The Language and the Marketing of “Intelligence”

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

I have recently posted an item on the controversy generated by the Department of Defense’s when it made available to its employees with Appalachian backgrounds a course on how to talk less obviously like hillbillies [http://academeblog.org/2014/08/31/do-you-speak-hillbilly-and-wish-that-you-didnt/]. And, even more recently, I have posted an item on the ways in which armed conflicts often involve battles over language and, alternatively,  the ways in which battles over language often suggest what we feel most threatened by [http://academeblog.org/2014/09/05/wars-on-language-and-the-language-of-wars/].

Here is another linguistic item related to the Department of Defense, one which relates as well to the series of eighteen posts that I recently finished called “National (In)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels” [http://academeblog.org/2014/08/30/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-49-50/; this final post in the series includes links to all of the others].

Perhaps you have at some point considered a career in espionage, or perhaps you have considered writing an espionage novel, or…

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You Can’t Get Off the Ballot in Kansas

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Chad Taylor, the Democratic candidate for the Senate seat in Kansas currently held by the long-serving but vulnerable Republican Senator Pat Roberts, recently announced that he was withdrawing from the race.

The move was widely seen as an attempt to improve the chances of the Independent candidate Greg Orman, who was consistently finishing ahead of Taylor in the polling and seemed to be competing with him for the support of many of the same voters. Roberts’ support is also being siphoned off by Randall Batson, the Libertarian candidate. So it was not very surprising that, following Taylor’s withdrawal from the race, Orman has surged significantly in the polls, rising in some polls to within a point or two of Roberts.

Now, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican, has denied Democrat Chad Taylor’s request to be removed from the Kansas Senate ballot.

Kobach told reporters that, after evaluating state…

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Wars on Language and the Language of Wars

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

The following paragraphs open a recent post on Dennis Baron’s site The Web of Language:

“2014 marks the centennial of World War I, time to take a closer look at one of its offshoots, America’s little-known War on Language.

“In April, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany. In addition to sending troops to fight in Europe, Americans waged war on the language of the enemy at home. German was the second most commonly-spoken language in America, and banning it seemed the way to stop German spies cold. Plus, immigrants had always been encouraged to switch from their mother tongue to English to signal their assimilation and their acceptance of American values. Now speaking English became a badge of patriotism as well, a way to prove that you were not a spy.

“The war on language was fought on two fronts, one legal, the other, in the schools. Its…

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What Passes for Victories in an Era of Political Gridlock

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Here is the opening of a recent item from The Hill [http://thehill.com/homenews/house/319443-immigration-advocates-claim-resounding-win-for-their-side-in-quiet-august]:

“Advocates for comprehensive immigration reform are claiming victory in the August recess. Their argument? They won because they didn’t lose.

“With legislation stalled in the Republican-controlled House, the push to overhaul the immigration system has not dominated the national headlines or evening news during the four weeks that Congress has been taking its annual summer vacation.

“Proponents of reform say they entered the recess worried that foes of the effort would flood town-hall meetings and stage large rallies, in a repeat of the Tea Party uprising that threw the push for healthcare reform off track in the summer of 2009.

“Despite efforts by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and others, that dynamic hasn’t materialized.

“’What’s more important than what we have seen is what we haven’t seen,’ said Jeremy Robbins, director of the Partnership for a New…

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When Congressional Staff Become Wikipedia Contributors

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

The following passage is excerpted from a news report from The Hill:

“For days, someone in the House had been editing multiple pages related to transgender issues that critics called ‘transphobic.’ The situation came to a head this week when the person changed the description of Orange Is the New Black actor Laverne Cox from ‘a real transgender woman’ to ‘a real man pretending to be a woman.’

“That move caused an administrator to ban anonymous edits from the IP address for a month.

“Gay rights group Human Rights Campaign called for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to launch an investigation into which office was responsible.

“The person behind the edits—presumably a congressional staffer—remains anonymous but said in one of the Wikipedia’s behind-the-scenes pages that they were promoting ‘official business that has been explicitly authourized [sic] by the Representative.’”

The full article can be found at: http://thehill.com/policy/technology/technology/215796-congress-turns-wikipedia-into-forum-for-pranks-battle#ixzz3BWFln7WS

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Some Concerning Statistics on Drones

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Several months ago, I posted this brief item:

Snarkiest Headline on the Torturously Slow Winding Down of the Afghanistan War

I receive a number of e-mailed newsletters from political blogs, and this was the headline of the daily newsletter from HuffPost Hill:

How Do You Ask a Drone to Be the Last Drone to Crash for a Mistake?

Then, in last week’s e-mail, I received the following news alert from the Washington Post:

More Than 400 U.S. Military Drones Crashed Since 2001

U.S. military drones have malfunctioned in myriad ways over the past decade, plummeting from the sky because of mechanical breakdowns, human error, bad weather and other reasons, according to a yearlong Washington Post investigation.

Documents obtained by The Post detail scores of previously unreported crashes involving remotely controlled aircraft, challenging the federal government’s assurances that drones will be able to fly safely over populated areas and…

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You Might Just as Well Try to Rehabilitate Charles Manson

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Here’s a news item that you may have missed:

“Beachgoers in New York and New Jersey were outraged when they saw a plane towing a banner with swastika imagery Saturday afternoon.

“Promoting the Web site proswastika.org, an organization called The International Raelian Movement aimed to reclaim the swastika symbol, saying it was ‘hijacked by the Nazis.’

“The plane flew over Coney Island and Long Beach as part of what the group has dubbed Swastika Rehabilitation Week 2014 to promote peace. The banner contained a swastika, Star of David and a peace sign.

“Similar events have occurred in Miami, London and Brisbane, Australia.”

Other sources have reported that, as part of this international effort to rehabilitate this symbol of hate, selected tattoo parlors have also been offering reduced prices on tattoos featuring swastikas.

At first when I read these news items, I thought that all of this was either another…

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Louis Gohmert Said Something Stupid–Again

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Texas Congressman Louis Gohmert has jumped on the Far Right bandwagon that has become very crowded with those eager to denounce President Obama’s most recent “failure of leadership”: specifically, his “failure” to visit the U.S.-Mexican border while he was in Texas to discuss possible responses to the “flood” of desperate Central American children who are now overwhelming the available detention centers in the U.S.

Gohmert stated in an interview on FOX News: “’You remember the abuse that President Bush took when that picture came to light of him looking out the window of the plane down at New Orleans after Katrina? Well, this president won’t even look out the window.’”

I am certain that Gohmert thinks that this was a very witty attack on President Obama, a comparison that makes him look worse than George W. Bush and therefore makes George W. Bush look better by comparison–even if the comparison…

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What to Expect after the Hobby Lobby Decision

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

If one wants to know what to expect after the Supreme Court’s decision on the Hobby Lobby case, one need only to look at what has followed two other recent and controversial decisions by the Roberts Court.

In April, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court upheld a Michigan ban on affirmative action. Justice Roberts famously asserted that we are now living “in a post-racial world” in which racial preferences no longer serve any clear and overarching purpose.

That decision was followed by the release of Danette Gerald and Kati Haycock’s report, Engines of Inequality: Diminishing Equity in the Nation’s Premier Public University. Funded in part with a grant from the Lumina Foundation, the report provides extensive statistical evidence that the percentage of students of color at the flagship public universities in each of the fifty states has been dramatically declining, especially since the Great Recession. As state support…

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The “Redskins” Controversy May Not Now Seem to Be a Life and Death Issue, but, from a Cultural and Historical Perspective, It Is Fundamentally Just That Sort of Issue

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Even if the name “Redskins” is offensive, one can at least argue that the image featured in the team logo is rather dignified.

Redskins Logo

The same cannot be said for the Cleveland Indians mascot’s appearance or name– Chief Wahoo:

Chief Wahoo

Interestingly, Chief Wahoo’s skin color less resembles that of a Native American than that of a very pale White guy who drank a little too much beer and nodded off in the bleachers on a sunny afternoon.

Not surprisingly, the organization at the forefront of the effort to change team names that perpetuate stereotypes has produced a logo that looks more like the Washington Redskins’ logo than the Cleveland Indians’ logo:

Anti-Stereotype Badge

In response to the growing contention over this issue, the Atlanta Braves have significantly modified their logo while maintaining the team name:

Old Braves Logo

has become

New Braves Logo

St. John’s University’s athletic teams used to be known as the Redmen. For six decades, their logo…

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