aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Sunday, September 18, 2005
More than you ever wanted to know about the semicolon:
Indeed, part of the semicolon’s mystique is the way that it wantonly gives itself to great writing without offering a clear rule for lesser writers to follow. This has perturbed pedants everywhere English is written, leading to the widespread conviction that the semicolon should, on principle, be avoided. In fact, one attempt to quash San Francisco’s gay marriage law last year was dismissed on the grounds that the plaintiff had used a semicolon instead of a conjunction. A conservative group had asked the court to order the city to “cease and desist issuing marriage licenses to and/or solemnising marriages of same-sex couples; to show cause before the court.” As the San Francisco Superior Court Judge James Warren explained, the word “or” should have been used instead of the semicolon. “I am not trying to be petty here,Ã¢â‚¬Â� he told reporters, “but it is a big deal… That semicolon is a big deal.”
“Let me be plain: the semicolon is ugly, ugly as a tick on a dog’s belly, I pinch them out of my prose,” says the American postmodern writer Donald Barthelme in his essay Not-Knowing.
Ditto for Bill Walsh, a top copy-editor at The Washington Post with a sardonic take on matters of style: “The semicolon is an ugly bastard, and I try to avoid it,” he writes in Lapsing into a Comma: A Curmudgeon’s Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print - and How to Avoid Them. And in the August issue of Vanity Fair, readers are warned not to get the punctuation-shy, tough-guy novelist Cormac McCarthy “started on the ‘idiocy’ of semicolons”.
“The most common abuse of the semicolon, at least in journalism,” explains [Michael] Kinsley, “is to imply a relationship between two statements without having to make clear what that relationship is. I suppose there are worse crimes in the world. (I don’t know if Osama bin Laden uses semicolons or not.) But Fred ["They should be turned into periods,” Barnes] did have it right.”
Me, I like them. I’m in good company:
“It’s true that American writers tend to scorn and spurn the semicolon,” says James Wolcott, Vanity Fair’s artfully acerbic critic. “But those with more Anglophile tastes in literature and journalism, such as Gore Vidal or the editors of The New Yorker under William Shawn, sprinkled it liberally. It may be a fear of being thought pretentious, even poncy. The semicolon adds a note of formality, and informality has been all the rage for decades. ‘Real’ writing is butch and cinematic, so emphatic and declarative that it has no need of these rest stops or hinges between phrases.”
Via Andrew Sullivan.
Whatever his other accomplishments, Bush will go down in history as the most fiscally irresponsible chief executive in American history. Since 2001, government spending has gone up from $1.86 trillion to $2.48 trillion, a 33 percent rise in four years! Defense and Homeland Security are not the only culprits. Domestic spending is actually up 36 percent in the same period. These figures come from the libertarian Cato Institute’s excellent report “The Grand Old Spending Party,” which explains that “throughout the past 40 years, most presidents have cut or restrained lower-priority spending to make room for higher-priority spending. What is driving George W. Bush’s budget bloat is a reversal of that trend.” To govern is to choose. And Bush has decided not to choose. He wants guns and butter and tax cuts.
Here’s a comparison to Viet Nam that’s hard to argue:
Robert Hormats of Goldman Sachs has pointed out that previous presidents acted differently. During World War II, Franklin Roosevelt cut nonwar spending by more than 20 percent, in addition to raising taxes to finance the war effort. During the Korean War, President Truman cut non-defense spending 28 percent and raised taxes to pay the bills. In both cases these presidents were often slashing cherished New Deal programs that they had created. The only period-other than the current one-when the United States avoided hard choices was Vietnam: spending increased on all fronts. The results eventually were deficits, high interest rates and low growth-stagflation.
The worst of both worlds:
Today’s Republicans believe in pork, but they don’t believe in government. So we have the largest government in history but one that is weak and dysfunctional. Public spending is a cynical game of buying votes or campaign contributions, an utterly corrupt process run by lobbyists and special interests with no concern for the national interest.
The highway bill of 1982 had 10 “earmarked” projects-the code word for pork. The 2005 one has 6,371.
Have you heard? She was a passenger! She rode in one.
People who drive SUVs sure are touchy, aren’t they? You’d almost think they felt guilty about something. I wonder what their objection is to a private organization spending privately raised money to promote behavior that will lessen our dependence on Saudi oil? Seems downright conservative to me.
Headline adapted from The Political Teen.
If you do a Google search on the word [failure] or the phrase [miserable failure], the top result is currently the White House’s official biographical page for President Bush. We’ve received some complaints recently from users who assume that this reflects a political bias on our part. I’d like to explain how these results come up in order to allay these concerns.
Google’s search results are generated by computer programs that rank web pages in large part by examining the number and relative popularity of the sites that link to them. By using a practice called googlebombing, however, determined pranksters can occasionally produce odd results. In this case, a number of webmasters use the phrases [failure] and [miserable failure] to describe and link to President Bush’s website, thus pushing it to the top of searches for those phrases. We don’t condone the practice of googlebombing, or any other action that seeks to affect the integrity of our search results, but we’re also reluctant to alter our results by hand in order to prevent such items from showing up. Pranks like this may be distracting to some, but they don’t affect the overall quality of our search service, whose objectivity, as always, remains the core of our mission.
I’m surprised they’re only commenting now. The BBC had a story on it in 2003.
UPDATE: Linked to OTB’s Easy Sunday Drive.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Giving as good as they get, Kerfuffles has this Google surprise.