Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Stolen Valor Act

In an earlier essay, we discussed aspects of legal reasoning,  for example  as they apply to Free Speech.   The other day the Supreme Court issued a high-profile ruling in this area, overturning the Stolen Valor Act.  The way this was reported in the oligophrenic press (which now includes most of the media) was that “the Supreme Court says it’s okay to lie.”

Without reading the text of the decision, or knowing the case law (for which see the excellent Wikipedia article), one can do no more than hazard a guess as to the court’s rationale:  but an educated guess, for all that.
First, sociopolitical basics suggest that the court had a sound legal basis for their ruling, simply because it was bound to be so unpopular and easily distorted or mocked.  Probably the law forced them to go there.
Second, there is a huge conceptual difference between a lie in general (an alethic notion) as opposed to, so to speak, an “applied lie” -- such as perjury, slander, or fraud (all legal notions).  Thus, while shooting the breeze with your buddies, you might goose the figures while boasting of the clever killings you made on Wall Street, without legal peril;  but misrepresent your income on your tax form, you can be sanctioned by the law.

Thus, consider the following dialogue:

Mrs. Jones:  How do you like my new hat, dear, with the cockleshell-and-pineapple trim?
Mr. Jones:  Umm…. It’s lovely.

If Congress can criminalize lying, Mr. Jones could go to jail.

Or consider -- in the matter of Stolen Valor -- the following actual incident from the case-files, where Beppo the Broken-Down Circus Horse  confides in Doctor Dolittle:

You know, Doctor, you mightn’t believe it, but I come of a very good family.  My mother used to trace her pedigree way back to the battle-charger that Julius Caesar used -- the one he always rode when he reviewed the Praetorian Guard.
-- Hugh Lofting, Doctor Dolittle’s Circus (1924)

Ha -- a likely story!  Off to the glue-works with you, Beppo’s-Mom!

So:  Much of humanity  (and, apparently, equinity)  lies, exaggerates, fudges the facts, bends the truth, tells stretchers, much of the time.    This is a matter, perhaps, for your priests and pastors -- and your parents, to begin with, while there’s still time -- but not for the Legislative Branch.   If you use a lie to commit fraud, on the other hand, there are already laws on the books.   Thus, you might be prosecuted for falsely claiming (in pursuit of a judgeship, perhaps) that you had a summa cum laude from Harvard Law, and that you had been a decorated colonel in the Marines.   Both lies constitute substantive fraud;  we don't need Congress to gratuitously stigmatize  the latter lie over the former.

Such basic considerations render plausible why not only the Supreme Court, but lower courts before them,  found the Act  “facially unconstitutional” (what a phrase:  meaning, unconstitutional on the face of it).    The Act was clearly crafted to appeal to public passions of the moment -- our statute books are littered with such things.  Legislatures regularly pass make-believe measures  to mollify some group or other.  Recently, for instance, the notorious California legislature passed an act criminalizing something-or-other (I forget what, doubtless something currently unpopular;  for logical/legal purposes it doesn’t matter) -- which they are at liberty to do, whether wisely or not -- and additionally made the criminal status retroactive.    And that’s a no-no -- Civics 101 -- or rather, Civics 1, because we learned that back in primary school:  No ex-post-facto laws.   And the California legislators, many of whom are lawyers,  and all of whom attended primary schools (though perhaps not before these were destroyed by the selfish and short-sighted California electorate that by referendum introduced the well-named Proposition 13, gutting state finances for decades to come)  are probably mostly aware of this:  but for purposes of the Société du Spectacle, it doesn’t matter, you throw the voters a bone, knowing full well that, eventually, the Supreme Court will overturn it with a sigh;  but by then the flitting attention of the masses will have fluttered off to some other flower.


Anyhow, I guess I’m glad that they ruled as they did, because now I can share my war stories.  So, grab some Kool-Aid ® and pull up a chair.

Take the time I captured al-Zarqawi single-handedly…

So there I was, alone and unarmed in Fallujah as midnite arrived, surrounded by platoons of Viet Cong.  …

(Pour you another one, honey?)

Friday, June 29, 2012

The 5-H Club

Hazy, Hot, and Humid -- with highs in the hundreds.

“D.C. hits a record 104 degrees -- Today is the hottest day in June in 142 years of record-keeping.”
-- Washington Post

[Note -- not the hottest local June 29 on record;  the hottest June day tout court.]

Silver lining:  this hits the legislators where they live.  

Granted, one swallow does not a summer make, nor a data-point  a pattern;  but this does fit into a larger picture, meticulously laid-out by climatologists.   And since the yahoos understand nothing deeper than anecdotal evidence anyway -- nothing, really, beyond the argumentum ad baculum -- well, let them sweat a bit.

[Update 30 June 2012]  Aftermath:  1.5 million D.C.-area customers are without electricity.  (This happens a lot around here.)
Fortunately, the town where I live had the engineering smarts to bury the power lines.  We're fine.

On our little cul-de-sac, we did lose one fine upstanding tree, apparently in the prime of life, whom we shall miss.    My wife and I took an  early-Saturday-morning walk (the last point in the day -- forecast as a meteorological re-run of yesterday -- that such an outing will be bearable) and surveyed the damage on the path down to the lake;  I brought along a pair of loppers to help clear the way, feeling like a jungle-explorer with a machete.

Later, my wife went off to work, and I policed the lawn, gathering up the windthrow, and taking it to the back deck to deposit in the wheeled trashbin, which was lying on its side.  Devotees of this chronicle (reading it now aloud in the family circle around the fire, or rather, around the A/C) will recognize this useful object as the very barrel which, for over a week now, I have refrained from using, since a skillfully engineering spider (once again, we salute our engineers, whether they have two legs or eight) has been putting it to better use.    But now, rudely overturned by last night’s gale, that structure is no more.   Yet, reaching to return the refuse-bin to its normal use, I perceived that that same sleek-limbed green craftsman, had built another web, yet more wonderful than the last:  now spanning, not the sidelined opening, but, spurning the vertical, stretching from the bin’s uppermost edge  over to the deck-seat -- perfectly symmetrical, as horizontal as a bubble-level, and shining dewily in the morning sunlight.  With a sigh, I set the gleanings aside, to be dealt with later.

Artistically, and no doubt cynegetically, the work is a marvel:  yet, returning again to the ever-necessary engineering standpoint, its infrastructure is open to criticism.  For, whereas before, any non-toppling jostling of the trashbin would simply bear the internally spanning structure along with it  unharmed, now the least breeze will displace the bin -- of flimsy plastic -- with respect to the deck-bench, shredding the carefully-woven fabric, or bunching it as the case may be.


Just called my wife at the home where she works:  Though well north of D.C., they too are wholly without power, and at the mercy of the continuing heat-wave.

Which again brings up the subject of infrastructure.

Our current President entered office  calling for a massive shoulder-to-the-wheel surge on infrastructure.  And if Congress had had any sense (or indeed, if the electorate had had any sense, since their pressure does matter), our nation would have seen a revival of the CCC and WPA.  But several factors opposed this.

(1) The current credit-card culture of eating the seed corn -- nay, gorging on it, leaving the bills for the next generation, conveniently declaring bankruptcy pro re nata
(2) The general war on labor, and on organized labor in particular.

Now, the latter point is primarily a matter of traditional class warfare, which has existed since ancient times, never dying -- though sometimes dying down for a time, ever ready to be revived.  Yet there is a curious psychosocial dimension, peculiar to our age …

 [TBC ...]

[Update Sunday, 1 July]

“On top of heat wave, it may take a week for power to be restored.  Forecast: Still flirting with triple digits.”  -- The Washington Post.

Give us this day, our daily A/C -- which is working, thanks to the enterprise and foresight of our town's civil engineers.

[Update]  Turns out  what hit us was a derecho.  Nice to know it has a name.

Philosophy Porn -- and its antidote

The upcoming NYTimes book section  has a graceful review by Anthony Gottlieb  of a new and rather tawdry-sounding popularization of philosophy, America the Philosophical, by Carlin Romano.

Actually, if you have ever lived in or visited America, or perhaps even glimpsed its image on a postcard, you may wonder how -- for all its brilliant strengths -- America as a whole (vice the immediate environs of Emerson Hall and a few such choice venues) can be characterized as “philosophical”.   This is, after all, the country in which the likes of Donald Trump is permitted to walk around unhanged.  So how is the term  philosophical being used?   Answer:  In an opportunist sense, new-forged for the occasion:

His claim depends on redefining the term “philosophy,” giving it a nebulous meaning that embraces far more than is taught under that name in universities. (More later about this revisionist wordplay.)

This is the semantic sleight-of-hand that we earlier noticed under the rubric “terminological land-grab”.   We commented on an earlier philosophical name-changing/game-changing foray (by philosopher Colin McGinn) here.

Romano’s pop offering also provides lush dish of the sort we previously skewered anent The New Yorker’s descent into philosophy porn.   Gottlieb administers a deserved rebuke:

But do we need to know the model number of Sontag’s stereo amplifier? Such a detail might have been more at home in the pages about Hugh Hefner.

(Apparently the goat-god porn-king Hefner  is also lauded in this eclectic book.)

For more on “philosophy porn”, click here.
For an additional antidote, here.

Metaquinean Multimonostich -- take two

~  ~
~  ~  ~

sundry     uncut     apple stuff
sundry     uncut     apple stuff
sundry     uncut     apple stuff

~  ~  ~
~  ~

[“Metaquinean” (met-a-KWIN-ee-an) because we have taken the liberty of changing a word.  The master -- a polished stylist -- would surely approve.
“Multi” for the redundancy necessary for fielded systems.
With this breakthrough, we have achieved assonantial critical mass.
Used as an energy cell, this syntagm can power flight beyond the stars.]

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

goose monostich

~       ~
… (… ) … (geese) …   (peace)    ..  the peaceful geese ………..

~      ~

Word of the Day: “adultescence”

This gawky and unlovely coinage -- much like a pimpled teen, in fact -- is in the mold of such earlier hybrids as teenybopper and tweenager,  attempts to pin psychosocial developments into the lexicon.  I just now first encountered it in a very good article indeed, Elizabeth Kolbert’s “Spoiled Rotten”

Philological note:  Both adult and adolescent are inflections of the same Latin root meaning ‘to mature’: adult being the perfective participle (“mission accomplished”), adolescent the active-inchoative (“sometime real soon now”).  Adultescent is thus, though a chimaera, at least a patchwork of kindred species.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Phrase of the Day: “fuite en avant”

A trenchant phrase of subtle use.  (Pronounced, roughly:  FWEET on ah-VAHN.)   Literally, “fleeing forwards”, which of course we never say.

The usually excellent Oxford-Hachette dictionary  rather muffs this one, defining it only as “headlong rush” (Note to the unsuspecting public:  the phrase is never applied to Pamplona bulls, nor a bottom-of-the-ninth audience rushing for the exits).  The large Collins-Robert is somewhat better in giving a concrete use: “la fuite en avant du gouvernement dans le domaine économique: the government’s relentless [dbj: “dogged” would have been better] pursuit of the same economic policy  in spite of all the evidence.”  Google it on the internet, and you get (from a source that is not quite clear) “course effrénée vers l'inconnu, même au risque d'erreurs importantes”, which ably covers part of it.

The most recent use of the phrase I have heard, came half an hour ago, in a Medi1 broadcast concerning Syria’s downing of a Turkish jet.   Turkey had indignantly called upon the NATO military alliance (hey cool!  yet another Mideast war!!):  yet neither side, said the newscast,  in their heart of hearts  desired a fuite en avant:  which in this context could be translated “(pointless/knee-jerk) escalation”.

The phrase is important because, concise and stereotyped, it denotes a certain psychopolitical pathology, and thus -- lying ready-to-hand in our Wortschatz -- actually helps us recognize cases thereof  when they arise.   (This notion is explored at greater length in the chaper “The Stokes Conjecture”, in The Semantics of Form in Arabic.) The basic idea is:  “Well okay, that didn’t work;  but maybe if we do the same thing again only more of it/faster/harder, it’ll work this time.”  (This cantilevered emotion, common among politicians, is believed to be controlled by the pineal gland.)

In its strictest use -- literally ‘flight forward’, and not merely ‘soldiering on’ -- the term tightens the stakes a notch, over mere pointless perseverence, mere more-of-the-same -- the sunk funds fallacy, a.k.a. “throwing good money after bad”.  For in the French phrase, you actually up the ante, hoping  not only to win this hand, but to make up for previous losses.

Fuite en avant has long been one of my favorite phrases, in large part because of its complex meaning, and its lack of an equivalent in English.  But later a new term spread generally throughout our American tongue, one which, while not an exact equivalent, still covers important shared territory:  doubling-down.
The metaphor comes from the world of gambling;  and accordingly, in a country which reverenced Maverick, and which could seriously consider a casino magnate (whose name shall not stain this page, but which rhymes with dump and rump and frump) as a candidate for President, retains a certain roguish allure.  Doubling-down may not be a winning formula, but it leaves open the possibility that the cards are hot tonight;  whereas fuite en avant always designates an unwise and even foolhardy move.

Note:  Doubling one’s wager, when raised from a nonce impulse into a betting strategy, is known (in French, and thence in English) as the martingale.   This bright idea is probably rediscovered by every boy in each generation;  he is chagrined, later to learn, that the policy is statistically unsound.
In French, this term is again used figuratively, as:

La martingale à haut risque de Mitt Romney
En choisissant le moine-soldat Paul Ryan comme colistier, le candidat républicain a l'élection présidentielle américaine vient de faire un sacré pari.

Pour d’autres friandises
de la confiserie 
du docteur Justice,

A related and subtle word, also with its origins in the world of wager, is surenchère.  As:

Mariage homo: la surenchère du PS
Les députés socialistes veulent inclure la procréation médicalement assistée (PMA) dans le texte

Here the French Parti socialiste (which in reality is not so much socialist as bobo -- bourgeois-bohemian) ups the ante:  Not only do they wish to join inverts in a parody of matrimony, but to insure that those whom Nature has expressly made, not to procreate, may yet  by artificial means  pass down their defective genes.  (An apter phrase might thus be fuite en pentefuite en enfer.)

~ Recommendation posthume ~
“Si j’étais encore en vie, et que je  désirais un bon whodunnit,
que lirais-je?"
Micmacs divorce --Pouah!
(Je suis Charles de Gaulle, et j’ai approuvé ce message)

A milder counterpart of doubling-down is soldiering on;  its slogan, “Hope springs eternal”.  As, Christopher Robin’s toy train with its “string sort of thing”:

            It’s a good sort of brake
            but it hasn’t worked yet.

Also distantly related:  a Hail Mary (in football).  Related, because desperate and flashy; but, distantly, because, unlike the case of fuite en avant or doubling down, losing a Hail Mary play is no worse (does not impact your score) than losing a more conservative final play.   Given the rules of football, a swansong hail-Mary is entirely rational.

And:  bet your bottom dollar; go for broke.


A classic example of an unstable and self-defeating fuite  is the song about the “Little Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly”, for reasons left unspecified.  To get at the fly, she then deliberately swallowed a spider, which “wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her”; so to get rid of that, she swallowed a bird;  then a cat; then a dog; then a cow;  and finally a horse:  whereupon the song abruptly ends (on a rhyme:  “she died, of course”).
*     *     *
~ Commercial break ~
Relief for beleaguered Nook lovers!
We now return you to your regularly scheduled essay.

*     *     *

In his brilliantly-written book, Liar’s Poker (1989), Michael Lewis describes (p. 218)  the S&L crisis as of 1981, and the decision to go for broke:  “The U.S. Congress decided to let the savings and loans try to speculate their way out of trouble.”  (Speculation, of course, having been the way they got into this pickle in the first place.)

News without the point

I used to read Le Monde daily, but gave up  owing to their omissions and obliqueness.  (I now read Le Figaro instead.)  Again and again, the New York Times would have some extraordinarily interesting, well-analyzed and clearly-written article about events or trends in France;  at which point I would race to log into, but -- nothing.   While hundreds of automobiles were going up in flames in and around Paris, the leading newspaper would have nothing but mumbling little articles about the minister of this clashing with the deputy minister of that.   Then, when the story wouldn’t go away and the whole world knew what was going on, Le Monde would publish reaction pieces, tut-tutting about the aftermath, the way forward, like that.

The other day, I chanced upon this:
Projet d'une nouvelle allocation de garde d'enfants qui fait polémique

It concerns a new German proposal for disbursement of  Betreuungsgeld (public funds for childcare expenses) to mothers of infants, to allow them to care for the baby at home.   The surprising thing was that this issue is supposedly now tearing Germany apart -- more controversial at present than the truly momentous economic dilemma of the Eurozone.   But… why?

In today’s American context, with all the anti-government rhetoric, you might suppose that the opposition was to increased government spending, or even to government involvement in private family matters.  But that is not it at all.  For Germany already has -- apparently uncontroversially -- a huge public program of day-care centers.   The new proposal would be smaller scale, and support mothers-and-babies-together-at-home -- not the sort of thing that would spark an outcry, one would think.

But the Med1 reporter was not off;  a quick search of German headlines concerned the existence of much foofaraw:
Der Streit übers Betreuungsgeld belastet weiterhin das Klima in der Koalition. Nachdem der CSU-Vorsitzende Horst Seehofer erneut mit einem Bruch des Bündnisses gedroht hatte, griff FDP-Fraktionsvize Martin Lindner die CSU scharf an. Seehofer betreibe "groben Unfug", wenn er die schwarz-gelbe Koalition wegen der umstrittenen Familienleistung infrage stelle …

So what is really at stake here?   Are there religious motivations underlying the contending factions (as so often now in American politics)?   Do the opinions split along a divide of anything that Americans would recognize as Right versus Left?  (Such divides are actually quite multi-dimensional in each country, ill-fitted by the metaphor of handedness.  Moreover -- and crucially -- that pattern does not transfer from country to country.) What the American reader misses  is a glimpse of the background politicomagnetic field along which the ideological axes align and counteralign.

Perhaps, after an hour or so of seeking and clicking and wading through reams of German text, you might get an idea.   Simpler to wait in see if the New York Times reports it (or even better The New Yorker):  they will get right to the point.

(If one of our German readers would like to interpret the tea-leaves for us … Bitte “comments” klicken!)

Falls Sie im Doktor-Justiz-Sammelsurium
weiterblättern möchten,
Bitte hier klicken:

Each Sunday, I pour some steaming java into the proverbial coffee-cup, and browse the news.   Just now I stumbled upon this, in the Philadelphia Enquirer:

Israeli police arrest 85 after rally turns violent

Now, that’s pretty much par for the course in that part of the world, -- indeed it was surpising to see it picked up on the homepage of a minor U.S. paper that usually sticks to strictly local news -- and I’d have quickly surfed on, but that one detail stood out:  The article said absolutely nothing about what the rally was about.  The demonstrators were described only as “social activists”. 

Intrigued, I googled up some articles from  more specialized sources, anticipating the real deal:

But no such luck: the first was mum on the rationale, calling the events only “unprecedented socioeconomic riots”.   The latter was even less informative:  “a social protest”.    And even the Israeli newspaper-of-record, Haaretz, managed to publish a long article, with no allusion to what was going on or why, mentioning only “activists”.

The first thing that sprang to mind was something related to the recent violaent expressions of backlash among Israeli citizens against illegal immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa.   These have been so envenomed, so politically incorrect, that it is awkward even to allude to them stateside, in a family newspaper.  And yet they did get reported, albeity gingerly.
Also odd was that the photo showed whites, but the description didn’t fit the usual profile:

 Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says police made the arrests to prevent looting. He estimated there were 1,500 demonstrators in the protests, though media reports gave a number four times higher.

So what is going on?  If you search Google news on “Tel Aviv”, one of the completions is “Tel Aviv race riots”, but that refers to earlier  incidents.  In the new account of the latest dust-up, the code-words didn’t seem right for camouflaging a race riot.    

So, are they hiding something?  Something about sexual issues, say, or religious?  The latter seemed more likely, since there is a gaping divide within Israeli society along Haredim/non-Haredim lines, in ways quite unimaginable to Americans:  it is as though much of our national and foreign policy were being decided by the Amish.

You learn to read between the lines when faced with a modern mum’s-the-word news source -- and to quickly jump to the Readers Comments to get some idea of what is really at stake.   The Comments will of course be full of tendentious exaggeration and misinformation -- but at least you will learn what the story is really about.

Unfortunately, none of the articles above allowed Comments, or only a couple of completely oblique ones.

Finally, Reuters came through:
the latest sign of a nationwide protest movement demanding social reforms and affordable housing.
People at the rally said they were angered after a protest leader said she had been injured while being taken into custody at a demonstration in Tel Aviv on Friday.

Thus, pretty innocuous in terms of what, to an American reader, would seem hot-button issues.  Apparently the event was not single-issue, but more in line with the multi-issue, broad-brush “Occupy” protests.   The clued-in intralinear reader could have guessed this from the articles’ allusion to the presence of a “tent” at the protest -- a symbol of Occupy and of Israeli housing issues.


For earlier posts on oddly contentless stories in major news outlets, click here:

And avoidance of controversial stories:


Some big stories go largely unreported, while quite minor ones go worldwide and viral.  This, from a Maghrebi radio station, concerning the incident of the NJ grandma on the schoolbus:

La grand-mère cendrillon

Go figure.

A note for those who imagine that this is a straightforward story:  not so;  il y a des remous en-dessous.  Thus, Gedankenexperiment:  Suppose that the portly one had been a man.  There would have been nothing like the outpouring of sympathy (not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions -- she need never ride the bus another day in here life).  If anything, he might have been further mocked, for failing to do his job, which was to keep order on the bus.

If you want a real hero -- or rather, a heroine -- take rather the case of a municipal bus in Springfield, Massachusetts, which I was riding  many years ago, when some foul-mouthed youths (much more profane than those in the grandma story), from the same demographic, began cussing:  the woman driving the bus simply … came to a complete stop, put the thing in neutral, and turned around:
“You don’t talk that way in front of your mothers, and you don’t talk that way in front of me.”
They shut up.

Now -- that’s the spirit, folks;  not the cowering and whimpering that is being wept over and fawned over now.  Thus, what seemed superficially to be a straightforward tale of discourtesy trumped by sympathy (and there is that aspect, of course), with a fairy-tale happy-ending (and thus it was likewise framed in the French-language radio-essay, whose title means “Grandma Cinderella”) is, on a more benthic level, an extension of the Jessica Lynch syndrome:  celebrating victimhood over valor.

(Note:  Neither Ms. Lynch nor Ms. Klein are in the least responsible for the cults that were erected upon their accidental notoriety.   They neither sought, nor relished, such a role.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Romney: an Ice-Pick in the Skull of American Workers

“Mitt Romney’s financial company, Bain Capital, invested in a series of firms that specialized in relocating jobs done by American workers to new facilities in low-wage countries like China and India.”

What this global, borderless, world-is-flat economy effectively does, is to ressurrect the spectre of the Reserve Army of the Unemployed, first identified and decried by Karl Marx.   With labor as a fungible and disposable commodity, workers are everywhere impotent to organize -- they start to get uppity, the factory can simply skedaddle to the next unregulated Third World hellhole.

But what of that dwindling number of jobs that, by their very nature, cannot be exported, such as tending to the greenswards of the rich, or picking the arugula for their dinner parties?   The solution:  Illegal aliens, who likewise cannot organize, since they labor ever under threat of deportation.  It’s a sweet deal for the bosses, and pure poison for the working class.

For more on this hypocrite, click here:

Another key strategic reason for outsourcing, quite apart from labor issues, concerns what we shall dub  (fresh from the WDJ wordsmithery) the Capitalist Anus.  (We pause to allow this glittering phrase to pass into general currency.)  Most folks in CONUS would prefer that it be pointed the other way.

Remember the Bhopal disaster?  What -- you don’t?  And yet it was far larger than 9/11.   It caused a certain kerfuffle at the time, then faded.   You don’t really care, do you?  That is because, with keen corporate foresight, Union Carbide offshored its chemical plant to India.   When disaster happened (despite previous warnings; thank the low-regulation environment, still whored-for by Romney et cie.), Americans didn’t care, because the anus was pointed the other way.

The concept is quite simple, really, and can be easily grasped by capital and labor alike:  as Socrates put it, “You don’t shit where you eat.”
This insight nevertheless eludes the more Neanderthalian of Republicans, the sort that infest Texas.  (Actually that is a slander upon our ancient cousin-buddies, the large-craniumed Neanderthals;  let us dub them rather Australopithecine Republicans.)  They want to drill, baby, drill, and everyone downwind or downstream can go to hell.  Their forebears are the sort of Cloacal Capitalists (my, our wordsmithery is working overtime today) that Teddy Roosevelt battled (back when Republicans were any good).  The fracking and strip-mining types  really don’t get it;  and accordingly they are in a backwater or sidestream of the great onrushing river of history, which means to bear all before it.   Mitt Romney is smarter than these anthropoids, and (when not actively slumming for the moron vote) more moderate and more decent.   But the juggernaut he serves is just as dangerous.

[Sunday morning update] 
The Adventures of Mitt Romney and the Junk Bond King:
Thrills!  Chills!  And okay -- maybe a few spills.
Michael Milken, you will recall, was one of the models for Gordon Gecko.

More sporting with high rollers:
Mitt’s Merry Adventures with the Casino King
No American is dedicating as much of his money to defeat Preside nt Obama as Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who also happens to have made more money in the last three years than any other American. He is the perfect illustration of the squalid state of political money, spending sums greater than any political donation in history to advance his personal, ideological and financial agenda, which is wildly at odds with the nation’s needs.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Phurther phun Phrench phrases

English enjoys in general a more robust apparatus of derivational morphology, than does French.  (Arabic is even richer in this respect, but is sadly deficient where we are most strong, in compounding.)   Dauzat indeed devoted an article to the topic:  “L’Appauvrissement de la dérivation en français”, in Français Moderne V (1937), citing largely phonological causes. 
 This sometimes results in resort to suppletion instead of derivation:  aveugle/cécité;  chauve/calvitie; louche/strabisme.   So it strikes the eye when French can turn a trick that is just out of our morphological reach.

(1) L'UMP bénéficierait du nombre réduit de triangulaires.
-- Le Figaro

“Three-way races.”

(2) Rien ne filtre dans l'entourage de François Hollande sur le nom qui sera choisi parmi les premiers ministrables.
-- Le Figaro

“On the short list for being appointed Prime Minister”.

(3) abordable

“easy of access”.   The term is applied metaphorically to people, at which point English has a parallel expression, approachable.   But we could not apply this term to a stretch of coast. 
When you have a nice one-word expression like this, it is more supple than a full phrase.  Thus one also speaks of prix abordables, where we would translate with affordable.

(4)  se déjuger

“to go back on one’s decision”

Pour d’autres friandises
de la confiserie 
du docteur Justice,