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Posts from the ‘Commentary’ Category

5
May

Word Police–stop editing our dictionary

[Warning: Not Politically Correct]

The Word Police are at it again.  We aren’t allowed to say the word “thug.”

Thug is NOT a racist word.  It is a term coined back in the olden days to describe a certain type of criminal–almost invariably a white (caucasian) male..

Just consider, please, the uses of the word in common useage… here is a short list, and I apologize if it is narrow in application.  Possibly there is some generation-specific meanings, but none of them refer to any racial group.  Basically there are two main classifications that immediately come to (my) mind:

1. “Jack-booted thugs,” which in common useage refers to military or government troops that go around smashing things and beating people with clubs.  They wear heavy leather-boots that are very effective.  The jack-boots are actually bigger than life, and as the saying goes, twice as ugly.  These are the “storm troopers” of another era, but hey–a thug by any other name is still a thug.

2. so-called “union thugs.”   We heard a lot about these guys back in the days of the union fights.  The picture that one might conjur up is of a stocky muscular white guy–remember Bluto the villain of the Popeye comics?   If not, he  was a big bruiser (another bad word for the Word Police to add to their list) who regularly attempted to whip Popeye’s butt, but always got beaten up himself by the end of the comic strip.

bluto

3. “Street thugs,” as they were known, allegedly blustered about just committing stupid and intimidating actions against innocent bystanders.   My version of these guys includes bullies who beat up other kids in school with no apparent reason (like robbery) but just for the heck of it.

I think it is noteworthy to mention that in other countries, such as the UK and much of Europe, the types of characters I think of as “thugs” — are known as “Hooligans.”

Stereotypical Hooligans are those that show up at soccer (fubol) or other sports events, and if their team doesn’t win (or DOES win, sometimes) take the opportunity to beat up the players, bystanders, fans, passers-by…and create general havoc in stadiums or nearby city streets.

I hasten to point out here that the term “Thug” is relative.  Some people think that I am very opinionated about things like words and…well lots of things.  This is true.

If there is a stereotype thug, then HE (although women can be thugs, they are not usually thought of in that light.  Please don’t take any of my ramblings about  word-use as sexist.    There are special words for women, but all I wish to say about that is that “thug” isn’t really appropriate for a woman.

So–Word Police–please stop looking for excuses to turn everything anyone says into fodder for Political Correctness.

(Most Popeye paraphernalia remains under copyright in the United States until 2024.   This drawing of Bluto is in the public domain.)

17
Apr

Flying Fools

[ok, some posts have a will of their own.  This particular work of art was one that I thought I deleted yesterday.  After finishing the draft, I hit the trash button, and thought that would be the end of it.  But no, when I looked at my email from the Commons, there was my post..in full…and it referred to the post itself on my blog.  So I went there, and found the infamous 404 Error message.  Hmmm…what to do?  I decided to let the post live on for posterity.  I copied the text in the email, then pasted it here.   I have no idea if I corrected the problem–or made it worse.  As long as I’m here in the screen to Update the post…so what the heck.  It’s even longer than it was before.]

There is something about airplane travel that brings out the worst in some people. The worst seats in many airliners have to be in the last row, next to the lavatories. These seats do not recline, and are scooted back against the lavatory wall as far as they will go. Unfortunately, the seats ahead of these fixed streets DO recline, effectively forcing occupants to put up with having the back of the forward seat in their laps.

If alone, once I am settled in my seat I fall asleep almost instantly and remain asleep until the plaae has landed and is taxi-ing toward the terminal.  (I can sleep anywhere.)   I am content to remain in my seat until everyone has left the plane.

The last time my son was with me on the flight, and I was sandwiched between him and a mild-mannered sixty-something man who had the aisle seat.  The man and I had exchanged the polite airplane seat-mate smile-and-nod, and we were all minding our own business.  I was almost asleep, son content to look out the window, and the pleasant man next to me had opened his lap-top.

Everything was fine until the seat-belt sign went dark.

Then the back of the seat, in front of my neighbor, crashed backward, forcing the computer screen almost-closed and pushed  against its owner. He asked the man in the seat ahead to move the seat forward part-way. He was ignored. The flight attendant, by request, also asked that the seat be put into upright,but she also was ignored.

Undaunted, the man with the computer kept turning in the seat, trying to hold the laptop in a comfortable position.  To his credit, he did manage to poke the seat-back a few times.

The guy in front never did adjust the seat, except when the inevitable drinks and peanuts arrived, and once when the guy got up to push his way to the lavatory.

I have thought about that incident now and then, especially when the news outlets run their periodic horror stories about air travel.

What is proper protocol in a situation like this?  Does one push  and bump the seat-back until the offender gets the message?   Try making loud and rude comments?   Fake a coughing fit?   Gag?

None of the above would have been likely to move the flying fool ahead of us.  A good smack upside the head would be effective, but then either a brawl would ensue–and delay the flight, or someone would sue.  Chances are the wrong passenger would have been kicked off the plane.

Far be it from me to advocate common sense on the part of the airline management–but wouldn’t it make sense to fix the seats that encroach upon the passengers seated in the seats that do not recline?   And is it really going to keep the airlines from bankruptcy if they remove that extra row of seats that they crammed in there?

If this has offended any of these Flying Fools–good!

8
Apr

Stream-of-consciousness…proceed at yer own risk

[DAY THREE prompt for Writing 101.]

Note: this is my offering for this assignment, which is to write for at least 15 minutes non-stop, without thinking much about where it is going or where it has been.  This is how my brain works, in compartmentalized tid-bits of life.  Normally I give the post at least a look-see to try to pick up the dumbest errors and/or a stab at continuity.  Warts and typos and all.. WYSIWYG, “what you see is what you get,” no frills or whistles.

This is a lso my commitment to develop a better writing habit…since I call myself a Writer.:-)

Wow, my three favorite songs in my whole life?   I actually wrote a blog post on this subject a few weeks ago, but never published it.  For one thing it is not easy to narrow down eight decades of music into one three-song package.   I can narrow it down to three vinyl long-play albums.

When in Germany back in the late 1950s we listened to Armed Forces Radio or Network or whatever it was.   There was a disc jockety who had a radio show which was introduced as ” when the creek don’t rse, something like that, or actually that was the sign-off.  If the lord’s willin and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be back tomorrow morning at 6:05.   Red Jones was his name, Sergeant Red Jones.  He played the lates hits from back in the states every morning after the 6 a.m. news.

I have always been obsessive about music, as well as anything else, and I had three or five basic records (yes they were 33 1/3rpm, vinyl.    The three I played the most were “Carmen” “Johnny Horton, and In a Persian Market, by David Carroll and orchestra.   We also played others music, bt those are the three that stand out.  (Sgt.  Jones never played any of them on air to my knowledge.)

I had grown to love the music of Bizet’s opera,, Carmen.  I had seen the movie Carmen Jones, starring Dorothy Danddridge and Harry Belafonte, with Pearl Bailey and other greats I can’t think of right now.   The record version of Carmen that I had was performed by I forget now what orchestra it was…and featured only music, no words.  (I wasn’t THAT classy.)  I can still hum most of th opera, but the words are not known…for one thing it ws in Sapanish and I would not study Spanish for another thirty years.  Anyway… Johnny Horton did all those “American Patriot” songs…noteabley the Battle of New Orleans, and Sink the Bismarck, and Ya Marched all the Way Johnny Reb.   and the sad tale of the horse that was killed at Little Big Horn with Custer.  Those songs still bring a tear to my eyes.  You do not want to hear me sing an of them…unless you are one of my cats, who will come from all over the house at the first note.

It was these songs that originally sparked my interest and/or fascination in the Civil War, the German Navy, Gen Jackson, and Persia.   In a Persian Markt was a favorite of mine, and still brings up visions of camels walking across the desert and tents and arabs and all that.  The album was Percussion Orientale.

I still have those original albums.   I copied them once on cassette tapes with poor results.  I think they are available on CD.

[my DAY THREE prompt, writing stream-of-consciousness for non-stop 15 minutes.]  one interruption…a computer calling to ask if I needed business capital… I was rude to the computer as I hung up.

3
Apr

Just being “lunatic fringe” doesn’t mean I’m wrong…

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Three Letter Words.”

As long as I am trying to respond to today’s post without using three letter words, I think I will employ this same venue to address a regular post that I have planned.    (Ha! thought I’d be tricked into using this word “utilize” which I hate.  My BFFs vocalize that since I tend to hate everything, they tend to be correct.)

Up to this point I am afraid  my writing is stilted, also awkward.    Sorry about that, I didn’t make this rule.

[Also, a caveat is that I hereby state:  three-letter words herein definitely slipped by– tend to be accidental brain-editing.].

What I want to write about is further exploration of yesterday’s post about re-arranging, also generally spruce-up, my blog.  I have been, in past times, an active member of what is called “Grammar Police.”  As a card-carrying member I have been sworn to uphold certain rules of speech.  1. Spelling. 2. Punctuation. 3. Clarity–or Making Sense.

Spelling is a bugaboo in English language.    I won’t speak to other languages, although  I have been told that Spanish is largely free from mis-use of vowel pronounciation. Letter  A is ” ah”  regardless of position.  If this is true, which I admit to being unsure of  factually,–it is darn good planning on whoever achieved Spanish grammrar rules.

I once made a poster-size chart of 21, that’s  TWENTY-ONE, different pronounciation uses of  Letter “I” (or maybe “E”…in many cases both…purpose of lesson used both in conjunction to produce an “e” sound.  Long “e”, that is.)   Unfortunately that chart disappeared years hence, although those kinds of facts tend to live on in my brain’s filing cabinets (also known as  cardboard boxes.)

This chart involved a newspaper article I wrote which explained a teaching tool used by local schools, known as Initial Teaching Alphabet .  Three of my five children learned to read (also write) by this method of reading instruction.  I hear some “ah-ha!–just three instead of five?”  Oldest learned elsewhere in a different school district; other enrolled in mentally challenged school where they refrained from teaching reading at this time.

I want to elaborate by saying I found this method to be excellent.   Altough  I admit to being a loyal member of “lunatic-fringe” minions in many issues, it needs to be said that I found myself in very good company…school people as well as “furriners” such as reportedly Royal Family kids (remaining obscure until I re-check my facts) that became readers through being taught with Initial Teaching Alphabet materials.

As an added incentive, my post will include a dynamic illustrated story called: PLEECEMAN JOE, written by a first-grader using some special characters.  Absolutely, shamless exploitation!

That is a whole different blog post…those even vaguely interested should consider themselves hereby invited to stay tuned.

15
Mar

Where has the “Loyal Opposition” gone?

Whatever happened to the concept of the “loyal opposition?”  What that meant  was that the two-party political system we entertain here in the United States was composed of both Democrats and Republicans, who more or less took turns running the country.  The percentage of Rs and Ds varied at different times.  The “loyal opposition” meant that when members of one party had control of the governing bodies, the other party cooperated and supported the system and the Chief Executive–the President.

That is not to say that there has never been wiggle-room on major issues on which the representatives of the various fifty states disagreed…or more specifically on which their constituents had strong feelings one way or the other.  This political form allows for differences in campaign rhetoric…and for situational platforms for argument and regional points-of-view.

Recently 47 members of the United States Senate acted on their own to basically go over the head of the President and threaten a foreign power with possible political ramifications.  The key point here is that all but a handful of Republican Senators signed the obnoxious–if not treasonous–letter to Iran, warning that they could reverse any agreement or negotiations of President Barack Obama concerning Iran’s nuclear program.

The huge number of signers indicates that there was a significant volume of political pressure on Republican Senators, so pervasive and strict that only a handful–less than ten–dared to go against the party sledgehammer.   Vulnerable members of the Senate apparently had little choice, and not much to lose because of the sheer number of participants who signed the letter to Iran.  The others, the old-timer big-shots of the party and the Tea Partiers and axe-grinders, could well afford to join the vast majority and sign the letter.   No doubt these people thought that their action was a bold definitive statement, and would be accepted by the general nay-sayers and Obama-haters among their constituents.

In some quarters–such as major national newspapers–are calling these 47 Senators “traitors.”  That’s going pretty far, as obviously most of the Signers of the infamous letter to Iran are not traitors, and may have looked upon the matter as inconsequential, and a harmless thorn in President Obama’s side. One that would cause a commotion, and attempt to somehow diminish the President’s standing by building their own reputation as out-spoken and heroic firebrands.

In my opinion it was a stupid move, and illustrates just how far from common sense and good government our Senate has advanced.

Remember a few decades ago when the huge scandal that would be known forever as “Iran Contra” broke? Hmmm… Iran again… when the CIA sold guns to Iran to make money to finance the tragic yet silly fiasco  of trying to fight the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.   It could be argued I suppose, that then-President Ronald Reagan actually did have authority to approve the complicated Iran-Contra operation…and of course there was the added attraction which provided the Democrats a platform for beating the drums against the Reagan administration.

But that’s another story…

 

 

 

 

 

12
Feb

Hey, news anchors…how about talking to US?

This thing about being left out during news broadcasts has bugged me for a long time. Some are more blatant than others. These are the choreographed news shows in which there are two anchors: let’s call them George and Mabel. They have correspondents out in the rain…or snow, or hurricane winds, or war zone…just standing there holding onto their microphones and trying to look chic AND warm (at the same time) in their parkas and rain gear.

George: well, here we are covering this gigantic snow storm, Mabel.

Mabel: yes, George. It is a gigantic snow storm. Let’s go to our correspondent, Tiffany, standing out there in the parking lot to show us what its like out there.

Hello Tiffany…are you there?

Tiffany stares into the camera for a few seconds, then:
Hello… Mabel and Geoge…yes, this is a really gigantic snow storm. Traffic is just about stalled out here.

(Traffic is seen behind Tiffany, moving slowly but steadily along.)

Geoge… yes, we can see that Tiffany. Mabel, can you see it too?

Mabel…well thank you for standing out in the blizzard there, Tiffany.

Tiffany…yes, thank you Mabel and George. Over to you in the studio…

George…thanks Tiffany, that is some storm out there. Try to keep warm.

Back in the studio Mabel says to George: that was some report on the storm out there which Tiffany has reported is bringing traffic to a standstill.

(More footage of vehicles moving along in the background. Tiffany is still standing there staring rather impatiently into the camera.)

Following the commercial break, the Nightly News With Mabel and George continues.

Mabel: here we have some great footage of some animals suffering out in the storm. Check this out, George.

George: yes, there they are…they seem to be having fun out there playing in the snow.

(Both laugh.)

THE AUDIENCE, AT HOME, WAVING…. “Hello, I hope Mabel and George don’t object to us sitting here at home listening in on their talk during the show.”.”

Well….I resent this feeling that I have every time I watch Mabel and George that I am just a fifth wheel, sitting at home watching the news as a spectator sport. The news is seemingly private conversation between the news anchors, with occasional input from the reporters out in the field.

I wish it was just as easy as switching the channel, but there are cooky-cutter teams of newcasters like Mabel and George chatting away to each other on all channels. We might as well be listening to an exchange of conversation among some strangers in an airport waiting room. The strangers are chatting away and bystanders…for lack of something better to do…listen in with blank expressions. Those sitting nearby the conversationalists rarely contribute any opinions or comments of their own.

In the past, before the nightly news became entertainment, the audience was included in the show. The anchors would address the “folks” out in the audience instead of each other. “So, take a look at this footage Folks.”

And while the Folks are listening in, the correspondents with the microphones included them in their report. “Good evening everyone, it is really raining up here on Capital Hill and these people walking by are really all wet. Back to you Mabel and George…”

Weather forecasters, who are often almost deliriously excited as a particularly interesting cold front approaches, tend to be more inclusive in addressing their reports. They still say the obligatory “Thank you Mabel and George, hope all the folks at home are battened down for the cold. You listeners over there in Hickburg should be especially attentive.” I appreciate that, Weather Person.

News anchors…please consider including us watchers in your conversation. You are not putting on a show (well, maybe so) and we really like to be included.

… and another thing, Tiffany, stop acting like you correspondents work for Mabel and George. You don’t, you work for us, out here in the audience.

18
Dec

Shades of Ricky Ricardo…or Cuba Rises Again

[This article was originally posted here on December 18, 2014, at the time of the original event.   I am re-posting it on the eve of the historic visit to Cuba by Pope Francis, on September 20, 2015.].

The bombshell news of President Obama’s restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba came as a surprise, sort of, to me as a Latin American Historian.  I always knew it was inevitable, and that Fidel Castro would defy death as a price for Cuba’s acceptance into the world family of nations.

Cuba has been off-limits to Americans for half a century, as travel was restricted to a few academics or journalists who went to the island 90 miles off the coast of Florida to study or report on conditions there.   Under United States travel restrictions, visitors who actually did manage to visit Cuba for most of the twentieth century were forbidden to buy anything in the way of souveniers, and only certain activities were permitted while there.

I did not make it to Cuba, although my credentials as a student and instructor of the history of Latin America would have allowed me to join a group tour to the island.  Although Cuba was not a specialty area for me, I was nevertheless fascinated by the island’s checkered relationship with the United States.   When the Cuban Revolution occurred in 1959 I was a young U.S.Army wife, and the news of Castro’s exploits brought fear to my heart as the soldiers were put on alert all over the world.   During the Cold War years we were all under heart-stopping dread, frozen with fear of war with the Soviet Union.  I can literally feel it now, fifty years later.

Jumping ahead, the remarkable thing about this new development in US-Cuban relations came as a surprise, an agreement hammered out under deep cover and released as something of a bombshell.  U.S. Presidents have for generations talked about the situation with Cuba, and on occasion there was even talk of easing tensions…but the rhetoric was never worth the political fall-out.  Opposing and making speeches denouncing Cuba and its membership in the Evil Empires of the World was the way to go.

The lateness of the opposition, the anti-Obama politicians, is such that they had to wing it, not having much advance warning (if any) to whip up and spin the details of the issue. I admit that I may be rusty on recent Cuban history, but it has been such a colorful example of outrageous and often ridiculous US cloak-and-dagger activities that details bear reiterating before the flux of negative propaganda hits the internet and social media sites.

Wall Street will be happy to see an end to the tunnel that has been the trade Embargo against Cuba for decades.  The US trade restrictions tightened a few years ago to close loopholes that allowed second or third- hand business transactions, thereby making it forbidden for a US or other international corporation to do business with another company that had any aspect of trade whatsoever with Cuba.

Far from being the end of the US-Cuban stand-off, this new development merely opens a new chapter.  It will be interesting to see how it all develops.

To paraphrase  Ricky Ricardo … “Lucy, there’s a lot of  ‘splainin…to do.”

to be continued…

10
Dec

Killing the Messenger…or, What Would Jack Bauer Do?

Often the” tattle-tale” gets in more trouble than the actual culprit.  The kid that breaks the vase while showing off baseball prowess  in the living room gets less flack than the sibling who tells on him.    The gang-banger who reports a robbery to police will be permanently ostracized by peers, while the robber gets off with a slap on the wrist.  This is one of the truisms of childhood, and  honor-among-thieves is often admired, at least secretly.

So in the current news circus–particularly the round-the-clock “spinning of yarns” news channel CNN–the cry of “kill the messenger” screeched onto the television screens immediately upon the bomb-shell reading of the Senate report on the use of torture by the CIA following the attack on the World Trade Center on 9-11.

We may have been softened up or prepared for the report by the fictitious Jack Bauer. of 24 fame…who was on the television series the primary “interrogator” of enemies, and when he was forced to resort to torture techniques he “reluctantly” rose to the occasion and performed his talents for the good of the agency.   Unfortunately, sometimes the people Jack Bauer was forced to torture were not always guilty of anything.  Darn!  Jack always felt appropriately bad when that happened.

So now there are the inevitable cries of “political propaganda,”  and a scramble to soft-peddle or excuse terrible occurrences that we, as a nation under God, are not supposed to do.  Shock and awe!

Hopefully the fall-out of this revelation of disaster will reach back into the time of the Central American wars…Nicaragua and El Salvador, and throughout South America.   Iran-Contra is a good place to start.  As a historian of Latin American History, the familiarities of our government involvement “down there” are understood.  Of course then it was the Soviet Union that was the big enemy and any illicit activity was excused by Washington as “anti-Communism.”

The same loud voices against the “tattle-tales” who are revealing the information about torture in the new Senate report are from those who would be in the front lines denouncing such atrocities committed by leaders in other countries.

Killing the messenger is not productive.  Sometimes telling the public what is really going on in our name is not anti-American or political propaganda–it’s just the right thing to do.

19
Nov

Why I hate watching Cable news…

Watching the tv news can make one sick. Literally. Look how they did such a great job of creating an Ebola panic.

Not that Ebola is not something to be afraid of, but CNN in particular made it sound like the disease was going to kill us all–and soon.

One after another CNN trotted out the experts, who were immediately upon stating their educated opinion (or guess) contradicted by the news anchor. When the health expert stated at great length that Ebola is not spread through the air…there was speculation about airborne infection.

The underlying emphasis in the Ebola scare seemed to be placing blame. The hospital in Dallas came under immediate fire from CNN and others frantic or eager to place the blame–on the hospital in Dallas, or on the nurses. As it turned out there WAS a working protocol, and while the staff was not trained specifically in caring for Ebola cases, they were knowledgeable about infectious diseases.

The talking heads contributed opinions, suggestions, and conjecture about who to blame and what everyone did wrong. Fortunately the Ebola Crisis came right at Election Time. Perfect! It provided a made-to-order campaign issue: blame somebody, and who better than the White House?

Another advantage–an American favorite–SUE somebody. Anybody. The first report I remember mentioned the city suing the patient, which became moot when the man died.

I do understand the reasons for worst-case-scenario coverage. I do…it is the nature of those who cover these events to feel excitement (even exhilaration) when covering the newest crisis. Drama and flash-bang situations are a lot sexier than soothing medical comfort calm-talkers.