supply kit, make a family emergency plan, and be informed about the different types of emergencies that could occur and their appropriate responses.

All Americans should have some basic supplies on hand in order to survive for at least three days if an emergency occurs. Following is a listing of some basic items that every emergency supply kit should include. However, it is important that individuals review this list and consider where they live and the unique needs of their family in order to create an emergency supply kit that will meet these needs. Individuals should also consider having at least two emergency supply kits, one full kit at home and smaller portable kits in their workplace, vehicle or other places they spend time.

No Teabagger, Glenn Beck is a Teabag

GolemWe’ve been calling them teabaggers, the impulsive naysayers to reform and a rededicated social conscience; so named because they decry “taxation without representation.” Having lost the election of 2008, their idiocy is no longer represented in Washington by someone they feel they can share a beer with. So they hold “tea parties,” minus the jettisoning of capitalist goods. They protest all government spending, question Barack Obama’s birth certificate, and rail against immigrants, socialism, and the decline of White America. We call them “Teabaggers,” but the term conjures an unmerited sexual act. We should call them “Teabags” instead. I’d like a dittohead wingnut nickname that sounds more like scumbag.

Company wolves in nonpartisan clothing

Would you believe it? Not My Tribe is “nonpartisan!” We favor neither Republican or Democrat, although current usage presumes you are of course one or the other, it’s just that you’ve agreed not to show bias. Nonpartisan is not “non-aligned.” It does not mean you are neither. Nonpartisan has become more like “nondenominational.” Which means not of a specific religious adherence, but certainly belonging to one of them. And like nondenominational, isn’t it a ruse?

Religious events billing themselves as nondenominational are casting a big net hoping to lure other believers, making the implication that they need to escape their more demarcated sect. They’re after the heathen too, but make no mistake, that doesn’t mean they adjust their platform one iota.

Nonpartisan political groups cast themselves as aligned to neither major party. Laws governing nonprofits forbid party allegiance, but regulations don’t address the socio-political aims of their missions. Just as the term “nonprofit” describes just that entity’s balance sheets. It doesn’t reflect the nonprofit’s goals, from which sponsoring organizations definitely plan to profit.

The insurance company think tanks weighing in against health care reform are all nonpartisan non-profits. You can be a fully-owned research division and because you are neither particularly Republican nor Democrat, you can label yourself not of the fray.

Fox News although shamelessly willing to pervert “fair” and “balanced,” does not have the temerity to call themselves nonpartisan. It would expose the ruse. Propagandist Bill O’Reilly instead hides behind the less inobjective “independent.”

And so Not My Tribe is more accurately independent, because we keep company with neither corporate party, the left or the right.

Obviously are Left, Left, Left, and fully partisan. More akin to namesake Partisans who resisted the Nazi onslaught. Just as the capitalist wolves are corporate partisans in nonpartisan clothing.

Edmund Burke and the prevalent evil

Everyone wants to quote Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” I just heard it evoked by NPR, raising the alarm about a rash of albino murders in Tanzania, ostensibly for body parts considered to have medicinal value. Albinism has carried a stigma for every one person among 100,000, more in some parts of Africa. I’m sure we’re agreed it must stop. And what of HIV deaths, post-colonial greed-bred strife, slavery, or the dire environmental consequences of our industrial myopia? I offer a revision: “All that is necessary for evil to prevail, is for bad men to harp on the specter of manageable evils so that you don’t face up to the prevalent one.”

Is Charles Manson getting out in 2012? Absolutely!

Today on the public radio, I heard PRI’s Matthew Bell pose a question for the program The World. “Is President Bush underrated?” His verdict: “Absolutely!” Well the answer wasn’t Bell’s, actually. But the attribution fell outside the sound bite: Bell went on to say: “At least that’s what President Bush believes.”

Now, did the story go on to be about Bush’s delusion? Or his weeble-wobbleness, take your pick? No. It was about whether Bush had been the worst president in the last 50 years. There followed some arguments:

Historians will judge Bush to have been right, etc, etc. “According to Bill Kristol.” Again the attribution was not prefaced, but footnoted. Nor was Kristol disclosed to have been a close friend and Neocon mentor. Etc.

Contrary opinions on the other hand, were introduced oppositely, by citing the source of the voice before the quote. To my ears, this has the effect of dampening the listener’s receptivity to an argument. It muddies the ear-waves to foil a pithy phrase. When you have no intention to deliver a clear sound-bite.

You tell me which grammar communicates the most vitality:

“It’s ALIVE!” says mad scientist and Island proprietor Dr. Moreau.

(or)

Avowed antagonist and legend in-his-own-mind Dr. Moreau says “It’s ALIVE!”

This technique resembles the leeway newspapers have with their headlines. Most readers won’t go past the headline, or read bellow the fold, so a newspaper can take liberties with the headline when there’s an editorial slant to deliver, warranted or not.

The newspaper business was founded for that advantage, and ownership consolidation continues with the mass media, precisely to consolidate that power.

I believe an extreme example of this unscrupulous literary device is the retraction. Newspaper publishers know they can print a falsehood, or an oversimplification, and run a correction in a later issue. Their audience for the former is a hundred fold larger than for the latter.

That’s what I think the public radio hooligans are doing with their manipulative grammar.

Here, I’ll compose an example they can use for Bernie Madoff:

Has Bernie Madoff earned our forgiveness? Absolutely.

At least that’s what Bernie Madoff believes.

Historians will ultimately look favorably at Madoff’s actions.

According to Mistress X, nephew Z, his friends and supporters.

[But] shirtless man, [a critic of Madoff], says Madoff’s scheme to defraud investors will have a lasting impact on… [trailing into complexities which exceed the bound of a sound-bite.]

Ponzi shmonzi. You be the judge.

North Pole-tergeists from Christmas Passed

A highlight of the Christmas season every year is gathering my big family together under one roof — my children, my parents, five siblings and their spouses, and twelve (thirteen by year’s end!) nieces and nephews. Everyone is married now, save me and the kids, but I can recall many holidays when new boy- or girlfriends were part of the celebration.

Tales of our past houseguests poke edgewise into at least one family conversation every year. Each of these dear departed-from-us souls has left behind fond memories, and I imagine that we’ve provided them with a few stories as well. Like how my sisters and I share a secret language of syllables and partial thoughts that no one can follow, not even our mother. Or how all three of my brothers-in-law swill too much grog every year and end up running naked through whatever neighborhood we’re in, losing wallets and shoes and sustaining minor injuries in the imponderable annual ritual.

It’s no wonder that the poor dears rarely returned the following year. It isn’t that we didn’t want to bring them into the fold; we did, and we tried. “Once when Joey was in first grade and I was in fifth, she went to a different school than the rest of us because we’d just moved back here from Topeka and there wasn’t room at DR so I walked her to school and one of our friends, whose parents were Irish. . .” But with stories flying and a lifetime of shared experiences providing the framework, the new loves found themselves smack in the middle of what must’ve seemed to be a verbal maelstrom.

Occasionally my younger brother Andy would attempt interaction through the use of punnery. I know this was a friendly overture to our visitors because the entire family, so far as I can tell, despises puns, mostly because of him. When I was in high school, 11-year-old Andy — redheaded, bespectacled, buck-toothed Andy — would hang about ten feet away from my friends and interject punny witticisms whenever he could. My friends laughed (laughed!) at his horrid intrusions which would incense me. “Mom! Andy is bugging us! He’s telling stupid jokes again!” My mom would admonish him, much too kindly to satisfy me, “Andy, sweetie, leave the big girls alone, and stop making puns. People hate puns.”

Punnitry, for those who’ve been spared the exposure, is largely the trick of compacting two or more ideas within a single word or expression. It’s wordplay at its most punitive. To wit: Punnery is a rewording experience, especially around Christmas time. That’s when people exchange hellos and good buys with each other, the time of year when every girl wants her past forgotten and her presents remembered, the time of year when mothers have to separate the men from the toys.

Yes, that kind of punnishment.

Studies have shown a correlation between punderstanding and sound intellect, so the dumb jokes aren’t really so dumb. Puns are found in many of Shakespeare’s plays and in the Bible, more proof that they appeal to the lofty among us. Still, I loathe puns, which must be evidence that I’m not particularly clever, or so the punnits would have me believe.

We won’t have any Christmas visitors this year so there will surely be a shortage of dumb jokes around the table. To take the heat off poor punmeister Andy (who, by the way, outgrew his youthful awkwardness and is not annoying in the slightest), I’m going to surprise my family with a few holiday puns of my own. I won’t trouble you with the three pages I’ve amassed so far but, trust me, much pun will be had this year. Enough to satisfy everyone for years and years to come, I can only hope.

So, Meretricious to all! And don’t forget that There’s No Plate Like Chrome for the Hollandaise!

 

Obama said The Ukraine not Ukraine tsk

Old map of Empire Russe with Russia and the UkraineOn the subject of spinning the debates…
 
Did you hear about Barack Obama’s horrible gaffe in the first debate?! According to public radio, Obama referred to “The Ukraine” instead of the less diminutive “Ukraine” sans-the. PRI’s The World trotted out tsk-tsks from a Ukrainian-accented expert who derided Obama for his un-PC insensitivity to her country’s post-Soviet independence.

Self-respecting nations don’t require “the” to distinguish them apparently. “The” is only for provinces or regions, the expert explained. The Balkins, the Riviera –I can’t remember her examples. Certainly you wouldn’t say The France, unless you were referring to the ocean liner. How undiplomatic for Obama to malign poor proud “Ukrayina.” The would-be statesman [in evident need of more experience] should come visit, suggested the expert. But the report revealed [Instead] Obama was campaigning in Ohio.

Shall we look into what the Ukrainian expert didn’t explain: why English speakers unconsciously need to add “the” before Ukraine? Is it simply because we used to, when Ukraine was a part of Russia, and then a member of the USSR. But we didn’t say the Georgia, or the Belorusse…

Unless we meant THE Republic of Belarus. But that rule applies to every formal title. Then also we say the United States, we say the UK, and we say the People’s Republic of China. We say the Netherlands, but not the Finland, nor the Afghanistan. We do not add THE to any of the -stan states, which was a Russian suffix meaning “land.” Perhaps as we don’t use THE for nations ending in -land either.

We say the Philippines. We say the the Maldives. There seems to be a pattern related to territories in the plural. So it’s nothing to do with client states but rather collected lands.

As usual, I’ve entertained myself before doing the research.

1. The Ukraine
Is the Ukraine (I can’t help but say it that way) a reference to plural regions? Or is there some other idiomatic pattern which governs usage for English-speakers? The answer turned out to be the former.

Apparentely, Ukrayina is named after the Old East Slavic for “border region.” The Territories of Ukraine were the old Russian empire’s western edge. Perhaps this suggests why Ukrainians want to be considered their own land, and not part of someone else’s.

There, the expert is right. A historically geographical name does not suggest a sovereign nation. The Transvaal, the Yukon, the Sahara, the Midlands on England’s border to Scotland. I think it’s interesting that no US state needs a “the,” compared to their previous incarnations as the Dakota Territories, the Louisiana Purchase, etc.

But to complicate the matter, in the Ukrainian language the word means “country.” Doesn’t it go against their own tongue to eliminate the definite article? To refer to either concept, country or border, requires “the.” At least I know it is so in English. Which is my point here.

Since their independence from the USSR the Ukraine has asserted an identity minus “the.” The distinction is for diplomatic papers. So I’m not sure that international conventions govern how foreign languages bend to suit another’s domestic decree. Germany for example is known by as many names as it has neighbors, and none of them is Deutschland.

How appropriate is it to try to mock Obama for speaking the King’s English, aka English?

Isn’t your interest piqued about other places to which a “the” wants to cling to an earlier vestige? The Ivory Coast would seem to have become an effortless Ivory Coast, maybe because the plurality of “coast” is ambiguous.

2. The Sudan
What about the Sudan versus Sudan? We know it through the English colonials as “the Sudan,” but now the post-colonial English-speaking diplomatic class asserts it’s just Sudan. I can’t help but wonder if there’s some Globalization edict for nation-state nomenclature compliance. Is it for the sake of easier alphabetization?

That reminds me of how China lined up the Olympic participants in the 2008 Opening Ceremonies. Nations were ranked based on how many strokes were required in their Chinese character. American commentators thought viewers would probably consider the order nonsensical. How much sense does it make to require state names to conform to an anglo-file system?

As an aside, is the French “Sud” for South, related to the Arabic “Sudan” for “Blacks?” Both that direction from the then-known world. Not so further aside, the French say “Le Sud” in the same way we use “the” to differentiate the destination from the direction.

In any event, in Arabic, the language of the population of Sudan, the country calls itself “al-Sudan.” Post-9/11 westerners know “al” translates to “the.” That would be Sudan with the “the.”

The heterosexual Lesbians of Lesbos

The islanders of Lesbos are angry that in the English speaking world, when they introduce themselves as Lesbian, it gets a laugh. Residents of Lesbos are suing to prevent a Greek gay and lesbian interest group from using the English word in their name. Some even point to evidence that the ancient poet and proto-lesbian Sappho was not homosexual. Apparently Sappho was from Lesbos, ergo, Lesbian, Lesbians.

People have historically been described by their native region, sooner than their nationality. It’s not unique to the Greek city states, though obviously in the Mediterranean it is deeply rooted. From Athens: Athenians, from Sparta: Spartans, from Troy: Tojans.

As the English speakers who are appending the confusing “ian,” perhaps the solution is in our hands. Thomas MC has suggested we all agree to call the Greek islanders Lesboes.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being confused with Lesbians. But can you say the same about the people of Crete? In several languages to be from Crete means the same, perhaps only they know why: Cretans.

CENTCOM is central command of what?

Mecca in our talonsAs the invasion of Iraq progressed, I remember constant references to CENTCOM. Journalists would receive their briefings from CentCom, a tent in Kuwait by all appearances. I thought CentCom represented central military communications there, a safe spot behind our lines where generals could command artillery, logistics, etc.

Learning about the newly formed AFRICOM and the established EUROCOM, each beachhead assertions of US superpower control over world regions, I have to revisit US CENTRAL COMMAND for what it is, and its terribly telling dominion. Central? By the emblem I see you don’t mean the time zone. You are not talking about defense of the American Midwest. Do you really mean to refer to the Middle East, including its extended oil producing nations, as the center of your realms to command? I’d sooner concede to American ethnocentrism than to Judeo-Christian pre-occupation with Jerusalem, sooner than hold Mecca in the center cross-hairs of our bomb sights.

I’m happy to report there are currently no eager takers for Bush’s announced AFRICOM, command central for our extraction-industry ambitions on that continent.

After Bin Laden’s loudly felt complaint about the US unholy presence in Saudi Arabia, CENTCOM facilities had to be moved further from Mecca, to the crony dictator states of Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE. The US Central Command assets include many military bases and undisclosed “weapon pre-positioning sites,” six of which have been revealed to be located in Israel.