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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 3, 2010 / 26 Kislev, 5771

Adventures in Polspeak, Or: Barack Obama Talks the Talk

By Paul Greenberg




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It's not exactly news that businesses in this country have been cutting jobs and pay for a couple of years in hopes of staying solvent. Now the Obama administration may follow suit. The president has proposed freezing the pay of federal employees for the next couple of years, which is just one of the cost-cutting steps his critics have been proposing for the last couple of years. It is part of Barack Obama's gift of gab that he can make it seem like his own idea.

The president indicated that the federal pay freeze might be only the beginning of his starting to sound like the opposition. "Going forward ..." he began, using the most superfluous and, alas, most ubiquitous phrase in polspeak. For what's the alternative -- going backward? Surely not even his most admiring followers think the wonder-working Mr. Obama can reverse time.

"Going forward," the president was saying, "we're going to have to make some additional very tough decisions that this town has put off for a very long time." This Town is polspeak for Washington, D.C., and is supposed to add an air of informal authority to whatever is being proposed at the time. Much as some movie gangster in the Thirties was always saying, "We run dis town."

Junior political consultants and minor lobbyists in Washington are much given to speaking of This Town, too, perhaps in hopes of lending their words some ersatz weight. A president should have no need for the phrase, but after the shellacking Mr. Obama took in the midterm elections, he may feel the need to at least sound in control.

Please note that the president didn't say he was the one who'd been putting off economizing for a very long time. No, it was This Town that had been putting it off. This, too, is a required conjugation in the rhetorical lingo known as polspeak. For when a president has taken some action he's proud of, the accepted form is first person: "I did" or "We did." But when he's put off doing those things he ought to have done, he uses the third person -- it's This Town that has put it off. If and when somebody puts out a Strunk and White for politicians, this construction should be high on the list of rules.

In the event of a major foul-up, presidents may shift to the passive voice. "Mistakes were made," to quote a Reaganism. That way individual responsibility is sidestepped or at least diluted even while said foul-up is duly acknowledged.

Polspeak has rules of syntax, grammar and general obfuscation all its own, but they bear a certain similarity to cliches in businessthink and, yes, editorial writing. The utterly safe editorial, the kind that never editorializes but only regurgitates the news story before adding a platitude at the end, must always include the phrase: "On the other hand" in order to sound, yes, fair-and-balanced.

Because polspeak deals with politics, the exercise of power, it's particularly dangerous and deceptive. And the aware reader will be on guard against its every convention, from its most annoying cliches ("Going forward ...") to the standard Clinton clause. The purpose of the latter, to borrow a line from Gilbert and Sullivan's classic political treatise, "The Mikado," is "to give a bald and unconvincing narrative an air of verisimilitude." Like the current story line about Barack Obama's being a great economizer.

No essay on polspeak would be complete without noting Rule No. 535, which mandates that, whenever cutting the federal budget is mentioned, the first response of those whose pay would be cut or frozen, or who might even have to be furloughed or let go, as in private industry, must be: "But this will affect only a minuscule portion of the federal budget!"

The same line is inevitably used by those trying to save earmarks, boondoggles and wasteful projects in general. Those we favor are essential, the others expendable, It is part of the genius of selective language that it can skip airily over economic reality -- for example, that almost any restraint on the gigantic spending machine that is the federal budget might affect only a small sliver of it. But only by beginning somewhere can the whole out-of-control monster be contained.

It may be too much to hope that the federal budget can actually be reduced, despite the occasional recommendations of well-meaning commissions like Bowles-Simpson, which tend to appear sporadically, then disappear into the mists of history with the now forgotten Hoover Commission.

But even to point out this political reality would be impolite (and impolitic) by all the rules of polspeak, which are designed not to clarify but to obscure.

Recommended reading: George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language." Politics long ago won that match, as the latest round of polspeak out of the White House testifies. Let's hope for more clarity going forward.

Paul Greenberg Archives

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. David Barham, editorial writer there, contributed to this column. Send your comments by clicking here.

© 2006 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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