Tag Archives: Bob Herbert

“Pom-pom palaver”: Palin’s patois

Pom-pom: n. a handheld usually brightly colored fluffy ball flourished by cheerleaders

Palaver: n.  idle talk, misleading or beguiling speech

Patois: n.  a dialect other than the standard or literary dialect; uneducated or provincial speech (from the French)

OK. At the moment I’m sorry I bashed Maureen Dowd for being a piranha. She is on fire today over the Palin person’s use of language. Palin comes from a long line of Republican manglers of the English language, but is even worse than GW and Poppy Bush.

With her pompom patois and sing-songy jingoism, Palin can bridge contradictory ideas that lead nowhere: One minute she promises to get “greater oversight” by government; the next, she lectures: “Government, you know, you’re not always a solution. In fact, too often you’re the problem.”Talking at the debate about how she would “positively affect the impacts” of the climate change for which she’s loath to acknowledge human culpability, she did a dizzying verbal loop-de-loop: “With the impacts of climate change, what we can do about that, as governor, I was the first governor to form a climate change subcabinet to start dealing with the impacts.” That was, miraculously, richer with content than an answer she gave Katie Couric: “You know, there are man’s activities that can be contributed to the issues that we’re dealing with now, with these impacts.”

Hundreds of pithy comments ensued. A selection:

When I listen to her I feel like I put the car radio on SCAN and I am skipping from station to station in 3 second intervals. I believe that the way a person uses language is indicative of their thought and decision-making processes — muddled language, muddled decisions. If her ability to make sound, evidence-based decisions is reflected in her use of language (as I witnessed it last Thursday), God help us if she ever attains a position of real power.

The fact that Palin had to cram for a week just to become (vaguely) familiar with current affairs should automatically disqualify her from the race. Would you hire a doctor or lawyer with such a lack of understanding?

The Rovian minions take advantage of all of this and continue to package ruin in a palatable and unassuming way. Many distracted people seem all too willing to eat it up.

A columnist hardly has to write anything around the actual quotations of Governor Palin. They are comprised of folksy vocabulary strewn in with the absolutely inane stringing together of words in hopes that no one will notice that they really make no sense. But they certainly provide an accurate sense of who she is… It reminds me of what my old social work professor once said: “We don’t demand enough of attractive people. It’s almost enough for us that they are simply attractive.”

Isn’t a “team of mavericks” an oxymoron?

Perhaps this part of the McCain/Palin healthcare plan: why have expensive doctors (who spent years studying) when you can get someone off the street to read up on the surgery the night before.
Governor Palin has already accomplished a seemingly impossible feat by making George W. Bush sound like William F. Buckley.

At another point, she channeled Alicia Silverstone debating in “Clueless,” asserting, “Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be-all, end-all of just too many people in too many parts of our planet.” (Mostly the end-all.)

Bob Herbert continues in a similar P-word vein: Palin as punctuation to the Bush years:

Sarah Palin is the perfect exclamation point to the Bush years.We’ve lived through nearly two terms of an administration that believed it could create its own reality:  “Deficits don’t matter.” “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job.” “Those weapons of mass destruction must be somewhere.”

Now comes Ms. Palin, a smiling, bubbly vice-presidential candidate who travels in an alternate language universe. For Ms. Palin, such things as context, syntax and the proximity of answers to questions have no meaning.  …

If Governor Palin didn’t like a question, or didn’t know the answer, she responded as though some other question had been asked. She made no bones about this, saying early in the debate: “I may not answer the questions the way that either the moderator or you want to hear.”

The problem with Ms. Palin’s candidacy is that John McCain might actually win this election, and then if something terrible happened, the country could be left with little more than an exclamation point as president.

After Ms. Palin had woven one of her particularly impenetrable linguistic webs, Joe Biden turned to the debate’s moderator, Gwen Ifill, and said: “Gwen, I don’t know where to start.”

Of course he didn’t know where to start because Ms. Palin’s words don’t mean anything. She’s all punctuation.

Paulson’s Pinata: Wall Street waits for the candy to drop

Piñata: a decorated vessel (as of papier-mâché) filled with candies, fruits, and gifts and hung up to be broken with sticks by blindfolded persons. When it breaks and the goodies fall out, everyone scrambles to scoop up as much as they can.

Bob Herbert calls for a second opinion before we turn the keys to the kingdom back over to the thieves who stole the gold in the first place.

The sky was falling, [Paulson] seemed to be saying, and if the taxpayers didn’t pony up $700 billion in the next few days, all would be lost. No time to look at the fine print. Hurry, hurry, said the treasury secretary. His eyes, as he hopped from one network camera to another, said, as salesmen have been saying since the dawn of time: “Trust me.”

With all due respect to Mr. Paulson, who is widely regarded as a smart and fine man, we need to slow this process down. We got into this mess by handing out mortgages like lollipops to people who paid too little attention to the fine print, who in many cases didn’t understand it or didn’t care about it.

-snip –

I agree with the economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, that while the government needs to move with dispatch, there is also a need to make sure that taxpayers’ money is used only where “absolutely necessary.”

Lobbyists, bankers and Wall Street types are already hopping up and down like over-excited children, ready to burst into the government’s $700 billion piñata. This widespread eagerness is itself an indication that there is something too sweet about the Paulson plan.

Yup. “Fool me once, fool me….”

Patriotism as poppycock

I drove across the country a few days after 9/11.  I saw enough flags and “God bless America” billboards, and heard enough patriotic poppycock to cure me of this hollow rhetoric forever.

More on patriotism today – this from Bob Herbert at the NY Times:

“…Anxiety seems more intense than the usual concern for a cyclical economic downturn. Something fundamental seems to have gone haywire. David Boren, a former U.S. senator who is now president of the University of Oklahoma, has written a short book that he called, “A Letter to America.”

His sense of alarm in the opening paragraph could not have been clearer. “The country we love is in trouble,” he said. “In truth, we are in grave danger of declining as a nation. If we do not act quickly, that decline will become dramatic.”

I couldn’t agree more. The symbols of patriotism — bumper stickers and those flags the size of baseball fields — have taken the place of the hard work and sacrifice required to keep a great nation great. [emphasis mine]

He goes on to describe the Bush administration’s sanction of torture, our economic mess, airline woes, energy crisis etc etc etc…

We can build spectacular new stadiums for football and baseball teams (the Yanks, the Mets, the Giants and the Jets are all getting ready to move into staggeringly expensive new homes) but we can’t rebuild New Orleans or reconstruct the World Trade Center site destroyed almost seven years ago.

This year’s presidential election is the perfect opportunity to place the truth before the American public in the form of a realistic examination of the state of the nation, and an honest consideration of creative ideas for moving forward. Instead, we’re getting hour after hour and day after day of trivia: Who’s up? Who’s down? Who’s patriotic? Who’s not?  [yechhh]

Mr. Boren believes that the combination of unrestrained partisanship and the corrosive influence of big money have all but paralyzed the political process. He worries about the neglect of the nation’s infrastructure, about the growing divide between the very wealthy and everyone else, and about “the catastrophic drop in the way the rest of the world views us.”

The U.S., with its enormous economic and military power, is still better-positioned than any other country to set the standards for the 21st century. But that power and leadership potential were not granted by divine right and cannot be wasted indefinitely.

Patriotism has its place. But waving a flag is never a good substitute for serious thought and rolling up one’s sleeves.

Amen brother.