Saturday, July 19, 2008

Peeves - Language

No, I am not going to go on and on about politically correct speaking and writing, in this Peeve. Instead I will go on and on about the stupid things I hear and read on a daily basis. I recently received as a Father's Day gift an iPod Shuffle to block out most of the speech garbage; everything from the way people speak, like, you know, people of very small minds both young and old. However, I am still exposed occasionally to gross misuse of the English language.

Let's start with the redundancies. The weather report will invariably include a reference to "rain showers." This reference is used, obviously, so that listeners won't be misled into thinking that there will be a 20 percent chance of a meteor shower or a bridal shower, I guess.

These reports are usually heard on the news that may include a reference to headlines in "the Sun paper." This one took me a while to figure out. There must be a good reason, I thought, why he is referring to The Baltimore Sun as the Sun paper. Why not just "the Sun?" Is it because he is afraid people will think he is actually seeing these headlines in that great ball of blindly hot gases around which the Earth revolves? Are these the same people who would run out and buy a baby gift after listening to the weather?

I am usually exposed to such things whilst driving during my daily commute on "the MARC train." Traffic reports will describe incidents or conditions one may encounter "travelling Northbound" or southbound. Now in most places the English language is heard, one is either travelling north OR one is northbound. Only in Maryland can one be both. And I have actually seen this in writing in the Kapital paper.

I listen, painfully, to talk radio during my morning and evening commute. During Tony Pann's or Justin Berk's weather report we may be warned about high temperatures that may reach "a hunnert, or a hunnert 'n one." Pann or Berk, usually plugs the report's sponsor that invariably includes a toll-free phone number: "1 8-hunnert, 9-hunnert-1234"

I thought this may be just a quirky way of speaking, akin to Tommy Lasorda's legendary sayings. I was wrong. A long-time sponsor of the radio station is a hearing specialist called Audiology Associates and following a real toe-tapper of jingle, the narrator tries to describe the practice's service and all the wonderful things they can do for you. He sounds like he can't hear his own voice. Imagine Tom Brokaw at the bottom of a well trying to communicate to you using a tomato can and some string. At the end of his spiel, though he manages to get in the phone number: "410-944- thirty-one-hunnert."

It took me months of listening to this radio ad before I recognized the word "balance." He was trying to say "hearing and balance," but the only thing I could make out was "hearing and ba." I remember thinking how insanely ridiculous it was to have a radio ad for a hearing aid service that listeners could barely hear! After a while I began thinking how shrewdly cunning it was to have a radio ad for a hearing aid service that made you THINK you couldn't hear!

Finally, I want to advise all public speakers (and, alas, some writers) that there is no law requiring you to stick the meaningless phrase: "going forward" or its cousin, "going fo-ward" at the beginning or end of any sentence. Unless you are describing the direction relative to a stationary object the phrase has no meaning. If you can't think of something meaningful to say, then simply stop talking.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Dependence on Foreign Oil?

Energy policy seems to be tied to the mantra of Energy Independence. The Harris campaign has picked it up (as have the campaigns of every politician running for every elective office in the land) and has included it in his unique blend of short-and long-term prescriptions for returning to lower energy costs.

I argued that attempting to address something called "dependence on foreign oil," without defining what this means was not an honest or intelligenct approach to our problem; that the nature of the global oil market and the goal of lowering prices, in fact, depends on foreign oil or at least the behavior of foreign oil producers. A friend of mine responds:
"I totally disagree with you that drilling here in the United States would not eliminate our dependence on foreign oil. IF there is the oil that some folks are talking about under our own soil (or within our coastal limits), we could easily tell the Middle East to get lost insofar as their oil is concerned. The longer we put off drilling here, the longer we will have to allow others to drive our economy."
To which I reply that even if the oil companies can drill tomorrow in Severna Park and pump a million barrels a day, ask yourself these questions:

Q. What will they do with that oil?
A. Sell it
Q. To whom will they sell it?
A. To the highest bidder
Q. Where will they find the Highest Bidder?
A. The world oil market, open 24\7\365.

IF the current suppliers of our oil want to keep selling us oil, they will have to compete by lowering their price or by lowering the supply. So what we WILL do by drilling here and now is force the suppliers to compete. We do not want that foreign supply to dry up though, because then there'll be no more competition. What we WON'T do is reduce or eliminate our "dependence on foreign oil."

Nearly a week later Martin Feldstein would write practically the same thing for Thursday's Wall Street Journal.

The alternative reality is that we close our market to foreign oil and require refineries to buy only from domestic oil companies who can only sell domestically produced oil. I don't think you really want this to happen. Closing our market will, in fact, eliminate our dependence on foreign oil, but at what cost?

Hmmmmm....closing our market to world oil supply....I'll have to explore that. It's an intriguing idea.

Friday, July 04, 2008

"Faith in America"

On this Independence Day, as a light rain falls over Severna Park, please read the essay below, written by our esteemed Republican Chairman, Dr. James Pelura. It expresses many of the sentiments and principles that we all hold as conservative Republicans.

by Dr. James Pelura III
Chairman, Maryland Republican Party

“Faith – to trust in, to believe in, have confidence in, loyalty to”.
To read the papers, one would think that America is rapidly going to “hell in a hand-basket.” All we read about is the high numbers of foreclosures, while never seeing reports that 96% of all mortgage payments are being made on time.

The press, along with an uninformed public, cry out to Congress to “fix this mess.” However, in reality, the greatest scandal of the mortgage crisis is that it was an intentional loosening of underwriting standards by our government.

At the core of this “crisis” are loans made with essentially no underwriting standards – no verification of income or assets; no down payments and very little consideration of the applicant’s ability to make payments.

And who is responsible for these ill-conceived policies? It was our own U.S. Congress and the Community Reinvestment Act of 1995 that essentially ordered lending institutions, under threat of repercussions from the Justice Department, to loosen their lending policies and approve more loans.

Ironically, the one mortgage lender that followed “the most flexible underwriting criteria permitted” was none other than Countrywide Mortgage!

For Congress to chastise Countrywide and other lending institutions for the subprime mortgage situation is the ultimate act of chutzpah!

Congress is now blaming those institutions for simply doing what they were told.
The price of oil is sky-high and gasoline is pushing $5.00 per gallon while our elected representatives in Washington are standing in the way of energy independence.

This obstruction of America’s pursuit of energy independence shows a deep disrespect for and a serious loss of faith in the American spirit and American ingenuity and know-how.

America can and will develop safe and economical nuclear power. America can and will develop clean coal technology.

America can and will be the leader in alternative forms of energy such as hydrogen fuel-cell technology, nuclear fusion, wind, solar, etc.

America can and will discover and extract our own petroleum reserves in an ecologically responsible way.

Congress – get out of the way and let us do it!

War is hell! The critics say that we must cut and run in Iraq. That all is lost. But there is never mention of the millions of lives saved from Saddam Hussein’s gas, or the open markets in Baghdad, or the new schools, power plants, sewage and water plants, or most importantly, the first democratically elected government in that country in decades.

Just a few short years ago, all of America, most of the members of the US Congress and most of the leaders of the free world were calling for Saddam Hussein’s ouster.

This was a man who claimed to have weapons of mass destruction, repeatedly threatened to use them and had actually unleashed them on his own people. Nearly 90% of Kurdistan villages, over 4,000, were wiped out when he used chemical weapons (mustard gas and nerve agents). In addition, if they were not killed by the chemical onslaught, they were captured and sent to detention centers where most died of starvation or dehydration.

All this was evident to the world while Saddam repeatedly refused UN inspectors into his country.

The men and women of our military understand the mission in Iraq, they see the benefits to the Iraqi people, the United States and the entire free world. They are proud to be a part of the extraordinary liberation of that country.

All of America owes them a serious debt of gratitude and we should all be as supportive and proud of the mission as they.

There are many that look to government to solve our problems. That approach could not be more wrong.

The solutions to many of our problems lie not in Washington (or in Annapolis) but in every household in America. It is time to put earnings back in the hands of the people, time to put trust back in the hands of the people, time to put America back in the hands of the people.

Many of the problems that we are dealing with at home were not caused by a misalignment of the moon or stars, erratic weather patterns or even global warming! They were caused by misguided governmental policies and a basic misunderstanding of human nature.

President Reagan’s comments are as true today as they were in 1984 – “You cannot create a desert, hand a person a cup of water and call that compassion. You cannot pour billions of dollars into make-work jobs while destroying the economy that supports them and call that opportunity. And you cannot build up years of dependence on government and dare call that hope.”

We must remember that, other than National Security, our government’s primary role is to create the environment for individuals to flourish and be able to reach their full potential.
A society of opportunity awaits us. We must only believe in ourselves and give men and women of faith, courage and vision the openings and freedom to build it.

Let the naysayers and pessimists run down America and try to punish success. Let them call you greedy, selfish, and uncaring for not wanting government to take more and more of your money.
The critics of America are wrong on taxes, national defense, free markets, individual freedoms, our place in the world and our traditional way of life.

It is time that we say no to those who keep saying no to America. It is time to say that if you do not have FAITH in America and her people, stand aside and we will get the job done!