Fun with Interpretation…

When I first entered academia, and was inaugurated into the arcane process of scholarly publishing, a colleague thoughtfully provided me with a “cheat sheet”–a list of terms/criticisms used by “peer reviewers” and their real meanings. So, for example, a reviewer’s complaint “I cannot understand how the author could write an entire paper on X without referencing the seminal work of Dr. Y” should be understood as “I’m Dr. Y.”

In that spirit, let me suggest the actual meanings of otherwise respectable terms being thrown around by our lawmakers these days.

The phrase: redistribution. As in very bad.  Conservative lawmakers insist it is not the government’s job to take from one taxpayer to benefit others.  The meaning: public programs to help poor people. Tax breaks and huge subsidies for businesses like corporate farms and oil companies aren’t redistribution.

The phrase: pro-life. Reverence for life, which is seen as God-given. The meaning: reverence for the human fetus. Is not inconsistent with support for war, the death penalty, indifference to the well-being of ‘after-born’ children or threats to the lives or well-being of the female breeding environment.

The phrase: socialism. See “redistribution.” The meaning: Anything supported by the Obama Administration, including programs first proposed by Republicans and conservative think-tanks.

The phrase: sucking at the public teat. Description of undeserving people who receive any sort of government benefits. The meaning: programs that help other people.

The phrase: national defense. Keeping America safe. The meaning: Any weapon the military wants–and even weapons systems the military says it doesn’t need. Not at all inconsistent with invading countries that pose no threat to the United States. Evidence that supporters have really big weenies.

The phrase: job creation. Government policies to spur economic growth.The meaning: tax breaks for rich people. Does not include anything else, and certainly not public works projects to repair America’s decaying infrastructure. Is not inconsistent with wholesale layoffs of public school teachers, police and firefighters and other public employees. See “sucking at the public teat.”

The phrase: environmental protection. Measures to address the threat of climate change.  The meaning: trusting God to care for His creation. Does not include efforts to reduce carbon emissions and is not inconsistent with gutting clean energy programs. Requires the continuation of massive subsidies to the richest oil companies.

See how much fun this is? I bet you can come up with literally hundreds more.

Of course, these terms all mean something very different to rational people, and therein lies the problem. Policymakers are speaking different languages.


  1. You forgot “judicial activism.” Overzealous judges upholding or overturning laws which differ from my idea of what’s right and wrong- particularly when held up against a specific religious belief – regardless of what the Constitution says.

  2. “Gun Rights” –the absolutist idea that every individual, group and community would be better off if no one knew anything about statistics, had no idea of what range of weaponry was in the garage next door from a BB gun to an armed lazer sighted drone and that every dollar not used for food or shelter was used to escalate such purchases.

  3. Justice was served: which really means what this man tweeted last night.

    Dante Atkins @DanteAtkins

    Zimmerman disobeyed police, chased down an unarmed teenager, confronted him, and killed him. A court has ruled it legal. Think about that.

  4. Locally not long ago we had five police officers, supposedly trained to deal with dangerous criminals, beat a 15 year old black boy to the ground. Yes he had a big mouth but didn’t deserve the beating any more than Trayvon deserved killing. A judge decided the force used by police was not an abuse of power but was necessary to protect something or someone. From naughty words maybe. Neighborhood Watch members are NOT to be armed and are NOT to follow someone they believe is suspicious. Zimmerman not only did both but was not working Neighborhood Watch, he was acting as a private citizen. He also disobeyed a direct order not to follow Trayvon but did so anyway. Another case in Florida about 2 years ago involved a black woman whose abusive ex-husband she couldn’t escape from and she did have a protective order against, fired two warning shots into her ceiling to scare him off. She was sentenced to 20 – that is TWENTY – years in prison; I think the charge was firing a gun in city limits or some such nonsense. Jim Crow laws are alive and thriving in this country…including Indianapolis.

  5. Justice, to a liberal: Convicting a man for murder, despite all evidence to the contrary.

    Trayvon Martin was a drug-dealing gun-dealing punk. He didn’t deserve to die. But once such a punk is on top of you beating you to a pulp, you have to shoot him to prevent your own death.

  6. Jury nullification: What would have spared the woman who was sentenced to 20 years. Except the fascist judicial system won’t allow it.

    Presidential pardon: What could spare the woman who was sentenced to 20 years. Wonder what Mr Obama is waiting on….

  7. Only in America is there such bastardized “blame the victim” screed. Shame on you Eugene for what you posted.

  8. “First, Martin’s school suspension record. According to an investigation by the Miami Herald, Martin was suspended twice – once in October of last year for graffiti, and prior to the shooting for possession of a bag with traces of marijuana and a “marijuana pipe.” Martin was also found in possession of some jewelry and what the Herald describes as a “burglary tool,” though these items were not convincingly established as being owned by Martin himself, following an independent investigation by police.

    Both offenses, which would fall under the umbrellas of “vandalism” and “possession or use of alcohol and/or controlled substances,” would be sufficient to merit ten day suspensions under district policy. Martin was apparently also suspended at an indeterminate time in the past for tardiness and/or truancy, though the Herald does not specify for how long.”

    I copied and pasted the above from The Blaze, an on line newsletter formerly GBTV, a conservative Libertarian News source. It neglected to mention the suspicious act of wearing a hoodie in the rain. The closest I could come to Eugene’s criminal list was from News OnLine, a newsletter out of London, England, which provided no source for their information.

    Only two people know what started the deadly confrontation that night and one of them is dead. The other, acting as a legally armed private citizen illegally followed an unknown teenager through other people’s yards. This was after he was told not to do so by the 911 operator HE called. This falls under the phrase of overkill which relates to Joe’s reference to judicial overzealousness.

    Regarding why President Obama isn’t using a Presidential Pardon to free the Florida woman from prison; he is an attorney who taught Constitutional Law at Harvard so is aware no action can be taken without legal representation and processing through the court system.

  9. So the 9mm is returned to the wannabe-cop perpetrator who profiled and killed a child with it? Or his bankrollers buy him another? The ones who testified that they bought him suits of courtroom clothes and food?

    He’s ‘loose on the streets of some city–probably NOT Sanford, FL–and he sees another “f-ing punk,” to quote GZ, and he offs another teenager (in the dark, in the rain, in a hoodie) whom he has already profiled in his mind.

    Ye gods! No young man who “fits the description” is safe in any town! Parents and teens all over the US are terrified.

    While GZ isn’t safe anywhere, his brother who could pass for his twin isn’t safe anywhere either. The difference being 100 pounds GZ packed on in a year’s time. And RZjr has committed no crime except to strongly resemble his brother. The resemblance is amazing. RZjr is literate, verbal, very intelligent, personable, and unfortunately resembles GZ who got one over on the system.

    The prosecution missed some golden opportunities to make it stick. The defense is arrogant and gloating and at this hour not very professional as lawyers go. They assisted GZ in getting one over on the system. Perhaps civil charges will be brought (or civil rights violations), or perhaps GZ will make another huge mistake and take another young person’s life. Maybe, just maybe, he won’t get a free pass next time. God forbid it should happen again.

    At least two witnesses who are making money off the GZ trial were allowed to testify in his defense. Nice, eh? The gym owner: “GZ trains here!” (not all that great a recommendation, by the way!) The man who wrote a book about GZ and is scoring handsomely because of the trial. What is that about?

    This was a bad one! A huge miscarriage of justice. A child is dead by the hand of someone who is supposed to serve as the “eyes and ears” of the neighborhood–nothing more. The person who killed him is with his family and in an “undisclosed location” as he plans his future and looks for employment. Employment? Really?

    How does the system even begin to apologize to TM’s family for their profound loss?

  10. And if I were RZjr, I would invest in some T-shirts that say, “I’m not George”, grow a beard, shave my head, wear a dress with a wig or something.

  11. I consider myself a progressive and do not condone what happened with Zimmerman and the shooting.
    Here are some facts;
    1) Zimmerman WAS involved with neighborhood watch and started out doing what he was supposed to do…WATCH.
    2) There was a string of burglaries perpetrated by young black men, so he was not profiling, just watching a person of suspicion.
    3) When Martin walked down that dark walkway Zimmerman as a neighborhood watch person had the right to WATCH him as a possible witness. And that would include following Martin to report back his location.

    So what happened?
    1) Zimmerman should NOT have been packing a gun while on neighborhood watch.
    2) Did Zimmerman identify himself as a watch volunteer to Martin?

    It seems to me that Zimmerman did not identify himself to Martin as he should have. Which leads me to believe he was trying to intimidate Martin as he automatically decided Martin was up to no good.
    Did Zimmerman enter the walkway, weapon drawn?
    Was Martin waiting in the dark to ambush his stalker?

  12. I have mixed feelings about protecting ones neighborhood at night. Growing up with four sisters we had a peeping tom problem when they were young teens. I had no problem going out into the night with a baseball bat to chase down said peeping toms…caught two of them in a two year span.

    The second was a 19-yr-old kid willing to put up a fight. Luckily I was a young man myself in my early 20’s, worked concrete construction at the time humping 100lb forms all day and was playing semi-pro football for the local park district. He didn’t stand a chance.
    What cannot be explained to another is the adrenalin and fear one experiences when they find themselves in a brutal fight, at 2AM, in a dark backyard and no one to help, with a criminal that is throwing kicks and punches trying to get away…not knowing if he is armed. Had I been an older man, or not as fit…who knows what this guy would have done.

    And anyone who follows criminal psychology knows, it is a small step from peeping into windows at night, to violent rape…I had three young sisters in that room he was peeping into.

    Would I have shot him if I had a gun? …NO!

    I did have a gun at the time and it never entered my mind to bring it outside with me…I took a bat that I dropped while jumping fences chasing the perp.
    Call the cops? My family did before and the peeping toms always were gone by the time the cops came. When I moved back home temporally, that changed when I began to go out into the night after them. Caught two, ran off another.

    As for the 19yr-old peeper, when I finally dragged his ass back to the house and the cops came, one cop began to give me a hard time for beating the kid up so bad, until the Shift Commander showed up and seen three of my sisters standing in the doorway, in their nightgowns, crying… ages 10-16. He cuffed the kid and threw him in the squad.
    What he told me next I will never forget as he said, “I do not condone what you did, but these guy do not fear us, they fear people like you willing to go out into the night with them, and beat the hell out of them. Word will get around and I doubt you’ll have peeping problems for some time now”…and we didn’t for several years.

  13. So, comparing my experience with Zimmerman, I think Zimmerman was out to intimidate what he perceived as a threat…but got it very wrong.
    I caught my perp red-handed, standing on a fence looking into our window, on our property at about 2 AM. I clearly had the right to protect and apprehend my perp.

    Where I find sympathy to Zimmerman is the fight, at night, with no help, and not knowing if Martin was a criminal with a weapon…adrenalin and fear took over and I believe this from first hand experience. Zimmerman WAS in fear as he was loosing the fight on that dark walkway.
    I also think Zimmerman DID have the right to follow Martin to report his location to authorities, after all, he was a WATCH person. What happened next we will never know.

    I’m using logic here to asses the situation…If I was 17 and being stalked by an adult in a car, and in fear, the minute I was in that dark walkway I would have took off running for home as fast as I could to call the cops. Martin did not do this. Leads me to believe Martin was waiting in the dark for Zimmerman to confront or ambush his stalker and was looking for a fight himself. And this would change everything, meaning Martin was not in fear or he would have beat feet home, the first chance he could…and that would be the dark walkway as his chance for escape.

  14. I don’t think Zimmerman planned to shoot anyone, I think he lied about the prior events because he was trying to intimidate Martin…scare the kid, or if he was up to no-good, let him know he is being watched.
    Still, Zimmerman should have never left his car and reported Martins last know location to the police. It was the gun in his pocket that gave him the confidence to enter the dark walkway, just as a baseball bat gave me confidence to go out in the night with who knows what was waiting outside for me at 2 AM.

    I also think Martin was waiting in the dark for Zimmerman, or he would have been safely home before Zimmerman even left his car…Martin’s home was only a few doors down from where he was shot.

  15. JoAnn: I’m not sure how familiar you are with the Brandon Johnson case but let me fill you in on some background. It’s multiply verified:

    A) Brandon Johnson had between 40-100 pounds on each of the four officers. If you watch the testimony, one of the officers was a combat Marine and even he attested to the battlerage and anger of this kid. I know there is a prevailing mentality that the police have to bleed and use the least amount of force to necessitate an arrest, but obviously that’s not true. Fighting is a depreciable skill, and police officers don’t get to train on-duty like firefighters. Case law takes this into account.

    B) There have always been First Amendment restrictions on time, place, and manner. Standing in the middle of the street trying to incite a riot among the 30 or so people gathered on the sidewalk is a very reasonable restriction. Nevertheless, when you decide to fight the police, it isn’t really a “speech” issue. Unfortunately, when it comes to fighting in the real world many people sit on their couches and armchair these things, not realizing how hectic and brutal it is. It’s not a boxing match or a cage fight, it’s much more dangerous and much more unregulated. Whenever anybody decides to fight anybody else, whether it’s Trayvon punching George or Brandon fighting the police, you’re taking your safety into your own hands. It’s kind of a decided issue.

    C) The only reason Brizzi didn’t file charges is because he knew it would ultimately result in an extra zero or two on the settlement check. His relationship with the city at the time was quite poor, as behind closed doors he was heavily censured by his own party for the drunk golf cart accident among other things.

    D) Let’s not forget the merit board voted unanimously to acquit Jerry Piland. I say that because the lone dissenter, Joe Slash, slept through most of the hearing and made it very public beforehand he had already made up his mind in the matter. In addition, he should have recused since he knew the Urban League would fire him if he had voted any other way.

    E) I assume you didn’t watch much of the hearing so it may come as a surprise to you that virtually every city witness contradicted themselves or other witnesses at some part of their testimony. For those involved in the struggle, and subsequent adrenaline dump, that’s normal and natural. Not for people standing around cheering for Brandon. Speaking of cheering, many residents of the neighborhood showed up in support of Piland because they were tired of Brandon and his brother terrorizing the neighborhood. But you didn’t read that in the media. For Pete’s sake, even the department’s own Chief demonstrated a poor understanding of use of force policy and principles. The tactics he was suggesting were not consistent with FBI guidelines, and thus would not have been defensible in court anyway.

    I could go on and on, but needless to say the use of force was unquestionably justified. The only winner, from what I see, is Al Sharpton. Minus travel/room/board fees, etc., WOS is he walked away with deep into five figures, mostly in cash, from the collection plate. Makes you wonder the how and why, doesn’t it?

  16. Marco; you must have seen a blown-up picture of Brandon Johnson or you have your black victims mixed up. Indianapolis Police are bullies – not only against blacks. I did follow the case and knew the cops would come out winners – they almost always do. Why has it been almosst 3 years since Bisard killed an innocent man at a stop sign?

    My granddaughter ran 5 blocks from the home she shared with her 4 year old daughter, her older sister and 5 year old neice to get away from the ex-boyfriend who had beaten her up again. He had done this before and been arrested, there was a protective order but he followed her wherever she went. She was a bloody, beaten, hysterical mess; the ex-boyfriend casually leaned against a tree in the front yard under the “No Trespassing” sign my daughter had posted for his benefit. Jenni had just run in the front door of her mother’s home to call her when police got there. My daughter had taken her 12 year old daughter to the doctor for a school sports checkup. The officer was yelling at Jenni to come back outside, before she could get outside the officer pushed open the door, grabbed Jenni and the dog lunged at him barking. The officer maced the dog inside the house. He sent my 12 year old granddaughter inside to calm the dog then laughed when she came out with swollen eyes, red and puffy face and crying from the mace due to her asthma. Both officers laughed and said any fool should know not to touch the dog till she had been bathed. He handcuffed my daughter when she got home and had asked police to remove the ex-boyfriend from her yard for tresspassing. The officer stated he wasn’t trespassing. My other granddaughter wiped Jenni’s nose because she was handcuffed. He then handcuffed my other granddaughter for interfering with an officer. He arrested Jenni for resisisting arrest because she was hysterical, in pain and unable to walk. They did uncuff my daughter and other granddaughter but let the ex-boyfriend go. He also refused to let my daughter give Jenni her anti seizure medication before they took her to jail after being told her seizures were possibly fatal. They refused to allow my daughter, a licensed foster parent, to keep her 4 year old granddaughter with her or let her go home with her aunt. Insead, they called CPS and had them take my terrified 4 year old great granddaughter to foster care. These were two white cops against three thin white women, three white children and one white German shepherd. None of them were violent, they were upset and afraid; neither were they criminals with arrest records – except for the ex-boyfriend.

    No charges were filed against Jenni, she was released late the following day. It took my daughter several hous to track down her granddaughter and get custody of her. When my daughter tried to report the problems she was ignored and later told it was because she had not filed the complaint properly. She stated she had followed the instructions on line and what was the proper way to file; she was then threatened with prosecution for harassment for bothering them. I wrote a letter to the chief of police; after two weeks and no response I wrote again. I received a letter stating my complaint had been given to the proper department and they had responded to me, resolving the issue. I still have never heard from them. Jenni died having seizures the following year. I could also go on and on but doubt you would see anything but justifiable force in this situation. I wonder about the how and why of this situation…do you?

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