Slash and Burn

Here’s a grammar pet peeve of mine:

Peter Shapiro was bounding around Brooklyn Bowl one recent evening, showing off all that his new music club slash bowling alley would have to offer.

Why is the word “slash” written out? Didn’t we start using “slash” in spoken English as a way of pronouncing the “/” character used in written English? Why not just write “music club/bowling alley?”

What’s with that? I’d seen it written that way once in an alt-weekly before, but this is the New York Times. It must have passed muster with the copy editors. Weird.

Preach It, Brother

Alan Wolfe says all that needs to be said about Gov. Sanford:

The problems with Sanford lie elsewhere. He is by all accounts a somewhat typical product of what the Republican Party’s leadership selection process produces: a political extremist, a grandstander, a policy ignoramus, and a man of amazingly inflated self-importance. Those, to me, are vices. Hypocrisy pales in comparison to them.

American Enterprise Institute v Soccer

A strange, bizarre, and yet somehow pedantic rant from the increasingly irrelevant American far right:

… thankfully, Americans are not buying it. In spite of the fact that one can drive by an open field on Saturdays and usually see it filled with young boys and girls playing soccer, the game’s popularity has not moved anywhere toward being a major sport here in the United States.

… For sure, there may be a number of reasons that is the case but my suspicion is that the so-called “beautiful game” is not so beautiful to American sensibilities. We like, as good small “d” democrats, our underdogs for sure but we also still expect folks in the end to get their just desert. And, in sports, that means excellence should prevail. Of course, the fact that is often not the case when it comes to soccer may be precisely the reason the sport is so popular in the countries of Latin America and Europe.

Ah, I get it.  In America, only people who DESERVE to win, win.  People like Bill Gates, who inherited his money honestly before he conned his way to buying DOS.  Or, to use a sports analogy, people like Mark McGuire and Lance Armstrong, who certainly never ever would’ve ever taken any banned substances, no sir.

It’s sad that AEI is so far fallen that they’re reduced to rehashing these tired arguments.  I mean, at least say something original.  Or, better, read Franklin Foer (of Brookings) book How Soccer Explains the World.

What Obama Can (and Can’t) Do for Iran’s Protesters

On the podcast this week, we discuss the situation in Iran, and the president’s latest reaction.

“Moral” language crept into Obama’s rhetoric this week as he invoked Martin Luther King and gave encouragement (if not outright support) to the Mousavi voters who are protesting the election.

Many on the right are criticizing Obama for not being forceful enough with his rhetoric. They want him to align himself more forcefully with the protesters. See Charles Krauthammer’s column for more on this.

But to what end? To follow Krauthammer to his logical end would mean committing ourselves militarily to overthrowing the regime in Iran. Iran is twice the size of Iraq, and would probably require a million or so U.S. troops to pacify. The only way to get that many troops is to reinstate the draft. Krauthammer, of course, doesn’t have the balls to advocate for this, but it’s absolutely where his argument leads.

At the very least, the argument leads to covert ops and “Radio Free Persia”-type engagements, which have a mixed record at best.

Still, it isn’t a black-and-white issue. The U.S. has offered varying degrees of support to insurgents over the years, from the right-wing militias we backed in Latin America, to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, to the CIA coup in… well, Iran, we have often intervened or at least supported efforts to overthrow foreign governments.

Sometimes, this has been under the guise of spreading democracy, as with Eastern Europe during the Cold War (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”). But it was clear then that the Eastern Europeans were on their own. With two nuclear states squaring off, the stakes were a lot higher. Also, Reagan was simultaneously engaging the Soviets diplomatically (something conservatives conveniently omit in their retelling of the history).

It’s tempting to think the U.S. can “do” something to support the protesters. Sadly, the more we “do” for them, the easier it is for Ahmadinejad to paint them as tools of the U.S. government. That has a lot of resonance in Iran, a country where the 1953 CIA coup probably did more to lead us to where we are today than any other event.

Dylan Mathews has a useful post at TNR laying out previous U.S. interventions that have turned out less-than-well. It’s worth pondering as you watch the situation, and perhaps appreciating Obama’s cautious approach.

Having Trouble Sympathizing

Just another pig-bites-woman story:

According to the complaint, the woman and her husband were taking a break between courses at the Herbfarm Restaurant on Jan. 11, 2008, when they wandered to the establishment’s pigpen. Equipped with a restaurant-issued pan of pig food, the couple was hoping to feed the animals.

“Out of the darkness came one of (the) pigs,” the plaintiffs allege. “The pig tried to take the food from (her) hand and in doing so, bit her.”

One wonders — if the woman had ordered a pork chop, could the pig have counter-sued?

Andy Rooney Or David Sedaris?

A game in which you can test your familiarity with the two humorists. Andy Rooney excerpts are taken from his 60 Minutes commentaries. David Sedaris excerpts are from his Me Talk Pretty One Day story collection. For each subject there are two writing examples; you decide who is who.

Part One: Computers

David Sedaris or Andy Rooney on Computers, Exhibit A:

I hate computers for any number of reasons, but I despise them most for what they’ve done to my friend the typewriter. In a democratic country you’d think there would be room for both of them, but computers won’t rest until I’m making my ribbons from torn shirts and brewing Wite-Out in my bathtub. Their goal is to place the IBM Selectric II beside the feather quill and chisel in the museum of antiquated writing implements. They’re power hungry, and someone needs to stop them.

David Sedaris or Andy Rooney on Computers, Exhibit B:

Bill Gates got off on the wrong foot the first time he decided to turn off his computer. Do you simply press a button that says OFF when you want to turn it off? You do not. The first thing he has us do to stop is to press START.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Next, it asks SHUT DOWN?

Then it says WHAT DO YOU WANT IT TO DO? Well, didn’t I just tell you what I want it to do? It isn’t finished either. It asks SHUT DOWN THE COMPUTER? What the hell else do you think I want to shut down? The bedroom window?

Computers aren’t nice to us. My typewriter never threatened me with a prison sentence by saying I have performed an illegal operation.

When I want to write something, the computer demands a password. In all the years I wrote on my typewriter, it never asked for a password, and no one ever stole anything I wrote either.

Answer to Part One: Computers here.

Part Two: Our Litigious Society

David Sedaris or Andy Rooney on Our Litigious Society, Exhibit A:

I’ve been thinking of quitting work and suing big companies for a living, instead. Suing has become a popular American pastime and I’d like to get in on some of the easy money.

. . .

If someone is killed when his car turns over going around a curve at 90 miles an hour, his family sues the car manufacturer or the company that made the tires. If he hits a telephone pole, they sue the telephone company.

The wife of a man who was murdered sued the company that made the gun. The tobacco companies, the gun manufacturers and the tire companies have it coming but the amount of some of these awards don’t make sense.

David Sedaris or Andy Rooney on Our Litigious Society, Exhibit B:

At the San Diego Zoo, right near the primate habitats, there’s a display featuring half a dozen life-size gorillas made out of bronze. Posted nearby is a sign reading CAUTION: GORILLA STATUES MAY BE HOT. Everywhere you turn, the obvious is being stated. CANNON MAY BE LOUD. MOVING SIDEWALK IS ABOUT TO END. To people who don’t run around suing one another, such signs suggest a crippling lack of intelligence. Place bronze statues beneath the southern California sun, and of course they’re going to get hot. Cannons are supposed to be loud, that’s their claim to fame, and – like it or not – the moving sidewalk is bound to end sooner or later. It’s hard trying to explain a country whose motto has become You can’t claim I didn’t warn you. What can you say about the family who is suing the railroad after their drunk son was killed walking on the tracks? Trains don’t normally sneak up on people. Unless they’ve derailed, you pretty much know where to find them. The young man wasn’t deaf and blind. No one had tied him to the tracks, so what’s there to sue about?

Answer to Part Two: Our Litigious Society here.

Part Three: Recycling

David Sedaris or Andy Rooney on Recycling, Exhibit A:

Americans put their whole lives by the side of the road to be carted away Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Mechanical engineers have invented ingenious devices to help make disposal quick and easy.

Some things get thrown out more than others. Summer furniture gets thrown away – all kinds of kitchen equipment, dishwashers, stoves, hot water heaters. There are enough junked refrigerators to chill whole neighborhoods.

Gadgets that seemed like a good idea in the store go. Venetian blinds get the heave-ho.

There are mountains of used cardboard containers at the dump. Recycling is an unsubstantiated rumor.

David Sedaris or Andy Rooney on Recycling, Exhibit B:

Pandas and rain forests are never mentioned when it comes to the millions of people taking joyrides in their Range Rovers. Rather, it’s the little things we’re strong-armed into conserving. At a chain coffee bar in San Francisco, I saw a sign near the cream counter that read NAPKINS COME FROM TREES – CONSERVE! In case you missed the first sign, there was a second one two feet away, reading YOU WASTE NAPKINS – YOU WASTE TREES!!! The cups, of course, are also made of paper, yet there’s no mention of the mighty redwood when you order your four-dollar coffee. The guilt applies only to those things that are being given away for free. Were they to charge you ten cents per napkin, they would undoubtedly make them much thinner so you’d need to waste even more in order to fight back the piping hot geyser forever spouting from the little hole conveniently located in the lid of your cup.

Answer to Part Three: Recycling here.

Part Four: Working Away From Home

David Sedaris or Andy Rooney on Working Away From Home, Exhibit A:

When forced to leave my house for an extended period of time, I take my typewriter with me, and together we endure the wretchedness of passing through the X-ray scanner. The laptops roll merrily down the belt, while I’m instructed to stand aside and open my bag. To me it seems like a normal enough thing to be carrying, but the typewriter’s declining popularity arouses suspicion and I wind up eliciting the sort of reaction one might expect when traveling with a cannon.

“It’s a typewriter,” I say. “You use it to write angry letters to airport authorities.”

The keys are then slapped and pounded, and I’m forced to explain that if you want the words to appear, you first have to plug it in and insert a sheet of paper.

The goons shake their heads and tell me I really should be using a computer. That’s their job, to stand around in an ill-fitting uniform and tell you how you should lead your life. I’m told the exact same thing later in the evening when the bellhop knocks on my hotel door. The people whose televisions I can hear have complained about my typing, and he has come to make me stop. To hear him talk, you’d think I’d been playing the kettledrum. In the great scheme of things, the typewriter is not nearly as loud as he makes it out to be, but there’s no use arguing with him. “You know,” he says, “you really should be using a computer.”

David Sedaris or Andy Rooney on Working Away From Home, Exhibit B:

I recently bought this new laptop to use when I travel. Look at that that … fits right into my briefcase. It weighs less than three pounds. I lose that much getting mad waiting to get on the plane through security at the airport.

But that’s it. I’m ready to go. Well … almost ready.

Actually, I do have to bring the power cord and the AC adapter so that I can recharge the battery when I get to the hotel room.

Naturally, I want to get on the Internet when I’m away. So I bring the telephone cord. This plugs in here on the side, and the wall in the hotel room.

I always write on a floppy disk. I write anything I do on the floppy disk. That way, when I get back to the office, I can copy it to my regular computer. This plugs into the side of the computer.

If I write a letter or something — anything I write, really — I want to be able to print it. This is my printer. I bring that along. They make them smaller than this now but you can’t buy a new one of everything the day it comes out, so I still have this one.

The printer has a converter. Naturally, I have to have power for the computer so I bring that along. There is a cable that goes from the computer to the printer, so I always have that.

Now, these are the compact disks with the encyclopedia and dictionary on them. I need some research tools if I’m going to write anything, so I always bring that. Now, this box is something called a D-Link. I
don’t totally understand it, but I know that when I’m using more than one of these other devices, I have to have it. So I always bring that.

But there you are. When I’ve got everything together, I put the computer in the briefcase. Then I pack everything else into a small suitcase and away I go.

To tell you the truth, I might be better off bringing my Underwood.

Answer to Part Four: Working Away From Home here.