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Michael Brenner - A Lexicon Of Politics


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Silver Miner
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Mar 30, 2010
One foot over the line.
Originally posted at Moon of Alabama.

by Michael Brenner

Every sphere of life has its own vocabulary. Surely that is true of the political world. Certain words and phrases repeat themselves with striking frequency. They serve as a sort of shorthand for the cognoscenti who instinctively understand their connotations. They also are handy verbal shortcuts that spare politicos, pundits and media mannequins overly taxing mental effort.

Here is an annotated explication of a few of the most common words of convenience.

TABLE – as in “All Options Are On The Table”

President Trump repeatedly has said that all options are on the table when it comes to responding to the North Korean “threat.” Before, he had said the same about Iran. So did Barack Obama. The Assad government in Syria prompted a similar statement from both. So did ISIS.

That makes for a pretty heavily loaded table. Let’s imagine it. Nuclear weapons are the centerpiece. Probably small, tactical ones so as better to fit the limited space. Surrounded by Tomahawk missiles, stealth bombers, army units and a few Special Forces. Also on the table are economic sanctions; they are considerably lighter. Perhaps a symbolic bag of Persian pistachios, a bolt of Damask cloth, a bowl of rice, and a tin of Beluga caviar for good measure.

“Talking,” too, have been on the table. They are fluffy and weigh next to nothing. President Trump saw fit to remove them on Monday nonetheless. He vehemently declared that “talking is not the answer!” It was placed back on the table by Secretary of Defense General James “Mad Dog” Mattis. They may be hidden behind the floral display. White House Communications Director Hope Hicks did not return our calls asking as to where “talking” had spent the night before being retrieved.

Let’s visualize the scene. We’re in the Situation Room in the depths of the White House. High-tech electronic displays cover the walls. Dominating the room is an elongated table made of brilliantly polished walnut – a sturdy affair able to handle the load placed on it by all those options (and elbows). Around the table sit Trump, National Security Advisor General HC McMaster to his immediate left, Chief of Staff General John Kelly to his immediate right, Mattis, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchen, Jared Kushner, and the Intelligence chiefs: the CIA’s Mike Pompeo, Admiral Michael Rogers Director of the National Security Agency, and General Vincent Stewart from DIA. Medals flash and ribbons shine. The brass alert to any sign that the Orange One might reach for an ICBM – mistaking it for a cigar – and ready to impale his hand to the table with a steak knife. Rex Tillerson is there, too, seated below the SALT.

At each place setting a menu inventories all the options available, and a GPS app pinpoints their location relative to each other.

The President personally had taken ‘talking’ off the table the previous night. The next morning it mysteriously had reappeared – in the form of an English-Korean dictionary. Its discovery sent shivers through the White House – and beyond. After a few tense hours, Mattis stepped forward to declare his responsibility. He did deny rumors that he had used Dennis Rodman as his agent – secreting him into the building at the time of the photo-op with the champion Golden State Warriors in anticipation of just such a clandestine mission.

Whether ‘talking’ will hold its current inconspicuous place, come out of hiding, or disappear in the wee hours of the morning is unpredictable. The table definitely will remain sturdily in place to handle all and any options- at least until the fat lady sings.

– as in “thrown under the bus.”

In the old Soviet Union, unwelcome persons were “liquidated.” Or, “eliminated.” In Latin America they are “disappeared.” The Mafia fitted them with cement shoes as an aide for swimming across the Hudson River. (As Albert "the Executioner" <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Anastasia>Anastasia reputedly said, "real men don’t use water-wings!") Elsewhere in America, they are “thrown under the bus.” It’s a traditional practice rooted in the country’s vehicular culture. The image also suits the American “pro-active” temperament – the mind picture of lifting someone high in the air and then to body-slam them under the wheels of a massive bus resonates – after all, even a he-man Congressional candidate can do it on national television and his rating among his ardent Republican base spikes.

Trump has been especially energetic in pursuing this pastime. Think of Yates, Comey, Bannon, Spicer, Priebus, Scaramucci and several other less prominent “wreakers” dispatched for the good of the Republic. Our current President is by no means the only power holder who relishes this method of disposal. The term itself has become so popular that it now refers to any act of rough justice dealt a subordinate, a competitor, a rival, or a celebrity whose 30 day star turn has reached its sell-by date.

Washington remains the Mecca for this bus-throwing sport. So many people are being thrown under the buses that it is creating a crisis for the Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). With dozens of buses in the repair yards for front axle replacement, it’s hard to keep an adequate sized fleet on the streets. Moreover, the bus drivers are suffering from low morale. Their training doesn’t prepare them for the stressful situation they now face routinely. For example, when you see a well-dressed individual in the grasp of an official-looking guy with19-inch biceps, should you brake - or should you speed-up and expedite the elimination of a redundant public figure?

The drivers’ union also has raised the question of whether it would not be more efficient for all parties concerned to throw these outcasts under Metro subway trains. Permanent disposal would be assured – whereas encounters with buses are not always fatal. Survivors might actually overcome their injuries and reemerge to further torment us - see James Comey on this. In addition, METRO cars are better able to handle such a minor collision without damage that puts them out of service. There is one big drawback to this option. The METRO simply is not reliable enough to ensure that an on-coming train will be available when needed. Think of the embarrassment were it to become known that ‘wreakers’ were being shipped to Beijing or Tokyo in order to be thrown under subway cars there. That smacks of outsourcing; it certainly does nothing to make America great again. If Democrats want to embarrass themselves by looking abroad to dispose of their undesirables, let them.

CLOSET – as in “coming out of the closet.”

An incredible number of people are coming out of the closet these days. It’s a veritable tsunami as an amazing variety of previously hidden groups and individuals flow into the mainstream. Gays, lesbians, transgenders, racists, neo-Nazis, salafists of every creed, suicide bombers, financial deviants. So many questions!

How did they all fit in the closet? Even with the popularity of walk-ins that give every family of any means space that would make Imelda Marcos envious, there are natural limits. The density must have been awesome. Then, imagine these naturally averse types living cheek-by-jowl all these years. One would think that mayhem would be the order of the day. Yet, their survival suggests otherwise – a remarkable level of mutual forbearance. How did this come about?

Did the psychologists among them organize sensitivity training sessions on a mass scale? Had pot been legalized? Did they receive counseling from Barack Obama on how to achieve “common ground?” Did his ethic of bi-partisanship (or tri or quadro-partnership) find fertile soil denied him by the Republicans?

Finally, how are we going to use all that now vacant space freed up by the mass exodus out of the closet? Will home-owners turn them into social media-free zones? Can they be used to help ease the national housing shortage? Should we keep them in reserve in the event that hiding places will be needed for Muslims, Latinos, and Putin apologists?

Or, how about storing all those options that may be removed from the table – like Christmas decorations, yet could be of possible use when the next crisis arises?