When I make a word do a lot of work like that, I always pay it extra…

I love words, despite the indignities I enforce upon them, so I relish a little bit of grammar geekery.

Geoffrey K. Pullum has a wonderfully nasty post up at Lingua Franca and a wonderfully wonky post up at Language Log, both discussing an article by Washington Post blogger Alexandra Petri.

Petri piles on poor old Bill Keller (isn’t being married to Emma punishment enough for you jackals?), not only for being a concern troll and a horrible human being but, worse still, a blatant and premeditated user of “passive constructions” in his writing. As Petri puts it:

Concern trolls thrive on passive constructions the way vultures thrive on carcasses.

Pullum wonders whether Petri might be getting her “passive” confused with her “obscured agency”, and details his analysis in the Language Log post. There are tables and numbered lists. It’s great fun.

Pullum also links to his tutorial essay which provides a “clear and simple explanation of what a passive clause is” in English, and his forthcoming article Fear and Loathing of the English Passive (pdf):

No folk rhetorical property could yoke together this diverse array of constructions. What is going on is that people are simply tossing the term ‘passive’ around when they want to cast aspersions on pieces of writing that, for some ineffable reason, they don’t care for. They see a turn of phrase that strikes them as weak in some way, or lacks some sort of crispness or brightness that they cannot pin down, and they call it ‘passive’ without further thought. And such is the state of knowledge about grammar among the reading public that they get away with it.

If concealed passives dipped in a little bit of scorn are your thing, then that will keep you entertained for a while.

Meanwhile, in segues, music. Sunday is Australia Day, and one of Australia’s proudest traditions – besides pretending to have invented pavlova*; meat pies; footballers in tiny shorts; dispossessing indigenous peoples; and shipping coloured people back where they came from – is the Triple J Hottest 100. Voting on the best music releases for 2013 has ended, but if you feel like an Aussie weekend, tune in online at 12 noon Sunday Sydney time (Saturday evening for most of you).

You may have to crank up the thermostat and buy some Australian beer to get you in the mood. Think James Boag or Little Creatures. Please don’t buy Fosters, because it is watered-down mule piss.

Cheers, buckeroos. I’m off to bed, for there is to be much drinking today, so that we’ve got a headstart on Sunday. I’ll post a post at Balloon Juice at Hottest 100 kickoff time for anyone who wants to listen along.

ETA: * Edited for accuracy

EATA: Jesus, you’re going to turn me into Greenwald.

Petri probably was using the term “passive construction” in some rhetorical sense to mean “hiding behind the alleged views of others”, but that means she was being unclear, and exposing herself to the argument that she didn’t know what the term meant. I’m a writer who agonises over every word (and I still manage to fuck up half my posts). I try to use words in a way that avoids confusion, and Petri wasn’t doing that.

I agree, however, that that doesn’t mean she deserves to be called a nincompoop.

Gop will eat itself


I do love me some birthers – Ted Cruz birthers, that is.

What does that say about the list the authors put before you as “cleared for take off?” Both Jindal and Haley’s parents were Indian citizens and the Indian constitution makes their children citizens of India by BIRTH! See permanent residents are not required to renounce their former citizenship as naturalized citizens are, so the laws of India apply to the children of Indians born in the United States.

Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father. Cruz is a great man, a true conservative but he is ineligible to be President, because the law of Canada made him a citizen of Canada by BIRTH. His citizenship comes from Title 8 of the United States Code.

Rubio has perhaps the best claim of them all to show that at the time of his birth he only had allegiance for the United States. The 1940 Cuban Constitution which was in effect at the time of his birth states, Those born in foreign territory, of Cuban father or mother, by the sole act of their becoming inhabitants of Cuba (become Cubans by Birth.) Here Rubio would need to perform a positive act to claim Cuban citizenship as he would need to migrate to Cuba and take up residence there. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that a natural born citizen is one born in the United States to citizen parents, and until that is changed by the Supreme Court of the United States Rubio will be on shaky legal ground.

All across the Nutweb they are springing up, like tiny phallic fungi, poking their heads up through the bullshit strewn around them. Watch now, as the slightly less insane representatives of the right, recognising (perhaps) that their party has fruited something unpleasant, poisonous and inconvenient, watch as they try to stomp the tiny little birther mushrooms into mush.

Eliana Johnson at the National Review Online. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp.

Some question whether the Canada-born freshman senator is eligible for the presidency (hint: he is).

The homepage of the website Birthers.org is currently devoted to making the constitutional case against Cruz’s eligibility. He is lauded for representing his state “with a passion not seen in Texas since the Alamo” and cheered for being “one hell of a Senator,” but Birthers.org’s denizens emphatically conclude that he cannot be president “because the law of Canada made him a citizen of Canada by BIRTH.”

On ObamaReleaseYourRecords.com, alongside the latest news about the president’s fraudulent birth certificate and his close ties to Islam, anonymous authors blast the media for propagating the “myth” that the Constitution permits a Cruz presidency. “What complete madness to suggest someone born in another country is a ‘natural born Citizen’ of the United States and eligible to be POTUS,” one of them argues. “It is complete rubbish and they know it.”

Donald Trump, who in 2011 hounded President Obama to turn over his long-form birth certificate and kept the birther movement in the national news for months, has yet to look into Cruz’s eligibility. “I like him,” Trump tells National Review Online, but says he has “not studied his situation.”

“Obviously, I have everybody calling me wanting my support,” he claims. Nonetheless, he considers Cruz’s case “very different” from the president’s because Cruz “has been very candid and open about his place of birth and his background.”

Read the rest of this entry »

It is an unnecessarily time-consuming demand to expect anyone to provide you with proof


I’ve been here in Australia for about six weeks, and if it hasn’t been been piss-steamingly hot, it has instead been dumping cockloads of cold rain on my head. I was shat on by a koala that looked more stoned than I did. I had to go to a cocktail party attended by both Rose Fucking Porteus [Youtube] and Gina Bitchface Rinehart. Thankfully they kept them on opposite sides of the ballroom, pointed Rose at the gin buffet and distracted Gina by waving Fairfax share certificates at her. I went to dinner at Parliament House, all done up in my best soup-and-fish, and got stuck next to Christopher Pyne – the stupid person’s idea of a clever poodle. [Also Youtube]

Now there’s going to be an election. In September. Which will be all the media here will talk about for the rest of my stay.

What a fucking country.

Anyhow, I realised that I have fallen down on my duty to you all. It has been a long time since I last fished a gleaming urinal cake of stupid out of the piss trough they call the Corner, and then held it up for your delectation. Thus, I remedy my fault.

For today’s bagetelle, I thought I might use Obamacare Punishes Smokers: Why not the Promiscuous? By Wesley J. Smith, in which Wesley J. Smith responds to an AP story which reports that health insurers will be able to charge higher premiums to smokers buying individual policies.

Living unhealthy lifestyles has become the new Scarlet Letter. That’s what happens with centralized health care. But once we go down that road, it won’t end there. Smokers today, the obese tomorrow.

This financial stick is entirely political. Notice we never hear experts wanting to “punish” the promiscuous for the cost burden they inflict on the health care system. Yet people who sleep around, like smokers and the obese, cost the rest of us plenty–what with promiscuity leading to sexually transmitted diseases, some cancers, HIV, unwanted pregnancies, mental health issues, etc. Why isn’t what is good for the goose also good for the gander?

That won’t happen because society celebrates promiscuity and the popular culture glamorizes licentious lifestyles the way it once extolled smoking. Consider: Girls. We applaud basketball players who sleep with 20,000 women. We ooh, and ah over Reality TV celebrities, with no talent other than living provocatively before the camera, who sleep around and get very publicly pregnant. We even tend to think something is wrong with virgins who are older than 18.

If we are going to outlaw underwriting, it should apply across the board. But if we are going to punish unhealthy lifestyles with higher insurance premiums, that too should apply across the board. After all, “equality” is the new buzz word, right?

Now, the title had promise and, aside from the fact that Wesley J. Smith and I agree that penalty pricing insurance is wrong, there’s a lot of stupid in there to mock. However, most of it boils down to a smug and slightly sweaty man in his basement typing “hoors” over and over again with one palsied hand. Which is disappointing.

However, let us forge ahead, for today, today it is in the comments that the real gold lies. Read the rest of this entry »

Because this never gets old…

I do not know what the Democratic Party spent, in toto, on the 2004 election, but what they seem to have gotten for it is Barack Obama. Let us savor.

– Peggy Noonan, “So Much to Savor”, Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2004

And now we dance…

H/t to Mike

Peggy Sue got hammered

I know there are more important things upon which I could be spending my time than pointing and laughing at Peggy Fucking Noonan.

After all, this is a woman whose job duties apparently consist entirely of getting properly whacked on Percocet and Dubonnet, sitting down at a computer and jabbing at random keys until the word count hits 1200, and then wandering off to fellate the mouldy corpse of Ronald Reagan which she has stashed behind her office door. I’ve seen apes in zoos flinging their shit at the wall who could churn out a more coherent column (although most of them now seem to have gotten jobs at The Washington Post).

However, it’s early Saturday morning down here in the upside down world of Oz, I’m stuffed to the gills with deep fried cheesecake with yuzu jam and honey-infused Jack Daniels, and I really can’t be bothered to rouse myself for anything other than shooting at big, dumb fish in a tiny barrel.

Peggy it is then.

Peggy thinks that the Joe Soptic Super PAC ad is an appalling personal attack that makes Obama “look perfidious and weak” and so he should disavow any such combative behaviour, but she also seems to think that Mitt should stop being so nice, take his gloves off and start fighting back. This seems a little inconsistent, but it’s hard to type and make a coherent argument at the same time, especially when you have your pearls clutched in one hand and a mason jar of gin in the other.

This somehow leads into the two following paragraphs, a mishmash of patronising and pointless pablum, studded with odd metaphors and cultural references, which I would describe as the height of Peggy’s inanity if I didn’t already know what nuggets of gold-plated crap are coming up further down the page.

The ad’s cynicism contributes to a phenomenon that increases each year, and that is that we are becoming a nation that believes nothing. Not in nothing, but nothing we’re told by anyone in supposed authority.

Everyone knows what the word spin means; people use it in normal conversation. Everyone knows what going negative is; they talk about it on Real Housewives. Political technicians always think they’re magicians whose genius few apprehend, but Americans now always know where the magician hid the rabbit. And we shouldn’t be so proud of our skepticism, which has become our cynicism. Someday we’ll be told something true that we need to know and we won’t believe that, either.

Of course, it’s always possible that Peggy will be the one telling us and we won’t believe it because we won’t have a fucking clue what she’s talking about. Anyway, after that Peggy dumps on Mitt a bit more for being a wussy man, before she starts talking about the last thing she remembers with any clarity, the Reagan years, when men were men and Peggy was always a little bit damp.

Some of the unperturbed sunniness you see modern political figures attempting to enact may be traceable to Ronald Reagan, the happy warrior who set a template for how winners act. But the Reagan of the 1950s and 60s was often indignant, even angry. When he allowed himself to get mad, or knew he should be mad and so decided to feign anger, it was a sight to behold. “I’m paying for this microphone,” he famously snapped to the moderator of the 1980 primary campaign debate in Nashua, N.H. He didn’t win that crucial state by being sunny.

A lot of politicians misunderstand this part of their art. A few months ago I talked with a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. I asked to hear the outlines of the candidate’s planned appeal to voters. The candidate leaned forward and said with some intensity, “I’m going to tell them I can get along with people. I can work with the other side.”

This was a great example of confusing the cart with the horse. Why would anyone vote for you, especially during a crisis, only because you play well with the other children?

Now, you might assume that Peggy’s point is that behaving like a smug prick looks presidential if you are a Republican but, in fact, she’s somehow building herself up to a lament about the lack of discussion of issues by modern politicians.

What are your issues, where do you stand, what will you do when you get to Washington? If you believe in something and mean to move it forward the people will give you a fair hearing, and if you make clear that you hope to make progress with the help of a knack for human relations, that’s good too.

But this cult of equability, this enforced, smiley, bland dispassion – Guys, we’re in a crisis, you’ve got to know how to fight, too.

And you’ve got to fight on the issues.

Both candidates wasted some time this week calling each other names in a sort of cheesy, noneffective, goofy way. “Obamaloney.” “Romney Hood.” Actually goofy isn’t the right word because goofy is fun, and there’s no wit or slash in what they were doing.

Calling Mr. Romney’s economic plans Romney Hood was dim because everyone likes Robin Hood, so Romney Hood sounds kind of like a compliment. Now and then the foes of a candidate accidentally do him a good turn.

Can you guess what’s coming next? No, not Zombie Reagan, but the very next best thing!

The Soviets thought they were disparaging Margaret Thatcher when they called her the Iron Lady. She was cold, wouldn’t bend, couldn’t compromise. The British heard the epithet and thought: Exactly! And exactly what we need!

An admiring nickname meant as an insult was born. Mr. Romney should go with it, lay out how he’ll save taxpayers from the predators of the liberal left and call that Romney Hood.

God does not love me enough that Mitt Romney would start calling himself Romney Hood.

But he and his supporters should drop the argument that if we don’t change our ways we’ll wind up like Europe. That’s a mistake because Americans like Europe, and in some complicated ways wouldn’t mind being a little more like it. In the past 40 years jumbo jets, reduced fares and rising affluence allowed a lot of Americans, especially the sort who vote, to go there. The great capitals of Europe are glamorous, elegant and old, the outlands are exquisite. What remains of the old Catholic European ethic that business isn’t everything, life is everything and it’s a sin not to enjoy it, still has a lure. Americans sometimes think of it as they eat their grim salads and drink from their plastic water bottles.

What the Jesus pole-dancing fuck? That’s just beyond parody. I don’t know whether to start with the grim salads, or the exquisite European outlands, or the majestic awfulness of “a lot of Americans, especially the sort who vote“, so I’m just going to suggest that you go back and read that paragraph again, carefully savoring every word. That is prize winning, Grade A, pure Bolivian crap.

From there, it’s all downhill I’m afraid. Nothing could reach the heights we have just scaled, and I don’t really have the will to pick through Peggy’s remaining effluvia when I can hear a liquid breakfast calling me. I’ll just note that Peggy seems possessed of twin ideas.

First, that our President never talks about important issues, when he has spent the last three and a half years (and more) talking about nothing else.

Second, that Mitt might actually have the ability or the will to talk about issues, when it is increasingly clear that he knows nothing about anything beyond the sheltered worlds of his family, his companies and his church (where his word was law and no one ever questioned him), that he can’t talk about any of his alleged achievements because they’ve all been poisoned at the root and that, even if he wanted to talk about issues, every single one leads unfailingly into a discussion of his taxes or his business practices or his flip-flopping.

When Americans go to Europe they see everything but the taxes. The taxes are terrible. But that’s Europe’s business and they’ll have to figure it out. Yes what happens there has implications for us but still, they’re there and we’re here.

What Americans are worried about, take as a warning sign, and are heavily invested in is California—that mythic place where Sutter struck gold, where the movies were invented, where the geniuses of the Internet age planted their flag, built their campuses, changed our world.

We care about California. We read every day of the bankruptcies, the reduced city services, the businesses fleeing. California is going down. How amazing is it that this is happening in the middle of a presidential campaign and our candidates aren’t even talking about it?

Mitt Romney should speak about the states that work and the states that don’t, why they work and why they don’t, and how we have to take the ways that work and apply them nationally.

Barack Obama can’t talk about these things. You can’t question the blue-state model when your whole campaign promises more blue-state thinking.

But Mr. Romney can talk about it.

Both campaigns are afraid of being serious, of really grappling with the things Americans rightly fear. But there’s no safety in not being serious. It only leaves voters wondering if you’re even capable of seriousness. Letting them wonder that is a mistake.

Peggy – Mitt is screwed. He knows it. We know it. Even Ann Coulter and the Red Staters know it. The person who doesn’t seem to know it is you.

I’m in love with a married man (NSFW)

The boys over at the Corner have made themselves nice, dimmed the lights, gotten out the lotion and the scented candle, and have settled in for a quiet night giving Vice-President Paul Ryan the tongue bath of his life.

Jeffrey H. Anderson:

To be sure, each of Romney’s finalists or near-finalists has merit. But Ryan would benefit Romney’s candidacy in unique ways. Here are just a few:

* Picking Ryan would excite and unite the party.
* By putting Ryan on the ticket, Romney would add the party’s single best spokesman on three huge issues: Obamacare, the budget, and the debt. Imagine Ryan debating Joe Biden — or Hillary Clinton.
* By adding such a heavyweight to the ticket, Romney would convey to the electorate how high the stakes are in this historic election.
* The pick would also show strength. By making it, Romney would (rightly) indicate that he’s not afraid of being overshadowed by anyone.

The 23-year age difference between Romney and Ryan makes them seem more like natural complements than like rivals, and by all accounts the chemistry between them is excellent. Moreover, younger voters are increasingly disillusioned with Obama, and putting the 42-year-old Ryan on the ticket would encourage many of them to give Romney a second look.

Because the only thing that would excite the young peoples more than one smug lying merchant wanker with helmet hair is two of the fuckers sitting there, looking like an outtake from the Chuckles and Bozo Variety Hour.* Read the rest of this entry »

Big &#%!ing Liar

In the excitement of yesterday’s big gay leap forward by President Obama, we appear to have missed mentioning Jonah Goldberg’s useful article where Jonah helpfully takes Joe Biden to task for abusing the words “literally” and “figuratively”.

The problem is that Biden insists that he does know what it means. One of his favorite ways to emphasize his seriousness is to say, “and I mean literally, not figuratively,” as if “literally” meant “I’m really serious” and “figuratively” connoted some effeminate lack of conviction. He says JFK’s “call to service literally, not figuratively, still resounds from generation to generation.” He told students in Africa, “You are the keystone to East Africa — literally, not figuratively, you are the keystone.” “The American people are looking for us as Democrats,” he has said. “They’re looking for someone literally, not figuratively, to restore America’s place in the world.”

I think Jonah is doing us all a service here because as we all know there’s literally nothing more annoying than some idiot saying something like “It literally blew my mind” or “He’s literally such a pain in my Oshkosh-Scranton corridor”.

I suspect we could all do with a quick refresher on the difference between “literal” and “figurative”. So here, if you will bear with me, are two illustrative examples:


“Jonah Goldberg was lying when he claimed, on the dustjacket of his latest book, “The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas”, and the NRO website, and his publisher’s website, that he had “twice been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize”, when in fact his name had merely been submitted twice by his publisher for consideration.”


“Jonah Goldberg is a lying douchebag with the morals of a badger on crystal meth.”

I suggest that you print this post out, so that if you ever get confused as to the difference you can refer to it and it should clear everything up.