Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 Banished Words

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone.

For a couple years now I have posted the Lake Superior State University’s annual “List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.” The list, I am afraid, is in decline.

The 2007 list had some truly obnoxious phrases (e.g., “we’re pregnant” — um, no, “she’s pregnant; we're having a baby.” Future fathers should be forever banned from saying “we are pregnant” until men actually have personal experience with morning sickness, hormonal Armageddon, and childbirth. Until then, they should show their support in some other way) and I felt the 2008 list was a true winner. It included: “organic” (as in, “my business is organic”); “wordsmithing” (sort of an insult to people who work with their hands); “post 9/11” (don’t even get me started); “give back” (which implies that one’s daily transactions throughout life are a form of theft); “random” (how can a person be random?); and “it is what it is” (no kidding?).

The reason those prior lists were so effective is that they were able to capture words and phrases whose popularity had surged in the preceding 12 months. They were fun to read because they told us something insightful about the preceding year. But the 2011 list? It mostly includes common (albeit sort of dumb) phrases that do not in any way define 2010. And frankly, the result is pretty crappy. Of the dozen entries on the list, only five belong:
  • Mama grizzlies. (I actually don’t know if this belongs – it is truly obnoxious, but not “over used” or “misused” or “useless”)
  • Refudiate. (Just . . . a stupid word coined during a confused moment in a stupid mind)
  • BFF. (Real BFF’s don’t have to say so)
  • Epic. (A fantastic literary word now commandeered by people who have never read a book)
  • Live life to the fullest. (Ugh)
The rest are either just sort of meh:
  • Wow factor
  • Ah-ha moment
  • The American people
  • I’m just sayin’.
. . . or actually good, useful words:
  • Man up. (We could stand to hear a bit more of this phrase in 2011, not less)
  • Fail. (Not overused, mis-used, or useless, but check back next year)
  • Google/Facebook as verbs. (I suppose the complainers have never xeroxed a sheet of paper, gassed their house to get rid of termites, or briefed an appeal)
  • Viral. (What is wrong with this word? The word is used to describe something with the properties of a virus, be it describing a disease or an embarrassing YouTube clip)
The upshot here is that I am disappointed by the list for two years running. Maybe I am having an ah-ha moment in realizing that 2008 was an epic standout. Maybe the wow-factor will return with next year’s list. At any rate this year’s list was a fail. I’m just sayin’.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dean Edley Says to UC: Give Me More Money

The UC's highest paid individuals are asking the Regents to make good on a 1999 promise to extend executive benefits along with the IRS imposed ceiling. In 2007, the IRS allowed executives making over $245,000 year (roughly 4 times the median CA income, for those of you keeping track) to increase their benefits and still keep them out of that dreaded top tax bracket. Now, Dean Edley, and 35 other UC employees want their already handsome pension plans increased further to keep in line with the new cap (enriching themselves while avoiding paying "excess" taxes).

Of course, this request ignores the fact that the UC's pension fund has a $21.6B gap in funding and this request would only exacerbate that gap. Where will the money come from? Maybe from more layoffs for UC employees making the least and more fee hikes (since that seems to be how the UC continues to deal with its budget issues). Instead of sucking it up (like Dean Edley continues to suggest we do at town hall meetings), these executives have said in their letter to the Regents that it would be "highly demoralizing" to not receive these extended benefits.

There are only two executives from UC Berkeley asking for this increase: Dean Edley and Dean Richard Lyons, of Haas.

I'd love to hear Dean Edley explain how continuing to raise student fees and tuition, plus a $21.6B shortfall in existing pension obligations equals the "ethical" outcome of him getting more money. This isn't 1999, Dean Edley. The country has been hit by a continued financial crisis that has plunged many into bankruptcy. It has weakened the job market. It has forced most of us making below the top 5% in the United States to adjust our budgets and our ways of living to meet new financial realities. But, I guess if you're on top, you have the power to just keep holding your hand out and demanding what's yours. 'Tis the season, as they say.


Friday, December 17, 2010

No Laughing Matter

Last night's Daily Show was must-see tv journalism and certainly no joke. On his last show before the holiday break, Jon Stewart devoted nearly the entire episode to taking the Senate--particularly the GOP--to task for making health care for 9/11 first-responders a political football. Stewart sometimes gets too self-righteous for even my taste, but in this case, he was totally justified.

In this first segment, Stewart explains the issue and takes the major networks to task for not covering it:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Worst Responders
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In the second, even more heart-wrenching, segment, Stewart interviewed four 9/11 first-reponders now suffering from debilitating illnesses who can't believe the Senate won't help them, or that some Senators have the gall evoke Jesus Christ as their reason for not doing so:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
9/11 First Responders React to the Senate Filibuster
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I called my Senator about this issue, which is something I rarely do. I find the whole thing entirely unbelievable and deeply sad. Can anyone with a better grasp of the process explain to me any good reason for this? Is the issue more complicated than Stewart made it sound, or are politics really that cynical?

UPDATE: Merry fucking Christmas.

UPDATE: The NY Times gives credit where it's due.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Activist Judges

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson, who was appointed in 2002 by George W. Bush because his name sounds like a cartoon character, ruled that the individual mandate in the health care overhaul unconstitutionally exceeds Congress's power to regulate commerce. When we were all discussing this a while back, the consensus seemed to be that the provision was unlikely to be overturned. Patrick even gave us this alleged Ch*merinsky quote: "There are many close constitutional questions. But this is not among them."

He might be right, but with so many conservative attorneys general challenging the law, it was bound to catch on with at least one federal judge. Next up: the most conservative Supreme Court in decades. Predictions?


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Loose Lips Sink Ships

I am somewhat torn concerning Wikileaks. On one hand, I am an advocate of the free flow of information and the elucidation it provides. But on the other hand, I am a stickler for loyalty, and releasing thousands of confidential documents to an international audience is deplorable.

Just a brief background on the issue: Wikileaks is an organization which serves as an outlet to government insiders to release documents which would otherwise never see the light of day. Earlier this year, Wikileaks released almost 92,000 pages of classified documents concerning the Afghanistan War. More recently, Wikileaks leaked 250,000 classified diplomatic cables between various U.S. embassies and Washington, D.C. Recently (and seemingly* coincidentally) the editor in chief of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, was arrested in the United Kingdom pursuant to a warrant for extradition to Sweden on charges of sexual offenses. Assange refused to consent to the extradition, and a court in the U.K. denied bail. In response, other people affiliated with Wikileaks threatened to release all of the remaining diplomatic cables, which have thus far only slowly been made public after editors redact the names of persons who could come to harm if their names were released.

It would be one thing if the leaked documents uncovered some sort of deception of the American people, like the pentagon papers did, but these documents seem to be leaked merely for the sake of leaking documents. For example, one document reveals a list of potential terrorist targets around the world which could impact the United States. Revealing such information does not show impropriety on the part of the Government, but rather simply undermines its effort to keep our country safe.

I am curious about people’s thoughts on this issue. Specifically, how harshly should the persons who leaked the documents to Wikileaks be punished (if at all)? Does this rise to the level of treason (18 U.S.C. § 2381)? Or, conversely, do you think that the people leaking these documents are heroes?

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

What Y*o Say?

"Anonymous said...

Sorry to hijack the thread, but will someone start a professor quotes thread?"

Yes, yes I will.
Post your most memorable professor quotes from the semester in the comments! Remember not to use full professor names in your responses.