Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dick Cavett dissects Petraeus/Crocker

Everything is a wandering journey when it comes to the Internet, and by wandering over to Col. Patrick Lang's site, I come to find out that Dick Cavett blogs for the New York Times. His intellect is so very welcome right now, and maybe he's not irritated that Larry King, Jay Leno, Chris Matthews and Oprah are all still on TV while he is not, but I'm irritated at that and I don't mind telling you.

No crook ever gets out of the car. A “perpetrator exits the vehicle.” (Does any cop say to his wife at dinner, “Honey, I stubbed my toe today as I exited our vehicle”?) No “man” or “woman” is present in Copspeak. They are replaced by that five-syllable, leaden ingot, the “individual.” The other day, there issued from a fire chief’s mouth, “It contributed to the obfuscation of what eventually eventuated.” This from a guy who looked like he talked, in real life, like Rocky Balboa. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Who imposes this phony, academic-sounding verbal junk on brave and hard-working men and women who don’t need the added burden of trying to talk like effete characters from Victorian novels?

And, General, there is no excuse anywhere on earth for a stillborn monster like “ethnosectarian conflict,” as Jon Stewart so hilariously pointed out.

What would the general be forced to say if it weren’t for the icky, precious-sounding “challenge” that he leans so heavily on? That politically correct term, which was created so that folks who are legally blind, deaf, clumsy, crippled, impotent, tremor-ridden, stupid, addicted or villainously ugly are really none of those unhappy things at all. They are merely challenged. (Are these euphemisms supposed to make them feel better?) And no one need be unlucky enough to be dead or hideously wounded anymore. Those unfortunates are merely “casualties” — a sort of restful-sounding word.

(I have a friend who would like the opportunity to say to our distinguished warrior, “General Petraeus, my son was killed in one of your challenges.”)

Petraeus uses “challenge” for a rich variety of things. It covers ominous developments, threats, defeats on the battlefield and unfound solutions to ghastly happenings. And of course there’s that biggest of challenges, that slapstick band of silent-movie comics called, flatteringly, the Iraqi “fighting forces.” (A perilous one letter away from “fighting farces.”) The ones who are supposed to allow us to bring troops home but never do.

Petraeus’s verbal road is full of all kinds of bumps and lurches and awkward oddities. How about “ongoing processes of substantial increases in personnel”?

Try talking English, General. You mean more soldiers.

I just spent an hour reading through the more recent posts by Cavett. Got an hour or two? Go spend it there. You could do a lot worse.

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