Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Gap between what’s said and what’s meant

“Or, the shame of cheapening and trashing perfectly good words, eventually causing them to become worthless and unusable.”

The Belmont Club’s Wretchard discusses a post from The Smoking Gun (careful, some images may be crude and shocking) describing the content of documents allegedly recently captured from al-qaeda in Iraq. The problem with the subject matter is that in former years it could reasonably have been called a “torture manual”. But alas, that term no longer seems to work.

The world is apparently no longer interested in hearing about “torture” per se, probably because we dirty rotten Yanks are hands down the acknowledged leaders at “torturing” large quantities of common prisoners taken in warfare, and the topic is no longer of international interest - unless, of course, more US troops are thought to be caught up in it again. Then it becomes important to discuss.

The problem is quite simple. The rest of us permitted the warm-hearted fuzzy thinkers of the world to misuse and misapply a perfectly good word, “torture”. They were describing - for the most part - torment or humiliation, but were overstating the case - as seems to be the wont of certain overly-liberal wonks - as if what was occurring was actually harming or maybe even permanently disfiguring the subjects of the interrogations and so-called “torture”. I hold that in all but a few rare cases, it wasn’t.

Was it fun to undergo? No! Was it nice and polite? No! Was it reasonably applied? Can’t tell! Has it worked? Probably pretty well! Was it actually “torture”? With few exceptions, No!

The question I have for my liberal friends - the same ones who “tsked, tsked” over Abu Ghraib prison and the camp at Guantanamo Bay - how are they going to respond to (and classify) what is being done by AQ per the “manuals” referenced in The Smoking Gun ? What should they (or we) call that level of interrogation? Or do they even care?

Looking up the word “maim” in the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006, shows the following synonyms and explanations:
“—1. Maim, lacerate, mangle, mutilate indicate the infliction of painful and severe injuries on the body. To maim is to injure by giving a disabling wound, or by depriving a person of one or more members or their use: maimed in an accident. To lacerate is to inflict severe cuts and tears on the flesh or skin: to lacerate an arm. To mangle is to chop undiscriminatingly or to crush or rend by blows or pressure, as if by machinery: bodies mangled in a train wreck. To mutilate is to injure the completeness or beauty of a body, esp. by cutting off an important member: to mutilate a statue, a tree, a person. 2. injure, disable, deface, mar.” In my view that is what is being proposed by the found documents.

Yes, I know the current definition of "torture" can be stretched to include tormenting and causing anguish, but should it be spread over so wide a plain? I conclude a word applied so thinly soon loses its value.

So my question again is, “What should we call torture when it mains, lacerates, mangles or mutilates its subject”? It certainly cannot be considered merely “torment”, can it? And yet that’s what the sloppy and over-reaching politicalization of certain English language terms has seemed to have brought about.

As ever, I await correction and rebuke. Cheers

Cross posted on

Friday, April 06, 2007

Iran - 15; U.K. - nil

Publication withheld until after the tars were back home.
If it had been a soccer game (OK, futball), it would have been a blowout. But it was much worse than that. It was reality. Real life. And the UK has been humiliated so much by a psychopath that it has probably lost forever the last shred of its formerly fearless reputation. Lets tally up some of the side-effects of the Brits whimpering behavior the past two weeks.

Royal Navy - now proven to be gutless, incompetent and foolish. The skipper of the HMS Pinafore - sorry, Cornwall demonstrated he is not even responsible enough toward his crew as to captain a tugboat, let alone an ocean-going vessel. And certainly not a warship. Would definitely not want to see him at the helm of a London taxi or a Jubilee line train. As for the crew? No stalwarts there.

PM Tony Blair - Utterly, utterly clueless. Said he did not, could not, would not negotiate, and then sent his guy to Tehran to "talk". Hmmm. "If it sounds like, looks like and smells like a duck, et al." Sadly, if he possesses the slightest degree of integrity, the thing for Blair to do now is visit the queen within a few days and submit his resignation.

Brits in general - Chamberlainish - 70%, it seems, and Churchillish - 30%. Admittedly unscientific estimates, possibly, but loosely based on observed numbers of pro/con comments in several UK on-line media outlets. Sad state of affairs. But what can one expect of a nation where one who breaks into another's home has superior safety and security rights over the homeowner citizen.

The EU - Morally, ethically and spiritually bankrupt and clueless. Chamberlainish - 85% versus Churchillish - 15%, maybe. In a situation where the EU could have won back some respect, they stalled, stumbled, fumbled and blew it. Written off by the rest of the world as nothing more than a flock of hens in a weakly defended chicken coop. The foxes of the world have taken note, and the EU now lives on borrowed time.

The UN - Nada. Even less relevant than the EU - if that's possible. They just huff, puff, whine and dine. And then do it all over again. But that won't matter a whit because most of the world expects this of them.

Nothing good will come from any of this - unless and until other responsible citizens speak up and force changes. Little hope this will occur, however.

Sad and discouraging for freedom, everywhere.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

London West End Theatre Reviews

During the past fortnight Mrs. Dweet and 49er were pleased to be entertained by several London plays. For those visiting the UK soon and wondering what others think of the offered fare, herewith a short review on each.

The Lady from Dubuque. Starring Dame Maggie Smith. At the Haymarket. 2 Acts. ˜**** First act a little tense. Second act brilliantly funny and dramatic. Plot resolution a little weird. Good fun.

The History Boys. Large cast. At the Wyndhams. 3 Acts.
* Don't waste your time/money. Exposes basic intellectual dishonesty and perverted mindset of elitist UK houses of higher education. 15% of the dialog in the first act rendered in French.

Boeing-Boeing. Cast of six. At the Comedy. 3 Acts.
**** Classic comedy, very well done. Lots of fun and interesting plot twists.

The 39 Steps.
Cast of 4 cover over a dozen roles. At the Criterion. 3 Acts. ***** Based on classic Hickcock movie. Comedic-drama! Exciting stagecraft and plot twists. Great fun!

Guys and Dolls. Starring Don Johnson. At the Piccadilly 3 Acts.
**** Traditional version of classic musical, except with modern stagecraft. Very well done. Worth it. Closes April 14.

Treats. Starring Billy Piper. At the Garrick. 3 Acts.
*** Classic love-triangle plot. Not very interesting and pretty predictable. Conclusion is muddy. Excellent set, though.

Hope some of this helps.


Friday, March 23, 2007

WOW! What luck! We found a GOLD ring!

It seemed too good to be true. Just walking along midday in London's west-end theater district, minding our own business, a couple of tourists from stateside, and right there on the sidewalk of a quiet side street a young woman in front of us stopped, stooped over and picked up a huge gold wedding ring! What luck!

And of course she had to share her luck with us. Because we were just behind her, and looked so - I don't know - gullible? Imagine our shared joy at discovering the "18CT" stamp inside the band. And no other inscriptions indicating any method in which to trace ownership. What good fortune!

It turned out it was not really so fortunate for the young woman. She was homeless, jobless, in the country illegally and destitute - we soon discovered from her broken-but-understandable English. And on top of that she was "Muslim", and - of course (didn't see this coming) - was not permitted by her religious laws to wear jewelry. So she graciously gave us the ring.

(All this while 49er couldn't believe Mrs. Dweet was being so kind and believing - I did say "gullible" once before, didn't I? - and was looking around for the cohort to come up and continue the old "found fortune" scam - but that was not about to happen).

This was a new twist on an old scam. It was a one-person trying to play on the sympathies of visitors operation. It ended when Mrs. Dweet reached in her pocketbook and withdrew a crumpled bill to press into the hands of the kind and benevolent found-property-finder. What a crushed look of defeat sprang to her eyes when she unfolded the bill and discovered it was merely a £5 note. But how could she back down when Mrs. Dweet was being so kind, sympathetic and understanding? It probably only cost her 80p, but still an investment is an investment!

We now possess a slightly used size 9 highly polished brass ring with a faux 18 caret stamp inside the band. What luck? So how do we know it was a total fraud? Well, sir, since you asked, during the next week or so we were present when three other "gold" rings were discovered by other individuals - rings that were just quietly lying there on London sidewalks as we strolled in prominent but temporarily quiet sight-seeing areas. My conclusion is that either Londoners have become quite careless with their wedding rings, or there is an organized scam going on. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

And yes, the found ring turns your finger green when worn for a half-day or so.


PS: While at Hampton Court a day or so later couldn't help noticing the large "gold" ring one tourist-type gent was wearing on his pinky as he walked past. I almost said something, but decided to be nice - instead - it was a challenge, though.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

"Cowboys of the Sea"

For those interested, son of 49er has apparently been spotted in previews of an hour long National Geographic channel special scheduled to be broadcast tonight on the west coast at 6 and 9 PM. Check schedules in your area for details. Last summer BUMPER crewed for a few weeks on the "Ms. Liz" out of Naknek, Alaska, going after sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay. He will be the handsome one.
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Sunday, February 18, 2007

He's slogging his way back!

In spite of a couple of weeks of struggling through this mucky swamp-like morass of California mud for way too long, 49er is finally about back to normal. Posting should resume soon. Thanks for checking in.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Light posting next five weeks

Due to 49er's involvement in an annual charity event, coupled with the reluctance of the National Standards and Times Commission to add six more hours to the length of each day.