“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)


Juliet was wrong. What something is called has a large influence on how people view it. Republicans understand this well. After the decimation wrought on 9/11 the fight was taken to the terrorists. Abroad, with the invasion of Afghanistan. And at home, with a surveillance law called in full: “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001″ better known by the acronym “USA PATRIOT Act”.

photoOnly the hardcore are going to look past the name to ask what the damn thing actually legalized. The Act had overwhelming support. Only one Senator had the nerve to vote against it – well played Russ Feingold. Had the bill not borne such a tortuous name – had it indeed been identified by its number ‘PUBLIC LAW 107–56’ – it would have had a better chance of suffering reasoned scrutiny.

Instead, the US Congress easily slashed the civil rights of Americans.

‘Creationism’ is an honest name. The philosophy promotes the idea that God created the earth, and its incumbents, as described in Genesis. Then Courts rejected attempts to shoe-horn this pseudoscience into science class. So its adherents – uninterested in facts, but very interested in propaganda – changed its name to ‘Intelligent Design’. Fortunately, courts have seen through the flimflam and rejected its inclusion in science class where the school boards have been sued.

Which brings us to religious freedom and so called ‘Religious Freedom Restoration acts’ or RFRAs. They have become popular at the state level ever since the Supreme Court decided that gays have the right to marry. Sanctimonious state legislators claim they are doing nothing more than the federal government did in its 1993 RFRA – which Bill Clinton signed into law (i.e., the libtards are hypocrites for decrying state RFRAs).

Except these new state RFRAs do not model the federal effort. The inspiration for that was the arbitrary denial to Native American of the use of hallucinogenics in their religious ceremonies. The Act barred the government from interfering with religious freedom. The state laws, on the other hand, allow individuals to discriminate. They would be more honestly called ‘Bigotry Freedom Restoration acts’.

RFRAs are further misleading in that no state has ever passed one with the idea of protecting any religious freedom other than that of Christians. When Muslims planned to build an Islamic cultural center in the same general neighborhood as the World Trade Center, Muslim religious freedom was greeted with a general ‘fuck that’.

Which brings us back to creationists. They have glommed on to this ‘freedom’ misdirection. They now protest that the reject of their superstition in science class is a denial of their ‘academic freedom’. The leader in this effort is the ‘Discovery Institute” – which, by now you’ll know, would be more accurately called the ‘We Have no Interest in Discovery Institute’. They publish manifestly fact-free ‘science’ textbooks to supplement the teaching of evolution. And so the band plays on.

But enough about religion, let’s talk money. Elizabeth Warren, now a Senator (D-MA), first came to prominence for her development and promotion of the ‘Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’. This agency is a detestation to bankers as it limits the ability of financial institutions to rip off their customers. As might be imagined, these pirates masquerading as reliable financial managers were not amused.

All manner of pressure and money was directed at their Congressional poodles to defang this force for good. Even the morally crippled were drafted into the fight. Newt Gingrich is now a shill for an industry group called – and here comes the chutzpah – ‘the US Consumer Coalition’. How many consumers does it represent? None, of course. Who does it represent? We don’t know; it doesn’t have to disclose its donors.

Big business interests are often represented by groups with names designed to obfuscate their pay-masters. When New York tried to implement a sales tax on sugary drinks, there was wailing and gnashing of teeth in the executive suites (appropriate homophone) of the companies profiting off obesity. Quickly entering the debate was ‘New Yorkers Against Unfair Taxes’ – the brainchild of the American Beverage Association.

Clever, really. No one wants to pay taxes. But if the ABA were interested in the pocketbook of the New York consumer, they would stop selling crap and tell the consumer to drink tap water (the free kind – not the bottled, for a price).

George Orwell’s genius in ‘1984’ was to lay bare the techniques used by authority to keep the masses subjugated, while the masses think authority is doing them a favor. Foreign enemies, domestic boogie-men, a perpetual state of fear and ownership of history and the language are useful. Republicans have learned the lessons well.



Grammar: A Few Modernisms I Accept. And a Few I Am Not Yet Ready For.

July 1, 2015

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest  favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” ― Dorothy Parker To insist that people use may instead of can when […]

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English Pronunciation Is an Echo of the Bible’s Tower of Babel Story.

June 29, 2015

“Anyone who can only think of one way to spell a word obviously lacks imagination” ― Mark Twain. George Bernard Shaw suggested, perhaps apocryphally, that the word ‘ghoti’ should be pronounced ‘fish’. How so? How can “ghoti” and “fish” sound the same? GBS explained it like this: the gh = f as in rouGH the o […]

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Microsoft CEO Explains At Great Length That The Company Must Be Leaner.

July 18, 2014

Microsoft is a mature business. Which gives it the same advantages and disadvantages that mature people have. They know a lot. But they become stodgy and set in their ways. Mature people, who want to shed weight, exercise and experiment with diets. Mature businesses cut payroll and experiment with business strategies. Some people succeed. Some corporations fail […]

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Nineteen Eighty-Four’s “Newspeak” in 2014.

July 17, 2014

Part of George Orwell’s genius was his understanding of how language shapes ideas. Words and phrases are not neutral. Consider the difference in meaning between the glass half-full and the glass half-empty. In ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ Big Brother’s authority stemmed in part from “newspeak” – a language designed to simplify English – and remove negative words -in […]

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Language Matters. Orwell’s “translation” of Ecclesiastes 9:11

July 16, 2014

You can speak with clarity and strength, or not. George Orwell’s reworking of Ecclesiastes 9:11 illustrates this well. In the King James version of the Bible, the verse is rendered thus, “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread […]

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