Barackrobatics: Irregular Verb Conjugations

There is a whole family of droll sayings that take the form of irregular verb pseudo-conjugations, playing on tendentiously different ways of characterizing the same facts. As near as I can tell, they date back to the 1940s when Bertrand Russell (or perhaps Katherine Whitehorn) came up with:

I am firm;
You are obstinate;
He is a pig-headed fool.
Anyone can play this game (the link has further examples from 1948). And I was reminded of it when I was poking around in the transcript of President Obama's recent speech to the American Medical Association on his health proposals.

First note how the opponents are characterized as fearmongers:

And if we're honest, another part of the reason has been the fierce opposition fueled by some interest groups and lobbyists -- opposition that has used fear tactics to paint any effort to achieve reform as an attempt to, yes, socialize medicine.
… OK, fine, but this came after President Obama did all of the following:
  • Claimed care costs are "a threat to our economy"; an "escalating burden on our families and businesses"; a "ticking time bomb for the federal budget."

  • Referred to a cancer-stricken Wisconsin woman with $50K in medical debts; Tennessee business owners laying off employees due to health care costs; a New Hampshire doctor drowning in "disruptive and distracting" paperwork.

  • Claimed that "Americans of all ages" were being forced "to go without the checkups or the prescriptions they need."

  • Described what will happen if we "fail to act" right now: "premiums will climb higher, benefits will erode further, the rolls of the uninsured will swell to include millions more." Also: "lost jobs, lower take-home pay, shuttered businesses, and a lower standard of living for all Americans."

So Obama's charge that opponents of "reform" use fear tactics rings more than a little hollow. The scenario of not being able to get needed medical procedures for you or your loved ones is one of the scariest out there. Even if we're personally not in that boat, and not likely to be, our natural empathy is engaged when we hear about the plight of others; we're fearful for them. Obama and his allies are not ashamed or reluctant to pluck those strings at every opportunity.

Of course, Obama would deny he's fear-mongering. Instead, he's invoking something like this conjugation:

I am pointing out pressing problems;
You are raising valid concerns;
They are using fear tactics.
And he's not alone in doing this sort of thing. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just get past the posturing, though?

URLs du Jour


  • At, someone named Bonnie Erbe is apparently their house brain-dead leftist blogger. Two of her recent post titles:

    1. Round Up Hate-Promoters Now, Before Any More Holocaust Museum Attacks

    2. CIA's Panetta Is Right: Cheney Does Want Another Terrorist Attack

    OK, she's horrid. But the juxtaposition of those two headlines made me think of an IMAO quip from a while back:
    If the liberals do arrest Cheney, that would make an awesome season of Prison Break.

  • If Lorne Michaels had three grams of brains, he'd hire Dave Burge at a hefty salary to write sketches for Saturday Night Live. I, for one, would love to see D. C. Garage.
    Hi everybody, this is Dave Burge -- and welcome to [growl voice] D.C. Garage! [/growl voice] Where we hijack classic American muscle and give it a monster makeover with our pro team of Washington gearheads and Beltway power tools! On tonight's episode of of D.C. Garage: can the team remake this ugly '57 Chevy Bel Air into a lean, clean, federal green machine? Grab your torque wrenches and let's start American choppin'!
    The production might be a tad expensive, but totally worth it.

  • Also must-see TV: Han Solo, PI.

Last Modified 2009-08-31 9:01 PM EDT


stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Currently #19 on IMDB's top 250 movies of all time. I'm OK with that.

And, really, just go see it if you haven't.

I won't bother to summarize the plot, if you're at all sentient you've picked it up already. After movies with talking toys, bugs, monsters, fish, superheroes, cars, rats, and robots, Pixar chose to make a movie where the protagonist is an ordinary guy. And not even a traditional hero kind of ordinary guy: a grumpy, creaky old guy, widower Carl Fredricksen. That's brave.

And, although I'm unsure how well that might go over with kids, it worked just fine for me. There's lots of fun, but (as you may have heard) the opening few minutes are truly tear-jerking, as the premise of the movie is established by describing how Carl met and (eventually) lost his beloved wife Ellie.

Consumer report: Mrs. Salad and I splurged on the 3D version. Pixar doesn't stoop to any cheap gags, so the 3D experience, while noticeable, isn't in-your-face. So, paradoxically, you might not want to blow the extra money. The power of the flick doesn't lie in the 3D gimmickry.

If you've seen it, there are fun facts aplenty here. (Like: why don't the people have nostrils? And: where was the Pizza Planet truck? I missed it, so I'll have something to watch for when I snag the DVD.)

And Toy Story 3 is (as I type) a mere 366 days away. I'm in line already.

Last Modified 2014-11-30 3:19 PM EDT