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May 11, 2005


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I only had the opportunity to listen to a few minutes of it but I assure you that you did not sound like "a bizarre pseudo-European/East Coast academic." You sounded intelligent but not pretentious.

Its great to see intellectuals getting out and being heard.

Martin Maloney

Yes, names do matter. By changing the name of something, one creates a new reality. The RICO Act of 1970 empowered the government to seize the assets of people accused of certain kinds of crimes. Not convicted, not tried, not arrested and charged – just accused.
This is a blatant violation of the due process clause of the 4th Amendment, right? No, it isn’t. You see, they changed the name from “government seizure” to “civil forfeiture.” In other words, the government was no longer taking assets from the accused; rather, the accused was (albeit involuntarily) surrendering assets to the government.
Congress is particularly adept at this name game. Every bill is “The God, Motherhood and Apple Pie Act of (insert year).” This works in two ways:
1) It has a chilling effect on – and slanders – those who oppose the laws. For instance, if you vote against “The Homeland Security Act,” then you are supporting terrorism.
2) It obscures the true purpose of the proposal. For example, “The Defense of Marriage Act” outlawed government recognition of same-sex unions.
Furthermore, the titles of bills are disingenuous in another way. Take “The Paperwork Reduction Act” of the late 1950s. It mandated the creation of volumes of regulations and a multiplicity of forms to be filled out, to document compliance with paperwork reduction! And who can forget “The Tax Simplification Act?” It should have been entitled “The Full Employment for Tax Accountants Act.”
Let me close with my most unfavorite playing of the name game. Why is it that even opponents of our outrageous level of military spending persist in calling it the defense budget?

chris robinson

I loved it! The interviewer was excellent and you were up for the task. When does a culture of cruelty begin? How can we distinguish it from other, presumably kinder cultures? Is there not a culture of cruelty at the edge of each society exacted upon the refugees who live along the boundaries? You raised at least as many questions as you answered. I really enjoyed it. And you were not at all pretentious.

Aniam Tyre Travesser

I just listened to the interview. Without filling your comment section with potentially unwanted rhetoric, I will simply say that the cruelty present in America is simply the effects of the cause of selfishness that has characterized the culture of the nation since the 1960's.

The solution is simple if one will allow their "self" to die, but this is too much of a cross for a person to naturally bear. Nothing dies harder than pride.


Alain and Chris, thanks for your kind remarks.
Martin, those are good--and properly maddening!--examples. Jon Stewart from the Daily Show has mentioned the 'department that names things the opposite of what they are department' that seems perhaps the most effective part of the government.

Aniam T T, your point is interesting. I might express it in terms of a lack of solidarity and an excess of greed. It seems to me that the 80s and 90s were about making greed normative, expected, the American way, having this greed undermine the solidarity that was part of the New Deal (even as it was a precarious solidarity, marked by continued racism, sexism, and homophobia though aspirational nonetheless), and then celebrate the ideology as American individualism, religious freedom, and the triumph of the so-called free market.

Chris, wow-great points. I very much like the idea of the cruelty that can be seen when we look from the boundaries. To a certain extent, then, we might have to access whether there are non cruel boundaries or whether demarcation and boundary drawing is necessarilty cruel. Actually, I think I'll move your remarks into a post and think about them there. Thanks!

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