Barry Eisler

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Mealy-mouthedness and Exaggerations

I detest euphemisms and other mealy-mouthedness. Here are a couple examples:

Former Bush administration counterterrorism analyst Chris Carney is running for Congress as a Democrat in Pennsylvania. The president, Carney claims as quoted in The New Republic, "has been telling untruths about Iraq."

Is Carney afraid of the word "lie"? That is, "The president has been telling lies about Iraq." Which itself can be improved: "The president has been lying about Iraq." Which permits one more improvement, to present tense: "The president is lying about Iraq."

If President Bush is lying about Iraq, why not just say so in plain language, as a statement that demands evidence and can be argued? Maybe Bush is lying, maybe he's not. What we know for sure is that Charney is mealy-mouthed.


Former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown, testifying before a senate panel on February 10, said, "I certainly felt somewhat abandoned" by the Bush administration. Extra points to Brown for combining an intensifier with a hedge in the same sentence! (For more on which click here)

Cut out the fat, and you get, "I felt abandoned." Which itself contains a subtle hedge -- Mr. Brown *felt* abandoned (much like people in New Orleans post-Katrina, doubtless), but he might not in fact have *been* abandoned. This construction annoys me: who cares how Brown felt? We want to know what happened! I might be reading too much into this, but is it possible that Brown's focus remains... misplaced?

So better still linguistically would be, "The Bush Administration abandoned me." Again, a statement that demands evidence and argument. And which has the additional benefit of providing a motto for tee-shirts and coffee cups.


And here's a nice one that's not so much mealy-mouthed as exaggerated and self-important:

In response to recent revelations about steroid use in baseball, commissioner Bud Selig declared, "Nothing is more important to me than the integrity of the game of baseball."

My first thought was, "I hope this guy doesn't have a family... or, if he does, that they don't hear what he just said or think that he meant it...".

Next I started mulling over that odd phrase, "The game of baseball." The game of baseball, the game... you mean, as opposed to the sky of baseball? The floor of baseball? What? Can baseball be anything other than a game? Of course not. So why the weird genitive redundancy?

It sounds important, that's why. You can almost imagine Selig getting misty-eyed as the words passed his lips, or at least wanting his listeners to get misty-eyed. Ah yes, the institution, the edifice, the bedrock of a nation...

Look out: when the genitive is used this way, often someone is trying to bullshit you. People of color, people of faith, a home of luxury (I saw this one in a real estate ad), time of difficulty, time of war... the intended effect is always the same: to impress you with the mouth-filling importance of the subject matter.

Linguistically related, and in intent the same, is the phrase The American People. Politicians use this one constantly (instead of, for example, America or Americans). When they do, they are trying to bullshit you.
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78 Comments:

Blogger David Terrenoire said...

Frankly, Barry, some people say that mistakes were made, but we can't possibly comment on an ongoing investigation at this time but, needless to say, those found to be responsible will be dealt with in a timely manner.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 8:30:00 AM  
Blogger dkgoodman said...

Couldn't you simply say, "Politicians are hypocritical liars" and leave it at that? :) I think it's in their job description.

It's all about who the audience is. I remember Arafat saying some things in Arabic for consumption on "the street", and other things in English for international distribution. He didn't want his homies hearing him espouse peace, even if it was all a front.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 8:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Blake Crouch said...

Barry, I’m certainly somewhat enjoying your blog...but seriously, I love the idea of a forum where people present ideas to learn and to really change minds and challenge each other, as opposed to just beating their chests and showing how eloquently they can recite talking points. It’s going to be fun to see how this evolves. It seems to me that in this age of the sound byte, every time a politician opens his or her mouth, they have a shot at destroying their career. Particularly with a media that’s gunning from all sides of the political spectrum. Misspeak, and somebody’s gonna get you (and you’ll get the smackdown from your own party as well). I believe John Kerry’s “I voted for the war before I voted against it” was the death blow to his campaign. The essence of mealy-mouthedness. (Yes, I know what he meant, but he didn’t have the backbone to say it...wanted to be all things to all people). It must have been played millions of times leading up to the election. I think what you’re getting at, Barry, is that we rarely hear politicians from either side say anything that hasn’t been test-group, party-approved. Most politicians come off like they’re reading from a script, hedging what they say so they can go back and clean it up if they misstep. That’s why, even though I don’t agree with some of his policy, a guy like Barack Obama is a breath of fresh air to me. From what I’ve heard, he strikes me as his own man, and that’s an endangered species in Washington. His authenticity eclipses his policy. Keep up the great blog.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 8:56:00 AM  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

Diplomacy, n, the patriotic art of lying for one's country.
- Ambrose Bierce

Diplomacy is the art of saying "Nice Doggie" till you can find a rock.
- Wynn Catlin

The funny thing is, in order to have a civil conversation here or anywhere about politics, we must all refrain from calling names, from making sweeping, judgmental statements and phrase things delicately. Saying, "I do believe you've misunderstood and misrepresented the point I was trying to make" instead of saying, "you got it wrong you f--king idiot."

The way politicians talk reminds me of the old-fashioned idea of sparing a woman the truth so it wouldn't upset her delicate sensibilities.

It's also the art of leaving the door open so your ambiguous words can always be reinterpreted.

That's why I respect JD. Love him, hate him, he tells it like it is and usually makes me choke on my lunch at the same time. He'd never make a good politician, but he's funny.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 9:45:00 AM  
Blogger John D. said...

You might find this article interesting:
Three things you never hear in politics

It's a good followup to Blake's comment.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 10:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Hank Shiffman said...

I agree with the first two, but think you're being unfair to Bud Selig. "The game of baseball" means, I think, baseball as a passtime as opposed to the business that is Major League Baseball. Not that he isn't being a hypocrite over being shocked, shocked! that there's steroid use in MLB. But his words at least express concern that the game, as played from schoolkids and drinking buddies as well as overpaid steroid cases, could suffer from this kind of scandal. Heck, it already has!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger JD Rhoades said...

Too many Democrats, I agree, are afraid of using the "L' word becuase they're terrified the Republican Spin Machine and their willing lackeys in the media will be all over them with that "oh, my lawsy me, he's ANGRY, why are the Democrats ANGRY, no one like politicians who are ANGRY..."

Then there'll be the whole "We must have respect for the office of the President" spin...you know, the one no Republican seemed to care about when the President was a Democrat.

What this fails to take into account however, is that the RSM is going to find some way to slam you no matter what you say. Gore, for example, was "stiff and boring" until he got fired up, at which point he was "unhinged," according to the RSM.

So if they're going to portray you in the worst light whatever you do, why not call a spade a spade?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

"So better still linguistically would be, "The Bush Administration abandoned me." Again, a statement that demands evidence and argument. And which has the additional benefit of providing a motto for tee-shirts and coffee cups."

I really like this idea, but it's really too long. How about:

Abandon the Bush Administration!

Best,
Mark Terry
www.mark-terry.com

p.s. It's got a kind of "Remember the Alamo" rhythm going, doesn't it?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger dkgoodman said...

LOL, sandra ruttan! Then there's also, "Diplomacy is telling your wife she'd look stout in a fur coat." ;)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 1:52:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

Blake, thanks for the kind words and welcome to another novelist! Whodathunk we writers are such an opinionated bunch?

Sandra, thanks for the hilarious quotes, and John D, for the interesting link.

Hank, excellent point; I hadn't considered that possibility. I should have known I was on thin ice trying to talk about sports. So Mr. Selig, if you're reading this, my apologies for not giving you the benefit of the doubt (although I still hope there are things more important to you than a game).

Everyone, Hank's a good friend from our days keeping each other sane at a failing (and ultimately failed) Silicon Valley startup. He's one of the smartest, most insightful, and most persuasive people I know -- check out his blog at: http://www.disordered.org.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 2:06:00 PM  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

LOL dkgoodman! Justifiable homicide, surely!

Political language- and with variations this is true of all politicial parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
- George Orwell

I have pages of these I won't bore you with. Politicians remind me of televangelists much of the time. You will see a grown man cry if he's convinced it suits his purpose and the lighting will maximize the effect.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 4:04:00 PM  
Blogger JA Konrath said...

Speaking strickly for myself, the intergrity of the game of baseball is extremely important to the American people, and that's no untruth.

But you can't accuse me of not being a Patriot. Which is why I support the War on Terrorism--which is a much harder war to fight than the War on Iraq, because how exactly to you shoot at "terrorism?"

When we conquer terrorism, do we help terrorism become a democracy? Do we occupy terrorism until free elections are set up?

Of course, we're living "Post 9/11." We're forced to, because no one has figured out how to live "Pre 9/11" because that would involve time travel, and because the phrase "Post 9/11" leads to the phrases "Patriot Act" and "Homeland Security" in which our government curtails consititional rights in order to secure the "Safety of the American People" which we demand Post 9/11.

But what happens when the War on Terrorism is turned toward the Post 9/11 American People, and the Patriot Act and Homeland Security decide that you are a terrorist because you make fun of their language?

You can add "Consititutional Rights" to your mealy mouth list...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 9:16:00 PM  
Blogger Bonnie Calhoun said...

Ooh, ooh...linguistically speaking my favorite quote and right up there on my BS Meter is...

Bill Clinton,"I did not have sex with that girl!"

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 9:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Rae said...

....we rarely hear politicians from either side say anything that hasn’t been test-group, party-approved. Most politicians come off like they’re reading from a script, hedging what they say so they can go back and clean it up if they misstep.

I agree with Blake's comment, and it got me to reminiscing about the good old days of political oratory. I can't remember the last time I heard a decent political speech. Plus, there's no more spontaneity in the dialog between the Beltway and the Rest of Us, and it seems that if anyone actually says something meaningful or off the cuff, they get roundly thumped (I'm thinking of Howard Dean, who got lambasted by his own party). Everyone is trying to market themselves to the center, and the center doesn't even really exist.

And just to join the quote fest, because I love them ;-)

"There's nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos". Jim Hightower (and probably others)

"The presidency is now a cross between a popularity contest and a high school debate, with an encyclopedia of cliches the first prize." Saul Bellow

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 10:50:00 PM  
Blogger John D. said...

Ah, a quote fest. I love quote fests. Here's a good one:

" No wonder your president has to be an actor, he's gotta look good on TV."
-Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), Back to the Future

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 6:20:00 AM  
Anonymous jh from toledo said...

Barry, "I can feel your pain".

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 6:38:00 AM  
Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

The simple fact of the matter is, that there is a linkage between what is untrue and a lie, what is false and what is bogus, mere chicanery in subterfuge exemplified by the extendation of words which sound real versus those that carry the baggage of aiding true comprehension. But let's get away from those facts that tend to obsfucate the real discussion here, which is why we now have linkage instead of links, signage instead of signs and garbage instead of garb. Because, seemingly, virtually all our ways of putting things, for the most part, depends on constant equivocation, applied in a sporadic manner with an overuse of dependent clauses.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 8:18:00 AM  
Anonymous jh from toledo said...

I continually feel that I am not intellegent enough for this forum... Thanks m.g. tarquini, you've confirmed it. Wow!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 9:27:00 AM  
Blogger Bonnie Calhoun said...

Yea! What Mindy said!...LOL..If I can figure it out...where's my dictionary!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 10:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Blake Crouch said...

"What this fails to take into account however, is that the RSM is going to find some way to slam you no matter what you say. Gore, for example, was "stiff and boring" until he got fired up, at which point he was "unhinged," according to the RSM."

JD, I think you're moderating our panel at Thrillerfest, so I shall tread lightly...

First, would you clarify for me if you believe in the existence of a left wing spin machine?

Let's be fair here...the LWSM has hardly been consistent with their portrayal of Bush...is he dirt-ditch stupid? Karl Rove’s hand puppet? Or an evil genius, bent on spreading Christianity to the Muslim world and subtly taking back our constitutional rights to privacy? Both sides have spin machines and willing lackeys. Both sides try to take out the other guys because they want power. The right was gunning for pre-bj-in-the-oval-office Clinton. Bush could get down on his hands and knees, beg forgiveness from every democratic senator and representative in the Capital, push through every piece of democratic legislation on the table (he’s already done quite a bit of that), withdraw from Iraq, abolish the tax cuts, free every “enemy combatant” in Gitmo, renounce his Supreme court picks, and give Cheney a public spanking during the next State of the Union, and he would still be vilified. I think the spin comes pretty evenly from both sides, and this blog is about trying to get away from.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 1:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Charlie Stella said...

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday firmly denied allegations that her husband had an affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Mrs. Clinton blamed the sex allegations on a "a vast right-wing conspiracy" against President Bill Clinton.

LWSM? No way ...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 1:59:00 PM  
Blogger E. Ann Bardawill said...

This blog has now officially been Tarquini'd and feathered.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 3:43:00 PM  
Blogger JD Rhoades said...

First, would you clarify for me if you believe in the existence of a left wing spin machine?

Sure. But they're not as pervasive as the right wing spinners, nor are they as eagerly picked up and parroted by the so-called media.

You ever notice how the media manages to pick up every single right wing talking point and repeat it over and over until it becomes the "truth"? Take, for example, all the snickering about Al Gore claiming to have "created the Internet." He never said it. But everyone now believes he said it, thanks to the right wing spinners staying on message, repeating it over and over until even the so-called "straight" journalists were reporting it as if it were established fact.

Ever notice how every right winger and Bush supporter on TV in a given news cycle uses the exact same words and phrases? Examples: Describing the threat to change senate rules to disallow the filibuster as the "Constitutional Option." Always referring to the war in Iraq as "the War on Terror." All medical malpractice lawsuits are "frivolous lawsuits". Howard Dean is "too angry." And see Gore as "dull" then "unhinged" above.

They all use the same words and before long everyone the news media is doing it too, largely because reporters have gotten lazy and perfectly willing to be spoon fed their language by right wing spinners.

And Charlie: I'm not a supporter of Hillary Clinton, largely due to her attempts to become Republican Lite.

But I'll tell you this: the right wing and their shills in the media mocked Hillary savagely for that quote. They still do. Problem is, when you consider the confessions of people like David Brock, who once worked for people who poured millions into projects like The Arkansas Project," set up for the sole purpose of discrediting Bill Clinton, people like Richard Mellon Scaife and Lucianne Goidberg...turns out that Hillary was right.

,

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 6:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Charlie Stella said...

turns out that Hillary was right.

I'll assume you mean in regards to the conspiracy theory (which, I'll agree with Blake on this; both sides have an equal ability and passion to spin), but the Hillinator sure wasn't right about supporting her husband's claims of innocence with Monica.

Both sides can be (and are) nasty when they want to be (or as the need arises). Individual politicians who dare speak their mind (i.e, Kucinich) are quickly cast aside (by their own party). He was somebody against the war from the get-go (which I have to respect a lot more than those who were quick to vote in favor and then backpeddled), but the Democratic party itself was busy being "Republican Light" and couldn't go near somebody who spoke their mind (another of the reasons I abandoned the Dems by the way). Bush happens to be the first Republican I ever voted for (twice).

I'm not sure in a world of soundbytes and videotape and reporters anxious to make a name for themselves, politicans get to be real anymore ... it's one of the prices we pay for being a Democracy (and a t.v. addicted society) ... and god forbid the ones who mispeak ... they get to hear/see it a hundred times a day (and that goes for people on both sides of the aisle).

Bush told an "untruth" or Bush "lied" might be the difference between a politician who doesn't want to sound mean spirited. It's the age of political correctness (something I try not to buy into but sometimes social protocal requires swallowing something one doesn't like and coughing up the politically correct response).

It's a tough time to be a politican; to maintain one's honor is probably twice as tough. I also agree with the assessment that Barack Obama might be the new fresh voice in the crowd, but how long will that last? It would seem to me the guy is perfect for the Democratic ticket in 2008, but I'll bet dollars to donuts the Party of the little people runs from him like he has the plague. The question is, will he roll over and do tricks to appease them?

I hope not, but I'm not giving odds until we're a lot closer to that race.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 3:00:00 AM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

The final straw, the moment I gave up on politics forever, was when people at the GOP convention laughingly sported Purple Heart band-aids and the American people didn't collectively gag in disgust.

A shameful moment for the country.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 5:10:00 AM  
Blogger JD Rhoades said...

Charlie: I agree with pretty much everything you say here,except I'm not ready to give up on the Dems just yet. I've definitely got my eye on Obama as well as Edwards. If, as you say, they can avoid "rolling over and doing tricks" for the likes of the DLC (the original purveyors of Republican Lite and the folks who've lost every election since Clinton)then they stand the best chance of returning the party to what it was long ago and should be again...the party that really works for the interests of the middle class and the working poor and that seeks to expand both of those groups. Right now, the Republicans have succeeded by playing on their fears and fanning prejudices while ignoring their real interests.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 5:16:00 AM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

Shit,

I just used the phrase The American People.

This is why rewriting is so important.

Not to mention coffee.

And reading comprehension skills.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 6:10:00 AM  
Anonymous jh from toledo said...

JD Rhoades said...
"Sure. But they're not as pervasive as the right wing spinners, nor are they as eagerly picked up and parroted by the so-called media."

You are kidding right? The phrases of "Pro Choice" vs. "Anti abortion" that the liberal media subtlety loves to use to push their views popped into my head when I read the above.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 6:21:00 AM  
Anonymous charlie stella said...

JD ... You have me here. Right now, the Republicans have succeeded by playing on their fears and fanning prejudices while ignoring their real interests.

I have totally bought into the fear angle (but I don't think without good cause). It is one way of manipulating the populace and you're accurate about the RSM doing a very good job at it. I certainly am not a rich man, nor do I agree with much of the Republic social platform (to include gay rights), but I was willing to go against my intersts on several fronts because I believed Bush (right or wrong) would go to war before going back to the U.N. over and over again.

I also think many independents and people like myself (who switched parties) were tired of some Dems trying to be all things to all people. Kerry shot himself in the foot with many statements, but it was that walk out of the hunt with him carrying a shotgun and his guides carrying the dead bird that spoke volumes to many people; it was as if he couldn't make up his mind what he wanted to portray.

Again, for me, I bought into the fear angle (and still do), but I think (or like to believe) that it was more a result of 9-11 than it was the spin machines. I continue to group terrorists together and "hope" we can fight them anywhere but here (although I do suspect that sooner or later they'll manage to hit our subways, too).

I'll want a response to that, though ... and right now I'm not sure I trust the Dems to go on the offensive. Phil Donahue was 100% right (about me at least). I wanted to punch someone in the nose. Hussein was stupid enough to offer his. It wasn't as though we picked on an innocent bystander. Again, his public rewards to suicide bombers and hi scud attacks against Isreal in Gulf I made him fair game (for me--I didn't need WMD or anything else).

Am I off (topic) track or what?

Thursday, April 20, 2006 6:33:00 AM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

jh,

I don't know what you're watching or listening to, but I hear Pro-Choice and Pro-Life all the time, except when I listen to the right wing, and then it's Pro-Abortion, as if anyone, anywhere is really pro-abortion.

But I did hear from local TV news during their coverage of last year's campaign, over and over, their references to "President Bush" and "the democrats."

And let's not forget The Death Tax, Clear Skies Initiative, and my personal favorite, The Deficit Reduction Act that actually increased the deficit.

The English language proves to be a more malleable tool than even I thought.

Seriously, any party that can paint a National Guard pilot as a war hero, and a Silver Star recipient as a lying coward, well, that's communication at a skill level way beyond that of the Democrats.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 7:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Charlie Stella said...

Seriously, any party that can paint a National Guard pilot as a war hero, and a Silver Star recipient as a lying coward, well, that's communication at a skill level way beyond that of the Democrats.

To be fair, I don't think anybody thinks George was anything but a spoiled brat through the Vietnam war years (there's no defending his lack of a war record) ... on the other hand, the photo ops of Kerry made it hard to swallow just why somebody would be filmed walking through a jungle carrying a gun (he likes to be seen carrying guns). I'm not sure whether Kerry was a war hero or not (I just don't believe him ... nor do I believe the spin against him (or the spin against McCain for that matter)) ... what I do believe is that Kerry probably hurt himself more than the Republican Spin Machine helped George (regarding his service or lack of). He was looking to run a long, long time ago ... he took a gamble and said some things to Congress others were able to use against him in later years (those soundbytes are killers) and then he made it worse by floundering throughout the campaign.

He would've done himself a world of good (and probably won the presidency) had he had that camera rolling when all the heroics went down.

As regards spinning, though ... what about Michael Moore and the extra dose of campaigning Hollywood does for the Dems?

Thursday, April 20, 2006 7:44:00 AM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

Oh, let's not get into Michael Moore. That won't go anywhere I want to go.

But I agree about Kerry's campaign. The only campaign that was worse than his was Gore's.

No, Dukakis. No question. Worst campaign I've ever seen. Jesus, that people still talk to Susan Estrich after that is amazing.

What a turd machine.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 8:06:00 AM  
Blogger Bonnie Calhoun said...

Dear David...of course no one is pro-abortion....that's linguistically repugnant! But the truth be told...if your not pro-life, there's only one other choice...pro-death.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 8:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Charlie Stella said...

As a Bush supporter, I was terrified after each debate (when Kerry demolished my boy) ... but then he (Kerry) would go and do something stupid (like the hunt) and hurt himself all over again.

Much of the problem, I think, has to do with them feeling a need to placate everybody at the same time.

I new what I was getting with Bush (and what I wanted). I sacrificed some social issues for a war effort I agreed with. It's hard to pin some of the key Dems down on just what they believe. Hillary is sitting the fence (and is definitely "Republic light") ... Kerry wants to be all things to all people ... Edwards doesn't seem to have the support of the party as anything but a second fiddle ... Joe Biden will be an interesting guy to watch ... he's articulate, he can be tough, and he's popular ... can he avoid the "liberal" tag is another issue ... coming from a blue state will make it difficult ... and what about Obama? Will the Dems really champion the most charismatic leader they have?

The bigger question for me is what will be left of the Democratic Party after the scuffle for the nomination? I can't help but remember what Ted (Judas) Kennedy did to the guy I voted for (Jimmy Carter).

Ouch ... it still hurts.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 8:28:00 AM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

Bonnie,

I prefer to think of the issue as one of privacy rights, but if you wish to live in that black and white world, you go right ahead.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 9:00:00 AM  
Blogger JD Rhoades said...

Charlie sez: Much of the problem, I think, has to do with them feeling a need to placate everybody at the same time.


Exactly.

And you can't. The other side, whoever they may be, is going to spin it negatively, no matter what you do.

Walk on water? They'll say it's because you can't swim.

The problem is that, since the 2000 election, the press has been much more willing to print and broadcast the Republican spin, without even trying to challenge it, and the mainstream Democrats have been unwilling to call them on it, again, because they don't want to be labeled as "angry". And, again, the so-called "liberal media" goes right along.

Another case in point: after Michael Moore, in a speech introducing Wes Clark, called Bush a "deserter", Peter Jennings practically demanded that Clark "distance" himself from the comment and from Moore. This wasn't Ken Mehlman making the demand, mind you, it was a supposedly neutral journalist.
And yet, when the Republican faithful were jeering at John Kerry's Purple Hearts by flaunting purple band-aids on TV, did anyone from the press go to any Republican spokesman, anyone at all, and demand that the Commander in Chief distance himself from that? When Ann Coulter mocked the service of Kerry supporter Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, did one single member of the press go to one single Republican spokesman and ask if the president should distance himself from that? Hell, no.

So I hope you'll forgive me if I laugh in the face of anyone talking to me about "liberal media." The media has bent over backwards for the Republican party these last few years. It's only lately that they've woken up, and I hope it's not too late.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 9:36:00 AM  
Anonymous jh from toledo said...

david terrenoire said

"I don't know what you're watching or listening to, but I hear Pro-Choice and Pro-Life all the time, except when I listen to the right wing, and then it's Pro-Abortion, as if anyone, anywhere is really pro-abortion."

You're correct, I meant to place that in the past tense. The media finally corrected their verbage after numerous complaints.

As far as not knowing of anyone that is pro-abortion??? You are kidding of course.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 10:22:00 AM  
Anonymous jh from toledo said...

"I'm not sure whether Kerry was a war hero or not"

charlie, how can you say that? Don't forget, he won three purle hearts!!!

Or was he the one that invented the internet, I get them confused.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 10:25:00 AM  
Anonymous jh from toledo said...

david, where's the baby's privacy rights? Gee's

bonnie said
"Dear David...of course no one is pro-abortion....that's linguistically repugnant! But the truth be told...if your not pro-life, there's only one other choice...pro-death. "
Good for you bonnie, but you are wrong. There is a large contingency of people that are very pro death in this country.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger JD Rhoades said...

Or was he the one that invented the internet, I get them confused.

jh, thanks so much for continuing to prove my point. You're the best.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger Bonnie Calhoun said...

I agree with you JH! And anytime I hear that it should be a 'privacy issue', the only thing that comes to mind is...why would you want to be private about being AGAINST terminating the life of a helpless fetus....???

Then I remember...Oh, their probably in favor of the terminations...I'd keep that private...LOL!

Thursday, April 20, 2006 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Bonnie Calhoun said...

And David...linguistically speaking the issue is only black and white...there is no gray. LOL...Gray is like being 'a little pregnant!

Thursday, April 20, 2006 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

These comments are exactly why I'm sick to death of politics.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 10:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Charlie Stella said...

charlie, how can you say that? Don't forget, he won three purle hearts!!!

That's my fear, JH ... that he "won" them ... anybody toting a camera for photo ops doesn't get the applause without me seeing what he did to "win" it.

This really might have to do with that soundbyte of him saying (prn.) "Jenjiss, khhhhhannnn"

Could the guy be any more obvious?

just having fun ...

Thursday, April 20, 2006 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

Hey, Charlie, next time you're in an airport and you see a young Marine with that purple ribbon on his chest, ask him if he bled enough to deserve it.

Then call me from the hospital and tell me how it went.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 12:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Charlie Stella said...

Hey, Dave, why don't you get off the high horse already?

I was joking about John Kerry. You seem to want to turn everything into a military challenge.

For the record: I didn't "pick up a gun and go to war" (like you) because I was too young for Vietnam. Then I was too old for anything else that followed. Sorry, but it's not my fault I'm just turning 50.

If you want to challenge my manhood, I'll give you my address. I promise not to leave the country.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 1:33:00 PM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

Charlie,

A little sensitive, aren't we?

All I was saying was this: the Purple Heart is a serious medal and no matter how much you disagreed with Kerry's politics or even his character, to question whether he deserved that medal, unless you were there in the fight and saw what happened, is to question whether any WIA deserves it. The dead, of course, speak for themselves.

So I was speaking as an American, not a veteran.

Now, reign in your testosterone there, bud. I made no comment about your service or lack thereof, just your disrespect for a combat medal that no one earns without being in harm's way.

A challenge to your manhood? Charlie, you would know the fragility of your manhood better than I.

Really, you need to get a grip.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 2:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Charlie Stella said...

Actually, you made the remark in a prior post (about "picking up a gun" and opinions being "hollow", and the military perspective being the one we should ahere to ... but ... what the hell).

And here I was thinking you were the over sensitive one ... well, there you go.

I do respect the medal. I don't respect Kerry. The reference was about Kerry and some rumors he had wounded himself. I wouldn't know (I wasn't there), but I doubt you were, either. Sometimes people get medals (plural) they don't deserve.

The fragile crack was pretty good, though ... credit where it's due.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 2:39:00 PM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

Thanks, Charlie, above all else, I aim to amuse.

And really, this is exactly why I've grown to hate American politics. It gets too personal too fast. Not for me.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 2:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Charlie Stella said...

It was a great line. It'll be tough for me to plagiarize, though ... too sophisticated for my novels.

You're right about the 2nd part as well. It is often tough to debate what we all feel passionate about.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 3:00:00 PM  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

David said: "Thanks, Charlie, above all else, I aim to amuse."

Your blog post today on the declining death rate did that so well.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 3:06:00 PM  
Anonymous jh from toledo said...

David, I’m confused, perhaps you were replying to a different post, but what does politics have to do with abortion? It’s a matter of right and wrong, moral and immoral, life and death. Not politics.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 3:57:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

JH and Bonnie, if something is "a matter of right and wrong, moral and immoral, life and death," "only black and white... there is no gray," and politics has nothing to do with it, it probably isn't something amenable to discussion, don't you agree?

We're all passionate about the topics that come up here. I understand that sometimes the discussion will degenerate into polemics (although I'm delighted that Charlie and David got past that without my having to ask for another group hug). But let's fight the tendency anyway...

A question worth asking for all of us: if you recognize that your post can't possibly persuade, why are you posting it? What is the post intended to accomplish?

-- Barry

Thursday, April 20, 2006 5:27:00 PM  
Blogger Bonnie Calhoun said...

Barry, I'm sorry that you are so dismayed. In both of my last comments, I was responding to the actual comments of David Terrenoire.

I took the topic of this post to be euphemisms...ProChoice is definitely a euphemism.

In response to your question...I don't know? What are you posts intended to accomplish? Especially since it's obvious you can't possibly persuade.

I thought you were posting for discussion. It looks to me, that is what you have.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 10:34:00 PM  
Anonymous jh from toledo said...

Sorry Barry, I must have missed the part where you told us only politics. I wasn't aware of topics too taboo to discuss. If I recall an earlier post of yours, you said something to the effect of "just wait till I get to the abortion issue".

Like bonnie, I was only responding to other posts. Is there a list of topics you might want to post that are too hot for us to talk about. And who knows, bonnie might just might make someone think about what shes says and saves a life. Worth it, I think so.

Friday, April 21, 2006 3:26:00 AM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

I know I may regret this, but I'd like to respond to both jh and bonnie's posts, without getting into the issue of abortion, which is something we will never come to terms with.

jh and bonnie have both made it clear there is no possible room for discussion so, OK, I can live with that.

If I can be so presumptuous as to speak for Barry, what he's saying here is that if you are so convinced that you're right, and there is no room for debate, why bring it up? I responded to bonnie's post from a linguistic standpoint, which was the point of this post. And yes, I should have known better.

As for a larger issue, I'm a writer and to me the world is an ambiguous place. That's what makes work interesting and why I love getting up in the morning. Without moral ambiguity, there would be no Holden Caulfield, no Smiley, no Yossarian, and no John Rain.

I'm sorry, bonnie and jh, but there are no moral absolutes, even in the Bible. It says, "Thou shalt not kill," but we know the Bible also supports capital punishment. Shades of gray.

Now, don't get into throwing scripture at me, because I grew up in a Southern Baptist household and I've been preached to by the best. Save your energy for another heathen.

What I'm saying is, if you want to grow politically, artistically, and morally, you have to first admit that you're a human being, and all human beings are fallible.

So, in Barry's words, "if you recognize that your post can't possibly persuade, why are you posting it? What is the post intended to accomplish?"

Discussion is fine, but what's to discuss if you're so convinced I can't possibly have a valid point? That doesn't lead to a discussion, that becomes a polemic.

Smug surety is one of the least attractive sides of today's political armosphere.

That's my take on this. But, as always, I could be wrong.

Now, I have work to do.

Friday, April 21, 2006 5:59:00 AM  
Anonymous jh from toledo said...

David said "I'm sorry, bonnie and jh, but there are no moral absolutes, even in the Bible. It says, "Thou shalt not kill," but we know the Bible also supports capital punishment. Shades of gray."

Actually David the correct translation is Thou shall not commit murder. God I think realizes that there are legitimate takes on killing, such as in self defense. One of God’s favorites was David, and he is praised in the Bible for his skills at battle.

I’m not sure what bible you read, but there are plenty of moral absolutes. Jesus, unlike our current leaders, was not afraid to define right and wrong. He was not PC.


David said "What I'm saying is, if you want to grow politically, artistically, and morally, you have to first admit that you're a human being, and all human beings are fallible."

I don’t want to talk for Bonnie, but I don’t believe either of us thinks we are infallible. Yes, people make mistakes. However just because we can’t always live up to the ideal doesn’t make the ideal and less worthwhile or true. How do you suggest that one grows morally when you feel that morals are not absolute. What ideal then are you reaching for?Are you of the “as long as it feels good and doesn’t hurt anybody it's okay” crowd?

David said "So, in Barry's words, "if you recognize that your post can't possibly persuade, why are you posting it? What is the post intended to accomplish?"

If you really believed this, then why are you posting this?

Where did either of us say that our posts can't possible persuade?


David said "Now, don't get into throwing scripture at me, because I grew up in a Southern Baptist household and I've been preached to by the best. Save your energy for another heathen."

Gee, right after you throw it at us?


I for one want to discuss ideas and issues. What good does it do to discuss things with only those that agree with you?

Friday, April 21, 2006 8:17:00 AM  
Blogger Barry said...

Bonnie, where did you see dismay in my post? Can you explain why in response to my thoughts it would be relevant that you were responding to someone else?

JH, you've focused on the word politics and ignored everything else. Let me resubmit my question: If something is "a matter of right and wrong, moral and immoral, life and death," "only black and white... there is no gray," it probably isn't something amenable to discussion, don't you agree?

JH, where did you see a topical prohibition in there? And can you explain why in response to my thoughts it would be relevant that you were responding to someone else?

Friday, April 21, 2006 8:28:00 AM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

jh,

I have no problem discussing anything. But if you honestly, believe you're going to change anyone's mind about abortion with a few comments on this blog, you have a very high estimation of your persuasive powers.

If you can't see any validity in whatever I say on an issue, if you're already so certain in your opinion that there is nothing I could say that could possibly make you reconsider, then that is a subject we can't discuss. Only you know what those things are. You've already identified abortion and believe me, if you think I haven't thought deeply about the issue, at the age of 56, with a wife and daughter, then you must think I'm either stupid or I've been living in a cave. Trust me, neither of those are true.

For instance, charlie got me thinking about the issues of whether these generals should have spoken up earlier, when they were still on active duty. It made me reconsider my opinion of what's legally right, what's morally right, and what is culturally defined. That's a good post. After thinking about it, I may still not agree with Charlie, but at least I appreciate his point of view.

That's a dialogue, and sometimes an argument, and that's what I look for in intelligent debate. If all you want is your opinion validated, I'm not interested.

But, based on your misreading of other comments, I honestly don't expect you to get the difference.

Friday, April 21, 2006 8:44:00 AM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

Before I leave this, I want to clarify why I said not to toss scripture at me.

You believe that if your opinion is backed by scripture, and scripture is the word of God, that makes your opinion infallible. Logical.

However, there are many people, and I'm one of them, who believe the Bible is the work of men. It's a valuable piece of cultural literature and anyone who wants to understand Western culture should read it, and I have.

But finding moral absolutes in the Bible, and using those absolutes to validate your stance on any subject, means as much to me as if you were quoting the Baghvad Gita, the Koran, or the Book of the Dead.

Unless we agree it's an infallible document, scripture does little more to prove your point than if you quoted Raymond Chandler.

That's what I meant.

And no, I'm not one of those "if it feels good, do it" crowd. My beliefs are much more nuanced than that. But nuance is tough to do in the comments section of a blog.

Friday, April 21, 2006 9:09:00 AM  
Anonymous jh from toledo said...

David, I not sure what comments you made that I am misreading, please elaborate.

I have to think that you are responding to some other posts, as I’m not sure what you are talking about. What opinions did request validation on? I don't need, nor am I interested in anyone's validation here. Do I sound unsure about anything to you?

As to changing anyone's mind on an issue, they would have to be open to discussion on it.

It is not my intension to change anyone’s ideas on any topic. I am just expressing mine. At your age and mine, it often takes a significant event to change our minds on a major issue. Lets hope it doesn’t happen to either of us.

I want to hear different opionions. Like you some of the post have made me think about other views and have shaken and opened my eyes a bit. I'm here to learn, not fight. If I struck a nerve with you with this one issue for some reason, then I am sorry.

Friday, April 21, 2006 9:15:00 AM  
Anonymous jh from toledo said...

Barry said "JH, you've focused on the word politics and ignored everything else. Let me resubmit my question: If something is "a matter of right and wrong, moral and immoral, life and death," "only black and white... there is no gray," it probably isn't something amenable to discussion, don't you agree?"

Ah, but what a discussion we are having on this non discussion issue.

Friday, April 21, 2006 9:25:00 AM  
Anonymous jh from toledo said...

david said "Before I leave this, I want to clarify why I said not to toss scripture at me.

You believe that if your opinion is backed by scripture, and scripture is the word of God, that makes your opinion infallible. Logical."

David, I guess what is confusing me is that I never mentioned the bible that I remember except in response to your quoting it to me. Again, why is it okay for you to quote it (especially when it carries no more weight with you than Raymond Chandler) to show a point but no one else is allowed? Again, not that I did.

Friday, April 21, 2006 9:34:00 AM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

jh wrote:

I not sure what comments you made that I am misreading, please elaborate.

OK.

Again, why is it okay for you to quote it [scripture] (especially when it carries no more weight with you than Raymond Chandler) to show a point but no one else is allowed?

This is a perfect example. If you

A. Don't know why I used the example I did and

B. think that I said you weren't allowed to quote scripture

then you are misreading my posts. I can only assume that it's my writing that's at fault and not your comprehension skills. My apologies.

And if I inferred from your hard stance on abortion that you were a Christian and if I conflated your beliefs with Bonnie's, I apologize.

I'll go someplace now and be properly contrite.

Friday, April 21, 2006 12:14:00 PM  
Anonymous jh from toledo said...

David said ". . .the Bible. It says, "Thou shalt not kill,"

"Now, don't get into throwing scripture at me"

". . .think that I said you weren't allowed to quote scripture

then you are misreading my posts."

I don't know, seems pretty clear to me.

I wasn't aware that I had a hard stance on abortion.

I think it says something (what I'm not sure) when you feel you have to apologize because you confused me with being Christian. Is being Christian an insult?

As far as killing life of any kind, I could very well and might possibly be, a Buddhist. The sad thing is that had I mentioned the unwarranted killing of insects as the Buddhist believe, no one would have said a thing.

Nuts, there I am being hard again.

Barry, I'll try to behave and not bring up any hard topics if it only causes hard feelings. Not my intention.

Friday, April 21, 2006 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

JH, I ask you again, where have I asked you not to bring up "hard topics" (or particular topics at all)? It's a simple question, and I hope you'll answer it.

And where did I mention "hard feelings?"

Is it possible that you're not reading my posts carefully, or that you're reading things into them that aren't there?

Friday, April 21, 2006 2:17:00 PM  
Anonymous jh from toledo said...

barry, you are reading things that I am address to others as to you. I was answering david about his hard feeling comment and simply advising you that if these topics are upsetting people then I will try to stay with fluff.

You said twice now that "If something is "a matter of right and wrong, moral and immoral, life and death," "only black and white... there is no gray," it probably isn't something amenable to discussion, don't you agree?"

It appears to me from your statement that if one has a strong feeling on a topic than it isn't "amenable to discussion". To give you a simple answer again, it does indeed still sound to me that by this statement you wished to end the discussion on this topic.

No, again I don't agree. I was merely stating my opionion on the issue. I wasn't aware that my opinion carried such weight that it closes the discussion the topic.

I am trying my best to slowly read your posts carefully and try very hard to copy and past those statements that I am responding to. Perhaps I can respectfully pose your closing question to you.

We have spent far too much time discussing whether we should discuss the topic, a topic that I don't believe even brought up, and no time at all discussing the topic.

Maybe it's time to move on to safer issues.

Friday, April 21, 2006 3:16:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

JH, you said, "barry, you are reading things that I am address to others as to you..."

I may have misunderstood, JH, but when you said, "Sorry Barry, I must have missed the part where you told us only politics. I wasn't aware of topics too taboo to discuss..." and, "Barry, I'll try to behave and not bring up any hard topics if it only causes hard feelings," I understood you to be addressing me, and so I responded. Was I mistaken?

In any event, the distinction I've been trying to get across is between what you're arguing and the way you're arguing it.

So when you say, "I was... simply advising you that if these topics are upsetting people then I will try to stay with fluff," I would ask you to consider the difference between topic and tone. And the possibility that there might be alternatives beyond declaring that something is "a matter of right and wrong, moral and immoral, life and death," on the one hand, and discussing nothing but fluff, on the other.

As for moving on to "safer issues," I don't know of any issue that would be unsafe here. But I do know of productive and unproductive ways of discussing them.

Thanks for your consideration.

Friday, April 21, 2006 8:10:00 PM  
Anonymous js from toledo said...

barry, it sounds as if you are saying the only tone we can bring to a discussion is uncertainy and the possiblity that we are mistaken and our minds can be changed.

Are you suggesting here that there are no right or wrong issues, that everything is a shade of gray? That me believing for example with all my heart in a topic, any topic now sets a tone? Isn't it hard to understand tone on a written exchange? Should I be putting in happy faces.

Please review my comment again. I wasn't arguing with anyone on the topic. I merely pointed out my belief. The arguments came from others not on the topic, but apparently on my right to voice it.

No one asked for discusion on why I believe as I do, they were too interested in fighting someone that has an strong feeling.

Do you truly believe that there are no matters of right and wrong? Or are we simply to believe and embrace each post as written until the next one comes along and we have to change our minds again?

When I address you, yes, I am addressing you. But in the example I gave in the last post, I was talking to someone else.

Finally, don't you find it a bit odd that all the discusion, debate, insert PC word here, have been on one statement and one statement only, and not one on the topic raise by someone other than myself? It does indeed sound like an issue no one wants to talk about.

But since yours is the last post I read, I agree with you completely...until of course I read mine.

Saturday, April 22, 2006 8:53:00 AM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

jh from toledo,

I can't speak for Barry, but I'm always suspicious of people who hide behind anonymous posts. In the ether world, it speaks volumes, perhaps unintended, but still volumes.

If you'll notice, most of the others here are quite willing to put a name and a face to their opinions.

I wonder why you don't.

There's no obligation, of course, but still, why not stand up for what you believe instead of shielding yourself through anonymous initials?

And if you really want to engage me personally, come over to A Dark Planet where we can take the gloves off?

I don't want to break any of Barry's furniture.

Saturday, April 22, 2006 8:02:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

JH, I started to respond to your questions and in doing so realized that the subject matter was sufficiently important and interesting to justify its own post. So stay tuned...

Thanks,

Barry

Saturday, April 22, 2006 9:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

I've often wondered why, if the State will have control over a woman's womb to save a life, they don't want to exercise control over other organs to saves lives.

Perhaps we could set up a national lottery for kidney transplants, blood donations, etc. Lives would be saved and what right do people have to declare what happens with their organs. The State should just take what they need to save lives.

I realize that's not the legal standard on which abortion bans were overturned, but it always seemed to me to be a bit of an absurd but logical extension of the argument. If the state controls someone's womb or risks associated with birth, why couldn't they take your kidney? I mean, you've got two, right?

Perhaps its a silly point?

Monday, April 24, 2006 8:06:00 AM  
Anonymous jh from toledo said...

david, I guess if I were trying to sell books I would also post my full name and site. It does speak volumes.

Monday, April 24, 2006 9:53:00 AM  
Anonymous jh from toledo said...

Jim, (and don't let david see you don't use your last name) I started to agree yes it was a silly point but then I started thinking about being an organ donor and the similarities between the abortion issue and that one. Thanks, you gave me much to think about.

Monday, April 24, 2006 9:58:00 AM  
Blogger Barry said...

Jim, I think you've asked a fascinating question. I'm not sure what the answer is, but I'm going to think about it and it will probably inform the piece I plan to do on abortion. Thanks for posing the question.

JH and David, maybe it's time for a deep breath. It's easy to develop an antipathy in cyberspace, where we can't see each other's expressions and body language or hear tone of voice. Which is another reason I'm a stickler on the manner of posting... words and phraseology are pretty much all we have to go on in this environment, and when we choose unwisely, things spriral downhill fast.

As for posting anonymously: I do prefer people to give their names and some other info when they're posting because it's been my experience that people are less restrained when they feel they're anonymous. There's a Japanese expression to the effect that "The traveler loses his sense of shame," and I think there's a lot to that. Still, David, your question, "Why not stand up for what you believe instead of shielding yourself through anonymous initials?" might more usefully have been put, "Can I ask you why you prefer to post anonymously?" In which case you would only have been soliciting information, and not simultaneously assuming facts not in evidence, as the lawyers like to say. Which would have increased the odds of a less irritated and more substantive response from JH...

As you can tell, I think tone matters a lot... ;-)

Monday, April 24, 2006 11:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Berry. To answer the question, last time I posted my name and city on something, I started to get some pretty serious mail in my home mail box. This included some pornographic material that my wife opened. My one mistake in my career that won’t be repeated.

As there is nothing to gain, why take the chance.

Monday, April 24, 2006 11:41:00 AM  
Anonymous jh from toledo said...

last post was mine.

Monday, April 24, 2006 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

Point taken.

I'll try to behave.

Monday, April 24, 2006 11:47:00 AM  

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