Today’s Category: Gallimaufry for $1,000, Alex

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” (Rudyard Kipling)

“Words, Words, Words” (Hamlet)

I love words, and I love people who use words well. Obviously, the converse is true. I shudder when I hear people mangle the English language. Oh, not speakers of English as a second language. It really pisses me off when I get one of those sanctimonious e-mails that rails on people about how this is America, so everyone should speak English. Didn’t these people learn history in school? You know, the parts about how we were all immigrants at one time? Believe it or not, when America was founded, everyone did not speak English. Hello out there.

My father, a first generation Filipino spoke fluent English with an accent. His grammar was impeccable, but as he got older, it was harder to understand him sometimes, and it infuriated me when people at fast food places used to act as if he were speaking in a foreign language when they were speaking as if they had just finished the third grade. (I never learned Tagalog, his native dialect. I don’t know why. I wish that I had; I wish that mine had been a house that was bilingual when I was growing up, but it wasn’t.) I envy people who speak two or three languages with ease.

But what about the people who have lived in this country their whole lives and cannot speak English properly? Is it the fault of public schools? Do I just have to get over things like “me and Joe are goin down to the 7/11 to gets some beer. Hows bout you?”

I know that there are regional dialects and that there are phrases that go in and out of style, but what about basic English, like using the word an before words beginning with a vowel? Is that too much to ask? I don’t think that an expectation of basic grammar is being a snob, or that it’s “my English teacher showing” as I’ve been told. My family is used to being corrected, and I try not to do it in front of other people, but I don’t want my children going out into the world to start their careers, sounding as if they have no idea how to communicated beyond a sixth-grade level.

“Those words freedom and opportunity do not mean a license to climb upwards by pushing other people down.” (Franklin D. Roosevelt)

I have managed to put Rush Limbaugh out of my life for a number of years now. Several years ago, Limbaugh used to rile me so terribly that I just wanted to tear my hair out every time that I heard about something he had said. So I made a conscious decision to stop reading anything about Limbaugh or his show. I found that it was better for my blood pressure, and eventually, he faded from my consciousness, that is, until today.

I mentioned the interview between Limbaugh and the governator in a previous post in which I cited her quote about having “nothing to lose,” but as I was concentrating on Palin, Limbaugh did not settle into my memory cells. However, earlier today I watched a clip from MSNBC in which Andrea Mitchell references the toad croaking about how General Colin Powell’s endorsement is “totally about race.” Once again, toady boy is showing the depth of his ability to reason. If Powell were going to endorse Obama purely on race, why didn’t he do it months ago? Why did he wait until two weeks before the election? Perhaps, methinks, the man who many thought would be the first black man in the White House, was waiting to see how the two candidates reacted to the Wall Street catastrophe, how well they did in the debates, how they were doing on the campaign trail, who they chose as their running mates—all points that Powell mentioned in his “Meet the Press” appearance in a very cogent statement (as opposed to Limbaugh’s limited un-intellectual rant into the microphone). But of course, this is the same Limbaugh who told an African American caller to his talk show to “take that bone out of your nose and call me back.”

Ah Rush, I haven’t missed you at all . . .

“We are dancing on a volcano.” (Comte de Salvandy)

Last Friday, I watched one of the most frightening examples of ignorance in action on “Hardball with Chris Matthews.” Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota claimed that Barack Obama and his wife Michelle  held anti-American views and couldn’t be trusted in the White House. But she did not stop there. She called for the media to investigate other members of Congress: “I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out if they are pro-America or anti-America,” she said. I don’t think this country has heard statements like this since the McCarthy era.

Senator Joseph McCarthy lent his name to that era by making a speech in 1950 in West Virginia in which he produced a piece of paper that he claimed contained the names of over 200 people who were communists who were working for the U.S. State Department. McCarthy’s strongest supporters were far right radicals. One of his most vocal opponents was the famous journalist Edward R. Murrow, who wrote in 1953,

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men.

Please, do tell Representative Bachmann in all of your infinite wisdom, exactly how does one determine if someone is pro-America or anti-America?

“One can prove or refute anything at all with words.” (Anton Chekhov)

Just for grins, I thought that I’d list some of my favorite words, words that I love to roll around on my tongue but don’t often get to use in regular conversation, except perhaps in these blogs:

impinge, hoi polloi, salmagundi, impugn, verity, ignoble, alchemy, vox populi, gendarme, chasm, zeitgeist, xenophobia, pugnacious, putrid, curmudgeon, gravitas, spurious, obstreperous, fawning, kowtow, poesy, albeit, sublime, spate, predilection, soupçon, ubiquitous, reprobate, vichyssoise, apostate, propitious, precipice, burgeoning, fodder, fulcrum, obsequious, and finally apoplexy.

This is just the short list. My family is continually accusing me of using words just to confuse them. I’m just trying to broaden their horizons. After all, I think that everyone should be able to insert obstreperous and obsequious into a conversation at least once in his or her life. Don’t you?

I just wish that I could find a way to work platypus into the conversation more often . . .

More later. Peace.

Garrison Keillor on John McCain (Thank you Flat Earth)

Sept. 24, 2008 | It’s just human nature that some calamities register in the brain and others don’t. The train engineer texting at the throttle (’HOW R U? C U > L8R’) and missing the red light and 25 people die in the crash — oh God, that is way too real. Everyone has had a moment of supreme stupidity that came close to killing somebody. Even atheists say a little prayer now and then: Dear God, I am an idiot, thank you for protecting my children.

On the other hand, the federal bailout of the financial market (YAWN) is a calamity that people accept as if it were just one more hurricane. An air of crisis, the secretary of the Treasury striding down a hall at the Capitol with minions in his wake, solemn-faced congressmen at the microphones.
Something must be done, harrumph harrumph. The Current Occupant pops out of the cuckoo clock and reads a few lines off a piece of paper, pronouncing all the words correctly. And the newscaster looks into the camera and says, ‘Etaoin shrdlu qwertyuiop.’ Where is the outrage?

Poor Larry Craig got a truckload of moral condemnation for tapping his wing-tips in the men’s john, but his party proposes to spend 5 percent of the GDP to buy up bad loans made by men who walk away with their fortunes intact while retirees see their 401K go pffffffff like a defunct air mattress, and it’s business as usual.

Mr. McCain is a lifelong deregulator and believer in letting brokers and bankers do as they please — remember Lincoln Savings and Loan and his intervention with federal regulators on behalf of his friend Charles Keating, who then went to prison? Remember Neil Bush, the brother of the C.O., who, as a director of Silverado S&L, bestowed enormous loans on his friends without telling fellow directors that the friends were friends and who, when the loans failed, paid a small fine and went skipping off to other things? Mr. McCain now decries greed on Wall Street and suggests a commission be formed to look into the problem. This is like Casanova coming out for chastity. Confident men took leave of common sense and bet on the idea of perpetual profit in the real estate market and crashed. But it wasn’t their money. It was your money they were messing with. And that’s why you need government regulators. Gimlet-eyed men with steel-rim glasses and crepe-soled shoes who check the numbers and have the power to say, ‘This is a scam and a hustle and either you cease and desist, or you spend a few years in a minimum-security federal facility playing backgammon.’ The Republican Party used to specialize in gimlet-eyed, steel-rim, crepe-soled common sense and then it was taken over by crooked preachers who demand we trust them because they’re packing a Bible and God sent them on a mission to enact lower taxes, less government. Except when things crash, and then government has to pick up the pieces.

Some say the tab might come to a trillion dollars. Nobody knows. And Mr. McCain has not one moment of doubt or regret. He switches from First Deregulation Church to Our Lady of Strict Vigilance like you might go from decaf to latte. Where is the straight talk? Does the man have no conscience? It wasn’t their money they were playing with. It was yours. Where were the cops?

What we are seeing is the stuff of a novel, the public corruption of an American war hero. It is painful. First, there was his exploitation of a symbolic woman, an eager zealot who is so far out of her depth that it isn’t funny anymore. Anyone with a heart has to hurt for how Mr. McCain has made a fool of her. Never mind the persistent cheesiness of his attack ads. And now this chasm of debt and loss and the gentleman pretends to be shocked. He was there. He turned out the lights. He sent the regulators home. Mr. McCain seems willing to say anything, do anything, to get to the White House so he can go to war with Iran. If he needs to recline naked in Macy’s window, he would do that, or eat live chickens, or claim to be a reformer.

Obviously you can fool a lot of people for awhile and maybe he can stretch it out until mid-November. But the truth is marching on. A few true conservatives are leading a charge against the bailout. Good for them. But how about admitting that their cowboy economic philosophy was at fault here?

(Garrison Keillor is the author of a new Lake Wobegon
novel, ‘Liberty,’ published by Viking.)
© 2008 by Garrison Keillor. All rights reserved.
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