Campaign 2010

May 16, 2004

On Language

Paul Vitello, Newsday:

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Accountability: n. The responsibility for apologizing when something goes very wrong, without having to accept the consequences of failure. Ex. “These events occurred on my watch. I am accountable for them. I apologize ... ” - Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, refusing to step down in the midst of a worldwide meltdown of political support for America in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Death penalty: n. Also known as the “death tax.” The term used by conservatives to describe the estate and inheritance tax, which they have sought to eliminate to facilitate the emergence of an American aristocracy of wealth. Ex. When Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) brings a crowd of campaign contributors to its feet cheering by promising an end to “the death penalty!” he is not talking about compassion for death row inmates, who tend to be among the poorest and most poorly educated Americans. He is talking about compassion for America’s trust fund kids.

Friends: 1. n. pl. The people whose disgraceful misdeeds should make you sick, but instead make you laugh. Ex. A court-martialed soldier who witnessed prison abuses at the above-mentioned Abu Ghraib said he didn’t tell anyone because “I was asked not to, and I try to be friends with everyone. I see now where trying to be friends with everyone can cost you.” 2. A TV show 3. In international usage, a commodity; of which America has few left.

Future, the: n. A philosophical construct, usu. spoken of as an expectation or vision. Ex. “The future will be better tomorrow ... ” - President George W. Bush.

God: 1. n. A buddy of President Bush. Ex. “God loves you, and I love you. And you can count on both of us ...” - Bush, speaking to a youth group in Los Angeles March 3. 2. The almighty, who has no exclusive party or religious affiliation.

Newspapers: n. pl. A paper printed and distributed usu. daily or weekly, read for information by millions but not by the president or above-mentioned defense secretary. Ex. Rumsfeld told soldiers in Baghdad last week he stopped reading them. Ex. “[The president] does not dwell on the newspaper, but he reads the sports page every day.” - Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff.

Pass away: v. 1. To die naturally. 2. To succumb to injuries suffered during sadistic treatment in American detention.

Robust: Adj. 1. Forceful. 2. Without planning or design, as in the “robust response” to the threat of international terror.

Setting conditions: v. 1. Permissible manipulation of prison conditions to facilitate interrogation, usu. of Iraqi detainees. A memorandum issued last year by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, permits U.S. military guards to deprive inmates of food, keep them in cold or hot conditions, keep them awake for up to three days at a time, isolate them for up to 30 days, and use military dogs to intimidate them if necessary. 2. Illegal manipulations, not covered in Sanchez’s memorandum, such as sexual abuse, beating, rape and murder of inmates. Ex. “They stressed him out so bad, that man passed away.” - U.S. soldier describing the conditioning of an Iraqi detainee who died in Abu Ghraib.
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